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Category Archive: Content Marketing

  1. The 3-Tiered Hierarchy of Content Syndication

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    Syndication is one of the most important pieces of the “content marketing” process. Writing and publishing the original article (or infographic, or video, or any piece of material, really) is only the first step. Even if you create something informative, entertaining, valuable, and shareable, it won’t mean much unless there are actual people around to read and consume it.

    Syndication attempts to solve that problem by making the piece available to a wider audience. For brands just getting started with a content marketing program or those without a loyal readership, this is absolutely essential part of the puzzle.

    Still, the term “syndication” is vague, and can refer to a host of techniques, processes, and strategies designed to make your work available to a greater number of people. With so many options available, it can be hard to decide the best route forward for your brand. Each brand has a unique target audience, a specific budget, and a specific set of resources to work with, so it’s virtually impossible to identify any one “best fit” for all brands.

    What we can do, however, is establish a broader framework—one that doesn’t dig too deep into specific channels, but does help the majority of businesses understand the most important elements of a content syndication plan. Under this framework, I’ve identified three “tiers,” which dictate both an order and a degree of importance for the overall campaign. Within each tier are a number of different options for individual brands to choose, but as a general rule, all brands should focus on “tier 1” syndication, followed by “tier 2” syndication, and of course then “tier 3.”

    For the remainder of this article, I’ll be diving deep into those tiers specifically, explaining what they are, why they’re important, and various options that marketers have when using them.

    Tier 1: External Publishers and Blogs

    articleimage1362 External Publishers and Blogs

    The first tier is all about getting published on platforms that people are already using to find and read material. For example, you could write a post and submit it to a leading industry online magazine, which could get it seen by several thousand active readers instead of the few that your blog currently naturally generates. As you might imagine, there are many options for this; emerging brands in the content scene will likely be limited to local publishers, small publishers, and niche blogs and forums for their work, while more experienced content marketers can move up to national outlets.

    This external form of syndication isn’t limited to a singular external post, either. You don’t have to write a post and publish it offsite to gain offsite benefits. For instance, you can publish your article on your own blog and earn a link from an external publisher citing it; the more original research and unique claims you write about, the more likely you’ll be to naturally attract these kinds of links. There’s also the option of taking advantage of social bookmarking sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon, which accept user-submitted pieces of content to distribute to its readers.

    Tier 2: Straight Social Media Syndication

    articleimage1362 Straight Social Media Syndication

    Once your relationship with one or more offsite publishers has been established, the next tier of syndication is social media syndication. This tier is much simpler than getting published offsite; instead of trying to build relationships with external publishers or attract links naturally, you’ll have full control over your distribution. Most brands choose to do a big push of their content when it’s first published, posting an excerpt or the title and drawing people in with a link, then following up over the course of weeks and months with occasional varied redistributions of the same article (to attract more traffic for those who didn’t see it the first time around).

    Most of this can be done organically, but most social platforms also offer paid boosts to extend the reach of posts. I should also mention that not all social media platforms are equal, and should not be used the same way; Facebook has the largest user base, but what attracts a user to share an article on Facebook isn’t the same as what attracts them to share one on LinkedIn. Know your platforms, and know your audience.

    Tier 3: Influencers

    articleimage1362  Influencers

    Finally, social influencers should only be broached once you’ve established an offsite and traditional social syndication pattern. Since you’ll be dealing with individuals rather than platforms or networks, you’ll have to make individual pitches (albeit short ones), and work on maintaining ongoing relationships to solidify your chances of getting shared by them in the future. Influencers are social media users with large followings and a great deal of cumulative respect; getting one of your articles shared by them can open up your audience to thousands of new potential readers. If you’ve already got a dedicated social following and some extra visibility from offsite publishers, this will go even further to boost your authority.

    This three-tiered system doesn’t cover every option available for content syndication; it leaves out a handful of noteworthy channels, such as paid traffic, email blasts, and subscriber feeds. But it does represent a critical opportunity to get ample traffic, visibility, links, and authority with a minimal amount of direction and effort. Adhere to this 3-tiered system as closely as possible when you establish a plan for your content syndication; after experimenting with different individual channels, you’ll soon find a rhythm that suits your brand and your audience perfectly.

  2. How to Use Interviews to Boost Your Content Marketing Campaign

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    There are dozens, if not hundreds of types of content out there; written articles get the most attention due to their cost-effective production value and ubiquitous presence, and visual formats like infographics and videos are getting tons of attention because of their lower competition and higher intrinsic value. But I want to focus on a rarely-used content format that’s non-competitive, easy to create, and sustainable for an extended series: the interview.

    Interviews are one of the most valuable forms of content you can create because of the advantages inherent to the medium:

    • Effort Efficiency. You won’t be creating the entire piece yourself; instead, you’ll only be writing the questions. The burden of creation is on your interviewee, so it should only take you half the time to produce the final product.
    • Repeatability. Interviews can be done as one-offs or as part of a series; if you opt for a series, you can repeat a number of your initial questions in subsequent rounds.
    • Built-In Promotion. Your interviewee is just as excited as you are to publish this, so you’ll instantly double your initial audience.
    • Cross-Medium Capability. Your interviews can be videos, audio clips, podcasts, transcripts, or all of the above. The choice is yours and your audience’s.

