Storytelling 101: 3 Tips for Creating Compelling Content Marketing

Be it a feature film, a 30-second commercial, or a tweet, there’s no denying the impact of content that captures the attention of an audience and genuinely engages them.

There’s nothing better than a good story–whether delivered over a pint at the pub, from a 60-inch flat screen in front of the sofa, or viewed on your phone while waiting in line at the grocery store. Good stories suck you in with characters who face gripping challenges. Whether it’s a movie, a book, a Vine, or a 30-second commercial, a great story pays off in a satisfying way by hitting straight to your audience’s hearts and minds. But let’s face it: If storytelling was easy, we’d all be dashing off great American novels. Getting to that “simple” story isn’t simple.

Certainly, content marketing presents a good framework for delivering valuable information to audiences and tacitly reinforcing companies’ value to them in the process. However, it can be incredibly difficult for organizations to move away from selling features and price and instead focusing on the softer sell (or even no-sell) of creating a compelling and engaging tale that conveys why your consumer should buy, read, engage with your brand. That can be the real genius of content marketing. There is no denying the impact of content that captures the attention of an audience and genuinely engages them.

Here are three tips that will elevate your content marketing from textbook to must-read:

1. Introduce us to a hero.The vast majority of products and services are intended for use by people. And people like to read about people. While cars are pretty fascinating machines, for example, the story of a dad mastering the carpool with the savvy of a professional racecar driver is one that is instantly relatable. Create a character that the members of your audience understand, aspire to be, or would love to meet, and you can create a near-instant connection that will pull them into your story.

2. Set the stakes.It is likely that your product or service is intended to solve a problem of some sort. Perhaps you don’t think of it as a “problem,” but maybe you should. All great stories include a conflict that the hero must overcome. While your product might not disarm a bomb before the bus explodes, you need to think like your customer and figure out what’s at stake (and how you can help prevent imminent disaster!). A harried single mom has two kids and no insurance, but you are there to help her quickly, easily keep her family safe. No need to sell your audience on why you are better than the rest. Instead, hook your audience with a plot that matters.

3. Pay off.

There is nothing more frustrating than falling in love with a character, fighting alongside as he or she battles through 300 pages or a couple of hours of plot, and then pfffffft, the story fizzles out with a trite ending or, worse, no ending at all. If you’ve captured the attention of your audience, do not waste their time, even if they’re reading a 500-word blog post or watching a one-minute informational video. Bachelor Brad finds his dream pad on the beach but finds himself out of his depth on décor. Your website offers tools that let him upload photos and see how furniture will look, and customer support provides great advice filled with humor. Brad ends up with not only the pad of his dreams, but also has an epic housewarming and gets the surfer girl, too. Deliver an ending that satisfies and, along the way, demonstrates the value of your products or services to your audience.

You might not view your business as the stuff of blockbuster ads, much less major motion pictures. However, when you think about your customers as real people with real problems–catastrophic or mundane–and the way your product can help them, you will begin to see the stories in your work. Tell those stories, and you’ll create great content marketing.

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Image Credit: Getty Images


The 8 Types of CTAs You Need to Have on Your Website

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for calls-to-action.

types_of_ctas

You can’t just slap the words “Click Here” on a red button, put it everywhere on your site that you want people to click, and then start to rake in leads and customers.

Effective calls-to-action (CTAs) are a bit more complex than that. You’ve got multiple audiences looking at your website — visitors, leads, customers, promoters, etc. — and you want to get each group to do different things.

You want to get those visitors to become leads, leads to become customers, and then customers to become promoters — but you can’t serve them the same CTAs to accomplish those different goals.

Your solution? You’ve got to create multiple types of CTAs to serve these different audiences and their goals so that you can bring them down your marketing funnel.

However, you don’t need to go overboard and create a bagillion different CTAs — in reality, there are really only eight different types of CTAs you need on your website when you’re first starting out.

As your business grows and your website gets more complex, you might need to switch these up, but these are a great jumping-off point for any marketer.

The 8 Types of Call-to-Action Buttons You Need on Your Website

1) Lead Generation

First and foremost, calls-to-action are crucial to generating leads from your website. Since you’re trying to turn visitors into leads via these CTAs, you’ll want to place them in any spot on your website with a high percentage of new visitors.

The most popular place people put these types of CTAs is on their blog — at the end of their posts, in the sidebar, and maybe even as a floating banner in the corner. To be successful, these CTAs should be eye-catching and effectively communicate the value of clicking on it — visitors should know exactly what to expect when they get to the landing page the CTA points to.

Here’s what a lead generation CTA looks like:

Lead_Generation

2) Form Submission

And once your visitors get to your landing page, they’ll need to do two more things before they can be registered as a lead: fill out a form and click on a button to submit their information to your contacts database.

Since your visitors are sooooo close to becoming a lead, you don’t want them to slip through the cracks with a lackluster submit button. Therefore, it’s crucial to trade out your “submit” button copy for something more actionable and specific to the marketing offer they are about to give their information for.

See how the lead capture form and button below are much more actionable and engaging than a “submit” button?

form_cta

3) “Read More” Button

In any place you display a feed of content — your blog, your customer case study page, or even your press newsroom — you probably don’t want to display the whole post one the home page. Entice your homepage viewers to click on individual posts by featuring the first few paragraphs of your content followed by a “read more” CTA.

Here’s what a “read more” button looks like:

read_more_button

Besides allowing more content to be featured on your homepage feed, “read more” buttons make sure that your engaging posts receive the stats they deserve. That way, people will have to click through to read any post instead of scrolling down on the homepage, which ensures that the post itself gets credited with its own traffic, not the homepage.

4) Product or Service Discovery

When someone is poking around your website trying to learn about your company and what it offers, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. After all, your products and services are what keep your business afloat. The CTAs don’t have to be fancy images — simple text on a button can do the trick, as long as the button stands out enough against its background.

