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Blog Tips from ProBlogger Guest Contributors

A Social Media Etiquette Guide You Might Find Useful

This is a guest contribution from Jennifer Landry.

What do you think of when you hear the word etiquette?

For most people, the term conjures up images of a relative telling them to chew with their mouth closed, or to take their elbows off the table. So what does it mean when it’s applied to social media?

In general terms, etiquette is a set of guidelines on how to behave properly around other people. While you might not have face-to-face interaction with all of your followers, the way you present yourself online directly affects people’s opinion of your brand. You might be surprised at the amount of companies, even the big ones, that don’t quite understand this simple fact and have posted inappropriate updates that made light of important events or misused certain hashtags. The simplest way to avoid this problem is to read over your posts before pressing publish. If you think it could somehow be misconstrued or you’re not sure what the hashtag means, it’s best to simply not post the update.

While you might know the basics of presenting yourself on social networks, you might not realize that there is a set of more nuanced etiquette rules for each of the different platforms. The infographic below outlines these unspoken rules for the most popular social networks. While not a complete list, it can help set the groundwork for how to post and interact with your audience.

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Jennifer Landry is a writer/journalist living in Malibu, California. 

How You Can Make Your Writing Twice as Fast by Making It 3x More Time-Consuming; Wait, What?!

This is a guest contribution from Karol K. You can read the first post in this series “The Power of TK in Content Writing and How it Can Help You” here.

Imagine yourself in the following scenario…

It’s a normal Tuesday and you decide to write a blog post. You start confidently with a blank screen, and after a minute or so, the first sentence is ready. But almost immediately there’s a problem.

“No, this doesn’t sound right,” you start thinking, so you correct a couple of words and read it back again. “Okay, this is better!”

Now you can†proceed to†the next sentence.

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Does this sound like you?

More importantly, do you see anything wrong with this scenario?

(Hint: the answer is yes.)

The big problem here is that trying to write and edit at the same time†results only in†prolonging the whole content creation process significantly.

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Better solution?

1) Write first.

2) Edit later.

3) Proofread even after that.

Yep, crafting a quality blog post is†a three-part process. And the absolute best solution is doing each part on a separate day.

Although it sounds counterintuitive (after all, why take three days to write a post if you can do it in just one), it does work. And it works exceptionally well.

Here’s why.

Writing and editing are two extremely different activities. Writing is 80 percent (give or take) creativity and 20 percent craftsmanship. Editing is the opposite.

Now, trying to do both at the same time forces you to switch between two different mindsets multiple times over. And even though you might be effective at each individual activity (editing or writing), it’s the switching that takes time, confuses you and costs you energy.

You will always be much more effective and much faster focusing on just one kind of task at a time.

Granted, I know that it’s much easier said than done and that editing as we write is a huge temptation. It feels like a†natural thing to do, even though it works against us. So here are 3†hacks†to help you write in peace, not disturbed by any editing urges:

1)

Don’t go back to re-read what you’ve just written. It’s a soft form of limiting your creativity and it slows you down significantly. Even if you end up writing the same paragraph twice by accident, it’s still something you can fix during the editing phase.

2)

Make†the red spellcheck underline your friend. The underlined words shouldn’t annoy you. They should be a testament to your creative method of†writing! Don’t correct them right away.

3)

Backspace is the one forbidden key on the†keyboard. Don’t erase, just write.

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At the end of the day, I guarantee that you will be much more satisfied having written two unedited 1000-word articles, than ending up with†just one edited article†that’s 800 words.

Or am I wrong?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance writer, published author, founder of NewInternetOrder.com and a blogger at Bidsketch.com (delivering some cool freelance blogging and writing tools, advice and resources just like what you’re reading now). Whenever he’s not working, Karol likes to spend time training Capoeira and enjoying life.

Stat-Driven Tips on How to Pitch to Big-Name Publishers in Your Niche

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This is a guest contribution from Wil of Startup Bros.

What’s the best way to pitch a content idea to the big players in your niche? What do today’s top publishers look for in a contribution? Many of today’s biggest influencers get hundreds of pitches every week. How do you stand out from the crowd?

It’s a tough question to answer unless you’re the one who’s doing the sifting. So, the folks over at Fractl went straight to the horse’s mouth to find out what separates the good enquiries from the bad. After surveying 500+ industry-leading publishers, writers and editors over the course of three months, they found several interesting trends. As you continue reading, you’ll find out specific, stat-driven dos and don’ts to keep in mind during your next pitch.

