Effective content

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?

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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.

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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).

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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.

 

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What Marketers Can Learn From Pokémon Go

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If there’s one thing the makers of Pokémon do well, it’s to create a craze. Back in the late 1990s, Pokémon trading cards caused a frenzy among children and adults, as people waited in line to get their hands on a pack of the latest release, which might or might not contain the cards they were after.

Now, Pokémon is back again. This time, it is taking the world by storm in the form of an augmented reality game for smartphones. Instead of catching Pokémon cards, people are chasing the monsters all over town, catching them using the cameras on their phones.

To say that the game is a hit would be an understatement. First released in the US in early July, it climbed to the top of the sales charts in just 13 hours. So far, more than 75 million people have installed it and Forbes reported that the average user spends 75 minutes per day playing it. Yahoo News called the app a cultural phenomenon and compared it to the Dutch Tulipmania of the 17th century, when demand for certain tulip bulbs caused the price to skyrocket.

What does Pokémon Go have to teach marketers? A lot, as it turns out.

Customize the Message

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One of the features of Pokémon Go is the ability to customize the avatar a person uses when playing. Initially, a player could only customize their avatar at the beginning of the game, picking the clothing, physical features, and gender. An update to the app now allows people to customize and change their avatar whenever they want.

Marketers also need to learn to customize and update the messages they send to customers, who grow and change as they move through life. Your customers also aren’t  all the same person, and want you to recognize what makes them unique. Customization is particularly important to millennials, as this article in Entrepreneur points out.

How can you customize the message to certain customers? Offer appreciation and recognition events, personalize any emails or other communications you send to them and give them a choice when it comes to how they communicate with you or you with them.

What’s Old is New

Nostalgia is one of the things driving the success of Pokémon Go. Many of the 20 and 30 somethings playing the game now remember collecting the cards or playing the Gameboy games in the 1990s.

Nostalgia can also be a useful tool for marketers. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2014 suggested that people are more willing to open their wallets when they feel nostalgic. If a product or service triggers a memory of a bygone time, people will spend so that they feel as if they are reliving that time.

Right now, the 1990s are a ripe for the picking when it comes to nostalgia marketing. Just as Pokémon is having its 15 minutes of fame, so, too, are Calvin Klein’s iconic jeans, Crispy M&M’s, and brown lipstick.

Keep it Simple

Here’s another reason Pokémon Go is doing so well: It’s easy to learn and play. You don’t need to have played the video games or card games that preceded the app, or spent hours reading a list of instructions. You simply download the app and start playing. It’s simple enough that you can figure it out as you go along.

Keeping it simple is one of the most important things for marketers to remember. If people can’t clearly spot your message or get what your brand’s story is at a glance, they aren’t going to stick around long enough to figure out if what you’re offering is worth their while.

Establish a Sense of Community

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One of the features that makes Pokémon Go more unique than other app-based games is that it, for the most part, has players go out and about to capture the monsters. Players also have a chance to work together to find and catch the Pokémon, at Pokéstops and Poké gyms. Large group Pokémon hunts have taken place in Spain, Australia, and other locations.

The game has proven to be a conversation starter, even among people who aren’t playing it. For example, players at a local coffee shop or bar have been known to strike up conversations with other customers about how the game works or about how many Pokémon they’ve caught.

A marketing strategy that has community at its center not only helps people connect over a shared interest, but also helps increase word-of-mouth shares. Much of Pokémon’s success is due to people who fondly remember the game or who never stopped playing other versions of Pokémon. When the app was released, those people got it, told their friends and shared their experiences on social media and the web until a significant buzz was established.

Who knows how long the Pokémon Go bubble will last? But, its wild success over the past few weeks has been enough to show marketers that some techniques never go out of style.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Marketing to the 21st century reader

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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 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

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 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

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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.