Category Archives: Content Marketing

5 Content Calendar Tools

If you need me to explain why you need a well-organized content calendar, then you aren’t busy enough. There are countless advantages to using a unified, easy to use, easy to access calendar to organize your team (for instance, ours is making me painfully aware of just how late I am in getting this post written – thanks, calendar!). So let us assume that you know that, and move directly into helping you find one.

Whether you are starting from scratch, or looking to improve upon the mess you are currently working with (Post-It notes on a white board = mess), your options are practically limitless. So let us get you headed in the right direction by introducing you to some of the more popular tools currently available.

wordpress plugins - content calendar toolsWordPress Plugins: Are you using WordPress? Are you looking for an editorial calendar? Wouldn’t it then make sense to try the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin? If you are looking for more advanced features such as automatic postings to social media and advanced team coordination tools, CoSchedule is a much more flexible plugin, though it comes with a monthly fee.

Trello: Boring gridlines and calendar layouts not your thing? Trello gives you a whiteboard interface that is more project management in its approach than editorial calendar (though it offers a “Calendar” view). This can be a life saver if you are trying to coordinate a large team, and the ability to see the status of all pending assignments in one view is incredibly useful. The basic service is free, and a paid Business Class version is also available for those looking for beefier security and administrative tools.

Excel and Google Docs: Both are convenient and simple ways to set up your own content calendar. If you want some help getting started, the internet is riddled with templates for you to pick from. Literally riddled. You can’t swing a cat meme without hitting one. Just pick one that closely matches your workflow, make a few tweaks, and off you go.

Need more bells on your whistles? Fine, let’s wheel out the big guns.

ContentDJ: Part content calendar and part content curator, ContentDJ totes itself as “The only editorial calendar built for the social media age”. It has everything you need to find, assign, post and track content to your website and social media platforms. The depth of this tool, and the price tag that comes with it, will be overkill for many. But if finding share-worthy content and having extensive, detailed tracking of all social media engagement are critical pieces of your business, this will give you everything you need.

Kapost: If you want to completely tie your content in with the rest of your marketing efforts, you’ll want to give Kapost a try. It has everything you’d expect from a high-end content tool: automatic publishing, extensive project management, advanced tracking, etc. But it really shines in integrating your content into your overall marketing strategy. You can attach content pieces to specific campaigns or prospective clients for easy tracking. A searchable library of all content you publish anywhere is available to everyone in your organization. Leads generated from each piece of content are tracked, tying what you publish directly to your sales pipeline. It’s a bit much if you are just managing a website and a few blogs, but larger companies will really benefit from the powerful and diverse tools offered here.

Do you currently use one of these tools? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

5 Ways to Take Your Instagram Account to the Next Level

So you’re using Instagram for your business. Good idea! Instagram, like Pinterest, is doing wonderful things visually for businesses and brands.

But to really stand out from the crowd, it’s not enough to simply snap a photo, slap a filter on it and hope for the best. In fact, this approach has the potential to harm your brand more than help it. Remember, you’re competing for “double taps” (Likes) along with professional photographers, celebrities, and brands that aren’t afraid to go to extremes.

So here are 5 ways to take your Instagram account to the next level.

  1. Include your account in your content calendar

To make the biggest impact with Instagram, always incorporate your images as a part of your regular content calendar. While one-off, spontaneous photos are always an option with the platform, having at least a general idea of the kind of content you want to post will help direct and guide your photographers throughout a week or month.

Take, for example, Saturday Night Live’s Instagram account. During the week, they take photos of the general arc of the show: first big pitch meetings, then writers working hard on sketches, then costumes and sets in progress, then celebrity rehearsal sightings. Come Saturday night, it’s all behind the scenes photos of performers running backstage, changing costumes, or joking around between sketches. All day Sunday they post follow up photos of big moments backstage, after party candids, or what performers do on their day off.

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Your business may not have a similar weekly arc, but you likely have certain sales cycles, big events or other promotional efforts that you can align content around.

  1. Use the advanced editing tools

Anyone can take any old photo and choose a filter, but to truly make photos outstanding, it behooves you to use the advanced editing tools first before using filters.

To use these tools, simply click the wrench after taking or choosing your photo from your library. Many of the adjustments available here can either fix minor flaws (low light), enhance detail, or make colors pop.

