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Social Media Management Services: 6 Things to Expect From a Leading Agency

Let’s be honest–sometimes it’s easier to let the professionals handle your social media marketing activities while you get on with conquering your industry. As a hands-on business owner, it might be tough to let go, but the right agency offering the right blend of social media management services can be far more effective than you could ever be on your own.

What should you expect from an agency, though, and how will it benefit your brand? Stay tuned because you’re about to find out.

Social Media Presence Audit#1. Online Audit and Needs Analysis

The ability to conduct an audit of your online presence, as well as analyze your industry, competitors, and target market, should fall within the basic package of any social media management agency. Since each strategy will require a different approach, the provider you choose must be able to evaluate your current reach, traffic drivers, and marketing efforts, and then provide recommendations for strategies that will increase efficiency, improve visibility, ensure the right people hear the right message, add value to your brand’s reputation, and maximize results.

#2. Social Media Strategy Development

Once your current situation is properly understood, the agency should be able to establish platform-specific goals, identify tactics that will improve brand awareness, and build a model for effective stakeholder engagement. Although the strategy may be presented to you in a number of different ways, it should:

  • Help you understand the value proposition of a social media strategy for your business
  • Outline your marketing and communication goals
  • Provide a summary of your current social environment
  • Explain how you’ll tap into conversations and analyze findings
  • Define your objectives and the metrics you’ll measure
  • Describe how you’ll identify and approach influencers
  • Map out a social content strategy
  • Include a social media planning calendar
  • Define how you’ll facilitate and engage in conversations
  • Include relevant tools you’ll use to monitor and measure results
  • Provide details of your social media marketing budget
  • Outline a social media policy for your business

#3. Account Setup

If you haven’t entered the social media realm just yet, the manager allocated to you will create accounts on platforms that are relevant to the needs of your business. That usually includes branding, customization, and other elements that set the tone for your social campaigns. After all, you want optimized profiles that rank well, communicate your brand message effectively, attract followers, and generate leads. If you already have accounts set up, the agency will likely recommend a few tweaks here and there to ensure your profiles are in the best shape possible.

Strategy Implementation#4. Strategy Implementation

After your accounts are set up, it’s time to put your social media plan to work and promote your strategies across multiple channels. Depending on the social sites you choose to leverage, implementation services may include:

  • Business page, pin board, or tab creation
  • Community management and interaction
  • Content development
  • Professional copywriting
  • Media bursts
  • Publishing
  • Background artwork and cover design
  • Vanity URL creation
  • Social ads
  • Competitions and promotions
  • The establishment of discussion groups or forums
  • Video uploads
  • Conversation and trend monitoring
  • App integration
  • Customer service
  • Relationship management

#5. Monitoring and Reporting

Monitoring and ReportingWhen it comes to social media management services, this one is non-negotiable. Measuring your performance against the targets you’ve set, identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and then providing suggestions for potential improvements is a key part of any strategy. Therefore, it makes sense that an agency would offer this service.

What you need to worry about is the frequency of reporting, as well as what data is included in those reports. Can they tell you whether you’re generating ROI from your efforts? We’re not talking about “likes” here either; we’re talking about cash in your pocket. If not, you might want to look around for other options.

#6. Training and Support

Whether you hope to relieve the agency of its duties in the future, or you plan to manage your marketing efforts in-house right from the start, a professional company should be able to provide the necessary education, training, support, and advice to ensure your success. This is especially crucial if you’re using new social platforms, management, or monitoring tools.

No one will blame you if you decide to surrender this taxing task to people who can actually keep up with the pace at which networking sites change. Just imagine, you’ll never have to master a platform only to have the features change on you overnight. You’ll also never have to wonder how you’ll manage every facet of a social campaign without being bogged down by the daily grind of profile updates and stats. Whatever you do, though, choose an agency with employees who know what they’re doing. You may have to spend a little extra for quality, but it’ll be well worth it.

 

Are you using social media management services? What would you say is the biggest benefit of outsourcing this task? Perhaps you have a question about hiring the professionals. Pop it in the box below and we’ll do our best to answer it.

5 Practical Things to Look For In A Social Media Editorial Calendar Template

Social media calendarsDo you struggle to stay on top of your daily social media activities?

Perhaps you’re a kickass communicator, but organization isn’t your forte.

Don’t worry. There are thousands of free social media editorial calendar templates you can download to help you plan, execute, and track your social program.

Which template should you choose, though?

Follow along as we look at five practical things you need to look for in an effective calendar for your business.

1. A Great Layout

If you’ve done your research, you’ve probably come across some downloadable templates that look like the inside of a compulsive hoarder’s house. If you can’t make heads or tails of the layout for all the chaos you see, then the calendar is probably not for you. Be sure to pick one with a framework that’s structured and uncluttered.

