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3 Indispensable Keys to Great Content

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Working in the world of digital marketing today means managing information across a variety of platforms and creating a lot of different content. The competition for the attention of audiences has never been fiercer, and sustaining the attention of your followers can feel like an insurmountable task at times. Are you confident in the kind of content you’re creating? Here are three indispensable elements of great content to make sure you’re delivering what your audience is hungry for.

Longevity

Can your content live on a day or more past the the moment you share it? Will it be relevant to your readers months down the road? How about years from now? It’s important for the content you share to be timely but when it comes to blogs and vlogs in particular, it’s important to also think in the long term. Everything you publish develops into an archive of your best ideas and practices, so think about sharing content that isn’t just important in the moment. Thinking this way will bring you closer to nailing down your brand’s overall philosophy and vision.

Value

Are you sharing something valuable? Or just racking up an impressive word count as you type away? Creating valuable content means knowing what your audience is looking for and then becoming the best place for them to find it. Think of your content as a resource bank--an important reference point for your customers to learn something important about you or your industry. You don’t have to cover a topic in its entirety (in fact, that would easily overwhelm most readers), so rely on links to other reliable sources to round out the information you’re sharing. The more value followers see in your content, the more likely they are to follow you consistently. A blog with really valuable posts could even turn into a book deal

Shareability

This ties into the other two cornerstones for great content because if your content can deliver value over a long period of time, it’s more likely to be shared by your followers. But there are few easy things you can do to ensure your content is prime for sharing across social networks. Writing a catchy headline is just as important as developing the body of your content. It’s the first thing readers see and often determines whether a casual perusal will turn into a deeper read. Can the main ideas of what you’re trying to say be distilled into 140 characters or less? Can you sum up what you’re trying to say in a single image? If not, you might want to take a look at your content to make sure that it’s direct enough to make a quick and lasting impact.

How do you define great content? Tracking the performance of what you share on a regular basis is a great way to refine your approach. Step back, see how many times people engage with a particular item, and then recalibrate your approach to give your audience even more of what they’re looking for.

5 Tips for Better Social Writing

Social Sonar - Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some people are lucky: the prose just seems to pour out of them. For the rest of us, it takes a special kind of effort to develop great writing that provides value for customers, represents our brands, and engages fans. Are you doing everything you can to create the best written content for your social strategy? Here are five tips to help you get there.

The Hardest Part is Getting Started

There’s no way around it. The most difficult part of writing is getting started. Clearing away distractions, getting your thoughts organized and setting out to churn out great content is by far the hardest part of any kind of writing. By following a publishing schedule, you can establish a helpful routine that lets you stay on task. Setting deadlines is also important, especially if you’re working on your own, without an editor. You might consider setting up reminders on a program like Google Calendar to help keep you accountable.

Write When You’re Not Writing

Just because you’re not sitting at your desktop computer or laptop doesn’t mean you can’t be writing. In fact, you might be doing yourself a great disservice by insisting that the only time to “really write” is when you’re sitting at your desk with a blank page before you. No matter how many tabs you have open in your browser, inspiration may be hard to come by if you’re not engaging with the real world. Take a small pen and pad of paper everywhere you go and jot down ideas as they come to you. Wait until your brain is teeming with ideas and then sit down to work. You’ll find that writing is much more enjoyable when the ideas seem to pour out on their own.

Edit, Edit, Edit. But Write First!

You don’t have to edit as you write. Your inner editor may want to jump the gun, but it's best to get your ideas out while they’re still fresh. Editing as you write might curb some of your better instincts. Trust that you’re on your way to creating something great and go for it! Then, take a break, step back, and return to your writing when you’ve had some time to “cleanse your palate.” Your own writing might seem foreign to you, which is a good thing--you’ll be able to judge it in a much more objective way.

Keep it Pithy

Longform content aside, social media is a place to keep things concise. Facebook posts may allow you more room to expound on your ideas, but that doesn’t always mean you should take advantage of this feature. Fans that are scrolling through their newsfeeds are more likely to ignore you if you start gaining a reputation for being too verbose. Keep it punchy, pithy and include a call to action to generate the most engagement.

