Speaking Into The Air: How To Ensure Your Content Marketing Connects

Image courtesy of http://static.guim.co.uk/

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post by Alysa Seeland, a content marketing expert for early stage startups. See more about Alysa below.

 

“Written kisses don’t reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts. It is on this ample nourishment that they multiply so enormously.” – Franz Kafka

The digital age provides perhaps the greatest opportunity we’ve ever had to gain customers. We’re in their pockets, at their fingertips and in their newsfeeds. Being top of mind has never been so accessible. So why does it feel like an echo chamber?

As with any age, the digital age is simultaneously and opportunity and a dilemma. We’re poised on the tipping point of virality and obscurity. We have to craft every tweet, every blog post, every landing page for the possibility millions of viewers, often to find one or two who are truly listening

2.73 million blog posts are written daily – not to mention tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos etc, etc, etc. That’s quite a few “kisses” that never reach their destination. The sheer volume of content has produced what Jenna Walker, CEO of Artifact Uprising, has called “digital paralysis.” In many ways, our customers have simply stopped listening.

What does this mean? It means good content is more valuable than ever. Here’s how to make sure your content connects:

1. Listen First

The most important part of any form of communication is listening first. This can take place in a number of ways, but my favorite ways to do this are customers interviews (yes, actually get on the phone with them!), perusing the comments on popular blog posts in your industry, and reading the tweets around a particular subject.

As you’re doing all of these tasks, take notes of the themes that come up (on an actual notepad!). Then zoom out and take a look at what you’ve discovered. This will probably require some interlinear spelunking because as it turns out we’re not always good at saying what we mean.

As marketers, it is our job to connect the dots. We’re the Great Translators, and unless we do the diligence of understanding what it is our customers want, they’ll never care to hear what we have to say.

2. Speak To Add Value

One of the biggest mistakes I see content marketers make is the incessant need to publish something. When quantity increases, quality runs away with the spoon. Instead of tweeting every hour on the hour or publishing a blog post every day, gain your audience’s trust by starting small and concerning yourself with finding or creating quality content.

You want to train your audience to be interested in what you have to say. That starts with surprising them with your intentionality and ends with teaching them to expect great things.

3. Mean What You Say

“When you take a word…you must realize that you have not taken a tool that can be thrown aside if it will not do the job, but you are fixed in a direction of thought which comes from afar and stretches beyond you.” – Hans-georg Gadamer.

Just as your customers may not always mean what they say, you must doubly make sure that you do. Are you making your audience think of the very thing you wanted to avoid by telling them “Don’t think of a pink elephant”? Your job is to submit yourself to the significance of the “sign” or the meaning behind the words. Here are some questions I consider:

  • What are all possible interpretations of this word?
  • What is the likely interpretations given the socio-economic backgrounds of your varying customer profiles?
  • Are there negative connotations of the word?
  • Is it still worth using?
  • Is this the best word available to me given how my customers talk about this problem?

Phew! That’s a lot. But when it comes to content, a little bit of dynamite on the right fracture does the same amount of work as lacing the whole mountain.

4. Your Audience Isn’t Everyone

“True communication entails a communion, a sharing of inner experience.” Leo Lowenthal

If your company is truly solving a problem, you’ll be able to find it through one or two shared experiences of pain, frustration, delight or bliss. When you narrow it down to these experiences, you get a clear sense of who you’re talking to, and most importantly, what they care about.

For example, if you’re a company selling a chemical-free product for pets, you’re targeting pet owners, not baseball fans. Trace the breadcrumbs back to the puppy days, to the belly up naps in their lap, to the muddy paw prints on their floor, to the toxic chemicals under the kitchen sink – ack!! You’ve found it – the place where pain threatens delight and that’s where you come in.

The goal is not to reach everyone or anyone, it’s to reach someone. That happens when you truly know who they are and what they care about.

The Takeaway? Make It Stick

In the incessant stream of content vying for people’s attention, success boils down to one thing. Want to know if your pasta is cooked? Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. Content marketing is like that. The truth of the matter is you can do all of the above and still not quite get it right. That’s a frustrating place to be. Resist the urge to apply crazy glue and keep cooking. If you are truly paying attention to your customers and adding value to the conversation you will find something that sticks. And that, my friend, is an exciting place to be.

