Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Power Of Native Content

Content marketing has evolved from a pre-occupation with quantity to content excellence. This transformation came by through the realisation that much of the published content was missing the bull’s eye. It became clear that creating content for content’s sake is counter-productive and a waste of golden opportunities to connect with the target audience.

Content needs to resonate with the audience and one way to do this is by making it native. The concept of native concept is very revolutionary at its core as it goes against the entrenched thinking. Most content marketers did not apply their minds diligently to how they could match their content to the platform on which it would be placed.

The best kind of branded content is the one that is indistinguishable from the platform itself. In fact, the content must not take the readers away from the experience that they are used to. Violating this principle reduces the usefulness of the content as it simply gets ignored.

It is very important to always remember that when a reader gets onto social networking sites like Twitter, Yookos and Facebook, he is looking for either entertainment or to connect with his friends. They dislike being interrupted by branded content in the same way people are irked by a noisy kid in a restaurant.

Native concept is also radical in its simplicity. Social media is all about conversations between friends and a branded should develop good ties with its target audience before it can sell to them. Friends talk in a certain way and brands should learn how its target audience communicates and mimic it via its content.

A winter jacket manufacturer can post a picture of one of its bestselling merchandise and just say “Winter is Coming” and put in a backdrop the audience is familiar with. Nothing will be sold overtly. On the contrary, non-native content will scream a hard selling call to action to the target audience. Whilst in the first example nothing was sold but the prospects were reminded to be prepared for the coming winter and guess content will move their feet and wallets?

Native content must also be platform specific. This is truer now when more people are using smartphones to access digital content. Much of the existing content was created for desktops and laptops but this will not render properly on smaller screen resolutions. What a great way of chasing away potential customers.

The way forward is to have content that is created specifically for smartphones (and feature phones too). This is beyond technical optimisation as the content needs to cater to the psychology of the mobile phone users.

These users have shorter attention spans and therefore digest snackable bite-sized content better. This is where visual content becomes very effective as one picture paints a thousand words or a one-minute video tells a million words.

Conclusion

Native content is very key to successful content marketing. It adds value to a user’s experience and enjoyment of a platform. The result on the bottom line will be positive in the long term.

Why Brands Should Shut Up & Listen

Brands have been doing the talking for a long time now and they have been more disruptive in their overall approach. This is one of the problems of outbound marketing where a family watching their favourite soapie would be disrupted by four advertisements of the things that they not interested in more often than not.

Commercial breaks became times when people would then break from their viewing to make coffee or make that phone call. This kind of marketing is one sided and it is like a local politician standing on a pedestal, talking to the crowd via a megaphone.

Winning in the digital era takes more than that. Communication has been democratised by the proliferation of self-publishing tools like Yookos and video hosting sites like Youtube. Communication has shifted from being unilateral brand to consumer to being a multi-lane superhighway where customers interact extensively among themselves too.

Their discussions include stories of their great or awful experiences with brands. One leading digital marketer said that people don’t talk about brands for the brands’ sake. Rather, they do so because they love their friends more.

A friend can recommend a certain airliner over another based on their earlier experiences with both. They do so because they want their friends to enjoy the best travel experience. This makes online conversations a lucrative gold mine that marketers can tap into.

Brands can learn about what their customers think about their products, what type of product they want and then they can make the necessary changes to match the market’s expectations. Product excellence is an outcome of creating a perfect product-market fit.

Listening also reveals what the audience thinks about a brand’s intangibles like their values framework and identity. Customers are now buying products from companies who share their similar ideals. For example an environment-conscious customer will only buy from those companies with demonstrable “Green” credentials.

The identity of a brand serves an extension of a customer’s self. People buy Levi’s and not jeans, “Bemmer” and and not a car because those brands mirror them better.

Social media marketing is by definition conversation management. Brands are acutely aware that times have changed they need to engage their customers in great and profitable conversations. Any conversationist worth his salt will tell you that the ability to listen leads to meaningful interaction.

Success on social media platforms demands that the marketers produce content that answers their customers’ predominant questions as well as educate and entertain them. Thorough knowledge of the audience’s demographics and psychographics that comes from attentively listening to their online chatter is fundamental for success.