2. Flexibility

As your social media strategy changes, your need to add or eliminate certain calendar elements will change too. You may even want to integrate other marketing activities into the calendar in order to plan and schedule all promotional initiatives in one place.

Make sure the template you choose is easily adaptable to your business needs. If reconfiguring the layout so that it aligns with your strategy poses too many problems, you might prefer to build your own calendar from scratch. Thankfully, many downloadable templates are created using an Excel spreadsheet, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble making someone else’s calendar your own.

3. Elements That Cover Your Social Properties

Many basic—and older—calendar templates will only provide for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn scheduling. While that’s not a bad start, the chances are you operate on a variety of social platforms including Google+, Pinterest, industry-related forums, and more. You may even run a business blog that requires new content on a regular basis. The calendar you use should not only cover the social properties you own, but it should also allow you to schedule updates to your profile information.

4. The Right Date or Time Components

Believe it or not, this one can be a biggie for businesses with a preference for scheduling content by the hour. If you plan to publish several pieces of social media content on your platforms throughout the day, and you want to include the relevant message or link, you’ll need to find a calendar that maps out the date and time for each day. If you’re following a simplified social program, then you’ll only require the right date components.

5. Simplicity

There may come a time when you’ll need to hand over the schedule to someone else in your business—someone who may not be social media savvy. To ensure effective planning and execution, you’ll need to look for a social media calendar with a structure and components that are universally understood.

There’s nothing worse than looking at a template and not being able to decipher what the acronyms or abbreviations used actually mean. If the calendar is complex in nature, make certain there’s a legend to explain various elements. If you think the calendar is too complicated for a newbie to figure out, keep looking for a simpler one.

If All Else Fails…

Create your own.

Social Media Editorial Calendar

While a downloadable social media editorial calendar template can certainly save you time and effort, sometimes it’s worth building one from the ground up using the free tools you have at your disposal. You can use our post on how to create the ultimate social media editorial calendar as a guide for developing your own. Whatever you do, keep your marketing goals and social media strategy in mind so that you create a calendar that makes the most sense for your business needs.

 

Do you use a social media editorial calendar for your business? Did you create it or download it? Which elements do you think are the most important? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Essential Tips to Improve Time Management for Writers

Content writing is a great job, and I’m glad I live in a world where I can work from home, set my own hours and get paid to do something that fulfills my need for challenges while taking advantage of my talents with words. If you write for a living, I have little doubt that you feel the same way. Unfortunately, time management for writers is something that most of us seem to struggle with.

Even the most famous and well-regarded writers in history have famously struggled with time management. Some of them have even ignored their deadlines to provide us with some great quotes that illustrate this phenomenon:

The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing” – Alan Dean Foster

I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.” – Oscar Wilde

If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” – Rita Mae Brown

Time Management for Writers: Can it Really be Improved?

Can Writers Really Improve Their Time Management?Why writers seem to be so predisposed to procrastination is another topic for another blog article, but you should know that you don’t have to be a prisoner of your propensity to put things off. Just like most other writers, I struggle with time management; however, I’ve found some tools and techniques that work for me when it comes to making sure I use my time wisely and meet deadlines. These tips on time management for writers might not work for you, but I think they’re worth trying if you feel like too much of your time is being spent avoiding your work.

  • Tackle the Most Difficult Project First
    If you’re like me, you have several different writing projects in the hopper at any given time. Unfortunately, one dreaded assignment can make you avoid all of the easier ones. In other cases, you might work on completing all of your “fun” assignments while you continue to push the more difficult writing projects to the back burner. Make a habit of performing your most difficult work as the first thing you do every day, and you’ll definitely improve your ability to meet deadlines.
  • Get Your Butt in Your Chair
    It’s been well-documented that writers like to take walks and pace around their homes as they fiddle with ideas in their brains. This certainly helps me organize my thoughts, but too much pacing around can keep you from the place where you need to be to actually get work done – your chair. Although it takes great willpower sometimes, you need to decide on a timeframe during which you’ll be sitting in your chair and writing. For me, I set aside two to four hours every day (usually first thing in the morning) specifically for being tethered to my writing desk and chair. Once you’re in this position, it’s much easier to avoid procrastination and generate content.
  • Find a Timer That Works for You
    Focus Booster Logo
    Sitting down for two to four hours of straight writing is pretty daunting, which is why I like to schedule regular breaks for myself. Getting into the habit of setting a timer was one of the best things I did for my career as a writer. Personally, I like to use the Focus Booster app. It counts down 25 minutes for work followed by five minutes for a break. It seems like it would be too simple to really work, but I’ve found that it keeps my eyes on my screen and my fingers tapping away at my keys. This makes the hours fly by, and it helps me ensure that I complete my work in a timely manner.
  • Set Clear Goals
    I actually write my daily and weekly writing goals on a sheet of paper because I like the feeling of physically crossing something off of a list. Regardless of how you keep track of your goals, it’s important that you find a system that helps you keep your work in perspective. Make a list of what you need to accomplish and remove it from the list when you’re done with it. You’ll get addicted to completing projects and you’ll feel much better about your productivity.
  • Be Good to Yourself
    On the surface, this one has very little to do with writing. However, I think it’s the most important tip on this list. If you’re running late on a deadline, don’t beat yourself up. If you’re running into a mental block, remind yourself that it happens to every single writer on the planet. Congratulate yourself when you complete a project. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well-done. Writing is a lonely profession most of the time, so it’s up to you to provide positive feedback and a comforting work environment.I believe that it’s also important to take care of yourself physically. Staying hunched in a chair as you come up with content on a daily basis can take a lot out of you, and when your body is unfit, your mind will soon follow. This doesn’t mean that you should join a gym, but you should try to integrate some physical activity into your life in order to give it balance and to ensure that you’re always as sharp as you can be mentally.