Publishers Love Market Research

What should you write about? Fractl’s study showed that 39% of publishers put a premium on market research, especially if it’s exclusive. That means you should either put your own spin on somebody else’s study (like what we’re doing right now) or write about research that you’ve personally done. Doing your own market research is actually easier than you might think. Once you come up with some questions you want to answer, here are a couple ideas to get reliable data:

  • Ask your email list or social following to complete a survey about an interesting industry trend.
  • Do the same thing, but using a crowdsourcing tool like mTurk or Google Surveys.

There are two big R’s to remember when writing about market research – Relevant and Recent. For example, you wouldn’t expect to publish your research findings about people’s favorite new restaurant chain on TechCrunch. Similarly, you wouldn’t expect SEOmoz to publish yet another “10 Reasons You Should Be Doing SEO” post.

Make Your Contribution Easy to Digest

Fractals study shows that publishers like content that’s easy to absorb. For articles, that means that you should write with plenty of white space. Use bold and descriptive subtitles so that readers can get your message without consuming every single word of your content. Better yet, incorporate graphics or imagery into your contribution. Fractl’s study shows that non-text contributions are becoming more and more important. Over 36% of published pitches feature some form of mixed media, whether that’s an infographic, data visualization or something else.

Publishers Want You to Collaborate

This one is actually a bit surprising. It turns out that almost all top-tier publishers want to work with you to develop your contribution.

  • 70% of publishers want you to pitch an idea, not a finished piece.
  • Only 30% will consider publishing a finished article, and even then they’re picky.

For each publication you target, come up with three or four different ideas you can pitch them. This gives your publishers a sense of ownership because they’re participating in the creation of your content. Warning!You shouldNEVER mass-pitch a contribution to lots of places at once. That’s a good way to get your email address relegated to the junk folders of the top publishers in your niche.

When & How to Pitch Top Publishers

When and how do publishers like to be pitched? Fractl’s study turned up some interesting trends:

  • 81% of publishers want you to pitch by email.
  • 69% prefer to respond to enquiries in the morning.
  • Shockingly, only 9% of publishers respond to pitches made through social media.
  • Less than 1% of publishers want you to call them with your pitch… The rest adamantly hate phone calls.

In addition to never pitching over the phone, you should also avoid pitching during holidays. Unsurprisingly, most publishers don’t read pitches they get during their time off work.

How to Write Your Enquiry

By now you know what to write about, what type of content today’s publishers want, when and how to pitch your idea… Now all you need to know is how to write your actual enquiry email. Fractl’s study turned up a few surprising trends you can incorporate into your next pitch:

Subject Line Matters Most – 85% of publishers open or delete an email pitch based on its subject line, so this is the most important part of your pitch. Ideally you want your email’s subject line to be descriptive and engaging using only 6 – 10 words.

Keep it Short & Sweet – Once they’ve opened your email, 85% of publishers want to read a brief pitch of less than 200 words. Don’t waste time buttering them up or assuring them that their readers will love your post… Introduce yourself, make your pitch and get out. Your idea should be so intriguing that 200 words is all it takes.

Good Grammar or Go Home – This shouldn’t need to be said, but Fractl’s study revealed just how important it is. Apparently, 9 out of 10 publishers will instantly delete a pitch if they find spelling or grammar errors. So, triple-check your enquiry email before you hit the send button.

What Can You Do With These Stats?

Fractl’s study makes it clear that behind the big names are normal people with likes and dislikes just like you and me. If you give them what they want, they’ll return the favor. With these stats, you don’t have to be nervous or afraid to pitch the biggest publications in your industry.

You now have the knowledge you need to stand out from the crowd and cultivate mutually beneficial connections with the leaders in your niche. Now go out and start pitching!

My name is Will, and I’m a young entrepreneur and marketer living in Tampa, FL. You can learn more about me from the StartupBros About Page.

The Language of Selling – Are You Using It?

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This is a guest contribution from Richard Akhmerov.

Benefits, benefits, benefits. We’ve all heard that benefits sell, not features. Create needs, not wants. But this is all rehashed information. And no amount of reading will make you better at the following if you don’t practice it by trying.

But there is one thing missing from all of this marketing talk. And it has to do with the epicenter of marketing and copywriting. What creates the language of selling, and how does it work?

