4278432941_c272d3bf82_o

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

Read More

5206515374_65d44c1265_o

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.

Hubspot blog image
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

Read More

6309979856_2bc2947447_z

8 reasons why corporate blogging is so important

For most business owners, blogging can seem like such a headache. You have to plan your content, decide on a style and tone of voice, write your posts and then ensure they are consistently posted and shared.

All of this takes time and energy, which you may think would be better spent on other things. However, blogging has been proven as an effective means of driving traffic and leads to your site, so you should recognise the potential it has to drive your business forward.

Here are 8 reasons why corporate blogging is so important:

1. It improves brand awareness

The primary reason corporate blogging is so important is that it improves brand awareness. A blog creates more opportunities for your company to be discovered by potential customers and partners. Each post has content that can be found via search engines and read and shared on social media and other sites. This should result in increased traffic, and therefore more people becoming aware of your brand and what you do – this can only be a good thing!

Rental marketplace start-up Erento use their blog to post about lessons they’ve learnt from implementing organisational changes, such as 4 Great Outcomes of Restructuring Our Sales. As a small company that’s largely unknown outside Germany, these posts help to increase awareness of their brand around the world, without directly trying the promote their services.

2. It builds relationships

Corporate blogging can help to create and nurture relationships with the people you’d like to focus on, whether that’s your target market, existing customers, suppliers, employees or other people involved in your company. You can create a two-way conversation with blog posts asking for readers’ thoughts and comments, and you could also get your readers involved by asking them to write guest posts for you. Building relationships this way will promote brand loyalty and help readers have a positive impression of your business – they’ll quickly realise that you’re a company that is happy to communicate, take on feedback and answer questions.

Coca-Cola’s Unbottled blog is always trying to get people involved through the effective use of hashtags, social media and competitions. They may be a global giant, but there’s no reason you can’t learn from their example and tweak it to suit your business.

3. It gives the company a human face

Blogging allows you to humanise your company through the tone of voice you use and the information you choose to share. You can also get employees to be responsible for particular posts and include their image and name. In the same way that blogging builds relationships, it also helps customers see you as human, and not just a faceless corporate machine. This will help them relate to you and feel more inclined to do business with you.

As an online marketing authority, it’s no surprise that Moz’s blog does this excellently. Each post includes the writer’s own thoughts, as well as their profile, where you can find information about them and other posts they’ve written. You’re also given the chance to communicate directly with them.

4. It improves transparency

Blogging is a fantastic way for businesses to build trust with their audience. You can use your corporate blog to share internal updates, such as new partners and sales figures. When the public sees a company as trustworthy, straightforward and honest, they’re more likely to use their services or buy their products.

Zappos’ CEO and COO blog offers a level of transparency above most other companies. They share internal memos, emails and other information to ensure customers feel that they can completely trust the company. This is an excellent, inexpensive way to gain trust and goodwill.

5. It nurtures credibility

Along with transparency, you can also build credibility with your corporate blog. By consistently publishing high quality content on topics related to your field, people will begin to see your company as one with authority. When they need information about the area you specialise in, they will head to your blog or contact you, knowing they can trust the content you’ve provided.

Dell use their blog to share important company news and industry updates on a regular basis, helping employees, stakeholders and clients to feel like they’re always in the loop; they can trust Dell to have their finger on the pulse of the tech industry.

6. It builds excitement and anticipation

A corporate blog is the perfect place to publish press releases and share exciting updates and titbits about new services or products. You can get your readers looking forward to things coming out in the near future, and they can share the information on social media, increasing the clamour even further. This gives you more potential for building excitement than formal press releases alone.

Recently, an Indian tech start-up, Notion Ink, blogged about the entire process leading up to their product launch. A blog allowed them to keep interested parties updated at every stage, all the way up to the launch and beyond.

7. It generates leads

Corporate blogging generates leads, which is, of course, what every small business owner is trying to do. With every piece of content you publish on your blog, you’re increasing the chance of your business being discovered. More traffic will come to your site, and some of these will turn into leads by becoming subscribers, sending you an enquiry, following you on social media or connecting with you some other way. B2C businesses which blog receive around 88% more leads per month, and B2B companies generate 67% more leads. Without a regular blogging presence, you reduce your chances of being found significantly.

One of the most well-known examples of the effectiveness of blogging for generating leads is American pool company River Pools & Spas. They were losing money until they starting blogging; within a couple of years they managed to grow from a small company serving Maryland and Virginia to the most visited pool site on the web!

8. It increases customers

Some of the leads you generate with your blog will inevitably convert into customers. Readers who have already done their research and decided to buy a product or service you offer will know about your company because of your blog and also trust you because of it. Research shows that, by the time they get in touch with you, they’ll already be over 60% of the way through the sales cycle, so essentially your blog posts have done all the hard work for you!

Personal finance management platform Mint managed to get two million customers within three years by focusing on blogging and other content. Mint is no longer a small business, it’s a global brand – isn’t that your aim, too?

