A Step-By-Step on Creating Mindblowing Original Content for Your Blog

Original Blog Content

If you haven’t blogged before, you’re probably wondering how to create awesome, original content.

When I first started my internship with Shari’s Ink, I was intimidated by the idea of creating original blog content because it was something I had never done before. However, after learning the basics, it’s a breeze. Below are my three tips for creating original blog content that’ll get your audience’s toes tapping.

See What’s Trending

Use an RSS feed and manage your Twitter lists to follow trending topics in your industry. What topics make frequent appearances? If you’re seeing a consistent topic in article after article, it’s worth a blog post.

Brainstorm Original Topics

Based on what you see trending in your lists, you can begin brainstorming topics you’d like to feature on your blog. Although your ideas can echo trending topics, always consider different angles. For example, you might notice that lists of social media tips are constantly appearing in your feed. From there, you could come up with ideas for your own social media tips such as, “Our Top 5 Social Tips to Increase Engagement” or “3 Tips for Your Best Social Marketing Plan.” Once you’ve generated enough topics, populate your editorial calendar to manage them.

Use Your Expertise

To create original content that’ll make people want to read YOU, use your own knowledge and experience. Personal expertise is what makes your content uniquely yours. Take inspiration from trending topics, but don’t just copy what everyone else is saying. Choose your own angle and use your own knowledge.

Sometimes, you won’t have the expertise it takes to write a blog post. If this happens, turn to your contacts for their professional insight. As an intern for Shari’s Ink, I don’t know everything there is to know about content marketing. When I’m writing a blog post that calls for information I don’t have, I interview Shari to get it.

If you need help managing or writing for a blog, see our post on blogging for business or feel free to contact Shari’s Ink.

How I SUCCESSFULLY Integrated Social Media into Content Marketing

Integrating social

Social media plays an important role in supporting your content marketing plan.

Today, I’m sharing some of the things I’ve personally learned about implementing a social media plan as an intern for Shari’s Ink.

Choosing the Right Platforms for Your Business

We can’t stress enough that if you’re just starting out and don’t have the funds to hire a social media manager, you should start with a maximum of three platforms. Make the most of your social media plan by choosing the social sites that are best suited for your business.

  • You can never go wrong with Facebook and Twitter; they’re user-friendly and make it easy to promote your message.
  • LinkedIn is good if you’re trying to market yourself to other businesses.
  • If your business is more visual or active, consider going with Instagram, Snapchat or Periscope.

If you need more help deciding on your three social platforms, see our breakdown of each one in our Social Media Series.

Managing Social Media

Just like a blog or any other part of your business, you need to plan to write and manage your social media posts.

  • Use your editorial calendar to plan upcoming social posts.
  • Post to your social sites two to five times per week.
  • Write your posts a week in advance.
  • Schedule your posts a couple of days in advance. You can use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite to make this process easier.

On average, you should look at investing about five hours per week into your social media plan.

Growing Your Following and Driving Traffic to Your Website

To get more followers and website traffic, try applying some of these pro tips to your social plan:

  • Create and share engaging content. Engage your audience by asking questions, inviting them to interact with your brand and writing posts around shared values. You should also share links to your quality blog posts to increase clicks to your own website.
  • Be relevant to your business goals. Your followers want to know what’s in it for them. If you’re not being clear about what your business does, they aren’t going to care about your posts. Let people know how they can benefit from your services.

For more information on how to grow your following, see our “8 Tips for a Successful Social Media Plan.”

Our 4 Best SEO Tips

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is really important for driving traffic to your website. But you probably knew that already.

What you may not know is HOW to increase your website’s SEO. To help, we’re revealing our four top tips to build a crazy awesome SEO strategy. Good luck!

1. Use the Keyword Planner

You can use the Google Keyword Planner to find keywords in your industry that are most searched. Target areas of opportunity by choosing three to five phrases or keywords to focus on and create content around that relates to your business.  Just be sure not to get too repetitive with your keywords.  If you need more information on the Keyword Planner, feel free to contact Shari’s Ink.

2. Strategically Place Keywords in Your Website

Placing keywords in headlines or headers/subheads will rank higher than body text. Use keywords in your headlines in as many creative ways as possible. Be sure to change it up to avoid constantly repeating yourself. Also, use your targeted keywords in your meta tags and properly tag your blog posts.

