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Category Archives: Social media

On your mark, get set, GO!

win with content marketing

You know you need to produce first class content to market your business, but how do you set yourself up for gold medal winning success?

Just like an athlete, you need to plan, prepare and train. Putting together the right content mix for your business needs inspiration and dedication, not to mention, stamina. Here’s our quick guide to creating content that wins.

1. On your marks…

Preparation is key. Before you step out onto the track with your new content, make sure you know what you’re trying to achieve. Do the thinking and planning, and don’t rush this stage.

Key to the preparation phase is research, talking, and listening.

Ask yourself: am I clear what my business is all about? Do I know what I want to sell, and who I want to buy it? Can I sum up my niche in a sentence?

If you can describe your dream clients in detail – you know the questions they are asking, and the content you can create to supply the answers – then it sounds like you’re ready to………

2. Get set…

Get your platform right. You’ll need a solid web platform for all your valuable content.

Marketing with content puts a lot pressure on your website. An athlete wouldn’t attempt a marathon in a pair of tired old trainers, and you shouldn’t try to market your business with a website that isn’t properly designed for the job.

For starters you need an integrated blog, and a sound content management system, all wrapped up in beautiful user friendly design. Once yours is finely tuned, and you’re proud to send people heading its way, then it’s time to …

3. GO!

Start sharing all that lovely valuable content. Get it up on your website, blog regularly, distribute it via social media, label it for search engines, take it wider, share it with the world on other websites.

You’re developing powerful networks but don’t forget the human touch. You may be sending your content far and wide, but it’s still you that people need to connect with. Building trust is one of the most powerful things you can do with your content, so make sure there’s a real sense of you at the heart of all you create.

4…and keep going

Measure, refine, learn….and continue. Marketing with content is definitely a marathon not a sprint, and it’s consistency that will bring you success. Keep at it. Turn out even when you don’t feel like it. Deepen the value over time. Make it a habit – be valuable for life.

Think like a champion – believe in yourself, take action, put in the hard work, continue, have patience, deliver results, listen, learn, hold the faith – and just like a gold medal winning athlete, success will come.

Good luck!

Should your business be on Facebook?

facebook logo

Big brands like Coca-cola and Mcdonalds have embraced it, your customers and clients probably have personal accounts, setting up a page is free, and very easy. Should your business be there too? Our view on this is a resounding “it depends”.

Take the Valuable Content quick quiz to help you decide whether to get friendly with Facebook, or to market your business on other social media platforms.

1. Are you in the travel, food, hospitality or leisure industry?
2. Do you have lots of good pictures and video content to share?
3. Does your business interest people beyond their working lives?
4. Does your business inspire people? Do you have a meaningful mission?

If the answer’s ‘yes’ to all the above, then Facebook is for you.

5. When you talk about your business at dinner parties do people’s faces light up?
6. Is your business a source of great anecdotes?
7. Do you help your clients achieve a transferable skill, something not purely work based?
8. Does your business create loyal fans who love to share what you do?

If the answer’s ‘no’, then we’d suggest you divert your energies elsewhere.

Why we think Facebook is right for some businesses and not for others

Facebook is a social network; rather it’s still the social network. Facebook’s millions of users update their status’s regularly with personal stuff. Where they’re going, how they’re feeling, what they did last night. They share things that make them laugh, rant about things that annoy them, laugh, talk, flirt, argue. All human life is there, sometimes in rather more detail than you actually wanted. In short it’s a vibrant, noisy, lively place where people let their hair down. If your business fits well into this upbeat, social environment, then starting a Facebook page for your business is an excellent idea.

However for an accountancy business, or a firm of commercial surveyors, we’d suggest that maybe Facebook isn’t the right place to be. Ask yourself whether the updates you’d be able to post will look at ease between your neighbour’s holiday snaps and a video of a cat playing the violin. We’d venture that “Don’t forget to file your tax return by Thursday!” or “Is your business compliant with the Code for Leasing Business Practises 2007?” won’t make you any friends. You’ll be the person standing in the corner at the party asking for the music to be turned down, the one wearing a suit on dress down Friday.

