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Content Conversations: Content Marketing Predictions for 2018

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Last year around this time, we asked reached out to a series of content experts (many of which are included in this post), to ask them for their top content prediction for 2017. By and large, the explosion of video content was a top prediction and rang true this year.

We also received predictions related to the mistrust of news sources (#FakeNews anyone?), the need for restructure within marketing departments as content marketing roles become more defined and the necessity for a defined content marketing strategy.

And while each of these predictions were spot on) or very close to what we’ve experienced this year), some of them were very aspirational. This year, content marketers have been through alot. They’ve had to do even more with less, focus even more on marketing performance and try to navigate a very saturated marketplace.

In the past few weeks we’ve discussed the biggest content lessons in 2017 and how to hit the ground running with content in 2018. This week we get a glimpse at some raw, grounded and actionable content marketing predictions for 2018.

Digital Platforms Will Evolve

The platforms and tools that we use on a daily basis are in the midst of a revolution. Advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are having a significant impact on the industry, one that we can’t ignore.

As content marketers begin to rely more heavily on this technology, they’ll find that they will have even more insights and data which should make for better, more impactful content.

Ann Handley

Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

“We’re going to see new art forms emerge for content in 2018.” @annhandley tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What additional data do we need to create more impactful content?
  • What tools and plugins already exist that can help to better inform the content we create?
  • How will technologies like AI and Machine Learning shape our approach in 2018 and beyond?

Marketing Will Become a Profit Center

Traditionally, marketing has been viewed as a cost center within organizations large and small. Marketing is the thing that costs money, that doesn’t create new business and is often the first department to experience budget or resource cuts.

Jump to 2018, and it’s time to change that narrative. Good marketers have been lead and revenue obsessed for years, and use data to show their worth. Now it’s time for everyone else to catch up.

If content marketers can narrow their focus and spend time nurturing their audience and developing marketing strategies that move them through the purchasing funnel, they’ll begin to see the direct correlation between marketing and sales made.

Joe Pulizzi

Author & Keynote Speaker

“What if we can build a loyal audience, and generate direct revenue from that audience and have marketing be self-sustaining.” @joepulizzi tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • How does my company value our marketing department?
  • Are we a cost or profit center?
  • What steps can we take immediately to gather, analyze and act on data to become more efficient?

2018 Will Leave a Content Crater

Everyone and their dog (literally), consider themselves to be content marketers. The landscape is saturated with crappy content that is leaving many audiences unsatisfied and turned off, even when it comes to the good stuff.

We are in an era where people know that they need to be creating content, but they aren’t always equipped to create the right content. In the coming year, we’ll see even more people creating even more content without purpose.

Chris Brogan

CEO, Owner Media Group

“We’re on the tail-end of people knowing they need to create content. Content 2018 is Applebee’s announcing $1 margaritas every day of the week.” @chrisbrogan tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Does the content that we create have purpose?
  • What can we do to ensure we’re creating the right content for the right audience(s)?

Marketers Will Focus More on A/B Testing

Creating and promoting content a certain way because it’s “the way you’ve always done it”, won’t help you become a better or more successful marketer.

The best marketers, take the time to test different variations, analyze the data and optimize based on the results. When you do start an A/B testing initiative it’s essential that you keep the variables to a minimum. That way you can determine which variable had the impact and optimize your approach moving forward.

Alexandra Rynne

Content Marketing Manager – Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn

“In 2018, we’ll see a lot more companies A/B testing.” @amrynnie tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What content or content promotion assets can we begin A/B testing immediately?
  • What types of content do we want to A/B test moving forward?
  • What tools do we have in place or need in order to effectively A/B test?

B2B Brands Will Inject Humor into Marketing

Most B2B marketers think that content is serious business. However, that notion runs counter to the buzzwords we’ve been throwing around for years about humanizing brands, showcasing authenticity and ultimately creating content for people.

Smart B2B brands will take the time in 2018 to begin testing adding humor into their marketing in a way that creates a more meaningful connection with their audience.

Tim Washer

Writer & Producer, Cisco

“2018 will be the year that we’ll see more B2B brands using humor in their content. Using humor is a wonderful way to share our flaws as people.” @timwasher tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Would my audience be open to consuming content from our brand that is more humorous?
  • How can we add humor to our content in a way that makes sense?

Content Measurement Will Reign Supreme

In 2018 marketers will need to be even more data driven than ever before. Reporting on KPIs will no longer be accepted as marketers have access to information that can help them measure true content impact and performance against business objectives.

Additionally, marketers will need to use this data to map the full buyer journey to determine the correct place for each piece of content.

Dayna Rothman

VP of Marketing & Sales Development, BrightFunnel

“Marketers will need to go above and beyond KPIs and determine what content is moving the needle for pipeline and revenue.” @dayroth tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Do I have access to the data I need?
  • What impact is my content having currently?
  • How can we create more impactful content that maps to business objectives?

Marketers Still Won’t Have a Documented Strategy

Documenting a formal content strategy still seems to be a struggle for many marketers. And while there is a slight increase each year in the number of marketers who do have a content strategy, it’s not enough.

Without a plan, it’s impossible to meet or exceed expectations. Simply formalizing your plan can provide a framework for how you’ll approach content, what your goals are and how you can make decisions based on the data you collect.

Chris Moody

Content Marketing Leader, GE Digital

“We have to get to a point where every marketer is data driven and showing ROI.” @cnmoody tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • If you don’t have a plan, what is hindering you from creating one?
  • What are your biggest content marketing goals for 2018?
  • How can you work backwards to determine how you will reach them?

BONUS: In 20 Years, Content Marketing Will Be ______

As an added bonus, we asked our experts to predict beyond the coming year and share their vision for content marketing in 20 years. Here were their responses:

What is Your Content Marketing Prediction for 2018?

Content marketing changes so quickly that these predictions can’t possibly cover all of the changes that we will experience in the coming year. So that begs the question: what is your top content marketing prediction for 2018?

Disclosure: BrightFunnel & LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.

How to Create Influencer Roundups: Tips and Tools for Bloggers

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This post was originally published on this site

social media how toDo you want to improve your influencer outreach for roundup posts?

Wondering how to come up with a unique topic idea?

In this article, you’ll discover a four-step plan to create effective influencer roundups.

How to Create Influencer Roundups: Tips and Tools for Bloggers by Ann Smarty on Social Media Examiner.

How to Create Influencer Roundups: Tips and Tools for Bloggers by Ann Smarty on Social Media Examiner.

#1: Plan a Timeline for Your Roundup

Timing is everything. If you plan your influencer-driven content in time for the upcoming holidays, you’ll get a number of benefits including:

  • A better response from influencers: When the timing is right, people will be more willing to talk about the upcoming event or holiday.
  • More shares: People will search for new ideas for upcoming holidays, so catch their attention by giving them insights from multiple experts.
  • Easier planning: If holidays and events direct your content roadmap, you’ll be more in control of your future content plans.

The first step is to plan how you’ll integrate your influencer-powered content into your overall content roadmap. Here’s an example of my own content roadmap that includes big national holidays, professional days, weird/funny holidays, and annual industry events.

content calendar example

Notice how upcoming events inspire and direct my project ideas.

content calendar example

You can download a sample content marketing roadmap here.

To produce your influencer-powered content, you need to plan it months in advance. Start with the outreach and allocate enough time to put the roundup together, create visuals, and so on.

To determine the actual date when the piece needs to go live, use a tool like Google Trends. For instance, if you search for “pubcon” using the 2016 filter, you can see that interest spiked about a week prior to the event (which was held October 10-13, 2016), so that would be a good day to push the Publish button.

Google Trends keyword research

Here’s how you might time your content creation process, based on the above example:

August 1: Come up with the question to ask influencers. What will be the main topic of your roundup? (See the next section for tips on choosing a topic.)

August 7: Start working on influencer lists (using previous connections and finding new ones) and reach out with your question.

content plan for roundup blog post

September 1: Send customized follow-ups rather than automated ones (people receive too many of them). Follow up on Twitter, Facebook (if you’re connected on Facebook), or seek common connections who can follow up for you.

September 15: Put the article together and break it into logical sections/subtopics based on the contributions. Find the most powerful short quote in each answer to highlight it as a tweetable quote, which will tag each influencer in the tweets.

