When someone is about to sit down and write their first blog, it can create headaches. New writers tend to overwhelm themselves with worries about length, likability, reactions and best practices. If you choose to search for advice, you'll find enough to last you for months. At the end of the day...you just want to write something!
Calm down. Breathe. Clear your head.
You can definitely start your blog today. Here are some expert tips to help you break through the anxiety.
Write about what interests you and put your personality into it
Mark Schaefer talked about some of the early lessons he learned in the book Born to Blog. His first attempts to blog taught him one thing - his approach wasn't working. The problem was being a "classically trained" marketer who started out writing posts that focused on a specific marketing message.
After that failed, he just relaxed and wrote about things that were interesting to him. He told marketing stories, used humor and pushed himself to try a number of blog styles. After that, "Instead of me finding my target audience, my target audience found me, " he wrote.
Incorporate "Flair" Into Your Blog Posts
In the most recent episode of The Content Call Podcast, I talked with Sheena White about picking photos for your blog (without worrying about copyright troubles). I described it as FLAIR for your blogs. If you're serious about views, you should follow the advice of Forbes contributors, and write catchy headlines, use visual aides, and embed links. These types of strategies make your blogs a lot more intriguing and engaging.
Use Tools and Strategy to Reduce Time Stress
One big obstacle that prevents people from blogging is time. If you're considering a blog for your business, this could be a huge concern. However, it doesn't have to be a stressful time-hog if you take a planned and practical approach to the content.
First of all, don't convince yourself that your blogs have to be 1,000 word journalistic news-style pieces. They can be short, sweet and valuable. In fact, unlike news posts that can bury the lead, you should get to your main point towards the beginning of your posts.
Two ways you can save time is to focus on a clear blog niche and arm yourself with helpful tools that can help you pick topics.
Speaking of Tools...These Help You With Content Ideas
One of the most common roadblocks for new and seasoned bloggers is coming up with topic ideas. Brainstorming is never a bad thing, but writer's block can quell that storm. Then what do you do? Use the internet to help you! Neil Patel recommends these resources to help younever run out of blog ideas. These ideas are focused on using keywords, hot topics and analytics to help your content strategy.
Obviously, this strategy depends on how well you know your customers or target audience. If you're not aware of what they want to know, then it's time to do some research and understand them a lot better.
A key to my success as a content producer and consultant has been my ability to gauge how an audience will likely respond to what they see or hear. If I can help engage your target audience, feel free to email me today!
Aspiring podcasters know they need to put their show on iTunes. So, a common question becomes - How do I get my podcast on iTunes? It's probably easier than you think, but there's another step you have to take first:
Get podcast hosting.
iTunes is going to ask you for your podcast feed. When you sign up with a hosting service, they'll provide you with one. There are several services to choose from, like Libsyn, Buzzsprout and Blubrry.
Being in the messaging and marketing space, I love watching shows like Shark Tank. I not only love learning about new products, but I'm also fascinated with how people attempt to convey messages to the investors. However, they can throw out the perfect pitch, showcase a good product and NOT get an offer. One reason tends to be the number of products in that space.
Remember this when you launch a podcast. In fact, think of your podcast as a bag of chips.
I saw a pretty successful pitch for a new brand of potato chips, but the crowded chip shelves at grocery stores deterred the sharks. Think about it, when you go to the grocery store...how likely are you to try a new brand of chip instead of going with what you already like? Granted, if your favorite BRAND launches a new flavor, you might consider it.
What about a brand you've never seen? What would they have to do in order to get you to TRY their food? If you try it out, would you compare it to your favorites?
A big part of your target audience are people who currently listen to podcasts, and they know what kind of shows (or chips) they like. If your ideal listeners are seasoned (see what I did there?) podcast listeners, they probably already listen to shows like yours. So, now you have to convince them to fit your show into their consumption habits.
This is why you need to think less about doing what other people do, and work harder to be different or better than them. If you love Doritos or Fritos, you've probably seen similar brands of chips. Big deal. You don't have to have something "similar" because you already get what you like.
Don't be a Doritos copycat. You can provide your podcast audience with a something unique that gives them value (and a lot less sodium).
As many people know, I am a BIG proponent of podcast editing. In the first episode of Content Call, I loved how Chris Brogan's wife beautifully coined the process as "good manners". You should call it that because taking the time to edit a podcast means you care about respecting the listener's time. As I've said before, you can do some of the editing before the show starts recording by:
For the last 3 years, I've set the flagship show at Assembly of Geeks to run about an hour. However, there have been times when the recording session went 90 or more minutes. That means I have to work harder in editing, but I've cut 25+ total minutes off in post production in order to get it a lot closer to that 60 minute threshold.
It can be done.