    Unfortunately, hosting a landmark interview isn’t just a matter of flipping a switch. You’ll have to make a serious commitment and spend significant effort if you want to see the best results (like with any other piece of content you create).

    Step One: Pick the Right Interviewee

    articleimage1361 step one

    This is the first and arguably the most important step in the process. Finding the right interviewee isn’t just a matter of finding someone willing to go along with your questions. You need someone engaging, whose words will be listened to by your target audience. You need someone appropriate, so they fit closely with your industry. You need someone with influence, so you have a wider circle of promotion and earn a greater reputation by interviewing them. Finding a candidate that fulfills all these requirements and is both willing and available to be interviewed is quite the challenge. The good news is, the more you do it and the more renowned you become, the easier time you’ll have finding new candidates.

    Step Two: Prepare an Even Mix of Conventional and Unconventional Questions

    articleimage1361 step two

    Once you’ve selected a candidate, you’ll have to come up with the questions you want to ask. About fifty percent of those questions should be what I call conventional—they could be common questions you ask all your interviewees, or questions that are obvious to ask (such as asking a writer about his latest book). The other fifty percent should be less obvious. They should be unexpected, surprising, and possibly probing. People don’t want to hear the same old lineup of questions—spice things up!

    Step Three: Exercise Personality and Energy

    articleimage1361 step three

    Once your questions are written, your next job is performing well during the interview itself. You’ll want to choose a host with a lot of charisma, energy, and a commanding, clear way of speaking (or adopt these qualities yourself). Audiences simply won’t tolerate an interviewer who reads off cue cards. Gesticulate with your hands (if it’s a video interview), use emotions and strong inflections in your voice, and do what you can to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the event. That energy will carry over to your guest, and your audience will eat it up.

    Step Four: Lead the Conversation to Valuable Conclusions

    articleimage1361 step four

    While some audience members will be interested to hear about the personal developments of your interviewee, most people are watching the interview to get some kind of actionable or valuable takeaway, such as advice, instructions, or tricks to use in a practical environment. If you can, include these kinds of conclusions as goals with some of your questions. Otherwise, the pressure will be on you in the interview to drive the conversation toward these kinds of meaningful conclusions. It can also be helpful to have a mini “recap” at the end of the interview, highlighting some of the takeaways you mutually discovered.

    Step Five: Translate It to Multiple Mediums

    articleimage1361 step five

    In the opening paragraph, I mentioned that one of the best advantages of interviews is their ability to be translated to multiple mediums. Take advantage of that quality by presenting it in as many mediums as possible. Get it published as a podcast, then embed it as a video on your blog (and upload it to YouTube at the same time), offer a downloadable mp3 version and of course, offer a written transcript for people (and search engines) to read. The more coverage you get, the better—everyone has different preferences.

    Step Six: Cross Promote!

    Finally, take advantage of the fact that both your interviewer and interviewee have personal brands. Try to start follow-up discussions on social media, and encourage everyone involved in the production to share the interview out on a regular basis for a few weeks. Play to the advantages of the medium by capitalizing on this cross-promotion potential.

    If you follow these six steps appropriately, you should have no issue developing a great interview series that will put your brand on the map. The bigger and better your interviewees, the easier it will become and the more organically your series will begin to grow. The only hard part is getting started.

  3. How to Segment Your Content Marketing Growth to Maximize Your ROI

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    When you first start out in content marketing, it’s best to carve a specific niche for yourself. There are too many content marketers out there to be competitive with expertise in a general topic or a broad industry—for example, if you launch a site that specializes in “weight loss,” don’t expect to make a big impact. But if you launch a site that specializes in “weight loss for middle-aged men with busy schedules,” you’ll have far less competition and a far better chance at getting attention.

    This kind of niche marketing is a way of isolating a portion of your target audience and isolating yourself from the competition, but as a brand driven toward growth, it’s unlikely you’ll want to stay limited to this niche forever. Instead, you want to expand to different topics, broader audiences, and new kinds of expertise. You can’t just evolve from a niche expertise to a general expertise, or you’ll run into that competition hurdle I alluded to in the first paragraph, so how can you manage content marketing growth once you’ve found success with a particular niche? In short, how can you invest in your content marketing program in a way that keeps it cost-efficient without overextending it to the point that you begin to lose money?

    The secret is in segmentation. Rather than moving from an isolated audience to a different isolated audience or to the entire “general” audience all at once, you’ll be adopting new audiences to add to your old ones—new topics and new niches to layer in beside your original focus in a “segmented” strategy.

    This strategy has been around for many years in the application of email blasts—email marketers often “segment” their lists based on demographics or previous customer behaviors—but for an inexplicable reason, it’s rarely used in the content marketing world.

    If your goal is to evolve from fostering short-term growth to fostering long-term growth and keep your ROI positive in the process, segmentation is the way to do it. Here’s how.

    Identify your most valuable audiences

    articleimage1360 Identify your most valuable audiences

    Hopefully, you already have a target niche with a target demographic that is most valuable to you. For example, let’s say you’re a podiatrist and you’ve chosen an initial target audience of women between the ages of 35 and 50 who have recently sustained an injury or experience physical pain. This is a valuable audience because they have a vested interest in your topics (about foot injuries and sources of chronic pain), they’re potential customers, and they’re willing and able to read your blog. Now, you have a few choices for a second segment of your audience—do you choose males of the same age range, who might have the same interest and ability to read your blog but a lower likelihood of becoming customers? Or do you choose younger females, who might have a slightly lower interest but a much higher ability to find and read your blog? This is one of the most important choices you’ll make in the segmentation process.