Good Habits and a Positive Attitude

Good Habits and a Positive AttitudeAs you can see, most of these tips require you to take action – none of these tips or any other bits of advice will complete your projects for you. The key is to replace some bad habits with some good ones little by little while retaining a positive attitude. Over time, you’ll realize that your accumulated efforts have been paying off in the form of less stress, more free time and clients who want to keep giving you good, lucrative work.

 

Are you a writer who struggles with time management? What do you do to make sure you meet your deadlines? Let us know by dropping us a line or leaving a comment below.

What Is Content Curation? A Dummies’ Guide to the Hows, Whats, and Whys

If you’re like most overstretched and under-resourced marketers, you’re too busy to churn out original content that engages prospects, builds relationships, and supports your branding strategy. Fortunately, content curation is a pretty simple solution that can help you deliver meaningful and relevant content to your audience consistently.

What is content curation, though? Why should you consider adding it to your brand’s content marketing strategy? How do you even curate content? You’re about to find out the answers to these pressing questions and so much more.

What is content curationWhat Is Content Curation?

It’s easier to find and comment on relevant pieces of content than it is to create your own masterpiece from scratch. That’s precisely what content curation is.

It’s the process of aggregating data about a specific topic, distilling that information to identify the most important ideas, organizing those ideas into a logical order, adding your unique spin to them, and then presenting the content to your adoring audience.

You’re not regurgitating what you’ve read. You’re simply repurposing, repackaging, and contributing your own insight to third-party content.

Why Your Business Should Consider This Tactic

Believe it or not, curation offers your brand a number of powerful benefits.

Content curation gives brands an advantage

Content curation gives brands an advantage.

  • Improve efficiency – Most businesses find it impossible to satisfy the ravenous appetites of their online community members. Curation allows you to feed your audience with quality information on a frequent basis without sacrificing time and resources designated to other areas of your business.
  • Establish thought leadership – Adding your own perspective and unique voice not only allows you to add your brand’s stamp to the article, but it also positions you as the go-to authority on a particular subject.
  • Increase brand visibility – Curated content can boost your SEO efforts and improve your rankings. There’s also the viral aspect to consider since people are likely to share cream-of-the-crop information that’s presented to them in a neat little package.
  • Educate your market – Essentially, you’re connecting your brand’s voice with the voices of industry experts. You’re participating in a bigger conversation and helping your prospects and customers gain an in-depth understanding of the topic at hand.
  • Enhance the level of brand trust – When you can show the audience through your commentary that you’ve read the article and raised its value, they’re more likely to trust the content you deliver.
  • Create networking opportunities – Drive traffic to a quality article and you might find the author thanking you with an invitation to connect. They may even share a little link love.

Is curation for everyone? Unfortunately, it’s not.

You’ll need to determine whether there’s dominant competition in your area of focus already, as well as the scope of opportunity to source and organize disparate pieces of information. You may find your focus is too narrow to offer added value on a consistent basis.

The Process

5 Steps for Content Curation

The Dos and Don’ts of Curation

Although content curation is fairly simple, there are a few guidelines every marketer needs to follow.

#1 – Do stay within the allocated time limit.

If you had a penny for every piece of content published each minute, the chances are you wouldn’t be reading this article. The reality is you are, so apart from warning you about the risk of information overload, it’s a good time to remind you that your research time, as well as the paid resources you intend to use, must form part of your content marketing budget. While it’s easy to get lost in a virtual maze of fresh articles, it’s crucial to remain focused. Limit distractions to ensure you digest content in a meaningful way and put your research time to good use.

#2 – Don’t rely on curation alone.

