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10 ways to use social media to build your blog audience

Many bloggers make the mistake of believing that simply writing blog posts is enough to engage their audience. Without promoting them to a captive audience on social media, however, you are missing out on a world of opportunity.

In this post, I’m going to show you 10 easy ways that you can utilise various social media platforms in order to drive traffic to your blog and grow the size of your audience.

1. Learn which social media platform works best for you

Different audiences hang out on different social media platforms. A mature, B2B audience for example, is likely to spend time on LinkedIn, while teenagers are more likely to follow Instagram and Facebook.

Tip: Try sharing your posts on different platforms and measure engagement rates then double down on the platforms that are driving traffic and engagements.



2. Link social media pages directly to your blog, and vice-versa

It might seem logical to link your social media pages to your main website, after all, this is what is most likely to drive leads and conversions. Linking to your blog, however, is a great way to drive people to content they are more likely to share and engage with. Similarly, it makes sense to ensure that people can find your social media pages from your blog.

Tip: Having links to social media right on your blog will allow visitors to find your social media pages easily, so that those already engaged on your blog can also follow you on other platforms.


3. Make content shareable

By making sure that people have the ability to quickly and easily post a link to your blog posts on their social media platforms, you will ensure that they get the maximum amount on traction.



Tip: Make sure that sharing links for all your social media sites are enabled on posts, there are several WordPress widgets for this.




4. Share multiple times

One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is simply sharing posts on social media once. According to this post from Kiss Metrics, sharing posts several times is a great way to ensure that you get the maximum social value out of your blog content.

Tip: To avoid spamming, and losing followers as a result, ensure that each social media update has an entirely different message. You can also experiment with sharing at different times of the day and using Hashtags to appeal to different audiences.

5. Make content tailored to each social media platform

Your blog probably has its own style of content, but that style might not be suited to every social media platform. For example, if you want to promote your blog on Instagram you can only use pictures, for Twitter, only up to 140 characters and images to drive click through. Different platforms also just fit a different styles of content.

Tip: Take a snippet from some of the most compelling copy from your blog post and use this as the copy for Tweets and Facebook updates. Through monitoring click through rates you should be able to determine which types of updates are most likely to get a reaction from your audience.

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Sharing multiple times is the key to success

6. Automate updates

Finding the time to write blog posts is for most people difficult enough, without having to update a number of social media profiles as well. Don’t worry, because there are services such as Hootsuite and Buffer that can help you to queue up updates for sharing across platforms.

Tip: Test and learn by sharing updates at different times of the day, using different copy each time.

7. Mention influencers

If you have referenced a source in your blog post, be sure to mention them in your social media updates. This will both increase the credibility of your updates and if you are lucky, lead to them sharing with their followers so your post will gain extra traction.

Tip: Use Followerwonk to find influential Twitter accounts and include an @ mention to them in your updates.

8. See what people are sharing

By looking at the type of content people are already sharing on social media you can gain insights into what will work for you.

Obviously, simply copying other people’s content is unlikely to be successful, however, you can usually see patterns and trends in the words and phrases that have been used in titles and you can use this insight to shape your own content and guarantee the best possible chance of exposure.

Tip: Enter a keyword or competitor site info Buzzsumo to see the most shared content in your sector.


9. Use Hashtags

Hashtags are a great way to get your content noticed, so consider adding terms that are relevant to your content. This post, for example, might benefit from Hashtags such as #blogging #socialmediastrategy.

A word of caution, however, it can look unprofessional to overstuff posts with hashtags – and some sites, like Tumblr, only track the first five Hashtags anyway.

Tip: Check hashtags before you use them. The best thing to do is to look through each platform’s trending tags (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have sections where you can find these), and then try to tailor a few posts to fit those tags.

10. Be consistent, and don’t give up!

The key to success with both blogging and social media is to consistently produce insightful and informative content. Success won’t happen overnight, it takes patience and dedication, but if you follow the tips above you should be off to a great start!

Tip: Put in place a content calendar to help you keep your content production and promotion organised.

Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee

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How to create a content marketing strategy plan

The thought of starting to create content, if you haven’t already, can be daunting. It’s such a large undertaking and it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. However, if you break it down and create a comprehensive content marketing strategy plan, you can make production manageable. The following tips should help you get started.

