Many companies make the mistake of just “doing social media” because they have heard that they should. The problem is, “social media” can take a lot of time, and when you go into it without a strategy and a plan for how you’ll get it done, you set yourself up for failure.
We’ve talked before about how to start crafting a social media strategy. Asking critical questions before you begin can help you figure out how to start. You might begin with questions like:
- Who are my customers?
- How do they use social media?
- Do they go online for information or interaction?
Once you have a strategy in place, you need to work out an idea for how to accomplish the tasks of keeping up with social media. We call this an Integrated Interaction Plan. Each company’s Integrated Interaction Plan will look different, but all should contain at least three main categories.
1) Discover and Engage. Depending on your resources, you may wish to set up a complex analytics program, or you might want to rely on simple (and free) Google alerts to let you know when your company or product is mentioned online. Once you establish your alert system, you can see what people are saying about you and get involved in the conversation. Adding your own perspective and explanation does wonders to build relationships and positive brand awareness.
2) Comment and Email. Whether you find them on your own platforms or elsewhere on the internet, you’ll want to respond to comments, status updates, and tweets that mention your company or product, and perhaps even your industry or niche. If you have your own blog, take time to occasionally email frequent commenters with your thanks or a more in-depth response. This builds loyalty and commitment to your brand.
3) Share and Help. Don’t just respond to comments people leave, go out of your way to promote your customers and companies whose products compliment yours. This helpful gesture builds goodwill and often results in reciprocal links that build your SEO and reach.
Once you figure out what level of interaction you’re aiming for in light of your strategy, you can begin to assign individual people to these tasks. Integrating a social media interaction plan is hard work, but it’s worth it to take the time to develop a system that will work and not overwhelm any one person or group.
If you’ve worked out an Integrated Interaction Plan for your business, what did you find most difficult? What worked best for you?
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We’ve spent the past several months attempting to persuade you that just about every business needs a copywriter from time to time. For the sake of balance, here are five reasons you should NOT hire a copywriter.
1) You already have a copywriter. If you have a well-trained, experienced copywriter on staff who spends more time playing Angry Birds than writing copy for your business, you don’t need to hire another one. Although, in that case, you might want to consider whether you really need a copywriter on your payroll at all, or if it might not be more cost effective to hire copywriters on a contract basis (link).
2) You don’t need updated print materials or websites. If your same old, same old brochure from 1997 is still working for you, and if you don’t see the point of websites other than a begrudging admission of the need to have one out there somewhere, then mazel tov! You don’t need a copywriter! But if you have a niggling feeling that your print materials are outdated, or know for a fact that your website isn’t generating any business for you, maybe you should consider copywriting services.
3) You don’t care about SEO. If you really are the only company in your niche worldwide, or if you don’t see the benefit of websites and blogs in the first place, you might not need a copywriter. Or, you might not have read our posts on website copy (link), blogging (link), SEO (link) and what they can do for your business.
4) You are on a tight budget. Sometimes people comprehend their need for copywriting, but just can’t work it in to the budget. We get that. Still, to build a business in today’s market you need to compete online and in print. You need to sound professional and persuasive, even if you have to write the copy yourself. In that case, hiring a copywriter might be out of the question, but consider hiring a professional editor or proofreader (link) to give your copy a little more polish.
5) You abhor communicating with words. We actually can’t think of any businesses that don’t communicate with words in some way, shape, or form. We suppose it could happen. More often we see businesses who prefer to communicate online in the form of video or podcasts. Surprisingly, these businesses don’t always think of hiring copywriters either. That’s unfortunate since the key to a really effective video or audio clip online is a stellar script, and the key to getting a stellar script is to hire a copywriter with scriptwriting experience. But OK, if you have no interest in copy, audio, or video communication than yes, hiring a copywriter would be silly.
There you have it. Five reasons not to hire a copywriter. And hopefully a few other reasons to consider copywriting services that you haven’t thought of before. Whatever you choose to do about copywriting, at Content Counts we’re happy to help in any way we can.
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Once you’ve decided to write a company blog and get involved in social media, you’ll likely take a look at what your competitors are doing online. Smart idea! But once you’ve got an idea of that benchmark, what do you do with it?
1) Do the same thing. One option is to see what your competitors are doing well and do the same sort of thing. There are several benefits to this approach:
- You’ll already know where your customers are hanging out online.
- You’ll already know the topics that resonate with your customers and you can add your perspective.
- You can link to the competition and comment (nicely and helpfully, please!) in your niche to increase your visibility and raise the likelihood of reciprocal links.
2) Do the opposite. You could also take the contrarian approach and attempt to stand out by looking at what the competition is doing and taking the opposite tack. For example:
- If your competition has a great Facebook page with lots of discussion on it, do something different with yours like running a game or contest.