Fortunately, there a lot of free and paid tools that enable marketers to listen to social media conversations. Examples include Google Alerts, Mention and Hootsuite to name just a few.
The conversations are then aggregated into an intelligent analysis that can be translated into actionable insights. 

Conclusion

Social listening is foundational to digital marketing as it enables brands to understand their target audience better and offer them products and services with a good product-market fit. Those brands which do not have a social listening strategy and infrastructure in place is essentially blind flying.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Provide Snackable Content For Your Audience

Your social media attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish – 2.8 seconds to be exact.
Still with me? Great – well then you also might like to know that 60% of social media time is spent on mobile devices.
So we’re talking smaller screens and smaller attention spans – no wonder there has been so much buzz surrounding snackable content lately.
Our definition? Snackable content is simply content that is easy to consume and satisfies your consumer’s desire (whether that’s a desire for knowledge, entertainment or news).
Below we’ll show you how to create bite-sized content that will have your readers begging for seconds.

1. Feed Them Bite-Sized Chunks 

Bullet points are a content connoisseur’s best friend – as are sub headings, lists, short paragraphs, images and skimmable stats. Snackable content is content that people can easily scan amidst incessant interruptions and daily distractions.
And it’s not just about how you present your content visually – the words you choose are just as important. Your best bet? Write like you speak and keep your language natural to your audience’s ear, making it foolproof to read. Bite-sized chunks make your content easier and more desirable to consume, through language and design.

2. But Keep it Filling

No-one likes a diet and to feel restricted by what’s on offer. And just because your reader is busy doesn’t mean they still don’t still want their fair share of a feast. Long form content still rules the roost for SEO and for providing true value for your customers.
You, see snackable content is not so much about length. It’s all about scanability. So keep creating those beefier 1,200 word blog posts – just break them up more into bite-sized chunks of brilliance, ready to be digested at your reader’s convenience on the device they desire.

3. Tell Them What’s On the Menu

Let’s set the scene…you’re in a restaurant reading the menu. A particular dish tickles your fancy – the words velvety and succulent excite your imagination. But what arrives on your plate simply doesn’t match up -it’s flat, flavourless and tough. No-one likes to be tricked about what they’re about to consume, least of all your reader.
Think of your headline like you would think of a menu – it sets the expectations for what your reader will imagine, choose to click and encounter. Your headline has two jobs – 1. to accurately describe to your reader what’s on the menu and 2. to whet their appetite enough for them to choose your meal. Nail both and you’re one step closer to keeping your reader satisfied.

4. Don’t Make Them Wait for Their Food

Hungry people don’t like to wait for their feed. Just like busy people don’t like to wait for their content. That’s why your opening paragraph should be short and snappy. Its job? To explain to your readers exactly what to expect from your blog post. Your reader wants to immediately be able to identify the value it will bring them.

That’s why you need to be able to answer the “why” of your blog post as soon as you can – that is why your readers should stop switching between tabs, checking their emails and answering their phones long enough to give your blog post the time it deserves. The faster you get to the “why” the easier it is to capture and retain your reader’s imagination and attention.

5. Don’t Skimp on the Gravy (the Good Bits)

The gravy is the good stuff that ties it all together and adds depth to your content. The gravy is essential for adding true value to the words you write – this could include adding in useful links from reputable sources, outlining actionable advice and constructing key takeaways.

Skimp on the gravy and your content remains flat, dry, uninspired and oh-so-boring. Our advice? When you’re finished creating your blog post re-read it and look out for the dry areas where you can sprinkle on a little extra of the good stuff (whether that’s a little more originality, a new idea or a supporting stat). Then add it.

6. Introduce them to New Tastes

Things can get a little boring if you keep eating the same food again and again. Now is a great time to spice it up and feed your readers something new and exciting. For example, if your content has always been written now might be a good time to try video or experiment with infographics and imagery.

Digital Marketing Cheat Sheet For SMEs

We’ve developed this cheat sheet to help you, the small business owner, learn more about cost-effective digital marketing tactics like content, SEO and social media marketing.

