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Personal Challenges in Writing an Inbound Marketing Guide

challengeMost of my writing has a strict goal or purpose. In the posts we push out on this blog, it is our intention to inform and educate readers on concepts of inbound marketing, social media, web development and similar topics. Rarely do we get the chance to reflect on the process of accomplishing that goal. Over the past several weeks, we have made a variety of posts related to inbound marketing and its different steps. This post is more of a reflection of what it was like to compose information like that.

philosophyPhilosophy

The term “inbound marketing” was coined by HubSpot’s Brian Halligan back in 2005. Despite its very specific definition, inbound is one of those concepts that is still in its infancy. The term and the practices it refers to are still so new in terms of marketing businesses that many agencies and individuals have come up with their own personal meanings for the phrase.

For the most part, there is agreement on what people mean when they talk about inbound, but in writing these posts, it’s easy to lose sight of the rigid framework. You have to be honest with yourself in the fact that this entire business is new, ambiguous and hasn’t really found its place yet. Therefore, it is hard to say there is a right and wrong way to do inbound marketing.

Marketing in general varies based on the industry you are in. The same is true for inbound. There really isn’t one right way to do things. What I’ve learned is that you have to be creative. You have to constantly look around you at what is working for others and what is working for yourself. The best strategy I have found so far is to learn about best practices and then formulate your own philosophy for inbound. If you adopt someone else’s philosophy, it may not work as well for you as it did for them.

crutchThe Google Crutch

As a blogger, you want to be original. Maybe you want to make a name for yourself or perhaps you are just trying to pay the bills. Whatever the case may be, the more sophisticated writers want to do something unique.

There is always that temptation, though, to hop on a search engine and read some other post that addresses exactly the same topic that you want to write about. I’m no better, and I often browse the web to see what other similar content is out there. I do this both for inspiration, as well as to see how I can make my posts better than the others that pop up near the top of search results.

You have to be careful, though. When you are in a pinch and the deadline is coming up, it’s all too tempting to emulate word for word (technically) what someone else has already written. What I’ve learned here is that you can’t be afraid to fail. I’ve done a fair amount of study on inbound marketing, worked with a number of different clients and have a pretty broad knowledge of inbound and online marketing in general.

Therefore, I like to rely on my own opinions and experiences, and then find data to support those experiences. This has helped me write more original posts and provide another diverse point of view for web searchers to find. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s ok to use search engines for research and inspiration, but don’t rely on them as a crutch.

timeFinding the Time

This is a challenge that resonates with any person who is either writing or blogging for a living (or at all on a consistent basis). Finding the time to write is one thing, but finding the time to write well is something else entirely.

If you’ve ever tried to write well on a regular basis, you may have found that it takes time to get into a groove. It is not something you can just pick up and run with in two seconds. Sometimes it may take an hour or more before high-quality words start flowing onto the page.

Over the course of writing an inbound marketing guide, I’ve developed some strategies to help me get better work done in an (almost) timely manner.

  • Start early, even if you don’t feel like writing; get something down on paper and you can always change it later.
  • Make outlines. When you outline the information you want to write about, you can fill out a blog post or an article that much easier.
  • Write about things you have first-hand knowledge of.
  • Repurpose content where you can. Make sure you only repurpose content that won’t be competing with itself in search.

These challenges are by no means unique to me, and I’m sure there are others I’m missing. This post is more of a reflection on how I could become a more efficient writer and marketer than anything tangible for our readers.

 

What challenges do you face as a writer for large projects? Have you ever run into the challenges I’ve mentioned above?

4 Tips for Creating an Awesome Webinar Invitation That Drives Registrations

Webinar InvitationWithout a qualified target audience, your webinar is practically meaningless. After all, you can’t reach the business goal your presentation is designed to achieve when there’s no one to take action or convert. Therefore, you want to kick off the registration process on a high note with a winning webinar invitation that builds your list of attendees.

To ensure you get your messaging spot-on right from the start, follow these four easy tips:

Tip 1: Write a Killer Subject Line

One of the toughest jobs you’ll have as a webinar marketer is persuading your target audience to open your email invite in the first place. The sheer volume of incoming mail overwhelms most people, which is why many will often choose to open a message based on its subject line alone. A great subject line should be attention-grabbing (that doesn’t mean ALL CAPS), concise, compelling (but not hype happy), and focused on the core benefit of the webinar. Also, steer clear of language that could be caught up in SPAM filters.

Tip 2: Pick an Attractive Design

You may be limited for choice by the email marketing software or application you’re using, but many providers offer great templates for email blasts. Consider stepping up your game with a design that’s not only in line with your branding, but that also supports the overall look and feel you’re hoping to create for your webinar presentation.

Tip 3: Make It Highly Targeted and Personal

Hopefully, you’ve already segmented your subscriber or lead list and you’ve gathered enough personal information to address potential audience members by name. Not only do you want to be very specific about the people you’re sending this email to, but you also want to ensure you add a personal touch that wins them over whenever you can. A “Hey Joe” can sound a lot more inviting than a “Hey there,” so think about your list targeting and personalization options when constructing your invite.