3. Link Building

You can improve your SEO by simply linking within your own website! Link back to your services page or your blog posts when mentioning them (like we’re doing here).  Your rankings can also be boosted when other websites link back to you. The more traffic those websites get, the better. This gives you credibility in the eyes of Google; it says the information you offer is relevant. Social media shares are starting to contribute to SEO as well, so be sure to share content that will engage your followers and encourage others to share your stuff.

4. Google+

Using Google+ can increase your website’s SEO since it’s Google’s own social platform. Google counts every Google+ page as another website linking back to yours, rather than just a social media page. Stay active on all of your Google+ pages, personal and professional, to increase your chances of being found in a Google search.

How to Use Email Marketing to Reach Your Audience

Email

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your intended audience.

A case study done by Reach Mail discovered that 90 percent of your audience sees your emails, as opposed to the 2 percent that see your Facebook posts. If you aren’t already, you should be integrating email marketing into your overall content marketing plan.

Successfully Integrating Emails into Content Marketing

The best way to integrate your emails with the rest of your content marketing is through e-newsletters. Use your blog posts in your newsletters, but don’t simply cut and paste.  Use a headline, a teaser sentence or question and a link to read more. This tactic should increase traffic to your website.

Using the Right Content

The kind of content and topics you include in your emails depend on two things:

  1. What you do. To draw potential customers, your e-newsletter should relate to your business, product, service, or code of values. If you’re a public relations firm and your emails are about cats, the reader probably won’t pay much attention to your services.
  2. Your audience. Chances are, you generally know who you’re writing for. Who is receiving your emails? Address them and why you’re writing to them. Emails to prospects are going to be different than emails to clients.

Getting People to Subscribe

Here are a few effective ideas to build your email list:

  • When you speak or present at a conference, hold a raffle. Have the members of the audience drop business cards in a bucket for a chance to win. In those business cards, you now have a collection of prospects.
  • Offer something of value in exchange for email addresses. For example, you could create a whitepaper that fulfills a need among your prospective clients.
  • Encourage your followers to subscribe on all of your channels. Your website, blog and social media (Facebook makes it especially easy with the “call to action” menu item) are all good places to ask people to subscribe.

With these tips, email marketing can extend the reach of your content beyond social media and blogging.

How to Budget for Your Content Marketing Plan

Budget

When budgeting for your content marketing plan, it’s important to consider all of your resources.

A content marketing plan requires a time commitment.  If you don’t have that time, think about how much money you’re willing to spend for someone else’s time.

How Much Time?

How much time should you invest into your content marketing plan?  Here’s our breakdown:

  • Social media: 5 hours a week
  • Blog: 2 hours per post
  • Total content marketing: 7-10 hours a week

Use this estimate to figure what you’re able to manage on your own.  The more time you have, the less money you’ll have to spend on hiring someone.

How Much Money?

If you decide there’s not enough time for something, you should consider hiring someone to do it for you.  Just keep in mind, the more experience someone has, the more money you’re going to pay for his or her services.

The following are examples of what you may pay, depending on experience and even location:

  • Independent contractor: $50-100 an hour
  • Agency: $120-150 an hour
  • Salaried social media manager (manages all content marketing): $55,000-70,000 a year

What Does It All Mean?

Let’s pretend you need help managing some aspects of your content marketing plan. You decide to hire an independent contractor to manage your social media, which could cost you up to $500 a week.  If that’s not doable, you have two options:

  1. You could hire someone with less experience.
  2. You could reconsider what you might be able to manage on your own.

If you go with option two, you might decide that you can, in fact, manage your own social media. Then, you may decide to delegate one blog post a week to your independent contractor, which could cost up to $200 a week.

If something isn’t within your monetary budget, always reconsider what you might be able to manage on your own time.

Content Marketing: The New Way to Advertise

Your new way to advertise

Content marketing is becoming an integral part of the modern business’s marketing strategy.

If the term is new to you, content marketing consists of the content you create and share—typically a blog, social media and e-newsletters.  It is different than traditional marketing strategies, like print and broadcast ads, because it is self-created and free to publish.

In this post, we’re going to address some questions you may have about implementing a content marketing plan.

Can content marketing replace traditional marketing practices?

No! A content marketing plan should never replace traditional marketing strategies.  Instead, the two should be integrated.

Content marketing is a good place to start if you don’t have a large marketing budget.  Once you have a bigger budget, you should continue to use your content to strengthen your overall marketing strategy.

