An Editor’s Rant: 7 Questions Every Writer Should Be Asking


I don’t want you to read this. No, really, don’t waste your precious time. Sure, it’s about content marketing. And yes, it will help your content marketing efforts. But, I don’t really want you to read this.

Those words don’t actually appear on most screens, but that’s what too many writers communicate to readers when they craft boring, generic, pointless leads. They tell potential readers to look elsewhere for interesting, valuable content.

As the editor for CMI’s blog, I have read all types of leads – many good ones, too – in the submissions. I’ve been editing for more than 20 years – at a daily newspaper, a trade publication, a law firm, a content marketing agency, etc. The universal truth is that too many people write ineffective leads.

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about you. It’s everybody else, but read on, as you may pick up a tip or two.

What is the article really about?

In journalism school at Ohio University, I learned to ask two simple questions that still help my writing and editing every day (thanks to Professor Michael Bugeja).

  1. What is the article about?
  1. What is the article really about?


  1. This article is about tips to create better content.
  1. This article is really about how to avoid mistakes many writers make in creating their leads and how to craft better, reader-worthy leads.

See the difference. The first answer is accurate but vague. It could be about almost anything content-related.

The second answer, though, gives the focus essential for a quality post and gives me, the writer, a clearer understanding of what I am trying to communicate.

TIP: Answer the second question several times – each response likely will improve upon the previous one – and a more refined answer will give your article laser-like focus.

Didn’t I just write that?

One of the biggest problems with leads I encounter is that they are so generic they could be swapped with other posts (within the brand and within the industry) and no one would know the difference.

Write a lead that is only valid with your particular post and that fits with your brand’s voice. If you need to be generic when you write a draft to help you get to the point, go ahead and do it. Just don’t forget to delete all those graphs before you publish.

TIP: Don’t forget to apply this across your brand, particularly if you have multiple editors – similar topics can lead to similar leads even with different writers.

Would I read this?

Don’t forget to be a reader. Walk away (even if it’s only to refill your coffee – I know you’re probably on a deadline). Now, with fresher eyes, read your lead. Would you want to read this article? Be brutally honest. If the answer is no, revise and read again.

TIP: If you still can’t craft a read-worthy lead, revisit the angle you’re trying to take or even the subject itself. Figure out what needs to change so you can write something you (your audience) would want to read.

Will readers know why they should care?

I love the nut graph – the nugget that explains that true value of the piece. The single sentence or paragraph lets readers know why this article is relevant and valuable to them today. The nut graph sets the stage.

Write a nut graph (some writers find it’s helpful to write it first so they always stay on topic). Incorporate the nut graph in the first three to five paragraphs – much further down than that and it doesn’t matter.

TIP: Read news articles and other content and see if you can identify the nut graph. Does the writer clearly communicate it? How? Does it help focus the story? If you can’t find the nut graph, is the piece difficult to read? Do you think you know the intent or reason for the piece?

What’s in a glance?

Readers skim. They are likely to glance beyond the lead to read the subheads or bolded phrases to see if the piece delivers something they want. Write subheads that clearly map out your piece and can (almost) stand on their own.

TIP: Read your subheads as standalone copy. Do they tell the story in the abbreviated form? Do they hit on every key point in the post? Do they promote less-important points? Are they grammatically parallel (i.e., if you use a verb as the first word in one, use a verb as the first word in all)? Adjust accordingly.

Should meta descriptions differ from the lead?

Don’t just copy and paste your lead into the meta description category. You need to write a distinct meta description that gets to the point in 156 characters. Given their appearance in search-engine results, you have a lot of competition. At this stage, you want them to click. So explain succinctly what the article is really about and throw in a few enticing words if possible.

TIP: At CMI, we write 235-character excerpts for each blog post that appear in our e-newsletter and on the website page. These excerpts blend the intent of the lead with the to-the-point brevity of the meta description. It’s a warmer “lead” than the search engine results, but we are still going for the click first.

What about the headlines?

Headlines are the sexy part of every piece of content – they lure the reader more than anything else. As such, experts share plenty of tips and advice on how to craft successful headlines. Here are a couple helpful posts focused strictly on headlines:

TIP: Ensure your headline delivers. You’ll only have frustrated and disappointed readers if your headline (and your lead) has little, if anything, to do with the rest of the article.

Want to share your own gripes or learn more about the editor’s role in content marketing? Join CMI Editor Ann Gynn at noon (EDT) on March 31 for her #CMWorld Twitter Chat.

Desire to improve your team’s writing and content creation? Sign up for daily or weekly highlights of the CMI blog and exclusive content from CMI Founder Joe Pulizzi.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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This Week in Content Marketing: The Third Era of the Internet Has Begun


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode, Robert and I discuss AOL co-founder Steve Case’s take on the third era of the Internet (yes, this is such a thing). We also ponder whether or not LEGO went off the rails with its “beauty tips for girls” section in the LEGO Club magazine, and explore PR’s role in content marketing. Next, we critique a set of predictions on the future of consumer behavior and advertising and finish up this week’s news with a look at revenue models for podcasts.  Rants and raves include Starbucks’ awkward response to criticism of its “Race Together” campaign and IDG’s clever method of affiliate marketing. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from Backcountry.

This week’s show

(Recorded live on March 22, 2015; Length: 58:49)

Download this week’s PNR This Old Marketing podcast.

