content marketing

How to Create Engaging Content

Is a blog post only as good as the number of comments it receives? If you post something on social media and no one likes or comments on it, did the post happen?

pexels-photo-196649.jpeg

Creating engaging content is one of the top challenges for marketers, according to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark report from the Content Marketing Institute. Sixty percent of B2B marketers stated that producing engaging content was their number one issue. (#2 and #3 were producing effective content and producing content regularly.)

If your blog’s comments are low or people seem to click away quickly, it may be time to give one or all of the following a try:

Be Topical (With Care)

“Newsjacking” is the process of using topical, timely content to get your brand’s message out to the world. There are good instances of newsjacking and some not-so-good ones.  A good instance might be to take a trending story and create an educational and informative blog post from it.  Similarly, you can write a piece that references a popular TV show or that connects to something that’s happening in the news, as long as it’s relevant to your business and positive.

On the other hand, using a recent tragedy or crisis to try to promote your brand is in bad form, even if your product might be relevant to readers’ lives at the moment.

Write a Listiclepexels-photo-131979.jpeg

Listicles, or articles that are simply a list of things, tend to get a bad rap. But research shows that people actually do love listicles, and are more likely to share and comment on them than other content forms (one study by  Lumanu showed that listicles received 10 percent more social engagement per article.)

Why are they popular? It turns out that the human brain is wired to respond positively to lists. When a reader sees a list on your blog or social platform, he or she knows a few things right away – like what will be in the article, about how long it will be (if it’s a numbered list), and whether the article will be interesting to him or her. Ranked lists are particularly engaging for people, since they sort the information in a clear way.

Give Something Away

People are more likely to share their thoughts and opinions with you if you promise them something in return. You have a few options when it comes to running a giveaway. You can offer a small freebie to everyone who comments on a blog post or who shares a post (such as a free e-book).

bow-1867321_640.jpg

Another option is to have a contest for a bigger prize, such as a month’s worth of your product or services for free. Enter the names and emails of everyone who shares or comments on your post by a certain date into a drawing, then pick a winner at random.

If you mainly create social content or want people to engage with a special hashtag, create a social media giveaway.  Encourage people to post on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest (choose the network that is most relevant to your business), using the hashtag and mentioning your company. Give the person who creates the most likes or shares a prize. Your brand can end up with a lot of engaging content, courtesy of current or potential customers.

The bottom line:  Engaging content connects to people in some way, whether it’s giving them a reward, promising them useful information or helping them learn from a recent news story or pop culture phenomenon. If you’re not seeing results from your content, experimenting with a different form might be all you need to do.

 

Advertisements

4 Reasons Why No One is Reading Your Content

The world is full of content — according to data from Uberflip, more than 27 million pieces of content are shared daily. With so much out there, naturally people are only going to read the content that stands out from the rest and that makes an impression.

marketing-man-person-communication

If no one is reading the blog posts, white papers, or other content your team is creating, it is easy to blame it on the sheer volume of words available these days. But, the issue could go deeper than that. Your content might be getting lost in the shuffle, or it could be suffering from a number of other issues that make it easy for people to ignore.

It Doesn’t Have the Right Focus

When people go online to find information, they are often looking for a solution to a problem. Blog posts and white papers that get the most traction with an audience tend to be very useful or tend to help people or companies solve a problem.

Content that’s not focused on usefulness isn’t going to attract readers. One way to solve an issue of focus is to reconsider who you are creating content for. Your current customer base or potential customer base should always be who you are directing your content towards. When you are developing ideas for blog posts and other materials, think of issues your audience might have, then produce content that helps them solve those issues.

It Doesn’t Sound Authoritative

Content that appeals to people is authoritative and unique. It’s fairly common to see companies producing blog posts or articles in an attempt to cash in on a current trend. If the subject of the article isn’t really in the company’s wheelhouse, the author of it ends up sounding uninformed or inexperienced. That not only turns off readers, it can also turn off also potential customers.