Outline your aim and goals

Before anything else, you need to decide what the overall aim of your content marketing efforts is. Think about your company mission and consider how content could help you work towards it. Then, break this down using the SMART framework: you want to identify goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. For example, an aim could be “to be seen as a thought leader in technology-driven pet accessories”. SMART goals for this could be “to appear on the first page of Google for the search term ‘automated dog feeder’ by 1st August 2016” and “to grow an email list of 1,000 subscribers by 1st July 2016”. With clear goals, you’ll have tangible targets to work towards and easily be able to measure your successes.

Identify your buyer personas

Now you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to look at your target audience. To see results, you need to identify who you’re creating content for, this will determine the kind of content you produce and your tone of voice. You should have about three to five detailed buyer personas. You can get started with buyer personas with this beginner’s guide or by using Hubspot’s template and guide. Typically, you’ll want to find out more about your existing customers by speaking with them, doing surveys and looking at your site’s traffic.

Research where your personas go

In order for your content marketing activities to be effective, you need to know where your prospects go online. This will require some research. In a similar way to your initial persona research, it’s a good idea to speak with existing customers. Ask about their online habits – what sites they visit most often, their favourite blogs, the social media platforms they use and more. This will help you decide where you need to concentrate your efforts in terms of the kind of content you create and how you promote and distribute it. For example, a seller of keyboards for developers may find that many of their potential customers spend time on Reddit, so it could be worth growing a presence there.

Evaluate existing content

Next, take a look at any existing content you have. You’ll want to do a content audit to see areas you’ve done well with so far, and areas that have been lacking. How in-depth you need to go will depend how much you’ve produced so far. Basically, you want to list all your content, how much traffic it has produced, how many leads and sales it has generated, the keywords you used and engagement generated. See which pieces of content have worked well for you so you can create content on similar topics, or utilising the same keywords.

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CMI’s template for content strategy statement

Note the kinds of content you want to focus on

So you know what you’re trying to achieve, who you’re creating content for and what areas you’ve been successful with so far – you can use this knowledge to decide what kind of content you want to focus on going forward. You can choose from a world of options, including blog posts, infographics, videos and reviews. Think about your personas, what they’d like, and how different content could help you achieve your goals. For example, say you’re aiming to sell tractor attachments and your buyer persona is Tom, a young farmer who uses the internet to help his dad make the best purchasing choices for their farm. You could create a series of blog posts that review the latest bale spikes in detail and honestly.

Take a look at your team and their capacities

For a content marketing strategy to be effective, you need to understand your capabilities. Consider who will be working on your content, whether it’s just yourself or an entire dedicated content team. You’ll need to be realistic about what you’re able to do, so think about what you know, your strengths (e.g. would you be better at writing informative blog posts or creating an image using Photoshop?) and your other responsibilities. This will give you an idea of how much content you’ll be able to produce on a weekly or monthly basis, without over-stretching yourself. If your time is limited and you have the resources, you could outsource most of your content marketing.

Make an editorial calendar

By now, you should have a good idea of what you’re going to do, so it’s time to create an editorial calendar. Ideally this should be a spreadsheet with columns for the content type, title, goal, creator, deadline, distribution/promotion channel and any other important details. You can use an existing template to make things easier. Then get creating!

Once you’ve started publishing, you’ll need to promote your content through various channels. It’s a good idea to have a promotion workflow, which will ensure this important step is never missed. When a piece of content is published, you could email coworkers about it, share it on social media, forward it to your email subscribers and contact influencers in the hope they’ll share it.

Monitor and tweak

So you’re writing, publishing and sharing content on a regular basis, but it doesn’t stop there. You need to monitor how your content is doing and make changes to your plan if necessary. Analytics tools are essential for this. At the very least, ensure you have Google Analytics set up and configured properly so you can see important data about visitors to your site. Keep your eye on how content is performing and try to spot any trends; you can then tweak your plan to reflect content that has done well.

Useful templates

To make planning easier, there are many templates available. Buffer offers one of the most comprehensive, along with detailed steps you can follow. You’ll also find a straightforward, fast, one-page plan by Uncommon.ly here and an excellent content marketing strategy package for B2B companies by Velocity here.

Don’t put off writing your content marketing strategy plan any longer – get started today!

Image courtesy of Pieter Schouten

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The complete guide to content marketing on LinkedIn

We all know that LinkedIn is the social network for professionals, and a valuable tool for recruiters across the world. What you might not have realised, however, is the potential of the platform when it comes to content marketing.