The language of selling is not a single language. In fact, every product, idea or service has a different language for selling. In order to find out the language your product is using, you need to live the product. But there are a few ways to make this easier to understand…

You can activate the language of selling by finding out the core buying emotions used with prospects of the product or service.

This can be accomplished in multiple ways. The most important thing to do is listen. Any category most likely has a forum associated with it. Whether it’s car parts, video games, weight loss, relationships, etc…

To find out the core buying emotions, you need to learn the language of these prospects. By surrounding yourself with prospects, you have the ability to listen to the way they talk, the way they discuss their problems, and the way they feel about certain subjects.

This is gold.

Few marketers go to these steps to find out what their prospects ACTUALLY want. Most marketers will sit there and guess as to how their prospects will react. This isn’t a powerful tactic, and will not generate huge results for your marketing efforts.

Remember, forums aren’t the only place to find networks. You can join Facebook groups, watch Youtube videos and read the comments, or go to established sites with a following.

Your prospects are located in the comments. And by reading them, you will quickly gain an understanding of what they’re looking for.

If you go on a tech site like Engadget or Gizmodo, you can quickly discover what is lacking from a certain product. These customers know what they want and what they’re looking for, unfortunately, few big companies spend the extra time to hear out their customer’s needs.

But it is all right there in front of our eyes. And this applies to any subject and any product.

For example, let’s say that you have a product in the weight loss category. You can visit more established websites and go through the articles. Most articles will have a comment section below…

Read the comments, and see how the customers react. You WILL find problems that are addressed but never solved. Here is your chance to change that by incorporating it into your product.

Find out the needs of your customers and solve them. Use their language to connect with them. Now you have a winner.

Richard Akhmerov is from Devore Agency, you can learn more great information by visiting the website.

Top Five Things to Learn from the Greggs vs Google Twitter Debacle

This is a guest contribution from Mark Potter.

Greggs is the UK’s largest bakery chain, famed for its sausage rolls and steak bakes. They have always enjoyed a strong social media presence, winning a Digital Impact Award in 2013 for a ‘Sandwich Maker’ Facebook app.

As a relatively low-budget food chain, they are a popular target for online abuse. As a result, they have already developed a robust strategy for dealing with complaints and controversy:

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Things turned particularly sour in August, when the Google algorithm accidentally replaced the official Greggs logo with a highly offensive fake version. The gaffe spread like wildfire across the internet, and the Greggs Twitter account was rapidly inundated with tweets.

However, the social media team kept their cool, and handled the crisis with aplomb. Almost 300 tweets and a new hashtag later, the correct logo was restored – and Greggs had emerged as a Twitter champion.

Here are some tips on handling a crisis on Twitter, as demonstrated by the social media team at Greggs:

Rise Above It

The whole internet is teeming with trolls, but Twitter is a particularly virile breeding ground. Although many people sympathised with the situation, Greggs was also subjected to a fair amount of abuse.

When Twitter catastrophe strikes, never stray from the Golden Rule – DON’T FEED THE TROLLS. Hitting back with an angry retort can only ever backfire, making a bad situation worse. Make like Greggs by responding in a polite, classy manner – or simply don’t reply at all.

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Crack a Joke

Twitter partly revolves around competitive comedy – the accounts with the funniest tweets often have more followers. Therefore, humour can be one of the best ways to divert a Twitter crisis.

However, before making light of a disaster, you should always use discretion. In some situations, comedy is inappropriate – as many brands soon discovered during Hurricane Sandy.

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Hire an Expert

Twitter disasters are occasionally brought about by the company itself – as with McDonald’s ill-conceived #McDStories. However, as Greggs discovered, crises can also be caused by external forces. These unpredictable situations are perhaps the most dangerous, as many companies don’t have the resources in place to deal with them.

If social media forms a large part of your marketing plan, you should hire a professional social media consultant to manage your online image. As many people noted during the Greggs debacle, they’re worth their weight in gold when disaster strikes.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Ellen’s infamous Oscars selfie is currently the most retweeted message in the history of Twitter. This highlights the importance of imagery on social media. Pictures are far more likely to be shared by followers, and are therefore invaluable to social media marketing campaigns.

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As Greggs demonstrated, pictures can also prove helpful during a disaster. This simple shot cost next to nothing, yet received an incredible 83 retweets and 589 favourites – making it one of the most successful tweets Greggs has ever posted.