Kill Your Darlings

If you’ve ever taken a writing or composition class, you’ve no doubt come across this gem: “Kill your darlings.” This perennial piece of advice has been attributed to so many authors that its true origin might be impossible to pinpoint. Apocryphal status aside, the idea behind this old adage still rings true: if your idea stinks, just let it go. If you’re working on a piece of writing like a blog and find you can’t resolve its disparate pieces into something to be proud of, ditch it. Take it as a sign that something better is waiting to bubble up.

How do you handle the parts of your social marketing strategy that involve writing? Share your best advice in the comments section below.

Learn to Stop Worrying and Love SEO

Social Sonar - Wednesday, January 08, 2014

SEO is dead. SEO is alive and well. SEO is evolving. Which philosophy is your marketing approach based on? Look up “Search Engine Optmization” and you’re bound to find any number of blogs debating whether traditional modes of boosting your visibility through search engines have disappeared completely, changed fundamentally or retained some of their tactical value. 

No matter who you believe, one this is certain: there is a lot of anxiety over the best way to approach web visibility and search engine ranking in 2014. Marketers shouldn’t be surprised though. Big changes have been brewing for over a year, with search engine giants like Google looking for a more intuitive and efficient approach to delivering results to users.

One of the developments that’s stirring up controversy amongst SEO experts is last year’s release of Google Hummingbird. Hummingbird is an updated algorithm that employs features like conversational search to make searching for information easier and more like everyday speech. Important features like PageRank, which haven’t been officially discontinued, are receding to the background and might eventually stop being a part of the equation.

Does this mean you should abandon old approaches to SEO? If you’re used to rattling off a bunch of keywords in the attempt to capture the attention of Google’s algorithm, then yes. Part of Google’s strategy has been to create search methods that exclude gibberish from content farms, which used to produce high ranking material that failed to truly satisfy a searcher’s query.

What can you do to secure a space at the top of search engine rankings? Without altering the actual architecture of your site, there is still a lot you can do by simply being a better blogger. Establish yourself as an authority on your topic and make your platform an important voice for your industry. Google’s approach to delivering results favors quality sites that contain links to other healthy sites. Make sure that each post is like a resource bank that redirects people to more quality content. If you’re already focused on creating the best content for your readers, this should really take care of itself!

A good approach to SEO in 2014 goes hand in hand with good writing. Counting keywords may not be as important as it used to be, and this might comes as a relief to many. Step outside the prescribed formula of meeting keyword quotas so you can really say what you mean with your writing. If you’re avidly blogging about your business, keywords should naturally occur without too much hand wringing about whether it’s “enough.”

Most of all, remember that making sure you’re easy to find online is just part of your overall marketing approach--a piece of a dynamic puzzle. Your offpage efforts to direct traffic (either in real life or through social media) to your homepage shouldn’t be ignored in the pursuit of chasing keywords.

Keep an eye on search engine trends, but don’t don’t be a slave to rigid schemes. As companies like Google move to more organic ways of delivering results, great content will float to the top and irrelevant junk will sink to the bottom. Where you end up has less to do with a single rubric for success and more to do with creating a page that users love to visit for its great material.

5 Lessons Buzzfeed Can Teach You About Better Blogging

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 06, 2013

We’ve all spent more time on Buzzfeed than we’d like to admit. Time traveling celebrities, seemingly endless parades of GIFs, more lists than you’ll ever know what to do with and lots of cats all contribute to Buzzfeed’s reputation as major timesuck. But if you think that Buzzfeed is just a place where critical thinking goes to die, it might be time to take a closer look. Here’s how Buzzfeed can inspire you to take your blogging to the next level.