    Scale up iteratively

    articleimage1360 Scale up iteratively

    It’s a bad idea to suddenly introduce a new stream of topics all at once, and it’s similarly a bad idea to disrupt your current process to favor or shoe in the new one (because you run the risk of alienating your original niche). Instead, you need to scale up your segmentation iteratively. Start with only one new demographic (and one new angle of topics), and keep your original stream untouched. Add in the new topics slowly at first, and only increase the pace when you feel you’ve sufficiently captured (or maintained) the interest of both segments. If launched successfully, then you can start thinking about layering in a third or a fourth segment.

    Leverage the power of different personal brands

    articleimage1360 Leverage the power of different personal brand

    Personal brands are your best friends for this process. If you currently have one or two authors writing the majority of your original segment, introduce a new author to cover the new segment exclusively. This will help your readers easily identify the thin, but solid line that divides the two realms of content, and will help preserve and build relationships with each segment on your blog. You should at least define the segments in terms of blog categories, but either way, being able to easily identify which authors contribute to which streams can go a long way in maximizing the efficiency of your segments.

    Slowly adjust the focus of your site to accommodate all your topics and audiences

    articleimage1360 Slowly adjust the focus of your site to accommodate

    Finally, make sure you adjust the tone, title tags, meta descriptions, pages, and layout of your entire site to match your integration of new segments in your target audience. Again, you’ll need to do this gradually to avoid disrupting anybody who’s already used to your site appealing to one specialized segment. Your other option is to set up a new site (or new landing page) and cater to each segment under the guise of a separate co-brand—but for most brands, that’s far more hassle than it’s worth.

    With these strategies and approaches, you can forge a clear direction for the segmentation of your content marketing campaign. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be without its obstacles and challenges, but if you can scale your growth appropriately without alienating any of your demographics, this is by far the most efficient way to secure a long-term growth in readership.

  4. 5 Types of People Who Will Help You Write Better Content

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    Everyone wants to write better content. We want to select better topics, write in more detail, research more thoroughly, and string our sentences together in more tactful, eloquent, aesthetically pleasing ways. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come naturally and it certainly doesn’t come quickly. With some skills, you can get better through practice and sheer force of will alone—for example, if you spend enough time playing guitar (or any musical instrument), eventually your muscle memory and familiarity will allow you to play more complicated songs more accurately and beautifully. All it takes is hours of work.

    If you attempt this blunt approach to writing, you might never end up with better content. That’s because even if you spend hundreds of hours practicing your writing, you’ll still be trapped in a bubble of your own perceptions and your own “comfort zone.” You need exposure to other people, other writing styles, and other pieces if you ever truly want to grow as a writer.

    These five types of people will almost always help you progress your abilities:

    1.Coworkers.

    articleimage1358 coworkers

    Coworkers are great because they can give you new perspectives on your own industry. For example, imagine you work for a solar panel production company. You work in the marketing department and you understand what features of your panels are most important to the majority of your clients. But someone in engineering is going to have a much more detailed, precise understanding about the mechanics that allow those features to exist. The engineer might be able to provide you with a few ideas about future blog topics, or at least be able to explain some things you didn’t know you didn’t know about your industry.

    Of course, the engineer is only one example. Chances are, people in most departments (other than yours) will be able to shed at least some new light on your industry. Step out of your comfort zone and talk to some people in your company you’ve never spoken to before. Go out for coffee, or hold a group brainstorming session to get some new perspectives on the table. The more perspective you have, the more diverse and thorough your writing is going to be.

    2. Social Influencers.

    articleimage1358 social influencers

    Social influencers got to where they are for a reason. People love the content they write (or otherwise produce), and as a result, they’re seen as leading authorities with tens of thousands (or more) of followers. You should be taking the time to read these influencers’ posts, even if they aren’t directly related to your industry. In fact, sometimes influencers outside your industry can teach you more about writing than those on the inside.

    The key here is to expose yourself to different writers who have different approaches to writing. What kind of formatting do they use? What kind of tone? What kind of word choices? Looking at these factors will help you diversify and liven up your own writing, which is invaluable especially if you’re writing for multiple different audiences.

    3. Journalist.

    articleimage1358 journalist

    You should also be reading the news every day, keeping tabs on at least a few of your favorite journalists. Journalists and content marketers are sometimes at opposite ends of the spectrum, with content marketers producing material that people want to read and journalists producing material that people need to read (at least in the journalist’s opinion). As a result, you’ll see a very different approach to writing—one centered on research, solid claims, and the “full scope” of the story.

    You’ll have to be choosy here, since not all journalists adhere to the same degree of professionalism. But if you can find a great journalist to follow, he/she will be able to help you think more critically and more thoroughly about your subject matter.

    4. Competitors.

    articleimage1358 competitors

    Competitors are great for content marketers. Keep an active list of your closest and most active competitors, and look at the writing they publish and promote. What kinds of topics seem to be the most popular with their readers? What directions do their writers go in? What claims do they make? And perhaps most importantly, what kinds of weaknesses do they have? Learning these factors will help you understand the context of your own writing more, and can help you come up with better, more targeted topics to use in your own campaign.