Is your business Facebook-friendly? We’d love to know.

Come and tell us on the Valuable Content Facebook page – it’s a bit lonely!

More on social media
Why social media is crucial for your content
How to write great Twitter headlines
How to make Linkedin love you

Why social media is crucial for your content

Hansel and Gretel cottage

Creating fantastically valuable content for your marketing is vital, but great content doesn’t spread itself.  Without help it can sit on your website, untroubled by visitors, and not reach the desks and minds of the people it was written to engage. Something is needed to get your content from A to B, and that something is social media.

Social media is your biggest content distribution tool. If you Tweet about your blogs, you will lead people straight to your website, where they’ll find the article that piqued their interest, and dozens more on subjects they may well be interested in too. The content works to demonstrate your expertise and build trust, generating good leads and sales.

Think of it as the candy-covered cottage that lured Hansel and Gretel to the witch’s lair. (Then stop thinking that, because you’re not doing bad stuff and eating children- you’re good guys.) But by advertising yourself with the kind of things that will attract your audience (like sweets – kids, it’s a no-brainer), you’ll get people to the place you want them to be. It’s a big spooky old wood out there, and you need something that guides people through it. The tasters of your blogs, written in the form of compelling headlines, are the neon fruit gums that will shine in a pathway to your website.

“Social media didn’t create content marketing, but it’s an unsurpassed tool for getting it distributed.”Copyblogger

One of the biggest points of Twitter, or Google+, is as a way of getting your content seen by a really wide selection of people. As a networking tool, it’s hard to beat, putting you in contact with far more people than you could ever hope to meet in the real world. Your growing network of followers will see what you’ve written straight away, and if they like it they’ll share it with their contacts, who in turn might share it with theirs, and so on, and so on. Valuable content creates a ripple effect, spreading your ideas across the web, to your kind of audience and often across the world.

If you’re writing a blog, you need to embrace social media – it’s not an optional extra. Otherwise all your wonderful words of wisdom will gather dust, which would be a big old waste of time. If you write it, you want people to read it – and social media is a great way of leading people to your content.

Valuable content rules for social media

There are many different social media options and there will be others to come, but if you want to get the best results across any social media/social network the same rules apply. Here are 7 valuable content rules to help you, whichever social medium you select:

  1. Be there. Social media IS important – join the conversation or you’re missing a trick – be sociable, communicate on the platforms. And be consistent – show up regularly.
  2. Be valuable. Be helpful, entertaining, educate your clients – not self-promoting, annoying or boring – stop talking about yourself – know your customers – become a valuable source of information for others. All the valuable rules apply.
  3. Be generous, generous in the content and information you share, and generous to others – share other people’s content even more than your own – if it is valuable to your kind of customers, then share it – even if it’s a competitor who has created it. Chris Brogan, President of Human Business Works, and a genuine social media expert says to make 10 tweets about others for ever one tweet you make about yourself. Become known as someone who offers things up to others, and eventually people will come to you.
  4. Be interesting. Mix it up – all sorts of different types of content. Have something to say.
  5. Be human. People want to do business with those they know, like and trust – get people to know a little more about you – not just the work you, but the whole of you, or at least a bit of you – as much as you feel willing to openly.
  6. Be on message. Talk around your business mission – not relentlessly, but let the golden thread shine through your message so it’s clear to those that follow you what you stand for.
  7. Be polite. Say thanks to those that follow and share your stuff. And “remember your ABC – always be crediting.” (hat tip to Charles H Green for this one).

Your stream of tweets or your Facebook feed are bite sized chunks of content – make them valuable to your customers, share yours and others’ stuff, get people to get to know you – to know, like and trust you, and they’ll remember you when the time comes to buy, or recommend you when others need to do so.