Tip 4: Get the Structure and Messaging Right

Before you start writing your promotional copy, you want to ensure you have:

  • An outline of your agenda;
  • Details on the webinar title, guest speakers, date, time, and length;
  • Links to your registration page;
  • And the list of key features and benefits of your webinar.

Once you have this information at hand, you’ll want to focus on creating your email body. The important thing to keep in mind here is that you’re writing to your ideal audience members—people who are actually interested in hearing about the topic you’ll be covering in your webinar, and people who can help you reach the business goal you’re longing to achieve. A deep understanding of these individuals will help you identify and use language that’s going to appeal to their senses and convince them to take action and register.

As part of the email body, you’ll need to address the pain point this webinar will solve, introduce the title of the webinar, explain what viewers can expect, highlight the best features and benefits, and provide basic event details. Most importantly, you’ll need to link to the dedicated landing page you’re using for registrations and include a strong call-to-action that encourages people to signup.

Webinar registration and attendanceWhatever you do, make certain:

  • You’ve built interest and a genuine desire to learn more;
  • Your instructions are clear;
  • And you’ve established a sense of urgency in your CTA.

Do that and you’ll be selling virtual seats to your webinar like hotcakes.

As a final note, it’s important to be prepared for no-shows. While you may have written super hot promotional copy even the greats would admire, there will likely be a number of registrants whose interest was only lukewarm. You may need to examine why people dropped out if there’s a massive discrepancy, but at least you’ll know it’s not because your invitation stinks.

 

Did you find these tips for creating a webinar invitation useful? Perhaps you’re an invitation writing ninja with a few tips of your own to share. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic so drop us a line in the comment section.

8 Quick Fire Tips for Selecting an Audience-Pulling Webinar Topic

Avoid boring webinar topicsAlthough it deceptively appears to be the easiest task, one of the hardest jobs you’ll have when planning a webinar is choosing a topic that resonates with your target audience and keeps viewers engaged. You’ll inevitably find that the subject matter has been covered numerous times or that your topic ideas make for a potential snoozefest.

Don’t fear; we have eight easy tips for identifying webinar topics that will draw in audiences and keep them awake.

#1 – Find out What the Experts Are Talking About

Are you tracking industry experts and influencers to find out what they have to say about certain issues? While you’ll never want to reproduce the information they’re providing to their online audiences word for word, you may find opportunities to delve deeper into a topic or present it from a completely different perspective.

#2 – Tap into the Latest Industry Trends

The great thing about social media platforms, Google Alerts, and similar listening tools is that they offer up a plethora of insights brands wouldn’t otherwise have. Be sure to keep up-to-date with your industry monitoring efforts and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a buzz-worthy webinar topic that hits the right spot with your target audience.

#3 – Conduct a Little Target Market Research

If you want to know what your audience wants to hear about, why not just ask them? A simple survey or poll can be a great way to narrow down webinar topics your followers will actually enjoy.

#4 – Draw From Your Team’s Creative Brilliance

Sometimes there are few better resources for webinar topics than the people who put their blood, sweat, and tears into closing a sale for your business. Since they communicate with your client base on a regular basis, they’re likely to have information that you don’t. Connect with them, brainstorm creative ideas with them, and get them to share their customer stories and experiences. You never know when you’ll find a golden nugget of insight that just might be your best webinar topic yet.

#5 – Tackle a Pain Point

If you possess a deep enough understanding of your buyer personas, you know what perplexes them during their waking hours and haunts their fretful dreams. Fix it. Give them easy wins with a webinar topic that’s bound to create moments of revelation, comprehension, inspiration, or insight.

#6 – Become Laser Focused

While it’s great that you want to cast a wide net and appeal to as many people as possible, you’d be making one of the biggest webinar marketing mistakes you can make. Why do you want to be laser focused? It’s simple: a topic that appeals to a particular niche is going to generate far more qualified, sales-ready leads than a topic that’s a little more general in nature. Just when you think you’re as specific as you can get, try to refine your subject matter so that it helps segment your prospects according to your buyer personas.

#7 – Think About Search

The-wrong-webinar-topic-equals-low-registrationsIs your topic idea based on your targeted keywords? Can you craft a compelling headline that’ll rank as well as it convinces people to click through to your landing page and register? When you think about webinar topics, you have to keep search factors in mind because if you can’t effectively reach your target audience, you can’t expect to fill virtual seats.

#8 – Consider Future Content

As a marketer, you want to squeeze every idea for all it’s worth. It’s no different when you’re selecting a subject that’s right for your webinar presentation. Therefore, you should determine whether you can spread your topic over a series of webinars or repurpose it for a different audience.

Whatever you do, don’t be discouraged if your webinar topic doesn’t pull in the numbers you hope it will. Everything in marketing should be tested and improved upon, so while you may not have a hit the first time around, you can always try again.

 

Did you find these tips useful? If you’re a webinar marketing genius, consider adding your tricks to the mix. Drop us a line in the comment box below. 

How To Design CTAs That Convert

hot-to-design-ctas-that-convertIf done correctly, your call to action, or CTA, is the piece of your landing page that turns a visitor into someone that helps grow your business. Whether it’s a lead or a customer, your call to action acts as the trigger that tips them over the edge.

