Category Archives: Content

Get Your Share: 5 Easy Ways to Help Your Content Go Viral

This post was originally published on the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.

Social Sharing

Virality. You know what it is, but do you know how to get it? Sure, you’ve included references to LOLcats and #Linsanity in your most recent blog posts and emails, but perhaps you’re yet to have seen a lift in the sharing of your content. While it’s true that there’s no silver bullet for how to spark social sharing (though killer content is a great place to start), you may be overlooking some pretty simple ways to facilitate the spread of your content. Here are six things you can do today:

1) Strategic Button Placement

Including social sharing buttons with your content may seem like a no-brainer, but simply having them there isn’t always enough. Do a little exercise in design theory and put some thought into what button placement makes the most sense for your content’s layout. For example, if you have a banner across the top of your email and your main content doesn’t start until a bit further down, consider placing your social sharing buttons down there, right next to the content. The same rules apply for blog posts. Since most of your readers won’t decide to share something until after they’re done reading it (one would hope, at least), why put your buttons at the top where they’ll disappear as the reader scrolls down? Instead, place them at the bottom so that readers will be triggered to share as soon as they’re coming to the end. If you have the drive to get a little fancy with this, take a cue from Mashable and install a social share bar that scrolls down as you do: 

social sharing bar

2) Give ‘Em a Reason

With the seemingly never-ending stream of garbage great content that is social media, sometimes folks may need a little more convincing to pass your content on. Incentivizing sharing can be a great way to provide that extra push. While there are plenty of app companies out there that can provide you the tools to do a more complex sharing promotion (check out Offerpop, Wildfire, or North Social just to name a few), a simplified approach will do the trick more often than not. Simply determine an incentive (e.g., a free product or purchase discount), define the parameters of your campaign (e.g. the 10th sharer wins), and choose your social network. Note that this kind of promotion violates Facebook’s terms of service if you’re not using an app, but can be great on other networks like Twitter, Google+, or even Pinterest. Here, Simon & Schuster uses Twitter to offer a free copy of a book they’re promoting:

incentivize sharing

3) Do The Heavy Lifting

Sometimes people might be inclined to share your content, but have trouble figuring out what exactly it is about something that is most shareable. The longer your readers have to think about this, the less chance they hit that little Tweet button. While you might scoff at the logic behind this, realize that a share is a share and come to terms with the fact that some folks might need a little more handholding. Remember, it’s all about removing barriers here! One blog that does a phenomenal job of this is from our pals over at KissMetrics. Here they not only provide their readers with the HTML code to embed a graphic onto their own blogs, but they also provide a list of 140-characters-or-less tweetable stats: 

social sharing

4) Change the Channel

Perhaps you’ve been posting a lot of content to the network you spend the most time on (ahem, Facebook), but when it comes to that content being reshared all you hear is crickets. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to shake things up a bit and consider changing your distribution channel or adding others. Depending on your product or industry, niche communities may ignite more sharing. Additionally, newer networks like Google+ and Pinterest that have more defined user demographics (tech crowd for G+, women for Pinterest) and don’t have the same level of saturation that more established networks do could be just the way get your content out there. Pinterest is a great example of this idea in practice. While social media’s new darling has far fewer active members than LinkedIn, Google+, and even MySpace, according to a new report from Shareaholic, Pinterest drives more traffic than all of these networks combined. Here we see an example of some infographics (see, it’s not all weddings and food porn!) that have truly gone viral on Pinterest:

pinterest repin

5) Ask!

Possibly the most underused (and certainly easiest) way to prompt more sharing may also be the most obvious; just ask. Whether you’re asking for likes on a Facebook status update or RT’s on Twitter, you’d be surprised how often this simple call to action will actually work. On Twitter, just a simple “please” works wonders, as evidenced by John Haydon, a social media consultant for non-profits:

retweet

Asking for a share isn’t exclusive to Twitter, though. Take Facebook for example. Instead of just posting a link to a post on your blog, add a little context and encourage your fans to “like” the update for one reason or another. Remember that “likes” show up on Facebook timelines, so they are a great opportunity to get your content in front of a wider audience. Wildfire Interactive, a company that builds the kind of Facebook apps I touched upon earlier, does a fabulous job of this on their fan page: 

facebook status update

Remember, nothing will ever trump genuinely good content when it comes to sharing, but like anything else, it never hurts to stack the deck in your favor. Ultimately, if you want your readers to share your content, you have to make it easy. Try testing these five ideas and let us know how they work for you!

