10 Best Practices for Online Storytelling

10 Best Practices for Online Storytelling

Carefully crafting your brand narrative serves a number of important purposes. An effective narrative provides context for the services and products you offer. Why, where, and how did your brand get its start and what mission propels your business forward? Prolific marketers use storytelling to highlight a brand’s key selling points without making the business the center of attention. Storytelling on the web should incorporate the fundamentals of great marketing while tailoring your message for a digital audience.

Feeling stuck? Use the following 10 keys to transform your storytelling online.

1. Focus on the Customer
Storytelling shouldn’t serve as a vehicle to talk endlessly about the greatness of your company. Instead, effective storytelling intertwines the customer’s experience with the overarching values of your brand. Capture your reader’s attention from the start by telling a story that expands beyond the confines of your business.

2. Learn How to Write for the Web
Think writing a long-winded blog post serves as a powerful storytelling tool? Think again. Remember, you’re competing for the attention of your readers. Learn how to craft content that connects with your audience effectively. Use headlines, lists, and short sentences to break up your text.

3. Keep Your Message Truthful
It’s tempting to only share a highly polished message with your audience, but consumers connect with brands that are honest and transparent. Quality, sincerity, and brand history are the key governing principles for authenticity, according to the New York Times. Make sure your story lines up with the overall vision of your brand.

4. Mix Up Your Materials
There’s a simple reason we don’t try to read classic novels to young children—they lose interest too quickly. Instead, a children’s book uses short paragraphs of text, just a few pages, and vivid images to capture an infant’s attention. Keep the same idea in mind when telling a story online. Don’t revert to the blog post for every piece of content you publish. Use images and video to keep your audience connected.

5. Don’t Forget Story Structure
Great stories have three key elements: a beginning, middle, and end. Make sure you address every part of the story’s structure, or you could risk confusing your customer. When your customer becomes confused as to how the story relates to your brand, you risk alienating your buyer.

6. Turn to Real People
Customers like to hear stories that feature real people—other customers, employees, or company founders. It’s easier to connect with a story that feels directly tied to the real experiences of everyday people. Consider using your own customers or people in your organization to highlight how your brand connects with them.

7. Steer Clear of Objectivity
You’re extremely biased towards your unique products and services—and that’s okay! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your content needs to be overwhelmingly objective. You’re not a journalist; you’re a marketer. Highlight what makes your brand truly great.

8. Keep the Big Picture in Mind
Yes, your story should have a clearly defined end, but that doesn’t mean that the stories you tell should serve as one-off marketing vehicles. Work to create “mini stories” that fit into an overall theme for your business. Captivate your audience and leave them eager for more.

9. Say Goodbye to Jargon
Using industry jargon or overly salesy language doesn’t generate the results you’re after. Keep your message clear, concise, and easily understood. Your story shouldn’t be complicated.

10. Expand Beyond Your Blog
Of course, your website serves as a great platform for reaching the masses, but don’t restrict yourself to the boundaries of your site. Look to expand beyond your company blog to maximize your brand’s exposure. Continue to tell your story through social media, advertising campaigns, and content published on other sites.

Tweet This: How to Maximize Your Social Media Impact with Status Scheduling

Tweet This: How to Maximize Your Social Media Impact with Status Scheduling

When it comes to building a dedicated following on social media platforms, most people fall into one of two camps: you either can’t get enough, or it feels like a massive chore. Whether you’re wasting too much time on Twitter and Facebook, or you can’t bring yourself to craft a single update, scheduling your statuses in advance can have a powerful effect on your overall social strategy.

Think you’re ready for the challenge? Use the following keys to maximize your social media impact and save time, too.

What is Status Scheduling?

Most casual social media users write statuses on a whim, uploading this information through the sites of their favorite social platforms. Heavy users and marketers instead rely on tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.

These tools allow you to simultaneously update multiple accounts, shorten links, and schedule your statuses far in advance. It’s also worth noting that Twitter now allows business users to schedule tweets in advance through Twitter for Business.

A scheduled status looks just like a normal status, except it’s uploaded into the system in advance of its eventual publication. If you’re trying to keep your feed continually updated, you can schedule statuses to appear like clockwork every few hours or days, based on your unique social strategy.

Why to Schedule in Advance

Scheduling your regular updates in advance can help you save time and keep your social media accounts fresh. If you routinely go weeks without updating your social profiles, scheduling large blocks of updates several days in advance can help you stay on top of your strategy. Simply set your statuses to publish and forget about it.

Dos and Don’ts to Follow

Think you’re ready to start automating your updates? Before you jump in feet first, keep the following keys in mind:

● Do: Focus on evergreen content. Don’t write time-sensitive updates that won’t be relevant when they appear days later.
● Don’t: Automatically tweet to people who mention your brand. This feels inauthentic and spammy.
● Do: Smatter your relevant updates between scheduled statuses to keep your feed spontaneous.
● Don’t: Overlook the performance of your statuses. If you’re using a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, it’s easy to review how many people are clicking your links, favoriting your updates, and sharing your content with others.
● Do: Carefully consider when your statuses should appear. It’s smart to target users when they’re likely active on social media. Before work, lunchtime, and in the early evening are all great options.

