There’s no question that video content over the years has become a huge phenomenon and marketing tactic for businesses. 78% of people watch videos online every week and 55% of people watch videos online every day.* Those are some compelling stats when it comes to creating awareness and online engagement for brands, but what type of video will capture the attention of today’s consumers? Here’s a look at four emerging trends in video content marketing that will set a precedent for video marketing.
An Extended Script
Whether it’s the brand you love or the ambassador who represents, as a fan you often follow the stories they tell. Instead of micro moments, we can expect for longer scripted plots to carry out over the seasons, with unique pieces of content dispersed to various platforms. One brand that has put this approach on the map is Kate Spade. In the winter of last year they began with their missadventures campaign following around the ever adorable, super fashionable Anna Kendrick.
The trendy, upbeat womenswear and accessory brand is now in their third series of short films. The first series “The Waiting Game” showcased the stylish celebrity locked out of her Soho pad with shopping bags filled with Kate Spade goodies. And with time to kill what else is there to do but revel in the purchase. Anna turned an unfortunate situation (aka #missadventure) into a brand marketer’s dream as she then spent her time stooped on the stairs casually playing dress up. The video was not only entertaining but also interactive; viewers could shop the product featured in the video, a truly innovative add-on to the experience. The following series “The Great Escape” and “The Best Company” continue to showcase the quirky antics of Anna and cleverly highlight the brand’s product.
So often commercial advertisements are overbearing in their approach, trying to sell you on the product that you otherwise can’t live without. Meanwhile, Kimberly Clarke has been subtly focusing on the moments—those that bring tears of joy and tears of sadness—and remind you that Kleenex will always be there when you need them. In their “Someone Needs One” campaign, a dog gets a second chance at life after being paired up with someone who similarly fights the challenges of physical disabilities. The tear jerking video is uplifting and gives hope.
Another campaign series looks at a young girl’s first day back to school as she sits on the bus filled with anxiety letting out a quiet little sob. Before stepping off the bus a young boy takes notice to approach her to debunk what she might think about boys not caring about feelings. He hands her a tissue and tells her it’s not true, and your heart melts with his sweetness. It’s not about how soft that tissue is or how many years its been around, Kimberly Clarke has focused on the moments in life when Kleenex are there, because “Someone Needs One.” The future of successful video content will take a secondary role to selling product and instead focus on sharing related stories.
Transparency is an important brand attribute for today’s consumers. A few years ago, during a brand overhaul, Domino’s debuted a commercial that gave us an exclusive look at what consumers were saying about their pizza. They took an honest look at themselves, heard what customers were saying, and communicated it was time for change. It was one of the first times that a brand said, “We hear you.” Since then, consumers have begun to expect a more genuine approach. As a result, you can expect that we’re going to see more of an honest video dialogue, where scenes that might have otherwise got left on the cutting room floor end up being the raw moment that makes it all real.
Most recently, Mattel launched a campaign “You Can Be Anything” with the support of San Francisco agency BBDO. And while the creative powerhouse is known for their exceptional abilities to create compelling campaigns, the beauty in this one came through in the raw moments that they managed to capture. Sans script, BBDO used hidden cameras to capture little girls playing professionals (positions of their choice) in a real life setting. Not only are you captivated by the cuteness of the little girls, but also you get to see the real reaction to those witnesses of these little girls acting out their dream jobs.
Nowadays you can access video content on a variety of devices from TV to desktop to mobile phone, and brands put it out there for you to seek out. Times are changing though and one brand has adopted an innovative way to not only release their content, but also make it feel exclusive. With the launch of their bold new 3D tortilla chips, Doritos wanted to give consumers a 3D video in every bite. Instead of just making the content available anywhere online, the brand made it exclusive to those that purchased. Unique to each flavor, consumers scanned the 3D chip to unlock and access unique mobile-only content. It not only encouraged the purchase but also made you want to see what the other flavors had to offer. Moving forward, expect to see more brands create exclusive content that is unique. Think about product lines; people want information that is specific not broad in general terms.
It’s time to think outside of the box, throw away scripts, be authentic, and think about personalized content. In order to engage your audience you can’t just do what you’ve always done in the past. When it comes to video content it IS time to recreate the wheel.
*Source: Groupon Works
A few weeks ago one of our clients asked us to comment on why they had not been able to cross the marketing/digital marketing divide on their own. Certainly a provocative question and one that really required some thought on our part.
This particular client has a very productive marketing department delivering traditional marketing activity: conferences, press releases, pr placement; however, they just felt they had never been able to capitalize on the power and promise of digital marketing.
Here’s how we responded to our client’s question…
It’s easy to look at marketing and digital marketing and assume they are the same. Most companies with a marketing department treat social media and other digital communications efforts as just another distribution outlet for the content they are already producing.
This is the genesis of the problem.
Traditional marketing is about creating a presence in the marketplace, establishing knowledge of an organization within the market, building awareness of products and services as well as the company’s value proposition. All great efforts that are absolutely required as part of an overall marketing equation.
