It can be difficult knowing where to start with creating blog content. An empty page seems overwhelming, how can you engage your audience? How do you get seen in a busy online world?
Blogs are valuable content. They serve as brilliant social fodder and, if done well, help drive visitors to your website through search queries.
Here are a few tips to help you get started with creating your business blog.
It’s all about the plan
The most difficult part of blogging is knowing what to write about, so creating a plan provides you with a list of topics to get talking about. Spacing out your content means your blogs aren’t like buses all being posted at the same time.
Start by planning out the year. Are there any industry events or milestones that you would like to talk about? Do you have any launches or campaigns happening that should be shouted about? Plan these into a long-term plan, getting into the finer details when looking at the month ahead.
Think about the questions that your audiences are asking and answer them through your blogs. Don’t just use your content to promote yourself and sell your services – make sure you are being useful. How can you help? Always write for your customer, put them first and speak to them in their language.
The Four Rules of Thumb for engaging content
There are four principles we recommend you keep in mind when writing blog content – in fact, any content!
- Be Relevant
- Have Intent
- Be Familiar
- Be Engaging
The Importance of Being Relevant
Think about your target audiences – in fact, list them out as personas. Think about each type of customer when you are planning and writing your content; are you writing to every persona, or do you keep focusing on a just one? How should you write slightly differently to each persona? In your plan, detail which persona your blog will be tailored for, so you can picture them whilst you are writing. This helps your writing become more conversational as well as being relevant for the audience you are trying to reach.
What is Your Intent?
Your content always needs to have intent. Think about what the purpose of the post is before you open the Word Document and start writing. Are you trying to educate your customer? Instruct them on how to use something? Give them your opinion about a news item, encourage thought around a topic, or inspire them? Make sure you keep that blogs aim in mind whilst writing to keep it on track. Add calls to action to help them along their journey.
It’s good to have a clear tone of voice when you are writing as your brand, it helps you sound consistent, striking a note of recognition with your audience. Keep that same tone of voice across all your marketing channels so that your brand is always the same, no matter which route your customer comes through. Think about the great brands like Innocent – they always have the same tone of voice, so if you didn’t see their logo and name, you would still recognise who had written that content.
How to be Engaging
Your blog content needs to work hard to be engaging, to keep people reading – to make them want MORE. Make sure to ask questions, make your readers stop and think. Use subtitles to break up your text so it doesn’t look too long and like a chore to read. Keep the language short, chatty in blogs as though you are talking directly to your reader.
Importantly, always make sure your content has a personality. Never be boring.
We’re all familiar with the feeling when we post something on social media and end up feeling like we may as well be invisible. Maybe a couple of likes, but not a comment in sight, ughh. What if there was a platform where you posted something, and people not only responded but actively engaged and started conversations, leading to not only a couple, but loads of comments?
Well, on LinkedIn such things] are possible. It used to be the stuffy, formal space where it was acceptable to post a constant stream of industry-specific, dull as ditchwater and completely impersonal content which, unsurprisingly, put a lot of people off. Particularly those who weren’t firmly implanted in the B2B space.
However, something has happened to LinkedIn, perhaps since it was bought by Microsoft. It’s become much less formal and seems to have settled into its own skin, knowing what it is and how it can create a space for itself in the busy social landscape. It’s a professional network with a truly engaged audience who are eager to interact, share and have conversations.
Here are some reasons why we love LinkedIn.
Whopping levels of engagement
There’s a very different mindset on LinkedIn compared to other social media platforms. Professionals are looking to connect, stay informed, and advance their careers. They are motivated and therefore much more likely to invest their time and effort in engaging with those in their network, often in the form of commenting on posts that take their interest.
This gives you a great opportunity to get to know those in your network better and make some really solid connections.
Done right, posting on LinkedIn can get you a far higher reach than on the other platforms. In general, it’s a much less noisy space and as people are more likely to comment on posts, it encourages the algorithm to push your posts out to a wider audience. No bad thing.