Good calls to action are a combination of design, placement and language. If any of these things are off, your conversion rates suffer. We’ve put together some tips on how to design CTAs that convert.

Placement

Make your call to action prominent on the page, email or ad. One of the simplest mistakes you can make is burying your CTA among images or other text. If your visitors can’t see the CTA, it won’t influence their decisions.

Apple does this really well in their emails. The CTA is right on the button you would use to buy the product in their emails. They follow a very simple theme of value proposition, call to action and product. No other distractions.

ipad-air

Design

What your call to action looks like is also very important in terms of how your audience will interact with it. Make the text larger, a different color or a different font than other text on the page. Put your call to action close to a button, link or other interactive features of your landing page.

Treehouse does great with their design. Like Apple, they don’t have a lot of distractions, and the call to action is front and center. There are only a couple of choices for you to get started learning. It is obvious what you are supposed to do, which is either get started learning or learn more about their offering.

tree-house

amazonLanguage

The words you use in your call to action are very important. This may seem straightforward, but you should consider the mindset of a visitor to your site. For example, Treehouse, in the screenshot above, is selling a teaching service; however, they don’t use the language, “buy now.” Instead, they use “Get Started,” which speaks more to an ongoing process of learning.

Start by using subjects and verbs. Your calls to action should be short sentences, and people should get the gist of what to do right away. Keep the entire thing short. There really isn’t a hard rule on this, but 90 to 150 characters is good.

A good example here is Amazon’s “Click to look inside” CTA. It’s apparent what you can do by clicking, and the CTA is very compelling. Who wouldn’t want to look inside a book they were thinking of buying online?

CTAs are the invisible salespeople online that push surfers into making a purchase decision. They should be short, placed in obvious spots and designed in a way that makes them appealing and easy to find. All other things being equal, a good call to action can help increase conversion rates, which translates to more leads and more sales.

 

Do you have any tips for writing CTAs that convert? Join the conversation by commenting below.

How to Create Amazing Landing Pages

landing-pageOf all the components in a conversion funnel, the landing page plays the most instrumental role. It is the piece that serves as the function by which people become customers or leads, and it also must give that additional push for someone in the sales or lead-generation process.

You can have really great ads, good marketing copy and even a great product or service, but if your landing page sucks, it can cause issues with your activities online. This post will show you how to make an amazing landing page by highlighting best practices.

Your landing page should have the following elements:

  • Your value proposition should be clear and concise
  • The action you want visitors to perform should be obvious and easy to do
  • There should be no distractions from the main event on the page
  • Your messaging (i.e. words, phrases, images, etc) should be consistent with what brought someone to the landing page in the first place
  • The page should load fast and work well with all major browsers
  • It should not use a lot of Flash or Javascript to accomplish its goals (none is better)
  • It should be painless to use and easy to navigate

Clarity on Your Landing Page

When we make web pages for products, services or to get some kind of information from someone, we often have a tendency to cram as much information on the page as we can. We also have a tendency to forget about why the person came to the page in the first place.

Our visitor has not forgotten. They have arrived instantaneously and are now looking for the thing that caused them to come to the page in the first place. Typically, that is something that they were promised or something that they can get.

Your value proposition should be front and center. It should not be buried in paragraphs of content. Make headers prominent and bold. Tell the person landing on the page exactly what they want to hear, and do it clearly.

Make Actions Easy and Obvious

Make Actions Easy and ObviousAnother thing marketers forget is that people browsing online are impatient and used to instant gratification. It is true that most people will muddle through a process even if it’s hard and confusing. You will lose prospects, though, if you make your action too complicated or confusing.

Keep forms short — don’t ask for more information than you need. Make prompts and descriptions intuitive and easy to understand. For instance, don’t get creative at the last second by putting the word “find” next to a search box.

Take steps to ensure your checkout process is streamlined and easy to understand. Eliminate unnecessary steps in the process. Make sure you afford your users every modern convenience of online form data entry.

The actions to start your conversion process should also be obvious. Make buttons large and easy to spot. Don’t distract visitors with other elements or detract from an area on the page where the action is. Don’t put the action below the fold of the page. In a nutshell, don’t make people work to find out what they have to do. It should be clear as day what they are supposed to do on the page.

Consistent Messaging

Make sure the messaging on your landing page is consistent with ads, emails, links or other methods by which a visitor arrived at your page. You can think of the process by which people follow conversion funnels as a series of directions.

People get instruction on their next step from the previous step in the process. For example, they see language or images in an ad that entice them. They will then be looking for that information during the next phase of the process. If they don’t see it, they become confused, and if they still don’t see it, they get irritated and leave.

This is another area where your visitors will put up with a lot before they give up, especially if they are interested in your value proposition. Visitors will only put up with so much, though. If you used keywords in your ad or link that lead to your landing page, use those on the page as well. If you used certain images to entice them to click, make sure those are also on the page.

Your value proposition, which may have been promised in an ad, or whatever drove the person to the page should also be present. The basic idea here is that people need to know that they have made it to the right place. The Internet is a virtual world where it’s easy to get lost and think you’ve taken a wrong turn.