Digital marketing is about creating an engaged audience and there are significant differences between the two.
First, mindset. Engaging an audience means thinking about information that has value for them. What questions do they have that you can address? What are they already talking about and how can you make a contribution to the conversation? In simple terms it means putting aside what you want to tell them and giving priority to what they want to know or how you can help.
When you go to a party or event, who is the person everyone wants to speak with? It’s the person who engages in conversation, who listens before sharing information, and who is as interested in your point of view as you are in his. That approach to digital marketing works. Every single time you add content to your website, post on social media or send out an email marketing piece ask: does anyone care about this? Will people see this as valuable and be more informed as a result of taking their time to read it?
The second difference of digital marketing is the ability to target an audience with precision heretofore unavailable. For example when posting an article on LinkedIn, you can target individuals by industry, job title, seniority level, and geography. On Facebook, you can target people down to the level of who they follow, their demographic information and even a zip code.
A third differentiating factor is the ability to measure your success with a high level of precision. Once you’ve established systems and set up the right tools you will know — down to an individual respondent — how many people are following you, how many people actually read or respond to your message and the types of success your efforts lead to over time. We developed a standard digital marketing dashboard that allows us to track all digital marketing efforts on a month-over-month basis to see our results.
Certainly we do not advocate abandoning traditional marketing, but we do recommend that digital marketing, with its additional capabilities and benefits, be treated as a separate discipline requiring dedicated staff, tools, and processes to generate the maximum benefit for your organization.
There’s no denying the power of a blog, in fact it’s one of our most valuable communication tools and one that we recommend for our clients for a multitude of reasons. But the reality is that just about everyone has a blog these days, and the criteria for content creation and who’s creating is sometimes loose. Beyond the blog though there are other content formats that can provide additional value and have higher levels of expectation like the white paper.
A white paper is intended to be an authoritative, in-depth piece that educates the reader on your unique point of view. Some might tell you it’s an old-school technique that has lost its luster. Don’t be quick to judge. If crafted properly the return on investment can be valuable in terms of generating new leads, creating brand awareness, and establishing an expert reputation.
Where Do You Start?
Start by creating a creative brief. This will help outline all the necessary details you need to establish from the beginning, as well as provide a great resource to share with internal stakeholders to get everyone on the same page, and make sure it fits within the company’s overall positioning. Here’s a quick look at what the creative brief should include:
- Describe the initiative
- Outline what is the focus or big idea of the piece
- Highlight what are the supporting themes
- Identify the primary audience
- Establish what is the benefit for the reader
- Identify what you want to gain
- Determine what action you want the reader to take
- And lastly establish a timeline
Content Quick Tips
Capture attention. Much like a blog post you’ve got to create a captivating title that’ll attract readers. Make it powerful and intrigue them to give a little whether it’s their contact information or just the time it takes them to read. Consider an active verb suggesting the need to take action.
Tell them something they don’t already know. Share some secret sauce or exclusive insight that they might not have otherwise known unless they read your white paper. Make it thought provoking.
Build credibility. Consider co-writing with other industry experts or simply including a relevant quote from an influential individual that supports your content.
Do your research. White papers shouldn’t just be an opinion piece. Do your homework to compile supporting information and stats or interview subject matter experts.
Make it visual. Yes, the primary focus here is the content, but a bunch of words on a blank white page is going to be a total snooze to the reader. Use compelling photography and embrace colors and fonts as a way to highlight or call out key points within the piece.
Don’t focus on length. White papers vary in length from several to double-digit page numbers. What’s important to remember in the ideal length of the piece is that it should be long enough to convey your point effectively—period. Don’t make it too short that the reader feels disappointed that they didn’t get much out of it, but don’t add fluff to reach an arbitrary page length.
To gate or not to gate, that is the question. There are benefits on both ends of the spectrum. By gating the white paper you gain valuable contact information and can help you build email lists and provide an opportunity for follow up. On the flip side there’s also hesitancy amongst most individuals to want to provide that information. Consider not gating the information with the belief that the content will be powerful enough to ignite the reader to need to contact you. You can also try gating the white paper for a period of time, and then opening up after it’s been out in the public for a bit.
Plan for Promotion
There’s no sense in creating a great piece of content if you only intend to put it up on the website in hopes that someone will come find it. That’s like publishing a book and putting it in the library with the hope that it gets discovered one day. Establish a promotion plan the beginning.
- Consider creating a few blog posts on the subject in advance to further position credibility around the point of view.
- Develop a tiered approach to distribution. Establish a segment of customers that you can provide exclusive access to before you officially make public to everyone else.
- After that, utilize social media channels for additional distribution, and consider both organic and paid promotion.
- Add calls-to-action in other logical places of the website where visitors might see it, or add a link in the bottom of your email to help spread the word in day-to-day communications.
- Share with online resources and publications that might be interested to feature the piece.