September 20: Design visual quotes and charts and come up with original secondary content assets (infographics, SlideShare decks, etc.).

October 3: Add any final touches (in case some influencers took longer to send in their contributions) and publish the piece. Send an email to all of the participating influencers (with their visual quotes attached; a different one for each contributor), letting them know about the published piece and encouraging them to share it on social media and comment.

content plan for roundup blog post

#2: Use Research to Identify a Popular Question

Your content roadmap will inform your topic. As with the earlier scenario, you might select a Thanksgiving-related topic and time it to the conference.

For an influencer roundup to be successful, you need to come up with a good core question that all of the contributors will be invited to elaborate on. This is where keyword research comes into play.

For instance, if you want to focus your roundup on just Thanksgiving, do keyword research around that topic in an effort to come up with an idea that meets the following criteria:

  • It’s interesting enough for influencers to want to provide a lot of input.
  • It hasn’t been covered a lot in the industry. You don’t want your article to be lost in the pile of other content that’s being published regularly.
  • It’s in high demand (many people are looking for the answer), making it more likely to trigger a lot of shares and references.

Serpstat is a great tool to perform keyword research for your influencer roundup. You get the biggest selection of key phrases and it lets you filter and play with the results to find something interesting. It’s available in both free and paid plans, which start at $19/month.

Serpstat keyword research

For a roundup, it’s helpful to enable the filter that forces queries triggering the People Also Ask box. You’ll get great insights into questions people ask on a particular topic.

Serpstat keyword research apply filters

The image below shows Google’s People Also Ask box in action. You can see popular questions on many specific topics, which will help spark ideas for an interesting topic for your roundup.

Google search People Also Ask

When you brainstorm your core question, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Choose a question that can’t be answered with a yes or no. Also avoid questions that limit the contributors; your aim is to get detailed responses.
  • The question should encourage influencers to share their personal experience because that’s the power of user-driven roundups: the collective sharing of authentic personal tips, case studies, stories, and more.
  • Your question may include some specific recommendations (like “Please add your favorite tools, screenshots, etc.”).

#3: Turn Collected Insights Into an Article

After you’ve contacted your influencers and collected their responses, you’re ready to create your article.

Choose a Format for the Content

While a Q&A format is the easiest way to put your article together, it’s not the best way for readers to digest the information. Many roundups contain a lot of valuable insights, but they’re lost in an unreadable format and fail to trigger an action. As a result, readers walk away with no useful information and no plan to implement.

So instead of dividing your roundup into illogical subsections based on your influencers’ contributions, come up with useful headings and combine several answers under one subheading.

For example, this roundup is easy to read because the information is organized in problem/solution sections rather than simply as a list of contributions from experts.

expert roundup post example

Offer Additional Ways to Consume the Content

Repurposing tactics can help you create diverse secondary assets to beautify your article and offer readers multiple options for consuming your content. Here are some examples:

  • Put the whole roundup into audio and create a podcast episode.
  • Turn those highlighted tweetable quotes into graphics and create a beautiful SlideShare deck with a tool like Haiku Deck. This SlideShare from TopRank Marketing is a great illustration of how to turn expert roundups into slideshows using clickable tweetable quotes on every slide:

as-slideshare-influencer-quotes

  • Turn your interview into a PDF and create a mobile-friendly flipbook using a tool like Flipsnack. Flipbooks create a better mobile reading experience because viewers can zoom in and swipe through pages easier. Here’s a PDF white paper that was turned into a flipbook with Flipsnack:

Flipsnack PDF example

#4: Use Software to Develop Lasting Relationships With Influencers

One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make is focusing on the short-term benefits of a roundup. Influencer-driven content is well-known for its ability to bring a solid spike in traffic and social media shares. However, it’s not the biggest benefit of the tactic.

What really matter are the long-lasting relationships with the participating influencers. David Bain published a book based on the answers he collected from over 100 niche experts. He noted that “…many of those who took part have said to me, if I ever need anything, just ask. You can’t buy those sorts of connections.”

When you work on influencer-powered content, focus on the relationships you develop with industry influencers who will gladly help spread the word, participate in launching a new project, or contribute any time you need their help in the future. Influencer connections are among your biggest brand assets so they need to be treated as such.

To better organize your influencer outreach, you can use sales CRM software like Salesmate. Salesmate lets you record all of the contact details and notes for each influencer on a project basis, and then sync the data among the projects and team members.

Salesmate contact card

This information will give you a clear picture of:

  • People you or your team collaborate with on a regular basis
  • Which project/topic has worked best for particular influencers
  • Which outreach email has performed best in terms of getting new influencers on board or engaging them in promoting the piece

With the pipeline view, you can also set steps and incentives for your team to reach out to influencers. Salesmate offers a free 15-day trial to test drive the product. After that, you can get continued access for $12/month per user (when billed annually).

Salesmate pipeline

Conclusion

Influencer-driven roundups are a widely used marketing tactic but they’re so prevalent now that they’re slowly losing their vibe. Influencers are overwhelmed with requests to contribute and readers are getting tired of seeing yet another expert roundup.

Collaborating with industry influencers on creating content can still be effective if you take the time to do it well. You need to improve your influencer outreach process, time your roundup properly, come up with a unique topic idea, and brainstorm an original format.

What do you think? Do you do roundup posts? Which of the tactics above will you use? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Discover a four-step plan to create effective influencer roundups and improve your influencer outreach.

4 Search Trends That Made Waves in 2017

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This post was originally published on this site

For the past two decades, the pinnacle of search sophistication was talking to a search engine like you’re Tarzan. “What are the best hiking boots for men?” became “best hiking boots men.” “How many ounces are there in a pound?” became “number ounces pound.” Question words, articles, adjectives, or any such linguistical fanciness would confuse the humble algorithms.

But search is finally getting smarter. Search engines can parse whole phrases, decipher intent, zero in on results that will delight the searcher. And search is moving beyond the desktop or even the smartphone touchscreen, accepting new kinds of input, and displaying output in other formats than the standard ranked list of links.

In short: What consumers expect from search engines has evolved, and search engines are changing to meet these expectations. Marketers need to adapt to the new search ecosystem. If we’re still optimizing for Tarzan, we’ll miss an ever-increasing amount of traffic.

Here are five major trends in search that made waves this year, and will continue to reverberate in 2018 and beyond.

#1: Visual Search

This first trend is the newest on the list, but it seems poised to change the search landscape substantially in the future. When every smartphone has a built-in camera, why bother typing or speaking queries when you can search with a picture? Google Lens is an app that can identify buildings, products, text, and read barcodes – and it uses machine learning, meaning it’s going to get more sophisticated over time.

Right now, you can take a picture of a movie poster, book cover, or even consumer products like shampoo or mouthwash, and the app will serve up search results based on the image. The technology isn’t perfect yet, but it should be on every marketer’s radar.

#2: Voice Search

Five years ago, the only reason to talk while using a phone was if you were having an actual conversation with another human being (gross, I know, but those were different times). Now, a growing number of conversations are with Siri and the nameless Google Assistant. Voice search has exploded in popularity, rapidly approaching the tipping point when it will overtake typed search.

Studies say one in five consumers use voice search on their smartphones, and industry experts predict 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

Voice queries tend to be more complex, more like natural human speech, than a typed search query. Marketers optimizing content for voice search should think in long phrases, whole sentences, questions and answers, rather than short keyword phrases. Think of how someone would ask you in person for the information you’re providing, and make sure your content addresses that type of query.

#3: Home Assistants (Smart Speakers)

Voice and visual search ultimately lead to the same result: A screen displaying search engine listings. Search on home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo do away with the screen entirely. The entire interaction is verbal – you ask a question, the smart speaker responds with information.

There are over 35.6 million of these voice-activated assistants on the market right now, a 129% increase over last year. As these devices get smarter and cheaper, we can expect sales to continue to soar.

One of the reasons these home assistants are appealing is they simplify search results. Instead of a page of listings, they give a single definitive answer. To optimize for that type of search, marketers need to pay close attention both to local search and to sites that partner with home assistants, like Yelp and CitySearch for business reviews.

