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Friday, 20 September 2013

The 5 point blogging cheat sheet


I'm still quite new to the wonderful world of blogging, and often I think that my dog (pictured above), is the only one who gets the benefit of my musings.  That said, even those who don't consider themselves marketers now seem ready to put their thoughts on paper, so what follows is my cheat sheet of advice to get that first post out there - go on ....

1. Have goals

What are you trying to achieve with your blog?  Who is your audience likely to be?  Which format works best to communicate with that audience? These may seem like easy questions, but unless you answer them in advance, you'll never be able to justify the time and effort that a blog takes to produce and maintain.  Establish topic or market credibility by addressing subjects your audience cares about and responds to, then carefully choose layout, images, content and timing.

2. Provide valuable content

Successful bloggers write a lot.  They are passionate about their subject matter.  They work on getting people's attention quickly and keeping it through easily digestible posts.  These posts typically
- answer questions
- provide hints and tips
- show behind the scenes footage
- tell a story
- cover events for those who can't attend
- create regular features
- highlight success stories
- share photographs
You get the idea.

3. Be authentic, be transparent, be you

Just as the opening page of a book switches you on or off, a blog needs to reward the reader for their attention.  People like to know who's behind the prose.  Write as though you're explaining something to your neighbour. Don't be afraid to show who you are and what you do. Tell true stories well.

4. Use your best assets

A lone blogger is generally their own best asset, but if you're thinking of starting a company blog, it's worth remembering that your employees know your company better than anyone else and customers want to hear that inside scoop.  That said, it's also great if you can engage by blogging customer testimonials, including guest blogs from suppliers and distributors and sharing those experiences which might otherwise go unnoticed.

5. Listen, respond, repeat

With an estimated 300 million blogs currently in existence, blogging is now a regular source of information and part of everyday life.  It's time to join the conversation, educate, inspire, challenge, motivate, but most of all share. Encourage feedback and respond to it, showing that you hear rather than deleting anything negative.  Over time your analytics will show those posts which are enjoyed most so you can hone your new found skills and join the ranks of the greats or at least get a thrill from providing a window into your world.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Which web works?

I'm a woman of a certain age - let's just say generation X.  Recently I've been struck by the gulf that's developing in how my peers and generation Y's (also known as millennials), perceive and use websites.

Ah, websites.  In the early days they were a billboard to the world.  Function over form and a sure sign that your company was at the cutting edge of technology.  Back in the dark ages of 2005, (to give it it's full title as we did in the day), looked like this. Retro huh?

Further back, in 1996, even Apple was an ugly duckling.

For those of us who've lived through the early evolution of the internet, websites have become the trusted face of a company, so it's easy to forget that a mere decade ago, while generation X were embracing the joys of technology, baby boomers were suspicious of this passing fad.  

Earlier this year eMarketer ran an article showing the differences in behavioural internet usage by age range. The results confirm that those born in the age of social media are far more likely to turn to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for help and advice than they are to visit a company website.  Web pages which once had a monthly and in some cases yearly shelf life, just can't keep pace with the immediate need for answers that visitors now have.

This all means that knowing your target audience is key when defining how your website looks and the content it contains.  You can start by answering three simple questions, as you try to put yourself into your customers shoes.

1. What key problem is the visitor trying to solve or which burning question do they need to answer?  
This might be as simple as finding the phone number, address or opening hours of your company if you're aiming at generation X.

2. Does your website tell visitors who you are and what you do?
Do the colours used engage or distract?  Are you expecting your visitor to read text or providing the simplicity of a video? Does it load quickly and function correctly whether it's viewed on a tablet or a mobile or a laptop? (try it).

3. Are you making it simple for visitors to find what they need?
Each page of your website should have one clear call to action.  Make it easy for the visitor to do what you want them to do.  How many times have you clicked a link for a particular offer only to find yourself on the homepage scrambling around to find the offer all over again?  Equally, if a discount code can be applied, take visitors not only to that page, but preferably pre-populate the discount code for them as well. 

There are loads of great articles on designing your website from your customers point of view. These are some of my current favourites

What does your website do to bridge the generation gap?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

7 ways to be a better tweep (twitter user) today

Every felt like you're tweeting in slow motion? Or that the rest of the twittersphere knows something you don't?  Here are a few tips you can follow today to make you look like an expert, even if you're still learning on the job.

1. Decide why you're on twitter

I know this sounds like a no brainer, but often I hear people say they're on twitter because they feel they have to be, rather than through any particular plan to engage potential customers, build a brand, share ideas, gather news - the possibilities are endless.  Having a purpose in mind, directs who you follow, what you tweet and how much time you need to devote to this addictive little tool.  What's yours?

2. Make your twitter presence visible

How many people know that you're on twitter?  If your twitter name doesn't appear on your business card, email signature, website, LinkedIn page, voicemail message etc. etc. etc. then you're missing some great opportunities.  Helping people to know you're there also adds a little personal pressure to keep your twitter stream active .....

3. Be more interesting

This is a note to self as much as anything else, but tweeting about the same old subjects in the same old way, can take all the fun out of twitter. Broaden your horizons, look for trending topics (change country for even more variety), or search for complementary ideas that are likely to be interesting to your followers.  The more you inform, engage and entertain, the more your following will grow.

4. Rerun past tweets

Twitter is more like TV than blogging. People don't tend to read a twitter stream from beginning to end, so you shouldn't be afraid to intersperse your new tweets, with old ones.  Good content is always worth revisiting and if you don't recycle once in a while, your newest followers won't get the full benefit of your tweeting skills.  Rerun your best tweets, but not so often that you sound like a broken record. Not sure what your best tweets are? Take a look at My Top Tweet.

5. Aim for retweets

It's not about how many followers you have, but rather how much they value your input. Getting a retweet is like an endorsement.  It shows that others agree with your stance enough to share it with their followers.  This is how authority is built. Think about how and what you like to retweet and fill your stream with similar nuggets.  Hubspot have a great post on how to get retweets.

6. Use hashtags

Hashtags (which look like this # - see the trend boxes above for ideas), let twitter know what your tweet is about and help categorise it for others to find. If you type a word or phrase into the twitter search box and prefix it with a hashtag, you'll see who's talking about a particular topic and that can help you decide on the conversations you'd like to join. My own rule of thumb is no more than two hashtags per tweet - more makes it difficult to read.

7. Fake it 'til you make it

Part of the joy of this social media world is knowing that we're all still learning.  Like any new skill, the more you practise the better you'll be and there's a wealth of information out there to help you.  Here are some of my favourites.

Enjoy, oh and follow me on twitter @vlindsay.