    5. Readers.

    articleimage1358 readers

    Last, and most important, your readers will help you become a better writer—all you have to do is listen to them! As long as you’re keeping your readers involved with comments, discussions, and active monitoring of their click behaviors, you should have a clear read on how they respond to your various topics and approaches. Use this data to objectively figure out which types of content are working and which ones aren’t, and compare that to articles you see elsewhere on the web. Even amateur writers should be able to identify at least a handful of key elements that should be added, removed, or revised to improve the content overall.

    In my introduction, I dismissed the idea that raw practice alone can help you become a better writer—but that doesn’t mean the practice element isn’t important. In addition to getting to know these five types of people (and using them to better understand your content), you’ll need to put your nose to the grindstone to iteratively increase your skills. Still, with enough dedication and enough diverse exposure, you should see measurable growth in the quality of your articles in relatively short order.

  5. 7 Strategic Choices You Must Make for Your Content Campaign

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    In theory, content marketing campaigns are pretty simple. You write lots of content to the best of your ability, appealing to your customers and others in the industry, and eventually your reputation will attract more people to your site. But the reality of content marketing is that it’s extraordinarily complex; you can spend weeks probing into your competitors, the needs of your customers, and best practices for content in general and still never learn everything. Plus, the mediums and technologies available for content marketing campaigns are always evolving, so things rarely stay in one place.

    Still, with a decent amount of forethought, you can make sure your content campaign gets started on the right foot. Before moving forward with your campaign, be sure to carefully consider these strategic choices:

    1. Priority Goal: Traffic, Conversions, or Reputation?

    articleimage1331 Priority Goal

    One of the first things you’ll have to decide is your primary goal. Most content marketing campaigns have blanket goals; for example, you’ll want to make sure your content increases your brand visibility, increases your perceived authority, attracts new traffic, earns loyalty from recurring traffic, and gains conversions for your brand. But which one of these goals is your main objective? Which one takes priority over the others? The answer to this question can dictate your initial approach; for example, if your main goal is traffic, you’ll need to include more external posts with links pointing back to your site, and step up your syndication efforts as well.

    2. Target Audience.

    articleimage1331 Target Audience

    Next, you’ll need to decide who your target audience is. Some marketers think they can get away with targeting “everybody”—after all, the more people you target, the more chances you have to win over new fans, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t true. The more narrowly you target an audience, the fewer total readers you’ll have access to, but the more passionate those readers will be. In short, it’s better to have 100 interested readers than 1,000 uninterested ones. Think carefully about the demographics you want to target well in advance of your campaign, and cater your entire strategy to them specifically.

    3. Brand Voice.

    articleimage1331 Brand Voice

    Your brand voice should be at least partially shaped by your choice in target audience, but it exists as its own strategic consideration. All your content should fall within the confines of the same unified brand voice, so you’ll need to be consistent with it once you settle on something. The tone and direction of your brand voice will shape countless first impressions, so make sure it’s exactly what you want it to be. Consider characteristics like how formal or informal you want it to be, or how playful or serious you want it to be. Give it as much personality as you can, and try to distinguish your voice from the voices of your competitors.

    4. Niche of Expertise.

    articleimage1331 Niche of Expertise

    Again, this will probably fall in line with your choice in demographics, but it’s important as an independent consideration. What niche do you want your brand associated with? These days, the content market is so saturated that it isn’t enough to have a “general” area of expertise. You need to get as specific as possible if you want to stand out, and once you’ve generated a decent following, you can expand from there. For example, it’s not enough to be an “advertising firm;” you have to bill yourself as a “Google AdWords advertising firm” or an “advertising firm for manufacturers,” narrowing your focus either in terms of what you do or who you do it for.

    5. Publication Outlets.

    Now that you’ve decided on your niche, your target audience, and your brand voice, you can decide which publication outlets you want to take advantage of. If you’re first starting out, you’ll want to choose platforms closely aligned with your niche, such as industry blogs or forums. You could also choose local publication outlets, which cater to local businesses. After that, you’ll want to gradually scale up to bigger, badder guest blogging opportunities, eventually getting to national-level publishers.

    6. Social Platforms.

    articleimage304 Choose Your Social Media Platforms

    Of course, posting on external publication outlets will get you a fair share of visibility and traffic, but you’ll need an extra push if you want your content to make a significant impact. The best way to do this is to choose a handful of social media platforms as your “starting lineup” of syndication. Not all platforms are the same; for example, a B2B company might find LinkedIn to be its most valuable resource, while a consumer brand might favor Twitter. Get to know your social platforms intimately, and come up with a game plan for how to use them effectively.

    7. Timing and Effort.

    Finally, you’ll want to consider how to time your content and how much effort to put behind it. For example, do you want to start out with writing one post a week, or something more intensive, like three onsite posts and two offsite posts a week? Will you be doing this yourself, hiring a freelancer, or hiring someone full-time? This will form the cost basis for your campaign, both in time and money, so think carefully and play conservatively if you aren’t sure.

    These aren’t the only things you’ll need to consider for your content marketing campaign, but they will give you a nice foundation. If you can find suitable, confident answers for these seven questions, you should have no problem building an initial audience for your brand. The rest is a matter of patience, diligence, and adaptation.