If you enjoy our PNR podcasts, we would love if you would rate it, or post a review, on iTunes

1. Content marketing in the news

  • A pivotal point for the Internet (4:50): According to AOL co-founder and technology investor Steve Case, the Internet is now on the brink of a new wave of disruption that will be unprecedented in scale. The first two waves disrupted the communications industry, media, and commerce. The third wave, he predicts, will impact fields as diverse as health care, education, transportation, energy, and food. Robert and I compare notes on Case’s predictions and talk about the implications for content marketers.
  • Beauty tips for girls from LEGO (13:18): According to this opinion piece by Sharon Holbrook on The New York Times website, LEGO has made a major faux pas by trying to give little girls beauty advice in the March-April 2015 LEGO Club magazine. In the process, the toy brick manufacturer is causing girls to worry about how they look at a very young age, according to Holbrook. Robert and I don’t view this as a huge gaffe by LEGO, but it does show that any content we publish with a strong point of view or voice will probably be disagreeable to someone.
  • PR seizing the advantage of content marketing (22:08): This article from The Drum explains why PR professionals are well-positioned to benefit from the boom in content marketing. The author points out that PR has always been the custodian for content within organizations, and it is most closely tied to journalism. The author claims that PR can take a leadership role in content marketing, but Robert and I don’t see that happening. We reveal who we think is looking at content holistically and is best positioned to lead content marketing initiatives.
  • Ender’s Analysis – the five trends shaping consumer behavior and advertising (31:50): Douglas McCabe, CEO of Enders Analysis, outlined five trends that publishers and advertisers must be aware of in his speech at Digital Media Strategies 2015. He covers TV viewing habits, wearables, mobile, online news, and content marketing. Robert and I agree that some of McCabe’s predictions are fairly obvious, but he does offer a unique perspective on the future of content marketing. In a side discussion, we make some bold predictions about the evolution of Red Bull as a brand.
  • The economics of the podcast boom (39:15): Ann Friedman, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, takes a deep dive into the economic factors that are supporting the current boom in podcasting. She provides an excellent review of podcasting revenue models, how podcasters are benefiting from affiliate networks and why big media is dabbling in this form of audio content. Robert and I discuss how brands can employ podcasting in their content marketing initiatives.

2. Sponsor (42:49)

  • This Old Marketing is sponsored by DigitalRelevance, which increases search visibility, web traffic, and conversions by executing research-driven content marketing, digital PR, and SEO strategies. DigitalRelevance is offering The Media Buyer’s Guide to Sponsored Editorial Content. It includes everything you need to know about sponsored content, from evolution, controversy and regulation, to execution tools and a proven buying strategy. It also includes the world’s first research study and statistical analysis to determine fair market value prices for sponsored content. Learn more at


3. Rants and raves (44:36)

  • Joe’s rave: I’m fascinated with this article from Digiday, which describes how technology publishing giant IDG has been building revenue using affiliate marketing; it now represents 6% of the company’s total revenue. What caught my attention is the clever way in which they do it, which maintains a separation between its journalists and its advertising teams.
  • Robert’s rant: Starbucks has shut down its “Race Together” campaign, after receiving widespread criticism for its effort to improve race relations. Employees will no longer be encouraged to write “Race Together” on drink cups. Worse yet, Starbucks’ Senior Vice President of Communications Corey DuBrowa blocked critics of the campaign and eventually deleted his Twitter account. Robert explains how the company should have told its story, and what marketers can learn from this PR disaster.

4. This Old Marketing example of the week (52:37)

  • Backcountry: Backcountry is an excellent retail website that sells products for camping, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Recently, it started telling the backstories of some of the products it sells. Tentsile Tents were the first products featured. They are suspended in the air rather than anchored into the ground. This minimizes damage to the ground and makes them suitable for rugged areas where there isn’t room to set up a traditional tent. Backcountry has produced a high-quality two-minute video interview with the co-founder of Tentsile on why he and his partner started the company. This is an excellent example of “brandscaping” – partnering with companies that have complementary audiences or content that can enhance your content marketing initiatives.

For a full list of PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page.

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The post This Week in Content Marketing: The Third Era of the Internet Has Begun appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

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Apps: The New SEO Frontier?

Apps: The New SEO Frontier? was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

On Feb. 26, Google announced it would “surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search.” This announcement brings up an important question for digital marketers: are apps the new SEO frontier?

Did Someone Say Ranking Boost?

Young couple silhouette busted upGoogle’s Feb. 26 announcement that the search engine will now “surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search” is significant news for SEOs. If a user has downloaded your app, your app content can get a ranking boost in their SERP — and if a ranking boost is on the table, it definitely makes an SEO stop and consider the possibilities.

On average, people install 26 apps on their phone … but there are more than 1.3 million apps in the app store. And we know that 5 percent of apps drive 92 percent of all app downloads. Moral of the story? Apps are a very competitive space, and before any coding begins, it’s important to determine whether or not an app is worth the investment for your business.

Last week, Bruce Clay, Inc. hosted the weekly #SEOchat on Twitter to discuss this very topic. Digital marketers had a roundtable discussion about important app matters, including:

What Makes Someone Download an App?

There are many reasons a user might download an app. Chief among them, according to SEO-chatters, are:

  • The user gets something for downloading it — a coupon, a discount, etc. (Starbucks, Delta, Macy’s, Target).
  • The app solves a problem or makes life easier for the user.
  • The app is a better experience than the mobile site.
  • The app provides entertainment.
  • The app boosts productivity.

The Current Effect of Deep Linking

Igal Stolpner, head of marketing

While Stolpner is right — there is a very slight increase — it’s hard to say that this was, in fact, a boost from deep linking. The slight increase could be attributed to a variety of factors.

The lack of clear ranking boost evidence is consistent with what we’ve seen in our own clients at Bruce Clay, Inc. We have not seen any apps changing rank in the SERP (yet?).

In any event, deep linking should be implemented for all apps. Learn more about indexing your app in this Google Code Lab.

App Store Optimization

The conversation touched on app store optimization. Matthew Young, a senior SEO specialist at Adobe, advised app developers to consider SEO 101 items: “Optimize the titles and descriptions with keywords, use video and images. Also, linking to the app listing in Google and/or Apple is a good thing, as well,” he tweeted.

Other participants advocated garnering reviews and having clear screenshots showing what the app will look like when you use it.

The Effect of Wearables on Apps

When asked how wearables will change the way apps are used and developed, Chad Lio (digitial marketing manager at Massage Magazine) said that he could see a future where developers make two versions of an app: one for mobile and one for wearables.

The development of wearables, of course, depends on an industry’s demand. All parties agreed that the space where apps for wearables is destined to skyrocket is fitness and health.

