Warning: this Social Media Specialist could Explode your business

I believe that you don’t always have to choose between having your cake and eating it, too – I can totally order you another one if you want me to. Often, the better of the two options is both. For instance, I don’t just view blogs as vehicles for SEO keywords, I also view them as potential sources of serious PR – and use them as such. I find clever solutions to problems most people don’t know exist, and my clients benefit from it.

I learn more from my successes than my failures. The road to effective digital PR campaigns is paved with trial and error, but the fact of the matter is that effective campaigns have a lot more to teach me than their counterparts that are currently languishing in some obscure corner of the Internet. Of course, I also strive to make sure that no mistake goes unnoticed – or made twice.

I think marketing is equal parts artistry and science. When a campaign results in a lot of traffic or sales, I don’t celebrate. I do what I can to figure out why it was successful, and then experiment until I am able to replicate the process.

What started out as an experiment and a dream is now a successful digital social media firm owned by Jo Weber. I am committed to working smarter andharder for my clients, because I know that’s what it takes to succeed in today’s hyper competitive marketplace.

I hold myself to ridiculously high standards. My clients demand nothing less, and I am happy to deliver.

Areas of Expertise

Free press is a lot like a free lunch: there’s no such thing. Still, my digital PR and social media services are more affordable than traditional brick-and-mortar PR houses, and I am significantly more effective than your cousin who once took a class in public relations at the local community college. There’s an argument to be made that digital PR is even more effective than advertising (it’s certainly cheaper), and several books have been written about the fall of advertising and the rise of digital PR over the last decade. It’s a trend I am excited to be a part of. If you’ve seen the results I have, you’d be excited too.

This type of digital PR exposure is better than just getting your name out there. National coverage means high-quality backlinks for your website that money can’t buy, and this can have a significant impact on where your site shows up in search engine results pages. Sometimes, a few high-quality links can make the difference between the #1 and #2 spots – and you probably already know what that means for site traffic and sales.

With my digital PR and social media services, I take a three-pronged approach to getting my clients press, and it’s what makes me a little different than everyone else.

 

digital pr services for website

  1. PR Opportunity Monitoring

    I have the PR tools and contacts necessary to find great opportunities for your company, and I get hundreds of requests from reporters and media outlets looking for expert sources for their stories, each and every week. You could be that expert, and I help make it happen. I also have access to the editorial calendars of major media outlets, so we can plan ahead and make sure that you have a consistent, relevant outreach to reporters and journalists.

  2. Establishing Your Company As A Thought Leader In Your Industry

    When you’re a thought leader in your industry, reporters are more likely to tap you for expert commentary and quotes. If you’re interested, this can even develop into consulting gigs, speaking engagements and book deals. Once you’ve achieved a certain amount of exposure, your clients and customers will also view you as an expert in your industry – which automatically makes them trust your advice and opinions. This leads to more sales.

  3. Creative Campaign Development

    How do you get over a dozen .edu links (including Ivy League!) to point to an adult e-tailer’s website without scamming or spamming? Ask me, because I’ve done it before –and the universities even wanted to partner again in the future. The SEO results for that campaign were nothing short of astounding, and my client was thrilled. For me, it was just another day at the office.

This type of creative campaign development is something I excel at, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of my digital social media services. From SEO link-building campaigns to securing endorsement deals, I can do it all. No matter what your business or industry is, I can figure out a way to creatively solve your PR problems and get you the kind of press and name recognition you’re looking for.

Press Releases

How do you get the media to notice what you’re doing? The first step is to send a press release.

When you order a traditional press release, you’re buying the release itself, advance email distribution to 500+ related press contacts (which gives them a 24- to 48-hour head start on the story), national distribution and follow-up with media outlets. You’ll also receive two reports that detail pickups, traffic sent to the website and notable interactions, plus a complete list of outlets that the release was distributed to.

PR Article Placement

There’s a major advantage to having a great writer at your disposal: when reporters aren’t writing about your industry, I can – and then I’ll pitch the content I create to media outlets until somebody picks it up. It’s PR 2.0, and it’s something I am pioneering with great success.

Website Design

My website design rates include concept generation, design, all copy and as many edits as necessary to get the job done. Once you’ve approved everything and the website is live, I distribute it to media contacts and bloggers in your industry and encourage them to repost it (with a link back to your site, of course). I even include an HTML repost code that makes it easier for people to share your shiny new website.

I know what I am doing when it comes to digital PR. One of my client has been interviewed by CNN and has been on live national TV talking about everything from web content writing to small businesses and the economy. If she can get quoted in Forbes, you can too.

Call 951-675-2149

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Social Media Marketing Tips For Business

Joe is just starting his on-line business. He has a professionally designed website and is posting a blog twice a week. He knows he needs to add social media to his marketing mix but has questions. Joe is like many entrepreneurs who are just entering the social media marketing world. Here are a few things Joe and I discussed to get him started building a reputation on social media.