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Optimize Your Way to Business Blogging Success

This post was originally published on the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.


IStock_000005808631XSmallOne of the most insightful and actionable sessions I attended at BlogWorld was Optimize & Socialize for Better Business Blogging, presented by Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing. While social media is still marketing’s darling in terms of spending growth (and the channel that keeps me employed, thank you very much), Lee reminds us that search engine marketing is still by far the largest piece of the spending pie. If blogging is in any way important to your overall marketing mix, the lessons from this session are critical for getting the most out of your efforts. And that, my friends, is where optimization comes in.

In his presentation, Lee said that the key reason many blogs don’t see success is simply a lack of strategy. By setting goals, thinking about your audience, putting a content plan in place, and continuously taking feedback into account, you can optimize your blog for maximum potential. Lee outlined three key opportunities for optimizing your business blog and the kinds of questions you should be asking in order to put together a blogging strategy.

1. Discovery How does your target audience prefer to discover new information? How do they search? What search keywords and social topics are relevant to them?

For your customers, discovery is where the entire process of finding your content begins. Think about how your target audience is finding you in the first place and use that information to sculpt a strategy of how to get your content in front of them. Use a tool like SocialMention or UberSuggest to identify the key terms that are associated with the kinds of topics your customers are looking for. Once you’re armed with a better understanding of what your customers are searching for, use this information when setting things like post titles, body copy, image alt text, tags, and categories. If it can be searched for, it can be optimized for better performance. 

2. Consumption What kind of content resonates most with your audience? Do they prefer videos to photos, original content vs. content curation? Who is your audience and what topics do they care about?

The real meat of the blogging world, your content strategy, will determine how you provide maximum value to your customers and keep them coming back for more. Consider what your business has to offer that will meet your customers’ needs and use that insight to create your plan. So, where do you get all of this information? Your blog’s analytics are a straightforward way to see what content has resonated in the past, but Lee outlines some great tips of how to discover new content ideas.

  • Engage with your community and ask what topics they’d like to see. Surveys are a quick and easy way to do this or you can just ask the question on your Facebook wall or Twitter account.
  • Look for what others are already asking. Answers sites like Quora and LinkedIn Q&A are a great place to start. You can also mine web analytics data to see what keywords and questions drive the most traffic.
  • Take a look inside. If you have an internal database or search engine at your company, take a look at what queries have already been logged. Even simpler, though, is to talk to the people within your company who are on the front lines (think sales or support). Their insights on customer questions are second to none.

3. Engagement When and how are your customers sharing your content? Specifically, what call to action, social widgets, sharing platforms, or times of day are motivating them to pass your content on?

Ultimately, you want your content to reach beyond your initial audience and there is no better way to trigger this than to optimize for social engagement. Take a look at what levers play in to how your content is shared and draw insights from that. Use these learnings to make sure that you are making it easy for your customers to share the way they like to. After all, your audience can’t share your content if you don’t provide a way how! Beyond having the right tools in place, there are a few other things to focus on when optimizing for engagement. 

  • Screen shot 2011-11-16 at 12.44.37 PMFind the social platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc…) that spark the most engagement across your audience and be sure to cross-promote your blog content to all of them.
  • Develop content specific to these networks that can drive traffic back to your blog.
  • Reach out to your network and other topical influencers and ask them to share your content. 
  • Make these same folks part of the process and mention them and/or include them in content creation so that your content will reach their networks as well. 
  • Remember that social shares drive search engine optimization as well. Don’t overlook a social network just because you don’t use it (ahem, Google+), because as long as the search engines are indexing it (ahem, Google+), it will remain a key opportunity for optimization.

