5 Tips for Success with Blogging

So your company wants to start blogging.

Great!

Where to begin? How do you ensure that the blog will be a success?

Here are 5 tips that will break down the essentials of corporate blogging:

  1. Set goals. 

goal

If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish with the blog, how will you be able to determine whether or not the blog is successful? Determine from the outset what results you’d like to see or what metrics you will be using. Also, make sure that your blog’s goals are aligned with your company’s larger goals and purpose. Is the goal of your blog brand awareness? Getting more leads? Attracting talent? Generating more subscriptions to your email newsletter? Gaining credibility and establishing thougtht leadership? Improving brand perception? Choose a clear goal or set of goals for the blog before you start. Keep in mind that your blogging goals will likely change over time.

2) Target your audience.

Target

Next, you need to determine who the blog is written for. Are you trying to appeal to people who live in a certain geographical location? Stay-at-home moms? Moutain biking enthusiasts? People who enjoy outdoor activities? HR managers?

Identifying who your blog is speaking to will help you choose topics, set your tone, and develop a consistent brand voice. Targeting a specific audience doesn’t mean that it won’t be appealing to others as well, but a blog for everyone is for no-one. Try to tailor your blog content to one audience who would be particularly interested in your brand and write for them.

3) Publish frequently & consistently.

 

Hard at work
Author hard at work on a blog post

 

A major key to having success with blogging is publishing frequently and on a consistent basis. Publishing on a once-in-a-while or “whenever we get around to it” basis is not going to cut it. The only way to grow an audience and build momentum is by publishing frequently. Blogs that publish sporadically or infrequently fail to gain traction. Aim for once a day or once a week in the beginning. It’s also important to publish consistently. This will help you plan your content in advance so you never have to scramble for ideas. It will also please search engines and help your audience know more-or-less when to expect your next piece. Use a content calendar to schedule your posts. For example, you can decide to publish every Monday and Thursday or every day at 1 pm. The only way your blog will get off the ground is by making it a priority. Treat it like a TV program. Don’t delay, make excuses, or push it off. The show must go on!

4) Provide value

currency

While your organization has an idea of what it would like to see happen with the blog, don’t forget to focus on the needs of your audience. If you want people to actually read your blog and share it with others, then you need to create content that your audience finds valuable and keeps their attention. Good blogs usually entertain, educate, tell stories, inspire, or answer common questions. Some blogs do all of the above, but chances are, your blog will excel particularly well in one of those areas.

5) Distribution

contentmarketing

No matter how great your content is, your blog will not do well if no one knows about it. Creating the content for your blog is only half the battle. Without a good distribution strategy, few people will discover your blog. Therefore, keep SEO best practices in mind when writing your blog posts so that people will have an easier time finding them. Share the blog posts to social media in a way that respects the individual nuances of each platform. For example, on Twitter shorten links, keep your posts to under 140 characters, and use 1-2 relevant hashtags. On Instagram, direct people to click the link in your bio to read your latest blog post. Write out a long-form teaser, caption, or excerpt in your Instagram posts, Facebook statuses and LinkedIn updates.

Besides contributing regularly to your “owned” blog, consider blogging natively on blogging platforms where your audience is already hanging out, such as Medium.

Good blogging takes a lot of time, dedication, patience, and consistent output. It also must be goal oriented and targeted to a specific audience. Combined with good content and basic technical know-how, these 5 tips will help your company achieve success with blogging.

How to Tweet Like a Boss: 10 Twitter Tips

“Oh, I hate Twitter. I don’t understand it at all.”

This is the usual response I receive whenever Twitter comes up in conversation. I believe this is unfortunate, because when harnessed to its full potential, Twitter is a powerful marketing and networking tool that is also enjoyable to use.

Now, I understand the frustration. When I first started using Twitter several years ago I felt the same way. I’d post something and nothing would happen. Fickle followers would follow me and then seem to suddenly unfollow me out of nowhere. It seemed impossible to grow a following and the lack of engagement was pretty discouraging.