It’s fine to write something about an issue or news story that is trending at the moment. But, the important thing to do is to put your own slant on it. Let readers see your business’ unique perspective on a problem or how you company can solve a trending issue in a way that no one else can.

not_reading.jpg

Your content might also be suffering because it’s just not well written. Poorly written content can make you sound less authoritative, as it’s difficult to make a strong argument when there are a lot of grammatical errors or overly flowery language. Not everyone is a gifted communicator, or has an eye or ear for good content. If you’re not sure if the posts and articles your company is putting out are any good, it’s worth it to hire someone to handle making sure your content team has what it takes to put together expertly written, engaging content.

It’s Not Visually Appealing

In some cases, the actual meat of your company’s content is perfectly fine. You’ve been writing knowledgeable, informative posts and papers. But, the way the content is presented to readers is the issue.

 woman-smartphone-girl-technology.jpg

More people use their mobile device over a desktop or laptop when reading digital content. The 2015 Internet Trends report from KPCB shows that more than half of the time people spend online, about 2.8 hours a day, is using a mobile device. (note: it’s slide 14 on the report)

If your company’s content isn’t easy to read on a smaller screen or if you’re using a web design that is not responsive and doesn’t adjust based on the size of the screen, you could be turning away readers.

It’s Not Reaching People

One last reason why people might  not read your content: they never get a chance to see it. Make it as easy as possible for people to find and read what you’ve written. Sharing your content on social media is one way to do that.

women_sharing_mobile

Making your content easy to share is another way. For example, put share buttons that link to the more popular social media sites next to every post on your blog. That way, if someone stumbles upon your post from a search engine, and likes what he or she sees, it’s easy to share the article or post with his or her followers.

You can also send your content directly to the people you think would benefit from it the most. An email newsletter lets you connect with current or potential customers, and puts your content directly in their inbox. People can always click “delete,” but if you’re reaching out directly to them, it’s more likely they’ll take the time to at least look at what you have to say.

 

How to Use Thought Leadership as Part of Your PR Strategy

thought_leadership

Who are people going to trust? The company that looks as though it just started up yesterday and  doesn’t really understand its industry yet or the company that has an established track record, a team that really knows its stuff, with the ability to answer questions and provide useful information to customers? It’s most likely the latter, as businesses who work with other businesses want some reassurance that the company they work with knows what it’s doing.

Thought leadership is one way for a company to demonstrate knowledge and experience to potential customers. In recent years, it’s become ever more important, not just as a way to establish authority, but as a way to market and promote a company above its competitors.

Forbes.com contributor John Hall named thought leadership as one of seven PR trends to watch in 2016. If you are ready to work it into your PR strategy, there are several options for doing so.

Understanding Thought Leadership

Thought leadership establishes a company, or in some cases, an individual, as an expert in a particular industry or field. A thought leader not only knows the ins and outs of a field or industry, he or she is also willing to share that information with others, so that they can better understand the industry or so that they can use the information to meet their own needs.

Thought leadership allows a business to build a level of trust with it clients. For example, if a company that was long established as a thought leader in content marketing were to declare that 1,000-word blog posts were no longer effective, and that video blog posts were the next big thing – and backed that claim with appropriate research — people would likely take the company’s word for it and adjust their content marketing plans accordingly.

Tools for a Thought Leadership Campaign

whitepaper

One of the most “tried and true” components of a thought leadership PR strategy is the white paper, an unbiased report that approaches an issue in a particular industry and that offers options for solving that issue. Since it doesn’t actually market or promote a specific company or product, but instead provides current or potential customers with information they may find valuable, it is a useful way to establish authority.

The digital era has created even more tools for companies to use to establish thought leadership. One example is a blog, usually hosted on a company’s website, which can be viewed as a shorter or more informal version of a white paper. The goal of a blog post should be to help solve a common problem or to provide relevant information on a topic.

Social media is an easy way for companies to come across as an expert in a particular field. A representative from your company can host a Twitter chat or participate in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. You can also use the blogging feature on LinkedIn to showcase your expertise and help people find a solution to their problem. Other modern thought leadership tools can include podcasts and informative videos.

Leveraging Thought Leadership

leverage_thought_leadership

Creating the materials of thought leadership is just the first step to using it as part of a PR strategy. It’s also important to leverage those materials and tools to catch the eye of the media and to get a company’s message out there.

One way to merchandise the content of a white paper or blog is to issue a press release directing people’s attention to either. The press release can stress that the paper or blog is available as a research tool to journalists and can point out that representatives are available for interviews or to provide expert opinions on the topic for general news or trade publication stories.