 

About Alysa Seeland

Alysa is the Content Manager for KDMedia LLC. When she’s not sipping espresso, creating an email campaign, or chasing one of her boys, she employs visual storytelling to create effective videos for SMBs. With both B2B and B2C experience, Alysa found her home in early stage marketing and believes success comes not from a secret formula, but navigating the everyday day violence of ordinary events.

Five Ways to Stay on Top of your Social Media Game

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 9.18.17 PM
by Pam Sahota

Our lives are busy. We get up, work out (if there’s time), run off to our office (wherever that may be), check our insane amount of email while we slug some caffeine, and hope to make it through the day without having to take most of our work “home” that evening as well. So when do we stay on top of what’s happening in the world, what the latest trend is, and what social media app is hot now? We have to make time. The key is to find efficient and enjoyable ways to do so.

Here are a few of those that may suit your digital fancy…

1. Twitter - This one is a no-brainer. Some may feel like Twitter moves too fast, or it’s hard to keep up with the latest news. However, if you make a Twitter list for different categories you’re interested in, then you can focus on the content you want, and when you want to consume it. For example, you could have a news list to read on your commute in the AM (or while you’re at the gym); an entertainment list when you’re kicking back after dinner or taking a breather while grabbing a coffee; a publication list for your favorite magazines and bloggers who you like to follow. Either way, Twitter makes it easy, and the closest you’ll get to some of the “real time” news you need to know. Whether it’s Vine’s new app additions, the latest iPhone update, or a sports score, Twitter will have it all.

2. Pulse - A simple, easy, and user-friendly way to aggregate your news and publication content in one place. And since it’s been “linked up” with LinkedIn, you can share easily, as well as sign in through your LinkedIn account.

3. CNN Breaking News - One of the few apps I make sure the notifications are always on. It’s the app that lets you know when crazy shit goes down, right then and there. Seriously.

4. Flipboard – Similar to Pulse in some ways, with the aggregation. The difference is mainly for brands. The ability to have mobile experiences for your content is more expansive on flipboard. There are also more ad opportunities for your branded content. From a consumer perspective, it’s more about your preference on what you prefer for your user experience. Swipe or Flip?

5. tumblr - You can make tumblr another news feed type source if you subscribe to the blogs of the brands and publishers you love to consume. For example, I follow brands who put out cool insider content that you can’t always get on any other site or channel. It’s not always the of the minute news, or mainstream announcements, which is why it’s awesome. For example, you can get first time releases, TV Show premieres, and behind the scenes type content.

So in the end it’s all about your preference. No time? Corral it one place. Prefer different apps, that’s ok too. For example, Mashable has a great app where you can swipe through their daily content with ease. And if you and your friends have a favorite app or tool, please share!

Image Source: Techcrunch

How to Maintain Focus on Marketing in the Summer

summer focus

By Kristin Dziadul

It’s hot. It’s sticky. We’re in no mood to put up with scope creep or petty debates when we’d rather be poolside soaking up every ray of sun this summer. But is that our biggest problem? Do we get too excited for the summer weather (and I don’t blame you, I’m born and raised in New England) and lose focus and make sloppy decisions? Possibly.

Yet, it’s not just this season that cause a lack of focus — it’s the lack of understanding for how to focus and where to focus that can be our real downfall. We’ve all been in those over-attended meetings where everyone throws in ideas, people get excited, and before you know it, the whole messaging platform and feature set of the product has expanded and shifted. Wait… What?! So what happens when your team doesn’t know how to get out of that black hole?

Having experienced this happen time and again, here’s how to focus your marketing efforts and core feature sets, even during the hot and sticky summer months:

Always remember what you stand for

This past weekend I was at Cape Cod and observed a beachside walk-up restaurant demonstrating clear signs of a lack of focus. First, there was a massive line — and I mean 40+ people. I tried to figure out why. Then I saw it: the menu. 50+ options, spread across multiple whiteboards, on printed out pieces of paper, and posted all over the side of the building. How could customers ever make a decision? This small restaurant was trying far too hard to be everything to everyone — even offering calamari and Cod dishes! Instead, they should have kept it simple with 1 easy-to-see menu with about a third of the options. I’m positive that would have cut their line down significantly.

