Friday, April 30, 2010

Is Your Content Good? Relevant?

Useful stuff from Copyblogger' enewsletter today. Written by Catherine from http://www.beawesomeonline.com/the-awesome-website-manifesto

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”~William Morris, poet and designer

Imagine the household you would have if you got rid of every item that was neither useful or beautiful.

Gone would be the plastic doodad with no known purpose, the ugly frame your great-aunt gave you, the Special Free Offer© you never opened, the collection of someday-useful peanut butter jars . . .

Every room would be so much more pleasant to be in, and every tool so much easier to find.

What if you applied the same rule to the content you wrote? Every email, sales letter, blog post, and comment you wrote would have to be useful or beautiful. Or both.

Does that sound a little . . . scary?

Most copywriters are fine with this, in principle. (Remember the first law of content marketing? Every piece of cookie content should reward the audience for reading: by solving a problem they have, or by entertaining them. Sounds pretty similar, doesn’t it?)

The main problem people have with this advice is they don’t trust their own judgment. They’re unsure if what they’re writing is useful or beautiful.

And of course, some people are certain their writing would make James Joyce weep and Dale Carnegie gnash his teeth, while their readers are wondering what this pretentious and useless fluff piece is all about.

Are you unsure? Never fear! Here are some guidelines to help.

How do I know if my content is useful?

1. Write content that suits your audience

Your content must match your audience’s level of understanding. Experts won’t consider entry-level content useful and beginners won’t get much use out of advanced discussions.

Your audience must have the required resources — time, energy, money, potato chips — to use the content. Telling new parents about a relaxation technique that requires eight hours a night of uninterrupted sleep? Not useful.

Your content must relate to something your audience cares about. I’ll never find content on how to dress in corporate style useful, because I don’t care about dressing in that way.

2. Write specific content

Generalisations aren’t useful.

Vague:

Scooters need oil on a regular basis.

Specific and useful:

Refill your scooter’s oil tank to the indicator line with two-stroke motorcycle oil every third time you refill the petrol tank.

3. Write actionable content

Useful content creates action.

If your readers don’t do something as a result of reading your content (change their mind, buy something, tear up their desk calendar, dance a boogaloo, write a better headline, pick a fight, talk to their children, set a goal, start a collaborative experience), then the content wasn’t useful.

Your content must encourage, advise, mentor, support, bully, or dare your audience into acting.

And you must, must, must include a call to action in every piece of content you write.

How do I know if my content is beautiful?

This is the point where people get uncomfortable. Don’t worry! You don’t have to produce sonnets to write beautifully.

Experiences that provide pleasure or meaning are beautiful.

Johnny B. Truant writes posts that are beautiful, although he’ll likely laugh in your face and pour jam down your pants if you say so. They’re beautiful because they’re funny and vigorous and meaningful.

If you’re not Johnny, here are some tips. (If you are Johnny, hi Johnny!)

1. Write meaningful content

If you write your content with emotion, it’s more meaningful.

Ever read a “Thank you for subscribing” email with sincere gratitude in it? (I read one that was so beautiful I saved it. Really.) If your feelings don’t match the anticipated emotion it’s even more effective: an angry product review, an excited tax letter, a sympathetic auto-responder . . .

Be vulnerable. Instead of writing about the mistakes some people have made, write about the mistakes you made. And what they meant to you.

Write about the bigger implications. Fixing a dripping tap is ordinary. Learning to perform house maintenance as a sign of your new independence is meaningful.

Real benefits are meaningful. Creating more wealth, more connection, more options, and more purpose are some of our most meaningful activities.

2. Write pleasurable content

Write to inspire emotion in your readers: make them smile. Make them cry. Make them wistful. And make sure they know they’re not alone in feeling that way.

If you know your audience well, you can write mass communication that feels personal, where every reader thinks you’re psychic because you’re writing Just For Them. Everyone enjoys the pleasure of feeling understood.

Use the tools in your linguistic toolbox to make the writing entertaining: play with alliteration, hyperbole, rhythm, flights of fancy, metaphor, perspective, storytelling . . . whatever feels natural and unforced to you.

It’s hard to beat the pleasure of seeing your name in print. Praise your readers in public, hold them up as an example, thank them, or mention them as an inspiration . . . and do it by name.

Do you want to take it even further?

Think of a piece of content that’s critical to your success, like your sales letter.

What if you applied the same rules to every paragraph of that content? What if you judged every word?