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  1. Use other apps to add a different dimension to your product or brand

If you want to add something outside the Instagram “norm” to your photos, you’ll need to edit or enhance through other apps. Aviary, Camera+, Afterlight and Snapseed bring even more advanced editing options to the table. PicStitch, WordSwag, FontCandy and Party! Party! are fun apps to bring photos together, add text or easily create .gifs. You’ll need to edit or deck out photos in these apps first, then send to Instagram.

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  1. Use video to tease other content or showcase products or services beyond stills

Instagram offers the use of up to 15 seconds of video on the platform. Some of the best uses of video are often when teasing or promoting other content (giving a short clip of a story to promote an upcoming podcast) or showcasing something that just can’t be shown in a still photo (acro yoga or hand-balancing to promote an upcoming class). Video is a powerful tool on Instagram; think carefully through how you can use video to enhance what you’re already doing with photos.

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  1. Monitor analytics

There’s no point in putting in all the work into any content without determining if it’s actually effective. While you could splurge on a robust tool like Simply Measured, some free tools can give great insights into how photos are performing on the platform. Iconosquare (formerly Statigram), is a free tool that gives insight into follower engagement, spread rate, filter and hashtag impact and account growth. You can use other tools like Klout to cross reference which content seems to be resonating best with your audience, as well.

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Once you are monitoring your Instagram content regularly, adjust your tactical approach as necessary. If fans are responding well to certain filters or hashtags add more into the mix, while phasing out content that has lower likes or engagement.

And of course, never be afraid to try something new and creative by showcasing your brand, product or service from a unique angle. Instagram users are hungry for great content to consume and tell their friends about!

What Happened to the Art of Writing?

Sometimes I feel like it’s lost in all of the talk about content.

Wait, isn’t content supposed to be about writing?

Seems that content is often more about creating buzzwords and catchy titles over great messages and words. Anything to reel in a few good clicks, right?

Surely you know the catchy titles that over-promise while luring you to click and under-deliver once you get there: “10 mind-blowing tips” or “5 things you didn’t know that could hurt you – you’ll never believe #2!” Anything to get the reader to bite, right?

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Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, talked about this phenomenon recently in a session at Content Marketing World.

“Tell true stories well,” she told the group of a few hundred in the audience. “Put the customer at the center.”

Seems simple enough. Why isn’t everyone doing that already? Why are we in a race to produce things that don’t have meaning?

Handley went on to give some tips on how to create content that follows those rules:

  1. Have a goal and follow a writing GPS.
  2. Write with a strong, unforgettable voice.
  3. Write to just ONE person.
  4. See content moments everywhere.
  5. Give customers gifts (who doesn’t love gifts?).

All great and valuable lessons in content creation, right? Certainly tips that anyone producing content should be following and living by in order to produce great content.

But what she said next made me sit up straight in my seat.

“Writing is not grammar; writing is thinking.”

YES! What a perfect way to frame the shift in thinking that needs to happen in content marketing. We need to think beyond just creating content and actually start writing.

Anyone can write words (ehhh, well, most people…). But it’s the thinking that goes behind the words that carry the most value.

Thinking is why we (should) have content departments. Content writers should be there to think through what needs to be written, considering subject, tone, voice and messaging. Secondary to that thinking is getting the perfect words on the page.

“Better writing means better marketing,” Handley said.

All brought together by better thinking.

Building a B2B Online Marketing Strategy that Generates Leads

Lead GenerationIt has been challenging for many B2B companies to make the transition to online marketing. Many B2B businesses still rely on old school methods to generate leads, including cold calls, trade shows and direct mail. While there is still a place for these efforts, it is proven that over 85% of B2B customers search the web before making a purchase.

The reason is very simple. Your buyers are changing their purchasing methods. They no longer want or need to meet with sales teams prior to making a purchase. Rather, they conduct their own buying research online – and it’s faster and more efficient! In fact, 77% of B2B buyers indicate they don’t talk to a salesperson until after they have performed their own independent research – online.

