Do you remember when you first learned the power of storytelling? I can still remember the excitement in preschool, as we would grab our little mats and sit on the floor to hear Miss Maria spin her storytelling magic. Leaning forward on our little elbows we were pulled into the story and when she was finished we got milk and graham crackers (this is probably why I really loved story time). Everyone loves a great story. A story can transport us to faraway places, or a story can help us find the common ground we share with someone, allowing us to like them or trust them a little more.
I’ve spent the past four days in Sonoma County with a group of friends, touring the wine country. We visited three vineyards and tasting rooms per day, each offering a very different experience. At the end of each day, our group of 7 would discuss our favorite wines, our favorite locations, and which wines we purchased. We talked about what made each our favorite and we found there was a definite connection between the experience that was created during the tasting and the amount of wine purchased. It came down to the power of storytelling. The stories that were shared pulled us in, causing us to feel connected to the family or person that started the winery. The stories brought a familiar feeling and likeability factor.
Here are a few examples:
Storytelling at Christopher Creek
Liam’s storytelling style was like that of an old friend. Comfortable. Easy to listen to. Like a soft flannel shirt (which he happened to have on) He told us the stories of the Italian families that he grew up with and eventually partnered with at Christopher Creek. We learned about how they snuck wine out to families during the prohibition by having their 12-year-old son drive the wine into town because no one would suspect a 12-year-old of smuggling wine to others. Liam told us about his 8th-grade girlfriend (of two weeks) that he now gets grapes from in the valley. He was funny and drew us into his stories of wine making and even his dream of owning an Irish Pub someday.
Storytelling at Toad Hallow
At Toad Hollow, we heard a different type of storytelling. This was not so much the actual stories of the families who started Toad Hollow, but of Dr. and Mrs. Toad and their friend Mr. Badger who decided to make great wine together. We did learn that Robin Williams was the founder’s half-brother, and Ricardo, the storyteller in the wine-tasting room, told us the story of two French toads through wonderfully illustrated paintings that are illustrated on each label. That was when we got a little biology lesson, learning the meaning of AMPLEXUS, the name of one of their sparkling wines.
Storytelling at Ferrari-Carano
Jessica was one of our favorites. She told us stories of the owners at Ferrari-Carano (who also happen to own hotels in Vegas and Reno and Vegas, she taught us about each of the wines and how the drought affected each of them, and she had us laughing and having a great time.
A couple places we visited had lovely gardens, wonderful wine tasting rooms, and some even had good wine, but what was missing was great storytelling. No story time…no drawing us in to feel a kinship. These folks missed a huge opportunity. We didn’t learn about the family that ran the vineyard or what made them unique from the hundreds of others in the valley. The folks at these stops didn’t educate us on the different wines or entertain us with even a single story, and at De La Montanya Winery, the young lady didn’t even ask for a sale. I left craving graham crackers!
So how can you share more of your stories with your audience? Do you have photos of the “early days” or can you perhaps interview one of your early clients or a team member who has been with you since the beginning? Find ways to share stories that help educate your clients or customers, and don’t underestimate the power of those stories in your marketing. They cause people to lean in wanting to know more about you. They help your potential customers find that common ground that trust and likeability are built on.
I’d love to hear your STORY! Tell us how you use stories in your marketing or if you have a great example of a brand that uses storytelling brilliantly in their marketing…do share. We’ll have graham crackers and milk after!
Need some help developing your stories? Download the “What’s Your Story” worksheet to work on crafting your own marketing stories.
Kim told me last week that she has been blogging for almost a year and has never had one person share her posts or comment on them. YIKES, I thought, there must be something wrong here. I asked her if perhaps she gets her comments via social media or email, instead of on the blog. I get at least 2 or 3 email questions a week from people who read a blog post or watch a video and then they go to our contact page to email me or contact me via Twitter. Some people don’t want their comments living in public for all the world to see. Kim said she did not receive any messages from anywhere, so I wanted to use this as a case study and hopefully, all of us can learn a thing or two.