1. Content

Want to attract people to your website? Start by creating quality content. Valuable content includes everything from engaging website copy and useful blog articles to eye catching infographics and insightful videos. There are plenty of free WordPress blog templates available to get you started. Yes, producing great content is time consuming but it also pays in multiple ways. Here’s a list of ways you can justify it to the accountant:

 Benefits of Creating Quality Content:

  • It can increase your social media engagement by giving your fans something valuable to share and talk about.
  • It can also help you rank higher in search results. Google love fresh, relevant and quality long form content.
  • It’s a great way to increase your credibility and position your brand as a thought-leader.
  • It helps you to nurture and generate leads. Try creating a landing page which asks people to give their contact details in exchange for access to exclusive content (e.g. ebooks and meatier reports).

Want to Learn More?

HubSpot Academy

Go to: http://academy.hubspot.com/blogging/ The blogging section of the HubSpot Academy is a great resource for anyone eager to learn more about content marketing. It includes everything from selecting the right keywords and coming up with engaging ideas to creating an editorial calendar and tips on guest blogging.
For super-up-to-date content tips check out what the experts atContent Marketing World 2014 are saying.

2. Organic SEO

Some business are under the illusion that SEO costs a lot. While this can be true for paid search, there’s also lots of steps you can take to help your website rank higher organically. Don’t panic, you don’t need to be a technical wizard. To get started all you need is a bit of know-how and some useful tips.
Organic SEO Tips:
  • First assess your website’s SEO as it stands. To do so set up a Google Webmaster account. All you have to do is register, verify your domain name and follow the outlined steps. Google will give you tailored tips on the SEO elements your website needs to address.
  • When you’re creating fresh content make sure you’re filling in all the meta data Google asks for. Worth remembering: Google search spiders can only read and understand words so it’s important to add meta descriptions to your images too.
  • Google now looks for and ranks for longer tail keywords – each one of your website pages should have a specific theme or topic. And remember: never stuff your pages with keywords as you will be penalised.
  • Google prefers in-depth content and has indicated that longer posts of 1,500 to 2,000 word length are rewarded accordingly. However, quality is always key.

Want to learn more?

Google’s Webmaster Academy

Go to: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6001102?rd=3 Google’s Webmaster Academy teaches you how to set up and use Google Webmaster and gives you plenty of tips on how to improve your search ranking and create a site that Google will love. It also includes some handy tips on how not to fall fowl of a Google search penalty.

Moz

Go to: http://moz.com/learn/seo The Moz learning academy contains an array of resources on beginner’s marketing from SEO and link building to social media. Well worth a look.

3. Social Media

Social media is a must-have for smaller businesses looking to increase their brand’s visibility. It’s a great way to connect with your customers. Used in the right way, it can be an effective customer service tool, allowing you to instantly respond to any problems or questions that might hinder purchases.

Social Media Tips:

  • Choose your social media sites wisely – it’s best for smaller businesses to concentrate on a few select social media channels. Anymore and you might not have the time to manage them all. The only channels you should be using are the ones your customers are using.
  • Take advantage of free analytics. The major social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter give a quick and easy-to-understand synopsis of how your posts and pages are performing.
  • Identify with key influencers in your industry and engage with them. Those with a high Klout score are a great place to start. The goal is to eventually get people with a large social media presence to share your content. But first you’ve got some relationship building to do – try offering a favour and/or sharing their content.
  • Use a scheduling tool like Hootesuite or Buffer to schedule your posts to send throughout the day. Choose the times that give you the highest traffic and social media engagement.

Want to Learn More?

Here are a few social media blogs worth bookmarking for future reading:

Keep tuned in over the next few weeks where we’ll reveal some cost-effective email marketing tips small businesses can implement.

