Content Creation

Four Principles of Psychology You Can Use to Improve Your Writing

credit: unsplash

The following post comes to us from Victoria Greene, a writer and branding consultant who blogs at Victoria Ecommerce. Here she offers advice to writers and brands looking to make an impact with better writing.

The human psyche is a mysterious place. Psychologists over the years have tried their best to understand it, and everyone from politicians to advertisers and cult leaders have sought to exploit it for their own ends. From a writer’s and marketer’s perspective, employing any one of the following four principles of psychology in your content can help you improve your writing. From anchoring to fear — here is what you need to know about the psychology of content.

Anchoring

The anchoring technique works by appealing to our human need to follow the pack. In an evolutionary sense, all of us seek approval from others in the things that we do. Logic, memory, and critical thinking can all be internally bypassed if a trusted group or large numbers of people tell you something is true. A scary thought indeed.

The anchoring technique relies on the first piece of information you are given as the most important thing, to the point where even contradictory evidence wouldn’t sway your initial opinion. This was a technique employed by the game developers at Plants vs. Zombies in testing the power of positive reviews.

The researchers took three groups of subjects to play the game. Beforehand, they gave each group separate, made-up review scores.

  • Group 1 was told that audiences gave a 91% approval rating
  • Group 2 were given a 61% approval rating
  • Control group were given no rating

After the test, the groups were asked to give their ratings for the game:

  • Group 1 gave an average approval rating of 85%
  • Group 2 rated the game 71%
  • The control group gave an average rating of 79%.

This study showed that the benchmark score the test subjects were given before the test roughly correlates to the scores they gave at the end of the experiment. The same correlation was also found in people’s willingness to recommend the game to others.

Marketers and business owners take note — this study, and many others like it, show the importance of getting early reviews from brand advocates. This does not mean that you should bribe anybody (as this would work to tarnish your reputation), but instead, you should get to know your audience well enough to pick out the influential voices in your industry and approach them first in the hopes that they will review you positively.

From a content perspective, this highlights the importance of social proof in the form of testimonials, case studies, and reviews. Make sure to highlight positive customer experiences in the hope of creating others like it.

Fear & Relief

A favorite of politicians, newsreaders, and ad men — the psychological trick of striking fear and terror into the hearts of men is a wicked way to convince people to comply with their proposed ‘solutions’.

Psychological manipulators from all walks of life will know of Freud’s theory that the human psyche is made up of three parts:

  • The Id (which is Latin for ‘It’): Represents our base, animalistic urges. Plato said of the Id, “When the gentler part of the soul slumbers and the control of reason is withdrawn…the Wild Beast in us…becomes rampant”
  • The Ego: Our perceptions of ourselves in our day to day lives, the ‘intermediary’ that makes sure we eat, walk, sleep, etc.
  • The Superego: The mind’s elevated thoughts, the newest part of the brain in terms of our evolution as a species. It deals with morality, beliefs, and opinions

As described in their descriptions above, the ‘Id’ is the oldest and most ingrained part of our minds, made up of the instincts that guide us. The fear of danger, the impulse to protect, lust, greed: the whole spectrum of split-second decisions we make to ensure our survival each day.

From a writer’s and marketer’s perspective then, revealing the innermost fears and desires of your audience’s collective ‘Id’ mindset is the best way to convince them that you can offer them something they really need and want.

Conduct extensive audience research before planning an effective marketing campaign. Use keyword planning tools, social media analytics sites, industry reports, surveys, customer research meetings —  anything that will give you an idea of what keeps your audience up at night.

Be like the ‘It’ (Id) guy in the film and get deep into your audience’s subconscious.

Make It Easy

How to deal with the modern attention span?

Make it easy.

People are pushed for time, money, and attention —  they are looking for easy ways to kickstart their careers and projects, fast.

In your writing, take advantage of the modern consumer’s need for speed and ease and maximize the ‘easy elements’ of your product and service. Really focus your core value propositions around ease and convenience. You want to make your customer feel like they already have your product in their hands — and that it’s already making their life a lot easier…

Here are how some SaaS companies who have mastered the art this ‘plug and play’ mentality:

Send invoices in seconds from Freshbooks — a sentence that’s pleasing to both the ear and mind. A great example of a landing page that’s aimed at reassuring the customer that a complex task can be simplified and made less stressful.

Shopify’s landing page provides reassurance with everything from its headline, “Online store builder has everything you need,” to the round-the-clock help center at the bottom of the page. The whole page is aimed at psychologically reassuring the user, coaxing them towards a free trial (another great ‘easy’ call to action).

Dropbox embraces the persuasive power of three: share, sync, and collaborate. To the point, clear, and authoritative, Dropbox makes IT language seem easy and accessible. Again, another great use of the free trial CTA.

Rollercoaster Ride

Most of us, most of the time, are in an okay mood. We’re neither excited nor desperate, we’re just getting on with things. But from the perspective of those who seek to manipulate us, this ‘ho-hum’ state is not optimal.

Getting people excited about your latest product launch is the oldest marketing trick in the book. But you can’t just talk up the benefits of your unique idea — you have to make people really believe it.

The ‘emotional rollercoaster ride’ is a Machiavellian tactic that most, if not all, businesses have used to convince people to believe in their brand.