 

A really quick guide to the main 4 social media platforms

Alphabet - Number 4 from old Manual Typewriter.

Not all social media channels are the same; different channels have their own rules of engagement. You’ll be using them all for the same aim – to pull people back towards your website, and to expand your network- but it’s good to know the terrain so you can blend in like a natural.

Twitter

As a business this is likely to be your number one marketplace for sharing your blogs, networking, engaging with potential clients. At present it’s by far the most popular way of sharing a business-related blog article. Twitter is a really broad church: it can work as well for professional services firms as party planners. You choose who you follow, so you can build up a targeted list of people that you’d like to connect with. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, so there’s no room for waffle. It’s possible to build really powerful connections on Twitter, fantastic both as a way of attracting people to your content, and expanding your network.

Facebook

The biggest social sharing networking site in the world. You’ll find big brands there, as well as pages for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Facebook works by sharing your content with your friends, who in turn share it with theirs and so it spreads. ‘Like’ something on Facebook, and potentially it will be seen by thousands.  Fun, lively, crowded. Great for some businesses, not so good for others (see: Should your business be on Facebook?)

Linkedin

The professional networking site, much less frivolous than Facebook, space to say more than on Twitter. A great place to publicise your blogs, connect with peers and potential clients. Commenting on other people’s discussions, and starting your own threads is great for raising your profile, although our ‘help, don’t sell’ mantra still holds. With over 100 million users worldwide, and highly ranked by Google, it’s invaluable for business networking.

Google+

Launched in 2011, this is currently big in the States, and becoming bigger in the UK too. Secure a presence here if you want to make the most of Google’s enhanced search function. Social sharing is going to dominate search engine rankings over the coming years – Google will deliver results search results based on what people are saying and recommending to each other, over and above simple keyword searches, so it’s useful to make a start here. We like the way it allows you to choose who you share information with, and it’s very intuitive to use – easy to update, easy to upload pictures and videos. Much less cluttered and intrusive than Facebook.

We’re conscious, writing this, that the landscape is changing fast. There are many other tools and the ones we mention today will date, but one thing we’re confident of is that embracing social media is crucial to the success of marketing your business with valuable content.

Five reasons not to blog

closed sign - reasons not to blog

You don’t have to write a blog. It’s not the law. Here are five popular reasons not to do it.

1.You can’t be bothered. Really, what’s the point? Your marketing is working fine, you don’t need any more clients, thank you very much.

If you’ve got a steady stream of leads, and more of the kind of work you want to do than you can handle already, then maybe you don’t need to blog. But if you’d like to pull in additional leads, get referred more, and build your business, then maybe you should give it a go.

2. You don’t want to give information away. And why would you? You worked hard to learn all this stuff, publishing it for free is a crazy idea.

People buy from people they trust, and it’s hard for people to trust your expertise if it’s all locked away in your head. Sharing some of your ideas and experiences in a blog is a great way to show not only what you know, but your individual approach. Being helpful and sharing pays off. As far as know I haven’t lost any writing work through writing about how to write.

3. You’ve got nothing new to say. The internet is awash with blogs. The world doesn’t need another one.

Well, yes, that’s true. But you do have something original to say. Think about the way you solve your particular clients problems and write from that perspective. Don’t worry about being a world authority on your subject, just be the great guy who knows his stuff and gets it done.

4. You’re not a writer,you’re a lawyer/architect/IFA/designer/*insert your own job title here.

True, but you probably can write well enough. Be clear, to the point, and avoid jargon. Don’t think of it as an essay written to impress, write it as you would say it, and you’ll find your voice. (And if that doesn’t work, you can always cheat and get someone like me to write it for you.)

5. You’ve got writer’s block. You know you need to do it, but the blank page is staring at you and try as you might, it just won’t work.

We’ve all been there, but the way to get out of it is to take action. Write something silly, write something provocative, write anything. The act of crafting ideas into words will get things moving, and once you’re in the flow you can switch back to the subject you’re supposed to be writing about. Or not. The best blogs sometimes start in the strangest places.