What if I have a brick and mortar business and am not interested in selling online?

Content marketing, though online, isn’t just for online businesses. Your content marketing strategy should be used to build relationships.  A good way to do this?  Be consistent, responsive and stay in touch.

You will gain loyalty by intertwining separate strategies.  Engage with your followers on social media and invite clients to join an email list.

What’s the most important thing when it comes to content marketing?

PLAN, PLAN, PLAN.  If you don’t, your content marketing plan will quickly become overwhelming.

Create, edit and utilize an editorial calendar to help stay organized.

Plan everything in advance.  Write your blog and social media posts a week in advance and schedule them a few days in advance.

You’ll soon develop a rhythm that will help you manage your time wisely.

Is it a mistake not to have a content marketing plan?

We wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a mistake, but we would highly caution against brushing it aside.  Content marketing is very important for building relationships and you could miss out if you’re not online.

Chances are, your audience is online.  We live in an online world where we’re all connected most of the time.  You need to show up on Google when someone searches for you.  A content marketing plan will help to make this happen.

Have any more questions about implementing a content marketing plan?  Contact Shari’s Ink for a free quote today!

8 Tips for a Successful Social Media Plan

social media tips

If you read our Social Media Series, you’ll probably remember a few of the big points made about specific social media channels.  But when it comes to developing your overall social media plan, here are our biggest tips to make sure your strategy is successful:

1. Be Strategic

Small businesses often make the mistake of trying to be everywhere on social media.  If you don’t have a lot of extra time or help, start with three channels and choose them based on your target audience.  If your business is in fashion and apparel, you’ll likely do well on Pinterest; if you’re an accounting firm, you’ll do better on LinkedIn.

2. Create and Share ENGAGING Content

If you have engaging content, you have great content.  Ask questions, make it fun and prompt your audience to interact with your brand.  If your audience shares a similar value to your product, write posts around that value.  For example, USAA provides insurance for service members and veterans, so its audience interacts very well with posts about serving our country and supporting our veterans.

3. Tie Your Plan into Your Business Goals

What do you want to accomplish with your social media plan?  Are you trying to drive more traffic to your website, build your email list or develop brand awareness?  Once you’ve decided on your business goals, you can figure out how to build your social media plan around them.  Make sure to develop specific, measurable goals for success.

4. Measure Results

The only way to know if your social media plan is working is to measure success.  All social media channels—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest—provide analytics.  Use these metrics to analyze results, then compare them month to month, quarter to quarter and year to year.  You can then tweak your plan based on what works and what doesn’t.

5. Be Responsive

If someone posts to your Facebook page with a question OR complaint, respond to them!  When someone tags you on Twitter, favorite their post.  Let people know you’re paying attention and do it in a timely manner.

6. Schedule and Post Consistently

Not only does scheduling and consistency help with time management, but it also helps to maintain a professional appearance to your audience.  Also, Facebook takes into account how consistently active you are in its algorithm, making this point especially important.

7. Know Your Audience

When you know your audience and why they should be interested in your business, you can tailor your content to cater to them.

8. Don’t Be a Salesperson

Be sure you’re not only focusing on you and your business.  Create content that makes your audience feel welcome and ask yourself “what’s in it for them?”

Do you have a great social media tip to add to the list?  Tell us about it in the comments!

Telling the Story of Your Business

Storytelling

Your story is the essence of your business and it’s important that you tell it.

Stories make your business stand out; they define you and they connect you with individuals.  They explain why you do what you do.

What Should Every Story Have?

Because stories define your business, you want to craft them as best you can.  Every story you tell should do the following:

  1. Be timely. A story that has a current idea will resonate more than one that doesn’t.
  2. Consider the local impact, or the impact on your audience. Your reader won’t care if it doesn’t affect them.
  3. Share something unusual or unique that will pique interest.
  4. Include a cause and effect element that will clearly show what makes your story important.
  5. Evoke emotion. It’s easy for your audience to connect to something that makes them feel emotion.
  6. Feature an individual such as an employee, client, animal, etc. and allow your audience to connect with your business on a personal level.

How to Share Your Story

Since stories are the great connectors of people, you should share them as often as possible and wherever possible.

You should always share your business’s story on your blog or website.  We also highly recommend sharing stories on social media.  Social media loves stories, especially individual ones.  Individual stories add value to your business.  You could include stories from your employees or clients that will demonstrate what your business is all about.  Just remember to get permission before doing this.

