Friday, November 30, 2012

The Relationship between Blogging and Sales




Written by: Nicole Horvath, Boston.com's Market Development co-op


It’s hard to believe my time as a co-op for Boston.com’s Market Development department is coming to a close. Where has the time gone since July? I’ve learned a lot over the past six months from my involvement with the development of the Insights product. Most of what I’ve learned deals with what makes a good and readable blog, and the various ins and outs of selling (or trying to sell) a product. This has been my first real experience with using a blog to determine the validity and strength of a product or company, as well as the frustrations and small victories that come with sales. Because these experiences are similar to what our readers deal with every day, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned concerning the relationship between blogs and sales.

My first job on the Insights team was to search various companies based in New England in hopes that some of them kept a blog. Finding companies with blogs was hard enough, but it was then my job to evaluate the blogs. After a few weeks of this, and hundreds of different blogs, I believe I have a pretty good understanding of what makes a good blog. Blogs that caught my attention first and foremost, are blogs that posted frequently. Frequent updating of a company’s blog showed me that the owner (or blogger) was invested in the company. Furthermore, they actually cared what they were writing about. You can only post so many different case studies and stories of gum disease and filling cavities each week, but you know what? I’d go to that dentist. He loves what he does, considering the amount of times he posted each week, and the obvious enjoyment I could pick up in his writing. The more you blog, the more your name is out there, and the more likely someone (like me), will stumble upon it.

Hand in hand with frequent postings, I would also notice the layout of the blog. I like blogs that are neat. Not necessarily boring to look at (I love finding blogs with pictures and videos), but one which I could navigate easily. You can post three times a day, but if I can’t figure out how to jump from one blog post to another, or how to enter your home page, I’m more likely to give up and exit the blog. One time I got stuck on a picture of some mechanic’s ugly dog for awhile. There were no exit links or explanations on how to get back to the original blog post. Make sure the exit links work, especially the links to your Twitter, Facebook, RSS, and homepage. Make sure the blog (and website) is organized and easily navigational. You want to appear professional and the customer should not have problems with your blog or website. No one wants to look at an ugly dog for five minutes when they’re trying to find tips on when it’s time to rotate their tires.

My second job after finding these blogs was to contact the company to see if they’d be interested in the product. Let me tell you something. Selling is hard. This is a life lesson I have learned at the tender age of 20. You can be as excited and enthusiastic about your product as you want to be, but sometimes people just don’t care. I’d send out 200 emails, to have only ten responses. You know what I learned from this? Celebrate the small victories. You’re going to hear “no” (if you hear anything back at all), but you’ve got to believe in your product if you want to succeed, and you need to keep putting your product, and yourself, out there.

So keep blogging! Keep using social media, which is so critical to reach out to all different platforms and audiences in this day and age. Be aware of how your brand is perceived, and make sure it stands up to the level of professionalism you know you can provide.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tips for Including Facebook and Twitter in your Content Marketing Strategies


We've been hearing a lot about businesses that are developing their content marketing strategies for 2013 and of course most include Twitter and Facebook. But we believe that simply tweeting and posting about your content is not enough. Here are a few more tips for including Facebook and Twitter in your content marketing strategy:

1. Follow relevant users on Twitter - Spend the time finding people on Twitter who are interested in the same things your company offers or often discusses. Those are the people who will most likely engage with you, turn into customers and spread your word to others like them. Finding the right audience on Twitter and other social media sites is key to a successful content marketing strategy.

2.Know your audience- Customize your posts to speak to the audiences you have on Twitter and Facebook. For example, if you know that your audience on Twitter is slightly younger than your audience on Facebook, customize your tweet and post in such a way that you think those age groups would best respond to. 

3. Use hashtags and keywords in your tweets and posts - When you use hashtags and keywords, you're going to reach an audience that is already interested in your content! That means they'll be more likely to interact with you and turn into potential customers. If not a customer right away, you'll definitely be gaining new followers and broadening your audiences.


Have any more tips to add? We'd love to hear them!

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*Offer valid through 12/15/12



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to: Use Online Video in your Blog Posts



 



This week, comScore released the findings of an online video study and we found the results very interesting, and wanted to share. The study found that 183 million users watched web-based videos in October. comScore reported that those viewers saw over 37 billion online content videos in the month.