Technical Details

Technical DetailsMuch of landing page success has to do with messaging and layout; however, the technical details can also trip you up. Slow-loading pages are some of the most common contributors to low conversion rates. Think about the last time you sat at a red light. A person in front of you may take 3 seconds to notice that the light has turned green. Just saying that doesn’t seem like a lot of time but if you are the driver behind the person who doesn’t noticed the light has changed, it seems like 3 minutes.

The same is true for web pages, and consumers are unforgiving. Like other elements of poor landing page construction, people will put up with a little headache, but not a lot. If the relationship between your prospect and your value proposition is fragile to begin with (i.e. they don’t care THAT much about it), you could lose them with a slow page.

Use Google’s Page Speed Analyzer to see how fast your page loads. Anything slower than a few seconds and you should use their recommendations to make it better.

Another technical aspect is the way pages are rendered in browsers. You should take steps to ensure your landing page works with all major browsers. If there is important data not showing up because the browser cannot interpret it, you might be missing out on opportunities.

A good rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of Flash and Javascript you use in your landing page. Sometimes users will disable JavaScript or their Flash player will be outdated. If you have to use these technologies, it’s ok as long as you try not to use them for information that is more critical to your landing page success.

Your Landing Page Should Be Pain-Free

Many of the previous sections have covered this concept, so this is more of a wrap-up. Many of the best practices above all contribute to making your visitors’ time on your landing page pain-free and productive.

When you are online trying to accomplish something, there are few things worse than a web page that will not work or that is confusing. For tasks that cannot be done anywhere else, we just get furious at the creators and try to find some other method. For companies whose products or services we could potentially do without (or find elsewhere), we move on to the next website.

 

Do you have any additional tips to share when it comes to creating awesome landing pages? Let us know in the comments section below.

Creating Inbound Marketing Offers That Really Work

inbound-marketingAt its core, inbound marketing is about paying it forward with your prospects and customers. You have to give a little before you receive, and that giving can have more benefits than just generating leads. In the beginning, it’s tough to know where to start with creating, using and measuring offers. What should an offer look like? How can you use it to benefit your target market and your company, and how do you measure your success?

Creating Inbound Marketing Offers

Keep in mind a few key goals that your content needs to accomplish for your business. It needs to generate leads, it needs to be appealing to your target market and it should also make your business an authority on a topic.

sales-funnelGenerating leads

Your inbound marketing offer needs to be able to convert prospects into customers. Naturally, not all people consuming your content are going to be in a phase primed for converting into buyers, but you should still set up the opportunity.

Think about what your audience values. Are you in an industry where your product or service is a commodity or highly competitive? If so, your audience may be in a comparison phase when looking for information online. Offer content that helps them make that decision on why your brand can help them.

You should also develop opportunities for prospects consuming your content to enter a conversion funnel. This could be a call-to-action at the end of a blog post with a link to a landing page, similar overlays in video content or links embedded in text content.

Catering to Your Market

In order to generate leads, people have to like your content. Building buyer personas or at least doing some basic research on your target market helps reveal the content they might be interested in. If you are trading ebooks or white papers for email addresses, you have to ensure the pieces you are producing are attracting the right people.

In general, you should be producing content that is genuinely helpful. Consumers can see right through content that was obviously produced with little to no effort. If they sense that you don’t really care about them, they will move on.

ValueIncreasing the Value of a Brand

The content you produce should also build up the value of your brand and position it as an authority. People go online to look for content, and there is no shortage of junk out there. Savvy web surfers can tell in short order if a website just has a bunch of fluff and no real value.

If you plan to produce content like ebooks, blog posts, video, imagery or whatever, don’t do a half-baked job. You should set out with the goal of adding value to the world.

Using Inbound Marketing Offers

Once you’ve gotten past the hurdle of producing content, you have to put it into action. The best place to do this is on your website. By doing this, you can drive traffic to your domain, measure the success of your campaigns and control your messaging.

Placing Offers on Your Website

Your landing page is crucial for getting people to interact with your offer. If your process or layout is hard to use or ambiguous, people may not fill out a form to download your offer.

Relevance

The content on your landing page should be highly relevant to your offer. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how marketers place irrelevant text all over their landing page. If you used an ad to drive people to your page, make sure the text in the ad is the same as the text on your page. Elements like your value proposition should also be consistent from where users discovered your offer to the landing page.

easyEase-of-Use

The landing page needs to be easy to use. Again, this may seem obvious, but in practice, marketers tend to forget about users’ time and threshold for nonsense. Only ask for essential information on an opt-in form, make your call-to-action clear and concise, have the action you want your visitors to perform above the fold of the page (the point at which you have to start scrolling to see more information), and take any other steps necessary to reduce distraction and anxiety.

Your Opt-in Form

This element deserves special attention. The point of an inbound marketing offer is primarily to get leads for a company. You are asking for a visitor’s information in exchange for some free piece of content. Be careful what information you ask for as well as how much information you ask for. Don’t ask for more information than your offer is worth. That means if your offer is not that compelling, you shouldn’t be asking for too much or people won’t feel their time  is worth it.

Only ask for information you absolutely need. For example, name, email, role in a company, size of company, and goal-oriented questions may all be relevant to qualify a lead. Don’t add things just because you are curious, and avoid anything that doesn’t produce an added business value.

