Discontent With Your Content? 8 Tips to Improve Its Allure

June 10, 2010

Pied_Piper

We’ve all heard how crucial – royal, almost – content is to building a strong web presence, especially across social media, so I won’t retread the same old ground on that subject.

Instead, as part of our continuing series on balancing social media effectively to make the most of the time you spend, today we’ll look at some guidelines for making your content irresistible to both audience and search engine alike.

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  1. Prep your subject matter early, then revisit – Don’t just jump into an idea as you start writing the final post; note it down, expand upon it by brain storming or reading around the subect and adding to your own thoughts. Then leave it and come back when you’re ready to write. Do this for multiple subjects as you prep and you can line up a number of articles in one sitting. This Social Media Examiner article has excellent practical tips for this purpose.
  2. Define a take-away point for readers before you write – As with brain storming the subject, having a final summary thought that you want your audience to take from you article is key. It not only makes your content more memorable (and likely to be shared) but it helps to guide your final writing, keeping it on point of the final message.
  3. “Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” – Okay, that’s four tips in one point… just call it value for your attention. Leo Burnett, an early advertising pioneer, had this to say in the early 1900’s and it rings just as true about your content today. Don’t over-complicate the topic and send people off confused, looking for a more understandable source to inform them. Even subjects that are inherently complex can be kept simple to read, assuming a certain level of existing knowledge within your audience. Someone writing about website coding, for example, can reasonably expect their audience to understand the basics if they search for an article on detailed programming. Simplicity also extends into the following concepts of good formatting and entertaining writing, as you won’t get too bogged down in difficult language or detail.
  4. Vary tone and type – Keep your audience coming back for more by alternating the types of content you post. A series of dry, technical posts, for example, could get monotonous and would benefit from being broken up by something more light-hearted like a poll or amusing takes on your specialist subject. Whether it’s something you create or simply sharing the work of someone else, be sure to offer your readers a variety of content to keep them engaged.
  5. Involve and engage your reader – Although you’re creating the content, using it to connect to readers across social media is a two way street. Find ways to make your articles interactive, by asking questions through the post and at the end for example, encouraging readers to reflect on their own perspective on the subject matter. You could also ask for links to other articles they’ve read or content they themselves have created, increasing the collaborative nature of your work and making links back to it more likely. Another technique is to leave ideas open-ended, prompting free discussion in your comments sections.
  6. Find your voice – This may take a number of posts but the more you write your own content, the more your ‘voice’ – your unique combination of style and passion for your subject – will shine through. Solicit plenty of feedback from family, friends, and colleagues of varied personalities to better understand how your content is received. Don’t force it too much, but think about your target audience and how best you can adapt your voice to keep them entertained and informed.
  7. Write first, keyword later – Although your content will naturally gravitate towards certain keywords and phrases of your subject, avoid getting bogged down with the need to include these terms initially. This will only interrupt your flow and make the task longer. Instead, return to your final draft once you’re finished and put on your search engine optimization (SEO) hat. With a list of your keywords (usually already compiled if you have a website) in hand, aim to sprinkle those that are appropriate equally around 10-15% of the content. This guide by SEOBook offers specific tips for blogger SEO.
  8. Follow up – Rather than simply posting your content and wishing it bon voyage, return regularly to review/reply to comments and add further thoughts or links on the subject. Chris Brogan’s article on 40 Ways to Deliver Killer Blog Content provides some helpful pointers for this in the ‘Encore’ section.

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So in essence this boils down to preparing your topics before you dive into the content creation stage, having a clear direction in mind as you create it, using your own passion to make the subject matter memorable and engaging, and finally checking back to further the conversation surrounding what you have created.

Master these crucial areas and everything else will begin to fall into place. Happy creating!

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Have you been able to establish an effective routine for creating your content?

What tips would you offer others just starting out?

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Listening Stations: Tune Into Your Fan’s Frequency

March 19, 2010
Listening_Stations

Are you tuned into the right stations?

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”, said Oliver Wendell Holmes. Whether global brand, small business owner, or artist, there’s plenty of wisdom to be gained in taking time out from broadcasting your message and instead tuning in to those talking about it.

In the past this was a much more costly, labor intensive effort to undertake, with consumer surveys, focus groups, and outside agencies often involved in obtaining a diluted form of opinion. Thankfully, social media and  increasingly active bases of internet consumer opinion have flipped the game on its head, making it easier than ever to tune into the frequency of your audience.

For musicians, Indie Survival Guide just released a quick and extremely useful tutorial on tracking your mentions online. An invaluable resource for musicians, certainly, but the overall advice holds true for other groups as well, particularly small businesses with limited resources to invest.