Here’s an example of what that can look like, taken from our very own homepage:

product_discovery

5) Social Sharing

One of the simplest types of calls-to-action is one that encourages you to share a piece of content with your friends. Social sharing buttons are a low-commitment way for visitors, leads, and customers to engage with your brand. So, be sure to include them in places where it makes sense on your website — blog posts, landing pages, etc.

Don’t just slap them on everything, though. You wouldn’t want to include them in places where people are giving you their personal information, for example.

The best part about this type of CTA is that it is really easy to customize.

Here’s what it can look like:

Social_Sharing

 

6) Lead Nurturing

So what happens when someone becomes a lead but isn’t quite ready to lay down the moolah for your product or service? You’ve got to entice them with another type of offer — but one that is more aligned with your product offering than a typical top of the funnel marketing offer.

Think about offers like product demos, free trials, or free quotes — this is the offer you want to promote with a lead nurturing CTA. You want to showcase these CTAs in places you know lots of leads visit — maybe as a smart CTA option in a blog post or as an offering at the bottom of another marketing offer’s thank you page.

Here’s a prime example of what one looks like:

nurturing

7) Closing the Sale

And once all of your lead generation and lead nurturing are done, you want to get down to business and turn those leads into customers. This type of CTA will be very sales-focused: you want to get potential customers to want to buy your product or service right here, right now.

Again, if you have smart CTAs, you can use them at the end of blog posts — but you also might consider placing them on product pages, as potential customers may want to do one last bit of research before taking the plunge.

This is an example of what a sales-focused CTA would look like:

closing

8) Event Promotion

If you are throwing an event — whether online or in person — it’s pretty clear you’re going to want to get people (and a lot of them) to attend.

Use an event promotion CTA to raise awareness of the event or even help drive ticket sales. The best part about this type of CTA is that there are endless places you can put it, depending on which segment of your audience you’re trying to get to attend.

For customers, you might consider placing this on their login page, dashboard, or even on the page you offer them a receipt. Or for leads, you could make this CTA appear in your blog sidebar. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s a simple example of an event CTA:

Register_for_Event

Get Leadin: Free Lead Generation Tool

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Why Use Facebook Brand Awareness?

Why Use Facebook Brand Awareness?

For non-DR campaigns, social marketers often experience this conundrum: they can run social ads like other digital media, optimized for impressions or reach, but it doesn’t feel like they’re maximizing the value of their investment. After all, an engagement tells an advertiser that people aren’t just scrolling past an ad; they are physically stopping and reacting to the content.

The problem is that, as Facebook itself will say, engagements don’t really boost a company’s bottom line. Why? Because people willing to engage with a brand are not always the best customers, and vice versa. Put another way, there are a lot of customers who love and repeatedly purchase a brand’s products, but they have zero interest in engaging with the brand’s social ads-or any social ad-ever.By running an engagement campaign, a marketer is instructing Facebook to optimize toward engagements. It does so by:

a. Serving the designated ads to people it knows tend to engage with brand content.
b. Actively excluding all other potential or current customers.

Hypothetically, let’s make the (very) generous assumption that 50% of a brand’s customers are willing to engage with an ad-that means every engagement campaign is excluding at least half of all potential/current customers.

That’s a big problem the new Brand Awareness objective helps solve. Technically speaking, Facebook is measuring Estimated Ad Recall Lift and Estimated Ad Recall Lift Rate. The former is the number of people who are likely to remember your ad two days after seeing it. The latter is that number divided by the number of people you’ve reached, expressed as a percentage.

While the exact formula for how Facebook calculates these metrics is unknown, what it boils down to is relative attention. The following example scenarios help explain the concept (note: the numbers below are illustrative and do not indicate how Facebook actually performs the calculations):

  • A 13-year-old is a hyper-fast scroller and spends an average of 60 milliseconds eyeing an ad before moving on. So, if she spends just half a second (500 milliseconds) on an ad, Facebook deems that she has paid attention and increases the Estimated Ad Recall Lift by one.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, you have an aging Boomer who spends an average of 30 seconds looking at everything in her feed. When served an ad, she spends 31 seconds on it. This is not significantly more attention, so Facebook notes the impression but does not count it towards a lift in Brand Awareness.

For marketers, the message is clear. To drive the strongest business results for branding campaigns, Brand Awareness ads will almost always be more impactful than an engagement campaign. In fact, Facebook’s data shows that Brand Awareness ads are 60 percent more effective at driving Ad Recall than the current Page Post Engagement solution.

Making this shift will result in some growing pains as total engagements and engagement rate drop. However, with the right creative, transitioning social strategy to focus more on Brand Awareness will ultimately impact the metric that matters most: social ROI.

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Four Things You Should Know About Instagram Stories.

Four Things You Should Know About Instagram Stories

Over the past month, Instagram has made a huge push towards making stories the most important new feature of their platform. With 150 million daily users on the platform, Instagram Stories provides a large, global audience for advertisers, influencers, and everyday users to share what they are doing in real time.

As Instagram continues to take a page from the Snapchat playbook, they have rolled out multiple features to make Stories increasingly more engaging and fun for their audience, and more useful for advertisers. Additionally, much like Snapchat, they have started integrating mid-roll ads into Stories, (anyone sensing a pattern here?)

Below are four important things you should know about the increasingly popular Stories feature on Instagram:

1. Filters & Fun

You can add stickers, text, geotags, filters (think Valencia, not Snapchat puppy) to your photos or create art with the recently added marker tool.

2. Clickable @a’s and CTA’s

Using the text tool you can now add a clickable @ mention to your story. Additionally, you can add clickable links via the “swipe up to see more” feature, which can be added to the bottom of each frame on your story. This feature is specifically important for brands and influencers, creating a seamless user experience to lead people to other Instagram pages for influencers or brand websites.