#4: Featured Snippets

For marketers, the point of a search is for the user to click on our link in the SERP and read our carefully-crafted content. For consumers, the point of search is most often to get a single piece of information. Google is on the consumers’ side in this case – they’re constantly adding new features to keep people from having to click search results.

Featured snippets occupy a “rank 0” space in search results, above the actual SERP:

Basically, Google pulls content from one of the top 10 search results and displays it, along with a link to the source. According to Ahrefs’ exhaustive snippets study, these little answer boxes can “steal” nearly 9% of clicks from the top organic listing. And Google is doubling down on the feature, displaying multiple snippets per query, increasing the length of text appearing in the box, even adding a carousel of options readers can browse without clicking through.

The good news for marketers is snippets most often appear for long-tail keywords. If your content is a comprehensive explanation of a topic with multiple sub-topics, you’re already optimizing for snippets.

Me Content, You Audience

Searchers no longer have to dumb down their queries, which means marketers shouldn’t dumb down content to please a search algorithm. Search is getting more convenient, more conversational, and accessible across a wider array of devices.  So it’s time for marketers to evolve our content to match. Unless, of course, your target audience is actually Tarzan.

4 Search Trends That Made Waves in 2017

0
This post was originally published on this site

For the past two decades, the pinnacle of search sophistication was talking to a search engine like you’re Tarzan. “What are the best hiking boots for men?” became “best hiking boots men.” “How many ounces are there in a pound?” became “number ounces pound.” Question words, articles, adjectives, or any such linguistical fanciness would confuse the humble algorithms.

But search is finally getting smarter. Search engines can parse whole phrases, decipher intent, zero in on results that will delight the searcher. And search is moving beyond the desktop or even the smartphone touchscreen, accepting new kinds of input, and displaying output in other formats than the standard ranked list of links.

In short: What consumers expect from search engines has evolved, and search engines are changing to meet these expectations. Marketers need to adapt to the new search ecosystem. If we’re still optimizing for Tarzan, we’ll miss an ever-increasing amount of traffic.

Here are five major trends in search that made waves this year, and will continue to reverberate in 2018 and beyond.

#1: Visual Search

This first trend is the newest on the list, but it seems poised to change the search landscape substantially in the future. When every smartphone has a built-in camera, why bother typing or speaking queries when you can search with a picture? Google Lens is an app that can identify buildings, products, text, and read barcodes – and it uses machine learning, meaning it’s going to get more sophisticated over time.

Right now, you can take a picture of a movie poster, book cover, or even consumer products like shampoo or mouthwash, and the app will serve up search results based on the image. The technology isn’t perfect yet, but it should be on every marketer’s radar.

#2: Voice Search

Five years ago, the only reason to talk while using a phone was if you were having an actual conversation with another human being (gross, I know, but those were different times). Now, a growing number of conversations are with Siri and the nameless Google Assistant. Voice search has exploded in popularity, rapidly approaching the tipping point when it will overtake typed search.

Studies say one in five consumers use voice search on their smartphones, and industry experts predict 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

Voice queries tend to be more complex, more like natural human speech, than a typed search query. Marketers optimizing content for voice search should think in long phrases, whole sentences, questions and answers, rather than short keyword phrases. Think of how someone would ask you in person for the information you’re providing, and make sure your content addresses that type of query.

#3: Home Assistants (Smart Speakers)

Voice and visual search ultimately lead to the same result: A screen displaying search engine listings. Search on home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo do away with the screen entirely. The entire interaction is verbal – you ask a question, the smart speaker responds with information.

There are over 35.6 million of these voice-activated assistants on the market right now, a 129% increase over last year. As these devices get smarter and cheaper, we can expect sales to continue to soar.

One of the reasons these home assistants are appealing is they simplify search results. Instead of a page of listings, they give a single definitive answer. To optimize for that type of search, marketers need to pay close attention both to local search and to sites that partner with home assistants, like Yelp and CitySearch for business reviews.

#4: Featured Snippets

For marketers, the point of a search is for the user to click on our link in the SERP and read our carefully-crafted content. For consumers, the point of search is most often to get a single piece of information. Google is on the consumers’ side in this case – they’re constantly adding new features to keep people from having to click search results.

Featured snippets occupy a “rank 0” space in search results, above the actual SERP:

Basically, Google pulls content from one of the top 10 search results and displays it, along with a link to the source. According to Ahrefs’ exhaustive snippets study, these little answer boxes can “steal” nearly 9% of clicks from the top organic listing. And Google is doubling down on the feature, displaying multiple snippets per query, increasing the length of text appearing in the box, even adding a carousel of options readers can browse without clicking through.

The good news for marketers is snippets most often appear for long-tail keywords. If your content is a comprehensive explanation of a topic with multiple sub-topics, you’re already optimizing for snippets.

Me Content, You Audience

Searchers no longer have to dumb down their queries, which means marketers shouldn’t dumb down content to please a search algorithm. Search is getting more convenient, more conversational, and accessible across a wider array of devices.  So it’s time for marketers to evolve our content to match. Unless, of course, your target audience is actually Tarzan.

Moz the Monster: Anatomy of an (Averted) Brand Crisis

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This post was originally published on this site

On the morning of Friday, November 10, we woke up to the news that John Lewis had launched an ad campaign called “Moz the Monster“. If you’re from the UK, John Lewis needs no introduction, but for our American audience, they’re a high-end retail chain that’s gained a reputation for a decade of amazing Christmas ads.

It’s estimated that John Lewis spent upwards of £7m on this campaign (roughly $9.4M). It quickly became clear that they had organized a multi-channel effort, including a #mozthemonster Twitter campaign.

From a consumer perspective, Moz was just a lovable blue monster. From the perspective of a company that has spent years building a brand, John Lewis was potentially going to rewrite what “Moz” meant to the broader world. From a search perspective, we were facing a rare possibility of competing for our own brand on Google results if this campaign went viral (and John Lewis has a solid history of viral campaigns).

Step #1: Don’t panic

At the speed of social media, it can be hard to stop and take a breath, but you have to remember that that speed cuts both ways. If you’re too quick to respond and make a mistake, that mistake travels at the same speed and can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating exactly the disaster you feared.

The first step is to get multiple perspectives quickly. I took to Slack in the morning (I’m two hours ahead of the Seattle team) to find out who was awake. Two of our UK team (Jo and Eli) were quick to respond, which had the added benefit of getting us the local perspective.

Collectively, we decided that, in the spirit of our TAGFEE philosophy, a friendly monster deserved a friendly response. Even if we chose to look at it purely from a pragmatic, tactical standpoint, John Lewis wasn’t a competitor, and going in metaphorical guns-blazing against a furry blue monster and the little boy he befriended could’ve been step one toward a reputation nightmare.

Step #2: Respond (carefully)

In some cases, you may choose not to respond, but in this case we felt that friendly engagement was our best approach. Since the Seattle team was finishing their first cup of coffee, I decided to test the waters with a tweet from my personal account:

I’ve got a smaller audience than the main Moz account, and a personal tweet as the west coast was getting in gear was less exposure. The initial response was positive, and we even got a little bit of feedback, such as suggestions to monitor UK Google SERPs (see “Step #3”).

Our community team (thanks, Tyler!) quickly followed up with an official tweet:

While we didn’t get direct engagement from John Lewis, the general community response was positive. Roger Mozbot and Moz the Monster could live in peace, at least for now.

Step #3: Measure

There was a longer-term fear – would engagement with the Moz the Monster campaign alter Google SERPs for Moz-related keywords? Google has become an incredibly dynamic engine, and the meaning of any given phrase can rewrite itself based on how searchers engage with that phrase. I decided to track “moz” itself across both the US and UK.

In that first day of the official campaign launch, searches for “moz” were already showing news (“Top Stories”) results in the US and UK, with the text-only version in the US:

…and the richer Top Stories carousel in the UK:

The Guardian article that announced the campaign launch was also ranking organically, near the bottom of page one. So, even on day one, we were seeing some brand encroachment and knew we had to keep track of the situation on a daily basis.

Just two days later (November 12), Moz the Monster had captured four page-one organic results for “moz” in the UK (at the bottom of the page):

While it still wasn’t time to panic, John Lewis’ campaign was clearly having an impact on Google SERPs.