Lists

We love lists. We love them so much we’re writing one right now. Suffering from writer’s block? Think of a topic that can easily be explained as a list. For example, “7 Reasons Why You Should Make Hotel Reservations With Us Before Thanksgiving.” Readers may not always have time for a lengthy essay, so it pays to keep things pithy. If you announce upfront that readers can get a lot of information in a quick way, you're more likely to get some clicks. 

Catchy Headlines

There is an undeniable appeal to Buzzfeed’s headlines. If you’ve avoided Buzzfeed before, it's a case study in creating the kinds of headlines that readers just can’t refuse. A prime example is “8 Facts You’re Better Off Not Knowing.” Do you feel temptation sinking in? Don't worry, so do we!

Longform/Shortform

Buzzfeed is very visually driven, with short bits of text, multiple pictures and concise captions doing most of the talking. It’s a formula that works well for a generation of consumers that absorbs media quickly and then moves on. At the same time, Buzzfeed recognizes that readers might be looking for something more substantial from time to time. Longform articles satisfy a craving for more robust content that goes in depth. Mix it up on your blog to keep things varied. Not every post needs to be a comprehensive look at the topic of the day, but every blog post can’t be a handful of cat pics either!

Connectivity

At every turn, Buzzfeed provides its readers with opportunities to readily share content. Do you have clearly marked links on your own websites that help readers share your latest blog entries over Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr? If you make it easy for your readers to republish your work you’re more likely to see it reach new fans.

Know Your Audience

Do you know why your audience follows your blog? Buzzfeed knows its audience really well. Just check out this headline: 29 Things That are Way More Important Than Work Right Now. That’s the kind of content any serious procrastinator can really get behind! Are your readers active learners? Are they looking to be entertained while they’re sitting idle? Each demographic has different demands.

Do you find yourself drawn into Buzzfeed more often than you’d like to admit? Think back to some of the headlines that you just couldn’t resist. What keywords drew you there? Now, step back and remember that those powers of persuasion are also available to you. Don’t be afraid to put them into practice next time you step up to the keyboard.

7 Signs It’s Time to Revise Your Social Media Strategy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

If you think you’ve figured out the social media game for good, we’ve got some news for you--social media can be a fickle friend. Your social strategy may be great today, but shifting trends, changing tastes and the arrival of new social networks can all change that very quickly! Here are a few signs it may be time to rethink your social media strategy.


“Is Anyone Out There?”

Has your number of followers plummeted? This is a sure sign that you need to take a look at your overall strategy. Fans might be jumping ship for any number of reasons (because your content is too repetitive, too impersonal or just plain annoying). Start with some research as to why people unfollow users on platforms like Twitter.


Your Customers Feel Ignored

Do you have angry customers coming into your shop or office wondering why you haven’t answered their tweets and Facebook messages? Customers hate being ignored whether it's online or in person. It’s time to rethink your social media platforms as an extension of the customer service experience you provide!


The Party Is Somewhere Else

If things seem dead, your most active users may have moved on to greener pastures. Are you still clinging to a dead social network? If your target audience is younger than twenty, you may want to invest more time and energy on platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, where teens and tweens are flocking to.

Your Website’s Traffic Isn’t What it Could Be

If you’re tracking visits to your business’s website and things are looking either lackluster or downright grim, you may not be leveraging the power of your social media platforms as well as you could.  


You Haven’t Published a New Blog Post in Months.

Your Blogger account wants to know where you’ve been for the last couple of months! The readers who follow your regular posts are also hungry for more! If your content has dried up, it’s time to set up a better blogging schedule. A weekly schedule gives you time to come up with ideas, the chance to edit things properly before they hit the web, and enough lead time to keep publishing on time. 


You’ve Got Hate Mail.

Yikes--talk about a red flag! If you’re getting e-mails and tweets from customers who are angry about your content, you may not know your audience as well as you think you do. Remember that reaching a broad audience might mean keeping polarizing opinions to yourself.


You’re Not Focused on Visuals.

Visual social media is dominating networks, so if you’re still relying purely on text to carry your message across, it’s time to bust out the camera! Flashy profiles with lots of high definition images are sure to attract more attention, especially fans who follow you through their mobile devices.