- If your competition is all over Twitter, maybe you should stake a claim on FourSquare.
- Get involved in a new social media space for your niche or take a boldly different stance on one your competitors are already using.
3) Do both. You can do a little of the same thing and a little something different if you purpose to always put a novel twist on something that you already know works.
Taking time to understand what other companies in your industry are doing online can help your strategy development tremendously. Find a response that matches your company’s personality and leverages your knowledge of what works for others, and you’ll be well on your way to developing a great social media plan.
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Before you start batting the task around from group to group like a hot potato, consider hiring a writer to design the training.
There is more to training than tossing some material in a conference room and hoping for the best. Here are some benefits to professionally written training.
1) Complete – When a professional writer designs your training, you can trust that it covers all of the necessary information without veering into data overload.
2) Sequenced – Professionally written training is properly sequenced, beginning with awareness building, progressing to specific understanding, and ending with carefully designed scenarios for practical reinforcement of the information.
3) Organized – No matter how knowledgeable your trainer, the training is only effective if it stays on track. Ad hoc training often loses the interest of the trainees because it isn’t focused. Professionally written training gives your trainer an organized road map to cover the information.
4) Visual Impact – Professionally written training includes well designed slides and handouts that make use of the most effective copy with a visually appealing ratio of white space and graphics interspersed to ensure maximum information retention.
5) Take-aways – Effective training is designed to emphasize critical take-away points, and leave the trainees with a summary that crystalizes the information. Depending on the information covered, a professional writer may also end the training with a “cheat sheet” document the trainees can refer to as they begin to put the training into practice.
When you need training for your business, turn to professional writers to get the job done!
Image Credit: Grant Cochrane
Scripts? What is this, Hollywood?
Not quite. We’re seeing greater numbers of businesses turning to video and audio podcasts to reach customers online, especially as the ease and effectiveness of linking audio and video on blogs and social networking platforms increases. Some companies hire professional videographers or use professional level recording equipment, but they don’t always think of hiring a professional writer to craft the script.
That’s a mistake.
If you want to be effective in audio or video clips, you can’t just plunk an employee down in front of a microphone or flip cam and hope for the best. You need a professionally written script. Hiring a professional writer to craft your script is smart for a number of reasons.
- Professionally written scripts are complete. Professional writers can quickly grasp your material and discern which details to include and which to leave out in order to design the most effective and efficient way to communicate your message.
- Professionally written scripts are organized. Professional writers understand how to build a persuasive argument, control the flow of information, and build to appropriate and compelling calls to action.
- Professionally written scripts are designed for optimal impact. Professional writers make sure that the right things are emphasized at the right spot in your script. Understanding the medium you’re using and working to shape the strengths of your message to fit time or file size constraints ensures that your audio or video clip attains optimal impact.
- Professionally written scripts take the right tone. It can be difficult to strike the right tone in audio or video if you aren’t used to it, but a professional writer can take information about your desired audience and your medium into account and write a script with the appropriate tone to achieve your goals.
- Professionally written scripts give you confidence. When you are working from a professionally written script, you can have confidence in your message and be freed up to focus your attention on perfecting your delivery.
When your business is ready to branch out in to audio or video, whether for traditional TV and radio spots or online platforms, turn to professional copywriters for the best results.
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In our first post on this topic, we looked at several ideas for creating blog content topics. Here are a few more:
- Interview a Satisfied Customer. Featuring a satisfied customer is a great way to showcase the products and services you provided and get real-time feedback on your customer service.
- Ask a Question. Your blog can be used as a survey. If you are thinking about adding a certain product or service, for example, ask your readers what they think of that. Or, if you want to know what products and services they value most, ask them to rank your services.
- Write to your customers’ needs. Your customers often ask you the same questions. What are they? Blog about the answers. For example, our clients often ask us how WebWriters can write about so many different industries. So, we wrote about the answer in a blog post.
- Include How-to Tips. The best way to change a sink. The seven steps to choosing the right tire for your car. Things you should consider when choosing a new computer. How to write a great headline. Whatever your business is, give your customers practical, how-to tips. They’ll not only appreciate it; they’ll keep reading your blogs for more.
- Read Industry Journals. Take out your recent copies of trade journals and see what kinds of topics are currently on the front burner. You can link to a great article and explain why you liked it, or you can take the topic and write a blog on the subject.
- Write a book review. I read book reviews all the time to weed out books I don’t want to bother with and put books on my list that I really want to read. Read a book about a topic in your industry and write a review. Did the book give good information? Was the information laid out well? Did you agree with the premise of the book? Would you recommend this book to your customers? Why or why not?
- Write about your experiences. Did you recently have an experience with a company that made you rethink your business? For example, I had a doctor whose office staff was always … well, rude. Rude on the phone. Curt when I went to the office. Very uncaring. I began to think about what would happen if WebWriters treated clients like that on the phone. It made me more determined than ever to give stellar customer service.