While it may take days or weeks to produce a long-form piece of content like a white paper the benefits can outweigh only focusing on short-form content pieces like a blog post as a part of your overall content marketing strategy.
Photo Credit: Dan Taylr
Blogs are the most valuable type of content, according to more than one-third of today’s marketers (Source: ContentPlus). I could go on and on about the benefits of blogging from establishing authority to building trust to educating your audience, but the key though is effectively blogging. And let’s be honest though, while it may be the most valuable type of content, we know it takes a good amount of work to do it well. Here are 5 simple tips to get the most out of your blogging efforts.
Write for Your Audience Not For You
Creating great content always starts with focus, and that comes from understanding the audience you’re writing to attract. It’s easy to get excited about a topic and see something new and be tempted to write a post about it. I’ll be honest I’ve done it on occasion too. But the content that will provide the greatest value is a piece that is written for the intended reader and not you. Remember, you are not the target.
Having a content strategy in place will help you benchmark the audience you’re writing for and be a guide. For example, this post is geared to helping businesses improve their blog writing skills with a few simple tips and tools.
It’s never too late to implement a content strategy supported by an editorial calendar. Having an editorial calendar will keep you organized of course, but also help to monitor your keyword use and topic balance to ensure that you’re reaching your defined target with a variety of post topics. There’s a ton of free tools out there for editorial calendars from HubSpot and Content Marketing Institute, it just depends on your personal preference. Find one that works for you and get your content ideas documented. If all else fails you can even create one yourself with a simple excel sheet making sure to track authors and due dates, titles and content details, keywords and target personas, and lastly, your call-to-action.
Be Creative With Titles
Creating a great blog post may not matter if you don’t put as much consideration into creating a great title. By creating a title that will grab the attention of your audience you can help improve your click through-rate. When thinking about using common vs. unique adjectives in your title, go for unique. Adjectives that aren’t used as frequently in other posts will help make your title stand out more. By adding more emotional words to your post title you can also increase interest. Positive emotional words promote a better chance of being shared as well. Use social promotion as a way of testing your headlines. Tweet the content using different headlines to test which preforms better.
You can even try using a tool like CoSchedule’s Blog Post Headline Analyzer. Once you plug in your post title the tool will analyze the overall quality and rate its ability to result in social shares and SEO value. I even used it creating this post title (feel free to check out how I score).
Make it Easily Shareble
If your reader is challenged to find a way to easily share your article you can bet they won’t spend long trying to figure out how. Make it easy for them. Hopefully you’ve already incorporated social sharing buttons on your blog, but beyond that you can utilize “Click to Tweet” to highlight key points or powerful stats in your post.
Create a custom post graphic. You’ve heard it probably a million times a picture is worth a thousand words. Well it may not be worth a thousand words but, it may just make the difference between a post getting read or shared. Posts with images get 94% more total views than those without (source: Jeff Bulas).
Custom graphics resonate even more with readers than stock photography. If you’re like me and you read a lot of blogs, you’ve maybe even started to notice the same stock photo trending over other posts. Be unique and utilize imagery, fonts, and colors that relate to your brand.
Spelling, Grammar or Language Misstakes
We’re all human, and occasionally make typos or you might find yourself using the wrong tense of a verb. Heck you might even find one in this post (hopefully not). But a post that is poorly written or laden with grammatical errors is going to lose your reader real fast. There are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening though.
Start by having someone else read your post. Chances are you’ve read your post over and over and aren’t likely to catch simple errors because you know what you’re trying to convey. If you’re using a CMS system like WordPress, you can also consider starting your blog post in a word document. Typical spelling errors and awkward sentence structures are bound to be identified.
If you really want to get technical though, try a web app like Hemingway. Paste your text into Hemmingway and it’ll identify hard to read sentences, complex phrases, adverbs and passive voice. Each one is highlighted with a different color to help you identify what you might need to change. Beyond just sentence structure and analyzing the types of words used in the post, Hemmingway evaluates the readability of the post and identifies what grade level is needed to understand the text. The best content is written at a middle school level, so take that into your readability consideration.
Track Your Post Performance
If you write it, they will come. Not exactly. There are a lot of variables that go into getting your content discovered— content promotion for example—but if you’re not monitoring your blog traffic at all, you can’t begin to understand what’s working and what’s not. And of course you want to understand the results of your efforts.
This takes me back to the beginning of the importance of having a content strategy plan. In order to track the performance of your content, you need to understand the goals. Is it to increase sales, generate leads, create brand awareness, or establish expertise in a specific category? Depending on what you’ve identified as your goal, you can then start to look at some areas for measurement of success. If your goal is brand awareness, you might look at an increase in social media following and engagement, page views, website traffic and specifically the amount of time spent reading your posts. If your goal is to generate leads, you’ll want to measure email subscription or sign-ups and content form submissions. Evaluating your blog performance will only help make certain that the content you create is getting the recognition it deserves.