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A follow-up tweet, posted when the correct logo had been restored, garnered a similar number of favourites and retweets:

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Monitor for Mentions

It goes without saying that you should reply to direct questions and comments on Twitter. Throughout the crisis, the official Greggs account was inundated with questions and comments – and each one was met with an appropriate response.

However, not every tweet about the situation was directed at Greggs. The social media team was forced to go a step further, proactively ‘butting in’ to other people’s conversations about the debacle.

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If you have an online presence, sign up for a monitoring service such as Google Analytics or Topsy. These automatically scour the web for brand mentions, notifying you when people are discussing your company online. If you see a comment – whether defamatory or positive – about your business, you will be poised to reply and set the record straight.

No two Twitter debacles are the same. However, by studying the reactions of different companies to their own crises, you will be able to respond effectively when disaster comes knocking at your own door.

This article was written by Mark Potter of Namecheap.com, a leading ICANN accredited domain registrar and web host.

How Blogging In College Got Me My First Job

This is a guest contribution from PR specialist Caitlin Dodds.

I remember sitting alone in the airport with three hours to kill before my flight to Madrid. Squirming on the hard plastic chairs at my boarding gate with my laptop perched on my knees, I typed my first post on my new study abroad blog.

You know the saying, “the rest is history”? Well, that cold January day is a big part of where I am today because my little study abroad blog helped determine my career and land my first job. Here’s how I did it.

Getting Started with my Travel Blog

All my friends that had spent time in Europe kept blogs that were updated every few weeks with a snapshot of their crazy jet-setter lifestyle. But as their semesters progressed, updates got shorter and less frequent. I loved writing, and I jumped at the chance to blog about something exciting.

I set up my WordPress blog, customized the layout, learned how to use widgets, set up category pages and everything else that mattered. I obsessed over themes, the tagline for the blog, and the ‘about me’ page.

I didn’t know how much time I would have to write but week after week while my friends’ updates became few and far between, I stayed up late writing detailed recaps of life in Spain, the trips I took, the people I met, the food I ate, etc. I was obsessed with editing, picking the perfect pictures, writing, rewriting, and editing posts to perfection. When I discovered WordPress built-in analytics, “stats,” I was hooked. I loved seeing where my readers were coming from (all over the world!) and what brought them to my blog.

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All these things got me thinking – I was studying for a marketing degree, but hadn’t figured out what to do yet. I had friends that worked in web development and SEO and I was sort of interested in Internet marketing. I loved managing my blog, so why shouldn’t I try to blog (or at least write) full time?

Turning My Blog Into a Resume Piece

When I returned to Grove City College for my senior year, my Content Marketing professor encouraged me to use my blog for the final project. He had me expand the blog and turn it into a travel resource for students trying to study abroad on the cheap. He challenged me to find ways to monetize what I loved and apply SEO strategies to it.

In the Spring I was taking a class in SEO and job searching for digital marketing jobs that would allow me to write for a living. Through a friend of a friend, I found a position in Lancaster, Pennsylvania at Web Talent Marketing, a digital marketing agency. I applied for the position and to prove my experience – I sent the hiring manager a link to my blog with a short snapshot of it’s stats, growth, and success. Within hours I had a voicemail asking me for a phone interview. When I went to visit the company and interview, I was able to use my blog for specific examples of things I had done, the knowledge I had of content marketing, and my writing ability. I was able to talk about the type of promotion I did for it, how I tweaked blog posts to perform better, and how I used analytics to determine the content my audience liked best. I had a job offer within three days.

If you’re blogging full-time, or maybe just part-time, and in the market for another job, don’t underestimate how you can leverage your blogging experience to land that job!

Here’s how my personal blog made me more marketable:

1. It helped me stand out in a competitive job market of college grads because I could market it as “real life experience.”
2. I could showcase my writing ability in a fun and engaging way.
3. I gained experience in the number one CMS platform, WordPress, and proved I could implement technical changes on a blog for SEO.
4. It demonstrated my ability to analyze content through statistics and use that data to improve my content for increased visits, dwell time, and engagement.

I’ve used my blogging experience to help my clients maintain better blogs and succeed in content marketing. I even became one of the first members of our PR team and have helped grow Web Talent’s SEO blog by being a top contributor every month.