It may not always be like this. More and more people are getting wise to the potential of LinkedIn and so it’s worth getting in there while you can still take advantage of such great reach
There are some great conversations happening
The people who are getting the most out of LinkedIn and have the most presence are those that are starting conversations. After all, that’s what social media is supposed to be all about, and what the platforms are encouraging us to do by rewarding us with better reach on posts when they get a lot of engagement.
Many are posing questions, asking for opinions on personal and industry-related (or not) topics. Some of these types of posts, particularly those that are designed to split the room, can get tens and sometimes hundreds of comments. While that may seem a lot to expect, especially if you’ve not been focusing so much on LinkedIn, it’s amazing how people commenting and engaging with each other on your post will spark real conversations and increase your visibility.
It’s much more fun than it used to be!
Part of LinkedIn’s ‘deformalisation’ has meant that posts have become a bit more creative and appealing, making for a brighter and more eye-catching feed.
Emojis are now totally acceptable and as more video functionality is being rolled out there’s much more of a variety of content.
People are feeling more confident to show their personality on LinkedIn and their less formal posts in their natural language are reflecting that, which we love!
So how does all this lead to actual business?
Even though you may not always be talking about your business, your products or service, or even necessarily your industry, by interacting and engaging with others you’re increasing your visibility and raising awareness of your business and what you do which in turn, in time, leads to more business.
LinkedIn is where people who are serious about looking for collaborations, looking to employ people or businesses, are hanging out. They may be on the other platforms too, but LinkedIn is a much more appropriate space for making real business connections that can lead to actual paid work.
Getting your website to rank on search engines is a huge way of driving those all-important visitors to your site, but how do you do it? We have put together a quick-fire checklist to make sure you understand the basics of what your site needs to do to be search friendly.
- Are your URL’s well formatted?
URL’s are a funny one, not many people think to scrutinise their URLs to make sure that they are well formatted and make sense. Ideally you need to use short URLs, with a keyword included. They need to be human-readable, as user experience really effects search results.
Also ensure that your site is secure, this means using HTTPS rather than HTTP, as this has been confirmed to be a positive ranking signal.
- Are your page titles and descriptions optimised?
The word ‘optimised’ starts to feel a bit like jargon, what we mean here is ensuring that your page titles and meta descriptions are using the correct keywords and have a really good description about what is on the page. Your page title is one of the most important ranking factors, so it needs to be relevant, contain a high value search term, and ideally tell people what to expect if they click through to your website.
(Your meta description needs to be catchy and contain a call to action. Be creative and speak with personality, this is a form of advert driving people to your site and you need to stand out from the crowd.
- Are you regularly updating your content?
Your website needs to have freshly published content on there, that’s why so many sites have a blog. Content can be anything, articles, infographics, slideshows, videos, comments or case studies.
Search engines want to know that your site is up to date and therefore still relevant, so they check to see when your site was last updated. Having fresh content means search engines will index your site more regularly.
- Does it take ages to load your website?
Page speed is a really important ranking factor, search engines want to ensure that you are serving people with the content that they want quickly and as a result a good experience for users. People are getting faster and more inpatient, they want to know the facts NOW – and search engines know this.
Test your website here.
- Are you mobile-friendly?
We have talked about this a lot in previous blogs such as ‘Is your website mobile responsive’, so we won’t’ repeat ourselves too much – but it’s a really important point to hammer home! More and more people are not just visiting but transacting on websites through their mobiles now, and Google have confirmed that this is a key ranking factor, so this is a must.
This month was a big one for social media and data privacy being in the news, but there are a few important tidbits that are worth noting for marketing!
Wetherspoons calls it a day on social media
Some of April’s biggest social media news was that pub chain J D Wetherspoon is quitting social media. They tweeted to their 44,000 followers that their firm’s head office and 900 pubs will quit Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which they did immediately.
