You’re forging your way into the world of social media,
content marketing, inbound marketing, or whatever you want to call it. And
you’ve heard that content is king and whatever you publish has to be worth your
audience’s time, and good enough for them to share.
But you’re not really sure what that means.
If only there was a basic test you could perform to find
out if content is worth posting and sharing.
You’re in luck. Now there is.
What’s the outlet?
The type of content you should create depends on where
you’ll be releasing it:
Your Facebook and Twitter fans are mostly looking
for deals, sneak peaks and customer service
Your blog or video audiences are mostly looking
for answers and entertainment
Is it about you, or
Be sure that even when you do post about your company,
products or services, it’s still ultimately about your audience. Why it matters to them. How they can get the most out of
it. What they think of it.
Make sure the content does one or more of the following:
problems. Your customers are searching the web for answers – be
the one who has them. If you can’t provide the only solution to a particular problem, make sure your solution is
either the fastest to understand (like this
six-second tip from Lowes) or the most thorough (“Everything You Need to
Know About X”).
Arrests their attention. This content has to entice even the busiest people to
stop and click. Check out the article titles on the BuzzFeed homepage – I dare you not to click
one. Few of them are useful, but most of them are fascinating. And from bizarre
creatures to exotic lifestyles, to funny observations about everyday life, they
share this common thread: they are all story-driven and highly visual.
Think you’re ready to start a company blog? Here are eight
rules to follow when you write that first post – and every other post after.
1. Know your goal.
Your ultimate goal is to gain more business (or more
support, if you’re a non-profit), but keep in mind the goals specific to the
blog. Things like:
Get more web traffic
Collect email addresses
Build a community
B smart: To build authority with potential customers
and with search engines, don’t try to sell something every five minutes.
2. Write stuff your
audience wants to read.
Content should be:
Related to your business
So useful and/or amusing people
want to share it with friends.
Not an ad for your product or service.
If you’re a medical company, write about healthy lifestyles.
If you’re a nonprofit, write about people you’ve helped. If you’re a B2B
company, write about industry legislation and best practices.
B smart: Posts with tips, tricks and how-tos are
3. Write an intriguing and specific title.
Specify what’s in the post and why it’s valuable to your readers.
“Sack Lunch Ideas” is boring
“Make Every Day Delicious”
“12 Easy and Delicious
Sack Lunches” is both specific and interesting
B smart: Include relevant keywords for search engine
4. Make it easy on
Chances are, your readers’ eyes are already tired of the
screen. Huge Dostoyevsky blocks of copy could scare them away. Break up the text
with subheads and bullet points. Readers should be able to tell what you’re
saying at a glance.
B smart: Train yourself to keep posts under 500
words. It’s okay to occassionally write a longer post that’s more in-depth(i.e., “everything you need to know
5. End with a call to
Give people something to dowhen they finish reading. For instance:
“Read more” (followed by
links to posts on similar topics)
“What’s your favorite sack lunch? Tell us
in the comments!”
“Like this article? Pass
it on!” (followed by share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)
B smart: Choose calls to action based on your main
goals. Sharing is great for traffic; comments are great for community-building.
6. Add a picture.
Use a photo a relevant photo that’s striking or amusing to draw
the eye and help break up the text. Only use pictures you own, or have
permission to use from the owner.
B smart: Search the Creative Commons section
of a photo-sharing site like Flickr for images you
can legally use (as long as you link back to the owner).
7. Post on a schedule.
You don’t have to post every day – five posts a week can be
daunting to your subscribers as well as your writing team – but posting one to
three times week, preferably on the same days (e.g. every Monday, Wednesday and
Friday) is ideal.
B smart: Share your own posts on your social
networks. You can connect some networks (like LinkedIn) directly to your blog
to post new article links automatically.
8. Reply to every
thank people who compliment the content. Strike up conversations with your
B smart: Don’tfeed the trolls – in other words, don’t try to argue with people who post
inflammatory comments just to get a rise out of you. Instead, shut them down
with something benign like “Thank you for your input.” Consider implementing a
Comment Policy reserving the right to ban trolling, strong language, racial slurs,
What questions do you have about blogging? Let us know in
Submitted by Stephanie on February 13, 2013 - 5:18pm
Is your audience falling out of love with that how-to video
you worked so hard on? Is their infatuation with last year’s top-20 blog post
all but gone? You could let the spark fade. Or you could help your followers
fall in love with the same content all over again – just by giving it a little
Here are seven ways
to do that.