I’m not blogging for myself on a regular basis anymore, and I’m nowhere near monetizing my efforts. Still, I know that having that blog during my time in Spain is the reason I have my job and career, and who knows? Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to monetize my personal blog.

Caitlin Dodds is an Online PR Specialist for Web Talent Marketing with a focus on content marketing and social media. She enjoys blogging in her spare time and tweeting at @caitlinjdodds

 

Your Blog as Part of an Overarching Business Strategy

This is a guest contribution from Sabina Stoiciu.

So you have a business blog (you DO have a blog for your business, yes?). Well it’s a great decision, and a decision that is growing in popularity. In a 2012 HubSpot study, 62% of respondents claimed to run a company blog. A number which has consistently grown from 52% back in 2009.

Business blogging stat

Today is also not the first time somebody tells you a blog will bring several advantages to your business. You’ve heard professionals tell you that writing blog posts gives you the opportunity to leverage the human side of your business. Or to showcase your products a little bit more, all while still offering value to your readers and not just babbling advertising copy.

What I’m telling you now is that your company blog should be a piece in your overall business puzzle, that perfectly fits among the other pieces. Your blog is not just the place where you write something for someone. It’s a place where you engage with your audience. On the other hand, your blog is also the place where you can run a marketing action, like a contest for your customers and potential clients. And the functions of your blog as part of your overall strategy don’t stop here – bear with me, the full list is coming.

So, your blog fulfills the role of…

1. Branding

As stated above, your company blog is the place where you write about yourself. About who you are, what you do and why you do it. And perhaps even why you do it better than others. But beware: the catch here is that you have to tell a story, not to repeat the corporatist, stiff copy you traditionally display about your company. Get emotional, be honest and be relevant – that’s what your readers are looking to see. Give your business that human touch we are all attracted to. And most important, try to put yourself in the shoes of your audience: what would you like to read about on a company blog? I’ll bet my lunch that it’s not an advertising catalog or a constant “look how awesome we are”.

If you want to be relevant for your readers, and even become an industry resource, always offer more than expected. Add that plus of value people will come back for over and over. That means that besides posts talking about you (in a moderated way, of course), you should strive to extend your content towards covering more general, yet still related industry topics. Have a look at the Hootsuite blog for example. In case you didn’t know, Hootsuite is a social media management service you can use to easily handle your social networks. On their blog, they not only speak about Hootsuite features or company updates, but also about more general topics, such as how to publish articles on LinkedIn or what a social media manager should check off their daily to do list. You see, while the posts are somewhat related to Hootsuite (it’s their blog, after all), the content exceeds their own functionality and becomes more useful to readers.

 

2. Presenting your products

Yes, I did say that your company blog shouldn’t be an advertising catalog. And I stick to that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your product or service. The tweak lies in doing this from a more objective point of view. Don’t be all braggy about how great your product is. Instead, think of advanced ways of using it to maximize the user’s experience with it. For example, if you sell ice cream machines, spare your readers from hundreds of words from the technical jargon. Delight them with ice cream recipes they can try while using your ice cream machines, and you will give them a reason to keep reading your content.

Furthermore, you can help customers and potential clients get a deeper understanding of your product by surrounding it with scenarios or real use cases of it. For example, at 123ContactForm (the company I work for – an online form and survey builder), we do run a blog  where we try to imagine all kinds of use cases for various form types, so that our customers can see the full potential of a form they’d like to use. Along with this, we aim at shedding light upon other apps and tools that are around, which people may see fit for their own business use.

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3. Showcasing your activity, accomplishments and campaigns

A blog tells a story. Like a fairy tale, where the main character is born in a far away kingdom, raised by fairies, exposed to magic challenges, and eventually defeats the evil, your company also goes to different life stages and experiences. Along the road, it might meet a new partner, open a new business unit, change its appearance, gain special prizes or run awesome CSR campaigns. All these tiny parts of what represents your company’s identity and existence are great blog material, as they put together an unique story: the one of your company.

Don’t forget to add characters to your story. What’s a fairy tale without Prince Charming? Or without the enchanting princess? Your company’s staff is definitely part of the company’s story. Whether their individual personality comes to life in collective posts about your team, in writers’ bio boxes or in single presentation posts about a team member, this kind of content helps you show the human face of your company.

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4. Liaison between your business’ website, social media channels and other communication channels

A blog is a valuable asset for a business, since it is part of your overall strategy. Picture it as a link within a chain, where each link is strongly tied to its neighbours, and where you can’t take one link out, unless you destroy the chain.

