These days, everyone seems to be drinking the blog Kool-Aid. And they’re not wrong – businesses with blogs get results. A company blog has more long-term ROI than traditional marketing efforts. It can position your company as an authority or innovator in the industry, and its proper execution as part of a content strategy can consistently drive traffic, create leads, grow customers, and generate revenue.
Before you take a sip, take a beat. Whether you’ve already started a blog or just pulling up your bootstraps, we have some pointers for everyone and anyone looking to improve the shareability of their content.
#1: Be consistent
Producing blog content on a regular to semi-regular schedule is the best way to keep your ideas fresh and establish continuity to your posts. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, though – your content cadence also depends on where your business is at in its lifecycle. You don’t want to be churning and burning so much that you set an expectation you can’t meet. Develop your content plan based on realistic timelines. You have to crawl before you walk before you run.
#2: Distribute in the right channels
Analyze your readers’ behavior and identify where you receive the most traction and interaction digitally. Is it on a social network, like Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Pinterest? Or, are your email campaigns more promising? YouTube reaches more 18-34 year-olds than any other cable network in the US – should you take advantage? How about all of it? (Google Analytics and other automated reporting tools can help you answer these questions.)
Your website is where your brand’s voice is loudest. Social media, email marketing, and video are powerful vehicles in driving people there. They’re the Ubers – or Lyfts, whichever you prefer – of digital marketing, providing all kinds of businesses with the most cost-effective modes of message transportation out there. Use multiple channels simultaneously to direct traffic to your blog. Cross-pollinating your efforts increases your content’s exposure and reach potential.
This may also be a good time to consider channels and outlets you haven’t thought of before. Promoting your content through influencers and other popular sharing communities could give you a leg-up in a highly competitive space. It never hurts to know your options!
#3: Account for the medium
In addition to the proper channels, have you thought about the medium your target audience uses to digest content? The mediums most commonly referred to today are desktop/laptop, tablet, and mobile. Unsurprisingly, mobile dominates content viewings. It’s the world we live in: over 50 percent of smartphone users grab their phone immediately after waking up, and 80 percent of time spent on social media platforms happens on mobile. Emails are opened more on mobile than on desktop, with more than 70 percent of people reading email in mobile apps. If you haven’t caught on by now, ensure your post is optimized for mobile!
#4. Shed high school rules
As if you haven’t already erased traumatizing memories of high school from your mind, it’s time to let go of the five-paragraph essay. Yes, the infamous blueprint for essay writing we all so robotically mastered in preparation for the ACT or SAT: an introductory paragraph followed by three body paragraphs (in order of the strongest to the weakest argument) and ending conclusion paragraph. It may work in academia, but not for blogs. It’s tiresome, rudimentary, and quite frankly, boring. Ann Handley so perfectly voices the overwhelming distaste for five-paragraph essays in her writing manifesto, Everybody Writes:
“As Janis Ian said in the movie Mean Girls: ‘That’s the thing with five-paragraph essays. You think everybody is in love with them when actually everybody hates them!’ She was actually referring to The Plastics, not five-paragraph essays. But same dif.”
It’s time to stop being personally victimized by the five-paragraph essay (and Regina George). Your blog should flow in a way that makes sense to the reader. Whether that’s a listicle, pictorial, round-up, instructional, or personal narrative is up to you based on what you’ve learned about your target audience.
#5. Use the ‘Skyscraper Method’
We’re with you – coming up with new, compelling content all the time is tiring. Kyle Grey, notable entrepreneur and renowned content marketing expert, outlines what he calls the “Skyscraper Method” in his book, The Story Engine, a guide for fellow entrepreneurs looking to start or bolster their content marketing strategy but don’t have the time or resources to write all day (unless, like us, it’s your job).
The Skyscraper Method is this: “Find the best content out there addressing a problem you want to discuss, and make something better than that.” Its goal is to provide a systematic approach for simultaneously creating and building upon great content.
Grey cites three ways to accomplish this:
Take content that’s doing well and find ways to add more useful information, value, and bulk to the post.
Just because a blog was written three years ago doesn’t mean it should be written off. It’s likely a fixer-upper: it has good bones, just needs modern injections to make it current. This could mean highlighting new solutions, strategies, tools, and perspectives that have been developed since it was last published.
Blogs with graphics, videos, and different layouts have a higher shareable content rating. In fact, blog articles with images get 94% more views. Viewing imagery is a quicker and easier way to absorb complex ideas. Science backs this up: the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. Basically, we’re all kids who just want to read picture books.
#6. Focus on headlines
Online interactions are a bit superficial *gasp*. Our attention spans have dropped to goldfish levels, and unless there’s something in it for us, we’re not interested. A recent study confirmed that nearly 59% of all links shared on social networks aren’t actually clicked on at all. This implies that readers are sharing articles without even making it past the headline. It’s like in college when you skimmed a Wikipedia summary instead of actually reading the literature: you get what you need to know, but lack substance to take the discussion further. Plus, it’s way easier to ‘share’ an article than to actually read it and demonstrate your knowledge.
So what does this mean for content marketers? If readers aren’t making it past headlines, that’s where we need to confront them.
The headline is the arguably one of the first emotional attachments readers will have to your content. A headline is the first step in building an emotional connection with your reader and igniting a spark of curiosity that makes them want more. In addition to using keywords in your title and social link headlines that rank high in search engines, there are combinations of words and phrases shown to increase open and click-through rates.
For example, “8 Financial Planning Tips That Will Help You Save Money For College” clearly indicates the value a hard-working college student (who definitely doesn’t skim Wikipedia) or his/her equally hard-working parent could extract from the article. It provides the instant gratification we seek with a little kindness, saying “Hey, I know how much you want to succeed, and I’m here to help. We’re in this together, one step at a time.” For further promotion and sharing, create snippet variants and multiple titles of different lengths to pull people into your post. Adding statistics or calls-to-action that let readers know exactly what they’ll find in your content also establish you as a trustworthy confidant, provided you uphold your end of the bargain.
Once readers latch on and delve deeper into your remarkable content, they’re like Jack in Titanic – they don’t let go. And this is how a single spark starts a wildfire.
#7. Draw on personal experiences
People are drawn to honesty. It helps build trust, which is what content marketing is really all about: developing trust to create a mutually valuable relationship. Creating trust in an increasingly untrustworthy world can be difficult, as it requires some vulnerability. Use personal experiences in your writing establishes credibility, expertise, and experience in your industry or on a topic you’re addressing. It also helps you find and project your own voice in an otherwise noisy room. The best musicians, orators, authors, journalists, artists, and even businessmen have used their personal experiences to propel them forward. This may take some brevity, but the payoff will be readers who can relate to your authenticity and trust your recommendations.
#8. Edit for the reader
After you write a blog, always have a second, third, fourth, etc. set of eyes give it a read. Your words are your personal brand emissaries; they deserve proper review before putting them online and exposed to criticism. After all, you want to make people look good with your content, especially if that person is you.
Proper editing is actually an act of genuine respect for the reader’s time. You may be the writer, and we applaud you for that. But, let’s face it: we’re here for the readers. It’s our purpose to create content for their use. So, cut the fat, bloat, and all things that indulge the writer and disregard the reader. The result will be worthwhile to readers and to you.