Now get out there and go write something!
Over the holidays I had a chance to catch up with an old friend whom I’ve not seen in months. He is fairly highly placed in the technology sector and of course we wound up talking “geek” ad nauseum. One of the things we discussed was his take on Google. Here is what I got.
There is absolutely no privacy when it comes to Google; there may be some last vestige of anonymity, but there is no privacy. Google knows when you’re in your car, who you communicate with, and now, with the acquisition of Nest, what you do in your home, thus rendering the phrase “in the privacy of your own home” meaningless. The amount of data they collect, examine, and use is staggering and is an absolute assault on the right to privacy.
That being said, yes, I opted in. But now I’m opting out. It will take a while, I’m guessing at least a year, to get away but I’m going to do it. And yes, I’m going to miss the effectiveness of Google as a search engine. Plus I’ll be giving up an email address I’ve had since 2004, but I have to draw the line somewhere and this is it.
While all of what my friend shared is already public, hearing it put together with his perspective, which I greatly respect, has led me to one conclusion: my 2015 resolution is to separate from Google. That means dropping Chrome, Gmail, Google+, YouTube, the whole shebang. Can I actually do it? I don’t know, but I’m going to try.
To get a real sense of what Google does and does not do/know/plan/collect/sell, check out these articles:
I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks
As with personal goals, it’s never too late to start setting digital marketing goals. No need to wait until the New Year or fret if you don’t get them set by the end of January.
Yes, it’s never too late for setting digital marketing goals, though it can be too early. Let me explain; goal setting for digital marketing can benefit from some level of baseline knowledge. How would you know what to aim for if you have no idea what is realistic for your business?
Build a Baseline to Reference
If you’re new to measuring certain aspects of your digital marketing, consider taking 1-3 months to measure and record, developing a baseline from which to create your goals.
If you have been measuring for a period of time these numbers should be part of your goal setting decisions.
What Else to Consider
Well, that baseline number up there of course but also:
- The platform averages for your industry. For example, comparing Average Reach on Twitter for a Logistics company and a Clothing Retailer may be like comparing apples to alligators.
- Direct competitor performance.
- Age and level of awareness of the business
- Age of the business’ presence on a certain platform
Know what to measure
Each platform/channel/area of effort (whatever you want to call it) will have relative metrics to track but all of this should be feeding into a big picture marketing plan with big picture marketing goals. These are the details, these are the brush strokes that make up your masterpiece for the month/quarter/year/etc.
Let’s use two major social platforms as an example of what to measure:
- Engagement – How people are interacting with your content on Facebook
- Reach (but be aware that organic reach is tough to come by. Any significant Reach is likely to come from paid promotion, at least to get rolling and build awareness).
- Page Likes – Despite some reports, page Likes aren’t just a shallow metric to measure your popularity. Quality Page Likes help to amplify your Reach and increase the effectiveness of your Facebook Advertising.
- Negative Impact – Diving into the Page Likes section within your Facebook Insights shows you a Net Likes section. Here you can quickly see a count for Unlikes of your Page. Unlike aren’t uncommon, even for the most popular brands, but if you can correlate any large sections of Unlikes to recent posts, ads and/or frequencies listen to your audience and make adjustments. On the ads in particular, check out this article on reducing ads fatigue.
- Impressions – numbers of times users saw your tweet
- Engagement Rate – the number of engagements (clicks, retweets, favorites, follows, replies) divided by the total number of impressions. This data is more valuable month over month than say day-to-day.
Depending on your marketing and business development goals you’ll likely be looking to convert that social activity to leads and ultimately projects/sales. That’s where your website goals and data comes in.
Website Metrics to Track (Google Analytics):
- Sessions/Users – this is the number of visits to your site and the number of Users (or visitors) making up those visits.
- Referrals – where those Users are coming from and what they’re clicking on to get to your site. Tracking URLS for your social media sites can help better clarify those actions.
- Exit Pages – unlike Bounce rate which can vary based on page content and the desired outcome from your landing pages, Exit Pages allow you to take a closer look at when your visitors are leaving on their journey through your site. From here you can take educated actions that help carry the visitor closer to conversion.
- Conversion Rate – Just like it sounds, how your website is performing based on the number of visitors who reach the desired goal (conversion)
- Top 5 or 10 Pages – Look at these monthly to help connect the dots between new content and social media efforts with onsite traffic and behaviors.
Set “Stretch But Don’t Snap” Goals
In the end goals should be aggressive but obtainable – realistic but take some of your best effort to achieve. Seeing your team start to close in on goals can be great motivation. On the flip-side, seeing a gigantic gap between where you are and where you want to get, can lead to a serious case of throwing in the towel.