The chain has suffered some bad publicity across social media, and much of its activity on the platforms has been involved with dealing with complaints. It’s said that the decision has also been taken following recent publicity over the use of social media to criticise MPs and others, especially those from religious or ethnic minorities, but also because of concerns around the “misuse of personal data” and “the addictive nature of social media”.
Some have claimed that the firms announcement is a publicity stunt, but Wetherspoons maintain it is purely a business decision. It’s going to be interesting to see if anyone follows suit, but as for the publicity stunt theory – we certainly have heard the name Wetherspoons mentioned a lot in the last few weeks!
Twitter bans bulk tweeting
There’s been a huge change in the world of Twitter this month too as the rules surrounding duplicate tweets have now come into force. Whereas you used to be able to post the same tweet multiple times, since 23rd March it is now against the platforms usage guidelines to post duplicative or substantially similar content either from single or multiple accounts.
Whilst this may make things slightly harder for those who want to consistently promote something like a piece of content, an online course or event, we think that this change can only be a good thing as it encourages us to be more creative and present on the platform, and after all that’s what social is all about.
Facebook is now more popular than ever
Last week it was announced that despite all the controversy surrounding Facebook and its involvement in the privacy scandal over user data, the average number of monthly active Facebook users for March rose by 13%. It seems that it’ll take more than this scandal to break this mighty social media platform, and it shows how important it is to consider Facebook and other social media in your marketing strategy, as long as you work diligently with data and creatively with content.
Getting ready for GDPR
You might have noticed that you’re suddenly being bombarded with emails from companies telling you they’re updating their terms of service. That’s because they’re all getting ready for the EU’s forthcoming efforts to protect our personal data.
Although the changes don’t come into force until 25th May, companies are adjusting their privacy policies to let users know what they’re doing to make sure they’re in line with the new regulations and how they’ll store and protect your data. It’s worth checking you’re happy with each individual company’s new policies, as they will all vary.
What’s App raises minimum age limit to 16
At the moment, the minimum user age for the messaging platform is 13, but ahead of the EU data privacy regulations coming into play later this month they’ve announced they’re raising the age limit to 16.
Although What’s App has not said exactly how the rules will be enforced, users will have to confirm their age when they’re prompted to agree to the platform’s new terms over the coming weeks.
It’s great to see that What’s App are doing something to protect teenage minds and self-esteem, but there it is a tricky situation for 13-15-year olds who are now used to being able to use What’s App to keep in touch with friends and family.
Do you know your audience? I mean, can you really picture them? Who are they? How do they digest information? And, most importantly, what messaging will affect them the most?
Defining your target audience and creating detailed personas is a crucial part of any successful marketing strategy. But let’s get back to the basics, what do we mean when we talk about personas and target audiences?
What are target audiences?
It’s highly unlikely that you have just one target audience. They will be split by their interests, their presence online, or their culture. When thinking about the differences in your audiences, it’s tempting to think about it purely in terms of demographics such as age or gender, however it’s much more effective to think about audiences by their interests and motivations.
A good example could be a bank, segmenting their data depending on the current life status of their audience and their attitude towards money – 3 different audiences: the first-time buyer, the student, and the regular saver – wanting to save up for a nice holiday or a new car.
It’s thinking about the various possibilities around your offering and categorising them into their interest groups. Doing this helps you ensure that you are writing to them in the most effective way.
What is a persona?
A persona is the next granular step in the strategy after defining those target audiences. You have your target segments – the first-time buyer, the student and the worker. Now, you want to create a life-like persona for each of these audiences that help to bring them to life. It helps you to picture them whilst creating the strategy, key messages and copy.
What do you include in a persona?
It’s important to think about a range of characteristics, based on facts that you already know about your current customers.
- Their age
- Their gender
- Their hobbies
- Their career
- Where are they on social media?
- How do they get information? Watching TV, buying newspapers, listening to the radio?
- How do they prefer to purchase services or products? Online, in store, brochures?
- What are their problems, and how can you offer a solution?