Read the entire transcript of the March 26 #SEOchat on “Apps: The New SEO Frontier.” You can also hear Bruce Clay’s thoughts on apps in this SEM Synergy podcast.

Have you seen a ranking boost from deep linking? Share your insights (or questions) in the comments!

Source: bruce clay rss

9 Free Analytic Tools to Measure Your Content Effectiveness

analytic-tools-measure-content-coverAnalyzing the impact of your content doesn’t need to be a costly endeavor. These nine analytic tools are free (or almost free). Identifying which ones help inform your content marketing goals, using them regularly, and adjusting your content so your results are aligned even better with your objectives will boost the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.

1. Google Analytics

The first, most important, and the ultimate tool that every website manager and marketing expert needs is Google Analytics. It’s among the best ways to get vital information about the performance of your website and the content with which your audience engages the most.

Google Analytics gives comprehensive demographic data about your audience. It measures engagement, helps you determine which topics are most liked, and identifies where the audience is coming from. You can rely on Google Analytics to measure the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts, as well as your other custom campaigns.

2. Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools is equally important for measuring the results of your marketing efforts.

You can track keywords for which your website has ranked, the number and quality of backlinks, as well as the number of indexed and broken pages. You receive error messages and reports that can be used to improve your website’s performance and boost the effectiveness of your SEO efforts to reach the right audience.


Free for personal use with the ability to upgrade, is a content curation and analytical tool used by over 1.2 million people and companies.

Basically, its own network publishes and shares your posts and plugs into any mainstream social tool (like Buffer). 1

Analytically, measures your views, visitors, comments, and shares per day, and integrates with Google Analytics. Its guide center offers product guides, case studies, demos, and FAQs on how to use this extensive tool.

4. Buffer

Buffer performs analytics on social media posts and shares. You can see what your most popular tweet or post was over time. Buffer’s free plan gives you access to information on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn, widening the scope for your social media outreach. You can pay for more extended metrics if desired.

The Buffer-provided statistics are valuable to determine if you’re hitting your social media goals and to identify where you can improve your outreach. You can easily tell whether you are getting the most from your social networking or if you need to do more to increase your audience. It also enables you to compare your average social media post’s performance to the average current post performance to see how well it did.

5. Followerwonk

Followerwonk analyzes a Twitter account’s followers and tweets to present a range of information useful for targeted marketing. The data is broken into charts that make for a simplified graphical representation. Followerwonk also allows you to figure out most-used hashtags for an account as well as optimal times for tweeting (when most of the followers are active on Twitter).

As a tool, Followerwonk is a statistics-based treasure trove. The insight provided by Followerwonk allows you to streamline posting times and use Twitter more effectively as a marketing channel. You can even research your competitors since Followerwonk is not limited to providing data for a single Twitter account.

6. Quintly

Although there is a pay option for Quintly, if you use it solely to manage up to three Facebook pages then this analytics train is free. It’s a good solution for small and medium enterprises that need an analytics solution but don’t have the budget for it.

Quintly’s straightforward analytics give some good insights on the trend of data and growth of a page.

Quintly-  screenshot- image 2

You can review basic engagement metrics (such as “likes,” shares, etc.) at a glance through a clean and unobtrusive interface. You can add other pages to see how they match up against each other via graphical representations of their metrics.

7. Tweriod

How important is it to publish your social media updates at the right time? Curating content, when the biggest portion of your target audience is online, should boost engagement and help drive more traffic to your website.

Tweriod analyzes your tweets, their responses, and the times during which your followers seem to be most active on the social network. Tweriod will do a free analysis of your Twitter account and behavior to shed some light on your content marketing successes and mistakes.

8. Cyfe

Cyfe has been featured in a number of magazines as a useful tool to help businesses amalgamate their metrics in one handy dashboard. It can monitor multiple websites on multiple different platforms, allowing you to draw conclusions across the board. Through the app’s separation of dashboards into intuitive groups, you can focus on one specific element of your marketing plan, such as social media or finance.

For most businesses, the free options, which limit the number of dashboards you can view, should suffice. Even the premium option ($168/year) is reasonably priced given what Cyfe offers.

9. Addvocate

Addvocate gives you data about the people who share your content the most on the largest number of social channels. Such data can be invaluable for the creation of a strong and effective content creation and social media marketing team. Working with the top influencers and the individuals who are most committed to doing content marketing will drive up engagement and ultimately affect the online reputation of your company.

Addvocate also provides data about which content has been shared the most and which channels have produced the highest audience response. Apart from enabling enterprise sharing, this tool is great for figuring out what the audience wants and which social network is the best one for reaching the right crowd.


Smart content marketing is data-based and data-driven. A lot of data can be accessed using these free (or low-cost) tools to help you make your campaigns more focused and more effective.

There is one thing to remember, however. Good content marketing starts with well-written, unique, and engaging content. Tools cannot help if you’re missing this foundation.

Looking for more cool tools? Check out these 7 tools to improve productivity or these 6 free tools to help with keyword research.

Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via

The post 9 Free Analytic Tools to Measure Your Content Effectiveness appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

Source: content marketing institute

Jesse Desjardins Tells How His SlideShare Posts Got Him Fired and Hired


Jesse Desjardins is a go-getter. Throughout his career, he has gone after what he wanted to do – even if the first answer was no or a deadline had passed. Finding success in that approach to life, Jesse wonders why more people don’t just take a chance and strive to do what they’re passionate about.

In this episode of The Pivot, Todd Wheatland sits down with Jesse to find out how a Canadian became the Head of Social Media for Tourism Australia and to discuss all the difference SlideShare has made in Jesse’s life.

Listen to Todd’s full interview with Jesse Desjardins here:

Download this week’s The Pivot podcast.

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What may surprise you

Ten days after the application deadline, Jesse learned about the opening for Head of Social Media at Tourism Australia. He inquired to HR and was given until the end of the day to submit a resume. Never having written one, he searched the Internet and sent his newly created resume by 5 p.m. That night, he posted a presentation on why he wanted the job to SlideShare. The next morning it had 45,000 views and 200 comments. He was contacted for an interview by 8:30 a.m.

