Category Archives: Content Strategy

Content Crash Course is Free This Week on Amazon!

 

 

Content Crash Course: 25 Ways to Create Content Your Customers Want

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Content Crash Course: 25 Ways to Create Content Your Customers Want

I’m happy to announce that our latest ebook is now available! Content Crash Course: 25 Ways to Create Content Your Customers Want is available for your Kindle or Kindle app.

Why buy it? Well, if you are in a position where you need to create, maintain, review, or otherwise work with content, you’ll find some great tips you can use right away. The book gives you 25 in-depth tips to help you create strategic, successful content that meets the goals of your company while making your customers happy. Topics include:

-The Five Steps to Creating Great Content
-Lean Content
-Writing for the Customer
-Creating Great Content with Limited Resources
-Using Content Templates
-Selling Your Boss on the Importance of Content
-Social Media Best Practices
-Content Strategy Resources

…and much more! Check it out here.

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Five Social Media Don’ts

Photo courtesy of Muffet

Photo courtesy of Muffet

There are numerous social media no-nos being commited daily by people and organizations that should know better. Here are five mistakes I’ve been seeing frequently as of late.

1. Tweeting links to content users can’t access: The Boston Globe is a good example of this. They have enforced their paywall even for the content they promote via Twitter (which means they don’t really want you to read–they only want you to subscribe).  So users click on tweets only to be taken to a message (sometimes with a short summary of the article, sometimes not) that basically tells them to subscribe. This is  a bait and switch, and a social media FAIL. (It also needlessly costs the Globe retweets and favorites.) The Globe should look to the example of  The New York Times. When the Times promotes an article via Twitter, any of their followers can read it, whether they are subscribers or not. You can’t click around and read everything after you come to their site via social, but you can read the article that they have promoted, which is how it should be! If you for some reason absolutely must tweet subscribers-only content, at least have the courtesy to warn your followers in your tweet that the link is restricted.

2. Asking for retweets. The begging for retweets has got to stop. Kellogg’s UK recently tweeted the worst kind of retweet request–one that seemed to use vulnerable people as a cause for brand promotion. But aside from that example, I see people begging others to retweet them (“Like it? Please RT!”) on every single tweet. The thing is, studies have shown that asking for retweets works. So it’s tempting. But it’s a trick that I suspect wears off, as users tire of your begging and eventually stop heeding your every demand to retweet. I follow a few business folks on Twitter who ask for a RT on every single tweet. I’m so tired of seeing it that I don’t even consider RTing them. If your content is good, followers WILL retweet. Let your work speak for itself.

3. Sharing information without checking its accuracy first. Facebook users, I’m looking at you (although other social media users are not immune). I have seen the same articles circulate on Facebook for months and years, and people mindlessly share without checking to see if they are sharing misinformation. The perfect example? This charity post that you see this time every year. It tells you not to give to Unicef, United Way, Red Cross, etc. *Some* of the information is correct, but *most* of it is not. A quick fact check is all you need. (Snopes, as shown in the previous link, is always a good start, as they’ve been investigating and collecting these posts since 1995)  Take this extra step to ensure you don’t a) share misinformation or b) make yourself look foolish.

4. Not proofreading your content, especially on LinkedIn. I belong to several groups on LinkedIn, and I can’t tell you how many times people post to groups and to their profiles without checking their spelling and grammar. And there is simply no excuse for a poorly written summary on your LinkedIn profile! Remember that potential employers are on LinkedIn, and you should always review your content with that in mind before you post.

5. Posting ridiculously long videos and podcasts. I’ve noticed that some of the so-called professional videos on YouTube and podcasts on iTunes clearly were done without any outlines, script, or rehearsals.  It’s fine to have an hour-long podcast if the content is compelling, but if your audience is watching or listening to a lot of “ums” or “what do I want to talk about next?”, you are wasting their time and you may very well lose followers and subscribers. Before you share your multimedia content with the world, think it through. What is your main point? What are the most important pieces of information that you want your audience to take away from your content? Write a script or, if that feels like overkill, make an outline of what you would like to cover. Be concise, clear, and ask yourself, is this a podcast or video I would want to listen to or watch?

For more social media tips, download our ebook, The Little Book of Social Media,  or get the Kindle version.

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Social Media Tip #5: Post When The Time Is Right

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This post features more excerpts from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience.  The Amazon version is on sale this week! You can also download the PDF from our site.

Having great content is promote is only half the battle. How and when you deliver that content is just as critical. But how do you know the best times to post, tweet, or pin? It depends on the audience and the platform you’re using.