Photo credit: Jeff Turner
Marketing for a small business can get hectic, time-consuming, and unorganized. Between the hundreds of accounts, sites, and content resources used everyday, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily there are plenty of browser extensions that can be added to your web browser to help keep your efforts clutter-free. Here are some great extensions that the Shout Out team uses to stay sane:
Screen capturing is nothing new, but Awesome Screenshot is the most versatile and capable screenshot tool I have come across. It allows you to capture either a selected area, the directly visible area, or the entire web page. After you have selected your screenshot, you can annotate it in a variety of ways, and even censor sensitive information. The final benefit of Awesome Screenshot is it gives you the option to email, share the url, or save the image. Showing edits needed on site pages, individual posts or photos has never been easier.
If you’re in charge of social media for your small business, there is a good chance you are no stranger to HootSuite. Hootlet is their browser extension which helps you save time and effort. You can post to multiple social media profiles at once, schedule your posts, and find targeted content all without leaving your browser window.
bitly is a link shortening/ branding extension that does so much more. After you create custom bitlinks, you can then manage and review their performance from the analytics and reporting from bitly. It keeps your social sharing looking clean, and helps you track click-throughs.
Riffle is the Twitter dashboard you’ve been looking for, assuming you were looking for a Twitter dashboard. Get a Twitter profile’s vitals, influence assessments, top shares, usage and it’s activity rate all in a single dashboard. It’s a great way to learn about your followers or potential influencers.
Save the content you find for later with Pocket. This nifty extension will save, categorize and sync content so you can access it later, from any device. Pocket is a great way to curate articles, videos, or photos to share from your brand’s social media accounts.
The MozBar browser extension provides free SEO metrics and data. You can search keywords, locations and individual search engines. MozBar also lets you analyze on-page elements with their Analyze Page overlay. It provides you with a break down of social shares and metrics. Save time on SEO research by adding MozBar to your extension arsenal.
Other useful extensions that will save you time and effort:
As the name suggests, this extension is a link checker that scours through your page or post and will make sure all your links are working. Once it’s done it will highlight working links in green, and it highlights the broken links with red. This is a great time-saver, especially when you’ve been editing content for an entire day.
It can be hard to know which hashtags to use on your social media posts. RiteTag takes the guessing out of it by grading your hashtags on a three point scale. Updates shared through RiteTag are also monitored for click-throughs, replies, retweets, favorites, and follows.
Check out the extensions above and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear of any extensions you use that have simplified your daily workload.
Let’s all face it – Facebook isn’t what it once was. We are flooded with ad’s, promoted posts, and articles for companies we’ve never heard of. It’s a headache and a daily struggle to dodge these to get to the juicy stuff.
The other day I was scrolling through Facebook when I noticed a little birdie complaining about how misleading titles and descriptions are for articles shared on Facebook. Quite frankly, I have to agree with her. It has become a game for companies like Harper’s Baazer and Huffington Post who post multiple articles on facebook a day. Both add “descriptions” of what they claim lay inside the article… However, it’s a game of whether or not the description/title is telling the truth.
Here is what my little birdie says on her Facebook post: “Case in Point: The title of this article has no reference or direct correlation to the story. In the article, they make no comment or quote on the people who have too much time on their hands.”Photo credit: Elite Daily
This new trend is called Click-Bait. According to Amy Porterfield, “Click-bait is when a link is shared in a Facebook post with a title that sparks curiosity but does not really tell people what the article is all about. This essentially teases people to click a link but does not give them all the information so they are not exactly sure what they’re going to find on the other side of that click.”
The good news? Facebook is cracking down. On August 25th on the Facebook Newsroom page, they stated. “We’re making two updates, the first to reduce click-baiting headlines, and the second to help people see links shared on Facebook in the best format.”
Cheers to that, Facebook.
How can you help the cause? The way Facebook determines whether or not something is Click-Bait is by how much time you spend on the article you click on. If you click on an article and read it for a few minutes, Facebook measures that to be something worthy of reading. If you click on the article and immediately click out of it, Facebook recognizes that is an issue.
Click-bait making you crazy too? Drop a line in the comments and share.
Photo Credit: Greg Westfall
Having a great idea for a post is a huge first step, but then you actually have to write it. Imagine that.
So what happens when you sit down with your great idea, your blog title or ebook subject and you proceed to stare at a flashing cursor for the next several hours with nothing to show for it?
It’s ok. Writer’s block happens to all of us. And it can stem from a number of things like distractions, being tired, being hungry and so on. But so many times writer’s block simply means you’re not ready to write yet. Now, this doesn’t mean you sit and let the idea age like a good bourbon, no.
You can break through writer’s block by pre-writing your content. You address it. You walk up slowly, remove your glove one finger at a time and slap writer’s block across the face and say, “I accept the challenge.”
Here’s how to pre-write your content in order to break through writer’s block:
Talk it out
Tell somebody about your great article. Tell them what it’s all about. No one around? Tell your dog. Tell your cat. Tell yourself in the mirror. The goal here is to make communicating your big idea more casual. To take the pressure off yourself. Plus, sometimes you just need to hear the information out loud.