The company blog has the power to establish a connection and link other communication channels you use within your business. How come? Well, think of how your social media icons are displayed on your blog, letting readers get to your company’s social accounts or share your blog content via social media. In a similar way, remember you can (or quite should) share your posts across your social media channels. Further on, your blog and company website are also linked, as each one of them refers to the other. This way, visitors can bounce from your official presentation site to your story telling corner and back.

In terms of content and its connection to your blog and other channels, remember that you should keep the content coherent. Each piece of it should form a part of the whole ensemble, and you should not ignore the proper tone for each channel. For example, your website presents a product in a more promotional, professional way. The blog adds a story to it. Social media then completes it with rich media and short, but strong messages.

5. Interaction with your audience

Just like other channels, your company blog is a communication tool. Customers and prospects can use it to get in touch with your company, whether they ask you about a product or feature, they engage on a topic you talk about, or solicit you some general advice you could help them with.

Don’t hesitate to engage back with them, answer them, challenge them to talk to you, so that you can strengthen your relationship to them. This can happen through your blog post content, your post comments, as well as through a contact form you may be using.

6. Feedback gathering

Don’t underestimate the power of your blog as a feedback tool, unless you want valuable data to get passed by you.

You have three options to harvest feedback on your blog:

  • specifically ask for it using a dedicated tool, such as a feedback form you share within a blog post (see a feedback form template here)
  • look at direct reactions of your readers in the post comments or messages coming through the contact form or social media comments
  • read between the lines, meaning you can look at Analytics, social media shares, likes and comments count, in order to observe your audience’s behavior and get an idea about their attitude towards you.

After you’ve received your feedback, it’s time to draw the conclusions and, based on them, take the necessary actions. There have been cases where people or companies were asking their audience for feedback, the latter offered it, and the ones asking failed at doing something with that feedback. So basically their effort was in vain. Don’t forget to implement your feedback as much as possible, whether it’s aimed at your blog content, product suggestions or ideas for your company.

7. customer care

7. Customer care aid

We’ve cleared this one off the myth list: your company blog is not just about you, but about your customers and prospects too. That means there will be times when your blog might turn into a customer service aid. Clients might stop by to read your content and then suddenly remember they needed assistance with something related to what they’ve read. And if they are already there, they will probably drop a comment that is directed towards your customer care team. Thus, this is how the blog can help readers solve their problems.

As it’s best practice to let customers and prospects speak to you through whatever channel they prefer, handling customer care matters on your blog will eventually add to your to do list. But wait: you can turn this into an advantage. Namely, other readers will see the responses too if you offer them in the comments section. Hence, if they have the same problem, they will find a ready made answer. Moreover, you can select common customer inquiries and turn them into detailed blog posts.

8. Running marketing actions – (contests, giveaways, announce special offers, etc)

As a place where you have the opportunity to present more in-depth content, your blog is a proper medium for hosting an online contest, a giveaway, or for announcing special campaigns. Since you won’t probably update your website as often as you do your blog, the latter is a good destination for hosting some of your marketing actions, also allowing a more interactive approach from users. Readers can engage through comments, see what others posted, and even reply.

Contests and giveaways can represent effective ways to entice your audience, so you should definitely give them a try if you haven’t up to now. Just think about a topic for your contest, or something to offer for free in your giveaway. Establish participation guidelines and think of the submission mechanics. Something like a contest entry form can help you in registering all people willing to take part in your marketing action, also offering an overview on all submissions. Or you can ask people to participate through blog comments or through engaging on another communication channel, such as social media.

9. Running marketing research

Besides marketing actions, you can use your blog for the purpose of administering a marketing research form at some point. Along with the research that concludes from what your readers tell you through comments, you can specifically ask them certain questions useful to you within a market research action.

Keep it short, though. Unless incentivized (as offered to enter the chance to win something by filling out your research form), and perhaps even then, people dislike never-ending surveys. A tool that might help you conduct a structured market research on a topic or some key point you’re after is a market research survey. You can find a template here if you would like to adapt and use it. Like with the feedback you are asking for, be careful to effectively make use of the data the research provides you with.

10. Lead gathering

We’ve reached the final point in our list: your blog can help you with getting new leads for your business. While this alone shouldn’t be your goal when running a blog, you may take it into consideration along with offering great content to your readers.