Step #4: Surprises

On November 13, it looked like the SERPs might be returning to normal. The Moz Blog had regained the Top Stories block in both US and UK results:

We weren’t in the clear yet, though. A couple of days later, a plagiarism scandal broke, and it was dominating the UK news for “moz” by November 18:

This story also migrated into organic SERPs after The Guardian published an op-ed piece. Fortunately for John Lewis, the follow-up story didn’t last very long. It’s an important reminder, though, that you can’t take your eyes off of the ball just because it seems to be rolling in the right direction.

Step #5: Results

It’s one thing to see changes in the SERPs, but how was all of this impacting search trends and our actual traffic? Here’s the data from Google Trends for a 4-week period around the Moz the Monster launch (2 weeks on either side):

The top graph is US trends data, and the bottom graph is UK. The large spike in the middle of the UK graph is November 10, where you can see that interest in the search “moz” increased dramatically. However, this spike fell off fairly quickly and US interest was relatively unaffected.

Let’s look at the same time period for Google Search Console impression and click data. First, the US data (isolated to just the keyword “moz”):

There was almost no change in impressions or clicks in the US market. Now, the UK data:

Here, the launch spike in impressions is very clear, and closely mirrors the Google Trends data. However, clicks to Moz.com were, like the US market, unaffected. Hindsight is 20/20, and we were trying to make decisions on the fly, but the short-term shift in Google SERPs had very little impact on clicks to our site. People looking for Moz the Monster and people looking for Moz the search marketing tool are, not shockingly, two very different groups.

Ultimately, the impact of this campaign was short-lived, but it is interesting to see how quickly a SERP can rewrite itself based on the changing world, especially with an injection of ad dollars. At one point (in UK results), Moz the Monster had replaced Moz.com in over half (5 of 8) page-one organic spots and Top Stories – an impressive and somewhat alarming feat.

By December 2, Moz the Monster had completely disappeared from US and UK SERPs for the phrase “moz”. New, short-term signals can rewrite search results, but when those signals fade, results often return to normal. So, remember not to panic and track real, bottom-line results.

Your crisis plan

So, how can we generalize this to other brand crises? What happens when someone else’s campaign treads on your brand’s hard-fought territory? Let’s restate our 5-step process:

(1) Remember not to panic

The very word “crisis” almost demands panic, but remember that you can make any problem worse. I realize that’s not very comforting, but unless your office is actually on fire, there’s time to stop and assess the situation. Get multiple perspectives and make sure you’re not overreacting.

(2) Be cautiously proactive

Unless there’s a very good reason not to (such as a legal reason), it’s almost always best to be proactive and respond to the situation on your own terms. At least acknowledge the situation, preferably with a touch of humor. These brand intrusions are, by their nature, high profile, and if you pretend it’s not happening, you’ll just look clueless.

(3) Track the impact

As soon as possible, start collecting data. These situations move quickly, and search rankings can change overnight in 2017. Find out what impact the event is really having as quickly as possible, even if you have to track some of it by hand. Don’t wait for the perfect metrics or tracking tools.

(4) Don’t get complacent

Search results are volatile and social media is fickle – don’t assume that a lull or short-term change means you can stop and rest. Keep tracking, at least for a few days and preferably for a couple of weeks (depending on the severity of the crisis).

(5) Measure bottom-line results

As the days go by, you’ll be able to more clearly see the impact. Track as deeply as you can – long-term rankings, traffic, even sales/conversions where necessary. This is the data that tells you if the short-term impact in (3) is really doing damage or is just superficial.

The real John Lewis

Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out to someone who has felt a much longer-term impact of John Lewis’ succesful holiday campaigns. Twitter user and computer science teacher @johnlewis has weathered his own brand crisis year after year with grace and humor:

So, a hat-tip to John Lewis, and, on behalf of Moz, a very happy holidays to Moz the Monster!

An Instagram Content Plan for Service-Based Businesses

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social media how toDoes your business offer services?

Looking for ways to make Instagram work for you?

In this article, you’ll discover how to plan and construct Instagram posts to help your service-based businesses establish a strong visual presence.

An Instagram Content Plan for Service-Based Businesses by Stevie Dillon on Social Media Examiner.

An Instagram Content Plan for Service-Based Businesses by Stevie Dillon on Social Media Examiner.

#1: Outline Your Content Mix

Social media for service-based business is all about creating connections. You want to help, provide value, and deliver your brand story in a way that encourages the right people to relate to you, trust you, and want to do business with you.

To achieve those goals, tell a story with every set of nine squares on your Instagram feed. A good rule of thumb when planning content is the 4:3:2 rule:

  • Four posts should add value and help your ideal client.
  • Three posts should create connections with your ideal client.
  • Two posts should promote or sell your service.

This content mix helps you develop a good relationship with your followers and allows them to get to know you, rather than simply pushing your services at them.

Instagram content mix 4-3-2 rule

Service-based businesses need to think creatively when putting ideas together for each of these overarching Instagram content themes. Here’s how to plan your posts, assemble quality visuals, and write engaging captions.

#2: Plan Four Posts That Provide Value

To provide value, these posts should educate, entertain, and/or inform your audience.

Educate With Tips

If you’re a service-based business that sells your expertise, share tips that help your ideal clients with their problems. Don’t be afraid to give away your best advice or specialized knowledge for fear that it will hurt your business. People will need additional context for their own unique circumstances, which is where your business opportunities lie.

By giving away helpful tips, you can establish authority as an expert in your field, so when your followers need a service like yours, you’re the obvious choice.

Investing platform Ellevest is one business that does this well. They regularly post short videos that give clients answers to some of the commonly asked investment questions they receive.

Instagram post faq example

Entertain With Humor

If it fits your brand, entertain your audience by injecting humor into your content. This tactic can be incredibly effective for businesses that might otherwise be considered boring and that don’t have an obvious visual element to them.

Instagram post humor example

Inspire With Quotes

There’s a good reason that so many businesses post inspirational quotes on Instagram: They work. This is related to the psychology behind why people buy.

When a potential client usually comes to your business with a need (such as business coaching, social media services, or a legal document), it often stems from an underlying dream or fear.

If you’re a virtual assistant, for instance, your client’s immediate need is to outsource some of their administrative work. But digging deeper, they dream of having more time to work on, rather than in, their business. What would that time give them? Possibly the opportunity to build an empire, and ultimately be financially set and have more time to spend with their kids.

Crafting inspirational quotes that relate to time would likely be a highly effective strategy for this business type. Inspirational quotes have the added benefit of being highly shareable, meaning you can reach wider audiences and grow your brand.

One service-based business that does this very well on Instagram is the League of Extraordinary Women. A networking group for early-stage female entrepreneurs, they’ve grown their Instagram account to almost 100K followers by posting inspirational content aligned with the dreams of their target audience.

Instagram post quote example

#3: Plan Three Posts That Connect With Your Audience

Three posts in your Instagram content plan should help your audience relate to your service-based business and showcase your brand personality. Here are some examples of how to do it.

Showcase Company Culture

What makes you and your business tick? What’s the culture like? What’s happening behind the scenes that might make people relate a little more to your business? Documenting your company culture allows you to inject life into your Instagram account and create a connection with your ideal client.

For instance, Hootsuite’s Instagram account often will share behind-the-scenes snippets of what it’s like working for the company.

Instagram post company culture example

This is a great tactic if you’re in a service-based industry that’s sensitive in nature (say, funeral services) because you can concentrate on your staff and values other than the day to day.

Tell a Story

Digital storytelling allows your business to express its brand personality. So how does it work? If you’re in finance, for instance, you could tell stories about your customers, who you’re passionate about working with, why you do what you do, and more.

Just Digital People, a digital recruitment company, creatively tells stories about their staff and the adventures of their recruitment team as a way of expressing their unique brand personality.

Instagram post tell story example

#4: Plan Two Posts That Sell Your Service

Two of the posts in your Instagram content theme can be dedicated to promotion. Why just two? Because Instagram isn’t a sales platform at heart. It’s a brand platform, and particularly for service-based businesses, it’s important to develop a relationship before going in for the sell.

TruGreen’s Instagram posts regularly provide value and create connections, which earns them the right to promote their services to warmer audiences every now and then.