- Identify a need your customer doesn’t know he has. Present the need and then fill it with one of your products or services.
- Relate your product or service to something popular. You might write a blog post, for example, entitled, “Why manufacturing X,Y,Z components is like playing golf.”
- Describe how your product or service could have solved or prevented a well-known problem. This works best if it’s at least slightly funny, and not at all tragic. For example, you could say, “How Widget X can help your baseball team win the World Series, even if your team is the Cubs!”
- Monthly Wrap-up. Some blogs include a monthly wrap-up to make sure readers haven’t missed an important blog post.
Inspiration for blog post topics is everywhere. You just have to be on the lookout. If a topic is interesting to you, chances are it will be interesting to your readers, as well. Jot down possible topics as they come to mind or you’ll forget them and stare at your computer screen waiting for inspiration. That’s called writer’s block and, oh wait, I think I’ve already written a post on that!
Photo by Danilo Rizzuti
You see the value of blogging several times a week. You know Google is smarter than ever and is looking for unique content on a regular basis. You understand blogging is good for business, increasing awareness of your company with current and potential customers. But, where in the world are you going to get ideas to blog two-three times a week?
I’ve asked that question myself, as WebWriters regularly posts in Content Counts. We want the content of our blogs to be informative and interesting—not merely blogging for blogging’s sake. In this two-part post, I’m including several ideas we have found helpful in finding new topics to write about every week.
- Write about new products. If your company sells products, highlight one of them or write a blog about a new product you are featuring. But, don’t use the product description verbatim from another company’s website. Google doesn’t like that!
- Write about your services. If you are a service-oriented company, I bet you have heard many times, “Wow. I didn’t know your company did that.” So, highlight a service you provide and explain what the benefits are for your customers. And, of course, if you add a new service, be sure to highlight that in a blog as well.
- Show off your employees’ expertise. When I talk about highlighting an employee, I am not talking about the “Meet-Jane-she-likes-to-knit” kind of article. Your employees have specific talents in regards to your business; highlight those talents. Do you have an employee that has a specific skill that not many people have mastered? Write a blog about that person and how that skill enhances your business.
- Examine Industry Trends. No matter what industry you are in, things are changing. Write about the changes you see in your industry, the current trends, and things you think will be critical in the future.
- Discuss Controversies. You are an expert in your field. Present both sides of a controversial issue that has arisen. It’s the buzz in your industry, so blog about it. Ask your readers for feedback.
- Think about your business. If you sit back for just a minute and think about the business you did this week, chances are a topic for a blog will emerge. Did you sell a product to a client in an entirely new industry this week? Did you hire a contract worker to fill a gap in services? Did you change a process to make your company more efficient? Instant blog topics.
- Interview an industry expert. Ask one of your colleagues for his/her opinion about a current industry trend. Not only will your readers be interested in his comments, the colleague will appreciate the mention and the link to his business’ website.
There are plenty more ideas to come, so check out our next post on September 26. And, in the meantime, keep blogging!
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Dan Finney, president and CEO of BoxCrush, was kind enough to sit down with me for a three-part interview, detailing his views on professionally written web copy. In parts 1 and 2, we looked at the benefits of professionally written copy and the ways Dan sells content development to his clients. Part 3 closes the circle by asking Dan about putting a writer on staff or using contract workers.
Ellen Olivetti: Dan, we’ve talked about the benefits of sound copy and the ways developers can sell writing services to their clients. The last question is: Why do you work with a writing company like WebWriters rather than put a writer on staff?
Dan Finney: That’s a very good question. Any time you use contract workers, you have to weigh the benefits of a staff person versus using freelancers. I think the answer is twofold: Cost and flexibility. We are able to work on several projects with WebWriters each year and don’t have the overhead of having a professional writer on staff. So, the cost of an in-house person is one issue.
Secondly, our need for professional writing fluctuates. I may need two or three writers at a given time (which WebWriters can supply), or I may not need a writer for a few months. Using WebWriters gives me the flexibility I need.
EO: Do you think the fact that WebWriters focuses solely on content is a plus?
DF: That question speaks to your level of expertise. BoxCrush works with WebWriters because the level of professionalism you bring to the table is so high. You focus only on content development—and you know what you are doing. I never have to worry about the work getting done, and I also never have to worry about your interactions with our clients.
We work with you because we appreciate the way you manage the project in regards to content. You interview the client, outline, get the information, write the site—we don’t have to micro-manage WebWriters. After the initial interview, we know that, in a few weeks, we will get the copy, and it will be complete and professional and ready to insert into the website. We work with WebWriters as a member of our team, without the overhead of putting you on our staff.