After observing this, I realized it applies to so many companies that try to be everything to everyone. They feel they need to add more and more features and functionalities that don’t match the core of what the company does, and in turn, that causes all facets of the company to suffer since they’re spread too far and wide. So in short, remember what you’re on a mission to do (and do well) and stick to that. You will turn some people off, but perhaps they aren’t even your ideal customer.

Customer Needs/Wants/Desires First

You’ve probably been in those meetings where someone says “It’d be awesome if we had this in our app!”, and everyone claps and smiles at the idea. On occasion its fun to brainstorm all of the possibilities for what your product can do, but at the end of the day, it’s what your customers want and need that matters in your product. You and your team may not even be the target customer for your product, so as much as you’d love to see a feature added, do your users really want it?

Your customers may not be ‘wowed’ at all if they can’t even focus in on what to do with your product! Center back on your them and make sure that what you do is focused on the core set of features that makes them truly happy.

Realize your budgets, team capabilities and timeframes

It would be great if you could use every ad platform out there to accelerate lead gen and spread your messaging, but is that really affordable and manageable? Probably not. And yes, it’d be awesome to have an absolutely massive booth at your next conference to garner attention, but how much will that cost and do you have the staff to plan for and man that? Maybe not.

So anytime you’re planning for the next marketing campaign or activity, keep in mind how much money you realistically have to spend, how much time your team has to devote to it and when you need to realize results by. That will all be a big determinant of what you can do, and will keep you focused as well.

So whether it’s the summer heat making you tuned out and tired, or just the lack of organized decisions within your teams, use these above principles to bring back focus to the core of what you do. So have fun, dream of big plans, but always remember to focus in like the lens of a camera to make the right impact.

What other ways do you and your team maintain focus? Have things gone seriously awry, and how did you fix that? Leave your advice or experiences below!

 

Social Media Marketers Have World Cup Fever (and it’s making some of them delirious)

by Elisabeth Michaud

The World Cup: a massive, global sporting event held once every four years. A chance for incredible athletes to win glory for their home nations, and an opportunity to unite soccer fans (and new, sometimes temporary, enthusiasts) who speak a myriad of languages in cheers and tears.

It’s also one of the most heavily marketed events on the calendar, and social media (especially Twitter and Tumblr) have been popular outlets for brands to take advantage of it. While some brands have chosen to officially sponsor the event (Adidas, McDonald’s and Budweiser are all doing so this year), others have opted to ride the coattails of the event by using related content to spark interest and engagement in their brands.

With tons of excitement around each and every match, and half the world watching (and live-tweeting) them, it’s no wonder that many brands have jumped on the real-time marketing bandwagon in order to snag a share of the #worldcup buzz. While some of the campaigns have been well-executed, others have crossed the line into some bad puns and worse taste. Do these social media marketers have World Cup Fever–and is it making them totally insane?

 

1. Delta

Early in the World Cup, Team USA played Ghana. Delta, a brand with flights to both locations, shared this tweet:

Delta Ghana tweet

At first glance, a nice, congratulatory post to the US Men’s National Team…until you realize that there ARE no giraffes in Ghana and the image was posted by an ill-informed social media manager or creative team. Cringe. The brand apologized and removed the tweet, but Delta definitely lost the trust and respect of many travelers that day.

2. KLM

Another airline, another Twitter gaffe. This time, Dutch airline KLM’s social media manager felt like celebrating the Netherlands’ win over Mexico:

KLM World Cup Twitter Fail

Mexican fans weren’t exactly LOLing at this one–the tweet received many negative responses. While the image was certainly on-brand, the gloating sentiment wasn’t, and KLM removed the post later that day.

3. Coors Light

On the day the USA played Belgium, nearly every brand in social jumped on one, single idea: that boycotting Belgian waffles would be an appropriate reflection of their patriotism. Amusing for brands like Waffle House and IHOP (with a couple of well-crafted tweets to back them up), but I fail to see how Coors Light made the connection:

Other than being slightly more American in heritage than competitor Budweiser (part of Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, a Belgian company), there just doesn’t seem to be a point here. And those waffles look delicious!

With only a few more games to go, I’m hoping these World-Cup-crazy social media marketers pull out their most creative content for the final.