When developing a foundation for your B2B online marketing strategy, consider the following tactics to build and expand your internet marketing efforts:

  • Have a well-designed, well-written website – Your website should make a positive first impression of your company and offerings. And, it should have content that engages and educates your prospects.
  • Know your target audience – Develop a clear vision of who your content is intended to motivate. Don’t try to be all things to all people – be an expert for your niche.
  • Nurture and grow your list – Develop a strategy to capture your website visitors. If a prospect lands on your website, but isn’t ready to buy, it’s important to stay in touch with them. A simple sign-up form on your website can produce great results. Consider giving people an incentive to sign-up so they are willing to give you their contact information. Once they’ve signed up, use an email newsletter to consistently send meaningful content to them.
  • Build new highways to your site – There are many ways for you to drive traffic to your site. First and foremost, make sure your website URL is incorporated in your communications materials, including your email signature, printed and digital marketing materials, company signage, packaging and published articles. An ever-growing highway for driving people to your site is via social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
  • Keep creating content for your site – Most consumers find custom content useful and many believe that companies that create custom content are interested in building a relationship with them. Creating custom content can differentiate your company from competitors, nurture leads, and help prospects make buying decisions.

The above tactics are the foundational pieces for a robust online B2B presence. By implementing these tactics, you can expect to see an increase in the number of qualified leads to your website. And, it should make conversion a lot easier for your sales team. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

5 Un-Tapped Content Resources in Your Own Business

We get it. Sometimes content creators are departments of one. Even if you have a few more on your team, constantly creating new content can be a challenge for small marketing and content departments.

Fortunately for smaller departments, it’s likely that you have untapped content resources right in your own business. Here are five you can seek out today:

  1. Your Boss

    What vision does your CEO, boss or founder have for your company this year? In five years? In ten? What did he or she dream about before taking this role or position? What does he or she believe will never change about the core values of your company?It might be difficult to get a fresh blog post from a busy supervisor or leader each week, but think of creative ways you can use your boss’ voice in your communication with your customers. Key leaders within your company likely have a bigger picture of your products or services. How can you use this picture to supplement your content?

  1. Your Co-Workers

    Whether you simply highlight your co-workers in an employee spotlight feature, or whether you identify natural content creators in other departments, your fellow employees can be a great help in your content efforts.We often conduct content ideation sessions with a cross-section of employees from the entire company. We’ve found that while marketers have their finger on the pulse of company messaging, other employees bring a unique perspective of the company based on their day to day dealings with customers, other employees or your product and service. How does your administrative assistant view the company? How about one of your repairmen who takes customer calls?

    These individuals are key components to how your company runs, and can bring ideas you may not have thought of to your content offerings.

  1. Your Customers

    We often advocate on TKGenius that you poll your customers to get content ideas, or even ask your customers to supply you with content themselves. So, how are they using your product? Are they taking photos of themselves getting a haircut in your salon? Did they recently enjoy one of your events and tell their friends about it on Social Media?Not only will your customers give you great ideas for content, they are often great content creators without even knowing it. One of our clients asks customers to submit photos of themselves or their children enjoying the brand’s snack foods, then features these customers on their Facebook page. These posts are always fun, and are often the most liked and shared on the page. All the administrator needs to do is post the photo and write a quick caption.

    Bottom line: your customers can save you time and give you the inside scoop on which content best suits them.

  1. Your History

    #tbt! Does your company keep copies of old newsletters? What about old photos, past versions of your products or old videos? All of this content can be resurrected to serve your current content efforts.For example, one of our clients has been in business for over 100 years. We regularly help them publish their vintage advertising campaigns, past photos and previous product iterations on both Social Media and their website. Customers appreciate these glimpses into the past, because they know they’re getting a quality product with a long history of success.

  1. Your Processes Your Processes

    How are your products made? Are there aspects of your production you could show customers? What about how you take calls? What part of “behind the scenes” might your customers like to know and understand? Do you have an interesting inter-office culture you could showcase? What about a specific event or charity your employees like to support?Transparency, when possible, is a powerful way to build trust with your customers. While you may not be able to show exactly how a product makes it from point A to point B, you might be able to show what it looks like when you pack a box to ship, or how a salesperson greets a customer.

    One of our clients will sometimes show through photos what a window installation looks like on a home. Customers appreciate this insight of the service because it both shows how knowledgeable our client is, and takes some of the mystery out of the service itself.