If you’ve ever seen this advert for Wrigley’s chewing gum, you’ll know what I mean. Crying over a chewing gum ad? The idea is absurd. But once you see the simple story of a father presenting his daughter with wrapper origami cranes over the course of her childhood, I defy anyone not to well up when that box filled with paper birds spills onto the ground.

Go ahead, watch it, I’ll wait.

See what I mean?

Wrigleys achieved something very magical with their storytelling here. By connecting their products with the emotion of the father and daughter bond, they were able to poignantly show the benefits of buying and sharing gum with your loved ones. I almost feel wrong for pointing this out so cynically, but Wrigley played everyone’s heartstrings with this advert.

Check out this post on four ingredients of a killer marketing story for more tips.

There you have four easy principles of psychology that you can use to improve the impact of your writing. As you can see from the above examples, audiences can be fickle and easily led. So, if you want your brand to stand out from the crowd, try employing emotional storytelling techniques that tap into your audience’s core instincts.

7 Content Marketing Tips for Pinterest

It’s hard not to agree that there is more to Pinterest than just pretty pictures.

Although at the start it might seem otherwise.

Launched in 2010 this social networking site indeed took the world by storm. But it also took content marketers a while to fully realize its potential.

Today, the site is probably 2nd or 3rd largest social networking site on the planet (depending which sources you check).

And those who still ignore it, miss on some great opportunities.

Because Pinterest may be an ideal tool to promote your brand. With its large following and heavy engagement (a typical visitor spends on average 3 minutes more on the site than Facebook and 12 minutes more than on Twitter), it is a great way to spread the word about your products or services.

It can also help you demonstrate your expertise in your area. Many companies turn their knowledge into visual content and showcase it on Pinterest to build their image of authority.

It increases brand visibility. Pinterest images get shared and forwarded between users. You really never know where your image might end up.

Moreover, Pinterest is an excellent way to showcase your products. After all, an experience of real product is what ecommerce stores lack. Customers can only see images supplied by a producer, often generic ones and revealing very little of the experience of a product in use.

Contrast that with images submitted by actual product users showcasing how it helps them or enhances their lives and you’ll know why the site offers so many possibilities to online retailers.

Lastly, Pinterest can drive traffic to your site too. In fact, some brands report it driving more of it than Twitter or Facebook.

OK, but what exactly is Pinterest?

This relatively new social networking site has indeed taken the world by storm. Launched only couple of years ago (2010), it attracted more than 85 million users in less than three years.

And, it is still growing, fast.

Perhaps part of this success is because the idea behind Pinterest is so simple.

The site allows you to create image posts, called pinboards and share them with other Pinterest users. Moreover, you can organise those images in “boards” and add photos or videos to them. This process is known as “pinning” to the board. And if you thought of a corkboard when reading this description, you are just about right.

But behind all those lovely images Pinterest is a powerful marketing tool, one that brands use to connect and increase engagement with their audience.

Interested in doing the same? Here are some ideas for promoting your brand on Pinterest:

Showcase Images of Your Products in Use

Given the image based nature of Pinterest, it makes sense to use it to showcase your products in use. And there is an unlimited number of things you can do here. You can post images of products in use in clients homes. Or showcase it from their shelf life to being packaged and shipped to a customers. You can then ask your customers to send pictures of them using it to complete the picture. If you sell cake decorations, showcase your clients cakes. Tattoo parlour can showcase the best tattoos they did for their clients and so on. The possibilities are truly endless.

productsinuse

Publish Customer Testimonials

Pinterest is for images only, right? So how could you present an actual testimonial from a client then? It’s all words after all. Well, how about posting a picture of your client with a testimonial? Of course you would have to do it with the clients permission but if you can, these pins could have a very strong impact on how your prospects trust your brand.

testimonials

Highlight a Product’s Feature

Is your product complex to use? Or even to fully communicate all that you could do with it? Why don’t you then highlight its features with images? Kreg does it with their feature highlight series of pins, each highlighting one particular aspect of the product (or offering a super quick tip how to use it).

feature highlight

Make Your Audience Laugh

Your audience rarely uses social media for information. Most people are on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest for entertainment. And if that’s the case, why not giving it to them? Hubspot created a pinboard dedicated to memes, cartoons and other fun online marketing related content.

memes

Teach Them Something Too

Images are worth more than words. In fact, to use, images are worth more than 60000x more than words. That’s how much quicker we humans process visual information compared to text. It comes as no surprise then that so many of us prefer visual tutorials rather than text based manuals.

If you sell products that could be used to create or repair something, posting a visual tutorial how to do it on Pinterest is bound to attract attention. Just check what Liagriffith did with this simple guide:

tutorial

Show Your Company Behind the Scenes

Many customers want to see your real, human side not just the brand image you maintain. Hubspot recognizes this by creating a dedicated behind the scenes pinboard and showing the company’s everyday life.

behind the scenes

Pat Your Clients on the Back

Your marketing should not only be about you. Your customers are equally important to promoting your brand and in such case, why not make put them in the spotlight? Constant Contacts features a pinboard with tips from their customers.

customers

Conclusion

Pinterest users spend on average 3 minutes more on the site than Facebook and 12 minutes more than on Twitter. This is a highly engaged audience seeking entertainment. Such audience offers enormous opportunities for engagement and connection to any brand. And the key to them lies in what content you post.