Content creation can be resource- and time-intensive, which is why a good content marketing strategy should incorporate both created and curated pieces. However, a brand that places it’s future solely on the works of others doesn’t have much of a future at all. Curated content is designed to complement your content creation plan—not replace it.

#3 – Do select content that provides value to your audience.

The most important part of curating content is handpicking pieces that are most relevant to the needs of your audience. That requires in-depth knowledge of your readership, as well as the ability to mine, organize, and present a customized collection of content based on a specific issue or theme.

#4 – Don’t forget to add your brand’s flavor.

Content curation isn’t a simple cut and paste job. If you want people to read your content and come back for more, you need to inject your brand’s personality into your curated blog posts, newsletters, and social media snippets. Provide summaries of key points, add your own opinion or perspective, or offer insightful information that will further help readers make sense of the article you’re sharing.

#5 – Do honor authorship of the originals by citing the writers and your sources.

Common sense should tell you that plagiarism is unethical, so make certain you give credit where it’s due.

#6 – Do use multiple sources.

You need to give your readers a diverse mix of engaging and relevant content, which is why selecting a variety of pieces from different sources is essential. Put on your proverbial editor’s hat and search for informative and intellectually challenging material, as well as light-hearted tidbits of interesting insight that are sure to entertain while educating. Whatever you do, avoid unnecessary confusion by sticking to your theme or topic.

Resources and Tools to Make Content Curation Easy

Google Alert for content curationWhether you’re sourcing, organizing, or preparing third-party content for distribution, the following tools and resources can make the process a little less time-consuming.

Google Alerts: Set up search queries that relate to your audience’s needs and then let Google do part of the research work for you. In addition to monitoring the web for interesting new content based on your keyword terms, the search giant will deliver results to your inbox so you can easily sort through the content links in one place.

HootSuite: Recently, HootSuite integrated ContentGems’ content curation app into their already robust service offering. This collaboration means you can now find meaningful content based on your keywords and social signals, and then push those links, along with your own customized snippets, to the social media channels you prefer.

Google News: Source the latest stories from thousands of popular news outlets.

Curata: This smart tool rummages through the Internet to identify relevant content, lets you catalog its findings in a way that makes sense, and then publishes content to the channels of your choice. As a bonus, it’ll measure your results so you can maximize your reach.

Social Media Sites: Most social platforms have their own search functionality, allowing you to dig for relevant posts. Beware though; social media sites are noisy so you’ll need to stay focused.

Alltop: This feed aggregator allows you to gain quick access to the hottest topics and stories from the best sites and blogs on the web. Create customized collections of curated feeds and then use them as your go-to source when you need something new and profound to share with your online communities.

Storify: Bring a narrative element to your curated content by collecting, publishing, and sharing content through this information network.

Addict-o-matic: Create a customized page of the latest headlines from top sources. Move or delete sites, and then bookmark your custom view for future reference.

Other great sources include RSS feeds and newsletters you subscribe to, social bookmarking sites, Google Blog Search, industry-related forums, and archived databases. There are thousands of content aggregators and curators to choose from, so you’ll never be hard-pressed to find juicy morsels you can share with your fans.

Are you curating content to spice up your content marketing strategy? If you’re holding back, tell us why in the comment section below. If you have additional tips, share them!

Don’t Panic When it Comes to Blog Configuration!

Now that you know how to get your WordPress site installed, we can move on to blog configuration. While the term might conjure frightening images, it is far easier than you might imagine. WordPress takes care of most of the heavy lifting, leaving you to decide which plug-ins are best to use and to decide upon the right theme for your site.

Setting Up Your WordPress Site

WordPress makes the setup process fairly easy, so don’t panic! Setting up your blog can be done in a few simple steps, most of which can be completed in just seconds. You will start by going to the Settings Tab on your dashboard:

WPSettingsTab

You will then be able to get your blog going by taking care of a few basic pieces of business. You can start by entering your blog’s title and tagline – we’ve discussed titling, but your tagline is a great place to add a keyword or to simply explain what your site is about. This is also the place where you can set up your WordPress URL – the web address at which others can access your WordPress site. You can then move on to setting up your email notifications, your time and date settings, and spend some time working with language settings and even your blog picture. What is important here, though, is that you feel comfortable with how your blog is formatted.

