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15 Quick and Easy Productivity Super-Hacks for Busy Bloggers

This is a guest contribution from Pooja Lohana.

Let’s face it.

As a blogger, you have a knack to find just one more task that needs to be done. Now.

Then there are times when you just don’t feel like doing that pesky little task – the more you think about it, the more you imagine the worst, and the more you procrastinate.

No matter what your situation, here are 15 productivity hacks that really work, well if you only try them.

And the best part? You don’t have to follow through each one – pick the ones that best resonate with you and run with it.

Sound good?

Let’s get hacking.

15 Quick and Easy Productivity Super-Hacks for Busy Bloggers

1. Use email templates

As a blogger, I receive a ton of email each day. Some are from readers thanking me for a post. Some even have a specific question that needs answering.

Depending on the type of email you receive, you can create templates so replying doesn’t take too much of your time.

For example, if I receive a “thank you” email, I acknowledge their reply with a simple two-sentence email.

If it’s a question-email, I flag it using Gmail’s red exclamation flag to answer at a set day in the week.

All my email is filtered to one Gmail address, so I don’t have to keep checking countless inboxes (and avoid those cPanel logins too!)

Last but not the least, if you write a lot of email templates, stick to the 5-sentence rule.

Why 5 sentences? According to Guy Kawasaki, less than five is usually too curt for a response, and more than five wastes time. I agree.

Of course, not all my emails are 5-sentence long. However for templates, that strategy works like a charm.

Oh and one more thing – try turning your email window off in order to focus better.

When I keep my Gmail tab open in the background, a notification pops up each time a new email arrives.

Bam… There goes my focus down the drain.

I’ve since decided to turn off any distracting windows and only kept important tabs open. Over time, it has saved me hours.

 

2. Create an editorial calendar

Unless you’re Seth Godin, there will be days when you don’t have anyting to say, or don’t have the time to come up with a stellar topic idea.

The solution? Create a simple editorial calendar so you’re never short of ideas. Old-school 2-column excel sheet will do. Or you can go fancy-pants and try an app like Gather Content.

If the idea of a calendar sounds too stifling, try keeping a log of ideas in your WordPress backend.

That’s what blogger Sarah Wilson does – at any point, she has about 20 draft posts ready to be used. When inspiration strikes, she creates a simple draft and works on them overtime until they are ready to launch. Neat, eh?

 

3. Re-post your evergreen content

You don’t have to produce epic content every time. Dig into your archives to find “evergreen” posts – the type that stay fresh and timeless from season to season.

Examples of an evergreen post:

  • Long list posts
  • Case-studies
  • How-tos
  • Collaborated posts
  • Tutorials and guides

Since evergreen posts tend to be long, you can break them into smaller chunks and repurpose them as a PDF report, an audio freebie, or a Slideshare presentation.

Get creative and post new bite-sized, snackable content for your readers. This is especially a great hack for those slow days when you’re too busy to post on your blog or social media.

 

4. Automate sending out your content

Following up from the last hack, a smart strategy is to create a series of email autoresponders or teaser emails for your old blog posts.

That way, even if you don’t have anything new to say, you stay at the top of your readers’ minds and new subscribers on your list are fed with good content.

 

5. Take the shortcut to mobile-responsive

Did you know that 82% people use mobile phones to check emails these days? What’s more, 42% of your subscribers will delete your emails if they don’t show up well on their phones.

Bloggers, clearly it’s time to go mobile-responsive with your content.

But you don’t have to go on a template-designing spree or hire external help.

Email marketing service such as GetResponse offers ready-made one-click responsive templates, so you don’t have to worry about how your emails show up on a smartphone or tablet, therefore saving you a ton of time.

http://www.getresponse.com/

source: Get Response

 

6. Unsubscribe ruthlessly

I have a simple rule – if more than 30% of my incoming email is announcements and newsletters from other people’s lists, I go on an unsubscription spree.

Of course, with Gmail’s Promotions tab, life has become easier and I don’t have to necessarily do that any more.

But still, if you’re a lover of clean inbox and don’t read a lot of e-newsletters, try Unroll.me to unsubscribe a bazillion times faster.

 

7. Use If This Then That

IFTTT lets you “put the internet at work for you”. Basically, it’s an app to automate your online life.