3 Reasons Why Pinterest Thrives During The Holidays

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post by Tammy Luksich, a content expert with a knack for Pinterest. See more about Tammy below. 

Have you wondered why social media, particularly Pinterest is so addicting? As it has been described as “ESPN for women,” just what is in the social media crack that has you clicking “Pin It” over and over again?

Here are three reasons why Pinterest thrives on social media addicts, especially during holiday season.

The Skinny

  1. Visual media is the dangling carrot for web surfers
  2. It saves time for party planners.
  3. Do-It-Yourself ignites the excitement firework in your brain.

Taking it piece-by-piece let’s start with the first item:

Visual media

1. Visual media is the dangling carrot for web surfers

Let’s outline this statistically, shall we?

  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual
  • The brain process visual information 60,000 times faster than text
  • 40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text

Wait… You mean to say…

The Importance of Visual Content | Infographic Courtesy: Business2Community.com

The Importance of Visual Content | Infographic Courtesy: Business2Community.com

How many of you scrolled straight to the infographic and started reading? My point exactly.

LuckyTamm: We Remember Infographic | Statistics Source: Business2Community.com

LuckyTamm: We Remember Infographic | Statistics Source: Business2Community.com

Crafty individuals like to show off their creativity. Pinterest is a perfect venue to do so. Especially since it allows for succinct and organized manner and as you can see, Pinterest is chalk-full of dangling holiday preparation carrots.

Pinterest is chalk-full of ideas amalgamated to leave your mouse scrolling and your mouth drooling. | Image Courtesy: Tammy Luksich Pinterest Profile

Pinterest is chalk-full of ideas amalgamated to leave your mouse scrolling and your mouth drooling. | Image Courtesy: Tammy Luksich Pinterest Profile

Saves Time

2. It saves time for party planners.

Most working professionals would agree the term “busy” is an understatement. Between dropping off the kids at summer camp, keeping up with a daytime job, maintaining household chores, and managing time to make it to the gym, making T-I-M-E to schedule a Fourth of July barbeque is challenging! The beautiful thing about Pinterest, is it helps expedite a lot of the “idea generating” process and helps you come up with a lot of creative ways to host a fabulous barbeque for everyone to enjoy. It may just have a zillion party planning templates for you to peruse through as well.

In relation to the Fourth of July, here are some of the top pins you may find useful:

Do-It-Yourself

3. Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ignites the excitement firework in your brain.

Question: Did any of you know the “mason jar” had so many uses prior to Pinterest? It seems like for every Do-It-Yourself project, there is some type of mason jar craft. I’m just sayin’.

According to Mashable’s story: Why Is Pinterest So Addictive, the “I can do that” factor plays a major role in Pinterest’s popularity gas tank.

Do-It-Yourself ignites a new kind of online excitement. | Image courtesy Flowtown, via Column Five

Do-It-Yourself ignites a new kind of online excitement. | Image courtesy Flowtown, via Column Five

Most Pinterest users that have gotten married, given birth, or tried inventing their own ways of organizing or “Mason Jar Ideas” are either cussing or praising the explosion of Pinterest. The main advantage to DIY Pinterest project is they are fun ideas that you can make on your own or save for a future time to make. Lastly, you don’t have to be a carpenter or an electrician to create some of these projects. Pinterest is basically your operator’s manual for creating cleverness on your own.

Your Turn

Why do you think Pinterest is so appealing?

Has a particular pin helped you save time?

Why is DIY taking over?

 

About Tammy Luksich

Content Marketer in love with #Sports, #SocialMedia, & my #FurBabies! | Web Ninja | Crossfitter | Yogi | Adventure-Seeker | NM | #Besomebody Enthusiast

See more of Tammy over at her blog, LuckyTamm.com!

