Tagged: Content Marketing
- by Rose Regier
This guest post was written by Rose Regier.
So you’re sitting down to create some content for your digital marketing channels. You’re doing this a month ahead of time because you read this and you get why posting on the fly is a) not strategic and b) not the best use of your time.
Your first thought might be, “What’s new in our business that we can talk about? What haven’t we talked about yet? Hmmmm, do we have any nice photos to share? Should we jump on a TikTok trend? Maybe show our support for an issue everyone is talking about?”
You draft some content and are about to put it into your queue - here’s where we’re going to stop you.
Before you’re done, you need to make sure every piece of content you just drafted answers this one question:
“What’s in it for my customer?”
Running each piece of your content through your own internal “What’s in it for them” filter might be the single most important way to make sure your digital marketing is strategic.
Every person (whether they’re aware of it or not) is walking around the world trying to find what’s in it for them—as they scroll, as they shop, as they eat, and as they binge a show. They’re looking for a payoff.
We’re Wired for Connection
It might seem selfish, but actually it’s just human nature. We’re driven to connect what’s out there to our personal experience.
Brené Brown is a researcher who’s spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Here’s what she found:
“Connection is why we're here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”
Understanding this fundamental drive will change the way you relate to your customer and also deepen your relationship with them.
This is also why getting to know your ideal customer is so important. You can’t relate to everyone, so you need to understand the specific people with whom you’re trying to connect, to know what they want from you.
Part of the client onboarding process at Starling Social is creating your ideal customer personas. The exercise itself is often very clarifying for our clients, and from there we can use these personas as a reference when we’re crafting your content, so we can act as an extension of your brand.
All this talk about connection and meaning might sound a little deep for a digital marketing strategy, but this doesn’t mean your content has to be serious. You don’t have to strike at the heart of your customers’ desires and pain points every time. It could be that sometimes your customer is looking for a little escape, for beauty, for some entertainment, or for a laugh.
In addition to considering what your customer wants from you, how you connect also depends on your brand. If you’re not sure what your brand is, start with our post on brand questions by Chelsée Curé.
Finding Your Content Sweet Spot
Your brand + what’s in it for your customer = your content sweet spot
The more you hit that content sweet spot, the more likely it is that your customers will want to engage with your stuff.
Some companies focus inward too much and only consider their offerings when creating content. They forget that your blog and your social media channels are a conversation.
It’s kind of like going on a first date and the person you’re meeting with talks nonstop. It only takes a few minutes of this before you’re eyeing the door, and getting out of an in person conversation is a lot harder than a simple unfollow.
Asking what’s in it for your customer will ensure you don’t get tunnel vision so they keep coming back for more.
Have we convinced you? Ok great, now let’s put it into practice.
What’s In It for You: Examples
Have you seen the acronym TL;DR in our weekly newsletter? It stands for “Too long; didn’t read” and we use it to give you a quick summary of something we read so you don’t have to.
What’s in it for you? You get all the juicy info without having to read a long (and possibly boring) article, but we always include a link in case you want to dive in.
What’s in it for you? Craving doughnuts? You can take a quick peek at Oh Doughnuts' IG to pick your flavour before you head to the shop. This post also lets you know that you can have doughnuts delivered to your house, which means you don’t have to get sweaty to get doughnuts.
This Expedia commercial with Ewen McGregor acknowledges—and pokes fun at— our obsession with accumulating stuff, and then ends with him walking onto a white sand beach. You hear the waves crashing and see a family with two kids running into the water.
What’s in it for you? Spending your money on experiences instead of stuff will make you happier, and Expedia will help you save more on those experiences.
Its especially inspirational because most of us have spent the better part of two years stuck at home with online shopping or home renovations filling the void left by lack of travel. We’re ready to have experiences again.
This Facebook Ad for an article by The New York Times is geared toward parents of young children. The copy and image are a great example of a company understanding its customers and where they are at right now.
What’s in it for you? Validation. Knowing you’re not alone and you’re not abnormal for feeling burnt out is a relief, plus the article offers a way out.
What Do Your Customers Want?
What do each of these examples have in common? Yes, they all make it clear what’s in it for you, but what’s in it for you in each case is a feeling rather than a product—ease, happiness, validation.
These examples hit on another fundamental truth when it comes to marketing: what your customers want isn’t just a product/service, they want the feeling that accompanies it.
Curious about how else we can help you be more strategic with your digital marketing? Get in touch! We’d be happy to answer your questions.
- by Lauren Wagn
By: Lauren Wagn, Social Media Manager
We’ve all heard the phrase “content is king”, and while this is true, some kings reign longer than others.
Content is a prime tool in your business’ toolbox to drive online traffic to your website. This can increase brand awareness, brand loyalty, and sales. However, not all content is created equally. Some content will create a flash-in-the-pan of interest while others will organically build traffic over time.
This is the difference between content and evergreen content.
Evergreen content can also go hand-in-hand with SEO techniques for even more return-on-investment (ROI).
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to make content that keeps on giving.
What is evergreen content?
When you hear the term “evergreen” you probably think of lush pine trees lining a snow-covered street; A tree that is thriving all year long.
That’s exactly what evergreen content is!
It’s content that no matter the time of year, or what year it is for that matter, it’ is always relevant. Evergreen content is not time-sensitive, even in a world where trends move in a blink of an eye.
The difference between evergreen content and regular content is like the difference between Wikipedia and TikTok. Wikipedia is steady and consistent, while TikTok is fast-paced and ever-changing.
Examples of evergreen content
Evergreen content can come in a variety of formats including how-to guides, testimonials, case studies, and listicles.
While the format of evergreen content can be diverse, it’s the topic that is the real distinguishing feature.
Here are some examples of evergreen content:
- The Top 3 Social Media Metrics You Need to Be Tracking. Social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. While the topic is niche, it will not lose its relevancy.
- How to Bake a Cake. Originally posted in 2010, this evergreen article has been updated to maintain its freshness.
- Evergreen Trees: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know. Evergreens grow all year round and are relevant all year round.
