Archive for category Web Content

Blog Content Strategy: What Are You Talking About?

What are you talking about on your blog?  If it’s yourself, you’re probably not getting readers.  You don’t want to be the guy at the party whose stories about himself only pause when he has time to stuff an hors d’ouevres in his mouth and continue with “and then I….”

When marketers say the 20 year or so old refrain Content is King, what they mean is the stuff you put on your Web site needs to be interesting to your readers, not just you.  Your blog is not a mouthpiece for your sales department.  It is a virtual conversation that provides something valuable to customers and partners and whomever else you are trying to get to read it.  It’s educational, entertaining, and probably informal.  The more natural a voice you adopt for your blog, the better.  Have fun with it.  Your blog is your creative arm.  It’s where you connect with people who are like you, who would enjoy your product and the subculture that surrounds it the same way you do.

How to come up with ideas to write about:

Listen.

Go to places where your customers hang out, in person or digitally, and see what they talk about.   What else do they like? What can you tie back into the values of your product? Educate them on how to use your product.  Provide profiles and links on people who are doing interesting things with the type of product or service you provide, though not necessarily customers all the time, since that all comes back to being completely about you.  There’s nothing wrong with telling a story or two about yourself.  Just don’t abuse it.  Have other stuff there.

Pay Attention to Subcultures

I read blogs because of the interesting stories they tell about subjects I follow.  And I’ll check out a book or product a blogger is promoting because I trust her, because she writes about other subjects that interest me.

I’ll buy a beauty product from a company if it is a natural product company that writes articles about growing organic herbs and aromatherapy, what collagen actually does for the skin, and how bee farming is humane and generates all sorts of useful ingredients, such as beeswax, which are used in products like theirs.  A blog like this is not designed to push a product, though it informs me about aspects of the product and reminds me of the natural organic subculture that I have unofficially joined through my interests.

Build (and Join) Community

As a side note, I really really love that company if it also sponsors events with recyclers, crafters, and craft brewers in the local organic community and writes about the festivals it supports, since that fits in with my subculture and helps me connect to their idea of community and my own even better.  But events are a whole other ball of beeswax. Though they help immensely with figuring out what to write about.

One way to tap into this community-building and be a local participant is to begin using Twitter to find others like yourself.  Put your interests or your business summary in your profile – as well as a link to your Web site.  Seek out and follow others by typing the words you used to describe yourself into the search bar in Twitter.  People will find you and begin to follow you.  Thank them for following you.  Comment or reply to others in the industry who put tweets up you enjoy, or people who enjoy the same things you do.  It builds on itself until you have a great group of folks who are engaged with your interests, and you can all share ideas – sometimes they are your direct customers telling you what they want, or showing you what they are reading (through the links they put up on their feeds), which is valuable information to have.

Use any or all of these methods to find ideas to write about and good content to link to on your blog. It’s not just about search engine optimization (SEO) or converting sales. You’re relationship building, and you do this through community – and through providing information people care about. Educate. Entertain. Inform. “Convert” comes later.

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Creativity is Back! Search Gets More Content-Relevant – and Ethical

The “SEO” buzzword still dominates content discussions, and it’s still important. But as marketer Adrienne Waldo points out in Finally: Search Is Starting to Reward Creativity Over Shady Tactics on AdAge (http://bit.ly/pGUu38), marketers, writers, and creatives of all other varieties used to bemoan the issue of trying to write and create content authentically while packing in keywords. We couldn’t compete with those hacks out there using black hat techniques and generally manipulating the system.

The game has changed. Google’s 2011 Panda update is the beginning of something beautiful: A world of real and relevant content. Well, maybe that’s reaching. But this new frontier at least provides a blank screen to start from for those of us actually focused on engaging content. And that’s all we ever wanted.

So get back to quality over quantity in the links and trackbacks. Add some white papers and video to your site because they’re educational and fun for your readers. And get back to being creative. Because even though creativity always mattered, now it’s relevant.

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Personal Branding For Business – Brilliant, Not Backwards

Personal branding, the science of establishing a brand identity for individuals, usually related to career/professional development.  The personal brand idea is taken from what companies have been doing since the dawn of capitalism, and an individual uses these principles to find a way to stand out from the crowd, figure out what value he or she adds, presenting a consistent personality online to develop a reputation in this space of too-much-information.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about personal branding lately; as a marketer, it fascinates me.  And I realized that some of the tenets of this practice are employing major principles of marketing that have atrophied in business, principles which need to be reexamined if brands are going to survive.

Me, Inc.The following is a list of 10 reasons individuals, especially job seekers, should be concerned with personal branding.  It comes from personalbrandingblog.com, the brain child of Dan Schawbel, one of the current proponents of the field, and author of Me 2.0.  I took these principles and turned them right back around to business branding, because businesses often seem confused in their Web content and social media strategy, as well as branding as a company-life-long effort. Which technologies to use?  What kind of content?  What does our audience want from us?   The information below is taken directly from Schawbel’s blog. I’ve added my comments in italics.

 1. Generations are colliding online

Facebook started out as a hang out place for college students, but now we’re seeing older generations adopt social networking. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010. This means that communication between age groups is occurring more and more each day, and your audience is changing rapidly. Entire families are interacting online and 70% of parents friend their kids. You have to be aware of your audience and the content you’re publishing because if they don’t match, it can have a negative effect on your personal brand.