This blog was supposed to be ‘How to write a brilliant article,’ but I was distracted by helpful Twitter responses to my question ‘what holds your writing back?’ That one’s coming next, so watch this space.

How to make Linkedin love you

Linkedin heart made from ribbon

Some business owners feel happier on Linkedin than Twitter. It’s less frivolous. It focuses on work, side-stepping the ‘I’m eating an apple’ updates that some people find irritating and pointless. I’m not saying they’re right – I love Twitter – but I know what they mean.

But if you’re looking to win more work and putting all your eggs into Linkedin’s basket, you really need to make the most of it. So how do you do that?

First of all this means filling it all in properly. Linkedin makes it easy for you – just fill in the boxes with all your contact details, your previous experience, and some testimonials, and you’re away.

That’s a good start, and lots of people leave it there, but they’re missing out. Past experience and recommendations are important, but what can really sell you is the summary and specialities section. Not filling these in is like going to a party and sitting in the corner not speaking to anyone. This is your chance to answer ‘and what do you do?’ in the most compelling way, so give it some thought.

As much thought, I’d suggest, as you would your website home page. And in the same way that your home page should demonstrate how you help your clients, make it clear here how your experience solves clients’ problems.

5 ways to write a better Linkedin profile

1. Make it clear what kind of projects you’re looking for – what work do you want? There’s no harm in being upfront, and it makes it easier for potential clients to find you. Don’t leave contacts to read between the lines to find the things you might be good at, spell it out for them.
2. Tailor your experience to fit the projects you want. Linkedin works best when you treat as more than an online CV, so pull out the details that are relevant to projects you’d like to have and add them to strengthen your case. BUT
3. Be succinct. I don’t mean all the details. Pick and choose, and think in headlines rather than essays.
4. Think about clients needs first. A section on ‘how I can help’ makes your profile stand out. Ask for help yourself here by getting feedback from clients, or asking a copywriter to work on your message with you.
5. Keep it up to date. Linkedin profiles are easy to edit, so there’s no excuse for not keeping it current.

And finally, update regularly, read other people’s updates, comment, think, join in. Recommend the good people you work with, and they’ll return the favour. Linkedin is a networking tool, so get networking.

If you need help shaping your Linkedin profile, give me a call.

How to stand out from the crowd

How to stand out from the crowd

Let’s face it, you’re probably not the only one in your field. There are other designers, consultants, suppliers all doing the same as you, give or take an inch or two.

You can niche all you like, but there’ll always be somebody else, with a similar offer, ready to snatch potential clients away.

So how do you stand out? How do you frame your offer to get them to pick you and not them?

Here’s a quick guide to using words to make you stand out from the crowd.

1. Be the clearest. Chances are your business is mired with jargon. Be the one who strips that away and writes about how you help in a way that your clients really understand. It’s refreshing to find someone who tells it like it is – so be that person.
2. Be the most understanding. Always write from the clients viewpoint. Put their problems before your solutions. (But don’t use the word ‘solutions’. It’s on my banned list.)
3. Be the boldest. Copy that’s written with attitude is invigorating to read, so inject some va-va-voom into your words. Active verbs, no conjunctives, short and snappy.
4. Be the brightest. Brightest doesn’t mean complicated – it can mean seeing things from a different angle – making connections that can surprise and inspire. Write thoughtfully and your words will rise above the crowd saying the same old thing.
5. Be the smartest. Invest in good design so that your words look as good as they can. Good design shows you care.
6. Be the most useful. Fill your website with content that’s valuable to your potential clients, so they’ll turn to you first for help.
7. Be the most in demand. People want to work with the best, and the best are likely to be busiest. Use your website and social media to let the world know what you’re up to. Write about the nuts and bolts of what you’re doing – it shows you know your stuff. Walking the walk and not just talking the talk – that’s what get results.
8. Be everywhere. Blog it, tweet it, comment on forums, ask questions, answer queries – spread your words around to raise the chances of being found.