- The article you’re reading right now! Informational articles about industry-specific concepts make great evergreen content.
What these topics have in common is that none of them are tied to current events, news cycles, or trends. This allows them to sustain growth over long periods of time.
Evergreen content is built to last. News posts, announcements, statistics, and seasonal content will all age rather quickly. While there is a time and place for this type of content, evergreen content can build a strong foundation for your business’ online presence.
To compare, here are the Google Trends results for an evergreen topic next to a trendy topic.
Here are the results for “How to bake a cake”:
Versus the results for “Brangelina”:
“How to bake a cake”, while having some spikes, is generally consistent. “Brangelina”, however, was a hot topic following their break-up then flatlines into relative obscurity. This illustrates the life expectancy of these two types of content.
Why evergreen content matters
So now you know what evergreen content is, but why should you be interested?
1.) It consistently brings potential customers to your website
As evergreen content is always relevant, people will always be searching for this information. This creates a steady stream of viewers that may have never found your website before.
2.) It can drive traffic through different parts of your website
Once the evergreen content has brought the lead to the page, internal links can help boost time spent on your website. The more time they spend engaged with your content, the more likely they are to convert.
3.) It conveys information to your audience that will solidify you as an authority in their eyes
By using your content to address your audience’s problems and solve them, you can begin to build a relationship of trust with them.
How to make evergreen content with SEO in mind
When creating evergreen content, strategy and quality are equally important.
Evergreen content relies heavily on the topic it is based on. This will be different depending on what industry your business is in. We suggest picking something that you can position yourself as an authority in. What does your business know best?
When considering what topics to write about, look at frequently asked questions about your business or information that beginners may want to know.
Once you’ve determined an overarching theme, research what keywords may help your content find the right audience. Choosing a popular and heavily used keyword may lead to too much competition. Through your keyword research, you can begin to narrow down the scope of your content to form a concept that your audience will want to read.
These keywords can be used in various places in your content, such as:
- Title of the page
- Meta tags
- Image file paths
- Anchor text
This will help optimize your content and help it land on search engine result pages (SERPs).
With the topic fully fleshed out, it’s time to research the competition. Put your keywords into Google and see what comes up. This is what you’ll be competing with when people are looking for information on your chosen topic.
Pay attention to the headlines, format, and depth of information in these high-ranking results.
To rank well, you’ll want to produce content that is as good, and ideally better, than what is already out there. Use your competition as a benchmark for your content.
Not only is the quality of the content valuable to the reader, but it is also valuable for SEO. By building authority and creating high-calibre content, your page can attract backlinks, which is when another website “links back” to your post.
Having other websites link you as a resource not only drives traffic from their site to yours, it also factors heavily into Google's ranking algorithm.
At this point, you can begin to outline and draft your evergreen content
Need help developing an evergreen content strategy for your business' blog? Click here to get in touch!
How to keep your evergreen content alive
Researching and creating your evergreen content makes up the bulk of the work, but maintenance of your content is still important! Just like pruning a tree, evergreen content will need to be checked on and updated periodically.
While the majority of your copy may not need any tweaks, smaller aspects may need to be adjusted. Click on any links to make sure that they are still working correctly or review any statistics that may have changed. It is also worthwhile to check the effectiveness of your keywords and edit as needed.
This maintenance will keep your content fresh, useful, and accessible to your audience.
Evergreen content tips
When creating evergreen content, here are some extra tips to keep in mind:
- Write for your audience. If you’re speaking to beginners, don’t go too heavy on industry jargon so it is accessible to everyone.
- Break it up into “smaller” pieces of content. Use your evergreen content to create smaller, bite-sized social media posts that can drive traffic back to the original content.
- Use enticing headlines to catch people’s attention.
- Don’t rely exclusively on evergreen content. Use timely content to capitalize on trends and increased searches on certain keywords too.
Conclusion: start writing evergreen content today!
Evergreen content can be an effective way to get your business on SERPs, drive traffic, connect with your audience and convert leads. It’s also a great ROI as the returns just keep on coming.
When using evergreen content, just remember to thoroughly research your topics, keywords, and competition before writing so you can create the best possible content for your audience. This will ensure that your content has the desired outcome.
Ready to create evergreen content and don’t have the resources to do it the way you want it done? Reach out and let’s talk about how we can help you create content that’s right for your audience.
Did you find this article useful and are ready to learn even more? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and get hand-picked digital marketing tips, tricks and trends delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday.
- by Alicia Kurz
This post was written by our Account Manager Alicia Kurz.
Are you wondering how to write a great technical blog post for your clients?
Chances are, when you think about writing a technical blog post, your first feelings are a sense of dread, followed by being bored before you even start. If you aren’t an expert in whatever complex subject you are about to embark on, starting can be discouraging.
Luckily, these steps will help you develop a process to create useful, interesting technical content and take the guesswork out of publishing great technical posts. Let’s dive right in:
Where do you even begin?
The good news is, the thought of writing a technical blog post is more challenging than actually doing the work. The key is finding the points in the topic that interest you and focus on highlighting those points. When you’re more interested in a topic, you’ll be more enthusiastic about writing the post and finding the correct information. The better the post, the easier it is for the audience to connect with the topic.
Technical blogs are a great way to reach a lot of people and give people information that’s easy to consume. After writing many technical blogs, here’s the workflow that makes things easy to focus on content instead of logistics. Let’s start spreading some good ideas!
1. Define your audience and key messages
Who are you writing for? If your target is moms between 25-40, your writing is going to sound much different than writing for 30-50-year-old engineers in the forestry industry — am I right, ladies?
Audience personas can be quite helpful when you’re thinking about the tone and structure of your piece. A wine blog for beginners can likely be more light-hearted than a post about the environmental impacts of dust on a local community, for example.
It’s always important to think about what’s in it for your audience. People have limited time, so reading your blog better be a good use of theirs. Are the key messages of your blog in line with what your target audience is looking for? If not, you will need to make adjustments so people aren’t asking “who cares?”