As part of a content marketing strategy, thought leadership can pave the way for future public appearances by a company representative. The Content Marketing Institute outlined a way for a business to leverage its thought leadership so that an expert from a company is able to land invitations to speaking gigs at conferences. Having a number of blog posts, video clips and other media that demonstrate a person’s expertise in an industry can help that person land on the long, and ultimately, short lists for conference speaking opportunities.

Thought leadership increases a company’s value to customers, by reminding them that the company isn’t only there to sell things. If you aren’t yet using the expertise of your team to build out your company’s PR strategy, there’s never been a better time to start.

Marketing to the 21st century reader

block_of_text

Changes in technology have led to a major change in the way people approach text and reading. You can see this in several places, from blog posts to today’s bestselling novels.  Although there are still plenty of big, thick novels and long blog posts out there, there’s been a fundamental shift in the way those posts and books are written and formatted.

The 21st century reader is one who skims, who wants whatever it is she’s reading to get to the point quickly. Today’s writing has been largely influenced by social media, which, with its character counts and limits, has shortened what people can say. It’s also been influenced by the introduction of screens. Reading on a laptop, mobile device or e-reader is a very different experience from curling up with a book or newspaper.

In today’s marketing world, you not only want to think about the message you’re presenting to customers. You also want to think about how you convey that message and the best ways to do it.

Think Vertically

Before people began to read on screens, the experience was linear. To get to the next part of an article or story, they’d have to flip a page. Today’s reader is more likely to experience text vertically, meaning he or she more likely to scroll up or down a screen while reading or skimming.

Designing your writing with the vertical reader in mind helps make the text more attractive to that reader and can make him or her more likely to read to the end. One way to embrace the vertical is to use lists, particularly bulleted lists.

When someone is scrolling down a page, a bulleted list is much easier to absorb and take in than a block of text in traditional paragraph form. Bullet points also give the reader the chance to pick and choose the information that’s relevant to him or her right away, versus having to sift through a dense paragraph to find what’s useful.

Break Things Up

Bullet points are just one way to break up the text and make it easier for the modern reader to digest what’s on the screen. It’s also important to aim for brevity, in terms of the length of sentences and paragraphs.

While in previous centuries, a reader might have been OK mentally digesting a large paragraph, today’s reader finds two to four sentence paragraphs much easier to process. Short paragraphs also help guide a reader through a blog post or article. When text is presented in small blocks, with a lot of white space around it, it’s easier on the eyes. People are more likely to keep reading from one paragraph to the next.

woman_reading_book

A similar thing occurs in books. Shorter chapters appeal to readers and make them more likely to finish a book. In 2013, the New York Times reported that people are 25 percent more likely to read a book with short chapters until the end.

Don’t just aim for short paragraphs. Go for shorter sentences, too. In an interview with the International Association of Business Communicators, writer, editor and consultant Jeff Herrington lists long sentences as one of the most common mistakes he sees in business writing. Don’t lose a reader in a 60 word, multi-clause sentence. Keep it simple.

Leave Out What People Skip

guy_blogging 

It might seem facile to say leave out the boring stuff, but in the age of lots of content, it’s crucial. Don’t bore your readers with long descriptions of places or people. Either let them use their imaginations or trust that they can Google something if they aren’t sure what it is. In a blog post, a link can substitute for lots of descriptive text.

There’s also a lesson to be learned from social media here: That’s to only include the most relevant information to get your point across. Give yourself a limit, such as 140 characters, and see if you can convey your message within that limit.

Read More

One last piece of advice when you’re looking for writing help or ways to modernize your marketing. Read as much as you can, whether it’s marketing material and articles from those in your industry, or entertainment blogs.

Pay attention not only to what the writers of those materials are saying. Look at their format and style. Something about it appeals to you. Once you figure out what it is, try to copy it in your own writing to make it appeal to the 21st century reader.

4 ways to come up with ideas when you’re stuck

In the age when content is king, it’s vital to keep coming up with new ideas for your company’s blog, social media posts and other marketing material. But, there are times when you are just completely stuck and can’t think of a new topic or idea to save your life. Writer’s block happens to everyone from time to time, and it can strike more frequently as your content needs increase.

writers_block

While brainstorming ideas when facing writer’s block can feel like trying to get blood from a stone, it’s not completely impossible. Taking a look at what’s going on around you and learning to look at seemingly tired ideas in a new way can help you generate new posts and content before your deadline is up.