Twitter is not a platform where results are always as immediate as some others. One weakness of Twitter is that the feed is not great at organizing users’ posts. It’s a steady stream of content, which can sometimes feel like an overwhelming information overload that makes it hard to gain visibility. This has led many people to give up on Twitter over the past couple years, and as a result, it has declined and become less a part of the mainstream, reserved more for early adopters, hipsters, techies, journalists, celebrities, and most famously, the President of the United States.

However, if you demonstrate a little bit of patience (not something many of us have these days) and are willing to put in the work, Twitter can be an excellent vehicle for developing your brand, advancing your career, or simply connecting with like-minded people. For those willing to learn, Twitter presents numerous opportunities.

Here are a few tips I learned from steadily growing my own Twitter following over the past year  (as well as the accounts of others) from less than 100 unengaged followers to over 700 followers without the use of bots or ads:

1. Tweet every day.

In addition to being one of the most social of social networks, it’s also one of the most time consuming. To truly make progress on Twitter, you need to tweet every day, or at least Monday through Friday and at the right times. The recommendation, according to general best practices is approximately 2-3 times per day or 10-15 times per week (not including replies or retweets).

2. Tweet one-to-one. 

Because it’s very difficult to gain visibility in the Twitter feed and your tweets will quickly get crowded out and covered over by others’ tweets, you need to tweet directly @ people’s handles to ensure the right people see your content. Twitter is a friendly space where it’s perfectly normal and cool to talk to strangers, so lose the fear! Tweet directly at individuals (tweets that begin with @) or mention influencers or followers by including their handles in your tweets.

3. Use strategic hashtags.

Do some keyword research or use the Twitter search bar to find hashtags that are not too broad and competitive (used by too many people) or too narrow (used by too few people). This well help you find a good sweet spot where your tweets will get more visibility by people who are interested in the content. The general recommendation is to use no more than 1-2 hashtags on Twitter. More than that can make you appear spammy.

4. Use the Direct Message (DM) feature. 

If someone is already your follower, you have the ability to send them a direct message, but be careful with this one. You don’t want to spam. Twitter’s DM is a fantastic way to reach out to people one-on-one, but make sure that your messages offer something of value rather than simply ask for something. Also, try not to use a cheese-y auto-respond DM. It’s not a real social interaction and people know it. Including a joke in it like: “Yes this is an automated message…” doesn’t make you sound cooler. Frankly, it’s irritating and inauthentic. Try to send actual messages to people whenever possible.

5. Utilize quote retweet.

The quote retweet option allows you to provide your own two cents or caption about a tweet in an additional 116 characters. This is a great opportunity to curate content created by others while still including your own unique perspective, POV, or voice, and personality.

6. Reply 

Reply to people’s tweets that interest you. Leave a comment that’s friendly or helpful. Be a good citizen. Engage in real conversation and be social. Don’t just self promote. Answer people’s questions. This is a great way to attract like-minded followers.

7. Learn the rules of ‘Twittiquette’

Like all social media platforms, Twitter has its own nuances. Learn the language of Twitter or proper Twitter etiquette so that you don’t make embarrassing faux pas or unintentionally piss people off. There are certain social norms and expected ways of communicating on Twitter. Like a tourist in a foreign land, some behaviors can make you come off as an idiot to the natives. Therefore, try to adapt to the local culture.

8. Shorten links.

Use tools like Bitly, Hootsuite, or Buffer to shorten your URLs so that your links can fit neatly into the 140-character word limit on tweets.

9. Do not auto-tweet from other platforms.

As stated above, each social network has its own nuances and preferences. You need to be actively involved and demonstrate that you are a real person who is actually there participating if you wish to be accepted on Twitter. So, don’t simply auto-share links to photos from Instagram or posts from Facebook. That’s a quick way to show people you’re not really present.

