The Captivating Power Of Amazing Short Blog Posts

Short blog posts can be good.

Why Short Blog Posts Are Cool

This goes against a lot of common advice.  Longer blogposts (above 2,000 words!) drive more traffic. And from an SEO perspective, this is true.

But: Short pieces of content have their place in blogging and content production in general. The cornerstone of blogging success is value – not wordcount. And while in general longer posts may drive more traffic, this is not always true!

Why? Because short form also has a lot of advantages:

  • Good short posts get to the point faster
  • Short pieces are easier to consume – this is blogging, not scientific research
  • Short pieces (with value!) often work better on social media
  • Do you need to blog more often? Short posts take less time.

Can I Back This With Data?

In this case, the data is so openly available that I am surprised this doesn’t get mentioned in the blogosphere more often:

Take clickbait sites – let’s go for Upworthy and Buzzfeed:

These sites drive incredible amounts of traffic through social media. Their content is optimized for social. Take this Upworthy post for instance: https://www.upworthy.com/republicans-and-democrats-should-never-forget-what-paul-ryan-just-said-about-the-poor?c=pop

This is long for Upworthy… 700 words. It was in Upworthy’s most shared posts this week, over 7,000 shares. (Contrary to popular belief clickbait sites are bringing value in their posts – that is exactly why they are getting so much traffic!)

Want more data? Here are the Alexa ranks for Upworthy and Buzzfeed:

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The Problem: Value per Word

This is not an excuse for creating many short posts that bring little value.

Focus on value per word.

Creating short posts that still bring loads of value to readers is a craft – an it needs to be practiced. Which is why so few recommend short posts.

Value per word is harder to achieve than increasing your word count. You will have to write slower than usual – you will have to think about how to best get your point across, how to shorten your sentences while not losing meaning.

But most audiences will accept short and long form content. The real question is how much value you are giving. And value per word is actually harder to produce in a long post. Producing very long posts with very little information won’t help you.

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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


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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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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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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Simple Tactics to Increase Your Social Media Shares

 12 Simple Tactics to Increase Your Social Media Shares

Part of building up your audience is getting people to engage with and share your content. This means spending time creating content that resonates with your network and entices them to share. In this post I’ll go over some simple tactics to help you increase your social media shares.

1. Share Content More than Once

One of the best ways to get more content shares is to share the content more than once. Use a different photo, and change the caption up but lead to the same article. Getting in the habit of sharing content more than once also lets you get to know what kind of images, messaging and hashtags work with your audience, and can help determine when your audience is the most active.

2. Create Content that Adds Value to Your Customer

People won’t care to share things that don’t add value to their life. This can mean informing them about unexpected ways to use your product, or just giving them a beautiful photo to look at. This means figuring out what matters to your audience, from what activities their involved in to what they do in their spare time.

3. Create “Snackable” Content

Snackable content is content created around sharing information in a quick and easily digestible form. This makes it ideal for sharing a lot of information in a small amount of room. Snackable content includes quotes, infographics, and stats. Get creative in the way the information is presented. To learn more about snackable content read: How to Create Snackable Content

4. Share Posts When Followers are Active

Figuring out when your followers are online and active is essential to getting the most impact out of each of social media post. Use in network analytics tools (like the new Twitter Dashboard) to help you determine which time your audience is on. You can also use third party tools to calculate when your audience is on.

5. Provide Context in Headlines/Messaging

Your headline can make or break your readers’ choice to click through to your article or blog post. Make sure headlines and messaging offer context into what the reader will get out of the content. Use action and descriptive words to entice readers to interact with you. Never exaggerate the benefits of your post, or be misleading – that will only hurt you as readers will not trust your content anymore.

6. Make Social Media Share Buttons Easy to Find

Your follow and share buttons should be easily found on your site. Popular places for these buttons are website headers, footers, or in sidebars. Your post itself should include social media sharing buttons. Another thing to remember is to clearly mark which buttons do what on your site. Confusion on which buttons do what won’t encourage people to share.

7. Add Sharing Buttons and Light Boxes to Your Website Articles and Posts.

I use AddThis.com for the floating share bar you see on my blog. SumoMe also provides a slew of tools to make your website social media friendly.

8. Pre-Populate Share Messaging

The less work your readers and sharers have to do the better! Some social media share services will allow you to populate your own messaging and hashtags into shares. If your service does not allow you to adjust captions make sure you adjust elements appropriately to pull your post title and tag your handle. Don’t forget the same goes for emails and newsletters as well.

9. Photos Matter

Try to include a good image in your post. Some sites, like Pinterest or Facebook will pull the post’s featured image – and including images increases shares. Here are a few ways to create visual content on the go. If you are using a photo to promote your content make sure the photo is sized correctly for the specific network you’re sharing it on.

10. Try “Click to Tweet” Options

Click to Tweet lets you choose parts of your post that your reader can simply click on to tweet. I love this option because it allows you to pull snippets from text and is easy for the reader to use. I use a plugin, but if your site isn’t on WordPress you can try ClickToTweet.com or run Google search for click to tweet services.

11. Use Calls to Action

Take it back to old fashioned called to action. Ask your audience (nicely) to share your post if they’ve enjoyed it. Include this messaging in landing pages.

12. Share Lifestyle and Related Content from Other Sources

Customers don’t necessarily always want to hear about you. Break up posts with shares from related brands or lifestyle content. Even if a piece of content that isn’t yours gets a slew of shares, this still brings visibility to your account. Lifestyle content can include quotes, industry stats, or images and videos that relate to your target audience. These types of images tend to get re-shared and interacted with more often that other more brand related material. Not sure what lifestyle content is? Read up and get some lifestyle content ideas here.

BONUS:

Get an initial boost from friends, family and employees.

Increasing social media shares on your website, posts or campaign requires well thought out (preferably brand related) content that adds value, messages that entices sharing, and making these pieces easy to share. I know, easier said than done – but well worth the effort when you see the shares start coming in.

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