3. Going Live

Instagram has added the ability to “go live” into stories, allowing users to broadcast what they are doing. Fans and followers can join the live session to ask questions and make comments to their favorite celebrity or friend which can be answered in real time, bringing a more personal feeling to an otherwise massive following.

4. Video Ads

Instagram has started slipping short mid-roll ads in-between Stories from friends. Not only does Instagram offer a reach of 150 million eyes on any given ad for a brand, but it has the ability to track who is watching these ads and link them back to demographic data, providing important insights for advertisers.

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Top SEO Tips Every WordPress Website Should Embrace

A website, however, glamorous it is, is not worth it if it is not to search engine optimized.

wordpress-seo-tips
What’s the essence of having a beautiful and enhanced website with no traffic? The joy of every website owner sees the tremendous growth of traffic; a feat that is perfectly achievable through SEO.Knowing that search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing care less about web design and embedded photos is a critical step towards ensuring a perfect search engine optimized website.It narrows your scope to what you should focus on; keywords, alt tags, file name, links, and content. So how do you use this knowledge to ensure notable search engines notice your WordPress website?

1.Reset Permalinks

The default permalink setting in WordPress doesn’t have an efficient structure for SEO. To reap the most out of it, you need to adjust the URL to post name manually.

Although (/%postname%/) is an ideal option, some prefer using /%category%/%postname%/. The latter can, however, result in various issues when there’s no optimization of contents of categories.

In the default settings for WordPress, all pages are designed to run via URL parameters. This is against Google’s recommendations. Changing the default settings maximizes the potential of your website for SEO.

2.Capitalize on Update Services

It takes time for URLs of newly added posts and pages to be indexed by search engines. To enhance the speed of this process, WordPress offers the opportunity of adding an update to the service, a feature that is visible in the general settings.

wordpress-updates

It is not worth adding content periodically if the search engines cannot update it as soon as possible. Having your pages indexed is the most important thing for any website owner.

Without URL indexing, it will never be possible for it to be shown in any SERP. It becomes even worse when your site relies on recent or breaking news, and the indexing takes time before being reflected. You might end up missing on great organic search opportunities that would have changed the destiny of your business.

3.Customize Media Settings

Another critical WordPress SEO tip is capitalizing on the media settings. To make the most out of media settings, it is advisable to customize all the available image options including thumbnails, medium and large. Using the default settings denies you the opportunity of reaping some hidden SEO benefits.

image-sizes

Thumbnails enhance the appearance of images smaller than their full sizes. Thumbnails increase bandwidth performance and ensure that the uploaded photos on your site fit on most screens. The result is different from uploading a bigger image then resizing it after the upload in the image settings.

4.Embrace Google Analytics

The worst thing you can do is to try managing a site without tracking. You might never have any idea of whether you are making progress or not if you do not have critical records using suitable software. Google Analytics eases the whole process by supplying you with relevant and necessary data regarding your performance.

All you need to do is create a simple analytics profile and then follow the directions by installing the Google Analytics version for WordPress. With this, you wouldn’t have to struggle with copying and pasting when connecting your profile to WordPress. To get the most out of Google Analytics, it is advisable to activate site search in your analytics profile.

google-analytics

Using Google Analytics can help you with critical data such as the average time a user spends on your site. Also, you can also learn the amount of traffic gained from search engines, making it possible to enhance your SEO campaigns based on the results.

Even better, Google Analytics allows 404-page errors to be identified quickly. The WordPress version of Google Analytics makes it possible to track users by their usernames. Top SEO companies particularly recommend this for e-commerce sites where extremely high page views count.

google-analytics-wordpress-1

5.Install .xml Sitemap Plugin

It is important to install .xml sitemap plugin for WordPress sites. This enhances the provision of links to various pages on your site, which improves the indexing of various pages on your site. One such plugin that enables easy creation and update of sitemaps is Google XML sitemaps.

6.Go Beyond the Norm

Most people don’t reap the most out of search engines because they are too conservative. It comes to a point where your traffic can never increase if you stick to your way of information dissemination. Going beyond the norm and embracing trending topics in your niche puts you in a better position of getting the most out of SEO. It becomes particularly important for WordPress bloggers who can escalate traffic on their sites by simply blogging about the recent updates in their niche. Once in a while, you need to change something in your style of writing, or it’s structure and observe the possible results. Remember always to make one significant change to measure because implementing many of them will make it impossible to identify the impact of single optimization.

If there is the significant increase in traffic because of certainly added content, more energy should be focused on producing that extra content.

7.Focus More on Content Quality

To be able to rank high on the search engine pages, you need to ensure your content is perfect. Websites with long and highly optimized pages tend to rank higher in search engine pages. Many search engines prefer lengthy and detailed posts, and the reason is simple; users love it that way. As such, your top articles should be detailed and contain the right keywords. However, that should not make you lengthen even the non-extendable posts like reviews and other brief articles.

It is not just about the length; your content should be well researched and appealing in nature. You ought to put finer details into your article. Carry out some research and link your site to related sources of information. This will not only enhance the credibility of information held therein but also steers up your search engine rankings because link building is one of the fundamental ranking factors.

Having your WordPress site rank highly in important search engines does not have to be as hectic as many people perceive it. All you need are simple idealistic steps like embracing Google Analytics, changing the default media settings, focusing on the updating services and enhancing the quality of your content!

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Why Storytelling Is So Important for Successful Content Marketing

Storytelling Should Be the Foundation of Every Content Marketing Strategy.

Why are the commercials of famous brands like Coca-Cola, Johnnie Walker, and Mercedes Benz so successful? Their large budgets certainly set a nice foundation for success, but that’s not all. If you look at the ads for each of these companies very carefully, you’ll notice a universal feature in the most successful promotional campaigns: they all tell a story.