Write Down the Key Points
After you talk it out you still need to get it down on paper so you don’t forget it. Almost like an outline, quickly jot down the key points of your article. This is the basis for its existence – the what and why. The foundational ideas. For this article as an example I wrote down:
- The idea that walking away from writer’s block doesn’t have to be the answer
- A revival of preparation, the old fashion article outline
- Take the pressure off of the content writing
- Organizing all those swirling thoughts and giving them purpose
Now, what’s the benefit of the content?
Great, so you have those big ideas down. Consider those the veins for your paragraphs but now they need some life’s blood and some purpose. This is the big value statement for what you want this piece of content to be to your readers. For me for this post it was:
“To act as a framework and plan of action for not only overcoming writer’s block but creating better content because of it.”
Give It a Voice
We talk about voice a lot here at Shout Out, more in the context of overall brand voice, but individual pieces of content can have variances in voice as well. Almost like accents or dialects. Consider this the best way to deliver your great idea when considering audience and context. For the article, as with almost all of our posts, I’m aiming for: Friendly guide. Semi-professional. Conversational.
So there you have it; pre-writing. Informal, low pressure, yet still making progress. Let us know how it works for you or other steps you might add to the content pre-writing process.
Politics is a topic we don’t broach often here at Shout Out Studio. As everyone knows you don’t discuss politics and religion with those you want to stay friends with. But I have been thinking about politics a lot lately. Specifically how some political marketing campaigns are and will be marketing to reach their target demographic in regards to this upcoming mid-term elections. As long I try to stay neutral there is no harm in talking about it, right? read more
Great (AdWords) Expectations
Paid traffic can be a great thing, but if you are starting a campaign from scratch often there are a few problems. Some marketers sell it to their clients as the end-all be-all solution, and others managing their campaigns themselves usually have a grand vision of their success with the platform. Which usually creates some ridiculously high expectations, and when those expectations aren’t met people usually get frustrated and give up. So how long does it take to create a successful AdWords campaign?
The trick to starting a successful AdWords campaign is to never set expectations so high that they can’t be achieved. If expectations are managed from the beginning everyone involved can feel good about it. Here are some of my tips for managing expectations:
- Think of your opening budget as R&D cost, not advertising cost. Consider this money cost of doing business. It’s gone. Don’t expect a return on it.
- It’s going to take AT LEAST a month before you will see your campaign start to take shape in the way you want. This opening month is all about gathering information and making adjustments often.
- Don’t set goals until AFTER your first week. It’s okay to set goals at the beginning, but honestly you will have no idea if those goals are realistic or not until after your campaign starts running for at least a week. After the first week, set your goals and re-evaluate at the end of every following week.
- Track your progress. Whether you are managing it yourself or especially if you are managing it for clients. To see your progress from week to week will help you know what changes you made that are having a positive impact on your campaign and it will let your clients know that progress is being made.
As I said before, AdWords and other paid search options can be an amazing form of traffic for your business, but when you are starting a brand new campaign stay grounded. Keep your expectations reasonable and give it time. Success will follow.
Part one of this post I wrote last year, and I discussed finding your blog writing swagger. After over year of contributing to our blog I’d like to add build upon finding that swagger. When I first started writing for Shout Out Studio I struggled to find the confidence to sit down and write down my thoughts. Now, I find my confidence in other ways:
1) Read. Write. Plan. Repeat.
These steps, in this order, might not work for everyone but if you haven’t tried it – now is your time. It’s important for me to do these three things on a regular basis to stay inspired to share my opinions in the digital marketing world. How can you write if you aren’t inspired? Pick up that book that everyone has been telling you to read and take an afternoon to get started – it will be beneficial in the long run for you, and your blog.
2) Climb out of that suffocating, inspiration trap, that you call your office. White and beige don’t rev-up my inspiration. I’m writing this blog from my back porch for a couple of reasons: First, because its 52 degrees outside and I think that means summer is close. Second, because it’s new, fresh, and my mindset is inspired by it.
3) You should never let yourself get to the point where you feel pushed to write a blog post (in a bad way). Be pushed by inspiration, motivation, and maybe too much caffeine. However, don’t be pushed by time, pressure, and the need to keep up. Reading, writing, then planning throughout your week will allow you to stay ahead of that time crunch, which can also crunch your writing. Keep in mind there is a difference between time and goals when it comes to blogging. You can control goals, you can’t control time.
4) I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…keep your voice genuine. You’ve heard that when you communicate via online mediums it’s important to keep your voice – funny, informative, cool, classy, trendy – whatever it is, keep it. Don’t be afraid to add some sarcasm in your posts, if that’s who you are. More often than not, being true to who you are will gain more real listeners than a large mass of followers. Quality over quantity.
Have other tips for finding your blog writing confidence? Share them with us in the comments section below.