  • Jesse’s off-duty hobby was designing presentations to post on SlideShare. He created the You Suck at PowerPoint presentation that a few million people have viewed. He also used SlideShare to plead his case for a trip to South by Southwest (SXSW) and viewers gave him enough money for the trip (this was before Kickstarter).
  • He’s 33, or as his dad told him, the same age as Jesus was when he died.
  • Jesse “stole” an idea from The Walt Disney Company that changed the target audience and content for Tourism Australia’s social media conversation. Engagement skyrocketed.
  • When someone asked what it took to be featured by Tourism Australia, Jesse jokingly wrote “send chocolate.” A bunch of chocolate ended up in the office. “I kind of felt guilty,” he says.
  • Jesse created Tourism Australia’s “censored kangaroo” image that went viral, caught the attention of media, and stirred a conversation about animal nudity. (The image showed a kangaroo on its back with its gender-identifying anatomy blurred.)

Image Source: Facebook

  • Jesse confesses that the social media team at Tourism Australia operates without a content calendar.
  • Jesse went back to university to earn his MBA because he thinks marketers need to learn more about business than they do about the latest social media fad. As one of his professors said, “You can’t base your strategy on someone else’s sound bites.”

Jesse’s pivot

Jesse asked his boss at a Paris advertising agency if he could attend the premier ad festival, Cannes Lions. His boss said he wasn’t going to waste company resources for the most junior person to attend.

Jesse stayed up all night to create a presentation about why he was the best person to go, outlining his available time, the sessions he would attend, and his plans to share what he learned with the rest of the agency. “You’re not sending me, you’re sending the whole organization,” he told his boss.

He got the OK with two caveats – don’t talk to anyone and don’t go to any parties. Jesse learned a lot and snapped 1,000 images of the event. He left without talking to anyone or going to a party. On the ride home, he curated the images into the 100 Best Slides of Cannes Lions and, just for fun, posted it to SlideShare.

The next morning, his SlideShare post had 80,000 views and his boss was fuming that Jesse had “talked” at Cannes Lions. Although Jesse didn’t technically break the rules, the effect was the same. He says he discovered that “[SlideShare] is such a powerful channel and a way to reach people.” A week later, Jesse was fired.

Size doesn’t equate to success

Tourism Australia’s three-member social media team “punches above its weight” – it does a lot with the resources available. For example, the team posts four images a day to its Instagram account and earns an average daily reach between 300,000 and 500,000, and about 50,000 “likes.”

Jesse says some are surprised that the small team doesn’t spend most of its time on creating the content. Team members talk on the phone and send emails to cultivate their bigger team of several thousand volunteers who contribute content and generate buzz about the content featured by Tourism Australia.

[Marketers] think they’re the only ones who can tell their stories. The Holy Grail is when you can have other people tell your story for you. And you know what, it won’t be perfect 100% [of the] time, but I’d rather have this huge conversation that’s mostly on brand than have nothing at all.

For a full list of The Pivot archives, go to the main The Pivot: Marketing Backstories page.

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Cover image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Delightfully Short Guide to Social Media ROI

If the concept of social media ROI feels rather enormous, you’re not alone.

I am amazed—and sometimes astounded—at the breadth of the topic.

So that’s made the exercise of writing a “delightfully short” guide to social media ROI all the more fun and challenging. I’ve given myself under 1,000 words to provide an overview of social media ROI and how to apply it to your social media marketing efforts. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!

social media roi

What Does Social Media ROI Look Like?

ROI has its roots in business finance. Businesses use ROI to calculate the dollars-and-cents return on a dollars-and-cents investment.

Social media ROI is what you get back from all the time, effort, and resources you commit to social. And it’s best calculated with dollar amounts.

Of course, there are no dollar signs dangling from retweets or likes. Twitter, Facebook, and others are no-cost marketing channels to join, potentially a zero-dollar investment (which makes any return exponentially fantastic, right!).

So in order to track ROI, the key elements would be:

  1. Identifying your monetary investment in social media
  2. Attaching a dollar amount to your social media goals.

Difficult? Possibly.

Possible? Definitely.

How to Measure Social Media ROI

ROI = (return – investment) / investment 

This straightforward formula has just the two parts: Return and Investment. Here’s how to figure out each of the two values on social media.

How to Calculate Your Return

“Return” is one of the trickier elements of social media ROI because it can mean so many different things to so many different marketers. For instance, we stopped calculating direct social media ROI at the Buffer blog when our conversion goals changed.

So first things first: What do you want to achieve?

What is your overarching goal with social media? And how can you specify the right actions that meet this goal?

Then, how much are these actions worth to you?

Step one: Choose a goal

There’s a whole host of possibilities for choosing which goals and actions to track. Troels Kjems at Think Digital shared a great list. Here’s a bit from Troels’s list and a few of our ideas, too.

  • New followers
  • Clicks on link in update
  • Online purchases
  • Filled out contact form
  • Signups for newsletter
  • Downloads of .PDF file
  • Time spent on important webpage

Step two: Track your goal

Choose one or more of the above conversion goals, and start tracking. You can track website actions (sales, downloads, signups) in Google Analytics by setting up goals and event tracking. You can track social media interactions (shares, likes, follows) in Buffer.

Step three: Assign a monetary value

Once you’ve chosen a goal and tracked the actions, it’s time to tackle the dollars-and-cents side of ROI. There are several different methods to choose from here:

  • Lifetime value – How much do you earn on average from a customer? (There’s a quick calculator here, and a helpful article here.)
  • Lifetime value, multiplied by conversion rate – How much is each potential visit worth to you?
  • Average sale – How much is the average purchase through your site?
  • PPC costs – How much would you end up paying if you were to use ads to achieve the same social media actions?

Here’s an example chart from Think Digital about what these values might look like in a report:


The PPC costs seem particularly interesting to me. Basically, you compare the amount you would pay in advertising for a new follower, click, impression, etc. and extrapolate for what you actually earn via your organic (i.e., not paid) social media sharing.

If it costs $0.50 to gain a single new fan to your Facebook page, then your organic gain of 50 fans is potentially worth $25.