WPSettingsPage

The Best Blogging Plug-Ins

While WordPress itself provides a number of very useful features, there is always room for a bit more. This is where WordPress plug-ins come into play – these simple pieces of code allow you to expand the functionality of WordPress while still taking advantage of all that the platform has to offer. Below are six of the best plug-ins that are available:

  • WP Complete Backup – This plug-in makes it easier to restore your blog if something goes wrong with your site or with WordPress.
  • AKismet – A great plug-in for catching spam in your blog’s comments. Great for SEO reasons, as it helps to eliminate toxic comments.
  • Broken Link Checker – Like the name suggests, it monitors and fixes broken links. Invaluable for SEO.
  • Shareaholic – A great plug-in that allows you to give your readers a chance to share your content on some of the most popular social media platforms out there.
  • Editorial Calendar – A must-have plug-in for those blogs with multiple authors, it helps with scheduling as well as publishing articles.

Theming Your Blog

Theming Your BlogOne of the best parts about using WordPress is the availability of themes – different looks for your WordPress site. Having a unique style can help to set your blog apart from the crowd, but having a style that conforms to the industry standards might help your blog to look a bit more professional. In either case, it is important to have a theme that allows readers easy access to your content.

It is also important to note that themes come in two flavors – paid and free. We could spend quite a bit of time discussing the two, but it’s quicker to break things down to the major difference between the two: functionality. Paid themes cost money, but they tend to allow you to do more with your site. Free themes are usually quite useful, but do not allow you to really dig in and customize your site.

If you decide to pay for your WordPress theme, it is hard to go wrong with the Genesis Framework. The clean, easy-to-modify design gives you everything that you need to customize your blog while still allowing even a novice to get things running smoothly. The best part about using Genesis, though, is your ability to switch things up on the fly – Genesis comes with a number of “child themes” that allow you to customize the basic framework without requiring you to start from scratch.

Free themes are a bit trickier to navigate, simply because of the glut of free products on the market. I personally don’t think you can go wrong with something clean and simple, so I like to recommend Bliss for most personal bloggers. The theme’s design features great potential for integration with social media, and it is one of the few free themes that works particularly well for tablets and smartphones, as well as for traditional monitor browsing. Minimalist designs like Bliss help to direct readers to the content without causing sensory overload – a plus for any blogger who is interested in putting content first.

Blog configuration really isn’t a difficult process. It may seem overly technical, but anyone can do it. Once you have your blog configured, you can move on to the best part of blogging – providing content. We’ll discuss how to start blogging next week, with an eye on generating useful content for your readers, so get ready to get your blog started!

 

Do you have any additional thoughts to share about blog configuration? We invite you to share them by leaving a comment below.

Developing an Efficient Editorial Process

The publishing editorial processDeveloping, writing, configuring and posting content on a consistent basis is one of the most challenging things to do related to inbound marketing. Blogs and other forms of written content marketing are only successful if you make good stuff on a regular basis and spread it evenly over time. If you have ever tried to do this, though, you may have realized that it is much easier said than done. The most common issue is running out of stuff to write about (or at least developing that perception). Other common hurdles include organizing your content, planning it, researching it and finding the time to write it.

This is the Content Authority, and if there is one thing we excel at (we do other things well, too), it’s content. We’d like to share some tips for developing a rock-solid editorial process for your blog- or article-marketing needs.

Brainstorming Sessions

brainstorm during the blog editorial processWhether you are working by yourself or with a team, brainstorming sessions are a good first step to an efficient process. During these sessions, you can generate ideas to write about and make a list of them.  As with any kind of brainstorming, in this phase anything goes. No suggestion is too simple or outside the realm of possibility. The idea is to get a lot of ideas to explore further.

Categorize your ideas loosely based on the goals for your blog. In this phase, do not worry about when things will get posted, who will write them, how long they need to be or any of those factors. Naturally, you want ideas that will be received well by your target market, but other than that, don’t stress about the details yet.

The frequency of brainstorming will be determined by how many ideas you are able to generate. For instance, if this is your first session, think of as many ideas as you can based on how often you will be posting content.

Editorial Calendar

If you don’t have an editorial calendar, make one.  This is simply a document that allows you to plan what content will be posted when. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet with the days of the week. Organize your content based on themes, who is writing it and other elements of the post (i.e. keywords, title, category, etc.).

Take your ideas and further hone them to figure out who will be writing, what specifically they will cover, any keywords they will target, etc. Then plug in your content on your calendar for the days that they will be posted.

schedulingScheduling

For blogging, if you are using a CMS, it is a huge help to schedule your posts when they are finished. Ideally you want to finish your posts several days in advance of them being posted so that while one week’s posts are going out, you can be working on the next week’s posts. CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal all have scheduling features built in.

Get Started Early with Your Editorial Process

Depending on what your industry is, you may have to be more or less proactive on gathering information. Some people blog about what they know or their own primary research, so they may not need a lot of lead time. Conversely, if you are doing interviews or have posts with a ton of research to be done, it’s wise to get started early on those. For posts that depend on outside sources beyond your control, it’s also a good idea to have backup content in case those posts fall through.