EO: I want to thank Dan Finney for taking the time to sit down with me for these interviews. It’s a pleasure working with BoxCrush because I know they value what WebWriters brings to the table, and I know the finished product will be a website or print piece of which we can all be proud. WebWriters and BoxCrush share a desire to serve our clients to the very best of our ability. And our abilities complement each other—that’s why we enjoy working together so much.
In part one of my interview with Dan Finney, President and CEO of BoxCrush, we discussed the benefits of having professionally written web content. But, it’s one thing to say it’s nice to have professional content development, and it’s quite another to sell it to your clients. Almost all the developers I have spoken to over the past few years appreciate professionally written content, but many have no idea how to go about pitching it to their clients. I asked Dan how he does it.
Ellen Olivetti: Dan, many developers don’t seem to be able to pitch content development to their clients. Can you tell us some of the ways you enter a discussion about content with your clients?
Dan Finney: I bring up content development at the very first meeting with any client. Whenever a client brings up the timeline, I say, “A typical website project for us is 30-60 days. Usually the ones that get into 90, 120 days or longer are ones where the client is responsible for producing the content because that takes so much time.”
As soon as they ask me how long it is going to take to create the website, that is when I first press back and say that the timeline depends on whether or not you hire a company like WebWriters.
EO: So, right from the get-go, you are planting the seed that they should at least consider professionally written content?
DF: Yes, and once I mention that the overall timeline for the website development will be much shorter if they hire a professional writer, I follow that up with another important benefit. I explain that a company like WebWriters doesn’t just sit down and plunk out the copy. They shepherd the client through the content creation and the organization of content. This is very important because sometimes they have all the information but they have no idea how to organize the content. I explain how WebWriters works: they come in and interview you about your business; they develop an outline for the content of the site; they research any information that is lacking; and then they write and edit the content. The entire process is handled smoothly. And once I start talking about it like that—that it is a process where the writer is really organizing the structure of the site and what content goes where, that is when they start to see the value.
EO: What do you tell them, if anything, about the way a writer gathers information?
DF: I tell them another value in hiring professional writers is fact checking and research. It’s been my experience that, if a client specializes in a certain manufacturing process or product, for example, they might say, “We sell x,y,z, metal.” When I ask them what is so great about x,y,z metal, they say, “It’s really strong.” That information is correct, but it is certainly not enough to fill a web page. WebWriters researches the topic, adds content to flesh out the subject matter, and includes technical specs about the product or manufacturing process. Professional writers can take sketchy information and do their own due diligence to find out more about the product, how it applies to the specific client, and write a website that is informative, interesting and competitive.
EO: One of the objections I’m sure you hear is that an “outsider” could not possibly write about their company or their specific industry. How do you deal with that objection?
DF: Well, first of all I tell them about the breadth of clients we have worked on together. I have seen WebWriters write about rare earth metals, tungsten, medical technologies, baseball swings, sweaters, plastic injection molding—the list goes on and on. That’s the skill you bring to the table—to be able to understand, assimilate and write about subject matter you knew nothing about before.
One way I drive that point home is by telling the story of the time you and I went to a manufacturing client to discuss the first draft of website copy. The sales manager noted that he liked the copy but, he said, “We don’t do this particular process you talk about on this page.” You told him that you had interviewed the engineer and that they did do this process. He picked up the phone right then and there, called the engineer and was amazed to find out that the plant did indeed handle this process, that a whole line was devoted to it. He made an appointment with the engineer to go see the process in action. And, needless to say, he was duly impressed with WebWriters’ thoroughness in doing the needed research. When I tell stories like that one, clients’ objections seem to fade quickly.
EO: We do try to being out all the products and services a client offers. But we also try to weed out extraneous information so the website isn’t bogged down with detail. Do you find that to be a selling point at all?
DF: Yes, clients know their company but they have no idea how to organize that information for a website. They are often too close to the subject matter, and so they think every fact—every nut and bolt—is important. I explain to them that one of the benefits of using a professional writer who is also an expert in marketing is that the website will include all the information it should and none of the information it shouldn’t.
EO: Despite your best efforts, we all know that many clients do not opt for professionally written content. What do you say to the client who is steadfast in his desire to produce his own content?
DF: That is when I mention that, even if he is going to write his own content, I strongly urge every client to take advantage of a professional writer’s expertise to proof and edit their website copy. A professional writer will make sure there are no grammatical or spelling errors, that all the copy is written in the same verb tense and in the same voice, that the tone of every page is unified, and that the treatment of copy (length of pages, type of content, structure of content) is consistent throughout. A good editor can take website copy that has been written by several people and give it a cohesive voice so that it sounds like it was written by one person. Having your content professionally edited and proofed is worth every penny—it ensures that you are presenting a professional image to potential customers.
Find out in our next blog whether or not you should put a writer on staff or hire a contract firm, like WebWriters. Part 3 to come …