A Kick-start Guide to Content Marketing on Facebook

It’s a fact – content rocks todays marketing. It costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates 3 times as many leads (DemandMetric). It’s no surprise that according to Content Marketing Institute, 93% of B2B marketers rely on content to promote their brands.

But, given the wealth of different platforms, in order to fully avail of it’s abilities; you need to understand each one and create strategies to best avail of it’s abilities.

Over the last few weeks I outlined basic strategies for content marketing on Twitter and Pinterest. Today I want to tackle the biggest social network of all – Facebook.

What drives Facebook CM?

A wise person once said that just like Pinterest is for creativity, Facebook on the other hand is for communication. And, it seems just about right. In the recent study by Vision Critical, 80% of Pinterest users say the network is useful for generating ideas and projects while 63% of Facebook users say that their network makes them feel connected.

And what else drives connection better than content these days?

After all, it is content that gets Facebook audience to like a post, comment on it or share it. And unlike other social networks, Facebook offers a plethora of options and content types you can use to engage with your audience.

To begin at the beginning, what make a good content for Facebook?

In short, it would be one that relates to the interests of your audience and engages them because it relates to real life. A good content tells stories, asks the audience for their opinion and provokes them to share their personal opinion.

Types of content for Facebook

Before you start planning your content strategy, let’s first discuss different content types you could post on your Facebook Page.

Facebook offers 4 distinct options for those content types:

Single Image

Photos are one of the most engaging content types. They are quick to absorb and digest their meaning. Not to mention that they take up a considerable space on the users news feed, making them highly noticeable and sticking out more than text. By using photos, you can boost the attention your posts receive from users.

Moreover, Facebook images generate 120% more engagement than an average post.

There are different types of images you could post on your Page:

  • Photos
  • Memes
  • Product Images
  • Ads
  • Press clips and many more

Facebook content: single image

Photo Album

Photo albums allow you to post multiple images at once in a single post. Images collected into a specific album are a great way to promote content from events, promotions, product lines and more.

Facebook photo album

Videos

Videos have become one of the most engaging content type today, and to no surprise. 93% of marketers use video for promotion and 52% of them name video as a content type delivering the best ROI (Brainshark) 100 million users watch online videos each day (VideoBrewery)

Video is also a powerful communications tool. A single minute of video can convey the same message as 1.8 million words (VideoBrewery).

It comes to no surprise then that videos are a highly engaging content on Facebook. In fact, videos posted to the site receive 40% higher engagement rate compared to Youtube for instance (SocialBakers). They also account for 93% of the most engaging content on the site (FastCompany).

When posting your video to Facebook, make sure to stick to these rules:

  • Include eye catching default image
  • Make it short
  • Make it simple to absorb and relevant to your audience

Facebook video

Text

Lastly, text based content. Even though Facebook allows posting long content, it’s the short text that gets the most engagement from the site. Updates up to three lines of text see 60% more engagement than any longer content. Cutting your text even shorter, below 80 characters might result in 66% more engagement (FastCompany).

The best text based updates to drive engagement are questions, which receive 100% more engagement than other types of text-based content (Hubspot).

Facebook text post

How to make your content relevant to your audience

Before you start posting to Facebook you should define who you want to engage with on the site and what content themes would achieve this objective.

When defining your audience, don’t just look at their age, location and other demographic factors. When it comes to Facebook, its user base crosses many geographic boundaries, and thus your best bet is to target their interests as well.

To post relevant content, focus on:

  • Focus on your audience’s common interests
  • Target their most common problems
  • Deliver news relevant to them
  • Offer advice on making their lives better
  • Entertain them too, after all, you can’t be serious all the time.

When an how often should you post to you Facebook Page

Timing is everything, fact. Having your post appear on your audiences News Feeds right when they are the most receptive to your message would be ideal. But even though it would be ideal, there is no single ideal time to post to Facebook. Even though there are so many studies on the subject, there is no unified opinion what day and time would generate the most engagement from users.

In spite of that, you can still find your best time to post to the site by doing the following:

Understand your audience. It’s hard to decide on the best time to post if you don’t know who’s on the other side, listening. Define your audience and try to understand their habits.

Think about how their day looks like. Once you know who your audience is, think how their typical day might look like. What are their productive times? When would they be trying to unwind and relax? All these factors will help determine the best time to post.

Post within what you think is their most receptive time during their day. Use the information about your audience to define times you will be posting at. Of course, you should measure and refine your strategy to find the most optimum time.

Posting About Yourself

Even though, as we’ve seen, your content should target your audience and their interests, needs and problems, there will be times when you’ll want to post about yourself. You may have a new product line coming out or will want to promote the company. On Facebook however, there is a fine line between informing users and being overly too promotional. And needless to say, the latter usually moves people away from a brand at an instant.

Facebook fans don’t care about you they care about themselves. Therefore,

  • keep posts about your company to absolute minimum.
  • if you need to post something about your company, try to make it relevant to your audience or at least entertaining
  • when posting about your products, always show them at an angle how they could help the audience

Promoting Your Content

This might come as a surprise but your posts reach only a fraction of your fan base. In fact, according to official data from Facebook, posts on company Pages appear on only 16% of their fans News Feeds.

