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.

3. Scoop.it

Free for personal use with the ability to upgrade, Scoop.it 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).

Scoop.it-screenshot-image 1

Analytically, Scoop.it 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 pixabay.com

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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:

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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.). Salary.com 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

The post Research: Technology Marketers Align Around Lead Gen appeared first on 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.

How do I subscribe?



Cover image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post From Heavy Metal to LinkedIn: Jason Miller Slays B2B Marketing appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

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37+ Tips and Resources For Building a Fine-Tuned Content Marketing Machine From The Ground Up

Back when I started my career in SEO, content marketing didn’t exist—at least not in the way it exists now.

We used strategies to boost traction and traffic to websites through the creation of great content—it was content marketing before the term even existed. And it worked.

I’ve carried the lessons with me ever since. And I’d love to share them all with you—everything I’ve used to successfully help hundreds of companies benefit from content marketing over the past five years.

Here are 37+ tips and resources you can use to build a fine-tuned content marketing machine from the ground up.

build a content machine

The Key Concepts of Content Marketing

In 2009, I founded a company called Single Grain. It started as a part-time consulting gig but very quickly grew into a powerhouse digital marketing agency. In the early years, we were successful because we were able to help businesses of all sizes–including a few Fortune 500 companies—gain more traction online by implementing what we referred to then as link-building strategies.

Here’s how it worked:

  1. Search for a particular term or phrase that our clients wanted to rank for
  2. Find old pieces of content that showed up
  3. Create better (original) content that our clients could take and publish on their own sites in order to start ranking for the term or phrase

What we found in implementing this strategy over and over again for clients was that well-written, relevant content always gave us the best results. In addition, we found that great content did wonders for building brand reputation, establishing authority, and increasing sales.

Sound familiar?

This is essentially the same tactic that companies and agencies still use to this day in order to gain traction online, only now everyone refers to it as content marketing.

Today, content marketing is an essential part of building and growing a business. It’s one of the best ways to increase traffic, build a community of loyal customers, and move the needle.

How to Build a Content Marketing Machine: 37+ Tips and Resources

The 6 Best Articles for Learning the Basics

The best way to really dive into the world of content marketing is to start reading.

There are a ton of valuable resources online from influencers, experts, and other business owners who all started right where you are now. It’s up to you to take advantage of the free value they offer.

Here are six of my favorite “content marketing 101” articles that you can start with:

beginners guide

1. The Beginner’s Guide To Content Marketing – This KISSmetrics post by Joseph Putman provides readers with a fantastic overview on what content marketing is, why it exists, and how to get the most out of your efforts. The nice thing about this article is that it’s not super lengthy, so only have to spend a few minutes on it before diving into some of the meatier posts I’ve included below.

2. The Complete Guide To Building a Blog Audience - If you have zero experience blogging before, either for yourself personally or for your business, this QuickSprout guide from Neil Patel & Aaron Agius is a great resource to explore. In it, you’ll learn things like how to build your community, the differences between paid and organic search, how to incorporate social media into your blogging efforts, and more.

3. The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research - You might be surprised to learn that a lot of research has been done on the ideal length of online content. In this widely popular and overwhelmingly valuable guide by Buffer’s own Kevan Lee, you’ll learn how long your tweets, blog posts, Facebook updates, and subject lines should be in order to be effective.

4. 31 Infographics For Everything Content Marketing - You could spend a lifetime reading through all the articles that exist online about content marketing. But who has time for that? As you probably already know, you can digest information in infographics and visuals a lot easier and faster than you can information in a really meaty and lengthy blog post. If you can’t spend as much time reading up on content marketing as you’d like, skim through this Uberflip resource from Hayley Mullen. It’s a collection of the best infographics on content marketing.

5. How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business - When you’re ready to start really diving deeper into higher level content marketing topics, check out this resource from the Copyblogger team. It’s a collection of fantastic content marketing guides that will educate you on subjects such as how to do research, how to develop a working strategy, and how to actually promote your content once you’ve created it and published it on your site.