Understand your audience. What are the demographics of the largest portions of your customers?  Don’t exclude older users from technology tools, including social media.  And consider your content and how it relates to them. 

2. Your online reputation can make or break you

Your brand is on the line, wherever your name and face is seen. Clients, managers and other professional stakeholders in your life have access to what you post publicly on the net. You can even lose your job over blog comments or attacks from people that already have a negative view on your reputation. For instance, Madhu Yarlagadda was hired by Skype as the new Chief Development Officer, and after a TechCrunch blog post, people came out of the woodwork to expose Madhu. Skype replaced him after a month of employment….

The brand of your employees matters as much as your company’s brand.  You must consider what your people are publishing, and encourage them to develop their own brands as experts in your industry, especially the execs.  And watch out for negativity.  Have policies in place about commenting or responding on blogs!  Transparency is great for business, so you don’t want to have too many watchdogs, but there ought to be some guidelines for avoiding bad publicity traps.

3. Employers are reviewing your online personal brand …

Almost every website on the planet has a search engine component to it and employers are using them to find more information about you.… Make sure your personal brand is consistent and up-to-date.

Make no mistake, people are Googling your company.  With the dollar tighter than ever, people want to know they’re making the right choice when they spend their money.   Check your Google results, and your online reputation.  Make sure it’s consistent with how you want to be perceived. The challenge is always aligning audience perceptions with your own, and how you wish to be seen.  It’s a give and take, but you can help it along with the right Web content, professional profiles, and SEO.

4. Perception (how we present ourselves) is king

It’s the little things that count, whether you’re in an interview, or interacting with people online. A CareerBuilder survey states that 67% of hiring managers say that failure to make eye contact would make them less likely to hire a job candidate and 38% said lack of smile. People will judge you on small things that make a big difference. By being professional, using good eye contact, shaking someone’s hand, having good posture, and using appropriate images online, you will be more successful when communicating with others.

Your customers will judge you on the small stuff, too.  Make sure you’re portraying your brand in a light that engages with your particular audience.  Know who that is.  If it’s a family friendly atmosphere you want, smile in all your photos, talk about your kids in your blog posts, and provide Web content related to child safety or education.  People need to perceive that you are who you say you are, and the tone in your blog and even the way you answer the phone matters.  Tell your employees to always answer the same way, with a smile – others can hear it. 

Read the rest of this entry »

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Metaphorical Content: Connect Radically Different Concepts to Generate New Ideas

Everything’s already been done, right?  Not exactly.  Brands – and individuals, really – need to get in the habit of seeing the patterns that play out in daily life and information trends while making creative leaps to connect ideas that haven’t been connected before. 

In other words, take two completely unrelated concepts and link them together to create a new idea.  In the world of writing, that’s basically the definition of a metaphor.  You’re illustrating concepts and creating visual images in people’s minds by steering away from cliché and creating your own offbeat comparisons.

This Renegade Hipster post uses old war posters as ½ of the equation, with

If Social Media Was Around for the World Wars

their censorship/Big Brother concepts glaringly highlighted.  The contrast?  Social Media.  Google and Twitter in the Age of World War.  What would that look like?  Someone’s imagined it for you, and created an interesting concept worthy of further thought. 

And isn’t that what you’re trying to do with your content?  Engage readers? Get them to think about your brand and remember it when they need you?

The idea makes social commentary (possibly) while using contrast to highlight connections and patterns in the history of communication – and war.  Designers use contrast all the time to make a point, to create new connections, to revamp the old, to generate ideas.  We should all take the time to create some new connections in our brand identity and content.

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The UVP is Dead? Or, Go 007 to Give Your Brand An Actual Personality

In a fascinating article entitled “Does Your Brand Have a Lame Personality?” on Talent Zoo, Tommy Walker starts out seemingly contradicting some of the basic tenets of branding that I have posted here on Royal Pain.  Shocked and dismayed, I read the article voraciously, trying to discern if there was some new idea in branding that I hadn’t seen coming.  Has the UVP (Unique Value Proposition) been replaced with a multifaceted personality that works with different audiences in different ways?  Maybe.  But by the end of the article, I breathed a sigh of relief, for my foundation had not been rattled.  Emboldened definitely, but not shaken.

I am intrigued by the concept Walker raised of being a “living, breathing” brand, just as a person has many aspects to his or her personality.  He asks, “[D]o all of your friends like you for the same reason?” It is worth pondering how the many faces of Eve can happily coexist in a brand that still manages to define itself.  And finding the answer to this puzzle as well as why those friends do actually like you is where the 007 bit comes in.

But before we get to that: the UVP.  I’m not quite ready to do away with it.  I still think that you should choose a genre and customer personality that best fits you and commit to something, because the worst kind of person is the chameleon who puts on a different show with everyone he meets.

However, if you take Walker’s meaning as a nod to the way we present ourselves a little differently at home than at work, or the way we might love to attend the indie crafts market and show off our tattoos, but we also have a hard-driving business side that feels equally comfortable in a good suit… Read the rest of this entry »

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