How? Well, most people see editing as just cutting out the "uhs" and "ums" throughout the recording. Yes, you can do that...but you can also do so much more.
Cut out the stutters and stops/starts.
Podcasts are generally the flow of natural conversation, and not all of us are professional speakers. So, there are going to be times where someone stutters or starts a sentence, stops and then starts over. Cut that and tighten those moments into one fluid sentence. There are also times where someone takes a longer than usual pause before saying something, and you can tighten that as well.
Cut the rambles and less important comments
We've all been in conversations where one person has so much to say that we get antsy. We get that way because they dominate the conversation that we don't feel part of it anymore. Remember, the listener is part of your conversation...only you can't hear them speak. So, don't make them zone out or feel antsy. Listen to some of the longer commentaries during your conversation and find places to tighten it. In the end, they might say the exact same thing, only in fewer words. Or, they might just say the most important stuff. Here's an example:
Let's say you're listening to someone talk about the new Wonder Woman movie and they say:
"I thought it was easily the best superhero movie I've seen in awhile. I think Gal Gadot proves she was the perfect choice to play her because you fully believe she IS Wonder Woman from beginning to end. Which is such a relief because so many people questioned her casting, but I knew all along she could pull it off because I've seen her in several other movies. Fast and Furious being one of them. Love that movie. She is the embodiment of what we love so much about heroes, especially Wonder Woman. She stands for what she believes in...she's brave, courageous, intelligent, and she's a badass. It reminded me a lot of this girl that I went to college with. She was beautiful, but she also wasn't afraid to stand up for what she believed in. I think she could totally cosplay as Wonder Woman. After all the attempts to bring Wonder Woman to the screen...it's almost been worth the wait considering what we got. I want to go see it again."
We can cut a few things and turn it into this:
"I thought it was easily the best superhero movie I've seen in awhile. I think Gal Gadot proves she was the perfect choice to play her because you fully believe she IS Wonder Woman from beginning to end. She is the embodiment of what we love so much about heroes, especially Wonder Woman. She stands for what she believes in...she's brave, courageous, intelligent, and she's a badass. After all the attempts to bring Wonder Woman to the screen...it's almost been worth the wait considering what we got. I want to go see it again."
I've edited my co-hosts, as well as myself this way. The beauty of pre-recorded podcasting is that it's not live. So, you can record the natural flow of friendly conversation, then edit it for an audience.
Remove an entire conversation
If you have to pick several topics for your show, occasionally some will generate little in the way of engaging conversation. When that happens, don't be afraid to cut the whole thing out. I've done it.
As I mentioned, our flagship podcast episodes have run about 60 minutes. However, this past week, I attempted to tighten it a little more. I tried a new format that put the most recent episode of The Geek Directive at 40 minutes. It featured six topic discussions, a fictional story and the usual open/close/bumper/break/production.
If you incorporate these approaches to editing into your podcast, you'll be amazed at how it all adds up. After you're done, you will have effectively made better use of your listener's time, and you would've demonstrated good manners.
In the first episode of the Content Call Podcast, Chris Brogan talked about how people read an average of 19 minutes of text per day (blogs, text messages, news, etc), but hours and hours of videos are viewed/downloaded each day. This was a key reason he decided to start vlogging and including video in his content marketing efforts.
Another important point was to not limit your content to "talking head" video. It was good to hear him say this because I too have suggested this to businesses. I think you need to do some of it in order to humanize your brand, let people get to know you and offer the audience good value (by answering customer questions, etc). However, I also think you need to mix it up a little bit and maybe add some creativity into your video content. I understand that can sometimes be easier said than done depending on the business. So, here are some examples to help get you inspired.
Michael Dubin, the guy you see on camera, knew that people remember things presented in the form of music. In his view, COMEDY is a form of music. Granted, they had a budget ($4,500 to be exact), but that isn't the point here. The point is the creative approach used to do one thing - sell a razor subscription. Even if some people didn't sign up for the product, odds are they still shared the video with others.
If you don't always have the time to shoot these types of videos, services like Animoto, Moovly and GoAnimate can help you focus on music, text and animation.
So, you have plenty of options to make some engaging videos that can drive traffic to your business. You can really optimize your potential by finding a variety of ways to be creative and effectively engage your target audience.
"That won't work for our company."
"We don't need a content calendar."
"Just post whatever on (Facebook/Twitter) and promote us."
"We know we should develop a content/social strategy. We'll get around to it sometime."
These are some of the responses I have gotten from former bosses when I pleaded with them to develop a social media strategy. Over the years, I've heard colleagues share similar workplace experiences with me. The first and third quotes are the most troubling. One is not true, and the other needs to realize that "sometime" is now or never.