Tag Team

No matter how great a writer you are, you will make mistakes. If you are working alone, have someone you know who pays attention to detail read your posts before you put them online. If you are working with a team, designate someone the proofreader for others’ work or have people alternate. The basic idea is to get more than one set of eyeballs on the piece before it goes live.

Document Sharing

dropboxIf you have multiple people working on the same documents, it’s a pain to email back and forth. Not only is it time consuming and cumbersome, mistakes can be made when multiple documents are being sent via email.

Utilize document sharing sites like Google Drive or Dropbox. In many of these programs, you can see changes made in real time, and basic storage options are free.

Producing good content on a blog is a challenge, but even harder than that is staying organized and maintaining the machine for a long period of time. Many of the tools and concepts mentioned in this post can help ease that process and keep you on track.

 

What do you use in your editorial process? Have you found that it helps you stay on track with your content production? Let us know by dropping a line or commenting below.

How to Set Up Your Blog with WordPress

Now that you’ve named your website, found a great domain name and chosen a host, we can start to lay the foundation for your eventual blog content. There are several options for content management out there, but it is my heartfelt suggestion that you choose to blog with WordPress. Not only is the program far easier to use than most, but the level of support out there is fantastic. Using WordPress will allow you to build a useful and efficient blog site without causing you undue stress, which should in turn allow you to focus more on your content.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a very useful content management system. Content management systems exist to give you the opportunity to take control of how your content is presented and displayed. If your hosted space is the home of your website, WordPress is the program that actually puts everything together. WordPress has become the go-to program for content management due not only to the fact that the basic program itself is free and easy to use, but also due to the nearly limitless customization options available

Hosting and WordPress

wordpressThe great news is that most web hosts – including my favorite hosting site, Bluehost – support WordPress. If you are unsure as to whether your chosen host will support WordPress, you can simply check for these two factors:

  • MySQL v. 5.01.15 or better
  • PHP v. 5.2.4 or better.

Should your host provide those basic server requirements (and really, most of the big names do), you can move forward with the process.

Step One: Download WordPress

Downloading WordPress is incredibly simple. Visit the application’s main site to download the program, which should be in the form of a .zip file. As a note, you should make sure to always download WordPress from their official site – it is the best way to make sure that your download is safe.

Step Two: Setting Up WordPress with Your Host

WordPress has become such a widely-used platform that the majority of major hosts have tools available to set it up directly from the hosting administration panel. The process of setting up the program does differ from host to host, but we’ll keep it simple here by sticking to a cPanel installation. About sixty percent of all hosts use cPanel, including my oft-recommend Bluehost, so this should cover most readers – if you need more information, you can always take a quick look at WordPress’ own installation guide.

Starting your install is as simple as logging in to your hosting account and going directly to the Software/Services portion of your cPanel page. WordPress should be available, along with several other options.

Once you click on the icon, you will be given the option to install WordPress. Click on that button, and continue.

All that’s left to do is to add a bit of information. Skip the first step (it will ask you if you want to install a previous version of WordPress) and move right on to the next bit – entering your blog name, user name and password. Once you’ve finished this, you can move on to agreeing to the software license and actually installing the program – it should take less than a minute.

The installation process really isn’t that difficult, and it is something that can be done by a user of any skill level. While the instructions above are for Bluehost, the install process on any other major host is remarkably similar. Installing WordPress is usually as easy as entering a bit of information and waiting.

Step Three: Manage and Create

You can finally begin the process of site creation by accessing your WordPress admin page (www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/).

The easy-to-use administrative page will allow you to create, post and link new content. The “Posts” section is where you can create traditional blog posts, while each subsequent tab will give you a chance to add content, customize your website and deal with various other settings (which we will discuss next week).

There is certainly more to talk about when it comes to WordPress, and we will get into the real business of configuring your blog next week. Take some time to play around with your WordPress setting and get used to the interface – you will be spending a fair bit of with it in the future. You can also take some time to look back on the process so far. You’ve found a hosting solution, named your blog and made your plans. You’re almost ready for the biggest step of all – configuring and rolling out your blog.

 

What are your thoughts when it comes to starting a blog with WordPress? Do you have any additional tips or hints? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

How to Hire a Social Media Manager Through Universities

Do you feel like you can get by without a social media manager? If you run a business, you might be able to devote some time and energy to social media concerns, but it’s more likely that you’ll devote time to social media only after you’ve taken care of all of your other responsibilities. As a result, your efforts on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn and other popular networks will suffer.

Since social media isn’t going away any time soon, you need to devise a plan for your how your business handles it. If you really want to stay competitive, however, you need to consider hiring a social media manager. Although you might balk at the notion of brining an extra person onto your payroll, the benefits associated with hiring a social media manager far outweigh the costs.