Read More

Reading a lot can help you stay up to date on what’s going on in your field, learn new techniques and strategies, and give you plenty of new ideas for blog posts and other forms of content. The more you read, the more exposure you have to what people are in doing in your industry and  what’s new or different in your market.

woman_reading

There are several ways you can turn what you read into a content idea. For example, you might own a company that provides continuing education courses to medical professionals. If you read an op-ed in a national newspaper arguing that medical professionals should no longer be required to take certain continuing education courses, you could write an article or blog post offering a counterargument.  Or you could interview medical professionals to get their opinions on the subject, then turn those interviews into a post or article.

Try a Different Angle

Another way to generate new ideas when you’re up against a wall is to try to look at topics you’ve covered in the past from a new angle. Perhaps you once wrote a blog post on “The 6 Reasons Why Restaurants Should Switch to Compostable Products.” You can approach that topic from a new angle by creating a post on the advantages to the planet of using compostable, versus traditionally disposable products. Or you can create an article that weighs the pros and cons of a restaurant offering compostable products versus using reusable cups, dishes and utensils.

You can also swim against the current when it comes to trendy or popular topics. If every other company in your field seems to be blogging about the benefits of disposable, you can create a blog post highlighting the distinct benefits of reusable items.

Look at Your Audience

Sometimes, you can find the topic for a new blog post or article in an email or comment left by a customer or member of your audience. One of the best ways to come up with ideas is to find out what readers of your blog or newsletter want to learn about; you can also ask your audience and customers for topics that are of interest to them.

It might be that your company recently launched a new product, designed to save business owners time and money. The only problem is, you’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to use the product or complaints that the included instructions are a bit confusing.  One solution is to create a video tutorial or step-by-step blog post showing people how to use it.

Reformat

 woman_writing

Everything old eventually becomes new again. That can definitely be the case when it comes to brainstorming ideas. Perhaps you created a blog post that explains what your company does and who it is. It’s perfectly acceptable to use that concept across several formats. For example, you can also shoot a video that introduces your company, employees, and products to potential customers. Or, you could design a slideshow that lists 10 ways your company is different from its competitors.  Another approach might be to feature a different employee on each slide, introducing what he or she does and how that helps the company and its customers.

Lastly, it helps to take a break from trying to come up with new ideas. Go take a walk or work on another project before returning to your content brainstorming session. When you get back, try taking a new angle or using a new format for an old idea and see where that leads you.

5 Tips for Creating Eye-Catching Headlines

 man_reading_tablet

 Headlines have always been important for grabbing a reader’s attention and getting him or her to read the rest of an article. In the age of social media shares, headlines have become even more important. Think of all the catchy Buzzfeed or Mashable headlines you see on Facebook feeds.  Or, remember those Upworthy headlines, popular just a year or so ago, and how they almost compelled you to click on a link just to see what the story was?

 Having a great headline — or not — can make or break a piece. According to Copyblogger, 80 percent of people will look at a headline. But, just 20 percent of them will continue to read the content beneath it. To get more readers, an excellent headline is a must.  Following are some methods of writing headlines that grab people’s attentions and turn them into readers.

 Make it Relatable

People are more likely to read something that they feel connects to their lives in some way. This isn’t just true when content is appealing to consumers; it’s also true of content designed to reach a business audience. When writing a headline, think about who your target audience is, then craft a title that lets them see themselves in the headline.

If you work with start-ups or small businesses, an example of an attention-grabbing headline might be “15 Successful Entrepreneurs Share Secrets to Their Success.” An audience of entrepreneurs is going to want to see themselves in that group and is more likely to click through to learn more.

Skip the Question

 share_cloud

 Although you want to create a headline that people or businesses identify with and relate to, it’s usually best if you skip phrasing the headline in the form of a question. A study by Buzzstream and Frac.tl examined Buzzfeed headlines that didn’t do as well others.