10. Share quality content.

Probably the most important rule on this list. Use the Twitter search bar and search relevant hashtags or topics to find out what your intended audience is talking about. Reply to people talking about your area of interest and communicate in an authentic manner. Answer questions, provide feedback, or share items they’d be interested in. Social media influencer and entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk grew his New Jersey wine business by finding and chatting with people who were talking about wine on Twitter for 10 hours a day. Look at what hashtags are trending on Twitter (left-hand side on home page) or search Google Trends and include these hashtags along with a relevant tweet. This is a fast way to gain impressions and jump into the national or global conversation. In your two-three daily tweets feature helpful or entertaining articles, blog posts, infographics, videos, and podcasts that your audience will appreciate. Even if the content is not original content created by you e.g. a great article about small business in Forbes, it will still attract engagement and followers.

Whereas platforms like Facebook or Instagram more easily allow you to gloat, promote, and showcase your best self, Twitter is truly the most “social” of all social media networks. It’s where the conversation happens. Twitter is essentially the cocktail party of the Internet or the world’s water cooler where our culture goes to chatter and keep up with the latest news. Even if Twitter were to go out of business, as some think it will, there will always be a need for something like Twitter to exist.

Go give Twitter another shot and use the tips I listed above. I promise that your time spent on Twitter will be a much more rewarding experience.

Have any other tips you’d like to add to this list? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Follow me on Twitter @ZevGotkin for more social media marketing tips!

How to Add Value in Your Follow-Up Emails

You sent your proposal a few days ago and…Nothing.

So you wait and you wait and you wait….

Crickets

Now, you’re getting antsy. ‘Surely, they received it!’ you think. ‘I know that follow-up is key, but how do I follow up with the lead without coming off as annoying or pushy?’

Recently, I read the book, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way by Jeffrey Gitomer. In this book, which I highly recommend, Gitomer explains that it’s not enough to simply send a message to the lead asking: “Hi, do you have any questions for me about the proposal?” You don’t really care if they have any questions. What you’re really saying is: “Hi, is my money ready yet?”

Now, I’ll admit I’ve sent follow-ups like that. I thought asking if they had any questions about the proposal was a good way of eliciting a response and it was way better than saying: “Hurry up already!”

But, in truth, a follow-up will be way more effective if you add something of value to the lead. Think about it. What’s more persuasive?: Asking someone if they’re ready to move forward or doing something for their benefit before you ask?

Many of us understand that it’s good to provide value before going for the sale. What we forget is that it’s important (maybe even more important) to continue bringing people value in the follow-up stage. When we’re trying to close the lead, that’s when we need to step our game up and not only be persistent, but also persuasive. And, I’ve learned that you get more with the honey of providing help than you do with the vinegar of pushiness.

Incessant follow-up phone calls and emails aren’t going to cut it. You should bring people value in every interaction from the first interaction to close and then continue to surprise and delight even after the sale is made. That’s how you instill loyalty.

So, how to do you add value in a follow-up?

Well, that’s a good question. I looked it up on Google. By the way, not sure if you already knew this, but you can learn everything on Google! Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

I found a variety of tips, but the two that stood out to me are as follows:

Personalize it.

Don’t send a generic, ‘all-business’ email like: “Hi, following up. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss the proposal. Thanks.”

Use the lead’s name and open with something that will establish rapport. Engage them in conversation. Reference something you talked about. Use humor when appropriate. Establish a consistent tone for your brand’s follow-up emails. It could be quirky or a little more business-like depending on your audience. Perhaps, it’s a catch phrase in your opening line or your email sign-off. Get creative with it. There are numerous ways to differentiate your brand and stand out in every interaction you have with prospects and leads.

Share customized content. 

As stated above, helping is a great way to provide value. The more you help, the more you sell.

Share useful, helpful, informational content in your follow-ups that is customized to the needs or interests of the lead. According to a report from Custom Content Council, 61% of consumers say they find custom content helpful and will be more likely to do business with a company who provided them with custom content. A study done by Demand Metric found that 82% of respondents felt more positive about a company after reading custom content.

Depending on your time and resources, you can either create custom content for specific types of audiences or leads or you can share content from elsewhere that your leads will find helpful. This content can be blog posts, videos, articles, infographics, ebooks, or podcasts that your lead will appreciate. Create separate email lists targeted to specific types of leads categorized by their interests and feature different types of content in your emails for each list.