Social Media Can Affect Your Mood

New research from the University of California, San Diego, has found negative or positive posts on Facebook can affect your mood. We know that talking to friends face-to-face can change your emotion and we often mirror our friends feelings. This has translated to online and social networks such as Facebook are proving to change your mood depending on the nature of the status updates and posts.
Over the course of three years from 2009 to 2013, Facebook analysed the emotional content of billions of updates. They looked at how updates changed when it rained and found that negative Facebook posts increased by 1.16% and positive posts decreased by 1.19%.
facebookrainupdate
In stark contrast, every happy post had an even stronger impact: if a user posted a warm and happy statement, an extra 1.75 positive posts were generated.
facebooksunny
Socially comparing our lives to our peers can change our emotions from the feelings of happiness (or jealousy) with a status update such as “It’s Monday and I’m on the beach!” accompanied by a snapshot of crystal clear water and a white sandy beach to feeling unhappy with a “Stuck in traffic…again” update.
With an increasing number of social sharing sites to share your feelings from Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook the constant need to remain connected inevitably means our emotions are controlled in this way. But if you removed Facebook or other social sharing sites from the equation, would this go away? Not necessarily. Facebook isn’t the problem, it is the symptom and only we can control our penchant to remain continuously engaged with others online. Perhaps the next time it rains you can put a positive spin on your status update considering the impact a couple of words can have on your friends.

Tips & Tricks To Increase The Ranking Of Your Blog Post

Want to get your blog post found and favoured by Google? In 6 easy-to-implement steps we’ll help you get on Google’s good side, climb the search engine ranks and reach potential customers in a more relevant way than ever.

This way please for the ultimate optimisation…

1. Think Context, Not Keywords

Google no longer pulls out specific keywords and matches them to your user queries. Now those crafty Google search spiders crawl your website to interpret your content and draw their own conclusions about what your website offers. But what does this mean? In essence, Google looks for meaning, topics and context rather not specific words.
Did you know, for example, that Google uses synonyms instead of keywords to derive meaning for up to up to 70 percent of searches? So forget exact phrases and add a little fun and playfulness to your words – just make sure your content still delivers on the context you’d like your customers to search for.
Think: 1. How would my customers search for this post and what questions would they like answered? 2. How can I serve them relevant content in an engaging way that speaks to
their wants and needs? Only then should you get crafting, writing and optimising.

2. SEO Yoast

seo yoast.png
If you’re using WordPress, consider using a good SEO plugin like Yoast. It provides an easy-to-fill-in template with clearly labelled SEO prompters. The great thing about this plugin is that it also offers a ‘Snippet Preview’ so you can see how your meta data will appear in search engines as you fill it in and save it.
Yoast also tells you how prominently your ‘keyword’ features in the different elements of your meta data (again think in terms of longtail keywords and topics rather than specific words).

3. Meta Data

Google doesn’t (and can’t) crawl everything on your blog post. Instead, it takes specific pointers from the most important elements of your content. The great news is that you, as the writer, hold a mighty influence over what Google deems as important and crawlable. By filling in your meta data fully and correctly you can drastically improve the reach and relevancy of that freshly baked post.
Your mission? If it has a box fill it has a purpose – it’s your duty to fill in all information in a relevant and unique way. Don’t worry, we’ll explain the most important meta data elements below and how you can make the most of them.

Meta Description -

Your meta description is the snippet that appears in Google when a user searches for a specific term related to your website/blog post. It needs to provide a unique and compelling, yet relevant description of your blog post’s content – this is your chance to set the expectations, yet excite and whet your reader’s appetite.
Top tip: Keep your meta description between 150 and 160 characters as the excess is likely to be truncated when displayed in search engines.

Excerpt -

Your exceprt is a blurb that introduces your blog post to the readers on your website. It appears on the homepage of your blog so again it’s about crafting an intriguing and clickable, yet contextual and clearly labelled snippet.

URL -

Your URL should be optimised too to provide context to your post. WordPress pulls this in automatically from your title. However, it’s vital to check your URL before publishing to ensure it’s fully optimised and contains the phrases you need. Worth noting: the first title you save gets placed in the URL so if you change your title you’ll have to manually change your URL. You can also remove any unnecessary words like ‘the’ and ‘and.’

4. Headlines & Subheadings

Headlines (H1 Tag) -

Your headline (just like the rest of your article) should be written for users and not search engines. Context is important for headlines but you also want to take into account shareability and likeability So tell your readers what to expect but in a fun way. If you’re stuck for ideas, here’s a handy blog post on how to craft the perfect headline and ditch the predictable, keyword-focussed and slightly boring titles that aren’t doing your readers (or your brand) any favours.