As LinkedIn has evolved, opportunities to share content have increased, and with a growing, interested audience to market your services to, the site really should be an integral part of your content strategy.

How does LinkedIn differ from other platforms, such as Facebook, when it comes to publishing content? Well, for starters, posting cat memes and sharing photos of your dinner is actively discouraged. Quality content is placed on a pedestal, as Andrea Fryear of Ceros notes: “members are more likely to share professional content that builds their professional brands, strengthens their professional networks, or helps them sell to their networks. Marketing content will be shared more if it fulfils these needs.”

Here’s our complete guide to getting the most out of LinkedIn:

Content types

When planning your content marketing strategy on LinkedIn, it’s important to think about what you want to share, and what your goals are. This will dictate the eventual guise your content takes – do you stay short, or do you go long?

Short status updates

The easiest way to penetrate your audience’s consciousness is through the LinkedIn status update. Updates are shared with your network, and when someone likes your status, it is disseminated among their followers too. Status updates are a great way for you to release the latest company news, link to content published elsewhere and offer your reaction to news pieces or blog posts in your industry. Hubspot recommend posting a status two to three times a day – just enough to establish yourself among your connections, without coming across as too ‘spammy’.

LinkedIn even offer a handy guide, informing you how you can get the most engagement out of your status updates. These tips include encouraging your audience to get in touch or comment via a call to action, posting regularly (“Companies that post 20 times a month, on average, reach 60% of their followers with 1 or more updates”, the guide says) and implementing different ways to monitor performance. What better way is there to provoke comment than this example from Network Sunday?

Long form posts

The other main form of content found on LinkedIn is the long form post. LinkedIn has evolved from a professional networking site to become a bona fide publishing platform and, with 414 million users, your content could get a lot of traction if those in your industry pick up on it and decide to share. Long form posts can act as both a content creation and a content redistribution tool, according to Jayson DeMers of Forbes,  as users can publish fresh content or choose to repurpose their existing blog posts to reach a new, interested audience.

Longer posts, if implemented correctly, are beneficial as they portray you or your company as ‘thought leaders’, eager to share your knowledge and benefit from the experiences of others in your industry. Your connections will receive a notification when you publish a post via Pulse, so it’s easy to see how a well-written piece that adds value to the conversation can quickly spread like wildfire. Hubspot recommends publishing in this manner once or twice a week, for maximum effect.

One particularly good Pulse example comes from Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently. In this article, Snow discusses the importance of building a business’s story by delving into the background of Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling. Now, whether the post spread (over 400,000 views and 3,000 likes to date) due to the link with the star of The Notebook or because of its powerful message (“the more personal a story we share, the closer it can bring people to us”) isn’t clear, but it shows the potential ‘thinking outside of the box’ can deliver – it’s a good post, with a tangible example and a valuable takeaway for the audience. And that is, ultimately, what you’re looking for.

Content distribution channels

Once you’ve decided on the form your content is going to take, you’ll need to choose the optimal channel through which to distribute it. There are five common options:

Personal profile

As a business owner, you’ll ideally have two presences on LinkedIn: a personal profile, through which you can establish yourself as an experienced and knowledgeable figure in your sector, and a business page, which represents your brand and also unlocks extra features, such as sponsored updates. The majority of your content should be published through your personal account, but remember to cross-promote posts and updates from the business, your employees and others in your industry for maximum effect.

Business page

Storytelling is a buzzword in content marketing at the moment, and a LinkedIn company page provides you with the perfect opportunity to get your message across. You can connect with employees and encourage them to share your company material, post job opportunities and update your connections with ‘news from the factory floor’.

IT firm TEKsystems are a good example to follow. They are prompt at interacting with users via the comment section on their posts, while the firm’s content contributors are encouraged to respond to feedback via their personal accounts, helping to expel the traditional image of companies being ‘faceless.’

Luke Brynley-Jones, founder of Our Social Times, says “94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to share content, making it the most popular B2B social media platform.”  With this statistic in mind, it would be madness for your business not to be present in some way.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are places where those in your industry can interact, make contact and establish themselves as thought leaders in their sector. While some of the content you share may be irrelevant to a percentage of your followers, distributing as a participant of a special interest group ensures that you’re preaching to an audience who are interested in what you or your business has to say. Digital Marketing and B2B Marketing are among the most popular groups, with tens of thousands of members, but joining a smaller group, such as LinkedIn Business Strategists, could also be beneficial, as your content is less likely to get lost among all the noise.