If you wrote your sales letter and removed every word that wasn’t useful or beautiful:

  • You couldn’t use weasel words like “actually” or “amazingly” or “absolutely.”
  • You’d have to use evocative, beautiful words and images.
  • The writing would be muscular, short and punchy (Like Hemingway would write it).
  • You’d become a thoughtful student of copywriting, so you knew how to make each word as useful as possible to create the result you want.
  • It would kick ass!

Do you think you could improve the usefulness and beauty of your content? Tell us how you plan to do it in the comments!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Understanding Why Moms Blog from Kevin Burke

Yep, this guy totally gets it! That is exactly why we moms blog!

By Kevin Burke

Mom bloggers can provide tremendous value to businesses. Companies covet the audience mom bloggers have acquired because these readers are potential consumers. Mom bloggers have powerful voices and, as a result, often have a big influence on the moms who are reading. Businesses recognize this influence and also know that few things benefit a company more than when a highly respected mom writes positive things about that company's brand.

As businesses rush to leverage the influence of these moms, they often struggle to maximize the benefits of a relationship with them, largely because businesses don't take the time to understand why moms blog. Below are some of the top reasons that drive moms to blog.

  • ART
    Blogging is an expressive outlet. It offers a challenge to create something from nothing. It allows the writer to stretch the brain and create something to call her own.
  • SOCIAL BOND
    Blogging provides a connection to other moms, sometimes one that is deeper than face to face. Exchanges on blogs can last weeks and include the perspectives of many. Conversations can be intense and supportive. Like-minded folks can find one another and share and explore ideas.
  • REASSURANCE
    Blogging can provide reassurance that there are other people out there with similar ups and downs. Motherhood at times can be isolating and challenging. Social media offers a means for increasing one's own sense of well being.
  • SATISFACTION
    Writing can often be an outlet, especially when the going gets tough. Moms might blog because writing about their experiences helps them better understand themselves and their families.
  • STAYING IN TOUCH
    Families and friends today often are separated by miles and/or busy schedules. A blog can act as a hub for sharing experiences with loved ones who don't live under the same roof. A blog can be compiled in a narrative style that is deeper and more complete than the formats offered through other mediums such as email, Facebook and Twitter.
  • KEEPSAKE
    Many women start blogs as a pregnancy journal to record their thoughts and emotions during that crucial time. Then, they just continue from there.
  • PRESERVING MEMORIES
    Moms might blog about their journey in parenthood to document the memories, perhaps in hopes of one day allowing their children to read about their childhood from the perspective of a parent.
  • ISSUES PLATFORM
    Blogging is an important form of new media, and many people use it as a platform to express opinions on all kinds of issues - Blogs are not limited to posts on parenting! Moms who blog write about a vast array of topics including politics, products, music, technology, finances, current events, health, entertainment, business and more.
  • MEANS OF INCOME
    A blog can be a source of income. Mom bloggers understand the value they can offer to businesses and they are looking for ways to broker the business-to-mom relationship.

While most moms don't start a blog for financial reasons, they do welcome opportunities to work with businesses. They just don't want the business relationships to change the voice of the blog. As a result, it is essential that a business understand a mom's blog before reaching out to her for a potential relationship.

Marketers are historically good at talking at people but poor at conversations. To work with mom bloggers, businesses need to take the time to read the blog to get to know the writer and gain a better understanding of her audience.

This effort will help drive a productive conversation that can lead to a relationship that is in line with the voice of that blog. Moms take pride in their blogs and with the millions of loyal readers they have gained, rightfully so. Interested businesses need to give these moms the attention they deserve.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ten tips for attracting a following on Twitter - The Boston Globe

Ten tips for attracting a following on Twitter - The Boston Globe

Posted using ShareThis

This is a great article on Twitter in today's Boston Globe Business section and here is a follow-up from Scott Kirsner who writes the Innovation Technology column for the Boston Globe.
Advice on attracting Twitter followers, from HubSpot CTO Dharmesh Shah

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Playing "Real Estate Agent" in the Suburbs

So it started out innocently enough; really nice baby boomer empty nester couple living across street near a golf course.  When on vacation we collect their mail and packages and hold onto their contact information.  A few days before Christmas 2009 I was at the Elephant Walk restaurant with my mommy girlfriends Susie (aka The Q), Dr. Amy ICU, and "Not Struggling Artist" Jacqui.  We say goodnight and as I return home I encounter police cars blocking my way at the top of my street.  I am admitted past the police blockade and with my husband and 10 year old daughter watching from the third floor staircase of our home, we can't help but flinch from their devastation as we watch the firefighters trying to contain the blaze well into the night.  We've already confirmed the couple is safe but we watch the flames pouring out from the first floor kitchen windows and second floor master bedroom while smoke escapes in billows from the third floor and roof top.  The firefighters flood the house with water hoses and break holes in the slate roof and windows until they've taken control of the fire.  In the morning everyone is gone and there is a dangerous sheet of ice from the hoses down the descending street.

