Why you shouldn’t hashtag all the things

As you would expect a large part of my professional life is spent online. I’m either writing or reading blogs, or interacting with a wide variety of people via social media. (occasionally I also do “proper” work, but I avoid it as much as possible). As a result I see a lot of the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to content and digital marketing.

One of my personal pet peeves, the sort of thing that makes me disappear in to a corner and bang my head against a wall is over enthusiasm when it comes to hashtags.  No doubt you’ve seen the sort of posts I’m referring to.

#Your #statusupdates #look #so #cool #with #your #hashtags #saidnoonever

Today one particular post has sent me over the edge (it contained 18 different combinations of essentially the same tag) and it’s time to call a Hashtag Intervention.

What is the purpose of a hashtag?

Once upon a forever ago the hashtag (#) was simply referred to as the pound sign.

For musical types, you may even have referred to it as the sharp sign.

Personally, it’s always been the noughts-and-crosses board, but I accept I may be in a club of one there.

Regardless of what the sign means to you, when it comes to social media the humble # has been elevated to supernova stardom. Now it is used to draw attention, organise and promote content.

Twitter started using hashtags to make it easier for users to find, follow and contribute to specific conversations. If you wanted to find out what the latest news was in Manchester, you would simply search #Manchester and you’d have access to everyone who had used that tag.

#Simples.

How to use them

Whilst many people will know what they are, and even what they’re meant to do, few seem to really understand how to use them.

Here then are my top tips to ensure you’re making the right impact:

  1. Be specific – whilst there are some rules when it comes to using a hashtag, the reality is you can pick anything. With an endless array of options it serves to be focussed. If you are selling products for newborns, don’t imply rely on #parents, instead try to attract #NewMums or #newborn #baby to really hit your target audience.
  2. Consider the platform – although you can now use hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram etc it is important to bear in mind the platform you are using. For example, Instagram tags will tend to focus on the content of a picture whilst on Twitter tags are used to engage in particular conversations.
  3. Don’t go too long – hashtags need to be memorable, and more importantly, readable. Hashtags count as characters, and if they’re too long to type, people simply won’t bother. Equally, too many words strung together and it becomes impossible to read clearly. #ItsNotACaseOfGoBigOrGoHome
  4. Maintain a balance – posts with more hashtags then general words are meaningless. It’s true that the more hashtags you use, the more users you are likely to reach as you tap in to more searches and conversations. However, your content becomes impossible to read as it doesn’t actually contain anything worth reading. My advice is don’t exceed more than five tags per post. And ideally, keep it lower than that.

As always, if you need any advice, tips or help when it comes to curating content or posting on social media, the team at Time Saving Heroes are on hand to help out. Give us a call on our hero hotline: 0161 883 2024, email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Your headline is the sundae, not the cherry on top

With any luck you’ve been reading our previous posts about content marketing, and have decided you want to give blogging a go.  Perhaps you’ve earmarked some time to pull together an editorial plan, you might even have written some great copy, but what’s the point if your headline is rubbish?

The simple truth is people don’t know what your content is like until they click on a link to open it.  All they do see, initially, is the headline.  And if it’s boring, they’re not even going to bother to do that.

If you think of blogging as an ice-cream desert, your headline is the sundae, not just the cherry on top! The reality is, it’s the most important thing you’re going to write.

Use numbers, not just words

Some of the best attention grabbing headlines are those that feature numbers.

  • 50% of people who do this have lost weight
  • 7 of the worst things you can do when blogging
  • 90% of business owners are getting this wrong

Use wow words

You can tell we’ve got kids – “wow” words (aka adjectives) are great and simple ways to garner interest.

Think about words such effortless, fun, FREE, essential or absolute to hit your message home

Use what, why, how or when

If you are trying to persuade someone to do something, then why and how can be fantastic ways to get them hooked.

  • Why you should hire a content writer
  • How to improve the quality of your blog

However, it’s always good to mix things up a bit with alternatives:

  • What the most popular blogs have in common
  • When should you review your marketing plan?

Make a promise

One reason people don’t bother to read passed a headline is because they can’t immediately see what they’re going to get out of it.  Why not make it clear by making a promise to your reader from the outset?

The key here is to offer something that will genuinely entice them, based on the things you know your audience is interested in or wants – but for goodness sake, make sure you deliver!

For example; Instantly improve your blog for FREE

 

Get in touch

We’d love you to get in touch and let us know if you’re struggling with coming up with an attention grabbing headline, and we’ll be happy to help.  Make sure you email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk by Thursday, 17th August and we’ll include it in our next blog!

 

 

Five topics for when you’re stuck for things to blog about

You’ve decided you wanted to start producing your own content for your website, blog or perhaps LinkedIn, and things were going great. For a few weeks.

Then you started running out of things to write about and consistency of posts is a thing of the past.

Sound familiar?