Through experimentation and research with the Buffer accounts we found some benchmarks that might be helpful for comparison. (You can run a 5-day campaign with social ads to get a baseline specific to you.)

  • Facebook like average – $0.50 per page like
  • Facebook reach average – $0.59 per thousand impressions
  • Facebook click average – $0.50 per click
  • Promoted tweet – $3.50 per thousand impressions
  • LinkedIn – $2.00 per click

How to Calculate Your Investment

While it’s true that participation on Twitter, Facebook, and the like is free, your time is not. Your social media tools may not be. And your ad spend is worth real dollars.

  • Your time – Multiply labor-cost per hour by the number of hours you’ve committed over a given period (depending on whether you’re measuring social media ROI for the week, the month, per campaign, etc.). found the median hourly rate for social media managers to be $51. You can also look up salary levels for social media managers in your are using Glassdoor.
  • Your social media tools – Add up the costs of all the tools and services you use for social media. Find the weekly or monthly costs using a bit of math (divide annual fees by 52 for the weekly cost, by 12 for the monthly cost).
  • Advertising spend – The amount you spend on social media advertising—boosting Facebook posts, promoting tweets, etc.

All these costs added together will equal your investment.

A quick example

Big thanks to Neil Patel and Quick Sprout for putting together this infographic on measuring social media ROI. There’s a specific example in the graphic for how ROI might look for a fictional business.

How to Calculate the ROI of Your Social Media Campaigns
Courtesy of: Quick Sprout

Additional reading


Hopefully this helps show that measuring social media ROI is doable, with a bit of critical thinking and planning. I love the conclusion that Convince & Convert comes to:

Figure out what you want to track, where you can track it, think about both current customers and new customers, and go do it.

What questions do you have about social media ROI? Which methods do you use to track things? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Image sources: Pablo, Death to the Stock Photo, IconFinder, Think Digital

The post The Delightfully Short Guide to Social Media ROI appeared first on Social.

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Don’t Sound Like Everyone Else: 12 Essential Elements to Create a Consistent Brand Voice


Want to know what big, disparate companies like Microsoft, LinkedIn, MarketingProfs, Unilever, Yamaha, Cisco, and Google all have in common? They recently began paying more attention to their corporate tone of voice.

Any guesses why? It’s because they understand what an important role their tone of voice plays in how their customers perceive them. Plus, they recognize that crafting their content with its own distinct and recognizable voice helps differentiate their brands from their competitors.

Of course, finding the right tone for your company is no small task. There are lots of factors to consider. Should it be contemporary or traditional? Practical or inspirational? Humorous or serious? And what exactly do any of those characteristics even mean?

Figuring out your tone isn’t easy and even once you have it, the work isn’t over. You still have to determine how your new tone of voice gets translated into your writing style.

The real question becomes – what components should you consider when applying the new tone of voice to your writing? In my view, it comes down to these 12 main elements:

1. Word length

As children, we learn shorter words first. So, if you want to be understood clearly by people of all reading levels, use shorter words. In terms of tone, short words are simple and direct, while longer ones suggest sophistication and nuance. Shorter words tend to be punchier and harder, while longer words can give a softer, more relaxed effect.

2. Sentence length

Shorter sentences present a concise style, while longer ones are more complex. A good guide to follow to ensure the value of any sentence length is that you should be able to read it out loud in a single breath.

3. Tempo

Using a shorter average-sentence length is good, but the key word in that phrase is average. To keep readers interested, vary the length of sentences and paragraphs to give an organic, varied rhythm with its own ebbs and flows.

4. Pronouns

Pronouns stand in place of the names of people or things. Your choice of pronouns can have a big effect on your tone. For example, when writing about your company, you can use first person (we) or third person (Acme Corp.). First person is more immediate, positioning your brand as a group of people, while third person is more detached and abstract, with less clarity as to who is speaking.

When referencing your audience, you can use second person (you) or third (customers or suppliers). Second person is direct and engaging, while third person is more distanced. I’ve written this blog post in the first and second person, which makes it clear I’m addressing you directly.

5. Conciseness

Conciseness is the ratio of ideas to words. The fewer words used to convey an idea, the more concise you are. On a practical level, being more concise is better. Getting to the point saves time and, therefore, money. But if you want to adopt a more flowing, rambling, or descriptive tone, you’ll need to be less concise and incorporate additional words to achieve that less-concise feel.

6. Jargon

Jargon is specialized language used in a particular professional domain such as law, finance, and engineering. There’s good and bad jargon. Bad jargon hides the truth and bamboozles people, while good jargon signals that the reader is part of a community. Good jargon also can save time and space.

7. Buzzwords

Buzzwords are jargon terms that have the attraction of novelty. Some fields, particularly in the tech industry, generate a lot of buzzwords because they need to name innovations (e.g., big data, Internet of things, etc.). However, the same caution applies to buzzwords as to jargon: Only use them if you know the audience will understand. Also, remember that today’s hot buzzword is tomorrow’s embarrassing anachronism.

8. Clichés

Clichés are words and phrases that have become worn out through overuse. In B2B, words such as solution, proactive, and leverage were once fresh, but are now clichéd. Using clichés will probably make your tone sound stale and dull. You may need to use a cliché to meet readers where they are so they will respond, but you could pay a high price if you wind up sounding like everyone else.

9. Contractions

Most people speak using contractions, such as you’re, don’t, or it’s, except in the most formal situations. So using them in writing makes your tone informal, relaxed, and accessible, and gives readers a strong sense of being in a conversation.

10. Colloquialisms

Colloquial language is the language of everyday casual speech – the way we talk when we’re talking with friends and think nobody’s listening. It’s a flexible term because the meaning of casual varies speaker to speaker and culture to culture. Colloquial language is likely to use contractions and may include slang or even profanity.

MailChimp, an email marketing company, uses colloquial language. Have a look at this blog post with phrases like grabbing coffee, go look them up, bare bones, bunch of big buttons, and big a-ha moments. As the MailChimp example shows, colloquial language doesn’t necessarily mean simple. Writing colloquially doesn’t mean you can’t cover technical features or concepts. It just means you adopt the tone of an expert chatting to a non-expert.