Posts to Ebook – Do you have a series of blog posts covering a similar
subject? Bundle them together into an eBook: just edit for redundancies and
flow, and update with some new stats or tips. Get your graphic designer to
pretty it up, then offer it as a free download to new subscribers.
White Paperto Infographic – Pick out some of
the most pertinent facts and numbers from your white paper and get your
designer to turn it into a fun, easy-to-read graphic. Make sure you include a Pinterest
share button when you post it!
to Video–How-to blog posts, especially, make awesome videos – sometimes
it’s just easier to watch someone do it step-by-step.
Graphic – On the other hand, some people want an at-a-glance reference. So
if you’ve already made a how-to video, try creating a photo version of the
instructions, with one key image illustrating each step, like this brownie in a mug recipe. These
are great for Pinterest, too.
to Blog Post – Some people just don’t have time to listen to a whole
podcast – or have trouble following along without a visual. Post a transcript
of the podcast on your blog, or write up the highlights and scatter in a few cool
quotes from the recording.
to SlideShare – Did you create an awesome slide presentation for your
webinar? Upload it to SlideShare to
read a wider audience, promote sharing across social networks, and even get
Stuff Again – Some new subscribers haven’t even seen your old content: try re-sharing
an old piece on your social networks. Use a segue like an upcoming event (“Get
ready for the holiday shopping season with these 10 tips on bargain-hunting”) or
a news story (first check out these tips on
There are plenty of other ways to repurpose content – maybe
you’ll turn an infographic into a video, or a webinar into an eBook. Tell us
your repurposing ideas in the comments.
Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as
to fill the time available for its completion”
Chip says: Although I don't work 4 hours a week, it has helped me
think of business in a different way. I learned about Parkinson’s Law, and the 80-20 principle: 80% of your benefits
come from 20% of your efforts.
"I can't think about
that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."
says: I've always been drawn to books with strong female protagonists. I
wanted to BE these women (or in one case, very cool spider) because they took
control of their sometimes bleak existence and made the most of it. As a
little girl in a broken home, this concept was very appealing to me and helped
shape the grown woman I became.
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's
knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it
through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
Southern literature is a favorite of mine; and Atticus, Scout and Jem are such
great characters. Harper Lee’s writing is so descriptive. What a shame she
never wrote anything else. (p.s. I named one of my cats Boo after Boo
Susan says: Having grown up in the Deep South, the story of
racial conflict hits close to home. GA, AL, MS. It's so hard to believe that
all this went on. We just wish that there were more people like Atticus Finch
to make a difference. And I love that this scary, mysterious guy, Boo Radley,
protects these children. Doesn't every child have a bad dream kind of person
like Boo that we all just hope turns out to be as great as Boo does?
"I have hated words and I have loved them, and I
hope I have made them right."
Stephanie says: About a foster child in Nazi Germany who steals books
from bonfires. The narrator is Death. I know it sounds morbid, but it isn’t. It
breaks my heart about a hundred times, but ultimately leaves me hopeful.
Ashley says: I recently read Laura Hillenbrand's book, and was moved
greatly by the story of WWII lieutenant and former Olympian Louis Zamperini
(who is still alive today). It will remain among my favorite reads because it
is a testament to the human spirit, the will to live and the miracle of
1850s California, a powerful retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea:
a prostitute and the man who married her.
says: This story, based on the Book of Hosea, will tug at your heart strings
and unveil the power of unconditional love – to restore, heal and redeem a
LJ agrees: A
timeless love story. It showed me what unconditional love looks like. It shaped
the way I communicate with God and how I love others around me. This is a book
that takes hold of your heart and forces you to feel the characters' emotions,
which you realize are your own, too. A perfect analogy.
Ali says: I can read it over and over again. Not only am I a pathetic
romance novel junkie, but this one has substance. It deals with family
differences, pride, love, and all the other elements that help me remember who
I am and what I value. Oh, and there are horses. So obviously that's a huge
The story of a
young woman who marries a wealthy, recently widowed Englishman. She moves into
his beautiful country estate, Manderley, only to find she cannot escape the
overshadowing presence of her husband's late wife, Rebecca.
