Startups are exciting, bewildering and hugely risky things to be a part of. There’s the constant worry of the whole thing imploding under the weight of your multi-pronged business ideas. There’s the fear of being chewed up and spit out by larger competitors with deeper pockets. There’s also the need to attract the fickle online customer and retain their loyalties for as long as you possibly can.
In this race against time and resources, every smart e-commerce startup could do with some tools that make their lives just a tad bit easier. Here are my top four picks. (more…)
Content marketing is hard. It requires your business to take up the role of a publisher. Now, that’s not something businesses or brands are used to doing traditionally. Most of the marketing now focuses on the “inbound marketing” phenomenon and that requires patience, extreme focus on generosity, establishing trust, and providing value. It also calls for the need for thought leadership and an ever-demanding presence over the web (including blogs and social media).
All of that is hard work.
Is there a way this can be made easy for you as a business owner? They say technology is a savior, so do tools exist that help to pump up your content marketing efforts?
Here are some web-based tools you can use to accelerate, streamline, and organize your content marketing efforts:
Content Aggregator Tools
To develop content, you’ll need an influx of incoming content. You’d basically need to read a lot to write as much as you ought to. How do you practically crawl over the web to consume so much information that’s spewed out everyday? You get smart and use an aggregator tool!
You can start with LinkedIn’s Pulse, move on to Flipboard for your mobile, TrapIt (claimed to be the world’s most advanced content curation app), set up good sources through Feedly (an alternative for Google’s now-dead RSS reader), and finally wade through Reddit manually.
By working with these tools, you make content available to you at all times. Read, repurpose, develop content on your own string of ideas, or gather information from other content on the web to make your own brand of valuable content. Curation is a pill for content creation and aggregator tools help you do just that.
Content Creation, Organization and Management
Organized efforts are a must for content marketing and there are plenty of tools starting from project management to content organization. Google Drive is ubiquitous and plugs well into the workflows that most small businesses have. You might also want to check out Trello, Asana and Basecamp for organizing projects, content, and teams. To actually create content, you could use tools such as one of the ubiquitous meme generators, Visual.ly, Issuu or UberFlip.
If you are a business owner, you can use Evernote in a million different ways. Note ideas as you get them or jot down facts you can later repurpose as full-blown resource pages or social media updates. You might also use the web-clipper for content curation.
If you work with a team of social media managers and content developers or freelancers, you could bring your team aboard using Evernote for business and collaborate on ideas, content planning, blog posts, and a host of other things.
Plugging into a Hot Spot
Most of the popular publications now have tons of content already as “pillar content” or “resource pages.” You could visit Social Media Today for syndicated posts and resources. HootSuite has a special section with tons of resources too.
In addition to that, many other websites provide on-site tools for helping you to create even more content.
Further, you could literally create an endless flow of content based on ideas from comments, reviews and user-generated posts on communities, forums or rating sites. If you have anything to do with food and restaurants, for instance, you could use reviews from Yelp for first-hand information and then turn it into list blog posts. For technical niches such as hosting solutions or servers, you could make use of information from comparison engines such as Who Is Hosting This and cite them as sources for your blog posts.
Content from Social Media
Social media is big and it’s a huge resource by itself. Using a tool like Storify, for instance, you can create stories using social media data. Use Swayy to get some of the best content to share with your audience based on their interests and engagement behavior. You might also want to consider a tool such as Curata that can help you find trustworthy content quickly and curate this content to fuel your content marketing efforts.
Even without any of these tools, you can still use the dripping content off social media updates and quickly whip up posts relevant to your business niche or industry. It’s quick, it can be credited, and it works for you in multiple ways. Don’t just create content for social media; make your content attract attention off social media too.
Tools for Other Types of Content
While writing posts and creating content based on text is easier, it’s not the end of the road. There are videos, slide decks, podcasts, magazines, and tons of other forms of content that you should create. There are tools for you to develop this kind of content too. Animoto or GoAnimator are ideal for creating short videos. Using Jing or Camtasia, you can create screen casts to show off your products or provide courses.
While it could be a daunting task to create so many forms of content and pump up your content marketing efforts, you also have a mind-boggling and never-ending list of tools to help you create content. Most of the tools are affordable and you can also pick the tools that fit your purpose or budget.
The question is: the tools exist and the list will continue to grow. How are you going to use them? If you are in business, which of these tools are you using currently? Which of these could turn you into a full-fledged business content publisher?
Many of us who have been doing the hybrid search/social game for long enough remember what it was like to discover Tumblr. I got in pretty early and was able to get Social News as one of my Tumblogs, a pretty decent subdomain that is (unfortunately) completely underutilized and really just focuses on my Instagram pictures. That doesn’t mean that you have to sit around and let Tumblr not work well for you.