2. Research your topic
Thank God for Google. Likely, you aren’t the first to write about whatever topic you are about to delve into. That’s a good thing. You have information from multiple sources — just please fact check — so it allows you to piece together the best information in the easiest to read way. Just because others have done it first, doesn’t mean they have done it best.
Often the research provided to you is written in nerd language and it’s your job to figure it out. If you’re a writer, that can be fun. It’s like fitting puzzle pieces together to make information more accessible to a larger audience.
If you have questions, other people probably do too. Your blog is where people will go to find those answers.
If you are writing this blog for a client, schedule a call where you can ask questions and make sure your key messages are clear. While you can independently find out a ton of information by yourself, it makes it a lot easier when you and your client are starting on the same page. Plus, they probably have specific information they want to be included that may not have been clear to you initially.
Make sure to record the call so you can go back and reference it. This will save you a lot of stress. It’s much easier than taking notes and trying to remember everything.
3. Create an outline
Now that you have your key messages down, you’ve researched your topic, and your client has given you an idea of what they are looking for, it’s time to create an outline.
Luckily, you have other blogs to reference and see first-hand which ones you were drawn to and which ones you pressed the back button immediately.
I said it once and I’ll say it again: always start with “what’s in it for them.” If your introduction doesn’t have a hook, your audience is gone.
Use headings and lists to make your content easy to read, and use a call to action at the end of your blog that aligns with your goals. Book a meeting, follow us on Facebook, or buy now are all great examples of how to further engage your audience after they have read your blog.
Outlines are also great to organize your thoughts and weed out excess information that will cloud your key messages.
4. Start Writing
Use your own voice to relay your messages. Whether that’s the professional version of your voice or your Saturday night version after a glass of wine version, just make sure the tone matches your content.
Use the K.I.S.S. method. In case you weren't born 60-years ago, or you just prefer to not reference rude acronyms, that means Keep It Simple, Stupid. Take out industry jargon and complicated language. You can sound smart without using words people have to Google. Your blog should be accessible to a large audience and easily consumable, not feel like more work.
5. Take a Break
Give your eyes a break once you’ve written your piece. After you stare at your computer for hours trying to write the perfect blog, you might become blind to minor errors. Maybe you typed “and” twice or used the same word in a paragraph three times. Try going on a walk, or just not looking at a screen for a couple of hours before you come back to it.
Although I prefer to save the trees, a great tip is to print your piece and edit it on paper — after you have run it through Grammarly, of course. For some reason, it’s easier to make changes that way.
Plus, it’s kind of satisfying to edit your own with a red pen… maybe that’s just me.
If you have a chance, ask someone else to read it for you. Try not to get annoyed when they give you irrelevant suggestions. They also might catch something you said twice, or ask a question about something you thought you answered, but you weren’t clear enough.
6. Add the Finishing Touches
Now it’s time to make your blog look nice. Add headings, photos, article links, and an SEO-friendly title.
The most satisfying part of writing your blog is clicking the publish button. Ensure the blog is going to the right part of your website, add tags, set a featured image, and utilize any widgets you have installed on your site to make your blog SEO-friendly.
After it’s published, check that the image that pulls works on your social platforms and that it loads correctly on both desktop and mobile feeds.
You want people to see what you’ve posted. Share your blog post in places your target audience hangs out. Ask people to share it. This gives you a chance for your network to spread your post to their network.
Use Canva to create free images that look great on social, and you don’t need to be a designer to use. You can also resize these so it fits correctly on all platforms.
If your piece is really awesome, consider doing some digital advertising for it to get the most eyes on it.
Just remember, practice makes perfect. Eventually, writing technical blogs will become more of a habit, and creating these posts will flow much easier.
If you need help writing blog posts or getting your content in front of the right people, drop us a line and let us know how we can help!
- by Alyson Shane
In a recent workshop with The Kinship Studio, we covered the importance of personalized content and how it can increase leads and sales by making your social media content more engaging.
Today we’re going to expand on some of the tips we shared with the class - let's dive right in:
What is Personalized Marketing?
Personalized marketing is the process of using data and analysis to deliver personalized content that is tailored to specific members of your target audience.
In fact, you’ve probably encountered this form of marketing before: have you ever received a “cart abandon” email encouraging you to complete a purchase? That’s personalized content.
Another form of personalized marketing is dynamic website content.
This type of personalized content will change to reflect the person’s browsing or purchasing behavior, or will change languages and stock items (for example) based on where the person is located.
What Are the Benefits of Personalized Marketing?
Some of the potential benefits of using personalization in your social media marketing include:
- Generate more customers and leads
- Create a sense of trust and familiarity with your customers
- Increased customer engagement
- Encourage content sharing
- Improve social media relevance (and lower ad costs)
- Increase brand awareness
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of personalizing your content, it’s time to dig into where we find all that customer data from in the first place:
Source 1: Review Your Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are an essential part of your marketing strategy because they help you identify specific, unique characteristics of different customer types.
They can help you understand things like:
- Age, gender, and geographic location
- Where they spend their time online
- Which devices they use (mobile, tablet, etc)
- The topics that interest them
- The influencers they follow and engage with
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of having buyer personas in an earlier post. If you’ve never created one, check out our handy guide (with free template!) to start building yours.
Source 2: Twitter Analytics
Twitter Analytics is a treasure trove of information about the people that follow you!
Check out your followers and note the following areas:
- Their interests (broad topics like comedy, weather, and technology)
- The devices they use to sign in and their wireless carrier
- Their household income status and net worth
- Their marital status
By exploring the various tabs (Overview, Demographics, Lifestyle Behaviour, Consumer Behavior, and Mobile Footprint) you can develop a deeper understanding of how your Twitter users behave.
But you’re not done yet. Next up...
Source 3: Facebook Audience Insights
Another great place to get a better understanding of your audience is Facebook Audience Insights.
Find it by opening Ads Manager, then clicking All Tools > Audience Insights.