Repurposing Content

Inbound marketing involves the constant production of new content. That is really tedious and time-consuming work. Companies should repurpose their content whenever they have the chance. For instance, they might take old videos and transcribe them for use as blog posts or ebooks.

Ebooks not indexed in search engines might be repurposed as blog posts. Software previously used for free offers could become flagship services,

Funnel VisualizationMeasuring Inbound Marketing Offers

Measurement is a key part of any marketing initiative. There are marketing efforts that are time-tested, and then there are those that are seldom successful. It’s important to realize that not all initiatives are good for all businesses. While the basic concept of inbound can be applied virtually everywhere, the methods may not always be good for all companies. You  will never know if something worked well or not if you don’t measure your activities.

Analytics

You should use some sort of web analytics platform to measure your success (or failure) with an inbound marketing offer. The most popular one is Google Analytics, which is also free; however, there are several other platforms you can investigate as well.

You can customize tracking code to show you exactly how many visitors are completing your conversion funnel, how many abandon it and other important information.

CRM

Not all data for sales can be tracked online. With platforms like Google’s, you can enter arbitrary amounts for sales, but you won’t get an accurate number unless you are closely following people through the process of when they became a lead until they buy from you.

A customer record management program is a tool that you can use to do this. Once you have leads generated from your inbound marketing offer, you can put the data in a CRM of your choice and record things like how long it took them to buy, the products/services they ended up buying from you, and how much they spent.

With this data and data from your website, as well as recorded costs of making your inbound marketing offer, you can determine things like cost-per-lead and your return on investment for your efforts. Some good CRM programs you can check out include Zoho, Salesforce and OnContact.

Developing, implementing and measuring inbound marketing is an interactive process. Few people hit it out of the park the very first time. In fact, you may have to work for some time before you find content that really resonates with your target market and develop a process for changing leads into dollars.

 

Do you have any additional advice pertaining to creating inbound marketing offers? Tell us about it and join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Writing a Social Media Strategy? 12 Things You Shouldn’t Forget

Are you ready to start writing a social media strategy that enhances relationships and expands your brand?

Not sure where to start or what to include? Follow along as we outline the elements of a winning strategy designed around four fundamental pillars of social media success: listening, engaging, building, and learning.

1. Your Value Proposition

Social media value proposition

Your unique value proposition should explain why people would want to interact with you and share your brand’s content.

When it comes to social media, too many businesses forget about their unique value proposition. We’re not talking about the exclusive benefits consumers gain as a result of purchasing and using your product or service offerings. We’re talking about the unique benefits they gain from participating in your social feeds and sharing your content. It’s the single reason they want to engage with you rather than your competitors.

How do you begin to articulate a unique value proposition as part of your social media strategy? Get rid of the business-centric mindset and start thinking about your customers. In other words, stop asking how you can leverage social media to sell your products. Start asking why prospects would want to interact with you and share your brand’s content with their online communities. What value can you offer? Which problems can you solve?

2. Your Brand’s Social Media Environment

Mapping out the online environment in which your brand operates is a crucial part of writing a social media strategy that minimizes input and maximizes output. Besides defining who your ideal community members are, you need to understand where they interact online and who their connections are. After all, you can’t cover every social space, so you need to identify where your business will have the greatest impact.

People you may want to target in the social realm include clients, prospects, employees, competitors, industry bloggers, media entities, influencers, and brand advocates. Clearly explain who your audience is because your team’s understanding of them is going to shape the targeted social media messages they create.

3. Your Approach to Listening

Listening to conversations allows you to gain insight into your stakeholders, remain on top of industry trends, find out which topics you need to address, determine which networks you should focus on, and appropriately allocate resources for maximum ROI. In this part of your strategy, you’ll need to indicate potential social media monitoring tools your business will use in order to achieve these goals, as well as explain what you’ll be looking for as you listen to relevant conversations.

For example, a business will typically tap into conversations to determine: who is generating conversation about the brand, industry, competitors, or topic areas; what people are saying; which subjects or topics are of interest; whether conversation is positive or negative; where these conversations are happening; where engagement levels are highest; who the biggest influencers are in each online community; which networks hold the most potential for the business; where the most opportunities lie; where the greatest threats lie; what competitors are doing in each social sphere; and what type of content will resonate with the brand’s audience. This is the critical information a business can use to focus on areas that make the most sense for the brand.

4. Your Analysis of the Findings

Analyze social media conversations

Analyze social media conversations to identify opportunities.

Once you gather data, you should analyze it to identify things like share of voice, trends, gaps, sentiment, opportunities, and more. Here, you need to understand whether your core messages are forming part of the conversation, whether you’re reaching the right people, whether mentions of your brand are in your favor, which trends you can capitalize on, and how your brand performs compared to its competitors.

5. Your Goals and Objectives

In this section, you should think about your higher-level business goals and then determine what your social media goals and objectives should look like. For example, if your business goal is to increase sales, then your social media goal might be to generate leads. If your social media goal is to generate leads, then your SMART objective would be to generate X leads (result) within X months (timeframe).

Whatever you do, make certain you develop social media goals that build up to ultimate business goals, and that you’re realistic about both your timeframe and expected results.