If your goal is to get the most customer engagement (measured by views, likes, shares, etc.), here are the ideal times (based on studies from Argyle Social, KISSMetrics, TrackMaven, and HubSpot) for some of the most prominent platforms:

  • Facebook: Sundays or weekdays before 9am and after 5pm
  • Twitter: Mondays-Thursdays from 9am to 7pm
  • Pinterest: Saturday mornings
  • LinkedIn: Early mornings (before 9am) and immediately after work (6pm)
  • Instagram: No one day dominates, although Mondays-Saturdays perform slightly better than Sundays.

Remember to also utilize each social site’s metrics to further refine the best times for you to promote content. For example, on YouTube, you can look at your views by day and determine what your specific audience’s viewing patterns are.

Remember time zones
If your company is based in the Mountain or West time zone, remember that 80% of the U.S. population lives in the East and Central time zones. Adjust the timing of your posts accordingly, whether your customers are mostly US-based or global. If you have a dedicated cadre of European, Australian, or Asian customers, make sure some of your content is arriving during their respective peak viewing times as well.

Schedule content according to your audience’s priorities
Too often, businesses schedule and release their content based solely on their own priorities–quarter-end revenue goals, capital campaigns, or product launches, for example. Obviously you must do that sometimes to achieve your business goals, but you will be most successful if you think about how you can maximize your timing to best help your customers. For example, if you’re a tax advisor, plan to provide additional content from January through April, when people are more focused on taxes. If you run a blog devoted to fans of a TV show, you post content right before, during, and/or after each new episode airs (or live blog the entire episode). Use your customers’ priorities as a guide to help you provide the content when they are most likely to benefit from it.

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Social Media Tip #4: Build a Content Pipeline

Photo by Brian Cantoni

Photo by Brian Cantoni

Here’s another excerpt from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience. Download the book now or get the Kindle version.

Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to figure out what content you will promote on social media to support those goals. Brainstorm topics, themes, and formats. What will you talk about? Will you produce news, interviews, or customer stories? How about ebooks, contests, or polls? What existing content can you leverage in new ways through social media? For example, do you currently have an email newsletter that contains useful tips or short articles you could also promote on your Facebook page or Twitter feed? Think about categories and keywords that describe the content you’ll create to help you envision what that content could be. The goal is to plan enough great content to fill up a 3- to 6-month social media calendar. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Interview people. Whether your subject is an employee or a famous person in your industry, interviews are popular because people are naturally curious about other people.
  • Create polls. Readers love polls, and polls can help give you additional insight into what your customers like. For example, if you run a home design shop, you could poll your customers on designs they prefer. (Always give your fans the option to view results without making them vote.)
  • Use statistics and quotes. Readers often respond to quick, easily digestible facts or statistics. Inspirational or famous quotes are also popular. Choose quotes that are a reflection of your company’s brand and culture.
  • Invite customers, fans, or industry experts to contribute. Have one of your industry stars or a faithful fan take over one of your social media accounts for the day. Give them a theme to work with, or ask them to propose their own theme. People like to see what their fellow fans are interested in.
  • Provide an introduction to your field. Create some content that helps people who are new to your industry get a basic grounding in it. (Interviewing someone who is new to your field will help you create useful content.)
  • Ask your readers and followers what they want! You should always check in with your audience on a regular basis to find out what they’d like to see more of or what new content they want you to provide.
  • Review a new product, TV show, movie, or book about your industry. For example, if you are a car salesman and a TV show about a car salesman just premiered, review the show while giving your fans unique insights into the subject at hand.
  • Talk about charities or causes you support. How did you find out about them? Why do you support them? This helps to humanize you and your company and shows your contributions to the greater social good.
  • Ask your customers to share their stories. Provide a theme or pose a question that relates to a certain time of year or historic event, or something about your cause if you work for a non-profit. Ask your fans to contribute their thoughts and stories around the theme you’ve identified. Putting the spotlight on your customers’ stories (e.g., tales about overcoming adversity, special moments in their lives, or people who inspire them) can often result in great human interest stories.
  • Help your customers help each other. Ask fans or followers to share advice on topics that other customers are asking about. This will help build a community among your customers.
  • Profile pioneers in your industry or company history. If someone in your company’s past had an interesting or unusual life, profile that person. For example, Converse might highlight the history of Chuck Taylor, who is more than just the name behind their iconic basketball shoes.
  • Turn a case study into a story. Great content is all about telling a story. Take a case study and turn it into a compelling story of how a certain customer benefited from your product or service. (Make the story about the customer, not about the product!) Short or long, a story or narrative can engage your customers if it’s well-written and provides something they can relate to.
  • Share a failure or a success. Talk about a time that your company tried something that didn’t work, or a moment when you made an embarrassing mistake, and what you learned from the experience. Being humble and honest about your imperfections will help build audience trust.
  • Encourage conversation between fans. What content will get your fans talking with each other? For example, if you run a tourism bureau for a particular area, you might encourage fans to share fond memories of that place or talk about their recommendations on the best spots to visit.
  • Create quick hits. Content can and should be short and sweet much of the time. Provide quick, short snippets of information that is useful or entertaining to your customers. Examples include top five or top ten lists, quick tips on topics your customers are familiar with, or infographics (while they might take time to produce, they should be easy and quick for customers to read and understand).
  • Provide evergreen and cyclical content. What are some basic, predictable topics that you know your customers will need? For example, if you sell pet products, create some go-to articles to help customers learn about pet care and health. If you are a florist, take photos of some of the different bouquets you sell for Valentine’s Day and have them ready to go in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day.
  • Mix up the length, format, and types of content you provide. Remember that consistency can be boring. Don’t always post the same type of content; try new formats. Use a range of content types (photos, graphics, blog posts, tweets, interactive media, etc.) to keep things interesting and keep your customers engaged.