People are attracted to stories from an early age. There is a reason why parents teach valuable lessons through this method–stories are engaging and they capture the attention of the listener from the beginning to the very end. And this is exactly why storytelling is such a powerful content marketing tool. It holds the attention of the audience.

Why Storytelling Should Be the Foundation of Every Content Marketing Strategy

1. Stories share a real experience. Instead of listing the benefits of your products and services with a large piece of text, you can inform your audience about the way they will benefit from your offer through a story. Everyone wants to hear about other people’s experiences before purchasing a particular product or service. When you base your content marketing efforts on stories, your potential customers will get something more than features and facts. They will understand why they need your product and they will be ready to take the action you suggest.

2. Storytelling makes you unique. Your products and services have unique features, but the thing that will really distinguish you from your competitors is your story. You’ve certainly seen Coca-Cola’s New Year’s commercials–they’re memorable and unique because they look like a fairy tale. When you add an unexpected twist to the content you produce, your audience will remember your brand and think of it whenever they need the services or products you offer.

3. Storytelling adds a human element to your content. Customers don’t want to be friends with your business; however, when you infuse a human element into your content marketing efforts, they will feel like they know the characters. They also share the same problems and want the same solutions, so your brand becomes an attractive choice when they see how other people use it.

4. Stories awaken empathy. If you don’t have a story that goes with your brand, then you’re just another business. Every marketer should have a goal to develop an emotional connection with his or her audience. You want to make people feel something, so they will be ready to take action as soon as they read one of your texts, watch a video, listen to a podcast, or access any other type of content you produce.

5. Storytelling doesn’t sound ‘salesy.’ “Buy this product because it’s the best one on the market–plus it’s affordable and it has great features.” That statement sounded very dry and unconvincing, right? Taking a “salesy” approach is the most common mistake that marketers make. When you promote your brand through a story, you’re not trying to convince the audience to buy your products, you’re just sharing an experience and leaving the decision to them. Customers will be much happier to make a purchase when they feel like they are the ones making the choice.

How to Master the Art of Storytelling

Consider storytelling as a way to add meaning to the information you want to introduce to your audience. All the features and advantages of your product are important, so you want potential customers to understand them without reading factual information in the form of product description.

Here are few tips that will help you develop the perfect content marketing story:

1. Make it relevant. It’s impossible to think of one story that would appeal to every single person on the planet. Instead, narrow down your focus to your target audience. What problems does your buyer persona face? How can you turn that ideal customer into a character of your story? How can you present the solution in the most compelling manner? All these questions are important in developing a storytelling strategy.

2. Turn storytelling into a strategic approach. One way to incorporate storytelling into your content marketing is to share a different experience with every piece of content you produce. One way to do this is to share the stories of real users. However, for a really unique approach, you need to turn your story into a strategy. When target audience is emotionally connected to the characters, you’ll be able to grow that story further.

3. Base your story on the belief system of your audience. When you want to convince your target customers that your products and services fit into their lifestyle, you need to take their belief system into consideration. If, for example, you’re promoting an energy drink, you can associate the story with fast driving, adventure sports, fitness, and other activities that would fit into the lifestyle of this category of customers.

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9 essential UI design tips

Memorize these 9 guidelines if you want to build elegant, easy to use, and human-centered user interfaces.

A website is much more than a group of pages connected by links. It’s an interface, a space where different things — in this case, a person and a company’s or individual’s web presence — meet, communicate, and affect each other. That interaction creates an experience for the visitor, and as a web designer, it’s your job to ensure that experience is as good as it can possibly be.

And the key to that is to think about your user first, foremost, and always.

Thankfully, while web design is a relatively new discipline, it owes a lot to the scientific study of human-computer interaction (HCI). And these 9 handy guidelines straight from HCI research will help you focus on your users when designing websites and apps.

Interface design, which focuses on the layout of functionality of interfaces, is a subset of user experience design, which focuses on the bigger picture: that is, the whole experience, not just the interface.

1. Know your users

Above all else, you have to know who your users are—inside and out. That means knowing all the demographic data your analytics app(s) can pull, yes. But more importantly, it means knowing what they need, and what stands in the way of them achieving their goals.

Getting to that level of empathy requires more than careful analysis of stats. It requires getting to know the people who use your website. It means speaking with them face to face, watching them use your product (and maybe others), and asking them questions that go deeper than, “What do you think of this design?”

What are their goals? What stands in the way of them achieving those goals? How can a website help them overcome or work around those challenges?

Don’t stop at knowing what your users want. Dig deeper and find out what they need. After all, desires are just outgrowths of needs. If you can address a user’s deep-seated need, you’ll address their wants while also fulfilling more fundamental requirements.

The insights you’ll uncover from analyzing data and speaking with users will inform every decision you make, from how people use your interface to what types of content you’ll highlight within that interface.

2. Define how people use your interface

Before you design your interface, you need to define how people will use it. With the increasing prevalence of touch-based devices, it’s a more pivotal concern than you might think. Just look at Tinder: the app’s user experience is literally defined by the ease and impulsivity of a simple swipe.

People use websites and apps in two ways: directly (by interacting with an element of the product) and indirectly (by interacting with an element external to the product).

Examples of direct interactions

– Tapping a button

– Swiping a card

– Dragging and dropping an item with a fingertip

Examples of indirect interactions

– Pointing and clicking with a mouse

– Using key commands/shortcuts

– Typing into a form field

– Drawing on a Wacom tablet

Tinder's swipe interaction is sometimes too simple
Sometimes, an interaction is just too easy.