Therefore, if you want to reach more people, you need to promote your posts.

There are two ways you could do so with:

–       Promoted Posts

–       Promoted Page Posts

Promoted Posts allow you to promote your content directly to your fans’ News Feeds as opposed to the sidebar where the majority of standard Facebook Ads appear.

Promoted Page Posts appear in the sidebar on the site, making them less effective when promoting your content. On the other hand, they allow you to reach people who are not your Page fans yet and be laser focused with what demographics you target with your ads.

Monitoring your actions

One of the greatest advantages of using Facebook for engaging with audience is the ability to gain insights and data to monitor and analyze your actions.

Facebook Insights make it easy to monitor the performance of your content marketing strategies in real time. Thanks to this data you can quickly see which type of content engaged your audience the most (and thus which one you could promote even further to them).

Here are some of the data types you can monitor in Insights:

Reach – the number of unique people who have seen your content,

Organic – the number of people who’ve seen your content in their NewsFeed or on your page.

Paid – the amount of people who’ve seen your post from paid ads.

Viral – the amount of people who’ve seen your content because one of their friends interacted with it in some way (liked it, commented on it or shared it).

Quick and Dirty Viral Content Types You Probably Ignore

viral-content

*

While content marketers swear that you need so called long form content the social Web proves them wrong by

spreading tiny information chunks you can come up with quickly.

How to create text images, animated gifs and other memes that carry your message.

 

Essays on cats vs cat pics

Yeah, I really enjoy reading essays – on paper. Indeed I read a book 500 pages strong every second week as long as it’s entertaining. I do it off screen and after work. On the Web I’m quick just like everybody else. I skim pages, scan content and only read a few words here and there.

I want quick solutions, insights or entertaining tidbits. In short memes as in smallest information carrying units. I’m not the only one. User testing has proven that again and again. Thus some types of content just fit the Web better than others.

  • text images
  • comics
  • animated gifs
  • selfies

are just some of the most common type of “content” that spreads like wild fire for different reasons. What they’ve got in common is that they are small and portable. They are

  • quick to digest
  • easy to replicate
  • comparatively small in (file) size.

Initially the word meme has been used by obscure linguists, activists and military strategists (see “meme warfare”). On the modern Web it’s widely used for anything that is most often

  • entertaining
  • funny
  • intriguing

and spreads virally over the Intertubes. Some types of memes are more successful than others. That’s why I picked the four examples from above to show the ones more prone for wider acclaim.

 

Why do text images spread that well? It’s not just Tumblr and Pinterest although those two sites have certainly helped to establish “picture quotes” as one of the most popular online memes. Sure, they’re readable almost at once with short lines and large uppercase letters in most cases. That’s not all though.

Such text images often feature quotes by some of the most respected personalities from human history. These are often words of distilled true wisdom. They are often figures of speech (like metaphors or oxymorons) that sound very intriguing. Unlike retyped quotes in HTML they have some integrity as you can’t simply change the words by copy and pasting.

You can use image quotes as posters, postcards or t-shirts. Thus there is a big market by now for those who design and print them. Sites like Behappy.me are not the exception. This quote by Maya Angelou I shared on Pinterest a while ago got over a 500k “impressions” and more than 4000 repins. My quotes board is my most popular one despite me pinning more on other boards.

4k-repins

There are plenty of free tools that let you type in a quote and spit out a ready-made image. Ideally you use a photo editor, there are a lot free ones too so that your quote does not look like many other quotes. I use Paint.NET on Windows. There are very advanced online tools like Sumo Paint too.

 

Comics are short and funny. You can put complex insights into a few pictures and speech bubbles. Also they have been always popular even in print. On the Web they have become even more widely viewed because again, it’s often just image to share that contains a whole story or sophisticated message.

Ideally the images have some intrinsic aesthetic value but I’ve often seen rather clumsy comics become widely shared just because of their funny or on point message. There are people who make a living online by simply drawing humorous comics for the Web.

In the tech realm we have seen many successful comics over the years. The Joy of Tech is one of the most popular along with Dilbert facing common pitfalls of the modern office lifestyle. In marketing and specifically content marketing we have seen many attempts of using comics but the success has been limited until now. Apparently marketers are still too serious to create funny comics.

comics-in-b2b

 

Animated gifs are like videos for the fast and furious. Most people do not have the time to watch whole videos online, especially at work. Thus animated gifs often feature the funniest, strangest or most outrageous scenes from videos. This might be a fat cat jumping from space, or a parkour professional doing some gravity defying stunt.

In many cases the animation shows just a scene from a movie with or without a subtitle. It may be as simple as a rare facial expression. People enjoy viewing such animations again and again because they often feature funny or incredible things.

Some movies get promoted by using animated gifs in recent years. It works find on Tumblr for sure where I have watched movie scenes from movies I would have otherwise never noticed or cared about. The animation is so short that before you can move you’ve already seen it and laughed. There are tools that let you create animated gifs out of anything.

 

Selfies are often low quality images made from phones at the toilet or in other unfavorable conditions. They feature “authentic” people in all kinds of poses and situations. Most selfies are the exact opposite of the advertising and movie images we are fed all the time. There is some raw imperfection in them.