Instagram post sell example

#5: Develop Your Visual Assets

Now that you have your Instagram content themes ready, let’s dive into ways that non-visual service-based businesses can create and curate appealing imagery to complement their organization.

Invest in Professional Photography

Investing in high-quality images to showcase your staff, tools of your trade, business premises, and day-to-day life helps you create a connection with your audience and provides a gallery of images to draw on.

Don’t cut corners and use blurry photos taken in low light on your smartphone. If the photos you share are poor-quality and unprofessional, what does that say about your business and your services?

It comes back to brand. Every touchpoint counts and photography in particular is very important.

Neesh Property uses good-quality photography to showcase their otherwise non-visual property management business, accompanied by helpful tips in the captions.

Instagram post professional photo example

Design Custom Graphics

A graphic design tool like Canva makes it easy to produce high-quality Instagram images and more with little technical skill or expertise. Best of all, personal accounts are free.

Canva is great for creating custom branded quotes for Instagram. Once you’ve signed up and logged in, you’ll be presented with a wide range of template designs to choose from. Select the Social Media graphic design type, which is optimized for Instagram’s design specs.

Canva create a design

Next, choose a template or design your own from scratch. Canva provides hundreds of layout templates that you can adapt to your tastes and preferences.

Canva social media layouts templates

When you’re finished with your design, simply download it and you’re ready to use it on Instagram.

Curate Stock Images

If you need stock photography for Instagram, there are a number of free stock sites you can visit to download imagery that best suits your brand and its aesthetic.

One of the best is Pexels. Simply head to the website and search for the type of imagery you’re looking for. You’ll then see a gallery of images that relate to your search.

Pexels keyword search for stock art

Another cool Pexels feature is the ability to search by color. Simply click Browse in the top navigation bar and select Browse by Color to sort photos based on your color preference.

Pexels sort Photos by Color

#6: Compose Captions That Connect With and Convert Your Ideal Audience

For service-based businesses that aren’t inherently visual, well-crafted Instagram captions are essential. When created thoughtfully, captions allow you to tell your business’s story; build familiarity and trust with your followers; and invite them to engage, interact, and do business with you.

There are three essential elements to a great caption that connects and converts.

Tell a Story

As a service-based business, you need to flex your wordsmithing muscles to give people insights into what you bring to the table in terms of your personality, business, and services.

Instagram caption tell story example

Be Conversational

There’s nothing worse than a wooden caption that doesn’t complement the accompanying image.

Know your clients inside and out, and write your captions in a way that endears them to you and the services you provide. Be honest, open, and conversational. Pretend you’re writing to just one person instead of blasting an impersonal message out to many.

Instagram caption conversational example

Include a Call to Action

No caption is complete without inviting your followers to take an action at the end of it, also known as a call to action. There are two types of call to action (or “asks”), each with a different objective.

Small asks are when you directly invite your followers to like, comment, save, mention, and so on. There are two benefits to small asks.

First, they improve your algorithm ranking if people take your desired action because good engagement is one of the factors that Instagram considers when ranking posts and accounts. Second, they condition your followers to interact with you (which leads them to take action on your bigger asks).

Here are some examples of small asks:

  • Tag someone who should see this!
  • Introduce yourself in the comments.
  • Double-tap if you agree.
  • What’s your…?
  • Who else loves X…?

This is an example of a small ask on the Planoly Instagram account, which invites engagement on the post.

Instagram caption small ask example

Big asks involve asking your followers to do something that gets them one step closer to doing business with you, without necessarily directly asking for a sale. Here are some examples:

  • Want to know more? Read the blog post, link in bio!
  • Sign up for our newsletter to…
  • Head over to X… for X…
  • Click over to my website (link in bio) to… X.

This is an example of a big ask on the Think BOLD business mentoring Instagram account. They invite followers to visit their website, taking a step closer to a sale.

Instagram caption big ask example

To market your non-visual service-based business effectively, it’s important that you make full use of your captions. By including these essential elements in your posts, you’ll create powerful captions that connect and convert.

Conclusion

One of the biggest challenges for service-based businesses is how to build a social media presence without the luxury of a tangible physical product to feature or highlight. It’s especially difficult for businesses in fields such as professional services, where visual imagery isn’t something naturally associated with it.

By establishing content themes, creating quality visual content, and writing captions that connect and convert, non-visual service-based businesses can overcome these challenges and reap the benefits of a strong presence on Instagram.

What do you think? Do you use some of these tactics to market your service-based business on Instagram? What tips can you offer? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Discover how to plan and construct Instagram posts to help your service-based businesses establish a strong visual presence.

5 Purpose-Driven Companies Making an Inspiring Splash on Social Media

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As our world becomes increasingly connected through the internet, social media and mobile technologies, consumer awareness and engagement around local and global social, economic, political and environmental challenges are soaring to new heights.

As a result, people desperately want to invest their time and money where their hearts are by supporting and working for companies that are making a positive and meaningful impact. And many companies are answering the call by throwing out conventional business models to tackle these challenges—while also bolstering and growing their bottom line. They’re finding and living their purpose.

For these companies, success isn’t grounded in simply offering “the best” product or service. Instead, it’s the purpose behind the creation and execution of those best-in-class products and services that drives success for all involved.

Of course, social media marketing is playing a major role in spurring awareness, engagement and action around what purposeful companies are all about. From breathtaking, tear-inducing photos to compelling video narratives, below I highlight a handful of these companies that have captivated my heart with their purpose and marketing mind with their social media work. And my hope is that you’ll feel the same.

#1 – Love Your Melon

If you’re regular reader of my example-heavy social media blogs, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Love Your Melon. Love Your Melon was founded in hopes of making the lives of kids battling cancer in America a little better by providing them with a special hat. With each item purchased by the public, 50% of the profits are donated to the organization’s nonprofit partners in the fight against pediatric cancer.

I encourage you to check out the video below about their story—of course, this has been uploaded natively to social to put all the feels out there.

Love Your Melon’s social media mix includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Across their channels, all the tried-and-true marketing best practices are working in their favor. But it’s evident that their purpose is the guiding light in how they tell their story on social. Using captivating imagery you don’t only see the amazing work being done—but you feel it, too.

Purpose-Driven Brand Love Your Melon

#2 – cuddle+kind

If you aren’t familiar with cuddle+kind, allow me to introduce you to this amazing brand where every fiber of its being seems to be dedicated to making a difference.

Started by the Woodgate family, cuddle+kind produces hand-knit, heirloom-quality dolls that not only help feed children around the world, but also provide women artisans in Peru with sustainable, fair trade income.

“As parents, we believe all children should have enough food to eat and the opportunity to thrive, so when we saw a documentary on the devastating impact of childhood hunger on millions of children around the world, it inspired us to help,” cuddle+kind’s website states. “On that day, we decided to start a company whose purpose is to help improve the lives of children and to make a difference.”

For every doll sold, cuddle+kind is able to provide 10 meals to children in need. At the time this article was written, they had already donated 2,988,823 meals.

Like Love Your Melon, cuddle+kind’s amazing visual content on social media is what draws you in—like this little number below from Instagram.

Purpose-Driven Brand Cuddle and Kind

Also, here’s a look at their most recent video release on Facebook.

#3 – Krochet Kids intl.

Founded in 2007, Krochet Kids intl. (KK intl.) is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by providing job opportunities for women in need. Every product is hand-signed by the person who made it and each artisan has her own profile page on the organization’s website detailing her story—with room for shoppers to leave a thank you or words of encouragement.

In honor of its 10-year anniversary, the brand launched a video series (some of them short films) highlighting the people and the stories that have made their work what it is today, which were uploaded to YouTube and shared across some of their social channels. Here’s a little taste:

Facebook is the brand’s top-channel, boasting nearly 74,000 likes, but they’re also sharing the work of their community on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. What’s really working on Facebook are the great visuals, but they also take advantage of the “Products Shown” feature to make it easy to click and shop.

Purpose-Driven Brand Krochet Kids Intl.

#4 – MudLove

MudLove was born in a tiny garage filled with big dreams and a lot of love back in 2009.

“With nothing more than an old stamp set, a box of clay, and a plan to support clean water projects in Africa, handmade creations emerged and MudLOVE was born,” MudLove’s website says. “We are artists and makers. Doers and thinkers. Number-crunchers and donut-munchers. With ‘mud’ in our hands and love in our hearts, the chance to make a difference is our inspiration to create.”