All the points I mentioned above can conduct to gaining new leads. People that leave a comment, prospects who fill out your contact form, readers who take part in your contest or your giveaway, or who subscribe to the blog newsletter to get fresh content from you – they can all represent leads for your company. If you take good care of them, they might even convert to paying customers. So don’t neglect this role of your blog, but focus more on the value you deliver to your audience.

What about you? Can you relate to any of these roles above, supposing you run a company blog? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.

Sabina Stoiciu enjoys blogging, photography, traveling and finding ways of gathering and sharing relevant business knowledge. You can follow her on Twitter. She also writes for 123ContactForm, the online form and survey builder – try it for free.

How to Write Successful Emails (and Improve Open Rates)

SUCCESSFUL EMAILS

This is a guest contribution from Luke Guy.

Email is the key to a strong online presence. Like a binder to a book, so is the email list to blog/website. If used incorrectly, email marketing can destroy your business or it can build it into an empire. Strategy combined with creativity creates amazing profits and engagement.

What’s the best way to write successful emails? You must think as if you’re the receiving email user. What would you hope to see?

As an email user I look for emails that do one of the three if not all three:

 

  • Connect with me
  • Add value to my life
  • Helps me reach my goals

 

People think because of poor content, and scams, that email marketing will die. I have received my share of spam and marketing emails, but you know what? I’m still coming back. Why?  I’m waiting on the emails that change my life. Value and connection has never came any purer than through a simple email.

I’m willing to be spammed, get boring emails, and go through tons of junk just to get that one email from a friend or blog that will connect and enhance me with information that I need.

Think about it. The same thing happens to you, but you keep coming back. It’s like eating watermelon: it’s all good when you learn how to spit out the seeds.

So what’s the major reason why people have email?

 

  • Talk to a friend, or a business connection
  • Stay updated with the favorite blog
  • Get notified when you receive money
  • Know when a deal is being released. “A survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that people actually like emails based on previous shopping behaviors and preferences. In fact, 81% of US digital shoppers surveyed said they were at least somewhat likely to make additional purchases, either online or in a store, as a result of targeted emails” -Business2Community

All of this revolves around staying in the loop of some kind. People want to stay connected and updated on their interest. They want to keep a hot connection with the things they love. It’s the purpose of email. It’s more personalized and private compared to Facebook.

Facebook is great, but would you want Paypal to send public updates to you, letting you know how much money you received this month? No, that wouldn’t make sense at all. Is Facebook capable of sending personalized messages with your name in it from a Fanpage of 100,000? Nope.

So by using email to connect with your readers you could turn that list into your fanbase who’s dying to get your next email. And yes it can happen just like that.

Email is still the best when it comes to delivering private and personal information. Therefore email is the way in keeping the connection constant, private, and strong. Email can either make this happen, or make you look spammy.

So what’s something you shouldn’t do in an email?

One thing, never be general. Quit talking about the ways of nature and the purpose of life when people joined the list to learn about SEO. It’s okay to slip personal things within your email, that’s great! But make sure the point is still SEO-related in every email.

Second, once you’ve made your point, end the email. Never gab just to gab. Connect with your reader, and deliver the goods.

Third, if your email address says [email protected], it’s giving off bad signal. You’re emailing them, but they can’t email you back? You’re not about connecting when you do this and I believe these addresses shouldn’t exist for any blog unless it’s a notifier of some sort.

I’ve heard Gmail has a new filter system, could it hurt my open rates?

Just in case you’re not aware, Gmail now filters all emails based on key factors. So if you don’t make the cut, your open rates could sink if you don’t land into the Primary Tab. I talk more about this here.

No matter how sincere you are with the reader, if Gmail doesn’t like your email, your open rates are going down. Some feel like this filtering system will not affect their open rates because Gmail isn’t the largest email provider.

That was true a few years, but not anymore.

According to Gigaom, Gmail dominated the world market of email and broke the tie with Hotmail back in 2012. Gmail has over 425 million monthly users as of 2012 (last update by Google). So if you’re seeing low open rates, the Gmail filters could be why.

What are things you can do to improve open rates with Gmail?

By adhering to the Gmail’s filter system, it could raise your open rates. By making simple tweaks, it could increase open rates by leaps and bounds.