Some of these benefits include:

  • Money SavingsBenefits of hiring a social media manager

    This may seem counterintuitive until you give it some thought. By taking on social media duties on your own or handing them off to the marketing department, you put strain and stress on your organization. You also increase the chance that you’ll make a social media blunder when you try to keep too many plates spinning at once.

  • Expert Understanding

    Social media is a relatively new phenomenon, but it has grown quite complex in its short lifespan. If you’re not familiar with the latest, most up-to-date software and tools, or you don’t have a grasp on how people are using the the newest platforms, you won’t be very effective. Hiring a social media manager gives you an instant edge in this realm.

  • A Different Perspective

    One of the most important benefits of hiring a social media manager is the outside perspective they provide. If you’ve got your nose to the proverbial grindstone with your business, you don’t see it the same way others do, and you’re probably not going to be able to relate with the public unless you put a few degrees of separation between your identity as a business owner and your identity as a social media user. By hiring an expert, you ensure that your messages are conveyed in the most effective manner possible.

  • A True Focus on Social Media

    The biggest problem with keeping your social media efforts in-house is the lack of dedication to the cause. You’ll never be able to devote the proper time to social media if you’re trying to keep your business afloat, and your marketing department will probably resent the time they have to spend doing something secondary to their main duties. A social media manager can come in and dedicate him or herself to the job completely, and they’re also able to engage with your followers and fans in real-time, making your business more well-known and well-liked in public.

 

Finding the Ideal Social Media Manager

Finding the Ideal Social Media ManagerThere are a number of places you can look if you want to hire a social media manager for your company. However, you should focus on finding someone who is ready to jump in and get started helping you immediately. There are a couple of great options if you want to do this:

  1. Use the services of a company that specializes in content and social media
  2. Look for the savviest (and most cost-effective) candidates coming out of college

Option one is a terrific choice if you’re unable or unwilling to bring a new person on board. This can save you money, and you can guarantee that you’ll be getting solid, dependable results. One drawback, though, is that the individuals charged with managing your social media won’t be completely dedicated to your company. However, the perspective that they can provide from their experiences working with other organizations can be incredibly valuable.

If you’re ready to bring a new person into your organization, you should consider option two. Colleges and universities have recognized the power of social media, and they are adjusting their courses so that interested students can focus on it.

In addition to the social media education they receive, college students and graduates simply use tools like Twitter, Facebook and others more than the average person, so they are always aware of current trends and techniques.

If you’ve decided that you want to hire somebody through a university, look for candidates who possess the following qualities:

  • A major in communications, PR, journalism or any other similar field
  • A friendly disposition that will allow them to represent your company well, regardless of work or life stress
  • A genuine interest in your company, its products and its clients
  • Fantastic writing skills
  • Tremendous enthusiasm for social media

Moving ForwardGoing Forward

Whether you decide to hire a social media manager through a university, you enlist the services of another company or you decide to go some other route, you simply can’t deny the importance of a dedicated manager for your efforts. It may seem like a lot of work hiring someone and entrusting them with the keys to your profiles, but it will pay off in the form of increased buzz about your brand. Social media is here to stay, and those companies that invest in it are the ones that are going to stick around for a while.

 

Do you have any other thoughts about hiring a social media manager for your business? Have you had any interesting experiences with the process? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Hosting Your Blog – Make the Right Choice for Your Needs

You already know the basics of setting up your blog. You even have a great name picked out. Now it’s time to get down to business – it’s time to get that blog up and running. At this point, we need to start talking about hosting your blog, which is essentially the process of finding a home for it on the web. Separate from finding a domain name (the blog’s web address), this is the part of the process that will help you to determine the first steps of how your blog is going to be accessed.

Free vs Paid: The Eternal Debate

Free vs PaidThere are thousands of articles out there about hosting your blog, but most of them tend to tip-toe around this part. Maybe it’s because it’s not polite to discuss money so bluntly, but the first question about blog hosting you need to ask yourself is this – how much money do you think your blog is going to make you?

Determining how much money you think your blog will make is the driving force between choosing between free and paid hosting options. The cost of paid hosting might seem steep for a hobby blog, but the cost might seem more reasonable if that blog is helping you bring in revenue. We can actually simplify the free vs. paid debate very quickly by dividing things up:

Those who use free hosts should either…

  • Blog purely for personal reasons, with no goal of attracting more traffic
  • Be first-time bloggers unsure of whether or not they will continue
  • Have very limited funds for the blog, or
  • Should not be sure of their overall blog strategy.

Those Who Use Paid HostsThose who use paid hosts should…

Is it possible that you might fall into both categories? Of course. There are a number of great, professional blogs, such as author Neil Gaiman’s blog or Yale Stewart’s delightful JL8, that still use Tumblr. Likewise, there are plenty of individuals who use hosts like Hostgator or Webs even if they have no desire to grow a brand. If there is a hard and fast rule, though, it is this – if you are just trying to have fun, go with free hosting. If you want to make money, pay for a host.