If so, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  It can be really difficult to come up with fresh new ideas every month, or week (depending how often you plan to post), and if you didn’t come up with a content schedule before you started, you’ll find it even harder.

However, there’s no need to panic.  Here are 5 great ideas from Lu for things to blog about if you’re suddenly feeling stuck

# 1 – Customer successes

People buy from people, and one thing that works really well is hearing from other people that have had good experiences of your business.

Why should a potential client believe what you say about yourself?  Of course you’re going to say you’re amazing, and your service is second to none.  No one’s going to believe that, but they will believe a real live customer that has taken the time to leave you a review.

If you’re short of time you could just share a review a customer has left for you, although the best thing would be to turn it in to a proper story. Perhaps a case study, guiding your audience through the when, what, where, why and how of what you did.

# 2 – Seen something you wished you’d written?

It is often the way, you read a post and kick yourself for not being the one to write it yourself.  If that’s the case, you could always write a comment about the post, and link back to the original article. Give your own perspective, agree or disagree with certain points and invite other people to comment.

# 3 – Get controversial

One of the best ways to get people to interact with something you have to say is by disagreeing with public opinion. However, it is always best to only do this if you do actually have a different opinion and are happy to stand by it.

If you do kick up a storm, always make sure you’re able to monitor any comments that come through, and that you are respectful of those who disagree with you.

# 4 – Talk about the news

Has anything happened in your industry, country, or the political world that has an impact on your business or your customers directly? If so, write about it. Give your opinion or explain what you’ve seen happening.

Many of our clients commissioned pieces on how a leave or remain Brexit vote would impact their industry and more importantly, their current clients.  Responses were very positive as it answered specific questions relating to some quite niche areas.  It was information their audience would have struggled to find anyway else.

# 5 – Do a roundup of opinions

If there is a new product, or a problem your customers all face, why not compile a blog on all the different opinions?  You can link to other people’s blogs, or perhaps just provide summaries.  It can be a great way to get people talking about issues that impact them, and might even give you some ideas on how you can improve things.

 

Here at Time Saving Heroes we provide content writing services for all types of business and industry.  Whether you already have topics in mind, or you need us to come up with some suggestions, we’re on hand to help.

Call 0161 883 2024 and speak to Lu, or email us on lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk.

Write like nobody’s reading

Following on from yesterday’s post I thought I’d continue with the theme of why we bother doing what we do.

I often get asked how many people read my Time Saving Heroes blogs, or how popular the blogs are that I write for my clients.  I also get asked how best to define a “good” blog.

You might think these are easy questions to answer, but the truth is, they’re not.

My viewing numbers vary from post to post – I can get two views on one, and over 1,000 for another on a similar topic.  Sometimes it’s just not your day.  Sometimes it is.

As for the popularity of my guest blogs, or those I ghost-write for clients, it’s the same issue. However, if they’re popular with my clients, the people who are paying for them, then that’s the only metric I need to refer to.

Finally, a “good” blog – yeah, I can’t even with that one.

All too often blogging and any form of content marketing is measured by its reach, the number of people who have seen or shared it.  People seem to constantly be hoping for a post to go viral – the Holy Grail of social media.  But that’s far too short sighted.

Good content needs to make an impact.  Perhaps it only makes one person stop and think, challenge their perceptions, learn something or want to find out more.  Does that make it a bad blog because not enough people have interacted?

A piece of writing that’s seen by hundreds but is forgotten within minutes is not a good one, surely?

The vast majority of people who ask these questions are not the ones that are contemplating “buying” content from me – they’re actually the people who create their own.  Essentially they are looking for an answer to the question “Why am I even bothering?”

For those people, the ones still too scared to ask the question, here are my reasons:

  1. Practice makes better (I don’t believe in perfection). The more you write the better you will get at it. You will find your voice, you will find it easier to put words to screen, and you will learn to stop over thinking the whole process.
  2. It’s therapeutic. When you write for the right reasons, to inform, to engage, to encourage or educate then it can be a hugely therapeutic experience.
  3. You’re always visible. Even when people don’t read your piece they might have seen it pop up (depending where you’re sharing it in the first place). That still means you’re visible.  You’re still out there.  If that happens enough then there’s a good chance that a little spark of curiosity is going to get them to connect.
  4. Blogging gives you a chance to expand your own knowledge base. I’m lucky to be able to write for a wide variety of people, who work in completely different industries.  Sometimes I know nothing about the products they’re selling, and I have to do a lot of research to pull a piece together.  That’s fine, I love it as it gives me the chance to learn and explore. Even if you’re writing about your own industry, something you should know a lot about, you’re bound to pick up more information which will be an advantage to you and your customers along the way.
  5. Blogging also gives you an opportunity to make some really random questions. Putting your content out there encourages people to say something back, to comment, to like, to share – even if they don’t do it immediately.