Scheduling tweets and updates far in advance has some great applications. Use it to stick to a tight editorial calendar or schedule a bunch of statuses to update while you’re disconnected on a long vacation. Whatever you do, don’t allow automation to make you lazy. Continue to invest your best efforts into your social strategy and you’re bound to see results.

Plenty of brands successfully use automation to simplify their social media activities. While it may appear intimidating at first glance, learning to schedule updates is quite simple. If automation fits within your social strategy, pay attention to your social performance and continue making tweaks to ensure you’re getting the most out of your social media presence. Happy tweeting!

Your Newsletter, Revamped: How to Supercharge Your Reader Engagement

Your Newsletter, Revamped: How to Supercharge Your Reader Engagement

Collecting email addresses from your loyal customers allows you to target these readers with your customized marketing message, but many newsletters fall flat. If you’re tired of putting in all the effort and seeing no results, perhaps it’s time to rethink your newsletter strategy. Using a few simple tips, you can drive engagement, gain more subscribers, and ultimately, boost your bottom line. Ready to get started? Read on for a simple look at how to maximize the potential of your business newsletter.

Keep Your Content Digestible

Email users checking their inbox aren’t looking for a novel to read. Instead of bombarding your subscribers with too much information, provide small chunks of relevant text that can easily be consumed on the go. If you’re using your newsletter to highlight recent blog posts, include a few lines of your article as a teaser, and direct your readers to your site to read more. If you instead choose to write content specifically for the newsletter, use short sentences, plenty of headlines, and small lists to keep your reader’s attention.

Clearly Define a Call to Action

Plenty of business owners send out newsletters because they think it’s what you’re “supposed” to do. Don’t invest your energy creating a newsletter, only for your time to be wasted. Create a clear call to action to drive interaction with your brand. “Schedule a Dining Reservation Now” or “Check Out our Latest Dishes on YouTube” could be possible CTAs you might want to test.

Share Special Discounts and Offers

Everybody loves special savings, which is why many successful marketers use newsletters to share coupons and sales with their readers. Entice potential subscribers with the promise of free stuff, and deliver on that promise in your emails. Loyal followers enjoy feeling like they have “members only” access to your brand, and the promise of discounts and savings can help ensure your emails don’t head straight to the trash.

Include Timely Information

Many web writers strive to create evergreen content, meaning posts that will remain interesting from years to come. Your newsletter should do just the opposite! If you’re telling your audience to keep up with the latest by signing up for your emails, you should indeed be providing the latest, rather than simply rehashing tired topics.

Don’t Forget the Visuals

Newsletters should feature more than text alone. Use professional photography to immediately pull in your subscribers. You can also pepper your newsletter with colorful advertisements, vibrant social media posts, and enticing video content.

Newsletters can make an impressive impact, encouraging your most devoted followers to patronize your business and spread the word. By taking the time to carefully outline goals for your marketing materials and optimizing your emails with great content, you will help ensure your newsletter makes a powerful punch. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas.

Headline Power: 5 Tips for Sharing Your Message Effectively

Headline Power: 5 Tips for Sharing Your Message Effectively

Have you ever clicked on an interesting article, only to feel overwhelmed by the amount of text on the page? When writing for the web, you want to provide your readers with bite-sized chunks of digestible information, rather than confusing them with long-winded prose. Headlines should play an important role in your page structure, guiding your readers and keeping their attention. Feel stuck? Use the following five tips for creating effective headlines.

1. Tell a Story through Your Headlines
Web users rarely jump give a blog post their full attention. Instead, they’ll scan the page searching for relevant information. Your headlines should guide these readers through the content and serve as a storytelling tool. Summarize your paragraphs succinctly and progress through your post in a linear fashion to help readers find the information they’re seeking as quickly as possible.

2. Use Keywords When Possible
Like it or not, SEO plays a role in how effectively your blog posts reach a large audience. Search bots index your pages regularly, using headlines to determine what subject matter you’re covering. Place your top keywords within your headlines to boost your page rank.

Keywords also help your reader understand what you’re trying to communicate. If you notice your bounce rates are particularly high, poorly-optimized headlines likely shoulder some of the blame. Use keywords to clarify your message and keep your reader on the page.

3. Brainstorm, Brainstorm, Brainstorm
For many web writers, headlines are nothing more than an afterthought. Instead of focusing exclusively on the body of your post, however, take the time to carefully brainstorm headline ideas. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you may even wish to A/B test headlines on your pages to see which text converts better.

4. Address Readers Directly
Treat your content as if you were engaging in a conversation with a potential customer. How would you highlight the benefits of your services or product line? Now, use your headlines as the opportunity to succinctly pitch your business.

Many successful bloggers use headlines to attack pain points for their readers. For example, “Are You Tired of Dining in Ho-Hum Chain Restaurants?” might be a great headline for a local bistro. This headline directly asks a question to the reader, explains what the content covers, and references a pain point many diners feel.