11. Obscure words

Using obscure or unusual words has a similar effect as using jargon – you gamble on whether the audience will understand what you’re saying.

However, you might want to use an obscure word from time to time to suggest refinement or a certain type of heritage. If so, make it clear from context what the word means. For example, U.K. cake brand, Mr Kipling, uses the slogan Exceedingly good cakes. Since it’s obvious that exceedingly means very, anyone can understand the slogan.

Mr-Kipling-Example-Image 1

12. Mistakes and rule-breaking

Technical problems that can creep into your writing include easily confused words (e.g., peek one’s interest instead of pique one’s interest), misspellings, and grammatical errors. Using the wrong word or spelling the right word incorrectly is undesirable in business writing. Unless it’s part of a deliberate creative strategy (e.g., Beanz Meanz Heinz), a mistake can only harm your chances of communicating well.

With grammar, the picture is less black-and-white. The prescriptive view is that we should respect and obey the rules of grammar. The descriptive view is that the right way to use language is the way people speak and write it, which is not necessarily reflected in the academic rules.

Some grammar rules can be bent or broken. For example, starting a sentence with and or but, or ending a sentence with a preposition like on is grammatically incorrect, but most people speak that way. If your tone of voice is casual or colloquial, you may want to write following your audience’s verbal voice, not the rules of grammar.


Companies are putting new emphasis on getting their tone of voice right and applying it consistently to all of their content. They know that when their tone of voice is consistent, their audience hears the same person speaking whenever and however they deal with them. That consistent voice shows customers that the brand is a consistent, reliable company to deal with, and that every part of their experience will be equally good.

Tone of voice is an important component in creating consistent branded content. Learn more about which tactics your peers are turning to for more effective content marketing creation and delivery. Read our e-book, Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Execution Tactics.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post Don’t Sound Like Everyone Else: 12 Essential Elements to Create a Consistent Brand Voice appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

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The Research & Science Behind Finding Your Best Profile Picture

One of the first things I do when I join a new social network is to upload a profile picture.

But which profile picture should I choose? Is there a best one?

Profile pictures have always been a bit of a gray area for me inasmuch as I post a picture I think looks good without knowing its actual effect on my audience.

Is there such thing as a perfect, best profile picture?

Interestingly, there’s been some rather great research about the different elements of profile pictures that have the biggest impact on an audience. The psychology and science behind a perfect profile picture leaves some great guidelines on how to influence your audience and possibly gain more followers.

I’m happy to share what we’ve found about the perfect profile picture, based on the best science, research, and psychology out there.

perfect profile pics

The 7 Elements of the Best Profile Pictures

In 40 milliseconds, we’re able to draw conclusions about people based on a photo.

That’s less than one-half of one-tenth of a second. Wow!

This finding from Psychological Science underscores the vital importance of a profile picture and the effect it has on making an impression.

There’s been a host of research done on the various elements of a profile picture—how to look, how to not look, what to wear, whether to smile. The specifics of these studies are outlined below.

Here’s an overview of all the best practices for coming up with the best profile picture on social media:

  • Smile with teeth
  • Large eyes
  • Less masculinity
  • Dark-colored suits, light colored buttondowns
  • Jawline with a shadow
  • Head-and-shoulders, or head-to-waist
  • Squinch
  • Asymmetrical

Worth trying out:

  • Facing the camera (or not)
  • Bright background

And things to avoid:

  • Hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair, glare, and shadows over the eyes
  • Laughing smile
  • Sexiness

Here’s a bit more about the science, research, and psychology behind these recommendations.

How to appear approachable, helpful, and attractive

Researchers at the Department of Psychology at University of York analyzed 1,000 images of faces in order to find the specific facial tics and features that help make a good first impression.

They came up with 65 different features that could affect one’s perceptions, things like “nose curve” and “cheekbone position” and “head area.” For each of the 65 features, they noted the effect of each on the following three distinct dimensions:

  1. Approachability – “Does this person want to help or harm me?”
  2. Dominance – “Can this person help or harm me?”
  3. Youthful-attractiveness – “Might this person be a good romantic partner or a rival?”

(It’s amazing the level of detail the researchers found. They created cartoon-like faces based on every possible variation.)

Here were the findings:

data chart

(How to read this chart: App stands for Approachability, Yo-Att stands for Youthful-attractiveness, and Dom stands for Dominance. A positive number means a positive correlation, and a negative number means a negative correlation.)

Overall, the researchers noted that the most meaningful factors in each of the three dimensions seemed to group around common traits.

For approachability, the mouth was key.

  • Mouth area
  • Mouth height
  • Mouth width
  • Mouth gap
  • Bottom lip curve

This is consistent with previous research that smiling is a key component to approachability.

For youthful-attractiveness, the eyes were key.

  • Eye area
  • Iris area
  • Eye height
  • Eye width

This is consistent with previous research that relatively large eyes link to a youthful appearance.

For dominance:

  • Eyebrow height
  • Cheek gradient
  • Eye gradient
  • Skin saturation
  • Skin value variation

These all link to stereotypically masculine appearance.

In the final report, the researchers put together composite faces that show the range in each of the three dimensions—e.g., from least approachable to most approachable, left-to-right. Can you notice the variations in the aforementioned facial features from one face to the next?

twitter profiles

How to appear likable, competent, and influential

PhotoFeeler, a neat tool that lets you get feedback on your profile pictures via feedback from actual people who vote on your picture, shared their learnings from over 60,000 ratings of competence, likability, and influence that were left on photos submitted to the PhotoFeeler app.