  1. HITVIrtual.comKnow the rules of each network you post on. Each one will have slightly different rules. Take some time to review and then be sure to follow the rules. After you review the written rules, find out if there any “unwritten” rules you need to know. You can do this by observing for a while or simply ask your colleagues. For example LinkedIn is all business all the time. You shouldn’t socialize or share personal information there. Facebook, on the other hand, embraces the meaning of social media. Even if you are there for business marketing, you can and should share your personality. People on Facebook want to see who is behind the brand.
  1. Proof Read. A typo every now and then is not the end of the world but chronic typos, misspelling or grammatical errors could destroy your credibility. Of course, it may not be possible to have someone else proofread all your posts. A good way to check yourself is to read your writing out loud. You will be amazed at how many typos you catch this way.
  1. Follow the 60/20/20 rule for posting.

60% helpful/useful information such as tips or links to helpful information

20% support your followers/friends – share and like their posts – comment on their page

20% self-promotion – This is where you promote your service or product directly.

  1. Include a branded image as often as possible. Photos receive 53 percent more likes on Facebook than the average post and 84 percent more link clicks.What is a branded image? This can be as simple as including your business name on the image. When you do this, it not only builds your brand, but ensures your image is credited to you when it is shared without a link back to you.
  1. HITVirtual.comUse videos. Videos increase people’s understanding of your product or service by 74%. You don’t have to produce a major motion picture. On the contrary, keep it short and sweet because up to 45% of viewers stop watching a video after one minute. By the two-minute mark, 60% of viewers have tuned out. Get your message across quickly before your viewers click away.
  1. Be Consistent. Set up a posting schedule and stick with it. How much should you post and what is considered too much? The somewhat frustrating answer to this is, “It depends.” It’s hard to say what’s right for everyone as it will vary not only by platform but by target audience. It’s best to use some trial and error to learn the optimum number of posts for your audience. Buffer has a great infographic on the topic here.

Posting too much will lose followers. The key is to be consistent. For example, if you schedule it to post on Facebook each day at 1 pm, your fans will expect a post from you at that time. If your schedule is inconsistent they may lose interest and only see your posts when you “happen” to appear at the top of their timeline.

  1. Answer questions, ask questions, comment, like and share. Remember being social and supporting your friends and fans? Pay attention to what others are posting. Do you have a question about it? Ask. If someone posts a topic you can contribute to, comment on their entry. And don’t forget to like and share others content.
  1. Vary your type of posts. Different types of content appeal to different people. The popularity of videos is undeniable and the popularity of Blab and Periscope shows the power of this type of content. Make sure you vary the type of content you post.
  1. HITVirtualUse hashtags. Hashtags are a way for social media users to tag their posts with keywords, which in turn make them easier for social networks to organize and users to search. If you ever read a post that was 90% hashtag, you know how annoying it is. Use a maximum of 4 hashtags.

 

These Stanford graduates want to help you run a YouTube empire

EpoxyJuan Bruce, left, and Jason Ahmad started building Epoxy while at Team Downey — founded by actor Robert Downey Jr. and his wife, Susan — and spun it out when they realized that there was demand for the software. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

David Pierson

Aspiring stars in Los Angeles used to measure success by the number of parts or auditions they snared.

Travel vloggers Damon Dominique and Joanna Franco do it by brewing a pot of coffee in the morning, opening their laptops and counting the number of new comments, mentions and likes they tallied.

The duo, known online as Damon and Jo, have attracted advertisers by amassing more than 210,000 subscribers on YouTube. That’s enough of a following to hopefully never have to walk dogs or deliver groceries again.

But maintaining that momentum won’t be easy. It takes a relentless pace of new content and round-the-clock tending of fans on social media. “When you get to a certain level it’s impossible to see every YouTube comment,” said Franco, a 23-year-old native of Rio de Janeiro who grew-up in Connecticut and moved to L.A. last summer. “It’s easy to say, ‘I’m overwhelmed.'”

Without the means to hire a team of publicists, agents and assistants, Dominique and Franco turned to software developed by a Venice start-up called Epoxy to maximize their digital influence. The company’s tools bolster the art and science of Internet fame, giving so-called content creators, in the parlance of the digital video world, a badly needed edge at a time when competition is fierce.

Epoxy does this by merging Damon and Jo’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, allowing them to post new clips and pictures on any of those networks from one place.

“I don’t have to have 7,000 tabs open anymore,” said Dominique, a 24-year-old native of Fort Wayne, Ind., who became close friends with Franco at Pace University in New York.

Settings can also be toggled so that the pair are notified any time someone with a big social media following gives them a shout out — a golden opportunity to reach a wider audience with a simple reply.

The emergence of companies like Epoxy underscores the breadth and sophistication of today’s YouTube and online video ecosystem, which only recently was dismissed as a compendium of cat videos rather than an alternative to traditional entertainment.

There are now 165,000 YouTube creators around the world with followings of at least 10,000 subscribers, according to Tubular Labs, a Mountain View, Calif., digital video analytics company.

Within that community, 8,600 creators have at least 250,000 subscribers (also known as “now you can quit your day job” level), 4,100 have a following of at least 500,000, and 1,800 have at least a million subscribers.