Facebook will ask you to choose between studying everyone on Facebook, or just people connected to your page. Unless you have a giant following, select ‘Everyone on Facebook.’
Use the information you learned when looking through your Twitter Insights to inform your research. For example, you can look up people with this kind of criteria:
- 30-55 years old
- Located in the U.S.
- All genders
- Interested in Business
- In CEO or President positions
Once you’ve set up your search, Facebook will show you in-depth information about your audience. Here, you can find things like:
- Which Facebook pages this audience likes
- Where they live
- Which devices they use
- Their job titles
- The industry they work in
- And lots more!
Source 4: Look at Your Email List
The key to building an email list that helps you understand your audience is to offer lots of ways for people to subscribe. Some ways to do this include:
- CTA buttons or embedded text encouraging readers to subscribe
- Images that pop-up or slide-in on your landing pages
- Posts about your email newsletter on your social media channels
- Varied gated content (PDFs and resources that can be accessed in exchange for an email)
Different options help you understand people’s motivations for subscribing in more detail.
Once someone has subscribed, you can track the links in the email you sent them, see if they opened your email, and more.
Use a Social Listening Tool
A social listening tool is a must-have for the type of ongoing audience research needed to excel at personalized content.
Social listening tools typically offer multiple filtering options and in-depth analytics, and allow you to stay on top of any brand mentions online.
Some of the best tools out there (depending on your budget) are:
Brand24: 14-day free trial, Pro $49/month, Premium $99/month, Max $399/month
Buzzsumo: Pro $79/mo, Plus $139/mo, Large $239/mo, Enterprise $499/mo
Sprout Social: Standard $99/user/mo, Professional $149/user/mo, Advanced $249/user/mo
Brandwatch: Custom pricing
Hootsuite Insights: Custom pricing
Start Researching Your Personalized Content Today
There’s no better time to start understanding your audience and speaking more directly to how your company solves their problems.
Delivering personalized content to your customers will help you see a higher return on investment (ROI) in your marketing efforts, and creates a more connective experience for your audience.
- by Alyson Shane
What are you doing with your customer data these days?
If you're not regularly mining it for details on how to create content that answers their questions and moves them through your sales funnel, you're missing out!
In this post, we'll explore how to use customer data to create marketing copy and content.
How Can You Collect Customer Data?
Analytics tools like Social Report and Zoho Analytics can help you understand what your followers are doing on social media, but these options will help you collect more specific data about who your audience and customers are.
Surveys, Quizzes + Questionnaires
Surveys are a great way to learn more about your audience, and can also be a great lead gen tool! In fact, according to LeadQuizzes, the average quiz has a 31.6% lead capture rate.
You can decide to email your most engaged customers or find out more about prospective customers by creating a quiz on your website. Either way, make sure to keep your surveys and questionnaires short and clear, so your customers stay engaged.
Contests + Giveaways
Contests and surveys are great ways to engage with your community and get them excited about your brand. It's also an excellent way to gather specific data about the people who are interested in what you're giving away.
Because you can set the parameters of your contest or survey, you can get as specific with the data needed to enter as you'd like.
Free Gated Content
"Gated content" refers to content that is free, but only after the reader provides some basic information about themselves; usually their name and email.
Use the data you collect to create case studies, infographics, and info-packed PDFs that demonstrates how you solve your customers' problems, then gate that content.
How Can You Use Customer Data to Create Content?
Create Engaging Content
The most important thing to learn from analyzing this data is understanding what your customer care about. If you see that specific topics, phrases, and keywords tend to rank lower, or not at all, phase them out of your marketing copy and swap in the latest data.
Remember: people's needs change over time, so you need to be regularly generating new customer data to review and introduce into your content marketing plan.
Show How You Solve Their Problems
By understanding more about what your customer's needs and problems are, you can create content that shows them how your business helps them solve it.
For example, if you run an HVAC company, you can use customer data to find out which furnaces are most popular. Then, publish a blog post listing the Pros and Cons of each, with a call-to-action (CTA) to contact a technician for more details.
This kind of content shows you're listening to your customers. It also has the added bonus of being extra SEO-friendly, since you're optimizing to match the text your customers are typing into search engines.
Learn the Type of Content Your Customers Love
There are lots of ways that you can share information about your products and services online: through text, images, video, infographics, webinars, etc.
Make sure to pay attention to the Engagement Rate that your posts receive, and note the type of content that tends to do the best.
Learn the Best Time to Publish Your Content
You want to be publishing content when your audience is online, which means paying attention to when they're most active. Monitor your social media analytics to find out when your audience is spending the most time online, and plan your publishing to occur during those peak times.
Don't forget to make a point to be active on social media during this time to talk to your followers about the new post as well - social media isn't just a soapbox!
Create Content That's Geo-Specific
One of the easiest ways to speaks to a customer's needs is to get specific to where they live. Use your customer data to understand where your customers are coming from and create content that targets them specifically.
Even better: if you advertise through Facebook, the options to get ultra granular are almost limitless.
For example, a retirement community advertising available units would want to target 55+ seniors looking to sell their homes in suburban postal or ZIP codes with ads promoting newly-renovated suites. See? Ultra granular.
Start Using Customer Data in Your Content
When you spend the time to understand your customers, you can craft content that speaks to how you solve their problems. It's really that simple!
Remember to connect with your customers regularly: on social media, through email, on your blog, and wherever they may be online. Use the data you collect to periodically re-evaluate what your audience is saying to you.
- by Alyson Shane
Do you have a hard time figuring out what to say to your followers on social media?
Even for the most outgoing among us, joining conversations on social media in an authentic way can feel daunting for even the most seasoned digital marketer.
We also have to consider other obstacles, including:
- Ongoing changes to the algorithms on Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks that decreases organic reach.
Fierce competition for the same audience from within your industry.
Decreasing attention spans and fatigue among social media users.
In spite of these challenges, having in conversations with your followers on social media is the best way for your brand to show your audience that you're listening.