You could also share stories in your e-newsletter, if it’s formatted for such things.  If you have a section that features employee highlights or anything similar, this would be the perfect opportunity to share your employees’ stories, for example.  If this isn’t the typical format of your newsletter, though, don’t throw them in there.

TELL US YOUR STORY!

Share your story in the comments below and don’t forget to share it on your website and social media!

Blogging: The Center of Your Content Marketing Universe

Business blogging

Are you wondering if blogging is the right move for your business?  No matter who you are or what your business, if you’re considering the question, the answer is yes!

Here at Shari’s Ink, we believe it’s important to have a blog … period.  A blog builds your search engine optimization (SEO) and online presence, driving traffic to your website.  It should be the cornerstone of your content marketing plan.

If you’re just beginning a business, the idea of starting a blog may seem daunting with everything you’re trying to manage.  If this is the case, wait until you have a steady income and a firm grasp on your schedule before taking on a blog.

How to Manage a Blog

A blog is no different than any other aspect of business.  You need to plan to write and manage it.  Planning will keep you and your blog organized.

  • Post to the blog one to three times per week.
  • Create your editorial calendar with blog topics one month in advance.
  • Write your posts a week in advance.
  • Schedule your posts a couple of days in advance.

Only take on what you are able to manage.  If you don’t have the time to run a blog, seriously consider hiring somebody to do it for you.  Don’t have the funds?  Then consider taking on an intern.  An intern would be more than happy to help if you’re providing a valuable learning experience.

How to Grow Your Following

If you want people to read your blog, you have to grow your following.  When no one knows you, no one knows you have content out there.  You need two very important things to grow your blog following:

  1. Good, quality content. Your content needs to be well-written and consistent. Consistency is key when it comes to how often you post and the material you share. This is what will keep people coming back and sharing your content.
  2. Strategy. This includes creating an email list and sharing your posts on social media. You should share on social media as often as you post to the blog.

Always consider your resources, because everything depends on it.  If you don’t have the proper resources, such as time or help, your content and strategy will suffer.

How do YOU make the most of your resources?

How to Hire a GOOD Copywriter for Your Content Marketing

What is a copywriter

Are you starting your own business?  Are you a writer?

If you answered yes to the first question, but no to the second, it might be time to consider contracting a copywriter.  A copywriter can make sure you take the right steps as you start branding your new business.

What Is a Copywriter?

A copywriter can write anything you need when it comes to marketing your business.  For example, a copywriter can help you write your blog, social media posts, whitepapers, brochures, display ads, etc. What makes a professional copywriter so necessary is his or her understanding of “branding.” You want your company’s voice and messaging to remain consistent. That’s what helps set you apart from the competition.

When Should You Hire a Copywriter?

You should most certainly contract a copywriter if you’re launching a new business with a website and…

  1. You’re not a writer. Your website is how you make your first impression. Therefore, you want to make sure it’s done right. Just like you wouldn’t do your own payroll, you shouldn’t attempt to write your own website … or …
  2. You don’t have time. With everything you’re managing as a new business owner, you shouldn’t try to do this yourself. A copywriter will help you manage the things you don’t have time for, like your social media content or company blog.

If you’re first launching a business, we wouldn’t recommend hiring someone directly on staff.  Instead, consider contracting out. When you’re more established and making consistent money, hiring a full-time copywriter might be something to consider. You’ll be looking at a minimum of $40,000 for a good entry-level copywriter and up to $80,000 or more for a senior copywriter with at least 10 years of experience.

Who Should You Hire?

A good copywriter understands voice, brand, presence and how to use these aspects to reach your target audience.  Consistency is very important in the beginning stages of your business; it’s how your customers begin to recognize you.  So, what should you consider when looking to hire a copywriter?

  • Experience. This will determine the quality of writing you get and the price you will have to pay.
  • Style. You want a writer who fits your style. For example, someone who writes about fashion might not be a great fit to write about health insurance.
  • Previous work. Every copywriter, unless they’re just coming out of college, should have a portfolio. Use this to evaluate their voice and quality of writing.
  • Strategy. A copywriter should be more than just creative. He or she also needs to be highly aware of how the audience perceives certain messaging and the best ways to promote that messaging.

If you’re considering hiring a copywriter, feel free to contact Shari’s Ink for a free quote!