Don’t Get Lazy, Keep your Social Audience Engaged This Summer

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 12.54.23 PM

By Pam Sahota

It’s easy to get a little lax during the summer, especially when the warm weather hits, and the patios are enticing you to come hang out. Just remember, your consumers are thinking the same thing. They’re excited for the summer, they want to drive to the beach, relax on their porches, have bbqs with their friends, and travel for the long weekends. So in-between your sunshine and beers, remember to be there for your consumers too.
Here are three approaches to consider as your brand engages with its audience across social:
1. It’s not about the social channels you have, it’s about what your audience is doing on those social channels this time of year. For example, they may be planning their summer adventure on Pinterest; capturing their new friendships on instagram, and/or tuning into the World Cup on Twitter. So what do you do about it? Engage with them in a way that’s conducive to their behaviors during this season and on that channel.
Tip: Don’t put out the exact same piece of content on every channel. #Lazy
2. Provide them with content that will help them get what they want and desire this summer. For example, if they’re looking for ways to enjoy their weekend, give them ideas and share your thoughts. No need to put your product/service on full display during that content messaging, but subtly demonstrate that your brand is more than just a product. It’s a brand that offers more and can be a daily (or regular) part of their lives — especially when the hot hazy summer days drop down upon us.  Be the brand they are excited to see content from as they’re on their long road trip killing time on their smartphone, swiping through instagram.
3. If you can’t do “real” time, plan ahead. Not every brand can monitor conversation 24 hours a day. Sometimes you have to plan for what’s going to be “popping” in social conversation. For example, we all know the World Cup is this month. Most brands have planned what types of conversations will occur, and will be ready to engage when that time comes. Another thing that happens every year is July 4th (oh yea, that awesome day with red, white and blue, and amazing patriotism, and yes bbqs too)…be ready for it in advance, but also allow for some day of changes to pop into conversation as news develops.
And while you’re sipping that beer, and laying on your hammock, just check in on your brand a few times here n’ there. You never know when that awesome opportunity to start a conversation (not just join) could be ripe for the picking.
Image Source: theprospect.net

What All Marketers Do Wrong In The Summer Months

working in the summer

By Kristin Dziadul

“We should hold this off until fall — no one does this in the summer so let’s start planning at the end of August instead,” said nearly every marketing and product team, ever.

While it’s not the greatest time to launch a product or get a lot of PR, it’s definitely a great time to start planning ahead. That impending product launch? Yup, that needs a lot of planning put into it. That inbound tool your engineer has been working on? That will need a PR plan behind it to give it some leverage.

I personally love summer because it gives us marketers (and anyone, really) time to (a) reflect on progress and (b) decide what you need to accomplish in the next several months. It would be a failure on our part to let these months pass by idle.

While the appeal of suntans, sandy beaches, bonfires and Coronas may be calling your name (and I don’t blame you!), you can still muster up the energy during the day to set yourself up for success this summer.

Here are the top five marketing-related projects you should be focused on the next few (hot and sticky) months:

1. Review Progress and Metrics

Progress reviews and metrics reports are a living-breathing thing that should be done regularly anyways. However, the summer months provide you the perfect opportunity to really hone in on some particular metrics and gather actionable insights and ideas from them.

For example, you should be reviewing:
  • How many users have you acquired? How does that stack up to your goals?
  • How many users are considered “active users”? What can be done to get more active users?
  • How have your blog posts been performing? Are they written around a few central themes related back to your company’s core messaging? Do they include strong CTAs? Are you converting as much from your blog as you had expected?
  • What is your PPC conversion rate per channel? Are there some channels that are underperforming and should be cut? Are there channels that are doing outstanding and should be ramped up?
  • Is your website bringing visitors on a desired path? Is there the right amount of strong CTAs?

You should also check out this fantastic SaaS KPI Metrics chart, put together by David Skok of Matrix Ventures to help you frame your metrics reports and understand what you should be measuring and reporting on.

2. Revise your editorial calendar

If you find that your blog posts are underperforming (in terms of traffic, conversions, etc.) or that more can be done to bring attention to them, it’s time to revisit your editorial calendar. I actually recommend that companies do this every 90 days or so, especially if things are changing fast with your company and product.

Evaluate the following during your editorial calendar revamp:
  • Core Themes:
    • Have you decided on 2-4 core themes that you want to be known for? If not, you should — ASAP. If so, have you related all your blog posts to those themes?
  • Headlines:
    • Take a quick look through the last 10 or so blog posts on your blog. Are your headlines actually compelling? If not, check out these surefire headline formulas to help you structure your next headlines.
  • Internal Blogging Program:
    • Does your team have the capacity to blog more? If so, it’s the perfect time to start an internal blogging program with at least a few contributing team members. And if any of the contributors (and yourself) have some extra bandwidth to blog now, why not begin creating a backlog of blog posts so you can fire them away throughout the year?