Jennifer says: Rebecca is truly a masterpiece. The
story is so enthralling — you literally can't put it down. There is also an
unforeseen twist that leaves you dumbfounded and questioning everything you
thought you knew. The narrative is so descriptive and haunting, you honestly
feel like you are there at Manderley experiencing everything firsthand.
says: A collection of personal essays. While it is sometimes challenging to
tell what is Sedaris' brilliant observation and what is his exaggerated
imagination, he is a talented storyteller. It's one of my favorite books
because even after reading a story several times, it will still make me laugh
Jeff says: This
is a terrifying book that I would not recommend to anyone. That being said, I
thoroughly enjoyed it. If you can handle impossible architecture, chaotic
typography, endless pages of footnotes, and haunted houses, you may be able to
finish the book. Reader beware.
What’s your favorite book? Leave a favorite quote
in the comments!
Submitted by Stephanie on January 18, 2013 - 12:23pm
At Balcom, we manage social media for several clients –
three of us are dedicated to it full time. But how do we use social media on
our own time? Twenty-one Bs answered our survey, and here are the results:
More than 95 percent
of the Bs surveyed use Facebook,
almost exclusively for keeping up with friends and family.
A few Bs do more:
Lynne said: “I use
it to source vendors (‘Hey FB friends: I need a makeup artist in San
Antonio. Message me with info if you have a great person’)”
Eric and Lauren T. both use it to
share news, videos or articles.
connections to brands as well as people.
About 90 percent of
Bs use Twitter, but more for consuming and
sharing content than for creating it. That content includes breaking news, articles
from industry thought leaders, sports, fashion, trends and comedians.
Audrey noted: “I have learned
about several significant current events through Twitter, before the news broke
on a local station. Twitter is a quick network to stay up-to-date but I
must admit…sometimes I do post irrelevant updates such as pictures of clouds.”
Jamie has only tweeted three
times, but she’s addicted to following comedians:
Aside from that:
Ali shares links to
interesting or funny news she doesn’t have time to read, so she can find
Eric also shares a lot of his own amusing observations.
Steve mentioned following
and commenting on live events
All the Bs have LinkedIn accounts, but only about a
third mentioned using the network, chiefly for business connections and
maintaining a professional image.
Lynne uses it to research potential new employees.
Chip tracks who
looks at his profile: “usually a good sign that a client (or vendor) is
T. and Eric share news and industry articles here, too.
More than a third of
the Bs use Pinterest, for everything
from recipes and how-tos, to style ideas, industry articles, infographics and
Lauren T. also uses it for
content research for clients
About a third of
the Bs use Instagram, and aside from a
general consensus that it’s great for editing photos (Ali uses it to “Make myself look less human and thereby...more
attractive”), their feelings vary:
Lynne deleted her account
Audrey and Lauren M. love it, and Lauren
M. says she’d use it more “if it didn’t feel so cliché”
I sort of surprised him with the camera. Sorry, Dad.
My dad has taught me a lot of things, including the proper
way to order a Margarita (no Triple Sec), the magic of baseball (we watch Field of Dreams every year when spring
training starts), how to appreciate good music (the Moody Blues, the Beatles,
Pink Floyd, the Who), and that, when you have a Bose sound system, the best
part of every movie is the THX slide with that escalating
But he taught me much more than that.
Be humble – but
“I’m a printer by trade; I put ink on paper.” That’s how
he describes his job. But after more than 40 years experience in printing he
deserves a lot more credit than that. A master of the gutter jump, he knows
pretty much the entire Pantone Matching System by heart. Point to any color and
he can tell you the PMS number.
Hard work pays off
– when it’s work you love
Daddy’s also a big reason I work here at Balcom – and not
just because he told Lynne Swihart about me when she came into Ussery Printing
for a press check. He’s worked hard every day of his life, but he also loves
what he does. These are both qualities that Balcom looks for in B-team members,
and I owe mine to my dad.
Most importantly: You
make your own future
Daddy didn’t have the idyllic childhood he gave me. He
came from a background of divorce and alcoholism, and spent much of his
childhood in an orphanage. A lot of people would use that as an excuse to follow
the same pattern, but not my dad.