SocialMediaToday community contributor Mark Scott posted an interesting piece about using Tumblr as an SEO tool. While there are things in there that aren’t 100% correct such as the concept that all “links you add to all posts on your Tumblr blog are do-follow links” (some are nofollow), but otherwise he gives very sound advice about how to use the platform for something that it’s frankly not very good at for its own self: SEO.
Yes, it’s a great SEO tool and yes, it’s possible to optimize a Tumblog to do well in search, but it’s the benefits that it can bring to other websites where the real juice can come into play. As a supporting site, it’s great for search as long as the content is strong and you’re able to build up a decent following.
Tumblr essentially functions as a secondary blog you can use solely for the purpose of SEO. You can send optimized links back to the main website, allowing your website’s reach to expand and incoming traffic to multiply. What makes Tumblr great for SEO is the inbuilt promotion and SEO-friendly features that it comes packed with by default.
We all know that blogging is a huge part of increasing the visibility of your business. It’s a way to show off your likable, personal side (I know you have one) while giving readers the information that they’ll need to make an informed decision.
The world of social media influence has been a growing industry for years. Klout and Kred have emerged as two of the leaders in the segment with Trust Cloud and others making statements about their own growing relevance, but there’s a network (a game, really) that surpasses all of them in usefulness and has carved a unique niche for itself in the social networking universe. If you haven’t been paying attention to Empire Avenue, you probably don’t realize what you’re missing.
Hootsuite has been on a tear over the last year. They’ve picked up a bunch of agreements with the various social media sites. They have a hip interface and a good reputation for quality of service, uptime, and ease of use. I like Hootsuite and use it for many of our accounts, but it’s not my primary social post scheduling tool.
Today I had a potential client walk me through this amazing system they had developed to post to Facebook and Twitter. They had various programs pulling from feeds, posting at different times, with manually-scheduled posts integrated into the feed ring to allow for pictures and video posts. They even had their alerts set to let them know the moment that someone commented, retweeted, liked, or engaged in any way. It was an impressive system.
The only problem is that it was worthless.
I told them that they weren’t getting any alerts other the occasional spam. They nodded and wondered how I knew. I explained…
Facebook Knows Automation
There’s a reason why posts from native Facebook origins such as posting directly to Facebook.com or through their mobile apps get MUCH more attention than those sent through API tools. They know that the tools are designed to make things easier and often impersonal. Granted, there are many people who use tools such as Hootsuite as a consolidated place to see all of their social interactions and are applying the tools in a completely organic and personalized manner, but unfortunately there are plenty of people and businesses who use these tools to streamline the effort and make Facebook less personal (at least from their perspective).
The only way Facebook can know that something posted is personal is if it’s posted through their native software. As a result, they give higher placement to manual posts. Test it. Post an image or link to your page with a tool and then follow it up immediately with a post through Facebook.com. The next day at the same time, reverse it by posting through Facebook.com then posting through the tool. In both cases, the post through Facebook will get a much higher reach.
Feeds are Dangerous
In an ideal feed situation, great sources with relevant data are being plugged into the feeds supplying content to your Facebook pages. That ideal situation doesn’t always happen. In fact, it’s rare.
Two incidents that happened to automotive clients highlight the dangers. In the first, a Nissan dealer was pulling from a Google feed displaying news about the “Nissan Altima”. Most were decent posts, but there were some that were borderline-negative and one in particular that went on their wall about a child kidnapping suspect who was last seen in a Nissan Altima. This is good information to share except that it was from the LA Times. The dealer was in Shreveport.
In the other situation, a dealer had written an excellent blog post about Ford SYNC. He noticed a couple hours later that his post had triggered the feed posting for his competitor. On their Facebook page was a link to a post that highlighted his own dealership.
Let’s assume that the alternative is to use a static feed, perhaps from your business’ blog. This is awful. Unless you have multiple writers posting a dozen stories a day, there is no reason to “streamline” the efforts this way. Instead, post it manually and include a sentence or two in the status update explaining why the post is important. Even if you skip that step, posting them manually is still preferable based upon the reason above – more exposure.
It’s Called “Social” Media
The worst part about automation is that it takes away the whole point of it all. Your daily routine should include multiple fast touches of your social media presence. You should be posting manually to Facebook and Google+ at the very least. Twitter can have automation mixed in daily just to keep the flow going, but it still needs a human touch at some point throughout the day.
Tools do not allow you to get involved with other relevant conversations. They don’t give you a real picture of what’s going on in the social world as it pertains to your business. It reeks of insincerity and prevents you from seeing the real benefits.
There are reasons to use tools. Weekends. Days off. Vacations. Busy periods. Long meetings. There’s nothing wrong with scheduling posts to run on days when the last thing you’re thinking about is work. You don’t have to be a slave to social media, but you can’t ignore it, either. Using the “set it and forget it” approach simply doesn’t work.