Blogging can be a huge part of any content marketing strategy, but it also requires a fair amount of effort and resources to do well. Lee’s session at BlogWorld (you can see the whole deck here) was a great reminder that just publishing a blog and waiting for it to work for your business just isn’t enough. Give that hard work and creative energy the chance for success it deserves and start implementing these optimization strategies today!

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It’s Time For Social Content Creators To Raise Their Game

Just because it’s easy to publish content on the web doesn’t mean you should.  That’s the lesson I learned in just one day this week from three examples of content that seemed to cause more backlash than the inherent value I’m sure they were intended to.

Example 1: On Tuesday, the Harvard Business Review published this post about a made-up metric called Return on Influence. The post was received like this, and this, and this:

Example 2: The Hubspot blog featured this post, the latest and greatest move in the battle to confuse cause with correlation. Those out there that prefer a little more science in their science shared opinions like this one:

Example 3: And finally, an ad campaign and influencer outreach initiative from CPG brand, Ragu, inspired this post from blogger CC Chapman:

In all three of these cases we see examples of content that I can only assume were published with the intent to inform, entertain, or otherwise add value for their customers. This, in turn, should create value for the business in the form of traffic, lead generation, or whatever other objectives the individual publishers were striving for. That’s a basic tenet of content marketing and the reason so many businesses are getting into that game.

Instead, though, we see the opposite happening. We see the reactions generated turn into aggressive criticism. This criticism is not only directed at the ideas presented, but at the content’s creators and publishers as well. Sure, these incidents probably drove traffic, but not the kind of traffic that any business should actively seek out.

At first glance, it may seem easy to call this backlash too harsh. Take Amy Jo Martin, the author of the HBR piece, for example. I’m sure that Amy is a smart and well-intentioned woman…heck, she’s certainly been successful. Why are all these mean social media bullies picking on her, right? It’s just yet another example of how social media makes it so much easier for the consumer to complain, a subject I’ve written about in the past.

But, that’s the easy way out. We must ignore the temptation to let our natural empathy get in the way of what’s actually going on here. We can’t shift the blame to the consumer without instead thinking about how the creator could have avoided it in the first place. And that is really the crux of the issue.

The real-time reactive nature of social business means that you have to raise your game or suffer the consequences. In the past, say when a company had a monthly newsletter to produce, real thought had to be put into that content calendar. Several hundred words in a physically limited publication is valuable real estate, after all. Just because that newsletter is now an endless expanse in the form of the web, though, doesn’t mean those same values should go out the window. The Internet may be a virtual space, but that doesn’t mean that the content you share there is any less real. In fact, it’s more real (and more accessible) than ever. Moreover, this shift creates real implications for your brand and business.

Take the case of the HBR article. When it comes to intellectual respect, it doesn’t get any more legit than Harvard. There is a level of quality to be expected there and fluffy metrics have no place. Every piece of content like this that the HBR publishes hurts their brand that much more.  The Hubspot study has a similar effect. Hubspot is a company that I respect greatly for their products and their rapid growth as a player in the digital marketing space. Their blog is one I read often and refer many other people to because they maintain a level of consistency in the value they create for their customer. This study, however, is misguided at its best, and actually insulting to the reader at its worst. Hubspot’s audience has come to expect more than that, and it reflects poorly on the brand to slap a chart on a page and call it science. Lastly, we have Ragu and their video campaign. Ragu is a company who has the budget for the kinds of consumer insights and other marketing research that most other businesses would dream of. Frankly, they should just know better.

In the same way that innovation, creativity, and genuinely great content are all rewarded with praise and (with any luck) a viral lift, we cannot lose sight of the inverse. In a world where content is so easy to create quickly and publish widely, we need to remember that sometimes it shouldn’t be. Some content just isn’t worthy of that audience. It can be easy to get caught up in a content arms race of sorts, but we should all make a real effort to focus on creating genuine value instead. You know, quality over quantity. Never forget that once it’s out there, it’s out there forever, and whether you’re an individual contributor or a worldwide brand, you own it.