Recently, I sent a follow-up email to a lead that featured an article from Hootsuite about the best times to post on various social networks as well as a blog post of mine that I thought would help them with a specific issue they were having. I then asked them if they had any questions or would like to discuss the details of the proposal with me. This email got a response whereas my first two follow-up emails, which simply went in for the ask, did not.

When you give away something of value, you make the lead feel more positively disposed toward you and your brand. An aggressive follow-up email can be quickly ignored and discarded. Most people will pay more attention and respond to someone who has first provided them with something of value. When you give something away, you make the lead feel more inclined to respond to you. And if you truly brought them value in your follow-up, they will be more likely to become your client.

***

If you need help creating custom content for your follow-up emails or email newsletters, feel free to shoot me an email: wgotkin@gmail.com and we’ll set up a meeting. 

Authenticity: What Does it Really Mean Anyway?

There’s a lot of talk about authenticity these days.

Every brand strives for it, especially on social media. We’re told millennials, in particular value it and expect it from the companies they do business with.

Aside from being a popular buzzword, what does ‘authenticity’ really mean? And what does it mean to be authentic?

Be genuine and up front.

Being authentic means not disguising or hiding your agenda. If you’re in it to make money, then don’t hide it. Be honest about your intentions. For example, don’t claim to be a conscious company like Tom’s Shoes if you’re only going to jack up the price above market value so that you can keep profit margins high. Don’t pretend to care about causes (or worse, tragedies) only in order to curry favor with your audience and make a buck. Authenticity means your brand only aligns itself with products, people, and causes that embody your values. Corporate responsibility is great, but please don’t pretend to give a f*#% if you don’t. Trying to put one over on your prospects and customers will only backfire. Everyone knows companies need to turn a profit so don’t hide it. Be real about your purpose and direction.

Give sincerely.

Unfortunately, one of the most common blunders in business (and other areas of life) is to give insincerely, or only in order to get something in return. Aside from being dishonest, this tactic is particularly ineffective, because people can often smell the insincerity and it turns them off from working with you. If you’re only helping others with a “what’s in it for me” mentality, people will notice right away or you will eventually be exposed.

The good news is brands who do a great deal more sincere helping than asking often win a great deal more sales than companies who don’t. We live in a word that is over-saturated with mediocre content and often tunes out ads mentally or with technologies such as Ad Block and fast-forwarding on DVR. Therefore, sharing engaging content that is relevant and educates, inspires, or entertains is the best way for a brand to stand out, grab attention, and stand head and shoulders above the competition.

It’s not “fake it till you make it.” 

We’ve all heard the expression, ‘fake it till you make it,’ but it’s not really the best strategy. Now, I’m not talking about trace amounts of imposter syndrome, which we all feel at times, particularly when we are at the start of our careers. I’m talking about posing as an expert before you are one. Today, becoming known and developing a brand is not only easier than ever before; it’s almost a necessity. Establishing thought leadership and credibility is valuable currency, but if you talk about things you don’t yet understand or fail to deliver on your big promises, you will later end up looking foolish and compromise your reputation.

So, stay in your lane and tell the true story of you or your brand. If you do one thing particularly well or have a great deal of knowledge about a subject, stick to creating content about that and don’t try to swim in waters that are above your head. And, if you don’t yet have an area of expertise, find ways to inspire or entertain others as a means to break through to the market.

Above all, be passionate and real and people will feel it. I’m not just espousing the cliche “be yourself.” Obviously, this is not the best idea in every case. What I am saying is be up front about your intentions, provide value in a sincere manner, and stick to what you know and care about, and you will come across as authentic and believable and people will want what you have to offer.

F*ck Being a Starving Artist: How Creatives Can Help Themselves

Recently, I was invited to speak on a panel about ways patrons of the arts could better support creatives (artists, musicians, writers etc.) in their communities. It was my first time public speaking and I was the youngest person on the panel, so I was understandably a bit nervous.