Those at the top of the heap such as Lilly Singh, Tyler Oakley and PewDiePie command millions of dollars in endorsements and brand campaigns.

“It’s a more crowded environment,” said Allison Stern, co-founder of Tubular Labs, which offers creators free software to chart their influence. “I do think it’s definitely harder to become a star today than before.”

Creators compete with one another for eyeballs and brand campaigns. Advertisers look for the top influencers in targeted markets.

That gave rise to an industry connecting advertisers to creators led by start-ups such as Zefr in Venice, Famebit in Santa Monica and OpenSlate in New York.

Although Epoxy also wants to help the most established creators maintain their social media empires, it largely helps up-and-comers find their footing.

The company was co-founded in 2012 by Stanford graduates Juan Bruce and Jason Ahmad, who both have backgrounds in design and engineering.

The idea came when Bruce served as head of digital at Team Downey, a production company founded by actor Robert Downey Jr. and his wife, Susan.

Team Downey was making a Web series and asked Bruce and Ahmad to research why some online videos prospered while others didn’t regardless of production value.

Bruce and Ahmad interviewed top YouTubers like Jenna Marbles and Hannah Hart, ad agencies, Hollywood studios and multi-channel networks that were representing the biggest digital stars.

Using the Downey name helped open doors for the soon-to-be founders. When they were done, they were surprised by what they discovered.

“Winning in online video very often didn’t have anything to do with the video itself,” said Ahmad, now Epoxy’s chief product officer. “It actually had more to do with all the activity surrounding community building.”

The way beauty vlogging star Michelle Phan explained it to them, you have to build an audience first by promoting a new video on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram before you can expect to rack up views on YouTube and elsewhere.

“All these different networks support each other. They’re not the islands people had traditionally thought they were,” Ahmad said.

At one point, Epoxy studied the social media workings of YouTube star Tyler Oakley by printing out all his posts for one week and taping it to the walls inside the company’s headquarters, a Frank Gehry-designed loft that used to be part of Dennis Hopper’s compound blocks from Venice Beach.

The six videos and more than 350 social media posts Oakley produced that week showed the team how to keep a fan base engaged, particularly by repackaging content into memes and gifs and being active on as many different social networks as possible.

Bruce and Ahmad started building Epoxy while at Team Downey and spun it out when they realized there was demand for the software across the online video industry.

In 2013, Epoxy raised $2 million in a seed round led by Santa Monica’s Upfront Ventures. The following year, it raised another $6.5 million in a Series A round led by Time WarnerInvestments and Upfront Ventures. Included in that round was Downey Ventures.

Mark Suster, managing partner at Upfront Ventures, said Epoxy wasn’t a short- term bet. The rise of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and HBO’s streaming service signaled the end of a stranglehold on distribution by a handful of powerful media companies. That will eventually lead to a surge in demand for more content and the people needed to make it, he said.

“We believe by capturing the most elusive part of the market – the creators – we become infinitely more valuable to distributors who want access to talent,” Suster said.

When Epoxy officially released its publishing platform in May 2014, it included an editing tool to tailor video for the different social networks, a scheduling feature so that content could be posted strategically and a system to sort social media interactions so that creators could quickly respond.

The company released a mobile version of its software in September and recently released a feature where, instead of replying to posts in text, users can do it with a short video clip.

The company charges between $19 and $109 a month for access depending on the level of service desired. About 60 multi-channel networks, including Fullscreen, Maker Studios and AwesomenessTV, have purchased bulk subscriptions to Epoxy.

“Programming a YouTube channel can easily be a full time job,” said Chris Erwin, chief operating officer of Big Frame, the talent management arm of AwesomenessTV. “Being able to quickly edit content down into gifs and other media for social engagement, as well as better track and engage your top fans, is a big win.”

Bruce declined to say whether the company was profitable and it’s unclear how many creators are using the software. The company will only say that its clients collectively capture about six billion views on YouTube each month. For comparison, Maker, a Disney-owned multi-channel network with stars such as PewDiePie, attracts 10 billion views each month.

For creators, many of those views are hard won.

“It’s a really hard, exhausting, fragmented life,” said Bruce, Epoxy’s chief executive. “But on the plus side for us, if you can solve for that, you can win loyal users.”

So how essential is a service like Epoxy?

Justine Ezarik, a well-known YouTube personality who first went viral in 2007 after posting video of her 300-page iPhone bill from AT&T, said the tools available to creators today are far more sophisticated than when she started.

“You have to be analytical and on top of everything to compete these days,” said Ezarik, 31, better known by her YouTube handle iJustine.

But she said managing views and subscribers can sometimes become obsessive and counter-productive.

“You stop creating content,” said Ezarik, who often prefers asking her sister what she thinks of her latest video rather than look at results on YouTube’s data page.

That may be true for someone like Ezarik, who is established enough to have earned roles on network TV shows. But Damon and Jo, the travel vloggers who teach millennials how to see the world on a shoestring budget, say they can ill afford to neglect their numbers.