What have I missed? I’d love to know your tips for standing out from the rest. And if you need help with making your copy unmissable, call me on 07985 015300

The really Valuable guide to ‘Things to give up for Lent’

chocolate coated strawberry

Chocolate, wine, and cake – just three of the things that aren’t on Valuable Content’s list of things to give up for Lent.

We hope you’ll find our real selection more useful. Read on for a quick-fire list of the things we’d like to kiss goodbye today.

1. Jargon.
There’s always a better way of saying it. Make your content clear and accessible to all your clients. An independent view on what you’re writing can be handy to make sure you’re not slipping in phrases in that will alienate your readers.
2. Flash websites with no function.
There are still a few about, and we’d like to see them gone. Design your website with your user in mind. We guarantee they’ll want useful information that helps them solve a problem over something gimmicky any day.
3. Spamming people with messages, over and over again.
If you’re not getting results, you need to try something else. Search your content toolkit for a different approach.
4. Websites you can’t update yourself.
Your website should be the hub of your marketing – the living breathing centre of your business – bursting with relevant news, blogs, and information that potential clients will love. If every change demands a phone call to your designer, the chances are you won’t make them. Switch to a blog based site, we’re sure you’ll thank us for it!
5. Tweeting without listening and engaging.
As more and more businesses wise up to the marketing potential of Twitter, the good Tweeters are becoming clearer, and rarer. They’re the ones that talk as well as promote. Good Tweeters retweet others’ links, and say ‘thank you’ when you retweet theirs. Twitter’s not a free listings page, it’s a conversation that can engage and entertain as well as inform. Join in and play nicely, that’s the Valuable Content way.

What’s on your list? We’d love to know. And if we can help you with social media, new websites, or content for your business, please get in touch.

How to write great Twitter headlines

Sun Gotcha headlineFor the busy web reader, headlines are crucial. Faced with an immense sea of information, we scan for the ones that pull us in and anchor us to something relevant. Headlines matter on web pages, and even more so on social media sites like Twitter. How do you get people to click on yours instead of swimming past?

1. Be succinct.

Summarise the point of your article or blog in as few words as possible. Short and snappy is more appealing than convoluted. It’s a good test of your content too – if you can’t sum up the point in a sentence, maybe you haven’t got it quite right yet.

2. Put your reader first.

Think about what they want to know. What will they be searching for? How is your content going to help them? Use the phrase they’ll be searching for as your headline. Home page design – a quick guide, Networking etiquette – what to say first, and Key components of winning press releases are examples of reader focused, straightforward headlines.

3. Ask a question.

Headlines that engage are good news, and conversational questioning style headlines do just that. Are your business cards working? Is your recruitment process up to scratch? Do your clients know how to find you?

4. ‘How to’ headlines.

People are searching for information, and the’ how to’s’ are easy to spot and easy to click. How to design your about us page, How to boost e-commerce sales, How to sell your house in 6 weeks

5. Promise success.

We all want to succeed, and are tempted by people that offer it to us. Spiking your headlines with positive success words can encourage clicks. Win more clients with smart business networking, Successful sales start with three words, Boost profits with smarter working.

6. Raise the spectre of failure.

Fear of failure is as big a drive as the desire for success. Scare people into reading your stuff! Five costly PR mistakes to avoid. How to lose customers and alienate people. Is your web copy costing you sales?

7. Offer some inside knowledge.

Who doesn’t want to know a secret? It’s not hard to pique our curiosity. The secrets of successful bloggers, The trait top novelists share, Which blogger do twenty world leaders follow?

8. Play the numbers game.

Maybe it’s the promise of a quick read, perhaps because it seems to offer something easily graspable and definitive. Whatever the reason, Twitter can’t get enough of the numbers headlines. Five ways to improve your SEO instantly, Seven ways to keep readers on your site. Three writing rules you must break.