6. Your Metrics and Benchmarks

After you’ve established your goals, you’ll need to determine how you’ll measure your success. You’ll also need to provide a baseline for what that currently looks like in order to track your progress.

Be sure to identify metrics that tie in with your social media goals. For example, if your goal is to generate leads, you’ll need to track the number of leads you’re receiving through your social media campaign.

7. Your Approach to Finding and Engaging Influencers

Influencers are powerful people within your social environment—they can change perception and cause others to take action. Therefore, it’s important to explain how you’ll identify influential voices, which tools you’ll potentially use to pull relevant data from different networks, and your approach to building relationships with these individuals.

8. Your Content Development Strategy

Based on your research, you should provide details of your social media content development strategy. This includes the types of content you’ll create and distribute. Naturally, you should aim to develop high quality, engaging content that matches your social media value proposition and supports the social media goals you’ve set.

9. Your Social Media Platform and Tool Selection

Here, you’ll need to discuss the specifics of the networks you’ll leverage, how you’ll brand your profiles, and any social media buttons or content syndication tools you’ll use.

10. Your Methods for Monitoring, Measuring, and Reviewing Results

Monitoring social media resultsUnderstanding what you’ll measure (your metrics as defined in step 6), how often you’ll check results, as well as how you’ll monitor, record, and evaluate the data is crucial for effective implementation of your strategy. Make certain you choose tools based on their relevancy for the type of data you’ll need to pull from results. Also, make sure the individual using these tools has the necessary expertise.

11. The Roles and Responsibilities of Individuals Involved In Strategy Implementation

Who will create content? Who will curate content? Who will establish your social profiles? Who will update your social profiles? Who will publish to your blog and social feeds? Who will facilitate and engage in conversations? Who will monitor conversations? Who will analyze those conversations? Who will keep track of your success and make recommendations? Who will manage your strategy and communicate or coordinate between various departments within your organization?

Simply list the social media activities that form part of your strategy and then identify the individual’s responsible for them.

12. Your Budget

Every strategy has a price. Even when you don’t see a monetary value attached to something, there’s always time involved. As you know, time is money, which means you need budget wisely.

Be sure to outline the portion of your marketing budget that’s dedicated to your social media strategy so you can make sensible spending decisions when you develop your tactical plan.

In Conclusion

Whether you like it or not, social media users are shaping your brand with or without you. If you don’t start controlling perceptions by participating in online conversations, building a community of supporters, and developing relationships with key influencers, there’s a risk that feelings toward your business will be neutral or negative. Writing a social media strategy that blows your competition out of the water is the first step in this process.

Are you writing a social media strategy? Did this post help? Perhaps you have something to add. Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. 

TCA Presents The Best Business Blogs

One absolute truth of the blogging business is that you have to constantly improve your blog. Fortunately, the Internet can provide you with a wide variety of sources to look through for inspiration. While we’ve been spending a great deal of time talking about how to follow the best practices available, it might be an even better idea to take a moment to take a look at what those practices looks like in action. Below are twenty of the best business blogs available online. While the content of each blog is different, I think you’ll notice a few unifying themes as to how each works. Presented in no particular are order are twenty of the best business blogs available in 2013.

1.  Business Insider

Business Insider Screenshot

Business Insider usually ranks among the best blogs on the ‘net, and for good reason – it combines stories that readers actually want with information that users need. The site itself is easy to navigate and use, something to which any blogger can inspire.

2. Zero Hedge

Zero Hedge Screenshot

Zero Hedge is not exactly the most positive business blog out there, but the information on the site is usually right on the money. The clean and simple layout is a great example of what we’ve talked about over the last few weeks – there’s plenty to catch the eye, but nothing there that can distract users from the actual content.

3. Digital Inspiration

Digital Inspiration Screenshot

Digital Inspiration is a great example of a site that has an unrelated URL, but still has a great blog. This site has absolutely wonderful content for those who need help getting a business running online, but it’s hard to find – so the author has made a real push to connect his site with other sites in the industry. Follow his example, and you should be able to do the same.

4. SEO.com

SEO Dot Com Screenshot

 

I’m a big fan of SEO.com’s content, but the best lessons to take from this site have to do with layout. Everything’s very easy to access and every image catches the eye. This site is also a great example of how to integrate a blog with a parent site.

5. Business 2 Community

Business 2 Community Screenshot

Business2Community is a great resource for businesses and for anyone who spends time trying to boost a site’s search rank. There’s nothing particularly special about this design, and that’s why it works – you don’t always have to be unique to be one of the best business blogs on the Internet.

6. TechCrunch

Tech Crunch Screenshot

TechCrunch is regularly cited as the best business site on the web. Not only does it have a great amount of useful content, but it’s incredibly well-suited to take advantage of today’s browsing market. The site is well-branded and users can share anything with a single click.

7. Calculated Risk

Calculated Risk Screenshot

Calculated Risk is a great example of a longer-form blog. It eschews shorter article titles for full articles available on the main page – a superb way to catch a reader and keep him or her on the page.

8. Money Q&A

Money Q&A Screenshot

Money Q&A is a great site that provides useful information while still helping its owners to promote their own products. This is a great example of a site that uses content not just as an end, but as a means for further business promotion.