  6. How to Use Social Responsibility in Your Brand’s Content

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    articleimage1324 How to Use Social Responsibility in Your Brand's Co

    Social responsibility is a significant part of any business, especially after a few years of steady operations. Broadly defined, social responsibility is the process of giving back to your community, donating time or money to good causes, and reducing or eliminating any poor side effects your business might have—in short, it’s a way of making the world a better place.

    While many entrepreneurs conduct these social responsibilities out of the pure desire to do something good for their communities, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that the process has many benefits for your business. Getting involved in the community brings more attention to your brand, and positive associations with your brand’s charitable or beneficial work can breed goodwill among your potential customers.

    When you go out of your way to do a little good for your community, why not show it off? You don’t want to go overboard, or your motives will come into question, but there’s nothing wrong with mentioning your brand’s social responsibility in your ongoing content. The key is to remain tactful and introduce your social responsibility in otherwise great standalone pieces.

    Let’s take a look at some examples:

    Use blogs to make company policy announcements and upcoming events

    articleimage1324 Use blogs to make company policy announcements and

    Blogs are relatively low-key, and if you’re already in the habit of using them for periodic company updates, they’re the perfect opportunity to announce your involvement in an upcoming volunteer or community event. For example, let’s say your company is going to attend a park cleanup initiative for a park near your headquarters. You could detail the event in the context of a blog post, list the employees who plan on attending, and invite others to join the cause.

    This last part is crucial; when you publish or syndicate a blog about your social responsibility, make it a point to get other people involved. This serves multiple functions. First, it proves your commitment to the cause (because a company using the event as a mere gimmick to get more publicity would not go to the effort). Second, it justifies your publication and syndication. There’s a valid and good reason why you’re writing about it. Third, and perhaps more importantly, it gives more attention to the issue at hand, meaning your company will be doing an even greater good for your community.

    Take photos at every opportunity

    articleimage1324 Take photos at every opportunity

    People favor visuals over text, so when you’re active in a particular event or volunteer activity, take advantage of it. Take pictures throughout the event, and use a hashtag if one has been designated. Be sure to publish and distribute those images on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media platforms you might use. It will show your audience a firsthand perspective of your work, which will leave them with a much greater overall impression.

    This is also effective because it will prompt others attending the event to do the same. The more people you have posting pictures about the event, the more attention it will cumulatively receive, and the more brand visibility you’ll earn as a result.

    Donate money or time to organizations and request visibility on their websites

    Most charitable and other non-profit organizations rely on donations to stay running. As such, they’re always open to monetary and resource donations. If you have a bit of extra revenue to donate, do so for the non-profit organization of your choice. Most organizations would be happy to list your company as a donor or sponsor on one of the pages of their website. This will include a link pointing back to your domain, which will also increase your relevance for search engines.

    Once that relationship is established, you can request the non-profit to host a guest blog (or several) that you’ve written. Any additional outlet you get for your work is a boon, as long as you keep it somewhat relevant to the organization as well as your brand.

    Write press releases about your initiatives

    articleimage1324  Write press release

    Press releases are great opportunities to spread the word about your brand to multiple, high-profile news outlets all at once, and since you’ll be piggybacking off the event, you can be guaranteed to have some newsworthy, (reasonably) unbiased coverage. For press releases, however, you’ll be limited to actual events and initiatives—donating money generally doesn’t warrant a press release unless it’s on the order of millions of dollars. Still, they can be a decent outlet for your socially responsible brand, and because they’ll be featured offsite, they’ll earn you more reputation points.

    Get your employees involved

    People like to see other people involved in their community, not faceless corporations. That’s why you need to partner with your employees to get as many people from your business involved in the effort as possible. Reward your employees for donating their time or money, and encourage them to post on social media about the experience. The more of your company’s employees get involved in volunteer work and charitable initiatives, the better your company is going to look.

    Social responsibility is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. Charities and community organizations get more money and resources to continue aiding the community. You and your employees get the positive feeling of giving back to society. And your brand gets more than enough exposure to justify whatever you’ve invested in the opportunity. As long as you position your endeavors correctly and in the context of content, you should have no problem reaping the full rewards of your initiatives.

  7. 7 Ways to Turn a News Article Into an Original Piece of Content

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    One of the best ways to scout for new content topics is to read the news on a daily basis. News happens all the time, so you’re guaranteed to find something that hardly anyone’s written about yet. If you write about it fast enough, you’ll be seen as an observant, up-to-date authority in your field. Plus, it saves you the hassle of trying to wrangle up a topic of your own—instead, you can rely on the foundation of a separate article and transform it into something unique and beneficial for your campaign.

    Here are seven ways you can do just that:

    1. Summarize the article.

    articleimage1314 summarize

    The easiest and most straightforward way to utilize an existing news article is to summarize it. Do this by reading the article fully, separating it out, and writing out a full-length summary in your own words. This can be tricky, because in the course of rewriting the article, it’s easy to succumb to repeated phrasing or similar structuring. Avoid this at all costs. Your goal should be writing it in a new tone of voice, emphasizing what you think is important and de-emphasizing what you think isn’t. Just to be safe, it’s a good idea to include a citation link pointing back to the original article.