So what does this mean for you bloggers? It means you should be using video! Here is some basic advice on how to use online video in your blog posts.

1. Start using video content and don't worry if it's not perfect: We know that creating videos can seem a bit daunting, but once you have an idea and take out that camera or phone to capture video, it really isn't difficult. Plus, you don't have to worry whether or not it looks perfect; people aren't expecting you to develop a video that's potentially award-winning (unless video is your expertise!). Here's an idea for getting started: choose a question you think your readers want to know the answer to. Then, ask the expert in your office to answer it on camera. Now, you have a quality blog post your readers will want to watch, AND you're giving a readers a glimpse into your place of work and your staff.

2. Include some text along with your video in the blog post: It's best practice to give readers context for a video before you expect them to watch an entire video. Make your introductory sentences before the embedded video count, by telling them what they'll gain by watching the video, so they'll be more apt to do so. We'd also recommend that you give a wrap up paragraph after the embedded video, so people know the main take away of the video and can easily remember the big points after leaving your blog.

3. Don't forget a strong call to action: Include a call to action in your video much like what you would do in a regular written blog post. Make the audience take an action at the end of your video. For example, you could say something like, "For more tips from our experts here at (business name), sign up for our newsletter, by clicking on the button at the end of the blog post." or "Email us today and we'll waive our setup fee! Click on the button below to reach our sales team now."

We'll be adding to this list in the future, but if you have any great tips for us and our readers, please share them below!

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Understanding the Native Advertising Trend


In the past week, Insights has received a lot of attention from publications like Advertising Age to well-known digital marketing bloggers because of its recent launch and new approach to a concept called native advertising. Here's a look at the native advertising trend Insights is breaking into.

Native advertising is somewhat of a buzz word right now because it's a new trend that news sites and publishers are exploring. So what is it? Native advertising is a form of advertising that's built into the visual design of a site, so that the ads appear to be a part of the content. In an age where people are inundated with ads on a daily basis, native advertising provides a way for advertisers to cut through the clutter."The idea is that the same readers who regularly and easily ignore banner ads may actually appreciate sponsored content that resembles a website's editorial approach," writes Nat Ives, the author of the AdAge article, "Boston.com Joins Native Advertising Push with Sponsored Posts."


Insights allows for advertisers to contribute their content to Boston.com and show up in promotional units across Boston.com that appear to be a part of the editorial content as well as on their very own business information pages. However, we still want to be transparent to the loyal Boston.com readers, so we added a banner with the words, "special advertiser feature" above the promotional unit content as well as on the business information pages.


If you're interested in joining the native advertising program we've developed, contact us today at insights@boston.com!

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*Offer valid through 12/15/12



Monday, November 12, 2012

Keys to Creating Compelling Blog Post Titles





Over here at the Insights headquarters, we've been talking a lot about what makes compelling blog post titles since that's how we drive traffic to clients website from our promotional units across Boston.com. Here's a list of what we found (based on the data we have) makes a compelling blog post title:

1. Word choice - Use action words, relevant words, timely words and eloquent words in your blog post titles because people will be more apt to read/watch the content you've developed when the word choice is compelling. Moreover, make sure your content is relevant and timely, which would make the titles naturally the same because more people will be apt to read that kind of content.
2. Keep your title short and to the point - Use short titles that invite the reader to want to know more about what you're offering in your blog post. Don't confuse readers with long titles or over share the concept of the post because you could deter readers.
3. Use keywords, but not too many - Keep a good balance between using and overusing keywords. We know you want to rank high in search results for keywords, but overusing makes the post look like spam, so include keywords in your title, but don't overdo it.
4. Don't seem self-promotional - Readers want content they can use to better themselves or their businesses. They don't usually care about the award you won, but they do care about why you won it. So don't mention the award, mention the award-winning work and mention how it could be helpful to readers to know why you won it. Then, readers will be more likely to read and engage with your post. For example: This blog post title,"What Makes an Award-Winning Marketing Campaign" is a way to entice readers and demonstrate your expertise without mentioning your company being the actual award-winner. Mention that part in the post itself.
5. Provide value - Include in your blog post title what value you'll offer readers in your post. For example, if you're providing readers with a "how-to guide," include those words in your title. Make sure the value of your post is always included in the title to entice more readers.
6. Be original -Make your posts original and you'll have no problem creating original blog post titles. Originality and creativity in blog posts and blog post titles results in more loyal readers. You don't want to be just another blogger talking about the same thing as everyone else. Be creative and the loyal followers will come!