Even though I have experience with social media and content marketing, I recognize that I need to expand my knowledge. So, I've begun the coursework to get a Social Media Marketing Certificate from Northwestern University. I can tell you just in the early days of the program, I've gotten a broader understanding of how the marketing landscape has evolved in recent years.
I've seen insights and stats that clearly show why effective social media strategies are so imperative in today's marketplace. I realized if I didn't know some of this data, those bosses probably didn't know them either. Therefore, it could be one of the key reasons why so many businesses have not embraced social media. This realization began with sessions featuring Professors Randy Hlavac and Judy Ungar Franks. Franks discussed the "chaos" seen in the marketing space today. She pointed out that the media ecosystem has evolved from a Newtonian Machine to more of an Einstein Landscape.
You chose a media that you completely understood in purpose and functionality.
You didn't have to worry about excessive media overlap.
You could put 90 percent of your resources in one media, and go light on the others.
Content was straightforward and predictably sequential. It launched from Point A and traveled directly to Point B. You rarely had to worry about any kind of disruption.
There is media overlap - think about how much of it is seen on a screen.
Now you have to combine media in order to provide the user with more fully engaging experiences.
That same user (or customer) can take your content and continue its journey via another media circuit.
At the center of it all is this - the consumer now CONTROLS the marketplace. As an audience, they are now a recipient and an accelerate of your content. Companies and brands have to recognize this and learn about media/brand management. This is because you can't take old-school traditional marketing strategies and effectively use them in the new media.
In IBM's "Any" Challenge, they highlighted that companies have to be consumer-driven because they control the marketplace. You have to tailor to them and provide them with a consistent experience on all platforms.
One of the most powerful ways the consumer controls the market space is through suggestion. An extremely popular reason why people buy something is due to a friend or family suggestion seen online. Plus, several top search results for the top 25 largest brands come from user-generated content (i.e., blogs about products/brands).
Social media is not just a fun fad. It is a fundamental shift in communication and it's now the number one activity on the web. If that wasn't enough to get attention, this certificate program bombarded me with some amazing statistics like:
The ROI of social media is your business will still EXIST in five years.
Eventually that number is going to go from years to months. By that time, trying to finally embrace social media will be even harder because you'll be so far behind.
The clock is ticking. So, embrace it and learn it.
If you take too long to learn about a platform or strategy, your audience may have already found something new. That's the point - consumers and competitors in the social media realm are going to move on with or without you.
Obviously, I highly recommend getting training through certificate programs like the one I'm taking at Northwestern. Here pretty soon, I'm going to have a better way to explain to companies why they should invest in social media marketing and provide them with an even more effective way to drive it.
The folks over at Animoto, just conducted a survey of 1,000 customers about how they're responding to web video. An impressive 64% of them said they made a purchase after watching a marketing video.
You can get the infographic HERE.
If you're trying to grow your following on Twitter, there are several things you can do. There are some universal strategies that tend to work, and some ideas that may only work for some people. At the end of the day, I think the most important thing you can offer a potential follower is VALUE. With that in mind, here are some things I think Twitter accounts can reduce in order to be more valuable.
Automatically Generated Messages
There is nothing more robotic and anti-personal that an automatic message that gets triggered after you follow someone. This is especially true if it's some sort of pitch to buy, visit or follow something. This has been around so long it's obvious when it's done. At least try to fool somebody!
One tip-off is usually that it doesn't address someone by name. If you're going to send a message, please do that. Show that you care, and you're making a genuine attempt to connect or start a conversation. If this is truly SOCIAL media, let's not make an algorithm do all of the communicating for us.
Twitter Feeds That Feature Nothing But Posts and Promotion
Look, I understand that promotion and sharing content is part of what makes your account valuable. However, can you show us there is a human behind the account from time to time? I think it's a much better representation of your presence if I see you tweet to someone, tweet something original or even reply to someone on a regular basis. It just looks like your Twitter feed is more than just a posting service.
Twitter Feeds That Feature a Bombardment of Promotion
Again, it's social media, and therefore people aren't there to be hammered with sales pitches or self-promotion. I think it's better to pick your spots after you've spent 90 percent of your time sharing other content of value AND interacting with other people. It's all about being a little less "look at me" and a little more "engage with me".
Now, I realize someone could say, "Hey, Scott...I have 2 bazillion followers! What do you know?" I would say there are plenty of films that made a lot of money at the box office, but it doesn't mean it was an awesome movie. I'm not suggesting what you're doing is wrong, I just think you could add even more value with a couple of tweaks.
I'm a big fan of podcast hosting services like Blubrry, Libsyn, Buzzsprout and others like them. I am less of a fan of posting podcast episodes on Soundcloud and YouTube. To me, if you even consider these options, you need a great reason. Even then, I'd ask you to think twice.