The questions from the moderator focused on what creatives would find helpful in terms of support as well as how their fans could best promote them and distribute their work.

Many wonderful ideas and suggestions were shared by my fellow panelists as well as by the very vocal crowd that evening. But, my answer was ridiculously simple, and — luckily — well-received by everyone present.

My message was this:

“Creatives need to learn how to help themselves.”

May not sound like such a novel idea, but unfortunately, many are not doing much to put themselves get out there. I think there are a couple reasons why this is the case.

 

Not sure how

For one thing, a super talented creative is not always entrepreneurial or business-minded just as an entrepreneur is not always so gifted in the arts. A person may have a great deal of skills and creative talent, but not may not be so educated or interested in the business side of things.

However, if a creative wants to have any hope of monetizing their art, they need to approach it like a business. No doubt, a great creative spends a lot of time making great art and honing their craft. But, a financially successful creative who makes a good living from their work also has to learn how to be their own best advocate.

 

Not comfortable with promoting themselves

The problem is many artists don’t feel comfortable selling themselves. They prefer to be “discovered.” They hope their work will speak for itself. I totally understand this, because I once thought the same way. Promoting myself seemed fake and kind of sleazy to me.

If you’re a creative struggling to get noticed, please listen to me. Advocating for yourself will not cheapen your art. It will not compromise your creativity. The patrons, talent scouts, and recording labels are not going to come knocking on your door. They aren’t coming to you. They don’t even know who you are and they don’t care. You need to give them reason to care or, better yet, just bypass them!

The traditional gatekeepers — radio stations, art galleries, television stations, magazines, book publishers etc. — no longer have a monopoly over deciding what creative gets out to the masses. Today, digital platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Medium, and Instagram allow you to easily connect to those who would appreciate your art and build a following.

The best part is you don’t even have to do much “self-promoting.” In fact, that’s not always a good idea, especially on social media where content that doesn’t provide value gets lost in the feed. Instead, share your genuine passion for what you do and authentically engage with your audience, no matter how big or small. And share regularly!

 

Fear of rejection

Perhaps, you create art for its own sake and you don’t care what other people think so long as you’re proud of it. If so, mazel tov! Good for you. You don’t have to show your art to the world or try to get it out there.

However, if you do want to earn some recognition and/or profit from your art, then you will have to just get over this one. There’s not much I can say other than don’t be afraid to face the market. If you’re paralyzed by fear, there’s no hope of getting off the ground.

 

Save your creativity for your art

First of all, you need to be on social media and you need to post content regularly. If you have any hang-ups or bugaboos about it, please try your best to get over them. Because, if you don’t have a presence on the major online platforms and channels where most consumer attention is directed (YouTube, Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram etc.) and you don’t put out content that is mobile friendly, you essentially don’t exist. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? Hell yes. So, make the time.

But, here’s the good news. You don’t have to be super creative in your branding and marketing. Save that for your art. And you don’t have to spend so much time trying to figure out what to create, share, or talk about. Simply document your creative process or your journey of trying to get your art out there and make your dreams come true. Don’t overthink it. Share your story. Share your work, show people how you do it, and engage, engage, engage!

Talk to your fans and interact with them even if you only have a handful. Directly message or tweet at those who might be interested in your stuff or who might be able to help you and offer them something of value in exchange. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Be proactive, go on the offense, and boldly seek others out. I’ve been doing this for about a year now and I promise you that it really works! In fact, I know that I’d be further along if I only did it more often.

 

F*ck being a starving artist

The stereotype of the “starving artist” is a harmful one and it needs to be done away with for good. Be your own best advocate. Go get what you want, actively pursue meaningful relationships, don’t be afraid to talk to people who can help you, engage with your followers, and share your stuff with the world! Enough sitting around waiting for the phone to ring or waiting to hear back from the publisher. Take matters into your own hands. This is the only way you’re going to get your stuff out there and find a market for your art, which will support you and enable you to spend more of your time creating and less time waiting.

What if My Content Helps My Competitors?