Fast forward 4 months and an insurance settlement.  My husband makes an impromptu request to the nice neighbors across the street who have just bought a condo, that they consider giving us "first option" on their land.   They surprisingly give us their offer exclusively a week or so later, and for 48 hours we decide if we want to build a house for ourselves (truly unnecessary) or build a house for someone else (why not give the husband something to do when he gets home at 1 pm everyday).  He does the math and decides this project is not for us but I recommend some really nice real estate mommies from the elementary school.  They decline our recommendation because if and when they sign with a broker, they already love the broker who helped them find their new condominium.   The matchmaking mechanisms of my brain kick in and I know I can find a lovely family who will love this land.

Part II to be continued...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Don't!: Cut and Paste from MS Word into Your Blog!

I had a blog meltdown two days ago. This is when your blog template format melts down into an crazy looking mess. Sometimes the melt down can also look like a completely blank white page. Either are not good options!

I have a lovely template that I bought from the good folks at Solostream called "Sublime" for Wordpress and it has cool features that I like including a slider and navigation bars. I have learned the hard way how to keep my blog template intact.

This is my Don't Rules To Keep Your Blog from a Meltdown:
1) DON'T have two widgets/gadgets of the same type active!
2) DON'T add widgets/gadgets all at once. Add one at a time, and then check to see how it affects your blog home page.
3) DON'T add widgets/gadgets without first checking on them. Go to forums or google search them. Check ratings on them.
4) DON'T cut and paste into your blog from Microsoft Word. If you don't want to retype, put the text first into Writer from Microsoft.
5) DON'T cut and paste HTML code willy nilly. For example, I needed to add the code to Google Analytics to every post to track my traffic. I put it at the top of the post and had a weird space. I wanted to add to the bottom of the post plus add my message about how to purchase items from my blog AND add ad rotate. I tried to do this with one big cut and paste. Bad idea!

As my blog melts down and I figure out the cause, I will continue to add to this list. How about you? Any advice for preventing Blog Meltdowns?

Pragmatic Mom
http://pragmaticmom.com
Type A Parenting for the Modern World

Friday, April 9, 2010

Email Newsletter for Your Blog Using Feedburner

If you want an easy email newsletter that sends out your latest posts to anyone who signs up for your email newsletter, we highly recommend Feedburner (http://feedburner.google.com) which is now owned by Google.

It's so simple. Simply to go the site and sign up. Follow all the instructions. Go to Publicize which is a tab on the top.

Then go to email subscriptions. See that first box of html text? You will now cut and paste this copy into your blog.

If you are using Wordpress, use a text widget for your sidebar and cut and paste this text into your blog. Voila! You have an instant email newsletter feed. You don't have do anything. Every new post will be emailed out to your subscribers.

If you are using Blogger, use the HTML gadget. Same thing, cut and paste the text into the box on the sidebar. Voila again! Instant newsletter.

When you have time, go through all the options in FeedBurner, particularly in the Publicize tab to see other cool things you can do to your email newsletter feed. You can add ads using Google AdSense.

Have fun!

Pragmatic Mom
http://pragmaticmom.com
Type A Parenting for the Modern World

Monday, April 5, 2010

More on SEO and the last (?) word on keywords

It's been a while since I have posted - too caught up in other blog and (finally!) great weather. I am currently on the phone with tech supoort for Verizon which is a total and complete disaster. But this is not about me and my issues. Okay, of course it is, but maybe later.
Let's talk about how search engines see your site. Go to http://www.seo-browser.com/
and type in your site's address. The screen will show you what search engines see when they see your site. Basically text, no lovely photos, no pretty font. That is why you need to use key words. Key words, you ask? See this blog:




Blogsessive for great tips and this one Lorelle on Wordpress for a blogging challenge including your top ten key words.



You also need to pay attention to ALT. TEXT in your photos. Here is a definition from Wikipedia : Alt Attribute so you do not leave it blank but fill it in with a description.


HTML is still beyond me (hello, MIT?) so I can't tell you how to write it for Alt text. I am operating at a fairly basic level and I am writing a description of my photos in the Alt text box. Good for now - will upgrade when I have figured out a better way. I am looking at sites with good how-to on this but some are so dense and tech-y that they make me a bit queasy.

I will further read up on this and add the better sites.