Even superstars and celebrities post selfies to prove they look good or sexy for real.

Otherwise you might assume it’s just Photoshop and the excellent work of a professional photographer. Selfies have a touch of intimacy. It’s not just the authenticity of looking into a mirror beside your toilet seat. Selfies make loneliness of modern “singles” bearable. You get yourself out there and other people approve of you.

To create such quick and dirty self-portraits all you need is a mobile phone with a camera and a mirror. You can make a selfie without a mirror too, I’ve been doing that before the term has been coined. You may need a few attempts then because it’s hard to assess whether your face or whichever body part you want pictured  is still visible or not.

In case you want make your product appear more authentic encourage people to make selfies

while holding it in their hand and dressed in it. So you don’t even have to make blurry pictures of your private parts yourself. You can ask your customers and supporters to do so. They probably already do. Finding out whether they do it may be as simple as asking them on Facebook, Twitter or wherever you socialize online.

You probably think product selfies are just about fashion or beauty products and exhibitionists.

Well, here is an example from Google+ where acclaimed search expert David Amerland made people photograph his book on arrival. While many of the images do not feature the person who shoots it the authenticity transfer is still there.

* The “viral content” illustration has been created by the team of Freepik.com

How to Use Eye Catcher Images to Get People’s Attention

dog*

One of the often neglected content best practices is the usage of eye catcher images. Everybody in print media does it for ages but on the Web most website owners fail at it. It’s really easy by now. Free images are widely available and can attract readers who otherwise would ignore you.

 

Show People

You know it from magazines. Why do you think most magazine covers show pretty young women smiling? No, it’s not just because women are predominantly buying them. Studies have shown that both women and men get attracted to beautiful females portraits.

Photographs of men have been far less successful but still performed better than image of things, landscapes or motifs. One of the blogs that uses images of people very successfully is Boost Blog Traffic:

boost-blog-traffic-people

 

Use Colors

While artsy black and white images work well in art galleries or on Ello it’s not what people in a hurry on the Web look for. Striking colors like red, green or blue stand out in the often dull daily grind of the Web. When you are looking for hours for useful material for your next task you are scanning faster and faster until some strong visual clues grabs your attention. Then you stop just long enough to check out the headline.

colors-contrast

Use Contrast

Just using a bloat of color doesn’t suffice. You need to show something people can distinguish when scanning large amounts of content on Pinterest and elsewhere. The image needs a main motif, ideally a person, as suggested above already and some contrasting background. When someone dressed in green gets pictured in front of a wood people won’t recognize much of course.

 

Use White Space

crying-kid

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A lot of clutter makes not only a bad impression it literally fractures the attention of the viewer in so many directions at the same time that we don’t see anything at all at the end and move on. On my cycling blog I often deal with that issues.

Bike manufacturers send me photos of bikes in front of colorful walls or even whole cityscapes so that you can miss the bike altogether.

I can’t use such images at all in many cases. What I need is less distraction. You don’t have to edit everything and just show a white background. So called white space is just empty space for the eyes to rest. Make sure to provide it to highlight the main motif.

 

Don’t be Obvious

When you write about Google please don’t use a Google logo to “visualize” your topic. We see the Google logo dozens of times a day. Yes, we recognize it but we’re so used to it that we do not assign any importance to it anymore. Why should we interrupt our work to take a closer look at something we see all the time?

 

Intrigue

darth-vader-statue-of-liberty

***

Show more by not showing something. Yes, you can hide part of the motif in order to intrigue. You can also show something that is on the verge of being abstract or an item that isn’t really matching the topic at first sight. We then wonder “what happens here” and take another look. One surefire way to intrigue people is to show them something they think they know but differently. Artists do it a lot. The Darth Vader Statue of Liberty mix is a perfect example of this technique.

 

Don’t Use Text Inside Images

Many bloggers add the headline or topic of their post to the header or eye-catcher image. That may work in some instances but why would someone pin it on Pinterest for example? Also the text often distracts from the main message of the picture. Text images or quotes work well on Pinterest when the aphorism is meaningful by itself. A headline that doesn’t explain anything on its own won’t work.

 

Use Metaphors

In many industries and for many topics there are no accurate or attractive images. You can’t show much when dealing with technology for example. Showing code snippets, screen shots or other workarounds will only get you so far. The best alternative in my experience is the metaphor, as long as it’s fresh and not a cliché already. When dealing with links (hyperlinks) for example you can show people holding hands instead of the obvious chain links.

 

Check Other Resources

  1. Photos as Web Content
  2. A Complete Guide to Visual Content 
  3. 5 Ways to Make Shareable Images That Drive Traffic
  4. The Do’s and Don’ts of Blog Images
  5. Make your products the star – The art of getting product images that really sell
  6. How to Use Images in Your Link Building Campaigns
  7. Pinterest Optimization What Tactics, Topics and Media Formats Get Shares
  8. 8 Sites For Free Stock Photos That Don’t Look Like Free Stock Photos
  9. 12 Amazing Sites With Breathtaking Free Stock Photos
  10. 18 Sites with Beautiful Free Stock Photos

 

* Creative Commons image by João Paulo Corrêa de Carvalho

** Creative Commons image by binu kumar

*** Creative Commons image by Star Wars

4 Most Common Corporate Blogging Mistakes (with Solutions)

corporate_blog
image via: writerway.com

I gotta say this, to me most corporate blogs suck.