Who your users are and what devices they use should deeply inform your decisions here. If you’re designing for seniors or others with limited manual dexterity, you wouldn’t want to lean on swiping. If you’re designing for writers or coders, who primarily interact with apps via the keyboard, you’ll want to support all the common keyboard shortcuts to minimize time working with the mouse.

3. Set expectations

Many interactions with a site or app have consequences: clicking a button can mean spending money, erasing a website, or making a disparaging comment about grandma’s birthday cake. And any time there are consequences, there’s also anxiety.

So be sure to let users know what will happen after they click that button before they do it. You can do this through design and/or copy.

Setting expectations with design

– Highlighting the button that corresponds to the desired action

– Using a widely understood symbol (such as a trash can for a delete button, a plus sign to add something, or a magnifying glass for search) in combination with copy

– Picking a color with a relevant meaning (green for a “go” button, red for “stop”)

Setting expectations with copy

– Writing clear button copy

– Providing directional/encouraging copy in empty states

– Delivering warnings and asking for confirmation

For actions with irreversible consequences, like permanently deleting something, it makes sense to ask people if they’re sure.

InVision asks for confirmation before you delete a screen
In InVision, clicking the trashcan icon doesn’t immediately delete a screen. Instead, it asks if you’re sure and lets you know it can’t be undone.

4. Anticipate mistakes

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism”

People make mistakes, but they shouldn’t (always) have to suffer the consequences. There are two ways to help lessen the impact of human error:

1. Prevent mistakes before they happen

2. Provide ways to fix them after they happen

You see a lot of mistake-prevention techniques in ecommerce and form design. Buttons remain inactive until you fill out all fields. Forms detect that an email address hasn’t been entered properly. Pop-ups ask you if you really want to abandon your shopping cart (yes, I do, Amazon—no matter how much it may scar the poor thing).

Anticipating mistakes is often less frustrating than trying to fix them after the fact. That’s because they occurbefore the satisfying sense of completion that comes with clicking the “Next” or “Submit” button can set in.

That said, sometimes you just have to let accidents happen. That’s when detailed error messages really come into their own.

When you’re writing error messages, make sure they do two things:

1. Explain the problem. E.g., “You said you were born on Mars, which humans haven’t colonized. Yet.”

2. Explain how to fix it. E.g., “Please enter a birthplace here on Earth.”

Note that you can take a page from that same book for non-error situations. For instance, if I delete something, but it’s possible to restore it, let me know that with a line of copy like “You can always restore deleted items by going to your Trash and clicking Restore.”

The principle of anticipating user error is called the poka-yoke principle. Poka-yoke is a Japanese term that translates to “mistake-proofing.”

5. Give feedback—fast

In the real world, the environment gives us feedback. We speak, and others respond (usually). We scratch a cat, and it purrs or hisses (depending on its moodiness and how much we suck at cat scratching).

All too often, digital interfaces fail to give much back, leaving us wondering whether we should reload the page, restart the laptop, or just fling it out the nearest available window.

So give me that loading animation. Make that button pop and snap back when I tap it—but not too much. And give me a virtual high-five when I do something you and I agree is awesome. (Thanks, MailChimp.)

MailChimp offers encouragement as feedback
MailChimp offers both feedback and encouragement when you schedule or send an email.

Just make sure it all happens fast. Usability.gov defines any delay over 1 second as an interruption. Over 10 seconds, a disruption. And the latter’s generous: for about half the U.S. population, 3 seconds is enough to cause a bounce.

If a page will load in under 5 seconds, don’t display a progress bar, as it’ll actually make the loading time seem longer. Instead, use a visualization that doesn’t imply progress, like Mac’s infamous “pinwheel of death.” But not that. If you do use progress bars on your site, consider trying some visual tricks to make the load seem faster.

6. Think carefully about element placement and size

Fitts’ Law, a fundamental principle of human-computer interaction (HCI), states that:

The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target.

In other words: the closer and/or bigger something is, the faster you can put your cursor (or finger) on it. This obviously has all kinds of implications for interaction and UI design, but three of the most important are:

Make buttons and other “click targets” (like icons and text links) big enough to easily see and click. This is especially important with menus and other link lists, as insufficient space will leave people clicking the wrong links again and again.

Make the buttons for the most common actions larger and more prominent.

Place navigation (and other common interactive elements, like search bars) on the edges or corners of the screen. This last might seem counterintuitive, but it works because it lessens the need for accuracy: a user doesn’t need to worry about overshooting their click target.

While you’re thinking about element placing and size, always keep your interaction model in mind. If your site requires horizontal scrolling rather than vertical scrolling, you’ll need to consider where and how to cue users to this unusual interaction type.

7. Don’t ignore standards

Being highly creative types, designers tend to love to reinvent things—but it’s not always the best idea.

Why? Because a revamped version of a familiar interaction or interface adds “cognitive load”: it makes people think again about a process they’ve already learned. Obviously, you can reinvent the wheel all you want—but only if it actually improves the design.

This rule of thumb explains why Google Docs’ menu bar features almost all the same options as Microsoft Word’s before Vista:

Microsoft Word's menu bar
Microsoft Word’s menu bar before Vista.
Google Docs' menu bar
Google Docs’ menu bar, 2015

It also explains why Pocket had to change the placement of the archive button in their Android app a few years back.

Pocket changed their archive button to an up button on Android
Changing a single button to be more consistent with Android’s design patterns made new users 23% more likely to keep using Pocket.

Up till fall 2013, the archive button was at the top left of the screen—right where Android design specs said the “Up” button should be. Pocket wanted to focus people on the reading experience, and not duplicate an existing hardware control, but the inconsistent placement caused new users to accidentally close and archive the article they were reading, rather than simply returning to their reading list as expected.

That tiny change “increased the likelihood [new users] would continue using Pocket from this point onwards by 23%.”