6. The Power of Storytelling: How We Got 300% More People To Read Our Content – When it comes to content marketing, stories rule. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Instead, read through this fantastic case study by Groove CEO Alex Turnbull. In it, he illustrates the importance of storytelling by shedding light on how he used storytelling to grow his blog audience by 300%.

7 Tips for Building Your Team

How To Build a Content Marketing Team

When it comes to content marketing, your ability to be successful ultimately depends on the team you build.

When I decided to start offering content marketing services at Single Grain, I knew that it meant I would have to hire people who knew more about it than I did. I needed people who were experts—people who were passionate and motivated to continue learning. I felt it was the only way we would be able to actually help the businesses that were reaching out to us for help.

Are you ready to build your content marketing team? If so, follow these tips:

7. Hire someone who knows SEO better than you. SEO plays a big role in content marketing. You need to hire someone who has experience and knowledge in the field who can help you make sure you’re writing about the right things and taking advantage of the right opportunities.

8. Find a solid writer who has marketing experience. This tip is important. You must hire someone—freelance or full-time—who has strong writing abilities. Google doesn’t like lazy or bad copy, and neither do your prospective customers.

9. Make sure you have a data person on your team. There’s a lot of data that can be measured, analyzed, and evaluated in relation to content marketing. You need to have someone on your team who can cut through the noise and find the information that’s going to help you keep making the right moves.

10. Bring a graphic designer on board. You can try to do design work on your own for a while with convenient and easy-to-use tools like Pablo, but ultimately you need to hire someone who has an eye for what works and what doesn’t. In content marketing, visuals are king. Hire someone who can help you create original, compelling visual content that you can use in your blog posts and on social media.

11. Hire a community manager who participates everywhere. In order to build a community of loyal readers, prospects, and customers, you need to hire someone to help you participate on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Find someone with community management experience that you can put in charge of reaching out to and engaging with people online.

12. Put someone in charge of partnership marketing. One of the best ways to grow your blog fast is by working with other partners on content projects. To do this, you need to put someone in charge of partnership marketing—someone who can help you build relationships with other like-minded businesses that would be willing to partner up on blog posts, webinars, infographics, and other types of content.

13. Find an experienced front-end developer. Finally, you need to hire a developer who can help you build squeeze pages, bigger content resources like this Email Marketing Best Practices Guide from Jimmy Daly at Vero, and other front-end marketing projects.

7 Tips to Keep Your Budget In Check

If you don’t have a clear plan in place, it’s pretty easy to spend a lot of money on your content marketing efforts in little to no time at all. When you’re just getting started, it’s important not to let things get out of hand in terms of the money you spend.

To keep your budget in check and make sure you’re putting the right dollars in the right places, use these tips:

14. Take advantage of free trials. You might be hesitant to search for and try content marketing tools and apps because of your limited budget, but keep in mind that a lot of the tools available to you offer free trials.

chartbeat trial

Take advantage of them and do your best to actually use them. Figure out which tools would be worth your money, and which ones you can pick up at a later time.

15. Do some things yourself first before hiring or outsourcing. In the previous section I talked about the importance of building your team, but it’s really only something you should do once you’re absolutely sure that it’s something worth investing in. Until then, save money by doing some of the work on your own first when possible. It is possible (to an extent) to “fake it until you make it.” There are a lot of helpful, actionable, and easy-to-understand resources out there that you can use to give content marketing a spin on your own first before giving the reins to someone else.

16. Be willing to spend (a little) money on Facebook. It’s important that you take the time to authentically and consistently participate with your community of followers, prospects, and customers on Facebook, but if you really want to build your blogging audience and get the most ROI out of the site, you need to be willing to spend some money creating paid campaigns that help you promote your content. Start with a small daily budget and adjust going forward based on results.

17. Work with college students and interns. Most college students are eager to gain additional experience that they can add to their resume. If your business is relatively new or you’re simply strapped for cash, consider hiring and working with college students or creating internships for content marketing positions. It’ll save you money and give you the opportunity to work with some of the brightest up-and-coming minds in the industry.

18. Build organic relationships as much as possible. Another great way to save money is by building organic relationships with influencers as much as possible (as opposed to putting a lot of money into building and launching expensive advertising and promotion campaigns). Get started by reading this article on the subject from KISSmetrics.