    2. State your opinion.

    articleimage1314 State your opinion

    Slightly increasing in complexity, you can turn the news article into a detailed opinion piece. This will still have elements of the summary—in fact, you can summarize the article in the opening paragraph to introduce your readers to the topic—but the bulk of your piece will be focused on your opinion surrounding the event or revelation. For example, if there’s a new Google update and you want to write an opinion piece, you can briefly summarize the extent of the update and then explain why you think it is or isn’t significant.

    3. Predict the future.

    articleimage1314 predict the future

    Future-predictive articles are an extended variation of the opinion article, but they’re more grounded in facts and speculation than subjective opinion. For this piece, you’ll also introduce the news article, but you’ll take it further by tying it together with other news articles focusing on similar or related topics. From there, you’ll make speculative claims about how the future is going to progress. For example, if an article comes out about an emerging technology, you can make bold predictions about how well it will be adopted by companies in your industry. As an added bonus, you can follow up after a given period of time and gauge how accurate your prediction was.

    4. Make an infographic.

    articleimage1314 Make an infographic

    Next, you can take the data or information from the news article and transform it into a kind of infographic. The only holdup here is that there may not be enough raw information for you to make a suitably detailed large-scale visual. If that’s the case, you may have to supplement that information with other pieces of data you can find throughout the web, perhaps in the form of other news articles or research. If you really get stuck, you can conduct a survey among your followers about their views on the matter, and use that as the basis for your infographic.

    5. Use it as the subject of a podcast.

    articleimage1314 Use it as the subject of a podcast

    This format requires no writing whatsoever. Rather than writing out your opinion on the news or speculating about the future, you can talk about these things to your audience directly. Speaking tends to facilitate unique structures and word choices that distinguish themselves from their written counterparts. You may find it easier to hold a monologue about the topic, rather than writing about it, and your audience might appreciate hearing your natural voice. You can still write out a transcript for the SEO benefits, but the primary audio format will serve you well.

    6. Seek out an interview.

    If there’s something newsworthy happening, odds are there’s at least one person behind it. It could be the initiator of a new event, the inventor of a new technology, or the owner of a new business—if you can get in contact with that person, you can conduct an interview with them and use that material as your unique piece of content. If it’s a national-level news piece, this might be difficult, but if you can land the interview, you’ll be in a great position.

    7. Use it as a jumping-off point.

    Of course, you aren’t strictly limited to the news piece itself as the course of your new piece of content. You can simply use it as a jumping-off point to learn new information or brainstorm about a potential topic. This use is one of the most flexible and practical you’ll find, since it opens the door to almost any application while still giving you an adequate foundation. Try learning more about the topic at hand or exploring further details about the circumstances surrounding it, then building your piece from there.

    I’d like to note that it’s still important to generate topics on your own, by perusing competitor blogs, asking your users for their opinions, or just having an internal brainstorming meeting at the office. Originality must reside at the heart of any content campaign. Still, making original spins on the news can be highly rewarding (and just as efficient). Diversify your campaign, but keep reading the news and get some practice putting your own spin on things.

  8. 5 Ingredients You Need to Start a Content Marketing Campaign

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    Content marketing is still enjoying its position as one of the greatest and most efficient marketing strategies available to modern professionals. If you haven’t gotten involved with a strategy of your own, it’s time to strike while the iron’s hot. Consumer demand for content is at an all-time high, but increasing volumes of competition and technological developments like AI writing programs may jeopardize the long-term future of the strategy. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can guarantee yourself some of the benefits.

    Still, starting a content marketing strategy from scratch can be intimidating. Some brands have worked for years and have still barely scratched the surface of their potential, so how can you gain any momentum in a reasonable amount of time?

    I won’t deny that it does take time and patience for a content marketing campaign to pay off, but getting started is way easier than you think. You only need five crucial ingredients:

    1. A Blogging Platform.

    articleimage1309 a blogging platform

    The first thing you need is a reliable, easy-to-use blogging or similar content platform. The goal here is to have a publication platform for you to push your material to. In most cases, the goal of content marketing is to funnel users to a particular website, so if you already have a website—great! You can either use the blog section (in the case of most template sites, like WordPress), or create a blog of your own. If you’re new to the game entirely, you can start your own website that exists solely as a blog.

    It doesn’t matter how fancy or involved the platform is. As long as it readily allows you to post new material, and gives you some kind of SEO functionality, you should be in good shape. You can worry about the more trivial elements, like the design and layout, at a later date. For now, your main concern should be getting words and images up in a central location.

    2. A Personal Brand.

    articleimage1309 a personal brand

    Next, you’re going to want a personal brand. Let’s take a step back and examine why a personal brand is important. If you’re an individual, you certainly don’t want to blog anonymously—if you do that, you’ll never gain any recognition or momentum. If you’re working on behalf of a company and the company has a corporate brand, it’s similarly bad practice to blog only under the company’s name. People don’t trust information from companies; they trust information from people.

    If you aren’t sure where to start with a personal brand, don’t worry—it’s actually quite easy. Your personal brand can just be you, in a nutshell, with a little bit of professional flavor to make sure people believe that you’re an actual authority on the subject. List some defining characteristics for your personal brand, including your areas of expertise and how you want your voice to be portrayed in your future articles.