Through its partnership with Water for Good, for every product that’s purchased, a week’s worth of clean water can be provided to someone in need.

When it comes to their social media efforts, MudLove is on all the usual suspect channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Their posts are a blend of humor and hope, sharing their hand-crafted pottery pieces and bringing attention to clean water issues in developing African countries.

Purpose-Driven Brand MudLove

#5 – The Giving Keys

The Giving Keys bills itself as a “pay it forward company,” hoping to not only inspire the world to do just that, but also create jobs for those transitioning out of homelessness. Based in Los Angeles, the company makes jewelry out of repurposed keys, which are personalized with your choice of an inspirational word or phrase.

“We’re not a nonprofit, we’re a social enterprise,” the company’s websites boldly states. “So instead of raising donations, we sell product to provide jobs. A good job is a long-term solution for breaking cycles of generational poverty and homelessness. That’s why we place people on career paths and hand them the keys to unlock their fullest potential.”

On social media, their posts offer words of encouragement and inspiration, and stories of the people who they’ve been able to lift up. Of course, a smattering of pretty images of their finished products can also be found. This is one of my favorite recent Instagram posts:

Purpose-Driven Brand The Giving Keys

What’s Your Purpose?

Purpose is not your company’s mission statement. Purpose is not a set of company values. Purpose is the unique and authentic underpinning of what drives the work you do and the impact you want to make. And these brands certainly embody that, and they’re bringing it to life on their social media channels.

From our perspective, all organizations have the opportunity to uncover their true purpose. In fact, TopRank Marketing recently embarked on our own purpose initiative, which is in the discovery phase as we speak.

What have we learned so far? Each and every one of us cares deeply about a myriad of issues plaguing our networks, communities and the world at large. So, we’re starting there—we care to make a difference. And that’s where you can start, too.

Want to know more about the intersection of purpose and marketing? Read our post Evolve or Die: The Role of Purpose and Authenticity in Marketing, featuring insights from expert Mackenzie (Mack) Fogelson.

Keyword Research Beats Nate Silver’s 2016 Presidential Election Prediction

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100% of statisticians would say this is a terrible method for predicting elections. However, in the case of 2016’s presidential election, analyzing the geographic search volume of a few telling keywords “predicted” the outcome more accurately than Nate Silver himself.

The 2016 US Presidential Election was a nail-biter, and many of us followed along with the famed statistician’s predictions in real time on FiveThirtyEight.com. Silver’s predictions, though more accurate than many, were still disrupted by the election results.

In an effort to better understand our country (and current political chaos), I dove into keyword research state-by-state searching for insights. Keywords can be powerful indicators of intent, thought, and behavior. What keyword searches might indicate a personal political opinion? Might there be a common denominator search among people with the same political beliefs?

It’s generally agreed that Fox News leans to the right and CNN leans to the left. And if we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that the news you consume can have a strong impact on what you believe, in addition to the confirmation bias already present in seeking out particular sources of information.

My crazy idea: What if Republican states showed more “fox news” searches than “cnn”? What if those searches revealed a bias and an intent that exit polling seemed to obscure?

The limitations to this research were pretty obvious. Watching Fox News or CNN doesn’t necessarily correlate with voter behavior, but could it be a better indicator than the polls? My research says yes. I researched other media outlets as well, but the top two ideologically opposed news sources — in any of the 50 states — were consistently Fox News and CNN.

Using Google Keyword Planner (connected to a high-paying Adwords account to view the most accurate/non-bucketed data), I evaluated each state’s search volume for “fox news” and “cnn.”

Eight states showed the exact same search volumes for both. Excluding those from my initial test, my results accurately predicted 42/42 of the 2016 presidential state outcomes including North Carolina and Wisconsin (which Silver mis-predicted). Interestingly, “cnn” even mirrored Hillary Clinton, similarly winning the popular vote (25,633,333 vs. 23,675,000 average monthly search volume for the United States).

In contrast, Nate Silver accurately predicted 45/50 states using a statistical methodology based on polling results.

Click for a larger image

This gets even more interesting:

The eight states showing the same average monthly search volume for both “cnn” and “fox news” are Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

However, I was able to dive deeper via GrepWords API (a keyword research tool that actually powers Keyword Explorer’s data), to discover that Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Ohio each have slightly different “cnn” vs “fox news” search averages over the previous 12-month period. Those new search volume averages are:

“fox news” avg monthly search volume

“cnn” avg monthly search volume

KWR Prediction

2016 Vote

Arizona

566333

518583

Trump

Trump

Nevada

213833

214583

Hillary

Hillary

New Mexico

138833

142916

Hillary

Hillary

Ohio

845833

781083

Trump

Trump

Pennsylvania

1030500

1063583

Hillary

Trump

Four out of five isn’t bad! This brought my new prediction up to 46/47.

Silver and I each got Pennsylvania wrong. The GrepWords API shows the average monthly search volume for “cnn” was ~33,083 searches higher than “fox news” (to put that in perspective, that’s ~0.26% of the state’s population). This tight-knit keyword research theory is perfectly reflected in Trump’s 48.2% win against Clinton’s 47.5%.

Nate Silver and I have very different day jobs, and he wouldn’t make many of these hasty generalizations. Any prediction method can be right a couple times. However, it got me thinking about the power of keyword research: how it can reveal searcher intent, predict behavior, and sometimes even defy the logic of things like statistics.

It’s also easy to predict the past. What happens when we apply this model to today’s Senate race?

Can we apply this theory to Alabama’s special election in the US Senate?

After completing the above research on a whim, I realized that we’re on the cusp of yet another hotly contested, extremely close election: the upcoming Alabama senate race, between controversy-laden Republican Roy Moore and Democratic challenger Doug Jones, fighting for a Senate seat that hasn’t been held by a Democrat since 1992.

I researched each Alabama county — 67 in total — for good measure. There are obviously a ton of variables at play. However, 52 out of the 67 counties (77.6%) 2016 presidential county votes are correctly “predicted” by my theory.

Even when giving the Democratic nominee more weight to the very low search volume counties (19 counties showed a search volume difference of less than 500), my numbers lean pretty far to the right (48/67 Republican counties):

It should be noted that my theory incorrectly guessed two of the five largest Alabama counties, Montgomery and Jefferson, which both voted Democrat in 2016.

Greene and Macon Counties should both vote Democrat; their very slight “cnn” over “fox news” search volume is confirmed by their previous presidential election results.

I realize state elections are not won by county, they’re won by popular vote, and the state of Alabama searches for “fox news” 204,000 more times a month than “cnn” (to put that in perspective, that’s around ~4.27% of Alabama’s population).

All things aside and regardless of outcome, this was an interesting exploration into how keyword research can offer us a glimpse into popular opinion, future behavior, and search intent. What do you think? Any other predictions we could make to test this theory? What other keywords or factors would you look at? Let us know in the comments.

10 Useful Tools for Creating Content, Writing, and Researching

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social media toolsAre you a busy social media marketer?

Looking for tools to improve the way you work?

In this article, you’ll discover 10 apps and browser extensions to streamline the way you create content, write copy, and organize research.

10 Useful Tools for Creating Content, Writing, and Researching by Joel Widmer on Social Media Examiner.

10 Useful Tools for Creating Content, Writing, and Researching by Joel Widmer on Social Media Examiner.

#1: Speed Up Your Writing With TextExpander

TextExpander (available for Windows, Mac, and iOS) will match frequently used words, phrases, and templates to preset shortcuts to speed up your typing. When you type the shortcut, the expander automatically replaces it with the full text. If you use the same phrases over and over in your social media posts, this tool is for you.

You can sign up for a free trial of TextExpander to test it out. After that, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the paid plans, which start at $3.33/month when billed annually.

After you download and install the app on your computer, click the + button to create a new snippet, such as a thank-you message.

TextExpander add snippet

Next, select Plain Text from the Content drop-down list, write or paste the text you want to abbreviate in the big white box, and type your shortcut in the Abbreviation field, as shown below.

TextExpander create snippet

I recommend choosing an abbreviation you’ll remember, but not something you’d ordinarily type. It helps to start your abbreviation with a punctuation mark so you don’t accidentally type it.