Some of the least popular headlines were those phrased as questions. For example, headlines that began with “Are You . . . ?” tended to get the lowest number of shares, even on Facebook, the most popular social network for sharing.

The study’s authors also compared the average number of shares for question headlines to the 15 headlines with the most shares. Question headlines were shared around 25,000 times, while the most popular non-question headlines were shared nearly 84,000 times each.

Establish Authority

Another way to turn readers off is to let them know upfront that a post is from a person who may not be an authority or expert on a subject. The Buzzstream/Frac.tl study found that Buzzfeed headlines that featured the phrase “Community Post,” meaning they were written by a user, were shared 845 percent less than the site’s most popular headlines.

You don’t have to introduce yourself in headline. But a headline that reads “15 Board Certified Doctors Weigh in on New Medical Device” reassures a reader that people in a position of authority and who are qualified to weigh in on a topic are providing input.

Use a Number

The headline to this post, and all the sample headlines included it in have one thing in common: they all include a number. Including a number in the headline puts people’s minds at ease, as it gives them a basic idea of what they can expect. If your headline is “11 Ways to Increase Comments on Your Blog,” a person who clicks on it knows he or she is going to see 11 tips for getting more comments.

The structure of numbered posts can also be easier for people to read. Since the post will most likely be in list form, a reader can quickly skim it to see if there is useful information or not.

Promise Something Big

 woman_writing

This last tip comes with a big caveat. You want to grab a reader’s attention by promising something exciting or new. You also want to make sure the post lives up to its headline. For example, if a headline reads “13 New Ways to Get Leads,” and the actual article lists 13 well-known, fairly obvious methods of getting leads, you’ll let down the reader,  and he or she is  going to be less likely to share your post, or return for more.

Headlines are your way of introducing yourself, your business, and your content to readers. Don’t skimp when it comes to writing them. Since a headline is the first (and in some cases, the last) thing a reader sees, you want it to be a few words that will really impress.

How to get people to share your content

 When you create and publish a blog post, infographic, or other piece of content, there’s always the hope in the back of your mind that your piece will go viral, becoming a social media sensation that people just can’t help but share. It can seem that having something go viral is based more on luck than anything else, but that’s actually not true.

 Getting more people to share your content has little to do with luck and everything to do with art and science. If you’ve noticed that companies similar to yours have promoted pieces that have had more shares than yours (while not offering the same level of quality), it could be that they are doing some things differently. It’s not just what you write about or how well you write about it. How much you write, the tone of your piece, and who you get to comment on or share your content all influence its popularity.

Find the Influence

social_media_sharing

Although high school is years, if not decades away for many people, the world of social media is still a big popularity contest. You don’t have to push your way into the “in” crowd online to get shares and attention on your posts. But, you do want to reach out to the proverbial “cool kids” of the internet, the influencers who have the clout to drive views, likes and retweets to your content.

Over at Kissmetrics, Mark Trueman outlines a 3-step to plan to find and reach out to influencers. Your goal here is to have them share your content, whether it’s a blog post, video or something else. He recommends that you start by finding blog posts or other content that covers a topic similar to what you are writing about. You can find similar posts by doing a Google search for the topic and the name of a popular blog in your niche.

Next, you want to find out who has linked to the post and how influential that person is. Bit.ly will not only shorten the length of a URL for you, it will also show you who else has shared the same link, where they shared it, and how many people clicked on that the link when shared.

If a few people got a lot of clicks when they shared a post similar to yours, it can be worth your time to reach out to them about sharing your own post. Keep your email note short and sweet. All you need to say  is something along the lines of “Hi, I saw that you shared this post on this topic. I wrote a post on a similar topic here, that I thought you might be interested in.” Trueman notes that it can be helpful to make contact with the person before you ask for a share, such as by leaving a comment on his or her blog, but you can also try cold e-mailing people.

Look on the Bright Side

Popular-Emotions_chart

It turns out that people like to feel good when they read or look at content online.  A study conducted by BuzzSumo looked at 10,000 of the most shared pieces of content on the web. As part of its analysis, the company assigned an emotion to each piece. It turned out that the pieces that caused people to feel awe, amusement or to laugh were the most likely to be shared. A quarter of the popular pieces awed people, while 17 percent made them laugh and 15 percent caused amusement.  Joy was another popular emotion, at 14 percent.