9. Social Media Examiner

Social Media Examiner Screenshot

Social Media Examiner is a great site for anyone who is looking to navigate the rough terrain of social media. The site itself is one of the best business sites because of how it successfully occupies an important niche on the Internet – everyone seems to be looking to social marketing, and this is one site that has the basics covered.

10. Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land Screenshot

I spend a lot of time on Search Engine Land. It’s got a great deal of information on SEO and other Internet news, and it delivers it in a voice that even a novice can understand. Take note of the prominence of social media sharing buttons – it’s a great example of a trend that you need to follow.

11. Search Engine Journal

Search Engine Journal Screenshot

Search Engine Journal is another great Internet news site. If you need help figuring out how to work with content or are confused about SEO in general, it’s a great place to start. The design is a little busy, but it helps to promote various aspects of the site’s business.

12. The LinkedIn Blog

The LinkedIn Blog Screenshot

LinkedIn is one of the most important social media sites in the world, and its blog has great tips for how to maximize your use of the site. Like every other site on this list, this great business blog also has a layout that you can learn from.

13. Quick Sprout

Quick Sprout Screenshot

There’s nothing really complex about Quicksprout’s layout, and that what makes it one of the best business blogs to follow. You can get all of the information that you need quickly and easily – and that’s the way to keep readers coming back.

14. The Next Web

The Next Web Screenshot

The Next Web is an awesome tech and business site with a lot of great lessons for new and experienced people in the business world. The layout is a wonderful lesson in how to catch the eye of readers by using appropriately sized images and fonts.

15. Copyblogger

Copyblogger Screenshot

Copyblogger is a fantastic site for those looking to learn how to write better web copy. It’s among the best business blogs in terms of layout, as well – it’s quite simple and easy to use, and everything you need is available from a single page. It’s hard to beat that.

16. Blogger Buzz

Blogger Buzz Screenshot

I’m always an advocate of looking to successful companies for guidance, and Google’s Blogger Buzz website is a great example of doing just that. There’s nothing particularly fancy or overwhelming on this blog, but every piece of content serves a purpose.

17. Seth’s Blog

Seth's Blog Screenshot

A great example of a “guru” style of blog, Seth’s Blog is brief, witty and sometimes even a bit off-putting – but it always works. Take a look at how Seth structures his content and you’ll see just how personal and esoteric you can get while still staying on point.

18. Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan Blog Screenshot

If you’re going to take anything from Brogan’s blog, it should be how effectively he markets his products. His content and marketing is weaved together into a blog that’s enjoyable for users to read, but still serves a purpose for his business.

19. Quora

Quora Screenshot

Quora is a spectacular site with a ton of content, all presented in a unique question-and-answer format. While I’m not a huge fan of some of the design choices – having to log in to view the site, in particular – the design itself is clean, easy to read and presented authoritatively.

20. Successful-Blog

Successful Blog Screenshot

If I was ranking these, I’d certainly put Liz Strauss’ blog closer to the top. It’s not only user friendly, but it has incredible content. It’s that perfect mix of having the information that readers actually need mixed with providing images and content that keep users coming back. If you’re a personal blogger, you really can’t do better than imitating this blog.

 

These are just some of the best business blogs out there. If you can follow their examples, you can learn quite a bit about blogging. The best way to learn is always to follow in the footsteps of those who have already been successful – after all, you don’t need to blaze a trail if someone else has already done so before you.

 

If you know of any other great business sites to add to the list or have a story about how these sites have helped out, let us know!

How to Develop a Social Media Content Plan for Your Business

We’ve discussed 95 ways to generate content ideas for your networking platforms, but have you designed a strategic social media content plan to leverage those ideas effectively while keeping your team focused, accountable, and on the road to success?

Tranquil Clouds and Deep Blue SkyIf you have yet to map out a plan, it’s time to get cracking. After all, you need to understand how you’ll create social media content for your business, identify who will be responsible for executing the plan, and figure out how you’ll measure your effectiveness.

With that said, let’s look at how to develop a powerful social media content plan that makes sense for your brand.

1. Write Your Executive Summary

In a few concise paragraphs, describe essential parts of the plan the key stakeholders in your organization need to know about in order to make the right decisions. Besides explaining how the business will benefit from your social marketing efforts, be sure to highlight key goals and objectives, topics you intend to cover, the types of content you want to create and publish, the channels you’ll use to distribute your content, and the resources required to implement your plan effectively.

Tip: This section is the most important part of your document so you’ll want to follow best practices for writing a brief, but killer, executive summary that ‘wows’ the decision makers in your business.

2. Outline Your Goals and KPIs

Social media content plan goals

Your social media content plan goals and objectives should always be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

This is where you explain what success looks like to your brand in the form of goals, objectives, and key performance indicators. Every business will take advantage of social media platforms differently, but most will look toward raising brand awareness, building a loyal community, engaging customers, and converting visitors into buyers.

When mapping out this section of your plan, make certain your goals, objectives, and benchmarks align with your brand’s broader business aims and that you create your social media content accordingly.

3. Define Your Ideal Social Media Audience

Use your company’s buyer personas to identify the individuals for whom you’re creating content. You may need to conduct additional research to understand how they use social media, as well as which platforms they frequent.