To use your shortcut, just type your abbreviation in a text box (such as the Compose New Tweet box) and it autofills with your text.

TextExpander use snippet

Here are some words and phrases that likely deserve their own abbreviations:

  • Social media post templates
  • Brand/company names
  • People’s names
  • Website URLs
  • Email addresses and signatures
  • Phone numbers
  • Answers to common questions
  • Quick publishing checklists
  • Autocorrect for common typos
  • Frequently used social media responses
  • Once you customize this tool, you’ll type at lightning speed!

#2: Organize Online Research With OneTab

How often does your Google Chrome browser look like this?

multiple browser tabs open

It’s not unusual to have dozens of tabs open, especially when you’re searching for social media content to share. But opening too many tabs at once can noticeably affect your computer’s performance. And if any of those tabs display content that automatically updates or streams (like a video, a rotating ad, or real-time comments), your bandwidth is strained.

The solution is OneTab, a free Chrome extension that will convert all of your tabs into a single list of links, which is less taxing on your computer’s memory and bandwidth. It’s also easier to use because you can actually read the page titles.

The biggest benefit of OneTab is that you can save groups of similar tabs so you can quickly open them at any time. For instance, if you share content from a group of similar blogs, you can conveniently open one tab that lists all of those sites. (You can also combine this feature with TextExpander to open multiple tabs with one shortcut.)

After you install the extension, click the OneTab icon on the toolbar to reduce all of your currently open tabs to a single tab. To quickly restore them, click Restore All.

OneTab Chrome extension

When you consolidate your tabs with OneTab, your browser will run more smoothly and you’ll have all of your research organized in one place.

#3: Create Screenshots, Screencasts, and GIFs With CloudApp

CloudApp is a convenient way to create screenshots, GIFs, and screen recordings. Once you capture the media, it’s automatically stored on CloudApp’s server, so there’s no need to move it to your own space. It’s a remarkably fast way to capture social media content once you master the keyboard flow.

CloudApp has a great free version and paid plans starting at $8/month. After you download and install the app, press Ctrl+Shift+C (Windows) or Control+Option+C (Mac) to open the CloudApp window.

Then choose your action: screenshot, GIF, or screen recording.

Cloudapp open

Next, click and drag a box around the content you want to capture. The app lets you take a screenshot of only the part of your screen that matters so browser windows or empty space don’t distract your audience.

Cloudapp draw box around content to capture

If you’re taking a screenshot, CloudApp captures the image as soon as you release your mouse. When you take a GIF or video, you have to click to start and stop the recording.

Cloudapp start and stop recording

CloudApp automatically copies the URL of your image, GIF, or video to your clipboard and you’ll get a notification like this:

Cloudapp notification

Just press Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command+V (Mac) to paste the URL into a browser tab, and your image, GIF, or video will appear.

Here’s the best part: You can annotate your images, too! Paste your file into a browser window and click Annotate.

Cloudapp annotate

On the annotation screen, you can add shapes, arrows, lines, and text, and even blur sensitive info.

Cloudapp annotation options

When you’re satisfied with your image, GIF, or video, save it for sharing later or simply paste the URL (don’t worry, it’s public) into a social media post.

Open your CloudApp dashboard to view, sort, and organize your content. Store your files here in case you want to repost the content later.

Cloudapp dashboard

Once you get the hang of CloudApp, you’ll spend less time editing images in Photoshop or Illustrator and more time creating visual content.

#4: Build UTM Links With Google Analytics URL Builder Extension

Understanding where your traffic comes from is important, but Google Analytics has some limitations. For instance, it can tell you traffic came from Twitter, but it doesn’t tell you which link your Twitter followers clicked unless you include UTM parameters in the URL.

UTM parameters may sound complicated but they’re just lines of code attached to the end of a URL that allow Google Analytics to track your links for specific pages. They look like this:

utm parameters

Adding UTM parameters manually can be tedious. That’s where Google Analytics URL Builder comes in. It’s a free Chrome extension that lets you quickly craft UTM URLs for your social posts without having to leave the page.

This tool is especially helpful if you run cooperative social media campaigns with other brands. Give each brand its own UTM URL link so you can identify specific traffic sources.

To use it, install the extension and then navigate to the page you want to link to. Click the extension’s icon on the toolbar and fill out the appropriate fields.

Google URL Builder Chrome extension

Here’s how to fill out each field:

  • Source: Where the traffic is coming from (Example: Facebook Page)
  • Medium: The specific element (Example: Cute Puppies Post)
  • Keyword (optional): The term you used in any paid ads (Example: cute poodles)
  • Content (optional): Additional details for split testing links
  • Campaign: The overall campaign (Example: Cute Puppies Week)

Tip: Unless you’re running paid ads or split tests, you don’t need to fill in the Keyword, Content, or Campaign fields.

Use the presets section to remember your most-used parameters and save even more time!

Google URL Builder Chrome extension presets

#5: Set Up Shortcuts to Find Files With Alfred

If you use a Mac (sorry, Windows users), Alfred is about to become your favorite productivity weapon. It’s packed with features but it’s especially powerful for social media marketing.

You already know there’s a lot more to consistently creating stellar social content than what your followers see. There are behind-the-scenes planning and organizing, not to mention the editorial calendars and publishing standards you have to consult.

That’s where Alfred comes in.

It’s a free app similar to Mac’s Spotlight search, but 10 times smarter and more powerful. You can use a simple shortcut to open any file, folder, or Google doc on your computer. The best part: It learns your search habits and automatically sorts the results based on what you search most.

Alfred app search

The Custom Search feature lets you create URL shortcuts to quickly open any page. For example, you can set it up to open Google Drive docs with a single keyword. Once you get the hang of it, it’s much quicker than digging through your bookmarks.

This technique is especially helpful to stay organized if you create social media campaigns for several clients and open multiple folders throughout the day.

Alfred create shortcuts to Google Drive folders

For $25, you can upgrade to Alfred’s Powerpack, which is where the real magic happens. Here are a few of the features that can help you stay organized while managing multiple social media campaigns:

  • It has a built-in text expander (like the tool I mentioned above) that syncs across your computers.
  • You get access to hundreds of workflows you can use to automate tasks like shortening URLs, converting time zones, and testing landing pages in multiple browsers, all with just one keystroke.
  • The clipboard manager lets you browse through your clipboard history so you aren’t constantly copying the same URLs between apps.

Even if you stick with the free option, Alfred is an enormous productivity boost.

#6: Improve Your Writing With ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid is a free online editing tool that helps you improve your writing. Not only does it flag errors, but it also recommends style improvements and helps you find the right words. If you write your social media posts in batches, the web app lets you check them all at once so you can proofread quickly and efficiently.

After you sign up, click Editing Tool at the top of the page.

ProWritingAid Editing Tool

On the next page, click Menu and select New.

ProWritingAid create new document

Enter a title for your new document.

ProWritingAid create new document

Next, paste your copy into the editor and select one of the writing checks at the top. Click the More button to see additional options such as my favorite, the Combo check.

ProWritingAid combo check report

ProWritingAid will load for a second and then identify your mistakes. Simply go through the document and fix (or ignore) each flagged item.

ProWritingAid combo check report

This method is a great way to edit multiple social media posts at once, but it’s clunky to proofread them one at a time. For that, you want to install the ProWritingAid Chrome extension. After it’s installed, just hover your mouse over the icon in any field to open the editing options.

ProWritingAid extension check

ProWritingAid also integrates with Google Docs, OpenOffice, Word, and Scrivener to make proofreading easier. Which proofreading reports are most important? Here are the best reports to run for social media posts (click for the full list):

  • Writing Style Report – Improve readability.
  • Corporate Wording Report – Simplify your language.
  • House Style Check – Set your own rules (like “Always capitalize the word ‘Marketing.’”) for ProWritingAid to flag.
  • Sticky Sentence Report – Identify sticky sentences (with too many words like “to,” “of,” “at,” “if,” etc.) so you can clarify.
  • Overused Words Report – Add variety to your posts. Overused words are particularly noticeable in social media content where there isn’t much text to begin with.
  • Plagiarism Report – Avoid plagiarized content.
  • Combo Report – Customize any combination of reports to run at once.