“Companies are looking closely at your influence,” said Franco, who along with Dominique, just joined a year-long marketing campaign with AT&T. “If you don’t know your value as someone with influence, you’re not doing your job.”

david.pierson@latimes.com

Twitter: @dhpierson

 

8 Signs You Should Outsource Your Blog Content Writing

Signs It's Time to Outsource Blog Content Writing

Before you can write killer content for someone, you’ve got to get to know them. I interview new clients about their business, voice and goals; research their industry, market and competitors; talk to them about obstacles and opportunities; and hash out a strategy together — all before we pitch our first blog. The only thing I don’t always learn about my clients’ businesses is what brought them through door — and equally importantly, what keeps some potential clients away.

I’ve seen some tantalizing hints: business owners who (literally) jumped with joy when I shared copy with them, proving that I really could write compelling, topical blogs in fluent English; tense, suspicious first meetings followed by cheerful, relaxed second meetings; clients baffled at how we seemingly know exactly what to write to generate traffic (are they psychic? Was I teleported to the Marvel Universe?). It’s clear that some of my clients have worked with content writers before that, well… weren’t quite up to my standards.

I wanted to know more, so I reached outside our client base and asked businesses if they blogged in-house or outside, and why. Before I get to that, though, here’s what’s at stake if your content doesn’t show off your business:

Why Content Writing Matters: Traffic, Traffic, Traffic!

Let me just get this out of the way: Blog! Blog! Blog! You must blog! This isn’t optional — if you have a business with an Internet presence (and we hope, dearly, that by this point if you have a business, you have a website), you need a blog with lots of content.

The business blogging hype can get monotonous, but it really does affect your bottom line. On average, blogs increase both indexed links and inbound links by 97%, and lead to 434% more indexed pages. That means businesses that blog get more search traffic from Google and more visitors surfing in from other sites, which benefits sales, ad revenue, and brand loyalty. It’s not just the obsessive bloggers who reap the rewards, either. One Hubspot study found that just 1 – 2 blogs per month can boost B2B leads by 70%.

But with so many businesses blogging, Google competition is fiercer than ever. AChitika study found that 92% of search engine traffic goes to the first page, with 33% going to the first organic result alone. Businesses that don’t have good blogging strategies risk being buried in search results, making it much harder to connect with customers.

And it’s not just traffic that’s at stake. Blogs are rated as the 5th most trustedsource for online info, with 29% of consumers viewing them as more accurate than other online sources, including news sites, online magazines, and brand sites. With more consumers doing research, comparison shopping and purchasing alone (by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships online without talking to an actual person), having a blog that’s accessible, trustworthy and highly ranked is crucial to gaining an edge across your business.

Why Do Companies Outsource Blog Content Writing?

 

For Candice Galek, outsourcing blog content writing is the only way to produce all the material she needs. Her online swimwear company, Bikini Luxe, outsources “the majority of the content, solely on the fact that we need so much of it.” Her company relies on outside writers for “everything from product descriptions to blog posts, newsletters and pitches to reporters.” Good content is important, and she realizes how vital it is that businesses have strong copy supporting their website:

“For our newsletters, press releases and product descriptions we have an amazing team of authors from all around the world. We find this to be a much quicker and more efficient way to get the content we need quickly.”

For most of the respondents that contacted me, however, getting an outside writer (or a few of them) was a way to complement in-house talent, rather than replacing it. Conrad Lumm, Marketing Director of online sign retailer SmartSign, runs multipleblogs with the help of outsourcing. Because his bloggers don’t have his industry expertise, he needs to be a part of the process. However, the writers bring an invaluable outside perspective to his company:

“In the same way that being too close to your own website can mean overlooking its flaws, being too close to your own company’s products can be a problem, too. We work with traffic safety products, and people in our industry sometimes have strong opinions that don’t translate well to the general public. The freelancers I work with are often better than I am at framing content when I’m looking for more consumer-oriented writing rather than B2B content.”

While talented content writers have helped both Candice and Conrad, not everyone who has tried to outsource blog content writing has had a fantastic experience.

How Outsourced Blog Content Writers Let Some Businesses Down

When I started interviewing business people about their blog outsourcing strategies, I expected a range of opinions, from “mystery content marketing elves take care of all my online needs!” all the way to, “hell no, no one touches my blog!” But the thing that surprised me most (aside from the fact that mystery content marketing elves aren’t real) was how many negative experiences people had had.

Some respondents had a very narrow niche, which made it hard to find the right person. Mark Aselstine, founder of wine club, Uncorked Ventures, needed bloggers immersed in the local wine culture. “It turned out to be difficult to get a real coherent blogging strategy with people we hired,” he said. “We only sell wine from California, Oregon and Washington, so articles and stuff on a Bordeaux tasting they attended didn’t seem appealing to us.” He eventually went back to blogging for himself, because he couldn’t find anyone who could keep his customers informed of wine news in his area.

 

Will Schneider had a similar problem with warehousing and fulfillment companyFulfillmentCompanies.net:

“With each attempt at outsourcing, we ran into the same problem — the outsourced writers didn’t have enough specialized knowledge in our industry to write articles that contained specific enough information. On the flip side, as a small business, the highly specialized writers within our niche charged quite a bit more per piece, where it wasn’t as cost effective for us to outsource. We found the happy middle ground for our company was to keep it in house.”