Besides data regarding their demographics, education levels, interests, and lifestyles, this section should include details about the information your target audience searches for, the problems they need to solve, the types of content they prefer, and the topics they find engaging.

4. Outline Your Distribution Channels

Hopefully, you’ve identified where your prospects, customers, competitors, influencers, brand advocates, and industry bloggers interact online. While you can’t dominate every platform they use, you’ll ideally have profiles on networks where you can be most effective. In this part of your plan, you need to outline the platforms you’ll potentially use to publish and share social media content.

5. Include Your Key Content Types, Themes, and TopicsTap into conversations

Without a doubt, the types of content you create, the themes you use, and the topics you talk about should all lie within your area of expertise. However, a major part of your social media marketing strategy requires you to tap into conversations. Monitoring and listening to those conversations allows you to pinpoint themes and topics your audience is already discussing. This gives you a great opportunity to develop content that not only shows off your authority within your industry, but also touches on the interests of your community.

6. Identify Your Editorial Team’s Roles and Responsibilities

The size of your editorial team depends on your social media marketing needs, as well as the size of your business. While SMBs may have one or two people assigned to their social media content marketing efforts, larger companies will likely have an entire team of individuals working across several departments.

To ensure accountability, successful implementation, and efficient management of the plan, it’s important to identify these people, their roles within the editorial team, and their duties. Roles usually include content creators, editors, social media community managers, content analytics specialists, and content directors.

7. Explain Your Production and Distribution Strategy

Last, but not least, you need to describe how you’ll create and curate relevant and engaging content, repackage it for your chosen platforms, and optimize it for search. You should also explain your distribution or publishing plan. Consider developing a social media editorial calendar designed to assist you with your editorial workflow and improve your effectiveness.

Your turn. Does your business have a social media content plan or are you simply winging it? How do you view this type of plan’s importance to your organization? If you have a comment, question, suggestion, or tip, feel free to pop it in the box below. We love hearing from you!

How To Overcome Writer’s Block – 7 Great Tips

From tips on how to improve time management to advice on editing your manuscript, I’ve covered a lot about the subject of writing in the last couple of weeks. However, I haven’t mentioned how to deal with most scribes’ worst enemy – writer’s block. You can manage your time wisely and set yourself up for writing success, but when you experience a mental block, it can throw your whole day into a tailspin. If you’re desperate to learn how to overcome writer’s block, I have some tips that can help you open up the floodgates of words, phrases, paragraphs, lists and more once again.

 

#1 – Change the Setting

Writer’s block has a tendency to set in when you get too accustomed to a routine. If you’ve been writing from the same chair at the same desk for years, it might be time to find a different spot to work. Try taking your laptop to the coffee shop around the corner, or even the public library. Simply relocating to a different room in your house can work wonders, too. A change in scenery might be just the thing to break you out of your slump.

 

Engage Physically to Improve Mentally#2 – Engage Physically to Improve Mentally

I’ve written about the importance of physical activity before, but I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to your mental performance. When you move around, you cause your heart to pump blood more vigorously throughout your body, which has the effect of stimulating your brain. If writer’s block has got you down, a simple walk around the block or a bike ride could get the ideas flowing again.

 

#3 – Inspiration From Music

Although it might not be convenient for you to listen to tunes on the job, music is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to unlocking your brain. The combination of melodies, rhythmic patterns and words can help your mind reconfigure the way it thinks, thus getting you unstuck from your writer’s block. If you’re having trouble getting the ideas to flow, listen to a few tracks on shuffle mode and you’ll be re energized in no time.

 

#4 – Accomplish the Toughest Tasks First

This is one of the key tips for managing your time wisely, but it’s also helpful if you’re wondering how to overcome writer’s block. Begin your day by tackling your toughest projects, and the remainder of your work will come more easily. If you have trouble getting good ideas committed to your hard drive, simply do the best you can – you can always come back to the tough projects later to improve them once you’re feeling the flow again.

 

Stay Consistent as a Writer#5 – Stay Consistent as a Writer

Do you write every day, or do you take days off in between your projects and assignments? If you’re not consistent in your writing, it’s much easier for writer’s block to become an issue. By writing every single day, you keep your writing muscles in shape, and you stave off the specter of writer’s block more easily. Even if you simply write a few sentences on your days off, you will notice an improvement in the ease with which you accomplish your work.

 

#6 – You Are What You Eat

This is one of the world’s oldest cliches, but it’s also true. You are quite literally made of the foods and beverages you consume, so if you subsist on a steady diet of junk food, your brain and body will perform accordingly. If writer’s block is something you’ve been struggling with, try substituting fruits and vegetables for chips and candies. You’ll notice a boost in energy, and you’ll also find that your brain becomes sharper.

 

#7 – Take a Nap

This tip probably seems antithetical to your goal of becoming more productive, but it might be the most powerful piece of advice on this list. If you’re just not coming up with the ideas you need to complete your writing assignments, you probably need to recharge your brain. A simple, 20-minute nap can realign your perspective and give your brain the energy boost it needs to get great ideas flowing once again.

 

Do you suffer from writer’s block? What do you do to get your ideas flowing again? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.