Corporate blogging is an essential marketing tool

You may have noticed from these eight main points that corporate blogging can help at all stages of the buyer’s journey, including initial awareness, consideration and eventual decision. Fresh, quality and regular corporate blog posts are a powerful tool that can increase traffic to your site, brand recognition, leads and sales. Don’t ignore the power of corporate blogging any longer!

Read More

19066312055_815e4b643a_o

5 Fantastic content marketing idea generators

As a content marketer, you’ll be all too aware of the daily struggle to generate fresh, shareable content. You might be an expert in every aspect of the products or services you provide, but if you can’t come up with content that will be read and shared by the right people, you’re going to struggle to remain relevant.

Fortunately, you don’t just have to go it alone. Make use of the following 5 tools to generate ideas for content that will prove a hit with your target audience.

Alltop

Use this for: Jumping on the newsjacking bandwagon

Newsjacking’ should be a word you’re familiar with by now. It involves taking a current news story and then putting your own twist on it, so it resonates with your audience. If you’re struggling for ideas for your content, this is a great way to tap into people’s interests, establish your brand as an authoritative voice and get your personality across. A good site to use for newsjacking is Alltop, which ranks the most popular stories and sites from across the web.

You can also get a run down of what’s being talked about in your industry, as Alltop lists posts from the most influential brands and bloggers. A quick search for ‘content marketing’, for example, throws up blogs from the likes of Joe Polizzi at Content Marketing Institute and Copyblogger, as well as insight from more niche corners of the internet. If you scroll through the variety of titles on show, you’re bound to find an article or two from which you can take inspiration.

BuzzSumo

Use this for: Informing and inspiring shareworthy content

BuzzSumo’s primary purpose is to inform you how content is performing online, giving you an insight into how to tailor your future output. As the Content Marketing Conference succinctly puts it, BuzzSumo ensures ‘your content is getting the attention it deserves’. Although you’ll have to pay to use the full version of the tool, it’s indispensable if you want to stay on-trend with current topics and viral content.

The BuzzSumo Content tab is particularly bountiful if you want to discover what the most shared items of content are for particular keywords. Simply enter your search term, and BuzzSumo will scan the major social media platforms and, for Mike Kaput of PR2020, “the result is a priceless trove of data that tells you exactly what content resonates with audiences searching for a particular topic or keyword.”

BuzzSumo can also let you know who the top influencers are in your particular field, allowing you to identify guest posting opportunities and keep your finger on the pulse in regards to the topics being discussed by thought leaders.

Quora

Use this for: Adding colour and character to long-form blog posts

In this article for Cornerstone Content, digital marketing manager Dustin Christensen vouches for the all-round value of Quora as an ideas-sourcing platform, saying ‘Though it’s more of a platform, I use Quora to not only find content marketing ideas and topics, but to discover and engage with experts that I might not find otherwise. It’s a great way to generate content ideas, while also demonstrating one’s own insight by answering relevant questions with unique value.”

Quora allows you to track topics, search by relevant keywords and also add your own input, giving you an idea of what questions people are asking about the particular subject area you’re based in. You can extrapolate these questions, and their answers, to form a crowd-sourced blog post, or you could simply use trending topics as inspiration for your content marketing titles. This Buffer post offers further insight on how Quora can be utilised as part of your marketing strategy.

Soovle

Use this for: Researching keywords and optimising content

Soovle is a search engine combining the top results from the likes of Google, Bing, Yahoo and Wikipedia. It comes in useful if you want to research how people are currently searching for your target keywords, so you can optimise your content accordingly. Just search for two or three of your main keywords, and the search engine will return with the most common entries across all the main sites. You can save your results for future reference, and if you’re still at the content planning stage, we’d suggest diversifying your entries, making a note of these keywords in a spreadsheet, and running them through one of the title generators covered above, so you can come up with multiple pieces of content that target as wide an audience as possible.

This useful video from the Social Ghost gives you further insight into how you can use Soovle to search for potential content marketing ideas.

TweakYourBiz Title Generator

Use this for: Piquing interest and generating shareworthy blog titles

There are plenty of tools on the web which throw up blog title suggestions if you enter a couple of keywords, with HubSpot and Portent being two of the most popular. I prefer TweakYourBiz, however, as the results are organised into different article ‘types’, including how-to’s, listicles and question-based titles.

Of course, the generator works off an algorithm, so some of the suggestions will be nonsensical. If I enter ‘social media marketing’, I’m confronted with ‘Get more and better sex with social media marketing (it would be interesting to see how that would work!) but the generator also suggests ‘5 creative ways you can improve your social media marketing’ and, interestingly, given how active and confrontational he is on Twitter, ‘what Donald Trump can teach you about social media marketing’. You could easily plan and write two blogs based on these titles and, as the generator comes up with hundreds of possible options, you could keep returning again and again, which is especially useful if your keyword focus is quite narrow, or you find a particular term generating plenty of interest among your audience.

Now we’ve introduced you to our reliable brainstorming sites, how do you come up with fresh, interesting ideas for your content? Share your tips with us in the comment section below…

Read More