LinkedIn Pulse

Pulse is LinkedIn’s publishing platform and is the channel to use if you wish to distribute longer content and reach a wider audience. Some of the world’s most influential people post through Pulse – even Bill Gates uses it! Quality content posted through this medium can invade the newsfeeds of thousands and help start a conversation, with you or your business right at the centre.

Sponsored updates

Sponsored updates are only available on business profiles, but they allow you to target your audience precisely. Try your posts organically on LinkedIn before you pay to use this platform, and use content that has gained the most traction. Use LinkedIn’s aforementioned guide to tailor your updates in the most effective way and this article from Adstage form inspiration from good examples of sponsored updates in the past.

Finding a balance

Like any successful content marketing strategy, you will have to find a balance between these five channels, a need recognised by Post Planner’s Rebekah Radice, who implores you to “stay top of mind by consistently sharing relevant content to your LinkedIn page and taking advantage of expanded reach through LinkedIn Pulse. And don’t forget to cross-promote within your LinkedIn Groups and via your personal profile.”

How you approach content marketing on LinkedIn will depend on your particular niche, the identity of your audience and, perhaps most importantly, the story you want to get across. For us, Jason A Miller’s quote, which can be roughly paraphrased as ‘users spend their time on Facebook and see their time on LinkedIn as an investment’, rings true, so ensure you’re always offering them something valuable, and work from there.

Image courtesy of Nan Palmero

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How to select the perfect blog theme design

Blogs are a big part of content marketing. And content marketing is the trendiest, best-est, free-est form of marketing, right? So you should have a blog!

What’s the most exciting part about blogs? Designing your theme template, of course! While there is absolutely no flaw in that logic flow (says the content marketer who works for a design company), if you want to make the most of your blog, you should make sure it’s designed to do what you need and make you look good.

So before you get sucked into the WordPress theme wormhole you’re going to want to determine some priorities, and remember one key tenet: function guides form.

To figure out how your needs determine your blog theme design, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Is my blog stand-alone or part of a larger organization?

Companies use blogs to help consumers learn about their areas of expertise, but with the ultimate goal of selling a product or service. As an example, here’s a shameless plug for the 99designs blog, where you can learn all about how design impacts business (and then get yourself a swell new logo, website or tattoo designed). Let’s call these company blogs. Company blogs should prioritize:

Customization features

You likely already have an established brand, and you’re going to want your blog to fit in. If you’re going with an out-of-the box theme design, make sure that it offers the ability to customize colors, easily add your logo and change other design elements so your blog is on brand.

Support for the plugins you need

Your goal is to sell a product or service, and your content is the first step to getting people interested, but once they’re reading your words, you need to provide them with the ever-important CTA. And make sure you’re tracking their behavior patterns. Before you settle on a theme, make sure that it plays nice with the plugins that are essential to your business’ function.

Other organizations and individuals maintain blogs where the content they produce is the product. Generally, their income comes from advertisements, though often as they grow successful they’ll also begin to sell products related to their brand. A great example of one of these stand-alone blogs is the Art of ManlinessStand-alone blogs should prioritize:

Adsense optimization

Assuming you want to make money, you will need ads. So make sure any theme you’re looking at is built to support them.

Navigation

Your goal is to get people to read what you write. Once a reader finishes one article, you want them looking at another. When you’re selecting a theme, you want to make sure it has robust support for custom menus and navigation, and offers the ability to tease readers with links to related articles, your most popular posts and/or something you’ve decided to feature.

Shopping cart integration

You might not be at this point yet, but if you want to eventually sell t-shirts with your super-popular logo on them, it’s good to think ahead and make sure that the theme you’re looking at has support for a reliable shopping cart product.

2. What am I using my theme for?

Over the years, the term blog has changed in meaning. It’s no longer just teenage girls documenting their feelings on LiveJournal (though that still exists). So when you say you’re looking for a blog theme, what kind of theme are we talking about here?

An editorial blog is primarily text (with images to illustrate, but not necessarily as the focus). The Hubspot blog is a great example. Editorial blogs should prioritize:

Article page template

You want to maximize the reading experience for your visitor, to do this you need to eliminate distractions. If you have too many columns with competing information, you’re going to take away from the text, so I’d recommend keeping it a single column or possibly double (where the sidebar serves to direct the reader to other content).