As a 3 point program, this boils down to:

  1. Define your key search terms. As with web design and SEO, this comes down to the key words surrounding your industry the name of your organization, and other pertinent terms.
  2. Choose and set up your listening stations. From Google Alerts to Twitter search and beyond, there are innumerable free options on the web for monitoring your mentions. We’ll be focusing on the best of these in a separate post next week.
  3. Track & follow up. Set up a routine to monitor your stations on a regular basis and, most importantly, follow up with those talking about you, whether positive or negative. A thank you for a good review or an attempt to reach out and resolve a negative opinion can both build bridges between you and your audience.

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When Chris Brogan encourages us to Grow Bigger Ears, it’s to recommend  developing a key part of the two-way street that is increasingly emerging as a natural part of online commerce and life. Our audience is going to be talking more and more whatever we do. It’s those that hear their message and respond effectively that will be the success stories of tomorrow.

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How do you listen to what your audience or customers are saying? What tools work best for you?

Have you any success stories resulting from listening online? We would love to hear them!


4 Ways to Fire Up Your Facebook Fan Page

January 28, 2010

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Earlier this month, one of our suggestions for those just setting out on their online media journey was to create and develop an engaging Facebook Fan Page.

But how can you best utilize a standardized platform with

the potential to reach several hundred million people?

Got Facebook Fans?

In this post we focus on some specific actions that can be taken to transform the familiar – and slightly dull – wall of updates into an interactive forum full of compelling information and discussion around your chosen subject.

Fire Up Your Facebook

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1. Any landing you can walk away from isn’t always a good one.

For most users, the Facebook wall is the first impression (or landing point) they see of a fan page. As this is an ever present sight on both personal profiles and fan pages, it doesn’t stand out and rarely communicates a summary of what you offer or stand for.  So what can you show your first time visitor instead?

Any tab of your Facebook page can be set as the landing point for your visitors. Add to this the ability to create your own customized tabs with the Static FBML option (something helpfully explored in this how to by Snipe.net) and the possibilities for an eye-catching, informative first impression are greatly expanded.

Musicians, for example, may choose to display the artwork and details of their latest release, as well as a link to their bio for those wishing to dig deeper. Alternatively, a music tab from an application such as iLike could be the landing point, placing the songs front and center. As the latter is one of the main issues for musicians when considering increased use of Facebook – in comparison to Myspace, which traditionally places music at its core – taking a step like this can significantly improve the standing of their Facebook fan page for promoting and converting first timers to fans, via the music.

Other organizations may choose to emphasize some other compelling content on their fan page, whether a video, informative article, or a discussion around a new product or service. As well as providing a more eye catching landing, it also offers more control to the page admin as to how their visitors move through their content, which is often a major concern of those just starting out with online media, particularly social networks.

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2.  What’s in a name? Create a Facebook page vanity URL.

Another confusing element of starting a fan page can be where to direct potential fans, as the web address (URL) for these pages starts off quite large and unwieldy. Though embedded text links or abbreviated linking can assist online, attempting to communicate this URL over the phone or in print can be more frustrating.

By far the best option is to amass over 25 fans and create a custom (or ‘vanity’) Facebook URL, which can often be something as simple as Facebook.com/yournamehere. Initially this issue requires a workaround until the fan count is reached but, once up and running, this step makes your fan page much more memorable and easy to access.

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3. Two’s company, three’s a crowd. Engage the crowd.

As far reaching as social media networks can be for broadcasting to your audience and potential clients, by far its greatest power lies in attracting this crowd – your Facebook fans – to your content and engaging them to become a part of it.

Facebook allows you to include links, photos, videos, polls, and plenty of other media to expand your fan page beyond a simple wall of service updates. Share an article with a link and compelling picture, encourage your fans to read it and comment back with their related opinions and experiences. Design competitions aimed at having them upload their own content involving your product or service (for example, a photo of them having fun using a product at home or a video testimonial on their successful use of your services) and ask them to tag their personal profile so that the message spreads to their friends as well.

Unsure what kind of content your fans might enjoy? Place a poll on your page to ask them and encourage their comments after doing so. Anything that gets your fans invested in and a part of your page, rather than just an audience member. The added benefit of this lies in the increased activity associated with your page as fans interact, raising your visibility in both personal user feeds within Facebook, as well as externally for search engine rankings as they index the site.

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4.  Got any plans tonight? Add events for your fans to attend.

One of the key social aspects of using personal profiles on Facebook is the ability to see what events friends are attending. Anyone can create an event and invite their connections to it, as well as requesting they pass on the invitation to their own network. If approached in the right way, this can boost awareness and attendance of the occassion as the news is quickly passed from user to user and a buzz grows. In addition, the date and time is placed in the user’s Facebook calendar and a reminder appears next to their personal news feed as the big day approaches, helping even the most disorganized of fans to keep you in their plans.