Keep in mind, there is no QUICK and EASY PILL for any of this. If you are in the same spot as Kim, you will have to be willing to do a bit of work, but once you do, it is easy to maintain.
A little background:Kim is a personal coach and offers individual and group coaching. She has always gotten new clients through referrals but would love it if her website and blog would help drive new client traffic as well.
After a quick audit of her blog and social media channels, here is a list of what I found and the suggestions I gave her. You can apply these to your blog and social media posts as well for BIG RESULTS:
Posts not focused and not highlighting expertise.
The blog posts were more observations or random thoughts by her. Some had nothing to do with working with a coach or providing helpful tips or information for people wanting to make changes in their lives. Scan your most recent posts. Can a stranger tell what you are an expert in or how you could help them?
Easy fix. Design a content calendar and fill it with ideas and topics that potential coaching clients might be searching for on Google. Start writing one post per week that is focused and relevant to those interested in making changes in their life—personal and professionally. Answer a question, provide steps and tips, showcase her expertise in this space while helping readers to start liking and trusting her through her posts. Video would be really helpful to build trust and rapport.
Auto-sharing blog posts through a blog…ONCE.
Many people have this set up on their website and blog. When a post is published, a Tweet or other social channel post is pushed out automatically. Kim’s was pushing out a generic tweet and Facebook post when her posts went live and that was the end of her promotion. They looked generic and there was not a call to action in the posts.
First can the auto-push tools on your blog. While they are convenient for you, they do not allow you to personalize or change up what gets shared on each social channel. On Twitter, you have 140 characters plus an image. Your link has to fit in here so you really only have about 115 characters give or take. Facebook and LinkedIn offer more room so you can ask a question and then put the blog title or headline with an image. If you are pinning to Pinterest you can change the image to be longer and add more hashtags. So for your first few posts on social channels, do it manually or at least schedule them using a tool like Buffer.
Create a sharing machine and add clear calls to action on each post—blog and social. I recommended that Kim go through every one of her past blog posts and create an inventory of each. She needed to list the title of the post, the link to it, and two other possible headlines to promote it. Perhaps one is “3 Myths People Have About Working with a Personal Coach.” Another option might be, “Why You Still Can’t Reach Those Goals: 3 Myths You need to Bust” and third can be “Would You REALLY Do ANYTHING to Reach Those Goals? Shake these 3 myths and you’ll be on your way.” Now when the inventory is complete upload these in a tool like SocialJukebox or MeetEdgar.Once your posts are in one of these tools, you can set a schedule to repost your content once a week or once every couple of weeks to keep it in circulation at different times and on different days of the week. Too many bloggers use the one and done approach to promoting their content. If someone wasn’t logged into that social channel at the time you posted your blog post, they may never see it. If the topic is still relevant and helpful (not tied to a holiday or event that has passed) you can promote it again and again. The more content you have in your scheduler, the more spread out you can set your schedule so perhaps each post is only reposted every 3 or 4 weeks.
No strong call to action questions or requests at the end of blog posts.
Don’t leave your readers wanting more. Many times a reader gets to the end and would click on another link or go somewhere else on your site if you offered it, but they are left with the option of searching or closing out the session.
Ask for what you want! Like we used to tell our daughters when they were little, “Use your big girl words.” We often assume just because we wrote a great piece of content and shared it, that people will feel compelled to comment. Most people are still consumers when it comes to content. We grew up reading newspapers and magazines. No one asked us for our opinions or comments on those posts. You must ask people to share their thoughts or ideas in the comments’ area.
Start with very direct and closed-ended questions, “Tell us one thing you can do today to start making changes.” “Let me know in the comment section below, which number above would create the greatest change for you?” These don’t require your readers to think too hard or write an essay for an answer. If you ask, “Tell us about a time you have found this to be difficult…” your reader may opt out.
Ask people to connect with you on your social media channels. Make it easy by hyperlinking to your account. Don’t make people go to Twitter or LinkedIn and have to search for you. Say something like, “I’d love to connect with you on Twitter or LinkedIn to continue this conversation. Come over and let me know what your thoughts were.” (See what I did there?)