What You Should Expect from a Hosting Company

What You Should Expect from a Hosting CompanyPaid hosting is the best option for the majority of the readers out there, and one that I endorse for those who are not just hobby blogging. Figuring out which hosting company to work with can get a little complicated, but you can use the following to guide you. A great host should fulfill the following:

  1. Be reliable

Reliability is what sets free and paid blog hosting platforms apart, and you need to make sure that your paid host is going to keep your website up and running as much as possible. I am almost always a fan of local hosting businesses, but working with the big names like Bluehost, HostGator or GoDaddy will provide you with the best infrastructure, creating the best space for your blog.

  1. Be economical

Choosing a paid hosting option does not mean that you have to overspend. Every blog host seems to run specials for the first year, but these can be safely ignored. Instead, look at what’s included in a typical yearly hosting package along with the cost. I was once suckered into using a hosting service that looked like it offered attractive pricing, but very little was included with that price.

  1. Have great customer service

Finally, check out customer service reviews of each host. Your blog will, at some point, have a problem. You need to work with the host that will be able to resolve it with the fewest issues.

If you choose paid hosting, I would definitely recommend going with Bluehost. The company is very straightforward with pricing, and they have great customer service. Once you get your blog hosted, we can move on to the next step – figuring out exactly how you are dealing with content management. Believe me when I tell you this: we are about to get to the really fun stuff!

 

What are your thoughts on blog hosting? Any tips that you can add to the conversation? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Social Media Engagement Metrics That Matter

DislikeYour fan page has 5,607 likes? So what. You increased traffic to your website by 25% last month? Yawn. Many online marketers get excited about these metrics, and I’d bet those same individuals won’t hold their jobs for very long. Is getting followers to a social media account important? Yes. Do you want them visiting your website? Of course. These aren’t the end goals,though. Social media is a channel like television or radio or print. Getting your audience to pay attention is the first obstacle; getting them engaged so that they will buy from you is the ultimate goal.

 

Facebook’s Social Engagement Metrics

 

Facebook is so popular it’s not even funny. Virtually every commercial to every pizza box to every store front window has some kind of reference to a presence on the social media network. Getting likes is great, but there are some other metrics that marketers should be paying closer attention to.

Talking about this

Weekly reach on FacebookIf you run a fan page, you may have noticed this metric conspicuously floating next to the number of likes on your page. Facebook defines this as any time someone creates a story in their timeline by sharing, commenting, liking or responding to a post or comment of yours.

The basic theory here is that all the people connected to your business’ page are also connected to the pages of others. When they interact with your content, they also show that content to those they are connected with, thereby exposing your business to more people.

A secondary benefit (or perhaps the primary one) is that a follower has engaged with your brand. They have reached out and participated willingly in a conversation with your business.

When marketing with Facebook, your success must necessarily be measured by whether or not you accomplished your goals. In many cases, you are much more likely to accomplish your goals if you are getting followers to engage with your business.

 

Important Metrics on Twitter

 

Favorites, Retweets and Replies

Each network has its own name for engagement, but the name of the game is still pretty much the same. On Twitter, getting followers is great, but getting people to share your content is way better. This comes in the form of favorites, retweets and replies.

When you send out a tweet, a good strategy is to get someone with a lot of followers to retweet it. Once they do that, everyone who is following them sees the content that you have published. To a lesser extent, getting someone to favorite a tweet gets it a little more attention.

Having someone reply to a tweet is also a sign that they want to engage with your brand. Say you post a tweet about a recent blog post on your website and share a link in the tweet, as well. If you can get others talking about it by replying to your tweet, you are more likely to be seen by their followers, and you are also engaging in conversation with a member of your target market.

 

Converting your Followers

Converting Prospects

 

No matter which network you are active on, you must have a way to track your business success. This means tagging links or having specialized campaigns. Using tools like HubSpot can help you track those visitors who just came to your site for a peek, and those who actually made a purchase.

With tools like these, you can see if Jane Doe who commented on your shared link clicked through to your website and completed a conversion funnel. Using tools like Google Analytics or even built-in social analytics, you can tell which posts received the most engagement and which did not.

In your quest for thousands of followers, don’t forget the next pieces to the puzzle. Yes, gaining followers is an important piece because without followers, no one will see the content you post. Once you have the followers, though, the next step is getting them to engage with your brand and hopefully buy from you.

 

Have you been guilty of focusing too much on the wrong metrics in social media marketing? What eventually made you change your thinking? Let us know by dropping a line or leaving a comment below.