19. Remember that your budget allocation can change month-to-month. Don’t be afraid to make changes to your budget month-by-month. You’ll learn things along the way that will help you make more informed decisions about where and how to spend your content marketing budget.

20. Don’t be cheap. You want to make sure that you don’t let your spending get out of control, but that doesn’t give you a free pass to be cheap. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to spend some money if you want to use content marketing as another way to connect with prospects, build brand awareness, and ultimately grow your business. The trick is to constantly be testing and evaluating ideas in order to determine what tactics are actually worth the money.

6 Content Marketing Tools

Picking the right content marketing tools is almost as important as picking the right team members. The problem is, there are are a TON of tools out there and they aren’t all created equally. So how do you know which ones should you take the time to test out?

Here are six tools that we use on a regular basis to streamline our content marketing efforts at When I Work:

21. Buzzsumo - This is probably my favorite tool to use for ideation and outreach. Buzzsumo makes it incredibly easy to analyze which content performs best for any topic or competitor. You can also use it to see who has shared a specific piece of content and how likely they are to actually engage with people on Twitter. To see what else it can do, check out these use cases.


22. Google AnalyticsThis tool is a must-have if you’ve made the decision to invest in content marketing. It’s really the only way to get a complete and accurate picture on how the content you publish is performing and be able to make informed decisions about what to publish next.

23. Mailchimp - Email marketing is an important piece of building your community and getting your content in front of new faces. With Mailchimp you can launch an rss email campaign that sends your new posts out to subscribers as soon as you hit publish.

24. CoSchedule – This is my preferred tool for creating content calendars. It’s a great tool because it allows you to work right in WordPress—so you don’t have to leave your blog when it comes time to decide when and how often you want to share the blog content you create.


25. Zemanta - This is the main tool I use for paid content promotion and syndication. Zemanta distributes content across a wide variety of platforms and sites, which helps increase your brand exposure and brings new readers to your site.

26. Content Marketer - This tool that I created (shameless plug) can be used to automate your content promotion efforts. It streamlines the process of finding contact information of influencers that you’ve mentioned in your blog posts, saving you a lot of time and headaches.

Content Marketer

7 Tips for Creating a Content Process

Once you have your team, tools, and budget in place, the next thing you’ll want to do is start creating repeatable processes for all your content marketing campaigns and projects. This is an important step, especially when it comes time to start scaling your efforts.

Content Marketing Processes

Here are seven tips that will help you be successful:

27. Standardize your ideation process. Ideation is one of the most important steps you need to take when creating content for your website or blog. If your idea is bad, your content will be bad. Build a standardized the process for coming up with your next ideas by including repeatable steps, tools, and tips. Need help getting started? Read what Alex Turnbull at Groove does to come up with great blog ideas week after week.

28. Create a repeatable process for content creation. It’s also important that you take the time to standardize the actual content creation phase itself. In order to be as intentional and purposeful with your content as possible, you have to give yourself time to think and plan. A step-by-step process will make it possible. If you need help getting started, check out this guest blog post from Jennifer Bourn on the CoSchedule blog.

29. Create editorial and social media publishing calendars. When it comes to content marketing and social media marketing, you never want to feel like you’re flying by the seat of your pants. Everything you do needs to be formulaic. That means you can’t just publish blog posts and social media updates when it’s convenient to you. You can add a lot more strategy and thought to your efforts by creating editorial and social media publishing calendars.

blogpost ideas

Not sure where to start? Read through this comprehensive guide from Buffer’s own Kevan Lee.

30. Create an outline for how you want engagement to happen. Similarly, you should also create a process for engaging with people on your blog and on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. It makes scaling a lot easier and it makes it possible for you to easily hand the responsibilities over to someone else once you’re ready to hire more people to help you.

31. Put a step-by-step content promotion plan together. Unless you have a clear strategy in place for how you intend to promote each piece of content you create on your blog, you’re not going to see the level of engagement or traffic that you want to see. Putting together a repeatable promotion process can ensure that you’re getting the most out of every piece of content that you publish on your blog. If you need help creating a plan, read through this post I wrote on the subject.