    3. A Social Network.

    articleimage1309 a social networker

    Your social network should be a display and extension of your personal brand. Essentially, you want to show yourself off and start building meaningful connections over the course of several platforms and several months. It’s likely that you have a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn page at the very least, but how often do you seek out new connections? How up-to-date is your profile information? How relevant are your posts to the type of reputation you want to hold in your content campaign? These are all questions you’ll need to answer and resolve before you get started writing content.

    With a decent social network set up, you’ll have a far easier time in the early stages of your content campaign. You’ll be able to syndicate your articles and get more readers. You’ll be able to earn a better reputation, and faster. And you’ll be able to hit the ground running when it comes to building relationships and getting your material featured on other sources.

    4. A Plan.

    articleimage1309 a plan

    Next, you’ll need to have some sort of plan for the future of your campaign. Hopefully, outlining your personal brand gave you a taste of what you’re looking for. Still, you’ll want to define your goals—are you more interested in building a great reputation, or in driving quantifiable traffic to your site? Are you interested in high-profile publishers, or would you prefer to be known more exclusively within a particular niche?

    From there, you’ll have to decide on the fabric of your content campaign. How often are you going to post? What kind of topics are you going to choose? What about the length and structure of your articles? These are important questions you’ll need to sort out before beginning.

    5.Time.

    Finally, you’ll need to have plenty of time to get started with a campaign. The setup process itself takes a few days, but then you’ll need to dedicate several hours every week to writing, editing, publishing, syndicating, and measuring the results. There is no shortcut for success in content, and many people have abandoned the strategy once they’ve realized this. Don’t let it happen to you; know that it takes a serious investment of time, and be prepared for that eventuality.

    If you have these five ingredients at your disposal, you should have no trouble getting started with your content marketing campaign. It won’t be an easy or fast process, but if you put in the time and put in the effort, you will eventually find success.

  9. 3 Ways Publishers Will Change by 2020

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    Publishers are fantastic resources. For the average web reader, they serve as a functional encyclopedia, offering heaping volumes of diverse content in almost any niche you can imagine. For the average business owner or consultant, they serve as valuable opportunities to build authority, make new connections, and promote the business.

    For years, marketers, writers, and readers everywhere have enjoyed the current state of publishing. Writers pitch ideas to publishers, publishers select the best of the best to publish and distribute, and readers reap the benefits, all the while clicking and engaging in a way that makes the writers and the publishers money.

    This relationship, however, is built upon a framework of technology, and technology changes rapidly. Within the next five years, I expect to see a handful of radical shifts in the relationships between publishers, writers, and readers, with publisher evolution at the center of everything. Keep watch for these changes to occur by 2020:

    1. They’ll form more partnerships.

    articleimage1282 They’ll form more partnerships

    Modern publishers are finding it difficult to stand out on their own. The power of adverting on individual sites is beginning to decline, and the level of competition for readers grows bigger every day. There are so many niche sites in operation that there’s virtually no room for any new competitors to emerge, and general sites are constantly at war with one another over visitors.

    In response to this (and in response to new technologies), expect to see publishers forming more partnerships with other companies. A good example of this is Facebook’s new “Instant Articles” program, which allows select publishers to feature full-length articles directly on the Facebook app, rather than forcing users to click a link to travel to an external site. This is a natural evolution of a system that favors Facebook syndication—more users read news on Facebook than individual news sources. Within a few years, it may become commonplace for publishers to rely exclusively on partnerships and applications like these to distribute material, abandoning their original “home” sites.

    Other partnerships may change the way that people read news, such as introducing paywalls for extra income or leveraging the power of new technologies like wearable devices. Each publisher may seek a different range of partnerships, but one thing’s for certain: by 2020, most publishers will be unable to continue alone and remain profitable at the same time.

    2. They’ll cater to individual users.

    articleimage1282 They’ll cater to individual users

    Users are becoming more demanding of custom-created content. They have more control over their newsfeeds, search results, and website recommendations, so it’s only natural that eventually they’ll favor publishers that can create a custom stream of content tailor-made for them. How this will happen remains to be seen, but there are a number of promising possibilities on the horizon—for example, Facebook is undergoing a massive overhaul of its newsfeed to cater to individual readers, Netflix uses an algorithm that recommends titles based on ones you’ve seen and reviewed, and automated content generators (which I’ll touch on in the next point) could feasibly create actual content for individual users.

    However it comes about, and however publishers choose to take advantage of it, it’s certain that by 2020, we’ll all be reading content that’s more individualized. Writers that can adapt to this approach will be greatly rewarded.

    3. They’ll rely more heavily on automated forms of content creation.

    articleimage1282 They’ll rely more heavily on automated forms of con

    This is perhaps the biggest change that publishers will make, and it’s the most troubling for existing writers taking advantage of the system. New technologies are emerging that make it easier for brands and publishers to produce and syndicate original material—sometimes forgoing the need for a writer altogether.

    Take, for instance, the burgeoning trend of AI writing—already, technologists have developed algorithms that can gather up bits of information on simple topics like news and weather, and formulate well-written original articles that present that information. These articles are indistinguishable from those written by humans; you’ve probably even read one without even knowing it! While still years away from completion, the end goal of these projects is to be able to generate sophisticated articles from scratch in an automated, limitless way.