8. Make your interfaces easy to learn

When it comes to simplicity, people often cite a paper by Harvard psychologist George Miller called, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information.” The article suggests that people can only hold 5 to 9 things in their short term memory with any reliability. Miller himself called this a coincidence, but that doesn’t seem to hold anyone back from citing him.

That said, it’s only logical that the simpler something is, the easier it is to remember in the short term. So, whenever possible, limit the number of things a person needs to remember to use your interface efficiently and effectively. You can facilitate this by chunking information, i.e., breaking it into small, digestible chunks.

This idea dovetails with Tesler’s Law of Conservation of Complexity, which states that UI designers should make their interfaces as simple as possible. That can mean masking the complexity of an application behind a simplified interface whenever possible. A popular example of a product failing to follow this law is Microsoft Word.

Most people only do a few things in Word—e.g., typing—while others can use it to do all sorts of powerful things. But around the world, everybody opens the same version of Word, with the same UI, leaving your average Joe—who’s not a power user—overwhelmed by the variety of options they’ll probably never use.

This led to a concept called progressive disclosure, where advanced features are tucked away on secondary interfaces. You’ll often see this on websites’ home pages, where short chunks of copy introduce a product or feature, then link off to a page where users can learn more. (This also happens to be a best practice for mobile design, where robust navigation is always a challenge.)

Pro tip: Avoid using “learn more” and similarly non-specific text in links and buttons. Why? Because it doesn’t tell users what they’ll “learn more” about. Often, people simply scan a page looking for a link that takes them where they want to go, and “learn more,” repeated 15 times, doesn’t help. This is especially true for users of screen readers.

9. Make decision-making simple

Too much of the web screams at us: “Banners” suddenly expand to become full-screen ads. Modals pop up, imploring us to subscribe to blogs we haven’t had a chance to, you know, read yet. Video interstitials stop us in our tracks, forcing us to watch precious seconds tick oh-so-slowly by. And don’t even get me started on the widgets, flyouts, tooltips …

Sometimes I long for a calmer web—and Hicks’ Law gives us all a reason to build one. The idea’s as simple as its end result: the more options you present a user, the harder it becomes for them to make a decision.

This impacts almost everything we build:

– Overall layouts

– Navigation menus

– Pricing pages

– Blog indexes

– Content feeds

The list goes on. But the upshot is: the simpler we make our designs, the faster and easier it is for users to make the decisions we want them to make. That’s exactly why landing pages and non-newsletter emails should only have one call to action.

Pro tip: Sometimes, you actually do want users to slow down and consider their options. That’s why the tiled designs of Pinterest, Dribbble, and many blogs actually work well. After all, the more options you have to decide between, the more likely it is you’ll find one that works for you.

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7 Vlog Tips To Help Beginner Vloggers

Use these 7 Vlog Tips to Help You Grow Your Audience for your new YouTube videos.

Everyone has a different reason for starting a vlog. Maybe it’s to share, or maybe you’re hoping to make money with your vlog by selling ad space or becoming a YouTube partner.

Whatever the purpose, these tips for beginners are going to be focused on what you will need to do in order to really standout and make a name for your channel. Let’s start with the first of the 7 vlog tips:

1. Select Your Niche

Before you get set on starting a YouTube channel, select your niche wisely. Although it’s totally up to you which niche you would like to talk to your viewers about, it’s also not bad to take a look at the most sought after niches. Do some research on the most popular vlog niches and see if you find them interesting.

Base your channel around a theme or a niche. This is basically a topic area that you are passionate about. While some people choose a broad theme, others opt for a more specific angle. Either way it is important to pinpoint what you want to do with your YouTube channel and the audience that you want to target to get your vlogs on top.

2. Watch For Trends

Those who are able to make the biggest splash on YouTube are able to jump onto trends, possibly even before they become a trend. This will require you to be fully immersed in your niche and demand that you keep up to date with what’s happening in it.

But if you’re already passionate about a subject, you’re likely already keeping your finger on the niche-pulse. Use vlog titles based on trends that are, “catchy” and interesting! Keep track of the latest trends happening and incorporate them into your vlogs to help your YouTube channel catch more eyeballs.

3. Focus on Quality

You can’t win your viewer’s heart without offering them something interesting. This means that you shouldn’t ignore the importance in the quality of the vlogs you create. Keep a careful watch on your editing and audio. Your vlogs should be clear, simple, and easy to follow along! So be sure to focus on quality in order to build a strong fan base for your YouTube channel.

4. Commenting on Blogs

What’s that mean? You’ve got to start commenting on other blogs. As you’re a beginner, and your vlog channel is quite new, you won’t get much visibility without any additional efforts. You have to find ways to get your target viewers. How you can do that? Blog commenting is considered to be effective because you get visitors through your comments plus you raise awareness about your YouTube channel.

For example, if you’re a make-up vlogger, then visit make-up blogs. If you create travel vlogs, then engage with blogs focused on traveling. Visit blogs that produce content on topics that you vlog about. This will help bring viewers who enjoy the topics that your YouTube channel is based on.

When you will go to other established blogs that have targeted visitors, and leave valuable comments, visitors will notice your comments and follow you if they find your comments really interesting. It might take a little bit of time, but it can turn out to be really effective if given some time.

Don’t go on blogs to leave spam comments or just for the purpose of getting viewers. Leave genuine and great feedback on the content you read. For this to work, leave the url to your YouTube channel in the, “website” field on the comment form.

5. Use The Right Tone

You must connect to your audience. One of the most important vlog tips is establish a friendly relationship with your viewers. You should maintain that friendly tone in all of your YouTube videos. It should sound like you’re talking to your friend. Be casual and connect to your viewer’s heart. If you can add a little humor to your vlogs, do that. This will engage your viewers and help them stay on your YouTube channel for long.