Here’s a quick overview of what they learned:

  • Don’t block your eyes. Sunglasses drop likeability score, and hair, glare, and shadows drop competence and influence.
  • Define your jawline. A shadow line that outlines the jaw all the way around helps with likability, competence, and influence.
  • Show your teeth when you smile. A closed mouth smile has a small increase likability. A laughing smile increases likability even more, but you lose ground in competence and influence. The best smile, according to PhotoFeeler, is a smile with teeth. This leads to gains across the board in likability (nearly twice that of a closed-mouth smile), competence, and influence.
  • Try formal dress. Dark-colored suits and light-colored buttondowns (with ties, for men) had the greatest effect on competency and influence out of all other factors.
  • Head and shoulders (or head to waist). Close-ups on just headshots brought scores down, as did full body shots.
  • Try a squinch. A squinch is a slight squint. The idea behind it is that wide eyes look fearful, vulnerable, and uncertain. Slightly squinted eyes may come across as comfortable and confident. PhotoFeeler found that squinching eyes has an increase across the board in competence, likability, and influence.

(The photo on the left is the normal, wide-eyed headshot. The one on the right is a squinch.)


What avatars can teach us about profile pictures

Researcher Katrina Fong of Toronto’s York University conducted a study on 2D avatars, coming up with some neat observations that could extrapolate to profile pictures.

Participants were more interested in being friends with people whose avatars had

  • open eyes
  • oval face
  • smiling expression
  • brown hair

A few characteristics that turned participants away—going so far as to signal traits like intorversion, neuroticism, and disagreeableness—included

  • neutral or negative expression
  • black or short hair
  • hat or sunglasses

Should your profile picture be alluring?

Former Oregon State psychologist Elizabeth Daniels polled 118 teenage girls and young adult women about their impressions of a 20-year-old woman’s Facebook profile. Half of the participants were shown a sexy profile picture; the other half saw a more conservative image.

The results: The conservative image won out in all three categories.

  • Attractiveness: “I think she is pretty”
  • Social: “I think she could be a friend of mine”
  • Competence: “I have confidence in her ability to get a job done”

Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Times had a great takeaway from the study:

It demonstrates the degree to which, even among footloose digital natives, edgy photos are seen as a sign that the subject isn’t credible or competent.

Which matters more: Profile pic or bio?

Dating website OkCupid is well-known for its data analysis. Last year, they released some interesting details on the influence of profile pictures compared to text descriptions. How much of each matter for a person’s overall impression of your profile?

OkCupid hid their profile text for a sample of users, showing just the profile picture. This gave the site two sets of data to analyze: one for “the picture and the text together” and one for “the picture alone.”

Their takeaway:

Essentially, the text is less than 10% of what people think of you.


Guy Kawasaki’s 4 keys to profile pictures

Canva’s Guy Kawasaki, an early evangelist for all things tech and social media, has found four factors to be key for a profile picture.

  1. Faces only. No family, friends, dogs, logos, etc.
  2. Asymmetrical. Use the Rule of Thirds to create your profile picture
  3. Face the light. The source of light should come in front of you.
  4. At least 600 pixels wide. There are varying shapes and sizes of profile pictures on social media. A 600-pixel image will look great no matter where it’s viewed.

The asymmetrical advice in particular has a lot of solid psychology and design history behind it.

The Rule of Thirds is a method for composing the elements of an image to be visually pleasing and to be in sync with the way our eyes prefer to scan an image. Photographers know the Rule of Thirds well; it is a foundational piece of photography.

The way it works is by dividing an image into a grid of thirds both horizontally and vertically. Basically, put a tic-tac-toe board on an image.


The tic-tac-toe board creates intersections of lines, and according to Rule of Thirds, these intersections are where the eye is most likely to be drawn.

The design lesson here is to place your key elements along these intersections. Avoid placing a key element right in the center.

Blogger, author, and speaker Rebekah Radice does this to great effect with her profile picture.


To face the camera or not to face the camera

Another study from OkCupid looked at the profile pictures of over 7,100 users and noted which effects brought the most contacts. One of the most interesting takeaways here was the effect of looking at the camera vs. looking off-camera.

For a woman’s profile picture, the greatest effects were noticed when looking at the camera.

For a man’s profile picture, the greatest effect came when looking away from the camera.



What eye-tracking studies say

“You look where they look.”

This title from a Usable Word blog post provides a great synopsis for the research on eye-tracking studies.

We follow the eyes of the people we see on screen. Looking directly into the camera can help make a direct connection with someone. Looking to the left or right will help guide the reader’s eyes in that direction (toward a “Follow” button maybe?)

KISSmetrics has done a great job of explaining a bit about this reasearch:

Human beings have a natural tendency to follow the gaze of others, and we have been coached since birth to follow arrows directing us to where we should be looking/going.

And this picture helps put it into great perspective:


Try a bright, orange background

Orbit Media dug up this gem from Rand Fishkin of Moz: Test different background colors for your photos.

Brightly colored backgrounds are Rand’s recommendation. For his personal profiles, he found that orange worked best. (Rand has since changed to a green background.)



What have you found to work best for your profile picture?

The recommendations here cover all sorts of research, science, and psychology. They may be great jumping off points for research of your own. If you’re interested in trying something new with your profile picture, consider trying images where you’re

  • Smiling
  • Squinching
  • Asymmetrical
  • Head-to-shoulders
  • Head-&-torso
  • Facing the camera

And feel free to report what works best! If you’d like to share any possibilities for profile pictures, it’d be great to see them and hear your thoughts in the comments.

Image sources: Pablo, The Noun Project, UnSplash, OkCupid, KISSmetrics, PhotoFeeler

The post The Research & Science Behind Finding Your Best Profile Picture appeared first on Social.

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Research: Technology Marketers Align Around Lead Gen

Technology-research-CoverOf all the segments of content marketers we’ve studied over the last year, technology marketers are the most focused on lead generation as a goal for content marketing. While tech marketers were the group most focused on lead generation last year as well, the percentage has increased from 86% in 2014 to 91% this year.

It’s also notable that the tech marketers are shifting away a bit from brand awareness (which does not generate leads) as a primary goal, and more toward getting measurable results (using leads as one measure).

Those are some of the key insights from our new report, B2B Technology Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America sponsored by International Data Group (IDG). Here are some additional findings.