Are you in a rut when it comes to your social media strategy? You can never go wrong with increasing your engagement, answering questions promptly, sharing more of yourself and sharing a good variety of high quality content. How have you reinvigorated your social strategy over the past few years? Share your thoughts in the comment section.


How Southwest Airlines Won Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Sometimes a company uses the power of social media to brighten someone’s day, put the icing on the cake of a great customer service experience, or quickly resolve an issue that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. But seldom does a marketing team channel the power of social networking to really blow the lid off a customer’s experience. That’s exactly what Southwest Airlines did for a couple en route from Nashville to Phoenix. Here’s the story of their flight attendant, Holly, and the whiz PR team that turned one online comment into an unforgettable event for everyone involved.

It All Started at Cruising Altitude...

Thousands of miles up in the air, a passenger named Rowland and his girlfriend had the good fortune of meeting Holly, an aircrew member set on going above and beyond the call of duty when it came to making her passengers comfortable and happy. When she learned that Rowland and his girlfriend were fans of Taylor Swift, she gifted them with some guitar picks that Swift’s father had given to her on a previous flight. Needless to say, they were elated!

One Post Spurred it All

Rowland was so taken with Holly’s generous gesture that we had to share it with the world. Here’s what he shared via Facebook:

“If someone in the Southwest Airlines corporate HQ can see this – I’m on flight 913 currently en route to Phoenix and I want yall to know that our flight attendant Holly is perhaps one of the most remarkably kind and helpful people my girlfriend and I have ever met. If you can meet us at the gate with something remarkable for this remarkable woman (a promotion, a raise, a chipotle burrito, anything), I will sign a document pledging to only fly Southwest from here on out (unless you do not fly where I need to go). Of course – I request a “Keyman Clause” in this agreement stipulating the contract terminates if Holly ever leaves. People like her are why I fly SWA.”


A Golden Opportunity

Seeing a golden opportunity before them, the marketing team at Southwest Airlines devised a plan. Their response included a well-earned sash and giant commemorative cookie for Holly (who had certainly proved herself to be worthy of her new title), and a freshly minted contract for Rowland, where he could follow through on his commitment to only fly Southwest Airlines. With a big to-do at the gate, the Southwest team was able to turn one great customer experience into a fantastic photo-op and viral story that was bound to gain some traction as it made its way across the web.

What’s the biggest takeaway from Holly and Rowland’s story? Interactions with guests and customers are at the heart of every business, so it's vital to shine a spotlight on them. With a sharp eye for what your followers are saying about you on social media and a willingness to spring into action when a great PR opportunity shows up, you can create a really memorable event that sums up what you’re all about as a business: building relationships and creating great customer experiences. What are some other big takeaways from Southwest Airline’s response? Stay tuned for part two of this blog post, where we delve deeper into some lessons learned from Holly, Rowland, and Southwest Airlines.

Get on the Soapbox: Social Media for Social Causes

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Non-profits, organizations for social change and independent advocators of good, lend me your ears! The time has come to step up to the social media soapbox to amplify your message, educate the populace and drive your community into meaningful action. With better approaches to blogging, e-mail marketing and social media, you can broaden your reach, invigorate your base and ultimately carry out your mission more effectively.

While it’s true that big corporations have a lot of money to put behind their big branding efforts, some of the most effective tools they have at their disposal are social ones like Facebook and Twitter, which non-profits and small businesses have equal access to. So why not take advantage of some of the best connective tools available to your organization? Here are four easy ways to get started with online organizing.

Create a Twitter Cheat Sheet

So you’re already on Twitter? Fantastic! Now it’s time to make the most of it. Creating a cheat sheet is a great way to keep track of important hashtags, influencers and key talking points. Here are some key hashtags to get you started.