If you’re struggling to work out whether you should carry on with your blog or not, take some advice from me.  Stop worrying about who’s out there, and start writing like nobody’s reading.  Take the pressure off and write for the sheer heck of it.

It’s a beautiful thing when you just let it be.

The five steps to great content marketing

Whether you plan to do your content marketing yourself, or hire someone to work with you and manage it, there are certain things you need to think about.

Below is a list of things we run through with all our clients looking to improve their content, no matter what stage they’re currently at.

# 1 – The plan

Before you get started with content marketing (or any form of marketing, for that matter) it’s important you have a fully defined plan.

You need to understand what it is your business is trying to achieve – do you want to promote a new service or product, increase brand awareness, or develop stronger relationships with your existing customers?  Every organisation is different, and there’s no reason why you should have only one objective.

The only important thing is that you know what it is, and how your efforts are going to help you achieve it.

#2 – The audience

I keep banging on about your audience, and I’m sorry if that’s getting boring, but it’s really very important.  You must never forget who it is you’re talking to, and why they’d be interested in hearing what it is you’ve got to say.

Think about your audience – do you just have one type?  Or do you need to find a way to get multiple messages out to a wide range of people?  Perhaps you have a service that would only benefit SMEs, but you also offer something for larger corporations.  In which case, you need to make sure you have relevant content that appeals to both types of client.

# 3 – The development

Once you know what it is you’re trying to achieve, and who you’re trying to achieve it with, you need to start developing your content.  This doesn’t necessarily mean writing down everything you’re going to be sharing in blog, meme or infographic form (though, you should do that too) but more how you’re going to say it.

The key to building relationships with your audience via content is establishing a tone of voice they can relate to, and they know will always be there. That tone of voice will be determined by your company brand and the values you hold.  It will also be influenced by who is doing the actual content – so try to keep that as consistent as possible.

Do you want to be funny, or are you more serious?  Are your posts going to be factual, or do you want to inject a degree of humour?  Are you going to talk about the industry as a whole, or your own business?

# 4 – The delivery

All of this is brilliant to get you started, but once you’ve got content you need to get it out there.  Before you start it’s worth thinking about how you’re going to deliver your pieces.  Will you publish articles directly to your website?  If so, how often are you going to update them, and what topics are you going to cover?

How are you going to optimise your content, and what social media channels are you going to use to help you distribute it?

# 5 – The follow-up

Content marketing is all about the interactions; there is no point in putting information out there if no one is going to see it.  The only way you’re going to know whether it’s having an impact is to keep an eye on it.

Make sure you’re constantly looking at what content you have put out, and whether that is influencing visitors to your website or blog.  Are people actually interacting with what you have to say?  What topics are more popular than others?  If people are commenting, what are they saying? Are you thanking them for getting in touch?

 

If you’re reading to start thinking about how to improve your content and what you offer your audience, call 0161 883 2024 and speak to Lu, or email us on lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk.

We’re on hand to help you with every stage of the process if you need, or can just guide you in the right direction should you need a bit of support.

What is content marketing?

One of the services we offer here at Time Saving Heroes is content marketing, and it’s something we bang on about quite a lot.  Lu loves writing, so if there’s a blog to be created, or a Press Release to be, well, released, she’s on it.

However, “content marketing” is one of those terms us guys use all the time, despite the fact you guys possibly have no idea what we’re talking about. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is and isn’t jargon.

For the benefit of those that aren’t too sure what content marketing covers, here’s a handy little reference.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is:

…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Strategic

The first thing we can pick out of this then is that content marketing is a strategic marketing approach. What that means is you’re not going to just haphazardly post random things to social media as and when you feel like it. Or, more likely, when you remember to.

A strategy gives you a clear idea of what it is you want to accomplish, and every piece of content you use is designed to help you accomplish it.

Audience

Your content needs to be valuable, relevant and consistent to attract the right audience, which means you need to know who your audience is.

Who do you want to read your posts?  What do they want or need?  What interests them, or concerns them?  Do they have questions they’re looking to you to answer? How does your product or service fit in to their lives? How can you help them find out what they need to know?

These are all things you need to think about for every piece of content you put out there – what purpose does it serve?  How will it help you build a relationship with your audience, or encourage new followers and prospects?

Customer action

The final point in the definition is that content needs to drive profitable customer action. Whilst it can of course relate to someone clicking on a link, ending up on your website, and converting to a sale, it’s important not to just see content marketing in these terms.

It is not about selling (though it can be a wonderful side effect, if done correctly).

A customer wants to know that you, the brand, understand them. That you get why they might want or need your product/service in their life.  Equally, they want to see that people just like them have used your brand before, and have had a positive experience.

They are looking for credibility, and good content marketing can do this for you.

When someone reads your content and shares it, they are giving it credibility. They are saying “this is good, this is worth paying attention to”. Every time that happens you are given another opportunity to demonstrate how you, as a business, can make a positive difference in the lives of your prospects.