    Want more ideas on how to generate content for your business? Sign-up for our next Breakfast Bootcamp on Content Ideation!

    photo source

SMX East 2014 – The Value Part 2

SMX East LogoSMX East has come and gone and as The Value Part 1 promised in June, we’re back from the event and ready to evaluate! Our goal is to help you decide whether to attend in 2015.

Over the course of three days, I attended 12 sessions devoted to various aspects of online marketing. Fellow TKG marketer, Kyle Crocker, attended 12 separate sessions. If a third member of the TKG team would have attended, they too, could have attended 12 completely different sessions. Topics included competitive research, remarketing, keyword research, Bing advertising, link building, structured data, and more.

As a recap, here’s what we hoped to gain from attending this year:

  • Actionable Ideas
  • Latest Online Marketing Trends
  • B2B and Small Business Insights

Each item will be rated on a scale of 1-5.

Actionable Ideas (4 out of 5)

During the three days, I jotted down five full pages of notes. The more action items I can come away with, the better the show and SMX East did not disappoint! I have designated 27 bullets from my notes as needing specific action for clients. For perspective, when I attended Internet Retailer years ago, I came back with about half as many action items. Several of the sessions also included links to recommended tools, both free and paid, that assist with analytics, competitive research, and social monitoring.

Online Marketing Trends (5 out of 5)

SMX East had entire sessions devoted to specific topics online marketers should be familiar with regarding current online marketing trends. A few I really enjoyed include:

  • Structured Data
  • Hummingbird and the Google Knowledge Graph
  • Remarketing

While none of these topics are considered cutting edge overall, there are plenty of specific elements within the more broad discussions that were brand new to me.

B2B and Small Business Insights (3 out of 5)

This was the one area where SMX East was a little lacking.  There were very few examples during show targeted specifically toward B2B websites or small businesses. Instead, many of the speakers were from large agencies using examples of what they were able to accomplish with budgets much larger than a small business would be able to invest. Fortunately, many of the sessions focused on general tips and tricks that apply to any website. Principles such as keyword research, link building, and competitive analysis can be easily scaled up or down depending on resources.

Closing Thoughts

Hearing Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land, respond to questions from the audience was a highlight of the show. He’s very well respected in our industry and has his finger on the pulse of all things digital.

Overall, I recommend SMX East for anyone interested in staying sharp on the latest SEO and SEM trends. If you are responsible for digital marketing at your company, I highly recommend attending SMX East in 2015.

Image Credit

5 Unique Ways to Jump Start Content Creation

Maybe you’re neck deep in creating your 2015 content calendar, or maybe you’re creating a calendar for the first time. Either way, mapping out content for six months to a year can be a daunting task (here’s hoping you’re not trying to get it done in one fell swoop!).

As you look for inspiration to plan and create your content, it’s easy to run out of ideas, especially when you are immersed in the day to day activities of your brand and business.

Here are five unique ways to jumpstart your content creation when things start to feel a little rote and routine.

  1. Move
    Research shows that movement and exercise helps boost creativity. So when was the last time you got up from your desk and walked around your office? Take time to notice things around your business that seem interesting.Are there facts about your building or physical structure your audience might find interesting? What about people in your organization that are new that you could profile? Or does your company have employees that have worked for a record amount of time? Does your business have a specific culture? Special days, holidays, or employee milestones you observe?

    Not only will getting up from your area help get the blood flowing to your brain, it will help you notice things about your business you would never see from your office.

  1. Use Your Audience
    If you are not mining your audience for content, you are missing a huge opportunity to not only connect with them, but to also create content you know will land and resonate. Informal Social Media polls, your audience’s frequently asked questions, and even more formal surveys help to give you better insight into the kind of content they want to consume.If your audience is particularly creative or active on Social Media, you can ask them to contribute their content directly to you in the form of a contest (Instagram is a great medium for this tactic), or simply as a way to highlight how they are enjoying your product or service.
  1. Mind Map
    Content Ideas - Mind Mapimage source 

    I still regularly mind map for clients, friends and even myself if I want new ideas or a new perspective on a topic or problem. Mind mapping is particularly effective if you are looking to create new categories for content.The best thing about mind mapping, though, is that it’s a simple exercise to complete on your own or with a group. If using a group, invite people outside of your content department to join you…you never know what perspectives about your business they can bring!