Needing to “Prime the Pump” to get a few comments flowing.
Sometimes we have to get a few staged comments on our posts to get the water flowing. Just like an old rusty pump, you want to give it a few pumps, up and down to bring the water to the spout so when someone else comes, they can easily get the water flowing. Email a few friends or peers and ask for their opinions or thoughts on one of your posts. Find a few contacts on social media who may have a great opinion on your topic and ask if they wouldn’t mind reading your post and offering their thoughts. You can’t ask the same people over and over to comment on your posts, but if you spread it out, you may be able to get one or two on a few of your best posts. Most people who comment will then share the post with their social network.
If you try these 4 steps and still get no response from people, you will need to find someone to give you honest feedback and perhaps coaching. You will need someone who can be brutally honest. Someone who can look for these possible writing diseases:
If your writing style is not clear and concise it can be hard for readers to stay with you, let alone want to share it with their audience.
You may need more white space, bullets, and photos to break up heavy text paragraphs. Remember we are a society used to videos, shiny photos and 140 character tweets.
You may have a topic that not many people are interested in. It’s like that 90’s movie, “He’s Just Not That Into You.” This is a hard pill to swallow, but it may be that you need to assess the relevancy of your blog, your topic or just your writing style. If you are using dated examples or write in a manner that is not compelling, it could just be your readers are yawning and moving on.
Try hiring a professional writer to convey your message. You can go to sites like Writers Access and find someone who might be able to write for your industry and topic.
If you have a topic that can be covered through video or beautiful images, you may just need to shift the format of your posts. It’s like trying to write about art and what inspires you without showing it. Many bloggers do a beautiful job of moving you through photos and fewer words.
Try auditing a few blogs from others in your industry or an outside industry (although you will get more applicable examples if they are in your industry). Look at the format of their posts. Are they long or short? Do they write in a conversational tone or more formal? What do you like about the set up? What might be missing as far as types of content (You might want to address what is missing on your blog)?
Okay, it’s your turn. What other tips would you give Kim? How are you getting more comments and shares to your content? Are there other blog diseases you have seen? We need your expertise here. Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments.
Most new bloggers worry that no one will see their posts when they first start blogging and many on social media feel the same way when starting out. “Why should I post anything when no one is following me yet?” Then when people finally comment or retweet something there is no response. It takes a little more effort to build your blog audience than just writing great content.
The goal on any social channel, including your blog, is to build a relationship with people, one at a time. If you look at most social channels, it as if the goal is to broadcast how awesome the brand is or how great their lifestyle is. Not a whole lot of personal connecting going on.
While one-on-one connecting may seem counter to what most think of when using social media, you will build your blog audience and a larger following on any channel if you focus on relationships….one at a time. Most of the time brands are only focused on pushing out content and they forget the all important role of community management and growth activities.
When someone at a brand reaches out to you, comments on something that is not necessarily related to them, or they respond to something you said or a question you asked, you may just feel compelled to draw closer or take a second look at them. They show interest in you which immediately makes you more interested in them. The folks at Olive and Cocoa do this exceptionally well. They will comment or like one of my Instagram posts that has nothing to do with gifts or their brand. Each time they do, it adds a little affinity credit to their brand in my mind. I usually pop over to drool over all the fabulous gifts they have on their site and I lust after their Delancy Champagne Flutes one more time whispering, “one day you’ll be mine!” And yes I have made purchases from them because of this relationship-building.
Here are 5 ways to build your blog audience and your following on social media channels. This will go beyond just numbers, but will build relationships:
Further the Conversation
When someone takes the time to comment on your blog or social media channel, don’t just LIKE their comment or say “Thanks” for the comment. Further the conversation. Ask them a question. What specifically did they take away from your post or how have they seen it work elsewhere? Be sure it doesn’t sound like you are challenging them. I have had people ask me why I liked their social post or why I commented on a blog post. That’s just weird! It’s like being trapped at a party with the awkward person in the corner. I want to take it back and say, “Never mind…I don’t like it now.” Your goal is to continue the conversation, not interrogate them.