Have any tips to add? Please share with us in the comments below!

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*Offer valid through 12/15/12

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Capitalizing on Current Events to Engage Readers





Our colleagues at Boston.com do a great job capitalizing on current events to engage readers. For example, during the presidential election yesterday, the team setup video coverage, photo galleries, a Twitter hashtag and so much more. Here are some more details about their strategy that we believe are great ways to engage readers through current events!

1. Setting up a Twitter hashtag - Boston.com's social media producers encouraged readers, employees, and Twitter users to use and follow #mavote on Twitter. They were excited and happy to see tweets rolling in, and retweeted many different users who were showing pictures of their polls and giving information about lines as well as other information about Election Day in general. 23% of yesterday's traffic to the site came from social media sites! The data shows that they used social media correctly to drive traffic and engage users.

2. Having some fun with an Election Day photo gallery - Boston.com setup a "Quirky photos from Election Day 2012" gallery on Boston.com to engage readers with the "fun side of Election Day." Our colleagues did a great job not only delivering unrivaled coverage of the election throughout the day, but also on delivering to the readers the content they know they respond well to - photo albums and fun content. The data shows that readers consistently enjoy the photo albums that Boston.com sets up and this album was no different. It certainly showed the fun side of Election Day in Boston and it engaged readers.

3. Video collection - The Boston.com team did a great job aggregating videos from many different outlets in its Election 2012 video highlights section. Boston.com delivered to its readers a comprehensive curation of scenes and videos from across the country in this section. Although it wasn't all Boston.com original content, the team made a decision to deliver the best of the available videos to its readers since the team knows that's what the readers are looking for. Additionally, the team wanted to deliver content in the form of video because they know that's one of the best ways to engage with Boston.com readers.*

There's a lot we can learn from the editorial staff here at Boston.com. They know what their readers respond to and engage with, and they were able to capitalize on this particular current event, by creating content and spreading the word about this content in the ways that generate the most engagement from their loyal readers. So what's the take away? Learn what makes your audience tick, deliver to them the content they want and deliver it in a way that they would like to receive it. Make sure when you're attempting to capitalize on current events that you are doing it a way that encourages engagement!


*We know that Boston.com has a ton of resources and it might be a bit more difficult for you to execute a video collection or a photo gallery to they extent that the team here does on your blog, so here are some easy ways to integrate new media into the blogging mix:
1. Add some video to your content - Instead of writing out your content one day, try making a quick video to share information with readers. Video is a great way to engage your audience and keep readers interested.
2. Remember that pictures are worth 1000 words - Did you have a fun employee party recently, or participate in a race together? Add some pictures to a blog post and let your audience in on the fun. This is a great way to humanize your brand and engage your loyal followers.
3. Follow a relevant hashtag on Twitter and post the best tweets to your blog to start a discussion. This a great way to stay relevant and on top of current events as well as add your opinion and encourage readers to do the same.


Please share your thoughts with us below!

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why you Should Have a RSS Feed for your Blog





Why should you have a RSS feed for your blog? Having a RSS feed for your blog is one of the easiest ways to go about creating and engaging in digital conversations. A RSS feed allows for easy sharing of your content to anyone who is interested in the content you regularly provide. Curated content marketers rely on RSS feeds more than other ways of collecting content, like via email or Twitter. It's also free to set up a RSS feed and who doesn't love something that's free?

Once you've set up your RSS feed, it's important to add a RSS feed icon to your blog and website because people know to click on that to start receiving your content regularly. You want people to be able to take advantage of your RSS offering quickly, so you don't lose out on readers and potential customers.

Take advantage of the simplicity of this syndication method! Set up a RSS feed for your blog today. Do you have a Blogger account? Here are a couple of useful links to help you set up a RSS feed for your blog today!






*Offer valid through 11/30/12