  1. Re-Purpose
    No need to re-invent the wheel if you already have a great cache of content. Instead, go back through some of your most popular pieces of content and determine if you can present the content again in a new and fresh way. Can a great blog post be turned into a script for a new video? Can a popular video be re-imagined into an infographic? Can an informative infographic be the basis for a new white paper?Use your imagination and see how you can present content that worked in your past as content that works in your future.
  1. Get Inspired
    That’s right, Pinterest ain’t just for weddings! Keep boards full of photos, articles and videos that inspire you. Pin what your competitors are pinning. Follow your competitors and other companies in your niche or industry.Already Pinterest addicted? Use tools like Feedly to keep tabs on industry articles, blogs and keywords. Or use your walls or whiteboards to gather great photos. And of course, don’t shy away from simply taking in a great concert, art show or inspirational video. Sometimes our brains just need a taste of someone else’s creativity to spark our own.

    Want more help creating great content for your business? Check out our upcoming Breakfast Bootcamps!

Don’t Be Content With Your Traditional Content

So what is content, anyway?

And I’m not talking about the state of peaceful happiness and satisfaction. Though, I suppose good content should support that.

Content has been the buzzword of the marketing world lately, as the businesses and brands work to better engage with their audience.

Recently I spent the better part of a week with about 2,600 marketers from around the country who are all working to get better at content marketing. Content Marketing World, a conference developed by the Content Marketing Institute, is the largest event of its kind and seeks to educate marketers and continue to advance the industry.

I could have asked each person at the conference to define content and received a different answer. In my eyes, therein lies the key to developing great content.

It comes in many different forms and is consumed in many different forms. And there isn’t one right answer in how to do it well.

Among several quotes that stuck with me from CMWorld came from Scott Stratten, the president of UnMarketing, in his keynote talk: “Sometimes content is just giving a damn.”

Well, duh, right?

As easy as it sounds, it’s really a fundamental switch from brands just talking at their audience. Or toward their audience. Or kindof near their audience. Or, let’s face it, throwing something out there and hoping it sticks with their audience.

Stratten’s keynote drove home the message that good content needs to be a dialogue between a brand and a consumer. It needs to connect with your audience on a personal level and start a meaningful dialogue that isn’t necessarily about selling your product. It comes down to understanding your customer’s needs – and remembering that your product isn’t the solution – what your product does is the solution.

Gone are the days of traditional marketing, where strategies focused on print or broadcast media. Effective marketing now needs to occur across multiple platforms, be customized to your audience and delivered fast. And, above all, it needs to be accurate.

Audiences are looking for a relevant conversation (umm, content!) about your product that means something to them. Great content can allow you to connect with your audience in a way that is practical and engaging without needing to sell them. “Every occasion isn’t a selling occasion,” Stratten said.

With my journalism background, his message particularly resonated with me because it isn’t far from that world. Marketing shouldn’t be about spin and PR. Much like journalists report the most important elements of a news story, as marketers we should report the most important elements of our brand and get that information out in a manner that is timely, effective, honest and real.

It’s as easy (and as difficult) as that.

5 Ways to Generate Content Easily

Sometimes even the most experienced writers hit content roadblocks. Authoring new and original content is hard work, and after a while, the inspiration stops coming. So when your well of words dries up, and you’re desperate for new content, try out a few of these painless content generation ideas:

Get your audience to create content for you
Ask your audience to take selfies with your product or tell a story about your brand’s impact on their lives. When they share these moments on social media, it will reach your network and theirs.

Recycle old content into something new
Take an old post and rework it into something that’s relevant today. When you add #TBT to an engaging post from back in the day – voila! – You have a brand new piece of content.

Develop case studies
When you can’t think of anything new to say, go to your customers. Ask them about past experiences, and retell their stories online. Case studies help you build transparency, and are relatively painless to create.

Curate content from other trusted sources
Go to trusted news outlets or trade publications for relevant content that makes sense for your target audience. Curating content from respected sources helps build credibility, and all you have to do is post a link and your take on it.

Respond to your audience
Whether it’s on social media, in comment sections, in blog posts or through contact forms, customers are always reaching out. It takes very little effort to respond to these comments, and personal responses could help you build lasting relationships with your audience.

Trust us, these content generation techniques are painless, and they will offer a lot more value to your customers than a silly meme or cat picture. (But, we like those too. Sometimes.)