You should also check out Janet Aronica’s eight recommendations for blog post topics that should be on your editorial calendar — it’s awesome, seriously.

 3. Plan for Q3 & Q4 PR

While the summer certainly isn’t the perfect time to pitch to the media, you can instead start planning for PR-worthy stories.

A few ideas:
  • What product announcements are coming up that deserve attention and traction?
  • What major hires are being made, or advisors brought on, that can be announced?
  • Is a round of funding expected to close?
  • Is a large customer going to close soon? Are they willing to team up with you on an announcement?
  • Are there any major partnerships in the works that the world would be interested in?
  • Are you launching any tangential products, such as an inbound tool, that can be pitched as a story?
  • Have a ton of data? Bring it together into a report or infographic and tell a story with it.

The lesson here: create news whenever you can.

The summer is also a good time to revise your media list, pitch message, byline topics, etc.

4. Find new sources for content and ideas

Have your sources for social media content gone stale? Are your followers bored with the topics you’re sharing? When you don’t have blog posts and announcements of your own to share out, it’s always a good idea to share out third party blog posts that relate to your company’s mission and beliefs.

To refresh your social media content sources:
  • Subscribe to new blogs on Feedly (their search functionality is fairly good)
  • Regularly check out posts on LinkedIn Pulse and from LinkedIn Influencers
  • Refine your Google Alerts or Mention alerts
  • Subscribe to new newsletters to get targeted content delivered right to your inbox
For reading material that will inspire your own blog posts, or if you want to learn more about your industry:
  • Review what your competitors share
  • Search around for keywords and phrases related to your product and industry to find new blogs and media outlets
  • Ask colleagues and friends in the same (or similar) space what they read

I’m always looking for new content both to share out and learn from — both for my clients and for my own professional development, so I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.

5. Build an inbound tool (or two)

The summer could be just the perfect time to build something new, such as an inbound tool, and have it ready come fall.

A few popular ideas for tools are:

They’re a great way to (a) instantly provide value to your target audience in a way they’ll appreciate, (b) collect new leads to later convert to your main product, and (c) leverage for additional PR (as described above).

While you’re at it, get creative with your tool. Start by answering questions such as:

  • What does your target audience want to solve immediately?
  • What will really hook them and wow them — so much so that they’ll be interested in speaking with you about your main product too?

I could go on and on about what you could do in these hot, sticky summer months. In short, don’t want until the fall to cram your schedule with 12-hour days to get done what you should be doing today. If you’re not spending the time actively promoting new products, announcements, tools, or answering influxes of customer emails and tweets, then shift your focus to metrics and planning to set you and your team up for success. And you just might impress your boss with all that you find — especially if they take a nice long vacation, giving you added quiet time to focus :)

 

What other marketing activities do you find effective to do during the calm of summer? I’d love to hear it — please share in the comments below! 

What Marketers Need to Know in Mary Meeker’s Latest Internet Trends Report

by Elisabeth Michaud

Last week, Mary Meeker (a technology industry analyst with Kleiner Perkins) presented the latest version of her yearly internet trends report at the Code Conference. Last year, she told the industry that mobile advertising was a huge, but largely untapped, opportunity. She said wearable tech devices would be increasingly important, and that content sharing was still on an upward trend–way, WAY up. Each year, those of us who work online look forward to her insights; we can all learn something from them!

For those of us who are marketers, we can’t talk about what we do on a day-to-day basis without addressing the latest internet trends. We’re not all digital marketers, but all of us, at the very least, dabble in digital.