When creating content, some think you should be careful not to reveal too much.

Perhaps, you should hide your “secret sauce” behind a paywall. Isn’t it all about giving just enough to make them want more?

Wrong.

Your content should provide value to your audience in and of itself. In other words, your free content — whether it be a blog post, a YouTube video, or a Facebook post — should be able to stand on its own as something valuable to the user.

A common fear about sharing content for free is that the competition might use it to compete more effectively. Another concern is that prospects may benefit from it to the extent that they will not need to do business with you.

Both concerns are understandable, but invalid.

Here’s why:

 

People want to do business with those who help them.

Prospects in your target market may consume your content and utilize the information, advice, and tips you provide without buying from you. But, ironically, it’s the ones who consume you most religiously that will be more likely to do business with you in the future. As soon as they encounter a situation they cannot handle themselves, you are most likely going to be the solution they turn to.

By helping others, you earn their admiration and trust, which makes them more receptive to your sales messages. The helpfulness of your content is known as its “Youtility,” a term coined by Convince&Convert CEO, Jay Baer. Youtility is a specific type of content marketing with a tangible, specific usefulness. Your brand’s short-term youtility can go a long way toward driving more conversions in the long run.

 

Competition – So what?

When it comes to business, it’s well known that execution is more important than ideas. Everyone has great ideas, but few implement them successfully. So, when you share ideas, tips, solutions, or ‘how-to’s,’ you can rest assured that most people who consume your content will never execute or follow through on your advice anyway. Most people are too lazy to do the work, don’t make the time, or are simply not as talented as you are in your area of expertise.

And, most of the people who attempt to copy your tactics without the substance will look hollow and cheap by comparison, even if they do see some gains from it. Those who actually do use the advice you provide in your content to their advantage and go on to be successful will be few and far between.

 

Collaborate.

Let’s not pretend everything is always “rainbows and gum drops.” This is business. Inevitably, there will always be competition. But, one can measure one’s success by looking to improve rather than by trying to tear others down.

Yes, you’ll always have competition, but your content can also gain you allies. While your content may help competitors or even generate new ones, it will also earn you more attention, respect, and admiration from others. Those who benefited from your content will feel more positively disposed toward your brand and, in some cases, may even feel a debt of gratitude. By getting more people to “like” you, your brand wins more supporters, or “cheerleaders,” who will want to partner or work with you. Pooling your resources, you can come up with ways to help one another grow and succeed.

 

Benefits outweigh the potential costs.

When it’s all said and done, sharing quality content will win you valuable relationships –clients, advocates, collaborators, partners, and investors — that will outweigh the annoyance of copycat competitors. As much as it might inspire competition, your content will also win over more prospects, put you on the map, and essentially drive more business than it will cost you.

When creating informative or useful content that attracts your target audience, you assume the risk of inadvertently helping your competition in the process. It’s just part of the price you pay for getting noticed, earning trust, and establishing credibility. Without putting out valuable content, you will not even be able to get your foot in the door of today’s competitive market, so you have no choice, but to do it. Dealing with the competition is simply a reality of doing business. Suck it up.

Think of benefiting the competition with your content as the cost of getting business. It’s worth it.

People Don’t Buy What You Sell. They Buy What You Believe.

mlk-meme

Whether you are selling a message of peace, justice, and equality for all or you’re selling a product, remember that people don’t buy what it is you “sell.” They buy, because they share your belief.

If you want to make a positive change in the world, your message needs to reach those who believe what you believe. But that can only happen if you first have the courage of conviction to believe in yourself.

And even if you believe in yourself and you believe wholeheartedly in your message, you still have to effectively communicate your belief to others. If you cannot communicate it in a way that touches and inspires others, your message, no matter how noble, will fail reach the hearts and minds you wish to reach.

On #MLKDay we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., a man with a dream and a vision that forever changed the world for the better. Let us have the same courage of conviction to continue the progress he helped start.

I credit the ideas in this post to a book I recently finished called Start with Why by Simon Sinek. This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who aspires to be a leader in any capacity.