Social media users are savvy, and will unfollow you (and potential stop buying from you) if they feel like you're too busy talking at them to take the time to listen and speak to them.
That's why today we're sharing our favorite conversation tactics to increase brand engagement. Let's dive right in:
There are three primary ways we can start a discussion on social media: by asking questions, by joining existing conversations, sharing topical news, and asking questions.
Join Existing Conversations
One of the easiest ways to engage with others on social media is to jump right into an existing conversation.
We especially love Twitter for this purpose because we can talk to pretty much anyone about anything, but don't be afraid to jump right into another conversation if you feel your brand has something constructive and useful to share.
Twitter chats are a great opportunity for your brand to get together with members of your audience and/or industry (we recommend doing both), especially since the question-based format a takes the guesswork out of trying to come up with something to say.
Some things you can say include:
- Great points! What do you think about XYZ?
- That's an interesting perspective - how did you arrive at your conclusion?
Ask Thought-Provoking Questions
If one of your followers re-shares your article, don't just pat yourself on the back and consider it a job well done; you're not finished yet!
This is your chance to follow up with that community member and increase brand engagement by asking them questions about the piece. By showing an interest in our community, we can help them feel interested in us.
Some things you can ask include:
- What was your biggest takeaway from the article?
- What about XYZ in the article resonated most with you?
- What are your thoughts about the future of XYZ industry?
Share Timely News and Trends
Staying up-to-date with the latest trends in your industry means you'll be able to stay ahead of the curve. It also allows you to hone in on trending conversations as they're happening.
Commonly known as "newsjacking," this tactic allows us to have conversations with our audience about breaking news.
Guiding the conversation helps us understand what our followers' thoughts are on a particular topic while also increasing brand engagement at the same time.
Even better: sharing our thoughts with breaking news allows us to show that we're experts who are tuned-into the latest goings-on in our industry. This helps community members feel like they can trust us to know what we're doing.
Some ideas to get the gears turning in your head include:
- What are your thoughts on XYZ's latest announcement?
- How do you think the change to XYZ will impact the industry?
- Do you think XYZ news will impact how you feel about XYZ topic?
Keep the Conversation Going
There are lots of easy ways to start and continue, conversations with your followers. Some examples include:
- Posting polls and surveys (Instagram Stories is excellent for this!)
- Hosting your own Twitter chat (vs. joining existing ones)
- Host Q&A or AMA sessions to help your community get to know you
Remember: the key here isn't having the best questions or the wittiest answers; it's about showing your community that you're listening and that you care about what they have to say.
For more insights into building a community around your brand, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!
- by Alyson Shane
This post was written by our Copywriter & Content Strategist Hannah Clark.
Do you sell stuff, or the doing of stuff? No matter what products or services you offer, marketing your stuff is just a part of staying in business. Most businesses are, understandably, interested in the advertising efforts with the best return for their dollar. Logically, it’s an easy choice. In practice, it’s not so simple. Everyone seems to be allergic to advertising these days. So what are brands to do?
They need to be making content. A lot of them just don’t know it yet.
A while back my Mom (who is a business owner) asked me what my job title is and I told her I’m a Content Marketer. She said, “No one is going to know what that means. I don’t know what that means. You should just tell them you work in marketing.”
Well, if you don’t know what that means, this one goes out to you. This is why you (and my Mom) should be creating content, and why it works.
1. The Options Are Limitless
First of all, let’s just outline what I mean by ‘content’. When I say content, I’m really talking about multimedia. Back when the internet was taking its baby steps, we might have said ‘blogs’, ‘articles’, or ‘photos’ instead of content.
These days, we have so many more choices. We still have blogs, articles, and photos—we also have videos, e-newsletters, memes, podcasts, infographics, ebooks, quizzes, and other interesting nuggets that keep us logging in every couple of minutes. ‘Content’ is the umbrella term for, essentially, internet stuff.
The diversity of the world of content is exactly why it’s so exciting. It doesn’t matter if you sell sweaters for cockatiels, or you’re a plumber, or you’re a non-profit trying to save the rainforests. The right kind of content can help you communicate, clearly and effectively, with who you’re trying to reach.
2. Three Words: Return On Investment
Maybe you’re familiar with this old chestnut:
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”
Listen. The guy who said that, John Wanamaker, died in 1922. Shit has changed. We have the internet now, and just about anything can be measured.
We can put an article on a website or a video on YouTube and tell you exactly how many people have seen it, over any time period, and how long they stuck around. Cross-reference that data with your sales and it’s pretty obvious if something is or isn’t working.
Here’s the crazy part though; making content is possible at any price point. You can make it yourself, for free, by pointing your phone camera at yourself and talking at it. You can pay a marketing agency, like Starling, to create blog posts and email newsletters for a very reasonable rate. Or, if you want to take it all the way, you can spend a little more and get a video production company to create a knockout brand video for you. A content marketing strategy can be completely customized to your budget.
Better yet, the content you make isn’t like a typical advertising campaign that disappears (along with all your money) after the campaign ends. Unlike billboards and banner ads, content is something you own forever. You can keep content on your website indefinitely, and it only gets more valuable as it accrues traffic from Google. The more people have seen your content, the higher up it rises in Google’s search results.
3. It Sells Without Selling
Speaking of search results, here’s a question for you; what do you do when you have a passing curiosity? Do you beeline to Google? Maybe you ask Siri or Alexa?
Web search is the driving force of content marketing. Before people look for products, they’re looking for answers. Whatever you use the internet for—to learn something new, compare prices, pass the time, whatever—there’s someone on the other side of that search benefitting from your curiosity.
You don’t have to use your content to ask people to buy stuff. You just have to assume there are people out there interested in what your company is about, then make stuff for those people. Trust me, they’re out there—and if you aren’t, they’ll find your competition.
4. It Starts a Relationship...
Last year, my partner and I had just made an offer on our first home. As a first-time homeowner, I was freaking out. I was worried about stuff that probably wouldn’t happen and excited about all the possibilities of being a mortgagee.