Granted, it's easy and cheap to post your episodes on Soundcloud. However, you miss out on the analytics and other services that full service hosts can provide you. I also don't tend to see Soundcloud podcasts with huge followings, and I have to wonder how challenging it is to grow it. This is going to be especially challenging if it's one of the only places you can get the show (versus iTunes, Stitcher Radio, etc).
Also, there are constant rumors about shutdowns and acquisitions of Soundcloud. If that happens, who knows what changes could take place. How will it affect your show, the distribution or even the ownership of the content?
As for YouTube, if you have your audio podcast posted there and on iTunes...I'd like to know why. I would think the ideal scenario is to grow subscribers on iTunes. If that is true, putting the exact same show on YouTube is splitting that audience up. Some get it on iTunes...others hit YouTube. How do you quantify those stats? At least if you're using a hosting service like Libsyn, your feed can be sent to several podcast hubs and they all get those downloads counted.
Obviously, if you do a video podcast, that's different. Although, I have reservations there as well. If the "video" podcast is just a visual of you recording audio...I don't get why someone would actually WATCH it all at one time. What's engaging about that? A lot of people don't have that kind of attention span, and I think many people are inclined to just minimize it and listen. If that's the case...why have it on a video service at all.
Plus, you really don't see video podcasts frequently hitting the top podcast lists on iTunes.
Now, I'm not saying these services are totally useless when it comes to your podcast. I just don't think you need to post full episodes on them. Instead, post interview clips or memorable moments from your show. Tag the end of the audio file with a pitch to GET MORE at your podcast website.
On YouTube, you can do even more. If you upload a cut from the show that features a specific topic, you can keyword the title and description for people to find it. Plus, you can post links to your website and/or where to subscribe to the show.
So, instead of giving up everything, make YouTube and Soundcloud a place where you feature the BEST of your show, and and tool that can entice people to get your full episodes. It makes a lot more sense while also being a lot less risky and counter-productive.
I've always told people that one of the best ways to make your podcast stand out is by putting an emphasis on format, audio quality and running time. When you consider how many podcasters DON'T do that, it's easy to understand why it can help you make your mark. However, another way to shine is through creativity. In other words, you don't just revert to what everyone else does, and instead, you think outside the box.
If you think about it, This American Life could be a typical interview show. However, Ira Glass masterfully weaves it all into a three-part theme mixed with music and narrative. On the simpler side of things, Michael Stelzner's Social Media Marketing Podcast IS a pretty traditional interview format. However, it's presented via an Australian explorer who is helping you navigate the jungles of social media. That's a fantastic example of doing something a little different than most other shows.
When I decided to launch a geek culture talk show, I knew I was moving into a crowded space. You'll find plenty of geek discussion podcasts out there today, and I needed to offer a reason for people to check out my version of one. So, Assembly of Geeks was a part audio drama-like story that set-up the talking points. It was presented as if the hosts, listeners and guests converged on a fortress to discuss what's happening in the geek world. When life outside of podcasting made it difficult to continue producing, I had to transition it into a more traditional talk show format. However, The Geek Directive features a virtual host that infuses challenges and questions into the program. So, I still managed to give it something unique.
My very first spin-off show was a podcast that covered each episode of the Agent Carter TV series. Now, I could've just produced a simple open, had us come on and discuss the show and conclude it. Many TV show focused podcasts will do that.
However, I wanted to do more with the theme, and it made for a better program. In The Peggy Carter Podcast, I opened each show with an old school reporter who set the scene for that week's episode. Plus, we took two breaks and played actual 1940s radio commercials (consistent with the show's time period).
I was asked to develop a podcast concept for a healthcare company, but they didn't want it to just be a boring medical talk show. There needed to be elements that made it a little more engaging. Their blogs consisted of advice/education on back pain, neck pain, muscle aches, body care and migraines. So, I took inspiration from them and developed an idea -
A "radio program" that showcased scripted skits that featured some of that same educational insight, and include an in-depth interview with an expert as the centerpiece. So, I wrote and produced a Car Talk parody, a Johnny Carson/Tonight Show parody, a old school film-like skit series, a Muppet Lab inspired skit and much more. They all had health lessons and tips mixed into them.
The other creative challenge was a title for the program. Typical healthcare/health/body/mind terminology was commonly used in a lot of content titles. So, I needed to break out of those words and go in a more "out of the box" direction. The show was focused on the mind and body. So, I took body and mixed it with noggin and made BodNog Radio: Radio That's Good For Your Body and Your Noggin.
So, there's plenty of creative routes to take when attempting to put your stamp on a podcast. It could be as simple as the open/close/bumpers, or production elements that add to the presentation. It can also be how you choose to talk about a topic. It doesn't have to re-invent the wheel; it just needs to be something only you bring to the table.