How do you use personas?
The last point above is probably the most important one. What is their problem and how can you offer a solution to it? Have a real think about this, and it will form your key messages to this target audience.
For example, the first-time buyer wants an account that helps them get the most from their savings, so they can get as big a deposit as possible. So, word your campaigns around this – use the terminology that they are using so it sounds like you are speaking directly to them. And put the messages and content on the platforms that this audience are using, be it social, search or offline marketing.
Put yourself in their shoes. What do they want to hear? Write that down.
Who should get involved?
Creating personas and target audiences isn’t something that a marketing team should keep to themselves. Get everyone involved, especially people who actually talk to your customers– your sales team, or your customer service team are great to get into the mix. They will have valuable insights that will really help you understand exactly who you are talking to.
So, you have all created some pretty ace personas. Make sure you circulate these everywhere, so all your staff understand who your customers are, and how you are planning on talking to them. Make sure it’s consistent throughout the company so that each touchpoint is using the same key messages and tone of voice.
It’s also important not to just create these personas once and leave them a decade. Just like everything in marketing, audiences and their interests change. Review your key messages annually to make sure they are still true and effective.
Most importantly, creating personas can be really good fun – so enjoy it!
We made it – we have managed to reach the end of January! It’s been a full-on month with some pretty big digital news – one being so meaty we will focus this month’s blog on that… The Dreaded Facebook Algorithm Change and how to approach it.
You have probably already heard about the change to the Facebook news feed – it’s a biggy. They are changing the way that everyone has visibility of brand and page posts in their news feed. Now only brand posts that are engaged (mainly receiving lots of comments) will get priority in people’s news feeds.
They already announced at the back end of last year that Facebook was going to start penalising engagement bait posts – these are posts that ask people to like or share their page in order to win a prize. They are really pushing that they want people to be commenting on videos and content to prove that they are engaging content.
So, the top bit of advice so far is to revise your Facebook marketing strategy. Do you post every day with a bit of content that aims for people to click through and read a blog on your website? Do you currently focus just on organic reach to your audiences? Unfortunately, both aren’t going to be enough in the new Facebook world.
Your content should now be thinking about how you can get people to interact with you – CREATE CONTENT THAT MAKES PEOPLE THINK AND FEEL. That’s the best way to get people discussing your content and reacting to your videos. Evoke some emotion. Ask them questions.
Social media is now getting all about the live and real-time content. More live streaming of videos is one of the biggest trends that marketers are expecting to see in 2018. This doesn’t have to be a big budget high-end film – just a good story that’s done quickly on a phone will work just as well.
Another method of communicating on Facebook now could be making more use of existing Facebook groups and setting up your own Facebook groups for each target audience. A group is a collection of people with shared interests, so if your content is relevant to those interests then this an avenue to also consider.
You can also simply ask your followers to prioritise your page if they want to continue seeing your posts. This is done by the individual navigating to your page, hovering over ‘following’ and selecting ‘see first’ instead of default. I wouldn’t rely solely on this – but it’s one more step that can help with your content reach.
Finally, organic reach has steadily been decreasing – but now it is more certain that to get the reach your content needs, brands will need to start considering putting money behind their Facebook activity and creating targeted advertising campaigns. We are still waiting to see how these changes will affect the cost of Facebook advertising, it may be that it will now start to cost more per campaign. So, these will need to be based on thorough research, only promoting content that is already engaging, so that it will encourage the viewer interaction and get an additional boost through that.
In summary, it’s not Facebook Armageddon that you may have been reading about in the news. It’s tackling Facebook in a new way, as lots of brands have gotten sluggish with their content strategy. The take home principle is – Facebook is about people. Remember that in each and every post that you create. It’s all about the quality of the posts you send out. It’s better to do one great content piece that gets people reacting, than sending out one post a day to try and maintain awareness. That will simply not work now.
If you have any questions about your social media marketing strategy, contact us today at [email protected].