Meanwhile, I was searching frantically for everything from home inspection, to renovation before & afters, to furniture that will be forever out of my price range. I hadn’t even closed on the place yet, but I was already forming an opinion about products, services, and brands.
During that time, I consumed thousands of pieces of content. DIY reno videos, home decor blog posts, and an embarrassing number of Pinterest pins. And that’s just the “sexy” stuff. I was also making searches like ‘how to apply foam sealant’, ‘when to replace hot water heater’, and ‘how to install wall shelving’.
Before long, I actually needed to know a lot of this stuff. When that time came, the brands that took the time to make this information available were the ones that got my business.
5. ...and Builds Loyalty
At the point that someone like me makes a decision like that, the decision is based on something more profound than price comparison. If you’ve ever checked out Simon Sinek’s massively popular TEDTalk, Start with Why, you know that an emotional connection is far more powerful in marketing than logic and reason. When you give people a reason to love you, it’s harder to leave you.
This is the point when your content marketing efforts really start paying off. Your loyal customers will start to share it.
“This workout video whipped my booty!”
“This was that article I told you about that breaks down how the stock market works.”
“This photo really inspired me to re-decorate my office.”
This, right here, is word-of-mouth in action. Content marketing helps you generate word-of-mouth by giving people something to talk about.
6. Nobody Likes Ads
This is a safe space, so let’s all admit it. We hate ads. We skip them, block them, and tune them out. We would rather have an unsightly ‘Save the Trees, No Flyers Please’ sticker on our doors than deal with the endless ads.
So let’s stop advertising to people. Let’s start talking to people. Helping people. Entertaining people.
Let’s create some friggin’ content.
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- by Alyson Shane
Every business owner knows that the best thing your customers can do for you (in addition to buying your products and services, of course) is to refer people they know to your company.
After all, 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know, and people are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend. (Source: Annex Cloud)
To this end, business owners will often spend significant amounts of their marketing budget to reach new customers and encourage organic word of mouth... but when was the last time you thought about how your existing customers can actually help you grow your customer base?
Peer-to-peer (P2P) marketing, which is when an existing customer becomes a "brand advocate" and promotes a specific product or service to their friends and colleagues, has become an important aspect of any business' marketing plan in both the B2B and B2C spaces.
Successful P2P marketing draws from your existing network of happy customers and taps them to help your business grow through referrals, social selling, and thought leadership.
Have you considered including your customers in your content marketing strategy? If not, you should, as 91% of B2B purchasers have reported that past buying decisions have been influenced by referrals from industry peers.
Not sure where to start? Below are four easy ways you can include your customers in your content marketing strategy:
1. Customer Case Studies
Case studies are one of the easiest ways to showcase the value of your products and services to prospective customers by creating a story that others in similar situations can relate to. By demonstrating a clear narrative of Problem, Solution, Result, you can show customers across a variety of industries that choosing your business will yield similar positive results.
What should a strong case study include? Make sure to write with these elements in mind:
- The challenge. The most important part of a strong case study is a challenge that your reader can relate to. For example, showcase how your business helped a nonprofit convert 3x more donors in the last quarter, or how your insurance clients generated 50% leads in the last year as a result of your services. If your company services a variety of different industries try to craft a few different case studies that tell relatable, industry-specific stories.
- The approach. Use this section to describe how your product or service resolved the issue and build credibility with your reader. This section should use specific examples like highlighting the steps your team used to achieve a specific outcome, or how choosing your service led to increased productivity and customer satisfaction. If possible, use visual examples like charts and data to illustrate the positive net benefit.
- The Result. This section should be focused on your approach solved the customer's needs and should highlight the tangible impact of your services. Use cost savings, leads generated, and other key performance indicators relevant to the target industry to secure buy-in from your reader.
2. Start a Guest Blogging Program
Does your business have a blog? If not, back up and check out this post on how to get your business' blog going, then start including your customers in it in order to share new perspectives, ideas, and grow a community around your products or services.
Identify some of your company's top customers or biggest brand advocates and ask them to write a blog post about a particular pain point they have, and how your business has helped them solve it. This is also a great opportunity for cross-promotion, so make sure to ask contributors to share the post on their own social media profiles, and their blog if they have one.
This is a unique opportunity for your customers to tell their story and enhance their own brand by positioning themselves as thought leaders while also showcasing the value of your services, so what are you waiting for? Reach out to 2-3 of your most loyal customers and see if they're interested; we guarantee they'll say yes.
3. Showcase Customers During Webinars
If your company services a variety of industries, or if you have a fully built-out product suite, customer-centric webinars are a great way for your customer to share information and challenges relevant to their industry, and to share how they've found success using your products or platform.
One of the benefits of using a webinar over a case study or a blog post to showcase your customers is that a webinar allows them to go more in-depth in their industry, show live visuals, and chat with attendees through live chat. By giving your customers a real voice as part of your content marketing strategy you can put real, human faces to your brand and build trust and connections with your customers.
4. Start Live Streaming
Have you noticed an uptick in the amount of live streaming happening on social media lately? If so, you're not alone: this emerging market is expected to be worth over $70 billion by 2021.
Need another reason to consider live streaming? How about this: 80% of customers would rather watch a live video than read a post from a business. Why? Because live streaming created a sense of urgency - people need to tune in right now - and it offers an"behind the scenes" look which builds authenticity, trust, and transparency.
Not sure how to work live streaming into your content marketing strategy in a way that features your customers? Try these ideas:
- Live events like lunch 'n learns, breakfasts, and panel discussions.
- Announcements and updates.
- Interviews and Q&As, at conferences or on-site.
Featuring your customers is an easy way to cross-promote your live streaming content. Just make sure to promote the live stream in advance so your audience has enough notice that they can tune in and participate.
Start Including Your Customers in Your Content Marketing
We've listed just a few of the ways you can start including your customers in your content marketing strategy, but there are lots of other ways you can get creative and leverage technology like live streaming and video to enhance your customer experience and showcase the value of your products and services.
Not sure how to write a case study or create a content marketing plan that highlights you customer success stories? Drop us a line.