For others, it was the quality of the writers that sandbagged their outsourcing. Margo Schlossberg, Marketing Manager at Gently Loved Jewelry, was initially told by her boss that her time was “too valuable” for blog content writing, but ended up taking over blogging duties when they couldn’t find the right people. According to her, the bloggers they contract with “never seemed to have a consistent voice with what our story is and how we speak as a company and as a brand.”

The whole experience left her skeptical of outsourcing. Teaching, training and explaining their brand to an outsider “who does not have the same vested interest in the organization and in its success” just proved too much of a challenge for her.

Creative Control Worries: Is This Really My Content?

The problem isn’t just unreliable bloggers or a lack of expertise, however. A lot of businesses that might benefit from outsourcing are reluctant to trust someone else with their voice. Strategist and entrepreneur Ross Simmonds is an experienced blogger and marketer, but when it comes to his coffee subscription site, Hustle & Grind, he didn’t want to give up control:

“We initially thought about outsourcing our blogging efforts for Hustle & Grind but came to the conclusion that the best approach would be to let people write under their own name as guest bloggers. As a consultant, I see the benefit of outsourcing your blogging efforts but as a founder — I see the struggle of giving up your voice to someone else.”

Christopher “Zippy” Kaufman, a voice actor, comedian and prolific blogger from Stamford, Connecticut went even further:

“Maybe it’s because I’m a one-man shop, but I think it’s crazy to outsource blogging. To me, blogging is as much of a conversation as it is me just throwing thoughts down in a doc file. If that conversation is being outsourced, then you’re not having the convo with me; just someone who has an interpretation of what my voice sounds like.”

What a Blogger Should Do to Make Clients (Or Themselves) Happy

 

For an experienced blogger like Ross, or an entertainer like Zippy, sometimes keeping everything in house makes sense, but many other respondents really wanted to outsource. They were busy business owners, operators and marketers with limited time, but they couldn’t find a way to let go and trust outsourced blog writers to uphold their vision. Lisa Chu of children’s formalwear company Black N Bianco puts it best:

“Trusting someone to speak on your business’ behalf is a very big deal, if you hire the wrong outsourced blogger they can damage your brand and even offend some of your readers.”

I was impressed by their integrity, and had to give them credit for trying, but I can’t help feeling many gave up too soon. Blog content writers aren’t here to make you feel disempowered, or to take control of your brand — we’re here to amplify your voice, to help you reach and connect with your audience and to save some of your precious time. If you’ve been struggling under the weight of your business blog, here are some signs that it’s time to let go.

1. You think anyone can make good content. If you believe this, you’re probably not writing engaging content. That breezy, conversational tone you see in your favorite blog? Hard work. Being informative and entertaining while sticking to the brand voice? It’s trickier than you think.

A good blog has to grab the reader from the first line (well, actually, from the title, but we’ll get to that later). Because I am all about modesty, I’ll use our own Content Marketing Guide as an example (seriously, click over, it’s a great read!).

In the first sentence, it tells the reader everything — what they’re going to learn, what level they should be at, and where they can learn the prereqs if they’re not there yet. It includes two links to our own blogs, which encourages readers to click around the site — that improves user experience, builds our brand, and helps us get more traffic. The second sentence finishes it off with an intriguing question to get readers thinking — and keep them reading.

And notice the way it starts with “By now” — like it’s in the middle of a conversation? That’s intentional, too. Not “content marketing is very important because…” or “this complete guide, in which you will learn…” It makes the reader pay attention by throwing them right in. Trying to tune it out is like trying to ignore someone tossing you a baseball. You’re going to be engaged before you even think about whether you want to play.

Even a mediocre headline can sink an article (8 out of 10 people will read it, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest). To grab readers, a headline has to be:

  • Short enough so people can see it in Google search;
  • Specific and accurate enough to tell your reader what’s inside;
  • Sexy enough to pique your readers’ interest, without coming off as spammy;
  • Targeted toward your prospective clients;
  • Optimized for SEO.

And on top of all of that, you have to keep up with trends. Remember the big Upworthy splash headlines: “5 Amazing Things” and “10 Simple Tricks” and the ever popular “You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!” Everyone started doing it, and now readers are getting bored of it. One study shows blogs can actuallydecrease clickthroughs with words like “amazing (-24%)” “magic (-59%)” and “simple” (-49%).

There are thousands of articles like this, dissecting every aspect of blog writing, but there’s no magic formula. To be good, you need the writing skills to understand what your audience is looking for, and the time and dedication to refine your craft.

2. You’re grouchy and/or fragile. Whatever you’ve heard, there is such a thing as bad publicity. Between customer complaints, scandal-mongering and trolling, there are plenty of people who want to see you melt down on social media. If you don’t have a calm demeanor and decent PR skills, you need someone else to handle the public online.