So what can we learn from Meeker’s research this year? Some of it, we already know:

  • Visual social media (think: Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr) are continuing to rise in popularity
  • Mobile messaging (ever heard of WhatsApp? Snapchat?) is also growing rapidly
  • Mobile advertising is still growing, but print spending continues to be overrepresented when it comes to media buys

But digging a bit deeper into the research, there’s a lot we can learn–and a lot to inform our future strategies at work:

  • With the rise of messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat, Meeker suggests our social graphs are changing in a big way: we’re communicating MORE frequently with FEWER people. For brands using social and mobile as part of the way they connect with customers, this will mean rethinking how we talk to those customers. Finding brand advocates and connecting with consumers will be even more important for those brands–and the ones that fail to cultivate those strong relationships risk going the way of un-promoted posts in the Facebook News Feed: being ignored by the algorithms almost entirely. See slide 37 in Meeker’s deck for the data.
  • While we may consider Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ to be the “big 4″ platforms, and Instagram as perhaps the 5th, Pinterest actually refers more traffic to publishers than Twitter–7 times as much traffic! Both B2C and B2B brands can succeed on this platform, so make sure that if driving traffic to your blog or website is an important piece of your strategy, you’re not neglecting Pinterest participation. See slide 43 in Meeker’s deck for this data.
  • It’s probably a good idea to up your mobile ad spend! This could be anything from in-app advertisements to promoted social content served on mobile. Cut down your print spend–if you want your business to live.

If you’re interested in digging into all of Meeker’s charts and graphs yourself, here’s the full slide deck:

What did you find most useful in the trends report?

The 8 Blog Posts You Need in Your Editorial Calendar (Plus a Free Content Planning Template)

editorial-calendar

My marketing consulting work for startups often involves kicking off a content marketing program.

For some companies, that means starting the blog from scratch.

For others, it means taking an existing content marketing program and using this as a jumping off point for a more cohesive, proactive, and effective approach.

In both cases, setting up an editorial calendar is always a part of the process. An editorial calendar is basically just a schedule of posts you plan to write for the upcoming month. It’s a key step towards making content a priority at your company.

The Templates You Need

This post will prep you to perform a competitive analysis and content planning session with your team.

These free content planning templates will help you take action on the tips we talk about in this post.

Get Your Free Templates Here

Develop an Editorial Calendar

For startups, planning content a month out is perfect. I wouldn’t plan further out than a month because things change so quickly. If you plan for less than a month it’s not worth it, and you end spending more time in meetings about the content than you do producing it.

As far as how often you should post, you should publish content as often as you can while maintaining the quality and still having time to hustle the content on social. This may only be one time a week for the first month. If that’s the case, that’s awesome. Use that as a starting off point, and accelerate from there.

Competitive Analysis

Your editorial calendar doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark.

You shouldn’t copy others, but you should have a sense of what worked for them and what didn’t work for them to guide your own original strategy.

Here is a step-by-step process for performing a competitive analysis:

  • Collect two or three months worth of competitors’ blog posts in a spreadsheet like this (Competitor Analysis tab).
  • Check out how many social shares the posts got using MuckRack’s Who Shared.
  • Record the number of shares in the spreadsheet.
  • Review the results to identify patterns. Which content formats worked best? Which topics fell flat?
  • Discuss this together as a team.

Of course, social shares are only a rough proxy for a blog posts’ success. But it is the metric that’s available to you from the outside looking in and a good starting point for your strategy.

The Blog Posts You Need

Here are the types of blog posts you should put in your editorial calendar.

1. Something Evergreen – Explain something that your customer wants to know about and will be popular even two years from now.

Example: The Noob Guide to Online Marketing [With Giant Infographic]

2. Something Shareable – Format this post with this in mind: How will I get 1,000 shares on this article? Mention other people in the blog post so that you can tag them in Tweets (a list of quotes or brands works) and get them to share the post. Use Click to Tweet to create Tweetable links of quotes or statistics.

Example: 47 Facts About the Garment Industry You Should Know

3. Something That Shows You How to Do Something – This can be step-by-step instructions or a list of tips. Get tactical.

Example: 25 Ways to Run Faster Right Now

4. Something Timely – Offer your take on a current event, new study that just came out from your industry, or a recent announcement that would be important to your customer.

Example: How Much Should I Pay for Facebook?

5. Something That Worked for a Competitor – Find blog post topics and formats that worked for others. Then add your own spin and do those on your blog.

6. Something That Shows Off a Customer - You want your users and customers to come off as pioneers/experts, as that success will be associated with you.