Have a customer success story you want to share? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page.
Know a brand that's rocking the webinar game? Tweet us your favorite.
Looking for a more B2B connection? Follow us on LinkedIn.
Love eye-catching visuals? Let's connect on Instagram.
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- by Alyson Shane
Websites exist for the same reason: to get the visitor to take action.
Whether that's reading a blog post, subscribing to your newsletter, buying your product, or learning more about what you do, there shouldn't be a single page on your website that isn't there to generate an action from the person viewing it.
But if your page copy isn't set up to convey information in a way that offers value and inspires the action you want someone to take, you're leaving customers at your digital doorstep.
As content experts, we spend a lot of time working with our clients to hone their copy and keep their pages converting and consistent. With that in mind, today we're going to review some of the most common reasons we find our client's content wasn't converting, and unpack how we approach solving their issues:
You Use Empty Words
One of the most common issues we see when developing a voice and tone guide with many clients with many of our B2B clients is a tendency towards verbosity in their copy.
Often we'll run into sentences that sound like this:
"Our team of exceptionally qualified experts with decades of experience in their respective fields who are fiercely committed to delivering exceptional results that exceed expectation and reimagine the potentiality of our client's portfolios."
... So, how did reading that make you feel? Cross-eyed? Us, too.
Often, we find that in an attempt to sound professional, people will stuff unnecessary words into a sentence that detract from the point they're trying to make.
The Solution: Write Like Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was famous for his short and quippy prose. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Hemingway's sentences were concise and to the point, and conveyed the maximum amount of information in the fewest amount of words.
When we write for our clients, we edit our work and ask "would Hemingway leave this sentence? Or can we be more concise here?" Try it for yourself and see what the results are!
Bonus: there's even a Hemingway Editor tool that's super handy.
You Lose Focus in Your Copy
If Hemingway was able to hammer home a powerhouse story in just a few hundred pages, your web page copy can be snappy and concise while still conveying your brand voice and communicating value.
But why does this happen in the first place? In a lot of cases it's because the writer is trying to up-sell the reader on something.
Think about it this way: if you have two related products - say, a bicycle and a helmet - it may be tempting to try and sell both on the same page.
People think: "if they don't buy the bike, they'll buy the helmet!" but this tactic often backfires because you're splitting your reader's attention.
But by splitting your audience's attention you reduce the likelihood they'll buy either item. The more things you stuff onto a page, the more divided your reader's attention (and incentive to purchase) is separated and diminished.
The Solution: Focus on the Subject Matter
The key to writing concise copy is to stay laser-focused on the subject matter on the page.
For service pages, write one page per service.
For item pages, write one page per item.
For blogs, write about one idea or topic.
This will keep your audience's attention focused, and will keep your brand's voice and tone from sounding inconsistent and confused.
Oh, and by all means use embedded links to link to related topics when necessary, but be careful to focus on one topic per page.
Reading it Feels Like Work
Have you ever seen an attention-grabbing headline, clicked over to the website, and then clicked away immediately because you didn't feel like putting the work into reading the whole thing? Yeah, us too.
Typically "hard work" pages happen because they've been stuffed with empty words and sentences, like the example we showed earlier.
These pages are dangerous because they increase your bounce rate (people who leave your website after only looking at one page), make your page look less appealing to read.
Worst of all: these pages fail to communicate value because there's so much fluff in the copy that the real points - the ones that are valuable to your audience - are lost in there somewhere.
The Solution: Optimize for Mobile
Gone are the days when crowds used to gather to hear Abraham Lincoln read a four-hour rebuttal to an opponent's platform; our modern society likes when people are to the point and communicate clearly.
This has mainly been driven by the explosion of mobile phones and smaller screens. Lots of text is hard to read on a smaller screen, and how we write our copy has to change to adapt to these trends.
By always writing your copy with mobile in mind, we apply these principles:
- Avoid large paragraphs and try to keep sentences short.
- Use shorter words to communicate your message.
- Cut out empty words.
Your Copy Sounds Wooden
We've noticed this tendency in the B2B space much more than the B2C space, probably because of that perception of fanciness we discussed earlier. Unfortunately, the most significant consequence of this style of writing is that not only does it tend to get filled with empty words, it often sounds wooden and unapproachable.
Two words a business owner should never want to hear are "wooden and unapproachable."
Why? Because people buy from brands and people they like and trust. Let's think about it this way:
You're a farmer at a networking event, and you meet two business owners, Robert and Stephen. Robert is wearing a three-piece suit and is standing with his arms crossed and talking but not smiling; Stephen is wearing a suit jacket, slacks, and is telling an entertaining story and moving his hands around.
Who are you more likely to buy from? Robert or Stephen?
If you're like most people, you'll choose Stephen. Why? Because he seemed more approachable and friendly, not wooden and reserved like Robert, and these subtle differences in how we communicate impact how people feel about us.
People (and brands) who seem approachable and friendly make their audience feel comfortable enough to want to buy from them.
The Solution: Keep Your Copy Approachable
Consider how your phrasing makes your page sound.
Read the copy on your web pages out loud to yourself.
Who does it sound more like: Robert, or Stephen?
Copy that sounds like Stephen should sound clear, friendly, and approachable.
Focusing on sounding positive and avoiding complicated language shows your reader that their experience of reading your website is what matters most, and doesn't make them feel uncomfortable, or like reading it is a chore.
By avoiding empty words and sentences, staying on-topic, and by working to be approachable and clear, you can write web page copy that keeps your reader on the page, drives the action you want them to take, and conveys the value of your services to your audience.
Need some help figuring out how to do it? Get in touch and let us know how we can make your brand sing with a content strategy based on data, analytics, and a deep understanding of how to write content that gets results. Get tips right to your inbox, and give us a follow on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
- by Alyson Shane
The start of a new year is an opportunity to consider what we want to spend the next 365 days doing with our time, and provides an important benchmark by which we can measure our progress.