    Then you have user-generated content platforms. These are nothing new, and publishers today do rely on some form of user submission, but the future involves casting a wider net, using a system similar to crowdfunding to aggregate material. A good example of this is Twitter’s new Moments feature, which will streamline live posts and videos from emerging news stories or recent events. It’s only a matter of time before publishers begin taking advantage of this system.

    Between the two of these threats, it’s not inconceivable that a healthy percentage of publishers will, by 2020, rely almost exclusively on automatically generated “touchless” forms of content. For writers, that’s bad news, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be new opportunities around the corner. For example, it may be possible to wield and “optimize” the articles spun by AI vehicles, or connect user-submitted feeds together with grounding material.

    The industry may be changing, but that doesn’t mean it’s dying. With every new challenge is a new opportunity, and with every new feature is a new potential strategy. To remain successful, writers will be forced to adapt their strategies to this new model, and readers will need to adapt to the new modes of presentation—though this will happen more or less naturally due to more publishers getting on board.

  10. 7 Words to Stop Using in Your Content

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    When it comes to “quality” in content marketing, few things are purely objective. A tone that reads as pleasant and inviting to one reader might register as unprofessional and disorganized to another. What constitutes “strong research” for one critical reviewer may constitute an obvious, unimportant fact to another.

    There are objective gauges you can use to make your content the best it can be, but there are few measures that work across the board, due to the impressive diversities of both readers and brands. However, there are a handful of common words that almost invariably weaken the power of your content, and they’re painfully common (at least, if you read blogs as often as I do).

    If you’re active in the content world, do what you can to eliminate these seven painful words from your lexicon:

    1. Really/very.

    articleimage1276 realy very

    Really and very are two different words, but because they’re used in nearly identical contexts, I’m counting them as one word. Really and very have no inherent meaning, other than to exaggerate a word that follows. It might seem like this type of exaggeration is meaningful, but in practical use, these words serve to slow your reader down more than anything else. Consider the following sentences: “It’s cloudy today.” “It’s really cloudy today.” “It’s very cloudy today.” The second and third sentences are indistinguishable in meaning, and all three sentences convey an identical idea. These vague exaggerators are completely unnecessary and should be eliminated from your written vocabulary.

    2. Think.

    articleimage1276 think

    The word “think” is used to imply that something is your opinion, or that it isn’t yet verified. For example, you might say, “I think content marketing is more valuable than pay-per-click advertising.” This is an opinionated claim, and you might assume that including the word “think” presents a more accurate image. In fact, it can actually weaken your position. People know that your article is based on your opinion; it’s a natural element of writing. Including the “think” implies that you aren’t confident in what you’re writing about, which causes more damage to your reputation than anything else.

    3. A lot.

    articleimage1276 a lot

    “A lot” is another vague phrase, like really and very, that seems to imply something but doesn’t in reality. Imagine a lot of elephants. Now imagine a lot of marbles. Now imagine a lot of motorcycles. How many is that? Did you imagine a dozen elephants, a few thousand marbles, and a few hundred bikes? Or did you imagine hundreds of elephants, a few dozen marbles, and thousands of bikes? All “a lot” implies is a number greater than two. It does nothing to convey an accurate image, or even a ballpark of quantity. Even if you don’t know the exact quality, you can use more aesthetically pleasing or specific language to describe the quantity, like more marbles than a grocery bag could hold, or enough motorcycles to fill a Walmart parking lot.

    4. Just.

    articleimage1276 just do it

    Just is acceptable in one particular usage: when it’s used to imply that something was fair. Other than that, just is an unnecessary, unacceptable filler word that compromises the integrity of your sentences. For example, “Using just three articles” is the same as “Using three articles,” and coming up “just shy of the goal” is the same as coming up “shy of the goal.” If you find yourself writing the word just, eliminate it. Chances are, the sentence will retain its meaning.

    5. Always/never.

    articleimage1276 always

    Try not to deal in absolutes. You’re not a Sith Lord. Using one of these words immediately forces you into a position, and any insightful (or smart-assed) reader will almost immediately be able to contradict your position. For example, look at the previous paragraph. I said “chances are, the sentence will retain its meeting.” If I had said “The sentence will always retain its meeting,” it would only be a matter of time before someone comes up with a contradictory example. Protect yourself and stay open minded. Your readers will appreciate it.

    6. Thing/stuff.

    Thing and stuff are non-words that can literally describe anything. If you put your mind to it, you’ll be able to come up with better words as substitutes. For example, imagine “5 things that make a better landing page” as “5 qualities that make a better landing page.” One simple substitution instantly takes it to a higher level. Even vague words like “qualities,” “objects,” and “items” can have a better impact than “thing” and “stuff.”

    7. In order to.

    Technically, this isn’t a word. It’s a phrase, but it’s still overused and short enough that it almost qualifies as a word. “In order to” is a filler phrase that serves only to lengthen sentences in the majority of cases. Open any document you have on your computer, and do a Ctrl + F to find the phrase—if it’s a sufficiently long document, chances are you’ll find at least one. Take the phrase out of the sentence entirely, and you’ll likely find that the content of the sentence more or less remains the same. The next time you feel tempted to use this phrase, simply write the sentence without it. It will probably turn out fine.

    Eliminating these seven words will objectively make your content better, for almost any conceivable reader. They may not notice the improvement, as their effects are subtle, but ultimately, your readers will be left with stronger impressions of your brand and a deeper appreciation for your content overall.

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