6. Quality and Frequency

You want to vlog well and do it often. It’s important to focus on quality, but it’s just as important to be active. Don’t wait weeks or months until uploading your next vlog on YouTube. Viewers prefer to subscribe to channels that are active. So it’s important to keep your channel active by uploading frequently. This helps to build your audience. Frequent vlogs that are engaging and entertaining will bring viewers back, and before you know it you will have loyal fans.

7. Power of Social Media

Vlogging mistakes happen when important tools are ignored. One of the most powerful tools available to vloggers is social media sites. No one ever started a vlog with a million followers instantly. Getting more subscribers takes hard work, and a lot of time. It doesn’t matter how awesome your content is, you will need followers outside of your personal acquaintances.This is where social media comes in to play.

Millions of people use social media every day. Get started with profiles for your channel on all of the major social media sites and entice people to join. Update regularly and interact with your followers. Expect critics from time to time and handle them with respect and professionalism.

Use these 7 vlog tips to help your new YouTube channel grow!

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Cold Email Outreach: 8 Tips To Improve Your Email Campaign Results

Cold Email Outreach: 8 Tips To Improve Your Email Campaign Results

How to Do Sales Emails Correctly:

cold-email-outreach-2

Doing cold sales emails correctly is not a quick and easy 1,2,3 task. Blasting out a template email to multitudes of leads is not the way to start a relationship, or gain interest in what you are offering. If you do this, you will come across as spam and the recipient will not respect your brand. In order to help you craft an email that has the best chance of success I’ve laid out below some simple rules to follow.

1. Don’t Use Templates

One of the most frustrating things for business owners is getting an email and immediately knowing that it’s a template that has been sent to thousands of people. Obviously if you’re trying to send email to hundreds of thousands of people writing each email specifically for one individual isn’t a viable option, but you can still do some things to make an email seem more personal. Personalized fields like first name, business name, industry vertical, location, and title are all great ways to make someone feel as if you’re actually speaking to them instead of just blasting thousands of businesses at once. While this means you might have to create a handful of extra mailers the return on investment is worth the time and effort.

2. Start with Them

A lot of companies like to start with themselves when they send sales emails. They’ll launch into a long-winded explanation about what they do and why it’s so fantastic for a business to work with them. Once in a blue moon that may work, but personally, I’d much rather hear about why you’re interested in talking to me specifically and what it is about my business that makes you a good fit to solve a need for a service or product. This can be difficult to pull off correctly, but it can be achieved by referencing their vertical and specific company name along with a simple statement about why their company is well-known in their space. Doing this shows that you care about the companies you’re trying to work with more than yourself, and this goes a long way.

3. Show You’re on Top of Trends

A great way to add legitimacy to any outbound sales email is to show that you’re on top of trends that are relevant to your recipient’s vertical. Two great ways to do this is to either highlight recent work you’ve done in their vertical or to reference breaking news in their industry in a way that ties back to the product or service you’re offering. Either of these strategies build trust with users because it shows you know what you’re talking about and that you have a least a basic understanding of what they need.

4. Don’t Get Too General

This ties directly in to showing that you’re on top of trends and not using templates. Being too general with your sales emails is a huge mistake. Make sure that your emails are tailored specifically to each recipient’s vertical in some way. Being as specific to them as possible to get their attention is absolutely essential to getting your foot in the door with a sales email. General mailers look and feel like spam and while they take less time and energy to create the return on investment is also generally much lower.

5. Include a Strong Call to Action

This one seems sort of obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I get a sales email outlining what a company or service does and then I don’t get any sort of next step. It’s great that you have the best development service in the northern hemisphere, but what do you want me to do? Should I call you? Schedule a meeting online? Drive up to your business unannounced demanding a meeting? It’s important to include a strong call to action that lets recipients know if they should email you back or if there’s somewhere you want them to go to request a quote or purchase a product.

6. Keep It Short

Most contacts who receive sales emails are busy people and have lots of emails coming their way every day. It’s therefore extremely helpful to keep your emails concise. Open with an interesting and unique subject line, hit their main pain points, show value, leave an impression and wrap it up as quickly as you can. Business owners don’t have time to read through a 500 word email and will immediately send them to the trash.

7. Add Another Touchpoint

Most businesses rely on sales emails because they are a relatively cost-efficient way to create new business without wasting lots of time and energy. Sales emails are a great start, but adding another touchpoint in the process is an even better way to make sure your business is closing sales the right way. If you have a contact’s phone number take the time to give them a follow up call to see if they got your email and if there is anything you can do to help them in person. Another option is to send print collateral if you have a contact’s address. It’s a great way to add legitimacy to your business to close potential leads that might be on the fence about working with you.

8. Pleasantries are Odd

Imagine for a second you’re at a cocktail party. You’re standing alone drinking a nice glass of wine waiting for some colleagues to show up, and all of a sudden someone you’ve never met before jumps in front of you and goes “Hi! How are you today?” Your immediate reaction would probably to either pleasantly tell them you’re fine and move on, or run away quickly.

Sales emails aren’t that different. Your emails effectively interrupt everything else that is going on in someone’s life – and that’s why they can be so powerful. That being said, starting your emails with “Hi! Hope you’re well!” is extremely odd. I don’t know you, I know you don’t really care about how I’m doing, and that you just want to sell me something. Get to it. I’m a lot more likely to interact with you if you ask me a question or introduce yourself and then quickly follow up about something we have in common. Emails should achieve that same goal by starting the conversation quickly and efficiently. Unless you know someone, a pleasantry doesn’t really get that done.

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6 Tips and Tactics to Humanize Your Content 

Content is still king. No matter how many times you hear that phrase, it’ll still ring true.

Content can persuade people on an issue and it can help people avoid big mistakes. As long as it’s effective.