Make a Great First Impression
Before blindly connecting with someone that requests to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook, look at their profile and find something to comment on or start a conversation with. Start the relationship off with more than a blank connection that just throws them into your mix of connections.
If someone follows you on Twitter and they look interesting enough to follow back, go through a page of their posts first and retweet or comment back to them letting them know you find something helpful or interesting. Then when you follow them back, it will be more meaningful. You can add Twitter connections to a list and be sure to watch their posts a bit more closely for a while which will allow you to comment and share their content more readily.
HOW TO CREATE OR ADD SOMEONE TO A TWITTER LIST:
WHERE TO FIND YOUR LISTS ON YOUR OWN PROFILE:
If someone asks a question on your blog post or makes a comment letting you know that the content helped them, follow up in a couple of weeks (you most likely have their email from their comment) with an email asking if they have been able to implement the changes or new information you shared. See if there is anything else you can help them with, without throwing in an offer or mentioning anything promotional. If you have another blog post that you think could offer more insight or helpful information, definitely include that, but DO NOT try to promote your business here. You will go from strange and helpful blogger to spammy creeper faster than you can hit the delete key!This simple and quick act will most likely catch people off guard, after all, how often does a blogger take the time to email someone that commented on their posts? By showing you care and that you are actually interested in them, they will most likely come back and revisit your site.
Buy Them a Virtual Coffee
Do you have someone or a group of someone’s who share your content regularly or comment often on your blog? Why not let them know how much you appreciate them. Send a $5 eGiftcard from Starbucks or somewhere else letting them know you appreciate them or if you engage back and forth often, let them know you enjoy the virtual coffee chat time. Perhaps you have something of value, like an ebook or something else non-promotional that you could send them just to say THANKS!
Thank people for sharing your content through fun, personalized, and super simple images or gifs. Why not take a selfie holding a sign thanking the person by name or find a great gif at Giphy.com that says thank you better than just a simple LIKE on a post. I have a collection of fun THANKS FOR SHARING images or YOU ROCK photos that I like to send anytime someone shares one of my posts. It only takes a couple of seconds but sets you apart from the crowd.
Remember, people will repeat behaviors that get recognized and rewarded. Rewards can be monetary or sentimental. The smallest gesture showing gratitude or care can blossom into a life-long friendship. Don’t overlook these opportunities to build relationships that grow and turn mere readers into fans that will help drive people to your site!
If you are saying to yourself, “I wish I could just get someone to actually comment on my posts” be sure to read next week’s post— “How to Kick the Crickets From Your Blog and Get Readers and Comments” a case study and EXTREME MAKEOVER!
If you’d like some help on coming up with topics to blog about, be sure to sign up for the 15-Day Content Creation Challenge. Get a prompt for your blog or social media posts each day for 15 days sent to your inbox.
I appreciate you and hope you found some helpful tips to form greater relationships with your readers and social media connections. I know if you implement them you will see these relationships blossom and your numbers RISE!
We are all drowning in oatmeal…content oatmeal…social media oatmeal. Oatmeal is BLAND content with no personality. It comes in large vats and is dished up easily to the masses. Oatmeal content is neither hot nor cold, but it’s easy. It doesn’t require much in the way of preparation or presentation. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good bowl of oatmeal, with raisins or dried cherries and brown sugar…and a side of extra crispy bacon. Clear the arteries and then clog them back up. It’s a balanced diet. But oatmeal is for breakfast, not for our content.
YOUR BRAND’S VOICE
This week we were chatting with one of our social media management clients about trying to uncover more of her brand’s voice. We were sliding into the oatmeal zone with her content, which is easy to do when it is a common topic or an industry with lots of competition. I found it difficult to explain this concept. It was about as hard as trying to explain to someone how to speak with “passion” when presenting a technical topic. You must uncover the excitement or the frustration points in the topic, even if the topic is mundane. It’s easy to tell someone to do this, but hard for them to know HOW to actually do it. (The secret is actually to tighten your abs and then speak…Go ahead try it…instant passion!)