Example: How One eCommerce Entrepreneur Explored New Sales Channels – And Took Revenues From $8k to $96k Per Month

7. Something Controversial – Controversial doesn’t mean culturally offensive or mean spirited, it’s about drawing the line in the sand and taking a strong stance on a topic. Taking the contrary opinion and backing it up is a good way to think about this content.

Example: Why an “Unlimited” Plan is Toxic for Your Saas

8. Something Repackaged – Once you have almost a month’s worth of blog content, think about how you can re-package the stuff you’ve already done in a new format. For instance, collect all the statistics you have mentioned from your previous blog posts into a “25 Facts About _____” Slideshare presentation.

Example: At my last company, I turned this blog post by our CPO into this Slideshare presentation, which was featured in the Leadership and Management section, has gotten more than 4,000 views, and inspired a few articles from the community.

Sit down with your team, this content planning spreadsheet, and this list. Then fill in what posts you’re going to write about for the next month or so. Then, get writing!

Wrapping It All Up

Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Figure out the main messages you want to put out into the world as a company first. It’ll make repackaging those messages into different kinds of content much easier.
  • Planning is important. It holds people accountable, and by making this a priority in your schedule, you will produce much higher quality content.
  • Your content doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. Don’t copy competitors, but use their past mistakes and successes to inform your own unique approach.
  • You don’t always have to start from scratch. Re-packaging content into new formats is an opportunity to not only save time, but also to reinforce messages.
  • With a focused strategy and regular look at the metrics, you can calmly review what is working and not working, and improve from there.

How do you plan your content? Let me know in the comments.

[image via]

So You Want to Kick Butt on Instagram, Now What?

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 8.50.46 AM
by Pam Sahota

Instagram has become a playground for consumers, influencers, and brands alike. It’s a perfect storyboard for visualizing your brand, your daily life, and the passion points individuals have. It allows one to engage with others through a visual digital scope – and I for one love it myself. Sometimes it’s easier to capture a picture that tells more than words could describe. And it doesn’t hurt that people are more likely to share an image that grasps their attention than an article they just skim. So your brand has decided to join the land of images, but now what?

Instead of me continuing to tell you how awesome it is, and how it can benefit your brand, let’s break it down into an actionable checklist you can take away and reference as you move forward…

What you need to get started:

  • A strategy that folds up under your social content strategy overall and works with your other social channels
  • About a dozen or so photos to get started with with a cadence on how you’ll distribute
  • A profile photo and quick summary bio (including a link to where you’d like to drive your instagram audience – is your website? blog?)
  • Cross promotion across your other social channels, so people know your brand exists on instagram

Quick tactics that help your brand get embraced by the instagram community:

  • Research hashtags being used by your audience, competitive brands, and those with the passion points you are trying to reach
  • Unlike Twitter where hashtags are kept at a minimum, it’s ok to use a few more here (especially in the beginning when you’re still trying to gain traction)
  • Keep note of daily and weekly hashtags that occur that are connected to your brand and campaigns (ex. #throwbackthursday, #traveltuesday, #fashionfriday)
  • Like and comment on consumer / influencer photos
  • Reply to comments on your photos
  • Avoid filters and make your photos professional and appealing (photos that include the color blue, are more likely to be looked at and liked).

The ways you can use instagram:

  • Give sneaks peeks into new product lines
  • Show event photos
  • Behind the scenes action
  • Tell a story around a campaign
  • Allow an influencer to take over your instagram account for a day
  • Have a contest and do a fun giveaway
  • Integrate within your website and blog for more exposure of the content

The things you may not know, but should:

  • The ultimate compliment on instagram is a regram of another’s photo
  • As a brand you may want to ask permission first and you can through direct message if you prefer to do it privately
  • Links in comments are not clickable, so make sure to put the most important one you’re driving to in your bio
  • If you’re trying to sell retail through your instagram, consider style tools that help you monetize your brand on instagram

Bonus:

  • My number one tip for almost all social channels – be human. Have fun. And see where the community takes you.

Note – I focused mostly on images here, but videos are a great way to use your Instagram account too. Sprinkle them in, but don’t make them every post, as Instagram is definitely more of a photo channel first and foremost. Have questions on how to get started or optimize your instagram as you move forward? Reach out in the comments below!

p.s. I instagram everyday because I’m a bit of an #instageek.

Image source: Nordstrom Instagram

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