Related articles

Yes, you definitely want to have navigation to your categories and tags, but more important than that is an easy way to show readers related articles. Your content is your king, and a catchy title on a topic you already know they’re interested in is way more likely to garner a click than a link to a general organizing term.

In a visual blog, on the other hand, the images are the highlight of almost everything you post. They might make up a portfolio for an artist, or the designs for a fashion company. Visual blogs should prioritize:

Main page layout

There are two ways you can go here: focus on one or two images and make them big, or show us a lot of images at once. Each has it’s merits, so make sure to look into the different photoblogging templates when selecting your theme.

Flexible layouts

If you’re maintaining a visual blog, you’re likely a visual person. This means you want to perfect and customize how your images are laid out and customize what everything looks like. When designing or selecting your theme, versatility is the key. You might have all square images now, but what happens when you start to shoot panoramas?

Image display support

Whether it’s built in or easily provided via plugins, you want to make sure users have the ability to make one of your pictures bigger! Nothing is worse than landing on a visual blog, and only being able to see the 500px square version of your painting.

These days, a lot of people are using traditional blogging platforms, like WordPress, as content management systems. These when-I-say-blog-I-really-mean-website blogs may include an editorial or visual blog within them, but the whole system is integrated and all built on one theme. When-I-say-blog-I-really-mean-website blogs should prioritize:

CMS-ready capabilities

These days there are a ton of great theme options that have built in support for using blogging platforms as a CMS. You absolutely want one of these. They will often include multiple homepage layouts, as well as different templates for pages, products, etc.

Pages

You absolutely need to ensure that your theme has robust support for pages, as you’ll likely be using those as much (if not more) than articles.

Custom menus

You’re going to want to be able to control the navigation on your site. Make sure the theme has support that makes this easy for you to do.

E-commerce integration

If you sell something, make sure you get a theme that makes it really easy to integrate whatever shopping cart platform you use.

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HubSpot divide their blog into specific sections for different audiences

3. How are people finding my blog and what are they looking at?

If you already have a blog and are in the market for a new theme design, take a gander at your analytics before deciding on what you want. When you’re theme shopping (or designing) it’s easy to spend all of your energy on your home page design, as that’s what you think of as being the main page. But oftentimes, what is really happening is that people are finding your pages through SEO, or social media shares, and they’re reading your articles and never visiting the main page you spent so much time agonizing over. Established blogs should prioritize:

Content that is getting the most visits

If 95% of your page views are on articles, then spend most of your time looking at the article page examples of the themes you’re considering.

Where you want to get more views

Maybe your analytics tell you that your bounce rate is terrible. Design is an easy way that you can try to improve less-than-stellar numbers. Thinking about your goals and what changes you want to make can help guide your decisions.

If you’re just starting out, you don’t have analytics to fall back on, so instead you’re going to want to think about how you plan on getting people to see your blog. If you’re creating a company editorial blog, are you linking to articles from other pages on your site, or building a link to the main blog page in your navigation? Are you planning on doing a social media push to get people to your pages? Based on this, you can nail down your design criteria, which should include:

Flexible themes

Right now, you’re using your best guess to estimate your readers’ patterns and needs. But no matter how good your hypothesis is, it’s still a hypothesis. You may realize after two months that the site you thought was going to be SEO gold isn’t doing anything, but you’re getting a ton of social media traction. While having a flexible theme may mean it’s not optimized for a specific use case, it can allow you to adapt to your changing needs until you’ve got your market figured out.

Well-supported themes from established designers and developers

While it’s tempting to work with a designer to come up with something completely unique, I would save this for a phase-2, especially if you’re new to WordPress (or whatever blogging platform you’re using). You don’t want to end up in a position where WordPress issues an update and your theme breaks and your designer is nowhere to be found. There are plenty of companies out there who offer free and low cost themes with lots of options, flexibility and support, so you can concentrate on your blog’s content instead of back end management.

Bonus question: what do you like?

Congratulations! You answered all the important questions. Now you get to have a little fun. Still have a love affair with yellow? Heck yeah, go find yourself a banana-inspired theme. Think parallax is super cool? Google search some examples for inspiration (then check off to make sure that this will also meet all of your other needs).

Image credit: Designs by INVIPIC Family licensed under Creative commons 2

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