For Example:

I once performed a case study of my own  in my article The #1 Reason Why Your Email Open Rates Are Diving. And within that article I discovered one little thing that was hurting most businesses who used email. I examined over 640 emails, in my case study, and found something quite interesting.

FACT: 98% of emails that were sent to the Promotional Tab had a header.

FACT: 95% of my Primary Emails had no header. (Excluding sites like Paypal and Disqus)

So by simply removing the header it could help increase open rates. The reason being is because most headers have companies brand within them. Which means that the message most likely will have a marketing agenda. Thus, Gmail sends you to the Promotional Tab.

Go figure.

So let’s say the header is removed but the email is full of marketing gimmicks. Does it still land in the primary tab of Gmail? Sometimes it does. But soon Gmail will find you and send you into other tabs. There are other things you must do to maintain a high open rate.

To increase your chances try the below:

  1. Create A Great Subject Line (64% of people say they open an email because of the subject line.) – Chadwick Martin Bailey
  2. Amazing Content With Call-To-Action
  3. Email Frequently (1-4 times a month)
  4. Personalize emails with name and relevant information This report by Experian Marketing Services shows that including personalized product recommendations into emails can generate a 20% increase in revenues.
  5. Hold the images and links I’d suggest no images and 2-3 links at the max.

By doing the technical aspects along with creative writing, your readers would become raving fans. Which is what you want.

So what does this look like? I once received an email from someone and it really impressed me. Look at it here:

Subject: How to Write Blog Posts That Generate Leads

Hey, I just wanted to share with you the latest Quick Sprout blog post. Let me know what you think.

How to Write Blog Posts That Generate Leads

Do you know why I started blogging back in 2006? It was to generate leads for my consulting company. And boy, did it work well.

It worked so well that for every three blog posts I wrote, I generated one new customer that paid $5,000 a month for one year. In essence, I was generating $20,000 for every blog post I wrote. [click to continue]

Thanks

Neil

To me this does the job. I may would try to connect more with the reader, but besides that this was straight to the point. He gave call-to-action, and he delivered content that blew me away. That article was amazing and I look forward to Neil’s email.

So there ya go! Implement this and see if you’re open rates, profits, and engagements aren’t soaring!

Luke Guy blogs at Lukeguy.com. He researches email marketing and how to grow businesses doing it. He talks about other things but usually it involves emailing. If you need further help with your email challenges, you can join him here!

The Power of “TK” in Content Writing (and How it Can Help You)

Sometimes blogging is just slooooww…

If you’ve ever been struggling (painfully) to write a couple of paragraphs that would make sense, only to find yourself with 400 words after two hours of effort then you know what I mean.

There can be many reasons why this is possibly your reality at the moment.

Maybe it’s just not your day.

d1

Maybe you have some kind of a
writer’s block.

d2

But maybe you’re just
slowing yourself down
by getting hung up
on a missing word
for minutes at a time.

Yep, maybe that’s the case …

But the problem here is that
it’s against human nature
to leave blank spaces
or to keep writing when there’s clearly a word or phrase missing.

We – humans – just don’t like such [_ gaps _]!

d3

This is where
the concept of “TK”
comes into play.

It’s the oldest trick in the book that all of our journalist friends have known for ages (shush!).

In short, TK stands for “to come.”

Here’s how to use it :

Whenever you have a word missing
(any word, verb, noun, specific name) …

… put “TK” in its place
and keep writing like nothing ever happened …

… With some practice, this will allow you
to continue going forward
without breaking your flow.

Some examples:
(1) “There are tons of people who TK at blogging because they took too much TK upon themselves.” (2) “You can get such functionality with a plugin like TK.” (3) “It performs a number of checks against things like TK, TK, and a lot of other stuff.”

d3

Then, once you’re done writing,
you can go back to every instance of TK
and replace it with the actual word or phrase.

“But wait a minute, ‘to come’ is TC!” You say.

Right, but the combination of
the letters “T” and “K”
is much more practical
as it almost doesn’t occur
in the English language
naturally.

Therefore, when you’re going through your piece
during the editing phase,
searching for every TK
won’t get you any false positives
.

d3

How about you? Do you TK much?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance writer, published author, founder of NewInternetOrder.com and a blogger at Bidsketch.com (delivering some cool freelance blogging and writing tools, advice and resources just like what you’re reading now). Whenever he’s not working, Karol likes to spend time training Capoeira and enjoying life.