The experience of Donna Lynes-Miller from Gourmet Station shows just how an arbitrary online scandal can blow up. Her gourmet food business decided to start a blog in the voice of T. Alexander, a fictional sophisticate and foodie, popular with her customers. Cute, right? Harmless at worst. What could go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out. Somehow, her “inauthentic” character blogging struck a nerve, earning a deluge of nasty comments, including a personal “Beyond Lame Award” from one generous marketing blogger. Fortunately, she kept her cool, explained her perspective. It took a while, but the furor died down, and she reaped the reward in extra traffic.

Had she been less calm about the whole thing, it might have gone very differently. Amy’s Baking Company is the classic social media meltdown (it’ll be in all the marketing textbooks one day). After an appearance on Kitchen Nightmares showed the restaurant in… let’s say, an unflattering light, Amy and her husband started to get some flack on their Facebook page. So naturally, they proceeded to defend themselves. Forcefully. In all-caps. Soon things spread to Reddit, the all-caps gathered steam and exclamation points, and things got really ugly. The restaurant closed, and the meltdown became Amy’s legacy.

Look, someone (or some angry horde) is going to have something nasty to say about your blog or your business (or your face). It’s going to hurt your feelings and make you angry. To you, it’s a personal attack, but to an outside blogger, it’s just part of the job. If you can’t keep your cool, outsource your blog content writing to someone who can.

3. You can’t get it done. Are you a perfectionist? A procrastinator? Do you just find blogging incredibly tedious and boring? Whatever the reason, If you’re wasting time and not producing content, you need to outsource to someone who can.

Most marketers can write a 500-word blog post in 1 – 2 hours. CopyBlogger, which features longer posts, takes about 5 – 7 hours, including research and editing.

You don’t necessarily have to write that quickly, or course; writers work at different speeds, and projects have different requirements. A post describing the deal of the day at an online retailer is probably going to go a lot quicker than one explaining the new features of an esoteric business application, for example. And if you’ve got a very particular voice or style you need to write in, or a lot of research to do, that can take time too. You’re the only person who can say how much time you’re willing to commit. It might be worth it to spend a full day on 1 – 2 perfect blogs a week, because you know they’ll connect with your customers.

The problem is when you bleed through that time and still don’t get it done. Bloggers who spend two hours obsessing over the first paragraph before they finish a first draft don’t last. Ditto for content writers who immediately get so bored and frustrated that they start Googling “outsource blog content” instead of writing (welcome, by the way!). If you can’t turn blogging into a normal work process with a fairly predictable time requirement and workflow, consider outsourcing it to someone who can.

4. You lack supplementary skills. Everyone loves a story about an independent blogger whose fantastic concept or charming voice makes them into an overnight viral success. Unfortunately, the reality of blogging is a lot less romantic. You can’t write a blog post that brings in business without content marketing skills. You’ll need to build a content strategy, and find keywords for SEO that support your site. Then there’s running A/B testing to see what titles work, finding sources, getting coverage, Facebook sharing, Google+ marketing, and the list goes on.

If you want your blog to look good, you’ll also need some coding skills. At the least, you should learn a bit of HTML (Javascript and CSS don’t hurt either) and know your way around a content management system, such as WordPress.

If you want your blog to stick out, you’ll need to enrich it with infographics or charts. You may even need to create your own podcasts or videos at some point. That means adding recording and video editing to your already massive list of skills to acquire.

It’s all stuff you can learn, but it’s also stuff that takes a while to get good at. Unless you’re producing massive amounts of content, it doesn’t make sense to hire those skills inhouse, either — it’ll cost a fortune to have coders, developers, audio and video engineers, and graphic designers standing by. Working with an outside blogger (or your friendly, neighborhood content marketing agency, wink wink) is the best way to get the skills you need at a price you can afford.

5. Low engagement. If people aren’t coming to your blog, you’re probably doing something wrong. The problem is, it could be any number of things. You might have a basic problem like lack of sufficient promotion, boring articles, lousy/nonexistent SEO or poor targeting. You might be facing a competitor’s aggressive marketing campaign, or using lousy URLs that stop Google from reading your keywords. Alternately, your blog might just be too new. Pretty much everything you do on your blog affects engagement, so the problem could be almost anywhere.

There’s no checklist that covers every potential problem, but a few metrics can let you know if you should be concerned. Every blog should keep track of page views (how many people are clicking on your blog) and comments per post. Engaged viewers stick around, so you should also track time on site, and bounce rate (how many viewers leave after viewing a single page).

There’s plenty else to look at, including:

  • Keyword rankings
  • Traffic sources
  • Click-through rates
  • Conversion rates
  • Social shares
  • Backlinks

If you install widgets to measure basic things like clicks, you’ll start to get a clear picture. Once you gather a couple months of data, use a tool like SEMrush to look at your competitors’ stats (look at your stats too, to get a realistic comparison, since these tools can sometimes distort data).

If your blog is gaining in popularity or owning the competition, hurray! However, if your blog posts are sitting alone in a neglected corner of the Internet, week after week, it might be a good time to outsource your blog content writing.

6. Too much engagement. People are flocking to your blog! You’re getting more visitors, a steady stream of click-throughs, and hopefully, some new clients as a result. So, should you just keep doing what you’re doing, and reap the rewards? Not necessarily.