Subheadings (H2, H3 Tags, etc.) -

Your subheadings are the mini headings that appear throughout your blog post to provide pointers to both Google and your readers. They help you create a digestable,
readable and easily scannable post. Again, these should be to-the-point but you, as a writer and digital marketer, should never be afraid to have a little fun.

5. Anchor Text


Anchor text is text that appears as a link in your blog post and prompts your readers to click on it. Again you can (and should) optimise this for SEO. So ditch the ‘click here’ formalities and create real and relevant call to actions that clearly explain what your reader should expect when clicking. And remember: this helps Google understand your post too. You can use anchor text for:

Internal Linking -

Internal links help reduce your bounce rate, assist with navigation and entice your readers to explore relevant aspects of your blog and/or website.

External Linking -

External links help provide value to your readers, enabling you to share helpful content, stats and further information from authoritative and quality sites and blogs.

6. Optimising Images

It is essential to add clear and concise descriptions to your images to help Google’s spiders read and index them. When uploading an image to your blog, ensure you add in all relevant information.


Over 90% of web users rely on search engines to find what they are looking for. Our Online Professional Diploma in Search Marketing is created, validated and accredited by industry experts and will give you the specialist knowledge needed to thrive in the field.

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Elements Of A Good Story


Content marketing has risen in dominance to become one of the most effective marketing techniques of the modern times. Customers are demanding to be entertained, educated and helped first through content before they make up their minds on what to buy and from which supplier.

This is called the Zero Moment Of Truth (ZMOT) and it is imperative that brands create as much content as is possible to satisfy these pressing content requirements. However, therein lies the dilemma. There is too much clutter online that passes for content marketing. Balancing quantity and quality is important if the set targets are to be achieved.

Creating compelling stories is an important step in this direction. A "story is a fact, wrapped in an emotion that compels us to take an action that transforms our world". Keywords in the definition are fact, emotion and action.

In short, story-telling enables brands to tap into the emotional reservoirs of their customers for the purpose of triggering a profitable response.

Actually story telling is just a tactic in the bigger scheme of things where the real objective is emotional branding. The Wikipedia offers a classic definition of emotional branding:
"Emotional branding is a term used within marketing communication that refers to the practice of building brands that appeal directly to a consumer's emotional state, needs and aspirations. Emotional branding is successful when it triggers an emotional response in the consumer, that is, a desire for the advertised brand (or product) that cannot fully be rationalized."

A great story is created when the following 5 key elements are included in a narrative:
Passion
This is the fire that ignites an emotional reaction in the audience and unifies it into a collective spellbound group. Passion is the reason why a story is told. Passion explains why storytellers first "warm up" an audience to create excitement and expectancy.

Passionless stories are usually dead on arrival. They waste time and money, resources which are notorious for being finite.

On the contrary, a story told in a passionate way is hard to ignore and it scores big by making the achievement of business goals possible.

Hero
Every story needs a hero. This is not, necessarily, the man who dodges bullets by merely swaying his neck. A hero is a character in the story who best expresses the point of view behind the plot. The hero must simulate the circumstances that the targeted audience can relate to and make them see the world through his eyes. It is only when an audience identifies with the hero in a seamless way that it can be influenced to take specific actions.

Antagonists
An antagonist is the obstacle or conflict that opposes the hero. This is the person or situation the hero must overcome if the point of view of the story is to be fulfilled. Without a conflict there is no story. Antagonists are not bad, far from it. Their more noble purpose is to provide a background of darkness against which the stars will shine brighter.

Awareness
This is the aha! moment in the story. The time when the hero's eyes light up as he joins the dots and becomes aware of the best action or decision to make. Awareness represents the climax of the story and it is usually a major turnaround of events or circumstances. Something has to change in the audience and it must essentially lead to an anticipated customer action.

Transformation
This is the natural result of a well told story result and raison d'etre of why the story was told in the first place. Transformation is the playing field for the story.

Storytelling is revolutionising content marketing in very deep ways. Brands can now make emotional connections with their target audience through storytelling.

However in order for a story to fly, it should be created in the framework of 5 core elements which are passion, hero, antagonist, awareness and transformation.

A story that is constructed this way will enjoy more shares on social media platforms.