He has always provided for us, always been there for us –
through my brother’s open heart surgery and my mom’s three brain surgeries.
I’ve never seen him drunk, never seen him lose his temper, and I think the
worst thing I’ve ever heard him say is “damn Yankees” (and everybody hates the
Yankees anyway). He and my mom are still in love with each other (sometimes
annoyingly so) and will celebrate their 30th anniversary next month.
I am darn lucky to have the life I do – and I
know I owe a heck of a lot of that to him. So thanks, Daddy. Happy Father’s
You wouldn't drive somewhere without directions. You wouldn't build a house without blueprints.
And you shouldn't launch a campaign to increase web traffic without a strategy.
Without strategy, you'll keep shooting aimless messages out into the world, from which you'll get plenty of impressions and few results. But with strategy, you can integrate your marketing efforts to not only attract more web traffic – but also secure more business.
Just ask yourself these three questions:
1. What is my goal?
What do you want your customer to do once they are on your website? It depends on your specific product or service. For instance:
Retailer? Add to cart.
Manufacturer? Find a retailer.
Service? Call for a free estimate.
Nonprofit? Donate or sign up to volunteer.
Determine your website's call to action (called the "conversion" in web talk), and ask your customers to do it. Make it a giant button on every page of the website. Make it the goal, directly or indirectly, of every marketing message you create.
2. Who is my customer?
Marketing isn't about forcing people to buy things they don't want. It's about finding the people who need you and introducing yourself, in their language, at exactly the right time and place:
A billboard for car air conditioning repair as they sit sweltering in rush hour traffic.
A plumbing business on page one of their Google search for how to fix a toilet.
Also consider the length of the buy process – how long it takes to "convert" them. If you sell clothing, the process can be as little as a few minutes, from grabbing the customer's attention with an image of a cute dress to getting them to click "Process Order." If you're a university trying to attract students, however, the process can stretch over months or even years as your customers weigh their options.
Throughout a longer buy process, find ways to stay in front of them. This might involve using softer calls to action to funnel them closer to your ultimate goal. For instance:
Inviting them to tour the campus will guide them closer to the primary conversion of completing their application.
Enticing them to subscribe to your blog for free advice lets you prove your knowledge and helpfulness while they decide whether or not to pay for more extensive services.
3. Who is my competition?
If you follow the tips listed above, chances are you'll already be a step ahead of your competitors. But you can go the extra mile by:
Targeting their customers. For instance, when buying ads on search engines, add your competitor's name to your keyword list, so your business appears on the results page every time someone searches for your competitor.
Differentiating yourself. Focus on benefits, not features – particularly the benefits you offer that your competitors don't.
Being more attractive. Study their ads before writing your own and find ways to make yours more compelling – like by offering discounts and free trials.
Pinpointing your goal, understanding your customers and knowing your competition are the building blocks of strategy, and strategy is the backbone of any campaign. Don't leave home without it.
Traditional advertising is still very much in the picture. But if your goal is to get more web traffic, you have to do more than just add a URL to the end of your outdoor boards, print ads, direct mail, TV commercials or radio spots. You have to make it ultra clear why they want to visit your website.
Here are a few ways to do that.
1. Make visiting the website your main call to action. On the billboard, TV spot or postcard, literally ask them to go to the website, versus calling a number or visiting a physical location.
2. Tell them how the site will benefit them in the call to action. Don't just say "visit our website" – tell them what they'll get out of it. For instance:
Learn more at website.com
Get tickets at website.com
Compare prices at website.com
Get a free sample at website.com
3. Try using a memorable URL. A fun, unique URL is more likely to stick in your customer's mind and entice them to find out more – like:
4. Offer something exclusively online. Something cool they can only get on your website:
Promo code discount/downloadable coupon
Contest or sweepstakes
Free sample, trial or evaluation
5. Create urgency by limiting the time frame of the offer.("Hurry – the sale ends Wednesday.")
6. Get them involved. Spark community interaction by asking people to share stories or suggestions. With the Can He Rope It challenge for Justin Boots, we asked people to send in funny roping challenges to trick-roper Anthony Lucia for a chance to win a pair of Justin Boots.