It’s hard to know HOW to create content that is unique and stands out. It’s often hard to formulate a personality for our brand that is truly unique. We look around at all the other brands in our industry and see “how it’s done,” and we settle into our bowl of oatmeal with them. It’s warm. It’s safe. It’s easy. If you get too crazy you might ruffle feathers and offend someone. People might think you are CRAZY and whisper about you as you walk down the halls.
GET A LITTLE CRAZY
If you want to see who is doing CRAZY content in a crowded space, look at Maria Cyza (aka Angie Castellano), creating video content in the direct marketing makeup space (which is extremely crowded). But look at the number of views this woman gets on her videos, and by the way, it shows not just in video views, but in sales dollars as well! Maria is BRILLIANT. MailChimp is another brand that consistently shows us their personality. (Of course, it’s easier to do when your mascot is a chimp named Freddie, but no one’s stopping you from creating a fun mascot who can do your dirty work.) Who stands out in your industry? Who do people whisper about when they walk by? What makes them stand out?
Being “out there” or crazy takes guts. We might lose business because people don’t get us, but perhaps that’s ok. The right people will. Years ago I had one of our large clients tell me that he thought I might want to change our company voice mail and contact page. He thought it didn’t have the professional image that he thought we should have (his humble opinion) should their other franchise locations contact us. I actually changed it and then a few months later realized that I didn’t want to be his kind of oatmealy professional. I wanted to stand out, be memorable, be myself. I changed it back and not only get regular comments on our contact page but have had people tell me that it was one of the reasons they wanted to work with us…because we stood out.
Maybe we all need to get a little crazier in our marketing. Maybe we need to loosen our ties and let our true personality come out a little more. Yes, it takes more time when creating content to think about how that should look, feel, or sound in each piece, but if we spend the time uncovering or rediscovering, who we really are as a brand and what makes us look, sound, or feel truly unique, it will be easier for our ideal clients and customers to find and connect with us.
YOUR BRAND STYLE GUIDE
If you have not identified your tone in your brand style guide, perhaps you can add a section in there showing the types of words or phrases that your brand would use and would never use. Outline elements of your brand’s style that you’d like to carry over into each area of your marketing, and if you don’t have a brand style guideline, or you have no idea what I’m even talking about (it’s not the same as Nordstrom’s style guide) download our resource guide on what to put in yours to keep your brand consistent!
Now let’s take care of that oatmeal you’ve got all over the place.
6 Places to Check for Oatmeal:
Is it unique or does it convey the personality of your brand?
Your EMAIL signature
Do you have a unique signature line or is it the standard oatmeal signature line? Create a signature line that gives people more information about you and your brand. Be sure to weave your personality in there as well.
Your website ABOUT page
Maybe you don’t even call it an “ABOUT PAGE.” Perhaps your brand is more about innovation and you have another way to let people know about you and your amazing team.
Your website CONTACT page
Are there more ways to get ahold of you than just via email? Your CONTACT page is a great place to get a little creative. Show off your personality since you actually have someone looking that is interested in your brand. Maybe you can add a lead magnet or put some interesting facts here.
Your BLOG content
This is probably one of the easiest places for you to highlight your brand’s personality. Don’t get all mushy and bland here.
Your SOCIAL MEDIA channels
Now loosen the tie a little more and BE SOCIAL. How does your brand behave on social media? Are you just regurgitating blog content or are you inviting people in for a conversation? Be sure to remember that personality here on your social channels.
5 Ways to Get Out of the Oatmeal Zone and Stand Out
Ask yourself, “What frustrates me about our industry or how people perceive it?
When you write about or create content about things that frustrate you (I’m not talking about just a rant post) your true tone typically emerges. Does it frustrate you when people waste time on something or are taken advantage of? Write to fix this problem.