Of course there are some exceptions but the majority are just unreadable. Their authors either talk about the company, write on random topics, often without offering any educational value at all or post blatant sales pitches that only scare their readers away.

But what else to expect however if in majority of corporations, blogging looks like this:

or this:

In other words:

Employees often perceive it as either a nuisance or a forced upon strategy nobody has any interest in.

The result? Lack of enthusiasm, taking shortcuts, confusing the role blogging plays in the marketing process and committing to some really poor blogging strategies, like these most common ones for instance:

Copying the Competition

In a corporate world safer is often better.

And copying someone who has done it already is the safest strategy of all. After all, whatever the competitor has been doing seems to work if they are still doing it.

There are however many underlying problems with this approach:

Your blog will lack originality. How original is your blog going to be if you are only copying someone else’s ideas? Yet for today’s audience, it’s the originality that matters. As a result, your audience will see the two blogs as alike and most likely, will focus towards your competitor, who has already built some reputation in this field.

You could copy bad blogging practices too. After all, who said that what your competitor is doing is right?

You will not inspire enthusiasm in your staff. People want to be creative. Especially those involved in what may feel like a creative pursuit want to be given an opportunity to come up with their own ways to do things. Forcing them to just merely copy someone else is highly unlikely to make them enthusiastic about the project. And this will show.

Alternative Solution:

Create a dedicated content plan for your company. You can use your competitor as a guidance if you have to but develop your own voice, content personas and content strategy. And don’t launch a blog until you have a complete research and ideas for posts for at least the next few months.

Getting Too Many People To Contribute

Not everyone in the company should blog. Not everyone can write well, or has any interest in doing so. Not to mention that to many people, blogging will interfere with their already busy schedule.

Yet many companies try to force all their staff to contribute to the blog. They take the “everyone should blog” for many reasons:

They try to save cost on hiring a dedicated writer. After all, if everyone writes a post a week or even month, there will be no need to hire someone else to do it.

They think this will create a diverse content, since everyone will write on different topics they are interested in. And lastly,

They will quickly build up a massive amount of content. And as they say, it’s good to have a lot of content on your site.

Alternative Solution:

Ask your staff members who’d like to join the project. Simply. Don’t force anyone to blog but offer an opportunity to those who want to.

Having Too Many Decision Makers

Too many chefs spoil the meal. I am sure you heard this old adage before.

Many companies involve too many departments in running the blog. This often results in department wars, ego clashes and people trying to push their ideas forward for the benefit of their departments.

Sales people will perceive a blog as another sales channel and will insist on head on sales messages. PR department will try to use it for announcements and press releases, whereas creative department will try to squeeze in as much of the design and layout for themselves. Online marketing will try to over-optimise post to gain more traffic and so on.

As a result content quality suffers, there is no unity in terms of what information should be posted in the first place and what goals the company must achieve through blogging.

Alternative Solution:

Hand over the responsibility over the blog to a single department only, ideally marketing and let them liase with other departments when the need arises.

Outsourcing

Lastly, some companies decide to buy content at a large scale from sites like oDesk or WriterAccess. There are obviously some benefits of this approach:

This content is dirt cheap.

This approach scalable. You can order anything from 1 to 100 articles and have them delivered relatively fast. Yet even if a number of your employees post to the blog, you will not build content numbers as fast.

This strategy requires very little input. You just need to place the order for your content and let the other company do everything for you.

But there are problems with outsourcing too.

No quality. You can’t expect it if you buy cheap and quickly produced content. In many cases, your content might be outsourced to non-native speakers, college students and non-professional writers who try to write as many posts as possible as quickly as possible too.

No dedication. Moreover, none of those writers your content will be sent to has any interest in your company and building your brand reputation. They just want to churn out the minimum required words as quickly as possible and loosely on topic. This usually result in a cheap voice and content that rather diminishes your brand authority rather than supporting it.

No results. With low quality comes lack of results from your content efforts. Audiences are quickly to spot poor content and usually assign it with the brand.

Alternative Solution:

If you want to outsource your content somewhere, look for reputable places where you can get to know the person who will be writing it. There are a lot of companies that offer blogging services for corporations, assign a writer to you and you work with them at achieving the best results for your blog.

Branding Best Practices: “About” Pages that Rock

store-owner*

One of the most neglected parts of many websites is still the about or team page. To establish credibility from the start it has to be very appealing though.

I have collected some good examples to show you so that you can follow in their footsteps.

The about page ideally makes you likeable, memorable and trustworthy.

Do you live in a remote village? Then you may have only one store in you vicinity. You may know the store owner by name. You know the whole family. Your kids may play with them. In such circumstance branding is not necessary. Everybody already knows who the store owner is. Also there is no competition you have to differentiate from. So why bother?

The exact opposite is the humongous corporation. Whether it’s Walmart, Nike or Apple we know their brands and what they stand for unless of course you look behind the scenes. Their branding is the result of enormous advertising budget earned on the backs of millions of minimum wage workers. These companies manufacture or rather buy products from third parties for a few bucks and sell them for ten times the money they paid. So they have a lot of funds to spend on their image.