9. Get active.

Words like boost, drive, run, leap, soar, make headlines more compelling than passive words. Injecting some energy into your headlines grabs attention. Boost sales with clever marketing, Drive customers to checkout faster.

10. Say something different.

Originality is like a breath of fresh air in the crowded Twitter marketplace. Headlines created from a different lexicon leap off the page. I’m not talking jargon, just unexpected words – nouns or verbs – that shake up the stream of salesy Tweets. I’d put Mick Dickinson’s Silk purse, sow’s ear, crappy photographer, blog post headline into the refreshingly different category.

And if all else fails……

11. Capitalise Everything.

It’s in your face, brash, and hard to avoid. Personally, I don’t like this headline style, but it doesn’t stop me clicking if the content is promising. How To Win More Sales Overnight, Why Your Content Sucks, How To Write Killer Blogs.

So there you have it. Ten headline styles, and one for luck. It’s useful to mix them up, and vary your approach. I’ll often use four of five different headline styles to flag up the same article. Different readers respond to different types, so experiment with what works best for your followers.

Last but definitely not least, have something to say. Content always comes first in my book. The greatest headline in the world will tempt people to click, but you’ll only disappoint and frustrate if your content doesn’t live up to the headline’s promise.

If you need help with content for your website, do get in touch. I’d love to help.

My five marketing lessons

It’s been a year since I started in business on my own – a good time to reflect on the marketing lessons I’ve learnt in 2010.
I haven’t done any formal networking, or cold calling, and I haven’t even got round to sorting out my business cards. But I have managed to build up a network of clients that keep coming back, and who I really enjoy working with. Here’s how it’s working for me.

1. A good website is crucial.

While I loved the design of my first site (thanks Daniel Penfold), I outgrew it quite quickly. A WordPress site (more thanks DP) gave me something I could update myself with writing that would be useful for potential clients and that could stay up to date and relevant to the kinds of people I want to work with. Redoing the site after only 10 months was a great exercise in redefining my offer. Keeping my website valuable is top of my marketing list.

2. Twitter works.

I’m steadily building up a Twitter network that is both useful and entertaining. You make your own community on social networking sites, and I find Twitter a really friendly and supportive place. I know I sometimes cross the boundaries of personal/professional when I’m Tweeting – but I like Tweets from people that come from real life – being funny, or exasperated, or unsure is okay by me. I accept that this isn’t right for anyone, but Twitter is a great showcase for writers, and creating readable tweets is a fab exercise in making the most of a few words. Be useful, supportive and interesting – that’s my approach.

3. Newsletters raise your game.

Both the discipline of creating something valuable, useful and readable once a month, and the credibility it gives you as an authority on your subject is priceless. I picked up a lovely new client after only 2 newsletters, and expect to find more next year. Demonstrate your knowledge in an accessible and useful way.

4. Collaborate.

Working with Sonja to develop Valuable Content has been incredibly good fun, and professionally useful. We’ve pushed each other to achieve things, shared ideas, been each other’s sounding boards, spell checkers and friends. We’ve got big plans for next year, so watch the Valuable Content space. Work should be happy, so surround yourself with good people.

5. Be yourself.

I get on with my clients, and find them really easy to work with and it is more than a happy coincidence, I believe it comes from creating an on-line presence that reflects who I am. People will have checked me out on the website, maybe read my Tweets and newsletter, and decided whether they like my style and approach. People who don’t like the sound of me, won’t get in touch. I’m happy about this – it saves us both time. Be true and the right people will find you.
(I’m basing this theory on the one difficult client I’ve had this year, who came via a contact of a contact of a contact. He hadn’t been through the web/twitter filter – maybe if he had he would have chosen a different writer.)

So for next year? I”m going to do more of the same. More blogging, more writing about how to write, more newsletters, more collaboration, more Tweeting. But I’m going to try my hand at networking too, and I am, I promise, going to get those business cards sorted.