Ask yourself, “What excites me about our industry more than anything?”
Tell the world about something they absolutely need to know. This excitement typically comes out in your writing or content creation.
Point out the questions people SHOULD BE ASKING but they aren’t.
Most content is created to answer the questions everyone is asking. We even recommend starting with your most frequently asked questions when creating content, but what questions do people NOT ask that end up costing them time, money or frustration?
Look for the edge of topics that you are writing or creating content about.
What is everyone saying already and what pieces do you have something different to say about it or what do you disagree with?
Take time to identify your brand’s PERSONALITY.
If your brand were a person, would she be witty? Sarcastic? Empathetic? Filled with passion for justice? What would your brand wear to work? What would she drink? How would she speak if you were hanging out for lunch? Now create your content AS her!
Where else do you see oatmeal content? Have you discovered a secret to keeping your brand’s personality front and center of your content? (We want more secrets that involve tightening our abs –it’s the only workout some of us get.)
Share your thoughts with us and connect with us on our social channels…Let’s have breakfast together!
Content marketing can feel like a full-time job. Keeping your website filled with fresh and new content is no easy task. You make time to write new blog posts each week. You craft social media posts and even manage to get a Facebook Live video completed, but did you know you have hidden content marketing treasures in your website that might take less time and create more Google juice for you? All you have to do is find these treasures in the attic of your website and dust them off a bit.
If you have been creating content regularly for a couple years or more, you will discover when going through your old blog posts, videos, and website pages, one of three things:
1. Your writing has gotten better. Your voice is more confident in your industry expertise. You are adding more helpful or interesting content in each post.
2. New developments or discoveries have happened that could change or enhance the writing.
3. You are more confident or smoother in front of the camera—or as in my case, less cheesy and more helpful!
This holds true on every piece of content you have created over the years; Our website may still contain outdated content about our services or even in how we describe ourselves. Our videos, website copy, and lead magnets, to name a few, could all use a bit of sprucing up. Some pieces will just need a couple of tweaks, some more of a makeover, and still others, you may want to drag out to the trash and start over. There is nothing wrong with that.
Don’t assume all old content needs to be redone. You may have a very well-performing post that you wrote back in 2010 and it is still driving traffic to your site. Perhaps adding some additional, more relevant content could boost it even more. To decide on which content gets the little duster, which gets the power sander for a makeover, and which get placed out on the curb for trash pick-up, you can use a couple of methods:
Use Your Google Analytics Report.
Look at your high performing pages and blog posts and look at your low performing pages and blog posts. Did you write a blog post and no one found it? Perhaps a new title or a bit more research to add in could bring new interest. Do you have pages on your site that are no longer relevant? Perhaps it’s time to make them more of a helpful resource to your target audience.
Use Your Social Media Analytics.
Which of your posts get shared and liked? Which posts are resonating with your audience? Look at the types of posts and content that have gotten the most traction. Is it video content? Lists or beefy research? Create more of what people are consuming.
Use Your Gut.
When I read through old posts or watch some of my videos from seven or eight years ago, I cringe. I cry. I get therapy, and then I either delete and redo the posts and videos to make them something I am proud of. You will know when you read or watch old content, which needs to be just dusted off and which needs to be burned in the trash heap!
If you select one or two pages per week (webpage copy, blog posts, videos, etc.) and make a few changes and updates, you will find it is much faster than starting a new post from scratch and it can boost your search rankings immediately. Even taking an old post, deleting or unpublishing it and then rewriting it can take less time than starting from scratch.
Once you get that new piece of content completed, promote the heck out of it. Write three social media posts worded slightly different, and schedule them to post and promote that piece of content.
WANT EVEN MORE IDEAS FOR YOUR CONTENT?
Sign up for our 15-Day Content Challenge and we will send you an idea every day for 15 days to help you create content for social media, your blog, your video channels, or maybe all three!
What are you waiting for? Sign up now!
I’d love to hear your ideas on finding treasures in your website attic. Have you done this before?