#7: Record Tutorial Videos With Loom

Loom is a free, lightweight, easy-to-use tool for creating your own video tutorials. With just two clicks, you can capture your screen, camera, or both. Plus, Loom creates a unique page for each video that you can share on social media without downloading and uploading to another source.

After you install the Chrome extension and log in, click the Loom icon in your browser toolbar. You’ll then see the following window.

Loom app recording settings

Click Capture and choose what you want to record: your current browser tab, entire desktop, or cam only. Click Mic to choose a microphone. Click Camera to choose a camera or turn yours off if you don’t want to record your face.

Next, click Start Recording. Loom will give you 3 seconds to prepare yourself. Use the controls at the bottom left to pause, finish, or cancel. (If you’re recording your camera, you’ll see yourself here as well.)

Loom app recording controls

Once you click Finish, Loom will redirect you to the video’s page, which looks like this:

Loom app video page

On this page, you can add a description and comments, which everyone who visits the page can see. You can also share the video on social media or copy HTML code to embed it on a web page.

Tip: If you like making videos for your fans, another great tool worth checking out is Soapbox. It lets you switch seamlessly between your camera and desktop, offers several easy-to-use editing features, and lets you create a call to action at the end of your video.

#8: Expand Your Clipboard With Weava

Have you ever copied text or an image to your clipboard, only to realize you just overwrote something else you’d saved? If so, you need Weava. It’s a powerful free Chrome extension with a suite of organization and highlighting features, but the expanded clipboard is especially useful for juggling a lot of social media content.

After you install the extension, highlight a section of text or an image like you normally would and then choose a color from the pop-up palette. Your text or image is then saved to Weava.

Next, highlight something else, but this time select a different color.

Weava highlight text

Click the Weava icon in your browser to open your collection. You’ll see a list of everything you’ve highlighted.

Weava highlights window

Hover over a selection you want to use and click the Copy icon. Then press Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command+V (Mac) to paste it into your social media post.

With Weava, you’ll never lose copied material again!

#9: Transcribe Posts With Google Docs Voice Typing

Google Docs Voice Typing is a powerful transcription tool built into Google Docs, and of course, it’s free! It’s a clever way to jot down your thoughts as you perform your social media research.

For instance, you could let it run while you read articles. If you learn something interesting that deserves its own social post, simply dictate your thoughts to Google while you browse. Later, you can turn those thoughts into captions for your social posts.

Google Docs Voice Typing is remarkably easy to use. Just open a Google doc in Chrome and select Voice Typing from the Tools menu.

Google Docs Voice Typing option

A microphone toggle will appear (you may have to authorize Google to access your mic). Simply click the icon to turn on the transcription. Then start speaking.

Google Docs Voice Typing example

Pro Tip: Say “period” and Google will end your sentence with a period. Say “new line” and Google will drop down a line.

Use this tool to speed up your note-taking so you can focus on curating awesome content and writing engaging copy.

#10: Identify Who Shared Your Content With CrowdTangle

Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly who shares your content? Then you could reach out to those people and build deeper relationships. To get this information, you need a free app called CrowdTangle.

After you install the CrowdTangle Chrome extension, open any page and click the extension’s icon in your browser toolbar. A menu will appear with the names of everyone who shared that page.

CrowdTangle example

Click the social media icon next to an influencer’s name to open the post where they shared your content. Show your support by liking, sharing, or commenting on their post.

CrowdTangle social media links

Look at the Interactions column to see the number of times an influencer has interacted with the page. Use this to find people who have shared your page multiple times. Reach out to these people to build relationships!

CrowdTangle interactions

To take CrowdTangle one step further, examine your competitors’ pages. Uncover who’s sharing their content and contact those influencers.

Over to You

These unique social media tools can save time, improve your content creation and curation, and make your life and work easier. Experiment to find the tools that work best for you.

What do you think? Which of these tools are your favorites for social media marketing? How do they fit into your workflow? Let us know in comments below!

Discover 10 apps and browser extensions to streamline the way you create content, write copy, and organize research.

3 Unusual Content Marketing Approaches That Actually Work

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This post was originally published on this site

My favorite brand on social media is Denny’s. The diner chain eschews pretty much every marketing convention, and that’s exactly why its efforts stand out so much.

The company’s online personality has been compared to that of a “chill teenager.” Its Twitter feed is filled with juvenile humor, rarely promoting the restaurant’s actual food in any serious way. I doubt many people find the image of a pancake in a shoe appetizing. The Denny’s Instagram page looks like some sort of bizarre avant garde art project.

None of this goes by the book. But Denny’s scores tremendous engagement on almost every social media channel, and has developed a cult following of sorts on the web thanks to its quirky content. This has proven to be a significant differentiator for their business.

Right now, standing out with your content marketing efforts is more challenging than ever before. If you’re trying to adhere to the established “best practices,” I have bad news: so is everybody else.

This requires outside-the-box thinking. Those who go against the grain and pursue methods that counter the mainstream are frequently being rewarded, and in some cases maybe even setting new trends for the marketing world.

To illustrate, here’s a look at three unusual content marketing tactics and companies that have applied them successfully.

Get Ultra Niche

Sure, you could water down your content in order to make it appealing to the broadest possible audience. Plenty of businesses do just that.

Or, you could narrow your core following, and orient your messaging toward them directly. Speak their language, even if it might potentially alienate some folks who fall outside of that scope.

California-based apparel retailer Nasty Gal embodies this philosophy. Marketing to strong and independent young women in the mold of its founder Sophia Amoruso (of Girlboss fame), the brand’s voice is unapologetically sassy and in-your-face — sometimes even a little profane.

This was by design from the very beginning, as Amoruso told Wall Street Journal back in 2013:

“Nasty Gal really emerged from a conversation. I’ve probably spent more time than any other brand reading every last comment. To listen to people the way you’re able to online is very powerful. I think other companies are just starting to figure that out.”

Four years later, many are still figuring it out. Or too risk-averse to boldly embrace a targeted content style that borders on esoteric. Meanwhile, Nasty Gal continues to build affinity and loyalty with its very specific, adoring audience.

Stir the Pot

Last month on this blog, Josh Nite wrote about brands taking a stand based on values. That can be a scary thing. The standard playbook calls for companies to stay neutral on social issues, so as to avoid ruffling feathers and potentially turning away customers who lean strongly in another direction. As divisive and volatile as things can be these days, this mindset is magnified.

But as Josh noted, adopting an emphatic public stance can differentiate your business, define your audience, and inspire your employees. It can strengthen your company’s relationship with customers (and draw in new ones) who share your values, and generate positive third-party coverage. In many cases these benefits will outweigh the negatives.

Recently, outdoor clothing company Patagonia made waves by blacking out its website and replacing the usual ecommerce interface with this message, in the wake of President Trump’s decision to roll back public land protections in Utah:

For several days, in the thick of the holiday season, it was a bit tricky to go and even order a jacket from Patagonia online. (You could still access their store by clicking an X up in the corner, but it wasn’t all that obvious.) That’s not a traditionally advisable business move, and probably costs the retailer some money in the short term. But ultimately, it has the potential to build brand loyalty.

Focus on One Social Media Channel Exclusively

It’s easy enough to maintain a presence on every major social media channel, especially with tools that enable you to post on all of them from one central app. Sometimes it’s as simple as copy-and-pasting the same message across different platforms, broadening your reach without a whole lot of addition effort.

The problem with this approach, however, is that it can dilute your brand and prevent you from achieving true greatness on any channel. Instead of trying to create social content that will work for every social network, why not focus on mastering just one? Determine where your customers mostly like to hang and then put all of your social media marketing effort into making that account as good as it can be.

One company that exemplifies this is White Space Studio, a creative agency in Hawaii that exhibits its design savvy through a stellar Instagram page. Sure, the company also has Facebook and Pinterest accounts, but doesn’t do much with them. And White Space doesn’t even bother with Twitter.

Does this limit their potential exposure? Perhaps. But by concentrating their attention on Instagram, they’ve built an exceptional showcase for their brand while achieving bigtime engagement.

At TopRank Marketing, we love to get weird. Get in touch with us about your content marketing and we’ll help you develop some tactics that buck the norm.