Regardless of the subject matter, your content must provide value. Don’t constantly pitch your products or talk about how great your company is. Instead, create content that adds value to your customers’ lives by giving them information that’s useful and interesting to them. If you can do that, you’ll be on your way to creating a great customer experience.

Get 59 more social media tips: Download The Little Book of Social Media now!

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Social Media Tip #3: Mind Your Content (Strategy)

Content isn’t just your website – it’s every form of communication your organization already produces, whether it is email marketing campaigns, print materials, billboards, TV ads, etc. And, of course, it’s your social media assets. Many businesses launch social media accounts without aligning them to their existing content, which can create an inconsistent brand that confuses customers. A great social media strategy is part of an organization’s larger content strategy.

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What is content strategy?
Content strategy has been defined in many different ways. Probably the most well-known definition comes from the influential Kristina Halvorson, founder of content strategy events company Confab and co-author (with Melissa Rach) of Content Strategy for the Web. In that seminal work, Halvorson wrote: “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.”

In other words, content strategy is not just a phase of a website project, or merely the creation and editorial curation of articles, emails, or web pages. Content strategy intersects with and helps to drive many different practices, from information architecture to user experience design to editorial strategy and more–because all of these practices are critical to the production and delivery of information your customers want.

Why is content strategy important?
Brand strength: Good content supports, enhances, and reflects well upon your company’s brand. Bad content damages your reputation and erodes customer trust.

Consumer loyalty: If consumers know you will give them great content–the information they need delivered in an easy-to-use and attractively designed way–they will come back.
Return on investment (ROI): Good content helps the bottom line. It increases. It helps attract and retain customers.

Creating a content strategy usually involves 4 steps:

  1. Benchmarking: In this step, you’ll audit your existing content, analyze your competitors’ content, review current best practices and whether you are following them, and consider customer feedback on your current content.
  2. Analysis and Goal-Setting: In this step, you’ll determine your business objectives, priorities, risks, etc. and how content can help you meet these goals.
  3. Production and Execution: This is where you start actually creating, producing, and delivering your content. With your objectives in hand, your content should be organized around certain themes or campaigns that support the goals you’re trying to achieve.
  4. Measurement and Governance: This is the ongoing act of reviewing your content and how it’s performing and adjusting your strategy as needed. In part, this means reviewing your website stats, customer surveys, email open rates and ad click-throughs, etc. and seeing what is resonating with your customers and what content is not working.

What does it all mean for social media?
The content you create for and/or promote through social media–from the photos you post on Facebook to the profile you write for your company’s page on LinkedIn–needs to be aligned with your overall content strategy. Before you schedule, pay for, write, or produce content for social media, ask yourself: Does this fit well with the other content we have out there? Is the tone consistent, and is the information useful or entertaining to the customer? What other great content can I create for my customers?

Asking questions like this can help you make sure that your company’s social media will provide a great experience for your customers.

Learn more: Download our ebook now!

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Social Media Tip #2: Strategize!

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The following is another excerpt from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience. Get the Kindle version now or download the pdf.