You can set trigger events that are based on cause and effect relationship (if this, then that). The events + triggered actions together form IFTTT “recipes”.

As a recipe example, once you add a new article to read in Feedly, you also have it saved in your Dropbox folder.

IFTTT supports many “channels” such as Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Dropbox, Evernote, Bit.ly etc. that you can use in your recipes.

Source: IFTTT

Source: IFTTT

8. Don’t be afraid to delegate

Back when I started as an entrepreneur and blogger, I wanted to do everything to perfection.

I thought no one else could do all those tiny tasks on my list better than I, because no one understands my business as much as I do.

Big mistake!

Turns out, there are people who want to help you. For example, if you hate composing and scheduling a month’s worth of Facebook posts, there’s someone out there who loves that and is a pro at it.

Fiverr and FancyHands are two places to find that “special” someone.

Remember, you can’t go at full speed 24/7. Decide which tasks really need your attention and which ones can be outsourced. That’s a sign of a real superman – after all, he needed a sidekick too, right?

 

9. Do a Pomodoro

You’ve probably heard of a Pomodoro. It’s a simple productivity technique where you work for 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break. Since you “only” have 25 minutes to work, your brain can focus 100% as it creates a sense of urgency.

I use the Pomodoro Productivity app which has some neat settings to increase or decrease break times and sound settings. It also nicely syncs with your Google calendar to get a visual warning when a Pomodoro overlaps with an appointment.

 

10. Try Awareness

Awareness is another free and unique app that will play a Tibetan bowl “ding” every hour. It’s a gentle reminder to take a 5-minute break and get off that chair.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 12.56.49 pm

11. Use Awesome Screenshot

If you’re like me, you want to take multiple screenshots for every post you write.

Awesome Screenshot is a super-helpful app that sits as a Chrome extension and can save you a ton of time.

 

12. Manage your stuff with Trello

I’ve only recently started using Trello, and kicking myself because I’m so late to discover it.

You can create Trello cards for your to-do tasks, ideas you want to implement or known issues to be solved. You can track progress of each one as you go.

You can also use it for your editorial calendar.

Here’s an example of a Trello in progress.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 12.57.44 pm

13. Slam multitasking

Because it doesn’t work. Period.

One study even showed multi-tasking led to a loss of productivity by 40% because participants had to keep switching between tasks.

 

14. Chew gum

This one’s a weirdo in the list, but chewing gum leads to alertness and reduces occupational stress too.

 

15. Eat a banana

According to UCLA, a banana is great brain food that brings 25 grams of glucose (optimum) to your blood stream. Glucose is great to keep that active, productive, switched on state when you need it the most. Go bananas!

 

Your Turn!

You now have 15 super-hacks – some are easier than others. Now it’s your turn to take your pick.

Go, apply them and be a rockstar.

 

I know there are more super-hacks that I’ve missed. What’s your favourite?

Pooja Lohana is a freelance writer, ghost writer and online marketing mentor featured on Problogger, Firepole, JeffBullas, MarketingProfs, Hongkiat and more. If you’re an aspiring writer and want to become self-employed, create wealth and live a better life by launching your online writing biz, steal her free mini-course to make your first $1000 (and more) writing at home.

How Having a Strong Email List Can Land You Great Sponsorships

This is a guest contribution from email marketer Luke Guy.

How exactly do sponsors determine a price for ads on a blog? What would you consider the “golden standard” as for measuring how much a brand is worth or the size? There are many ways to do this. It’s important to know this so you can figure where to spend most of your time and building.

Here are general ways to determine brand size:

  1. Your follower numbers on social media
  2. Blog stas
  3. The size of your email list
  4. Social shares per article

These are the main ways sponsors determine on how much you’re worth, and the size of your brand, but which one should you focus most on? Coming from me, Luke Guy, you can almost guess, right? As you know, the email list is the best way to determine someone’s brand size.

I’ll explain why.

Social media with a large following was rare a few years ago, but now even grandma can have hundreds of thousands of followers. With it becoming so cheap now, you can buy fake followers for almost pennies. Many politicians are known for doing this to embellish the numbers -up to half of the followers have been known to be fake during presidential campaigns. So this is definitely not the way to measure someone’s brand size.

So what are other ways sponsors determine brand size?