Embrace Digital Development Tools

Online auctions are a great way to fundraise. Some websites even specialize in hosting auctions for non-profits. Make sure you leverage your influence on Twitter and Facebook to funnel followers towards your fundraising pages. If you’re running a multi-day online auction, create regular posts with great pictures that showcase each item. You can also take advantage of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

Reach Out to Like-Minded Organizations

There is power in numbers, so make sure you are connecting with individuals and organizations that share your values. Look for opportunities to connect with the missions of others. You’ll broaden the scope of your influence and find new collaborators and supporters. By staying regularly engaged on social media, you can find the most active conversations around issues that matter to you the most. It’s a great way to network while you also gain exposure to the philosophies and practices of other online activists. Try these approaches:

  • Check out this list of 26 major charities and non-profits making their mark on social media.
  • Host a Tweet Chat centered around overlapping issues.
  • Take advantage of person-to-person connections at events like conferences, retreats and summits. When you get home, keep important conversations going through social media.
  • Blog about a cause that's typically outside the scope of your organization, then share it with people and organizations who promote that cause. You can also offer to be a guest blogger for someone else. Don't forget to link back to your own page!
  • Use Facebook, Twitter and e-mail blasts to promote events that are being produced by other organizations. Then, when you host your own fundraisers or meetups, ask for your fellow organizers to return the favor.
  • Highlight Success Stories

    Social media is an incredible storytelling device. One of the biggest things to overcome as a non-profit organization fighting for social change is the cynicism of believing that nothing will change. To be certain, many fights worth fighting are an uphill battle. But by putting an emphasis on success stories through articles, long-form blog posts, and e-mail blasts, you can show that progress is being made every day.

    What other ways have you used social media to ignite your followership? Are your Facebook and Twitter feeds a repository for stale information, or are they filled with inspiring rhetoric that spurs others into action? Share your own experience below.

    What the Fox Say: A Lesson in Viral?

    Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

    Daft Punk, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke may all have had a jump start on trying to stake a claim on this year’s song of the summer, but just as fall arrives at our doorstep, a dark horse (or is it fox?) is leaping into the race to trump their efforts and rewrite music history.

    The video and song in question are from a Norweigan group called Ylvis, and just like Old McDonald, these musicians have a keen interest in the sounds of various fauna. But unlike Old McDonald, whose scope of zoological sound sampling was bound to the barnyard, Ylvis goes one step forward to pose the eternal question, “What the Fox Say?”

    Okay, maybe we’re being a little bit facetious here. The song hasn’t exactly rocketed up the Billboard charts, but it has absolutely dominated blogs and social media over the past week. As of this posting, it’s managed to rack up over 15 million views on YouTube. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an indisputable viral sensation.

    If a Norweigan band can harness the power of the internet to raise its profile in such a powerful and immediate way, can you do the same? Here’s what we can learn about viral videos from “What the Fox Say.”

    The Sincerity Factor

    Treading the line between sincerity and irony is tricky, but it pays off. One way to get viewers hooked is to play with their expectations. If you caught yourself asking, “Are they for real?” while watching the Ylvis video, join the club. That mystery is a key ingredient that leads viewers to want to discover more. Did you catch the Worst Twerk Fail Ever video? Turns out it was just a gag from notorious serial prankster Jimmy Kimmel. Of course, there is a big difference between being tongue-and-cheek and being a flat-out liar. The trick is to know your audience and what kind of humor they’re primed for. 

    Embrace the Absurd

    Designer Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Absurdity and anti—absurdity are the two poles of creative energy.” We’re not sure what the heck that means, but exploring the absurd is definitely a way to reach people immersed in internet culture. If anyone disagrees, kindly refer those detractors to any of the Harlem Shake videos The internet is a strange place, filled with weird, wild stuff. Embrace it! Just check out two of the most influential pages on the web, Reddit and Buzzfeed, and see what you stumble across. Think of it as a daily digest of the web’s most viral idiosyncrasies.