Image via klepas
Recently I had the pleasure of going through Google’s certification process for AdWords. I passed. However, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. It’s not that the material is hard to grasp or that the test itself is difficult. No, the main problem I found with the AdWords certification process is sifting through the seemingly endless amount of information in the study guides and figuring out what Google really wants you to know. I spent the better part of three weeks reading through the study guides that Google provides, reading books on AdWords, and using a paid online resource for question banks and mock exams to prepare for both the fundamentals exam and the advanced search exam. The truth is I could probably have done it in half the time if I knew some of the things I know now. I want to now share with you some of the insights I gained while going through this process in the hopes it may be able to help you become certified quicker and more efficiently.
Skim through the Google Study Guides
If I had tried to pass the exams just by reading the study guides, I am almost positive that I would have failed. It’s true that ALL of the information you need to pass the test lay within these study guides. However, they are mind numbingly boring and very hard to decipher what the big take-aways are from each entry. I read these word for word, sometimes literally falling asleep at my computer, and when I was done I struggled to look back on what I read and say what it was that I actually learned and retained.
If I were to do it over again, I would skim through each section and try to pull out the main ideas (which I said is already hard) if I can. But I definitely wouldn’t read it word for word. To take notes, I wrote down things in a spiral notebook and took screen shots of things in the study guides for reference later. I suggest doing something along these lines. Oh, and you will probably read lots of other people out there telling you to not only read every word but to watch every video too. Don’t bother. Everything covered in the videos are covered in the text, and most of it is useless.
Don’t buy any AdWords books… yet.
I bought a copy of Perry Marshall’s Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords and spent a few days reading that cover to cover. While it is a great book for someone starting out in AdWords and contains some great advice, books like these aren’t going to help you pass the exam. In fact, they are just going to serve as a distraction to you if your main goal is to get certified as quickly as possible. Hold off on buying a book like this until after your certification.
Pony up for iPass Exam (and jump right in!)
iPass Exam is the paid resource I used to study. While the English is a little off at times, some questions are extremely poorly worded, and you have to pay for it, the service does a pretty good job of delivering exactly what you need to know for the exam. In fact, I am fairly certain that if I had just jumped in and started studying off of this, I could have passed the exams just as easily as I did with all the extra studying I did. Make sure you are good about writing down the answer to every question you get wrong. Then go back and test yourself on it again. If you are passing the practice exams on iPass you are probably ready for the real test.
The real test is not as hard as the practice tests you may be taking
I was getting low 80%’s on my practice tests. I got 96% on both the fundamentals exam and the advanced search exam (no big deal). In the real test, there are a lot of questions addressing the same topics, and the questions are worded so you can VERY easily eliminate two or three answers from each question. Overall, the test really isn’t that hard.
With all that said, keep in mind you still need to put some time in to study. If you don’t pass the first time, you’ll have to wait 7 days before you can take the exam again so just put in the study time the first time. Take plenty of notes from questions you miss off of practice exams and question banks and utilize the screen shot to capture pictures of tables and guidelines that Google provides off the study guides. Overall, don’t stress. It’s way more manageable than the study guides make the test out to be.
In previous posts, we’ve broken down the anatomy of an effective blog post and established why blogging matters for business, but how can YOU be a better business blogger? Here are a few best practices you might try:
Collaborate With The Team
There’s no “I” in team right? Well, there’s no “I” in blog either. The most refreshing blogs online these days are the ones that have different viewpoints – why? Because it’s different! Working together as a team allows different to be created with little to no effort. How does that happen? In 3 ways:
- When you collaborate with a team you feed off of each other’s ideas. If I’m stuck and my creative juices aren’t flowing I can look to my team to support me through that. They offer ideas or things they would want to hear about.
- Your team isn’t afraid to say no. Or yes really. Often as individuals, we sit around and question our ideas, yet when we present them to the team we more often than not get a positive response or ways to make our posts even better.
- Think in broader terms of a team. Everyone has a perspective and sometimes it’s those with the softest voice that end up having a ton to contribute, it just takes asking and they’re excited to be involved.
Understand Your Audience:
You know how everyone and their brother tells you that in order to be a successful company you have to understand your audience? Well, they’re right. It’s Business 101. You have to be able to understand your audience’s wants and needs – and more importantly, provide for those wants and needs. The same goes for your blog. We could sit around all day blogging about why cupcakes are so delicious, but that’s not what our audience wants to hear because that’s not the information or the business we provide to benefit them.
Sometimes it’s as simple as just going straight to the source and asking what they want to hear more (and less) about. Survey your readers directly on the blog or poll your audience via social media. You don’t know if you don’t ask.
Network With Your Peers:
Don’t blog with blinders. Get out of your office and go talk to the world. It’s easy to get into a rhythm of developing content, but an outsider who’s not on the front lines with you all day long can help provide a fresh perspective. Sometimes ideas are spurred by just having conversations with your peers. Ask them about issues they’re challenged with, and turn it into an opportunity to use your expertise to help educate others who might be dealing with a similar issue. Don’t just focus on challenges though, we all love to hear a good success story and share ways we can be more efficient and effective in business. Consider even doing a monthly roundtable with other business leaders to discuss hot topics for blog fodder.