Metrics align with goals

Like their B2B peers overall, technology marketers continue to cite website traffic as their top metric. However, technology marketers are much more focused than their B2B peers are on sales and lead-related metrics: sales lead quality (62% vs. 49%), higher conversion rates (61% vs. 48%), and sales lead quantity (54% vs. 40%).

LEARN MORE: 8 Metrics to Conquer a Content Marketer’s Fear of Measurement


Content marketing is often situated under the demand gen umbrella

When compared with their B2B peers overall, technology marketers are more likely to report to demand gen marketing (32% vs. 18%) and product marketing (23% vs. 19%) departments. Enterprise technology marketers (1,000+ employees) are most likely to report to product marketing (27%).

LEARN MORE: Make Your Demand Generation More Effective with These 3 Processes


A documented content marketing strategy improves ability to track ROI

Of the total sample of technology marketers surveyed, 24% said their organizations are successful at tracking the ROI of their content marketing program (compared with 21% of B2B marketers overall). Confidence rises, however, when the technology marketer has a documented content marketing strategy (40% of those who have one say they are successful).

LEARN MORE: The Essentials of a Documented Content Marketing Strategy: 36 Questions to Answer


73% are working to create more engaging content

Out of a list of 28 initiatives, the highest percentage of technology marketers (73%) said they are working to create more engaging content, which is also their biggest challenge (63%).

Other priorities for technology marketers include:

  • Doing better at converting website visitors (71%)
  • Better understanding of audience (69%)
  • Finding more/better ways to repurpose content (66%)

LEARN MORE: Discover which internal processes, content marketing strategies, and execution tactics marketers are prioritizing.

Get all the results

Download the entire report today to learn more, including:

  • How do technology marketers budget for content marketing?
  • Which tactics, social media platforms, and paid promotion methods do they use? Which of those are most effective?
  • How often do they publish new content?
  • How many audiences do they target?

Do you think technology marketers are growing in their sophistication with aligning metrics and goals, challenges and initiatives, and other areas of content marketing? Are they improving with measurement? What questions do you have? Let us know in the comments.

Join us at Content Marketing World 2015 for a one-day industry lab dedicated to technology marketing.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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From Heavy Metal to LinkedIn: Jason Miller Slays B2B Marketing

Jason-Miller-LinkedIn-coverJason Miller puts his personal brand on all he does. LinkedIn’s Senior Content Marketing Manager lives a life of content and rock and roll. He recently combined the two in his book, Welcome to the Funnel: Proven Tactics to Turn Your Social and Content Marketing Up to 11.

In this episode of Content Marketing NEXT, I talk with the former heavy-metal musician who left the imploding music business in favor of B2B marketing.

Listen to Pamela’s full interview with Jason Miller here:

Download this week’s Content Marketing NEXT podcast.

If you enjoy the Content Marketing NEXT podcasts, we would love if you would rate it, or post a review, on iTunes

What’s new, what’s now, what’s next

What’s new:

Jason’s book Welcome to the Funnel integrates his personality and rock-and-roll style with what he has learned about social media and content marketing. “The best kind of content I’ve had success with is when I’ve learned something myself and applied it to B2B marketing,” he says.

He likes to follow the approach taken by Seinfeld’s George Costanza – do the opposite. When people said marketing automation didn’t work for B2B marketing, he and the team at Marketo (his previous employer) dreamed up The Big Marketing Activity Coloring Book and showed that it does. The coloring book ended up being a big driver for Marketo.

“The world doesn’t need more content. It needs more relevant content,” Jason says.

In his day job at LinkedIn, he literally wrote the book on how to successfully market on LinkedIn. The 65-page book was turned into videos, webinars, infographics, social shares, etc. That one piece of content has driven $4.6 million in revenue, achieving an ROI of 18,000%.

“There’s no excuse for marketers not to be able to track revenue from their content with all the technology that’s out there,” Jason says. “If you can’t tell if (a piece of content) impacts revenue or (is) driving leads, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble next year.”

What’s now:

Taking the team approach to content marketing is essential for content success. The demand gen folks should sit with the content, social, and PR staff – no silos. “Be best friends with your demand gen team – they’ll fuel your content strategies,” Jason says. In influencer marketing, for example, the social team talks to the bloggers and the PR folks talk to analysts, but do they convey consistent messaging?

Jason also sees 2015 as the year of the personal brand. Who are you? What sets you apart from the competition? What do you want to be?

What’s next:

Though some marketers misunderstand it, Jason says native advertising is the way of effective content. “The only way to be really successful as a marketer is to pay to promote your own content,” he says. “Organic is good. Paid is better. If you want to break through to those coveted secondary connections, then you have to put some pay behind it.”

Blast the buzzword

Jason’s buzzword: Content shock

Interestingly, Jason picked content shock to blast not because he thinks it’s overused but because he doesn’t think we will ever achieve it. He believes marketers will continue to write more interesting content, become better storytellers, etc.

He also wants to blast the belief of some that all branded content sucks. “Your content should be so damn good that you want your brand name on it,” he says.

Oh, and he thinks the words “white paper” should die too – it’s not fresh, just old news.

In the hot seat

Here’s a recap of Jason’s hot-seat Q&A:

What innovation in the last five years has made your life as a content marketer better?

Marketing automation. I truly believe if you want to scale your marketing efforts you have to automate it … (The right technology) can take that content, personalize it, and scale it out for you. There’s no way in hell any marketers can do all this manually.

What is the most valuable advice you have been given personally or professionally?

Maria Pergolino, who is the vice president of marketing at Apptus and with whom I worked at Marketo, told me, “Don’t come to the table with problems but come to me with solutions.”

The other advice came from Ann Handley: “Inject your personality into everything you do.”

If you weren’t a marketing professional, what would your career be?

What I’d like to be doing and what I would be doing aren’t necessarily the same. I’d like to be playing on stage. (Jason played in a heavy-metal band, but as he says, “It didn’t pan out.”) I took that onstage persona and have applied it to the B2B marketing role.

Twenty or 30 years ago, I would have said I would be in New York City working a record label or managing a band – that was always my passion.

For a full list of archives, go to the main Content Marketing NEXT page.

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Cover image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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