    Viral Fame is Touch and Go, but Still Important

    Viral fame can come your way and then-- quick as a fox-- vanish into thin air. While it’s the holy grail of awesomeness (to borrow a little internet slang) for many marketers, it only represents a small part of what you can do through social media to reach out to fans. Still, harnessing even a little power from “the secret of the fox” can help you break out of the monotony of your usual content. Don’t be afraid to get a little whacky and meet your web followers on their level by speaking their lingo. That includes both the language you use and the visual media you create and share.

    What’s your favorite viral video? Think about the things that make you come back to it over and over. Did you feel compelled to share it right away? Put yourself in the shoes of the customers on the other end of your social media strategy and you’re sure to gain a new perspective. Who knows, you might even score next year’s song of the summer. Better start planning now!

    Better Blogging Made Easy

    Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 24, 2013
    You don’t have to be a master wordsmith when it comes to blogging, but readers will appreciate it when you make an effort to share your best writing. Lots of us are born with the gift of gab, but committing those ideas to ink (or in this case pixels) is another story entirely. We’ve all prematurely hit “publish” and later looked back to spot a typo or two--or even worse, realized that our ideas are interesting but unorganized and hard to follow. If you’re intimidated at the prospect of sharing your thoughts online, don’t be scared. There are a few simple things you can start doing today to make sure that your great ideas aren’t undercut by your approach to writing.

    Create an Outline

    If you’re anything like us, you have a lot of ideas to share. Creating a short outline before you start writing can help your posts become more organized. Think of main ideas you want to touch on and then develop points that support those main ideas. Think of an outline as a handy roadmap that will help you avoid unplanned digressions and keep you and your readers on course. 

    Stay Away From Jargon

    Unless you are writing for other professionals in your industry, it’s best to avoid highly technical jargon. Not everyone may know what an “electronic engine immobilizer" is, but if you run a business related to cars, your followers are sure to be grateful for the explanation. Remember, not everyone is immersed in the culture of your industry, so don’t make people feel excluded from the conversation.

    Err on the Side of Brevity

    When you’re editing your blogs, look for opportunities to be more concise. Are there places where you’re being redundant? Can you replace a long phrase with two or three words? In our attempt to sound knowledgeable, we often lay on more words, turns of phrases and rhetorical devices than we need to. Trimming the fat can be hard because it often leaves your ideas exposed. Can they stand on their own? If not, it may be worth reworking your post.

    What are your best practices when it comes to writing? Do you have advice from a favorite English teacher etched into your memory? Share your tips for better blogging below.





    Social Media and the Art of the Tease

    Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    What motivates customers to follow you on social media? For some, the promise of having firsthand knowledge about new projects and products is too good to resist. Followers love having a direct line to you so that they can be the first to know about big changes that your brand is rolling out. Creating teases and previews on your social media platforms can be a great way to create a feeling of exclusivity and special access for your customers.

    Be Mysterious....

    Don’t give it all away at once. Instead, create a social media campaign where you slowly roll out small updates that culminate in a big reveal. You can build anticipation this way and encourage your followers to engage with each other to guess what it could be.

    ...But Don’t Play Hard to Get!

    Mystery is great, but you don’t want to prolong it unnecessarily. You could end up turning the attention and interest of your audience into frustration. The hype game can be tricky this way. Make sure you have something really special to reveal at the end so that your followers don’t feel spurned.


    Use a Variety of Media

    You can crop photos to reveal only a portion of what you’re about to premiere, use small snippets of video or write cryptic clues. Vary your message to make the mystery that much more titillating. As you start getting attention, you can be coy with your responses to comments, letting customers know they just might be on the right track.

    Is there a downside to teasing new developments? There absolutely can be. If you don’t follow through with your plans, you may find yourself surrounded by once-eager, now-empty-handed followers who are ready to move on from you. Do your best to preview plans that are already in motion and that you are sure will be completed. As phases of new project are completed, share staggered updates through social media. That way you won’t become a victim of your own hype.  

    What big projects are on the horizon for you? A venue change? A brand new product? Maybe an entire re-branding? Whatever it is, use social media to give your next unveiling the attention it deserves.