You are in-between the two. As a small business owner you are like the store oner from the first example, you want to get known and liked by the people but you have to get the word out without a spectacular budget.

The global village is very crowded with businesses similar to yours.

It’s extremely hard to differentiate them let alone remember them. You may be just one of dozens, hundreds, thousands or even more depending on the context. Locally you may one of a few, in your region you will probably already compete with dozens. In the whole country hundreds of other vendors may try to get the attention of potential visitors.

 

Design the about content

One of the issues I often encounter with websites is that the designers do not want to design the actual content. They prefer to put some “Lorem Ipsum” dummy text on your site instead of copying the actual one from your old site for example. While there are design and readability best practices that always apply

you can’t expect proper branding from your about or team page when you just replace dummy text with some of your own.

In most cases the actual content is also so different from the Lorem Ipsum standard that it doesn’t even look good at all let alone leave a positive impression on your visitors. When planning a redesign do not forget the about page or require the designer to provide a custom made one from the start.

Adapt the web design to the actual content, not the other way around. Websites are like trucks, without content they are empty and do not really work. It’s the content that makes them useful. You wouldn’t break up your furniture to fit in the delivery truck would you?

 

Display your core values

You do not only want to appear different by the way your site as a whole – and the about section specifically – are designed. You also have to express why you are actually different than the others. You are not Walmart or a franchise so that you have to consider what your core values are and how express them. Otherwise you can only compete by location and price.

On the Web without branding you would have to rely mostly on generic search traffic.

You can’t compete with the global players who will move from China to Bangladesh once their workers in China demand to get a living wage. Sustainability can be core value. Doing business without killing the planet. Availability 24/7 can be. Just think firemen. Even excellent customer service can be one. Caring for the people who trusted you once.

In case the only reason you started a business is to make money you are doing it wrong. Consider how you want to change the world to the better and communicate it.

 

Show who you are

simply-measured-team-holds-hands

On the Web anonymity and identity can be a slippery slope. As a business person it is often advisable to show your face, your real one. You ideally hire a professional photographer to take pictures of you. There are also other ways to show yourself and more importantly who you are too. You could hire an illustrator who can draw you and your team members. You can even dress up like on Halloween.

curalate-meet-us-dress-up

It’s crucial to prove that real people are behind your business. Nobody trusts generic stock images. Usability studies even have shown that such images get ignored straight away. It’s the same effect we know from banner blindness.

You can show your tools, machinery or team at work while actually doing something.

zomato-strangers-vs-friends

It’s important to be real and prove it. Without real life images your business may be just another website someone built using a free template. Even free templates may be good but they need to be filled with actual representations of real people, be it drawings, videos, illustrations.

In case people are not an option (you may feel too old, ugly or shy for example) items you work with may be sufficient proof that the business is operating for real.

  • Tools
  • machinery
  • your products

may be attractive enough to be shown off and give the reassuring impression of a real business “not jut a website”.

push-people

On the other hand you don’t need to be a model to have your image shown on an about or team page. I love how the people from Push look both perfectly natural and not like a bunch of hipsters so they are even more trustworthy. They are both young and old for sure and some exceptionally pretty women are among them but the lady above left is the “Director of Finance”, a job you wouldn’t entrust a young inexperienced girl would you?

 

Tell your story

Studies have shown that storytelling is one of the most important factors to make people listen to you and remember what you’ve said. That’s why we prefer to watch movies with heroes fighting against all odds instead of factual but boring representations of “big data”.

Yes, I know. Captain Obvious strikes again but the latest data hype had me almost convinced that it’s all about about numbers these days.

It’s not. We’re still humans. We want to deal with other people not companies and we want to know who they are by learning something about their background.

curalate-story-video

What is your story? It can by anything worthwhile to tell about you and your business. It can be the difficult path you had to walk through before starting your business. It could be the process you went through to come up with your actual product idea.It can be the historical or personal context.

push-chris-robb-story

 

More Resources on About and Team Pages Elsewhere

  1. Guidelines for Writing a Good About Page
  2. Creating Creative ‘Meet The Team’ Pages (With 13 Awesome Examples)
  3. How to Create a Great About Page
  4. 20 Creative & Useful “About” Pages
  5. Are You Making These 7 Mistakes with Your About Page?
  6. Write a Better About Us Page – It’s Not About Us, It’s About You!
  7. How To Use Your ‘About Us’ Page To Acquire Customers

 

 

* Creative Commons image by Foo Connor

10 Tips for Building Solid Relationships With Your Content

Anyone can create content today. Tools are easy to use, publishing platforms wildly accessible, research materials plenty. Even the expectation of quality isn’t as high as it used to be. And so business after business jump on the content marketing craze, hoping to gain from this new marketing phenomena.

But most of them fail. Miserably.

No reader visits their blogs, videos gain no traction and presentations gather dust in a dark corner of an obscure server somewhere.

All for a simple reason – failure to build relationships with an audience.

Why promote your brand with content.

Content is a powerful tool. It increases your brands visibility, widens your reach and inspires word of mouth.

But that’s not all.

Content can help you engage an audience and grow a customer base. It can position your company or brand as an influencer. And the connection you build through it helps you build a buyers trust.

But none of this will ever happen, unless you build relationship with your audience first. 