5. Keep Your Headlines Simple
Remember, your headlines should summarize the main ideas of your post, not compete for space. Try to limit your headlines to about 70 characters. Use vivid word imagery to interest your reader, but don’t cram too many vocabulary words into your headline.

Do you remember the “five Ws” from English class? Your headlines should answer these questions for readers: who, what, when, where, and why. Writing witty headlines isn’t necessarily wrong, but don’t get so caught up in the process that you lose track of the main idea.

How to Use Google Keyword Planner to Connect with Your Customers

How to Use Google Keyword Planner to Connect with Your Customers

What are your customers searching for on the web? If you’re anything like most small business owners, you have no real idea. Using Google Keyword Planner will allow you to pinpoint what Internet users are searching for, in turn giving you insight that you can use to build more effective content for the web. Ready to get started? Follow these simple steps.

Create an AdWords Account

If you’re not already a Google AdWords user, you’ll need to create an account. Google provides its Keyword Planner as a tool for businesses who want to advertise online. By identifying the search terms customers use to find relevant businesses and products, you can customize your ads to connect with the right users. Of course, the Google Keyword Planner works well for generating content, too.

Find New Keywords

Once you’ve accessed the Keyword Planner, you can find new keywords by telling Google about your business. For example, if you’re selling craft beer, insert craft beer in the product or service field to generate a keyword list.

You can also give the Keyword Planner your landing page. Google’s bot will search the page and attempt to find relevant keywords.

Choose Your Keywords Carefully

The Keyword Planner provides a list of search keywords, along with information about the number of searches performed each month. Using this information, you can pick out keywords that will likely generate organic traffic for your blog posts.

Remember, it may be tempting to only choose the keywords that generate a lot of monthly searches, but the competition for these keywords is generally quite high. If your website is relatively young, you may struggle to compete with bloggers or companies that have an established presence in the industry. For this reason, it’s beneficial to choose an assortment of different keywords, using both high and low competition options.

Build Your Content Thoughtfully

Once you’ve chosen your keywords, it’s time to start building content that converts well. Once upon a time, bloggers would stuff their posts with tons of keywords in an effort to pull in the most traffic possible. Unfortunately, this created text that was difficult to read and felt spammy.

Most search engines have changed their algorithms in the years since, so stuffing your posts with keywords doesn’t just make your blog appear spammy—Google could actually block your site from showing up in its results. Keep things in check by using a few keywords scattered throughout your posts.

Using keywords is a great way to boost your traffic and Google’s Keyword Planner makes it easy to do it correctly. By learning how to use this simple tool, you can ensure your posts make a greater impact, while simultaneously building page rank for your site. This will lead to more visitors, and hopefully, more customers.

Future of Search is Mobile: Is Your Site Ready?

Future of Search is Mobile: Is Your Site Ready?

If you hadn’t already noticed, a skyrocketing number of consumers use their smartphones and tablets to connect to the web. According to the Pew Research Center, If your site isn’t ready for a mobile audience, you’re missing out on a substantial portion of your target audience. Stop throwing away sales and begin learning how to use mobile trends to your advantage.

Reviewing the Growth of Mobile

Once upon a time, mobile web usage represented a tiny portion of overall web traffic. The astonishing growth of smartphone platforms over the past decade is largely responsible for the mobile internet boom. Google confirmed for the first time earlier this year that mobile search queries now outnumber desktop searches. A further 59% of searchers report using Google on their cell phone to find local businesses.

For marketers, the message is clear: mobile is here to stay. As smartphone manufacturers work furiously to create faster, more affordable devices, the number of consumers turning to the mobile web will continue to increase. This makes it imperative to invest in mobile website tools to protect the long-term returns of your business.

Preparing Your Site for Mobile Users

From a user experience (UX) point of view, it makes perfect sense to ensure your mobile customers can easily peruse your business site on their smartphones and tablets. The ramifications of neglecting mobile buyers extend far beyond a lost sale here and there, however. Google announced its intention to penalize sites that don’t use responsive design earlier this year. Dubbed “mobilegeddon,” this event marked an important turning point for marketers across the globe.

Fortunately, implementing a responsive design isn’t very challenging, particularly if you’re working with the right web design partner. If you haven’t already made the switch over, be sure to prioritize this development, as failure to do so will hurt your ranking in search results.

Maximizing Mobile Conversion Rates

Any effective website needs to convert visitors into buyers, but the rules are different when catering to the mobile customer. First and foremost, keep page bloat in check by eliminating extra content. A mobile visitor wants simplicity and a streamlined experience.

You also need a visible call-to-action for mobile readers. Encourage them to make a reservation at your restaurant or connect with your team on social media—don’t simply leave engagement in the user’s hands and hope for the best. Continually test new conversion techniques to perfect your sales funnel and keep your site performing optimally.

Attracting potential customers online is a complex formula that hinges on a number of different factors. By ensuring your site is responsive and following the best conversion practices, you’ll maximize the value of your mobile marketing dollars. This will in turn generate additional sales for your business and help you make a real impact on mobile consumers.