Try some of these out on your next campaign and let us know how it worked for you.
Blogging. All the cool businesses are doing it. Maybe you're starting to think you should get a blog too. Or maybe you think it's just a fad. Or maybe you just don't know what it's all about.
Here's what it's all about.
It's about positioning your brand as an authority, turning your customers into brand fanatics, and in measurable terms, attracting oodles of web traffic through Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is the process of building a website that naturally attracts traffic from search engines (like Google, Yahoo and Bing) with or without paid ads. Think of SEO as the online equivalent of having a great location – being as visible as possible to as many people as possible.
How is blogging great for SEO?
Keyword-rich content. One of the ways search engines rank websites is by the concentration of keywords, or search terms.
The simplistic view: If somebody types a word into Google, Google will show them the web pages that use that word the most.
The reality: Search engines look for content that's written for humans. They punish content that's not. So if you sell luggage, and you create a web page that says nothing but "luggage luggage luggage" 500 times, you may have a higher concentration of keywords, but the search engines will see it isn't real content, and will expel you from the results.
The solution: Write a helpful blog post related to luggage – say "10 Luggage Packing Tips to Get You Through Airport Security Faster." Even if you only use the word "luggage" five times (as it would naturally appear in a conversation about the TSA), you're more likely to get good attention from the search engines.
New content. Search engines love regularly updated content. An article posted this morning will get more attention than one posted a month ago. And posting one new article every Monday is better than posting 10 new articles whenever you feel like it. Keep in mind: search engines punish duplicate content. You can't just write one good article and repost it every week – you'll get ignored.
Link bait. What do search engines love most of all? Popular content. The more websites that link to you, the higher you'll be on the results page. You attract these links by writing awesome content. Don't write a post listing product features: that belongs on a product page, not a blog. But a related post, offering useful information in entertaining, bite-size chunks (like the packing tips example above) will get shared.
See the pattern yet?
Ultimately, having a blog is about helping your customers. If you make that your first priority, the traffic will naturally follow.
But remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Building a blog that stands out from all the rest takes time, research, strategy and good writing. So before you get started, make sure you do your homework, or get help from somebody who's done theirs.
Submitted by Stephanie on November 21, 2011 - 7:03pm
your heart out, sliced bread. I think we can all agree the Internet is ten
times awesomer than you. Here are a few world-changing reasons why.
Thanks to the
Internet: it’s a small world, after all. You can reach outside your own small town and
connect with anyone, anywhere the web reaches (through my writing blog,
I have friends in Australia, Britain, Canada, India, Namibia and I don’t know
where else). You can even help small businesses in third world countries.
Thanks to the
Internet: brilliant writers, musicians and filmmakersdon’t have to sell their souls to jaded
publishers, record labels, studios or networks to get their art seen, noticed and loved. Blogging, video-sharing sites and self-publishing outlets help
unknowns reach the world. Just look at William P. Young, Edd Plant and Jake
Thanks to the
Internet: we dream bigger and achieve more. It’s the Information Age; with enough
ambition and the right Google searches, we can accomplish anything. With a
quick search, we can learn to change a tire, tie a tie, or improve the SEO of
a website. The web is our one-stop shop for direct access to experts on
writing, cooking, entrepreneurship and hundreds of other subjects, offering
their knowledge for free on the blogosphere.
Thanks to the
Internet: the customer is king. No longer do all the sales go to the company
that covers the most ground with advertising, but to the company that does the
most for its customers. We buy the product with the best customer reviews.
We’re loyal to the company that answers questions and solves our problems on
Facebook and Twitter. We recommend the business that offers its expertise without
trying to sell us something. Plus, through increasingly sophisticated search
engine technology, it takes real, helpful content to reach the first page on
Google – not keyword-stuffed sales pitches.
old-fashioned girl in me sometimes wishes for simpler times, but I ultimately
wouldn’t trade my time for any other. Never has there been more opportunity for
the average person, not just to achieve success, but to achieve greatness.
Sure, like any tool, the web can be used for good or evil, but thanks to the
Internet, we are inspired to dream bigger, and equipped to accomplish those
dreams, like no other time in history. That’s why this Thanksgiving, I’m
thanking God for the World Wide Web.
has the Internet changed your life? And what are you going to do with it?