When you do so, you turn complete strangers in powerful allies. They’re more likely to pay attention to what you say, stand by your ideals and consider you when looking for products or services.

5 Content Types that Build Relationships

1. Educational Resources

When most people search online, they are looking for answers or information about a specific problem. Moreover, visitors to your site are not interested in your products. They come in search of a solution or answer to a particular problem.

Create a platform to educate people on those issues. By teaching and helping them to overcome those issues you make them see you as a trusted resource. One they will be glad to refer to in the future.

There are two approaches you can take to educate your audience: webinars and online courses.

A webinar is an online version of a typical seminar run at colleges and other educational institutions online. The only difference is that unlike with offline seminar, webinars can be attended by unlimited participants from around the globe.

Webinars happen in real time but once they’re done, that’s it. You can of course repurpose them into other content types but they will always be limited to here and now. Whenever you want to create more permanent and evergreen educational resource, you should consider offering online courses or tutorials accessible online at any time. These courses can focus on a particular issue or teach everything there is to know about the subject. You can make them free or paid as well to better segment your audience.

My friend Chris uses his course teaching how to promote a business with whitepapers to promote his new startup company he’s currently building.

There are some key benefits of engaging users through educational content:

  • it demonstrates your credibility. A person that learnt something from you will always consider you a credible resource.
  • it creates word of mouth. People whom you helped to overcome  problems may be talking about your courses or webinars.
  • it can generate qualified leads. Educational content gives customers a chance to sample your services and set better expectations about you and your service.

2. Graphical Content

Images are easy to consume. Most readers absorb visual data much quicker than written word. According to Zabisco, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text. Moreover, 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text (source: Hubspot).

Some of the visual content types that engage audience include:

Infographics. According to AnsonAlex, publishers who use infographics grow in traffic an average of 12% more than those who don’t.

Infographics stand out from other content types because they are a great vehicle to tell a story. This example from mashable  or this one from visua.ly are great examples of brands telling storiesy through images.

The power of Infographics lies in them focusing on a single topic and presenting data about it in a simple and easy to absorb form.

Videos – Videos convey much more than words, it’s a scientifically proven fact. According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, a minute of video carries the same value as … 1.8 million words! Moreover, 85% of the US internet audience watches videos online (source: Nielsen). And, 700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter every minute (source: Youtube).

Data like this clearly states why videos are a must use content type for engagement.

Slideshare presentations. Slideshare is a popular platform to submit your presentations too. And, it works. It can serve as another PR channel, building your thought-leadership, increase your brand awareness, traffic to the site and needless to say, those presentations are much easier and cheaper to create. You can repurpose old content and even blog posts into successful presentations (here’s my own example of turning a blog post into a presentation).

3. Long Form Content

It can be hard to define long content. For some people it can be anything over 700 words or couple of minutes of video. To others a long form blog post would be one in excess of 2000 words. That’s irrelevant. As the name suggests it has to be a longer content providing more in-depth information.

And, it works. Wordstream noticed that their average time on site tripled after they switched to primarily long form content. They also noticed that long form content formed the majority of posts ranking at number on in Google.

4. Quick Tips

Long content is highly engaging but similarly, a very short, less than 500 words post can make an impact. Kevin Delaney, Editor-in-Chief at a business news site Quartz believes that posts below or over 800 words have the highest likelihood of success.

5. Entertaining Content

Your content shouldn’t be all about educating though. Your audience might need a break from time to time and simply be entertained. After all, entertainment is the second reason people go online, and the first why they go on social media sites.

Therefore, consider using some fun content types too:

Quizzes. Competitions are not only means of promotion. A simple quiz, like this one by SERPs.com, measuring the persons obsession with Google updates can engage your audience while offering some information they might not know in a fun and absorbing way.

The biggest power of quizzes is that they are highly shareable. Not only people will share their results but also talk to their friends about it.

Cartoons and Comic Strips. Often, a single cartoon can tell more than the lengthiest post. And it can also make your audience giggle, like this one I created few months ago.

Games. Everyone likes to play games from time to time. Some of us get even seriously hooked up on them. And I am sure your audience would appreciate a simple game, even though its revolving around your topic of speciality (like this magazine that turned its front cover into a game).

5 More Tips for Building Relationships with Content

6. Be customer centric

Understanding your customers needs and problems is a great start in building relationships. But to make a real impact, try to include your audience in your content. Use customer stories to illustrate your points or show examples of your solutions successes. This will show your audience your dedication and respect for them.

7. Be reliable 

Nothing damages someone’s trust like a broken promise. And content marketing is one way of making promises to your audience. Stick to expectations you set. Publish and deliver whenever and whatever you promised.

8. Never sacrifice the quality

Your audience quickly gets used to your typical level of quality. Yet, it’s easy to sacrifice it and publish a lower quality post just to meet the deadline.

9. Be yourself

Whatever you publish, do it with your own voice. Audiences can tell when someone’s pretending, it shows quite clearly. Instead, stick to your own story, that’s what makes you interesting. And if you don’t know your story yet, consider bringing an external help, a journalist perhaps to observe your work and discover it.

10. Deliver value, every time

Lastly, regardless of what content type you use, focus on delivering value. Don’t publish something only for the sake of meeting the deadline but always put your audience first.