Once you’ve decided that you want to use social media to connect with your existing customers, find new customers, and further your brand, you need to focus on strategy. Too many business owners and marketing managers jump on social media with no plan, no goals, and no content pipeline. They just want to do it because, well, everyone else is doing it! The social media landscape is littered with abandoned and poorly maintained accounts that are the victims of a lack of strategy. To prevent your company from being the next social media victim, review three critical components of your business:

  • Customers (or supporters, if your business is a non-profit): Who are your customers? What do they care about, and what do they think of your company? What social media sites are
    they using? What have they requested (e.g., faster customer service, more information about products, etc.) that you can provide through social media? Think about how you can use social media to benefit your customers.
  • Competition: Are your competitors using social media? Are they using it successfully? What are they doing that you might be able to learn from? What are they not doing that might provide you with an opportunity to differentiate your business? For example, maybe you own a local retail store and you noticed your competitors don’t offer special discounts to online fans. Perhaps you could take the opportunity to provide discounts to your online fans and attract some of your competitor’s customers in the process.
  • Industry: What are your industry’s best practices for social media? How are the leading bloggers and speakers in your field using it? What new tools are they experimenting with? Look at the social media accounts of your industry leaders (if they have any). You should also look at leading companies in other fields, especially if your industry is behind the curve when it comes to online marketing and technology.

Align with your business strategy
Now that you’re armed with more information about what your customers want from social media and what your competitors and industry leaders are doing in the space, focus on your business strategy. How do you want your company to be perceived? What are your short- and long-term business objectives? What can you provide through social media that will support these objectives? What benefits (customer service, thought leadership content, etc.) can you provide to customers through social media as you work towards these objectives? Think about some concrete measurements (increased sales, a certain number of new customers, etc.) that will help you determine what success looks like.

We recommend you focus on the top three business goals that social media can help you achieve. If you are that local retailer from our previous example, your top three goals might be to double your sales, expand your product line, and open a second store. Your social media activities should support all three of these objectives. We’ve created a social media strategy template (available on our website) to help you get started.

Coming up in our next post: Content strategy! And why you need to care about it as you plan your social media presence.

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Social Media Tip #1: Do Your Homework

social-media-54536_640The following is an excerpt from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience. Get the Kindle version now or download the pdf.

1. Do your homework.
Before you jump into social media, there are a few questions you should consider to make sure it’s appropriate for your organization:

  • Is social media a good fit for your company?
    Companies in some industries, like financial services, often shy away from the
    regulatory challenges that arise when you have a direct, public dialogue with
    customers.
  • Are your company politics out of control?
    If every tweet must pass through a committee, you’re better off staying away.
    Customers can sense corporate bureaucracy and condescension.
  • Do you have calm, professional staff members who can manage your
    social media efforts
    ?
    You’ll need great communicators who can write clear, engaging content. And
    they’ll have to be professional enough to interact with thousands of customers.
  • Do you have the resources to keep up a sustained presence?
    Social media is an ongoing commitment that requires content strategy and curation as well as communication and monitoring. Depending on how many sites and platforms you use, you might need one or two full-time employees, or you may need to share the responsibilities among members of your team. You may want to invest in some vendor or consulting services to help you set up your accounts and/or buy software that helps you manage and analyze those accounts.
  • Can your current workflow support social media?
    Does your existing content and communications workflow have the flexibility to absorb social media content creation and review? For example, if you already have a writer, an editor, and a legal reviewer for your customer-related communications, can those resources be used to review social media as well?
  • Think about possible legal concerns. Talk with your legal team or, if you run a small company, consult a lawyer about your social media goals and what ways you might have to protect your business. For example, you might post community rules for your social fans and followers regarding the types of content they can post to your pages, or you might create guidelines for how your employees should create and promote social media content (see the rest of our tips for ideas!).

If you don’t have the time and resources to do social media right, don’t do it! It’s better to stay away than to risk damaging your company’s reputation. But if you think social media might be right for you, the next thing to consider is strategy.

We’ll talk more about social media strategy in our next post.

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Disaster Planning for Editors Part II

Web Editors

In last month’s post, I reviewed some of the ways editors can prepare for natural (or national) disasters. This month, let’s take a look at disasters of a very different kind.

Public relations disasters
Public relations disasters are, of course, on a far smaller scale than acts of war or mother nature. PR disasters don’t cause loss of life, but they do cause loss of business, reputation, and possibly revenue. A PR disaster might be a precipitous drop in your company’s stock price, the resignation of a CEO, or a scathing customer review that goes viral. Here are some ways you can prepare ahead of time so when disaster strikes, you’ll be able to react quickly:

  • Think through scenarios. List some scenarios that are likely to happen to your company. Some examples might be: Your company stock sinks; your CEO, owner, or president resigns; stockholders complain about…

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