Regardless of the type of content you write, it’s important to write it well, make it reader-friendly. You don’t write for search engines, you write for people who use them to find your business.

You need to give your readers interesting, engaging, and fun material. And you want them to read all of your text, not just the headlines. And to make this happen you’ll need to understand how to humanize your content. This means making your content friendly and engaging to the human eye.

Just like a novel writer, you need to keep readers engaged. You want readers to want more, and your job as a content creator is to give the people what they want. This is not always an easy task, however there are plenty of tactics and tools available right at your fingertips.

There’s no point in writing 1,000 words if those words don’t connect with your reader. Avoid wasted time and effort, and check out the following ways to better humanize your content.

Ready to put these tools and tips to work? Come up with a stellar content idea using these strategies!

1. Emotions are key

Marketers sometimes get in the habit of using a highly formal tone. We write strictly business information, and sometimes forget to add an emotional level. In order to make people really like you, and really pay attention to your content, you need to give some of yourself – your emotions.

Try to incorporate your emotions into your writing and start developing a real relationship with your viewers. For example, instead of just listing your product’s features, give them personality and characteristics humans can relate to. Think about how it makes a user feel. Even if it’s a sponge, you can create a feeling towards the sponge if you use your words creatively.

One way to do this? Incorporate a story that everyone can relate to. Touch people’s hearts and you will win their undying support. You want to provide links to your products or services and weave them seamlessly the story.

Build the story and then add the product or service, not the other way around.

2. Use smart content creation tools

When you write every day and need to come up with new and fresh content consistently it’s important to know about the tools available that can help. Here are some apps I like to assist in brainstorming and overall productivity:

  • CoSchedule Headline Analyzer – people will read your content only if the headline is attractive. If your title is boring, people might skim past your material. This app will analyze your headline title for things such as uniqueness, uncommon words, emotional words and more. You should aim for a score of 50% or higher.
  • Hemingway App – this editor will quickly highlight phrases that are considered not powerful enough. It focuses on eliminating hard to read sentences, adverb reliance, and repetitive language. It also offers a readability score that’s useful when writing marketing content.
  • Piktochart – in order to make your content more attractive, you also need to include more visuals. Infographics help communicate a lot of information in a more attractive manner. These aides can help people understand more quickly what your brand represents and what it is you want them to know.

While these tools won’t write your content for you, they can help you take your great idea and helpful information, and polish it into a piece of content that accomplishes your goals.

3. Find professional proofreading

Good content is not only about the idea, emotions, and visual appeal. The text on your website or blog needs to be perfect, without grammatical mistakes, stylistic errors, or editing glitches.

The best thing you can do for your content is hiring a professional proofreader or editor who can ensure that your text is 100% free of such mistakes. You might have the skill to do the work yourself, but it may be hard to find enough time or you may find yourself too close to the material.

But you have a few options when it comes to cleaning up your content:

  • Invest quality time into research and look for a professional and reliable writing service company.
  • Look for editing & proofreading automated solutions.
  • Contact the experts and get a quote first, then discuss any other potential services you might need.

Before hiring someone or buying a tool, make sure to read reviews online. You’ll want to make sure that the editor is not just experienced in writing, but also in your topic or industry.

4. Seek inspiration and ideas

One of the most challenging parts of creating content is coming up with a topic. It can be difficult to find consistent inspiring ideas and topics. You don’t want to be repetitive and you want to substantial. The best place to start is to see what is trending and where competitors rank.

Explore and discover what other people are talking about. Find out what people want to discuss, then you can offer them much more engaging and creative content. You want people to like and share your material, which means you need them to be inspired to do so.

  • Twitter hashtags – check the trending hashtags and see what people are tweeting about the most.
  • Google trends – yet another extremely helpful tool that is a quick way to  discover the most important topics online during any given day.
  • Random thoughts – use your own brain! Start by simply brainstorming from one word or phrase. Use mind mapping or post-it notes, it doesn’t matter. Get the words flowing and your creative juices flowing.
  • Addict-o-Matic – this application searches automatically for live content posted across different niches, industries, and interests. Within minutes you can find several links that can help inspire your own perspective and ideas.

5. Build content marketing pyramids

The content marketing pyramid is an important strategy for every marketer and content creator.

According to its principles, in order to get the best results from your content, you need the following:

  • Invest time and effort into writing thought-provoking pieces. These pieces must be well researched and written at a high standard of quality. However, you want to write these types of articles bi-monthly or once per month.
  • Use the rest of your time on the smaller, shorter (yet still engaging) content. This includes infographics, blurbs, posts, and daily content for your site and blog. These also need to be well researched, but they should include much less text and copy than your longer pieces.

For example, schedule small blogs under 500 words five days per week, and schedule longer pieces once per month. Create an editorial calendar and stick to your goals. This not only helps humanize your content, but also to maintain your workflow.

6. Organic call-to-action

Call-to-action phrases don’t always have to directly persuade people into making a purchase. They can also simply engage the readers.

Ask your readers questions, get them thinking about something. Offer subscription deals, but also offer a question to be answered. You want to start a dialogue, not just a one-sided marketing ploy. Make your readers want to reach out to you and the company directly.

You can organize contests through your call-to-action phrases or even create a discussion board based on opinions and testimonies. Use your imagination and learn how to truly connect with the people reading your content.

Conclusion

Humanizing your content is of the utmost importance. You may write an error-free and educational piece of content, but just because an automated editor says it’s great doesn’t mean you audience will feel the same.

We are humans and we are all different. And the best way to connect with your viewers is on a human and emotional level. Don’t let your content fall flat. Do more than just describing your products or services.

In order to make people like your brand and ultimately to become your faithful customers, you have to give them an interesting reason why. Understand human relations and interaction before creating content. Use the above tools and tips today and start publishing content that attracts new readers like a magnet.

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