Insights from the blog is a great way to measure traffic and to see how many people are viewing your blog. By simply taking a snapshot of your stats, you’d be revealing the traffic coming to your site. Gold, right?

Only thing is, the traffic numbers could change overnight. Let’s say you’re in a relationship with Google and it’s sending traffic to you like crazy. Your blog could be flooded at the time and things look really good. You bring home the amazing content and it sends you the traffic.  Such a beautiful relationship! But let’s say you burn the biscuits, forget the anniversary, or worse, you cheat with black hat SEO methods! Guess what? Google is leaving.  Your stats could drop overnight and you’re now seeing newbie traffic.

So yeah, I definitely wouldn’t depend on the stats of a blog alone. Even if it wasn’t based on Google, how could you guarantee these people would come back?

Keep reading.

Let’s go ahead and talk about the email list, is it the best way to determines ones size? I’d say it’s one of the greatest ways, if not THE best way to determine size. Why would I say that?

Well no one is going to buy 100k fake emails and then claim that as their list, you know how I know? That would cost $500 in Mailchimp fees per month. No one is going to go through that. No one would claim a list this size and it not be true. It would take one glimpse from the dashboard to convince the sponsors you mean business. Email list are the biggest way to convince sponsors.

Here’s something else to think about.

What is the best way to control traffic besides the email list? Besides paid ads, nothing. Also, what other way could you send a mass message and get 30-40% open rates? That’s 40,000 people who will be exposed to your message within hours (based on 100,000 email list). There’s no other way to control that kind of traffic. Organic search is super, don’t get me wrong, but that isn’t controlled. With the email list, you can control the how, when and where.

Combining All Three Is Best

If you have all three: Social Media, Email List, and Blog Stats. Why not reveal all three? The best way to get brand size is to combine all three of these. I know this. But if that email list is small and weak looking, the Facebook following of 50k isn’t looking very good right now, does it? Looks very fishy actually. So the email list brings credibility and the rest sweetens the deal.

By building your list, you’re showing your sponsors who you are and what you’re capable of. The size of your list is also the best way to catch eyes when applying for sponsors for your blog. So let me encourage you and start building that list. Make it a profit journey and learn how to grow that list while making money. Many ways to do this, but the biggest way is to simply use that traffic and send it to your site. Then from that site sell your services, do affiliate marketing, or my least favorite – adsense ads.

Ways to grow the list:

  1. Guest post and offer something downloadable (requiring opt-in).
  2. Try to talk with 5 people (via email) a day about your niche. Have your signature ready with a link to your opt-in.
  3. Include opt-in boxes on every page and post of your blog.
  4. Create an eBook that requires opt-in.
  5. Create a free program that requires email like Sumome.
  6. Talk about why people should join on social media

View 26 Ways To Grow Your Email List Like A Boss to get more ideas.

There’s one thing I know, and that’s people love to download things. It’s just in us to love this kind of thing. Another tool in my utility belt is how I see it. So offer something free like a plugin, program, or a series of educational emails, and start building the list!

When you give good reasons why people should download your free program (email required) the more likely they will. If it’s actually helpful, it won’t be long before you’re collecting emails automatically on a huge scale. Which is game changer.

But why go through this?

By building that relationship and collecting emails you’re building traffic. You do this by sending content-filled emails their way. You’re not pitching sales balls at them four times a week. Your sending them content-filled, and helpful emails. Send something amazing. By building this relationship you’re getting referrals and more sign-ups. The more sign-ups you get, the more traffic you can control and send your way. Once you your traffic get’s to a size, they will buy products from that site. All this can happen before the big sponsorship. So like I say, grow the list while making money. The more helpful you become, the more people will talk about you, the larger the list becomes.

So focus on that list and grow it like a boss. Get sponsored.

Luke Guy blogs at Lukeguy.com. He researches email marketing and loves to write about it. If you need further help with your email challenges, you can join him here! Or even hire him here to write for you. He has been featured on Search Engine Journal, Smart Passive Income, Jeff Bullas, Convince & Convert and a few others.

 

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.

Imprimir

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.

d3

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.

d3

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.

d3

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?

BEAUTY

 

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:

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 12.47.55 pm

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:

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 12.51.37 pm

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.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 12.52.15 pm

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.