On a similar note,  research from Dan Zarrella, a “social media scientist,” finds that people are less likely to follow social media accounts that use a negative tone. Looking at more than 100,000 accounts, he found that the more negativity on the account, the fewer followers it had.

neg_followers

Go In-Depth

 Shares-by-Content-Length

While you might think short and sweet pieces end up being more popular on social media, BuzzSumo’s research suggests the opposite.  The longer a post or article is, the more likely people are to share it. The company’s research found that pieces with more than 3,000 words were more likely to be shared than pieces with fewer than 1,000 words.

Part of that might have to do with the fact that there isn’t much online when it comes to long-form, in-depth posts. According to BuzzSumo, there are 16 times more short-form (1,000 words or fewer) posts than there are posts with 2,000 or more words. It does require more time and effort on your part to write an article or blog post that is more than 2,000 words. But, if it ends up increasing the reach of your content, the extra effort can be well worth it in the end.

Getting more people to see your content is a worthwhile goal, especially in the competitive world of content marketing. But, remember that getting shares is just part of the process. You want to keep producing content that is high quality and that will keep people coming back for more.

How to make the most of content marketing

contentmarketing

As more and more people are able to skip or otherwise avoid the commercials that play during TV shows or bypass ads online, marketers have gotten smarter about the way they reach out to consumers. With content marketing, the focus is on providing useful information to a consumer, instead of directly pitching a product or service to him or her.

When well done, content marketing builds trust with consumers, ultimately converting them into customers. Selling isn’t the direct focus of content marketing, even though the goal is to win people over.  Although it can be more effective than traditional marketing and advertising, there are a few potential issues with content marketing.  For one, it’s getting to be a crowded field out there, so it can be tougher to make your company’s content stand out. There’s also a tendency to “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” when it comes to content, instead of figuring out which methods make the most sense for your company. Whether you have been using content marketing for some time now or are just getting started, there are ways to make it work best for you.

Find the Balance Between Quality and Quantity

There was a time when having the most content was better than having the best content. But, now the focus is on quality over quantity. That said, there is still some value in finding the best ways to reach your audience and in trying multiple approaches. For example, putting out one blog post per month, even if it is well-written and fun to read for your audience, is probably not going to help you  make the most of your content.

Along with producing top-quality content, you need to find the way to get it in front of your customers. That can mean writing a blog post, then promoting it over social media and email. It can also mean turning the subject of an excellent or popular blog post into a video or a podcast, so that it can reach an even greater audience.

audience

Know Your Audience

Different demographics consume content differently. For example, as this infographic from NewsCred shows, the Millennial generation is most likely to find content through a Google search or on Facebook and is most likely to share content they like on Facebook. That means that if your goal is to reach people in their 20s and early 30s and you’re not focusing on Facebook, you’re missing the a big part of your intended audience.

Focus on the Memorable Aspects of Your Content

Once you know who you’re directing your content to, the next step is to find a way to make your content memorable or to make it stand out in what’s most likely a very crowded sea of content marketing. The best content does three things:

  •  Tells a storyContent that tells a story not only stays with a customer longer, it also creates a fuller picture of what your company is doing and makes your business more relatable. When reading a story on your blog, a customer might be able to put him or herself in the shoes of the person the story is about or otherwise relate to it.
  • Uses descriptive language or imagery. Descriptive language or eye catching imagery also makes your content worth reading.
  • Sparks the customer’s imagination. No one wants to read a blog post that’s just a bunch of numbers or raw data. They want something that sparks excitement and something that helps them imagine what working with your company or otherwise being part of the story would be like.

Measure Your Marketing

If you aren’t measuring your content marketing in some way, you have no way of knowing how it is performing or whether it is worth your time to keep going in the same direction. One way to measure your marketing is to look at who is coming to look at your content, how long they are staying, and whether or not they take the time to look at other pages on your site.

One tool that can help you measure your marketing’s data is Google Analytics. When you placing a tracking code on your webpage, you are able to see what types of content are doing the best and what sources are directing the most people to you.

Although it’s a useful tool, content marketing can be a big waste of time if it doesn’t ultimately convert readers into customers. Finding what works and measuring results allows you to maximize your content marketing without putting too much stress or strain on your company.