Event pages also offer the equivalent of a mini fan page, on which attendees can discuss it and post related content. Organizers can then interact and encourage this activity, once again building anticipation for the occassion and increasing the activity associated with both the event and the fan page behind it. Musicians can discuss set lists, special merchandise they will be selling, song requests, and all manner of topics that get fans even more excited to be a part of the whole thing.

Keep in mind too that events need not be restricted to set dates and times at a physical venue. Special offers and promotional periods or the release date of a new product or service can also be set up as events to raise awareness. These require a little more creativity in getting fans to RSVP their attendance to a non-physical event, but the same logic holds that if the organizer is able to create compelling content and engage their fans to interact, then excitement and an attendance base for such events can be built.

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These are just some of the sound starting points from which you can create an exciting, engaging fan page. A place where your audience feels informed and involved enough to transform themselves into particants, interacting with others interested in your message and offering their own insights and knowledge to further increase the appeal for new visitors to perform that much sought after ‘Become a Fan‘ conversion.

And the fact that this increases visibility for you in all the places you need to be seen? Well that’s something that you’ll just have to deal with, right?

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Have you moved beyond a standard page to really fire up your Facebook fans? What steps have you taken to achieve this?

What limitations do you see on such Facebook pages that restrict your use or, worse, prevent you from joining at all?


5 Reasons To Enhance Your Online Presence With A Blog

January 13, 2010

Start a blog today

One of our tips earlier this week for jump starting your online presence is to start a blog. But why would you want to add yet another site to update when you already have your own website and a Twitter account to funnel out your thoughts through the day?

We knew you were going to ask that……………

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1 – The personal touch

Blog is the abbreviation for weblog, which more or less started out as online journals for individuals to record their thoughts and opinions. Although the medium has developed a much broader form as more professional organizations have adopted it, blog readers still accept (and often expect) a more personal style of writing and content. Websites are generally designed to communicate information more formally and Twitter, while frequently informal in style, emphasizes short, snappy communication, often as a jumping off point to other sites with more detailed content. A blog fills that space very effectively, providing an opportunity to write and engage your audience as an individual while still spreading the word on your desired topic, product, or service.

2 – Two (or three, or four) heads are better than one

Having established that injecting personality into your blog writing is a requirement, it follows that having a variety of personalities contributing will keep content fresh and entertaining. The more you keep readers on their toes and offer a variety of insights into your particular world, the more they will want to check back and engage with your blog and, by extension, your organization or group. Again, a website is generally expected to be more functional, with a standard tone and style adopted throughout. A blog offers you the chance to involve employees, other group members, friends, or anyone else you believe might have a valuable and entertaining insight to share.

3 – Optimize yourself

Even more than social media, the online world has an overwhelming obsession with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and climbing ever higher on that first page of Google. Though not a standalone strategy to do so, starting and regularly updating a blog will healthily contribute to that overall objective. Blogs encourage link sharing to your other online media, as well as creating reciprocal links in the form of trackbacks, blogrolls on other sites, and any number of unseen connections beyond that. Even more so, if your blog is so well written that it inspires readers to comment and build a form of community. This again helps with return visits and potential link exchanges, all of which contribute to your all consuming desire to make friends with Google (and, yes, Bing too, despite its slightly-too-chipper name).

4 – Simplicity breeds frequency

Why do people tweet so regularly? The cynic in us all would certainly offer a snap judgment as to whether they have anything better to do, yet the real key lies in the simplicity of the tool. Type, link, send. Often there should be a ‘think’ stage before the final action but this ease and speed of use breeds regular content nonetheless. Though a blog has more complexities than Twitter, it offers a far simpler platform from which to broadcast your message than most website interfaces. Both WordPress and Blogger have a very similar feel to standard word processors in their appearance and use, meaning that anyone familiar with the likes of Word is able to jump into blogging with little difficulty. Furthermore, sites like Tumblr add an extra layer between Twitter and the main blogging platforms, emphasizing brevity and speed but retaining the ability to post more detailed content like photos, video, and music.

5 – Unleash the creative design in you

Most effective websites require some knowledge of HTML or other technical savvy to get up and running, hence the huge number of freelance web gurus living here in Brooklyn (and elsewhere, we just notice them a lot more here!). Although we have no wish to hinder the business of these skilled individuals, it should be emphasized how uncomplicated it is to switch and tweak the design elements of your blog. Themes in WordPress and templates in Blogger both provide relatively simple ways to amend your layout elements for free, with little risk of damaging the site beyond your ability to repair it if you implement something you later dislike. This makes it easier (and cheaper) to create a distinctive looking presence for yourself on the web without the need to trawl through code that makes learning Latin look like a more appealing alternative.

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Are you convinced? A well written, regularly updated blog can be a simple, cost effective way to enhance your online presence in so many ways, but we would love to start some discussion around this point and the pros/cons of blogging for a small business, organization, or group.

Do you write a successful blog that others can visit and learn from?

What other benefits are there to blogging that we have yet to cover?