Another way to utilize both your expertise and your peers is to swap your knowledge. Be a guest blogger and pay it forward. Provide insight on a subject matter that might be relevant to their audience, and in return give them a platform to share their knowledge with your audience. Sometimes it a nice little break on both ends.
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk
As marketers and bloggers, we try to keep up on all of the marketing articles floating out there for consumption. For a while it was really good, it was the golden age of marketing materials. But in our opinion, that time has passed. And lately, we just feel like the same crap is being circulated around the circles we follow. There are a hundred “10 Things You Need To Know About X” articles out there for everyone with honestly curated content with real-world experience examples. Trust us, were guilty of it sometimes too (see Top 5 Small Business Marketing Tools) but we want to take a little time to step back, breathe deep, and think about the things we really want to read from here on out.
If you’ve followed us at all you know how passionate we are about helping small business people take advantage of the Internet to grow their businesses, and usually, the first thing we have to do in a client situation is debunk the myth that there is some silver-bullet software solution that will fix everything. Despite what the various marketing and sales teams will tell you, there isn’t.
Although tools are sold based on capabilities, it’s the everyday understanding and uses that makes them valuable. Small business owners seldom have time to deal with theory, they want results and that means actionable direction. A step-by-step guide to an outcome is always going to be more valuable than a statement about theoretical marketing or sales strategies.
As an example, marketing automation solutions are often sold by touting their capabilities; generating more customers, delivering focused content, lead nurturing, etc. But, the real question for many organizations is how do I do that. How do I use these tools on a day-to-day basis to grow my business and delivery revenue to the bottom line? The answer is show me, lead me, give me step-by-step directions based on desired outcomes, not high-level theory. That’s adding value where it is needed in the small business world. Give me something to do that will actually help grow my business, not something that I have to figure out before I can even begin to apply it.
In providing content that leads to the desired outcome value is delivered…that’s where the real focus of content creation can come through.
We all know that content with Top Tens and 3 “How To’s” are informative and straight to the point but they often lack inspiration. I often sit down to seek out great content that I can share in the social media world… I mean great things gotta be passed on, right? But I have to tell you it can become tiresome when the content to be found every day is a repeat of last weeks old content about how great Twitter is for small businesses (we get it, people, Twitter rocks our socks too). The content I want to see more of is content based on inspiration. When I say content based on inspiration I mean an article that is perfectly written with not only a clearly defined purpose but with clarity that the author was motivated and moved by something, the really good stuff. This is the content that the marketing and digital world could use more of. There is nothing worse than a day chalked full of boring unoriginal content – come on people, get inspired!
I have been trying to grow my Twitter presence lately, and in doing so I have started to follow a lot of well known digital marketers out there. And now I have started to unfollow them. I was so sick of constantly having my twitter feed polluted with links to the same articles on the same subjects written the same way. All day every day. I liked to read that stuff when I first got into the digital marketing business, but frankly, I’m sick of it now. The problem I see now is that there is so much information on theory out there, but minimal amounts of information on the practice.
The marketing articles I really want to see now are the ones chronicling practice, not theory. Give me some transparency. I want to see exactly what people are doing, what worked, what didn’t work and how they are going to try and correct it. Tell me your failures, brag about your successes, and be innovative, not repetitive. Let me see the way others grow. In the future, I want to see way more well-documented case studies, analytics on specific campaigns, and crazy ideas put into practice. Digital marketing is not my religion, I don’t have to take things on faith. Give me cold hard facts.
I read a lot of content that is written from an authoritative, expert point of view, but what resonates with me most, and what I’d like to see more of, is content written from personal experience. It’s one of the guiding principles in many of our own posts. We’ve written about exercises in finding your company voice, why blogging matters, and how to conduct a blogger outreach program, just to name a few. Each of these we wrote from a personal perspective with total transparency.
It’s about positioning content so you’re not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Writing from a personal experience perspective makes the content more relatable to the audience, and can be a great way to be able to express potential pitfalls that can be avoided based on your experience—what to do and what not to do.
It’d be great to see less of all of it actually. Not just fewer sales pitch paragraphs at the end of blog posts, though that one is way, way up there, but less in general. Less focus on quantity and more focus on quality. From that; more stories. More background. More details.
2014 will usher in stronger movements toward reducing the noise and disconnecting. So when you, me, any of us put out content it better be damn worth the precious time someone spends to read it. Readers won’t be asking for more they’ll be purging blogs from their feeds so content has to stick.
There’s no hard and fast rule that says you need to put out a blog post every day to be relevant. We’re in the midst of a blog writing challenge right now as a company – all through January. But quality comes first and we planned our actions accordingly. We’d rather lose than not be useful to our readers.
Tell us about the content you want to see in 2014.
Note: This post was written in one hour as part of the HubSpot 30-Day Blog Challenge.