As John Egan, Editor in Chief at LawnStarter explains, blogging needs can change as a company grows:

“Here at LawnStarter, all of our blog posts are produced in-house. Why? Because it’s cost-efficient for an early stage startup such as ours to do that. Plus, it’s easier to control the tone and voice of blog posts when they’re created internally.

At my last employer, I outsourced the bulk of the blog content because I had four blogs to feed and because I had the budget to spend on freelance content. Our internal resources there wouldn’t have been sufficient to produce enough timely content for our blogs.”

Marc Prosser, co-founder of Fit Small Business and Fit Biz Loans, agrees that your content strategy has to change with your company:

“If your business is growing, you’re going to encounter periods where you’d like to put out more content than your team can reasonably handle. For a while, that deficit won’t be big enough to warrant a full hire. You have a few options: you can decide not to produce enough content to live up to that growth, you can push your team past their reasonable limits, or you can fill in gaps with a freelancer.”

When your blogs start going viral and your Facebook page is teaming with customer posts, you should be celebrating, not tearing your hair out as you struggle to keep up with the new workload. Whether you need a big content push, someone to fill in while you hire more staff, or a permanent boost in production, outsourcing your blog content writing can help your online presence grow with your business.

7. Irregular posting habits. If you have a personality-driven blog, a lot of ideas, and the time to put it together, it’s fine to sit down and write what’s on your mind when you feel like it. As long as the ideas keep flowing, your audience will be happy to read your thoughts whenever you have new ones to share.

Unfortunately, it’s an approach that can’t last forever — particularly with a business blog. Eventually, other things will come up and your posts will dwindle. You’ll have spoken your mind on a subject, and you won’t have anything new to share. You’ll be tempted to move on to other topics.

Search engines like Google reward blogs for new, engaging content. If your blog posts dwindle, or don’t target your customers as well, you’re going to start losing ground to competitors who blog more consistently. It can also alienate your followers, eroding customer loyalty.

The fact is, a lot of blog content— even good blog content — is repetitive and tedious to write. Your customers continue to have the same needs, meaning you have to be able to write about the same topics over and over again. If you’re starting to burn out, it’s time for a fresh pair of eyes. The right outsourced blog content writer will be able to bring interesting questions and perspectives to your readers, keeping your marketing content fresh and on-topic.

8. Missed opportunities. When something happens that affects your business or your community, getting your voice out there can enhance your authority, expand your reach and deepen your connection to your customers. The right commentary at the right time is what viral posts are made of, but you need to have someone ready to react.

Newsjacking — getting a boost from blogging about news — is hard to do right. You need to piggyback on a popular story that’s relevant to your industry or customers, with an informed opinion that adds value to it. You need to write a compelling, SEO-friendly blog that will stick out from all the other journalists and bloggers trying to do the same thing. And you need to do it quickly.

Ask yourself what happened last time there was a new law or development that changed your industry, or an event that affected your community. Did you find out about it immediately, or in a day or two? Were you be able to drop everything and blog about it, or did you have to put it off until the end of the week? Could you come up with a fresh perspective, or did you just end up repeating the details?

Pro bloggers are adept at spotting a story, and jumping on it while everyone is still paying attention. We can turn around polished articles quickly, and promote them effectively, bringing new viewers to your website and getting your name out there. If you don’t follow events in your industry daily, or don’t have the time for an “emergency” blog, it’s time to outsource your blog content writing.

Other Considerations When Looking to Outsource Blog Content Writing

Deciding to outsource is easy, but finding the right person may not be. Businesses often make the mistake of looking for the cheapest blogger possible, then give up when they get lousy results. You’re going to have to do some research and spend some money to do it right.

The first step in finding a great blogger is knowing what you want. Are you looking for an online marketing agency to craft an entire blogging, social media marketing andPR strategy, or a blogger to write pieces for your internal marketing team? Are you writing for a technical audience, the general public, or both? Do you need press releases, marketing emails or whitepapers? What about design and web programming?

Treat the websites of potential partners as auditions. They don’t have to be fancy, but it should be easy to navigate, with clean design and compelling copy. Contact a few of your top choices, and ask some tough questions. The good ones will be happy to talk.

There’s No Need to Go at it Alone

Pride in your work can make you a great business success, but it can also make it hard to get perspective. You don’t have to choose between being a fulltime blogger while running your business and losing control of your voice. Whether you’re looking forcopywriting for a particular project, a complete website design and rebranding strategy, or just some advice on building your online presence, I can amplify your voice, bringing the message you want to the customers you need. Contact me to learn more

Gmail Will Now Warn You About Potentially Unsafe Messages with Two New Icons

Gmail Will Now Warn You About Potentially Unsafe Messages with Two New Icons

You might see a new broken lock icon in Gmail messages starting today. It can warn you if you’re sending a message to an email service that doesn’t support encryption or if you received a message that wasn’t encrypted.

Although Gmail itself supports email authentication and encrypting emails in transit, not all email services do, hence the new warning icon. If you see it when composing your message, make sure your email doesn’t contain sensitive information. (But if you’re sending sensitive info over email, you should encrypt it yourself anyway.)