We say "this year I'm going to get in shape" or "this year I'm going to eat fewer pancakes" (yeah, right). It's also an opportunity to assess how we've done over the past year, and to start setting goals to make positive changes in the year ahead.
Luckily, there's no better time to start making positive changes than right now, so here are a few "bad habits" that you may be guilty of making on social media over the past year, as well as some handy suggestions on you can improve on them in 2018:
Being "All Business" Online
One of the biggest challenges facing the modern business landscape is how social media saturation forces brands to be more personal, quirky, and entertaining to their potential customers than ever before.
These days it's not enough to have a great logo and a website that converts; your brand has to have a strong set of values, an identifiable voice and tone appropriate for each social network, and the confidence to crack a joke once or be clever in a post or reply. Having a strong brand identity is essential in a world where most markets are over-crowded at best, and by being bold and confident in the content you share helps you stand out from the pack.
Your social media profiles are where your customers get to know you best, so use them as opportunities to show off your personality while still maintaining a professional and courteous approach.
Steps You Can Take
There are a few ways you can infuse your social profiles with a little extra personality from time to time. Some things you can try right now include:
Sharing curated content
Bonus points if it's from a thought leader in your industry, an industry partner, or a fellow colleague (assuming the content is appropriate.) Sharing curated content says "we liked this and wanted to share it with you. Since we both like this content, we have something in common."
Piggybacking on popular hashtags
Hashtags are essential to growing your audience on Twitter and Instagram and we love using popular hashtags like #WisdomWednesdays on Twitter to share insights from our clients' industries to their followers and help them reach a broader audience using the same hashtag.
We're not suggesting that you start posting photos of Scumbag Steve every time you get a customer complaint, but memes are an easy way to add some "cool" points to your brand, and tools like memegenerator allow you to make your own, industry-specific jokes you can share.*
* If you make any silly industry memes, please tweet them at us.
Selling on Your Personal Facebook Profile
Unless you keep your friends in the dark about what you do, it's likely that you've shared updates and posts related to your business on your Facebook Timeline sometime within the past 365 days - and that's okay, you're a business owner and you need to hustle to keep the lights on.
What you should aim to nix in the new year is promoting your business directly through your Personal Profile, and working to grow your Business Page Audience instead of posting about promotions through your personal profile.
By focusing your efforts on growing your Business Page to a wider target audience, you increase the likelihood that you'll attract customers to your Page who have never interacted with your brand before, and who probably don't know you personally.
Steps You Can Take
The best way to promote your business on your own time is to re-share content from your Business Page through your personal profile (by clicking "Share > Share on Your Timeline" on the post) and to use your Business Page to find new customers beyond your personal Facebook connections (friends and family.)
Here's what you can do:
- Set up a Facebook Business Page (if you don't have one already)
- Fill in as much detail about your business as possible.
- Invite people to 'Like' your page.
- Post to your Facebook Page often, and measure the results.
- Use existing Customer Lists (if available) to create Facebook Custom Audiences.
- Use those audiences to create Facebook Lookalike Audiences.
- Invest in some Facebook Ads to expand your audience beyond just your family and friends.
- Re-target previous audiences, test, and keep expanding!
(If this sounds like way too much work just give us a shout. We're happy to handle this for you.)
Not Engaging With Your Followers
Real talk: all the content scheduling tools in the world won't help you build an audience who actually care about what you have to say, online or otherwise.
We believe that the best way to get others to care about you is to care about them first, and that means being engaged and responsive whenever someone mentions your brand. If someone has taken the time to leave you a comment, post a review, or re-share your content the easiest way to show them that you appreciate them is to say so.
Not responding tells your customers that you don't care about them, and that you aren't paying attention to them when they try to talk to you, address a concern, or file a complaint. It may feel tempting to 'hide', 'delete' or just ignore any negative commentary but think about it this way: how would you feel if a brand you used to love deleted your comment instead of addressing your concern?
So be thankful for it all: the bad, the good, and make sure to let your audience know how much you appreciate them.
Steps You Can Take
Showing your audience that you care about them not only builds brand loyalty with your existing customers, but it also shows any newcomers that they can always expect timely, helpful, and positive interactions with you online.
Here's a quick breakdown of ways you can show your audience that you're plugged in and listening to what they have to say:
- Respond to Tweets, Facebook and Instagram comments as soon as possible.
- Check your Twitter and Facebook DMs daily.
- Check your Instagram Story Mentions and Messages daily.
- Thank critics for their feedback and never lose your cool.
- Be genuine in your replies and say "thank you" a lot.
- Re-share user generated content related to your brand, like Instagram photos and Tweets.
Not Paying It Forward
The best thing you can do for someone else's business is buy from them. If you can't buy from them, re-share their content, give kudos or congratulations, and take time this year to lift up the businesses in your industry and community through your own social media channels.
Lots of businesses are wary of spending time promoting other businesses or people - we often get asked "what's the benefit of promoting other businesses?" and our answer is always the same: people want to do business with people they like, and the easiest way to be liked is to support others.
Steps You Can Take
By paying it forward with your social media you're directly contributing to promoting a business ecosystem which benefits both your business and those around you. You get to be a good person while also building good will within your industry and community - it's a pretty great deal, if you ask us. Here are a few easy ways to get started:
Showcase your values
Is you're an SME then you probably rely on your connection to your local community at least to some degree in order to keep your business running. With this in mind, re-sharing content that showcases your company's values can go a long way towards helping grow both your community and your customer base.
For example, if your office is full of animal lovers consider periodically sharing news from your local humane society.
Identify businesses in your industry and community that you can support through your online presence, such as other members of your local Chamber of Commerce, nonprofit member associations, and past and present clients (ask permission first)
For example, if your business is sponsoring an event, take the time to give a shout-out to the other sponsors who also made the event a possibility.
That's a wrap on 2017!
Oh, and PS: if you're looking for a team of creative, data-driven writers and digital marketers to take your brand to the next level in 2018 we're now accepting new clients. So y'know, give us a shout.
Happy New Year everyone!