Also, if you get an email from a sender who can’t be authenticated, Gmail will replace the sender’s avatar with a question mark icon, so you can be more careful when replying to the sender or clicking on links in the message.

TL;DR: These two new icons are security warnings, so just be a bit more careful when you see them.

Making email safer for you | Official Gmail Blog

 

New – The Complete Inbound Marketing Kit

Michael Crosson
Hi fellow social marketers!

Our friends at HubSpot have grouped all their best inbound marketing resources in one, easy kit: http://bit.ly/1HAU3Rr

This kit contains:
– An introductory guide to internet marketing
– Blog post templates
– A search engine optimization (SEO) guide
– A social media publishing calendar template
– A landing page optimization guide
– Hubspot’s “Science of Email’ report
– Hubspot’s annual “State of Inbound” report

Click here: http://bit.ly/1HAU3Rr

These are some of our favorite resources — what’s yours? Share a resource you’ve found or created that taught you something new or made your life easier!

To your success,
Michael Crosson
Moderator & Publisher
http://www.SocialMediopolis.com

How Content Influences the Buying Process and Grows Business

sales_funnelToday when people want to buy something, the web is almost always the first stop on their shopping trip. In any market category, potential customers head online to conduct research. The moment of truth is when they reach your site: Will you draw them into your sales process or let them click away?

Many marketers now understand that content drives action and quite a few have embraced the idea of inbound marketing. That’s great because when I started writing about content on this blog ten years ago, very few understood the value of creating information to market a product or service.

Top of the funnel isn’t enough

While it is encouraging to see many companies deliver information to their buyers, the vast majority focus their content effort only at the top of the sales funnel. In other words, they create content to attract people, but the content provision stops once the salespeople take over. This is a big mistake.

Marketing is communicating to many buyers. Sales is communicating to one buyer at a time. Both require content.

Effective marketers take website visitors’ buying cycle into account when creating content and organizing it on the site. People in the early stages of the sales cycle need basic information about the product category and maybe a little about what you offer.

Those further along in the process need more detailed information. When a salesperson is engaged with a potential customer, it’s a great time to deliver content and a perfect reason for a salesperson to send an email. A YouTube video, blog post, ebook or whatever can be precisely what a buyer needs. It’s so much more friendly to send a buyer with a link to an appropriate video then to do the typical “are you ready to buy now” sort of email.

A focus on understanding the buying process and developing appropriate content that links visitors through the cycle to the point of purchase is essential. And the salespeople, who manage one deal at a time, are the perfect way to share the content.

Learning Centers for self-service buyers

Over the past month, I’ve been researching bamboo flooring. It’s time to update some floors in our home and are considering bamboo. When I started my research, I knew absolutely nothing about bamboo floors. So I turned to the Google Machine and searched on “bamboo floors” and perused the first few pages of results.

There were a number of sites that helped me, but the one I found the most valuable was BuildDirect. They have excellent product pages for their bamboo flooring and offer free samples.

There’s the BuildDirect Learning Center with valuable text-based information I enjoyed such as The Durability of Bamboo Flooring and The Sustainability of Bamboo Flooring. And there’s a YouTube channel where I watched videos like How Hard is Bamboo Flooring? Which features BuildDirect co-founder Rob Banks (and which has 26,000+ views).

There were many more videos and reports that I didn’t check out. In other words, BuildDirect has a lot of content to share!

All this excellent information led me to request five free samples from BuildDirect.  I also ordered samples from two other suppliers.

Salespeople as content curators!

This is the point when at many companies, marketing’s job has finished and sales’ job is just starting. I think a better approach is for sales and marketing to work together to provide ideal content to buyers as they continue their journey through the buying process.

After I placed my free sample order from BuildDirect, I received an email confirmation that looked like a basic order form: Just the facts. This would have been a great place for BuildDirect to point me to additional content – a video or a report on their site such as How Bamboo Flooring is Made.

The BuildDirect samples arrived very quickly and I enjoyed imagining my floors with each of the options. Interestingly, the samples I ordered from the other bamboo flooring suppliers never appeared.

A few days after the BuildDirect samples arrived, I got a nice follow-up email from my salesperson ad BuildDirect. It was to confirm the samples arrived and to offer to answer any questions I had. Standard sales stuff handled well. But again, there was a missed opportunity to share content that people in my stage of the process might be interested in.

An extra paragraph in the email reading something like: “By now you’ve likely compared the samples we sent. At this stage many of my customers want to learn about installing bamboo flooring so I am attaching a report that might interest you “How to Install a Bamboo Floor”. And here’s a link to a video made by our co-founder that answers How is Bamboo Flooring Graded?”

BuildDirect has excellent online content and I liked the samples. I’ll likely buy from them. But I could use some nudging to get me to the point where I’m ready to pull out my credit card.

Yes, product superiority, advertising, the media, and branding remain important to the marketing mix. But on the web, smart marketers (and salespeople too) understand that an effective content strategy, tightly integrated to the buying process, is critical to success.