32. Create outreach templates. A big part of the promotion plan you put together should involve manually reaching out to influencers and other people through email who can help you promote your content. Creating and using outreach templates can save you a lot of time and energy during this phase. You can find a ton of great outreach/promotion templates throughout this KISSmetrics post written by Aaron Agius.

33. Design a process for measuring and evaluating success. Finally, you should have a clear process in place that details how to measure and evaluate the overall success of every piece of content you publish. Not sure where to start? Read this post on the SumAll blog written by marketing expert Brian Honigman. In it, he outlines seven metrics you can look for and evaluate in order to measure your content marketing efforts.

7 Tips for Evaluating Success & Scaling Your Efforts

At the end of the day, you can implement every tip and tool that I’ve outlined up to this point in the post and it will mean nothing unless you are willing and able to measure, evaluate, and scale your efforts. A lot of people are intimidated by numbers, analytics, charts, and growth in general, but you don’t have to be.

Here are seven tips to help you evaluate and scale:

34. Set KPIs and goals ahead of time. You can’t measure what you don’t track, and you can’t evaluate whether or not goals have been met if you never take the time to set up clear goals or KPIs in the first place. Think about what you want to get out of the time, energy, and money you put into content marketing for your business (ex. more traffic, more conversions, more social engagement). Decide how you’re going to determine what can be called a success and what can’t.

35. Become obsessed with data or hire someone who can be for you. For content marketing to work for your business, you have to be obsessed with data. It’s the only way you’ll be able to benefit from your efforts and ultimately scale. If you’re just not a numbers guy (or girl), hire someone who is and put them in charge of collecting, interpreting, and reporting to you on relevant data.

36. Don’t be afraid to give up on something that isn’t working. In marketing and in business, you have to be comfortable with giving something up that isn’t working. You can’t take things so personal that you end up making the wrong decisions or keeping an idea alive for too long. You have to try to be as objective as possible. If you put a lot of time and energy into something and the needle never moved, don’t be afraid to drop it and move on to something else. It’s OK if your idea didn’t work—that’s what testing new tactics and ideas is all about.

37. Don’t fall into the “vanity metrics only” trap. It can be tempting to hold vanity metrics such as “likes,” “pageviews,” or “shares” above everything else when you’re participating on social media or regularly publishing content on your blog, but try not to ignore other “less sexy” data when it comes time to deciding whether to call something a success or not. Try to get the whole picture and think about the goals you originally set before you started working on your project. For more on this subject, read through this post from Lars Lofgren at KISSmetrics.

38. As you scale, don’t forget about quality. It’s so important that you don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of scaling as you continue to build your content marketing machine. I can’t stress this enough! Your followers, prospects, and customers want only the very best content from you, and that’s exactly what they deserve from you. Give them content that helps them, that keeps them talking about you, and that keeps them coming back for more.

39. Use tools to streamline your efforts. I touched on this a bit above, but it’s worth mentioning again. There are a ton of excellent, time-saving tools out there that can be used when it comes time to scale your efforts. They won’t all be right for you and your goals, but you won’t know until you try them for yourself.

40. Be open to trying new things. Things change fast in the world of content marketing. What worked yesterday might not work today. What works tomorrow might not work a year from now. In order to stay ahead of the game, you have to be open to trying new things. If you read about a new tactic that worked for someone else, decide if you want to try it for yourself. If something that worked well for you in the past but it doesn’t seem to be working well for you anymore, start hunting for new strategies and tactics to try. Talk to business partners, read blog posts, participate in forums like Inbound.org, and find something that you can test.

Over to you

What other tips, tools, or resources would you add to this list? I’d love to get your thoughts. Leave a comment for me below, or reach out to me directly on Twitter—I’m @SujanPatel.

Image sources: Pablo, UnSplash, IconFinder

The post 37+ Tips and Resources For Building a Fine-Tuned Content Marketing Machine From The Ground Up appeared first on Social.

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3 Ways to Create Action-oriented Content Marketing [Examples]


I’m on a quest to get content marketing married. Call me crazy, but hear me out.

Content marketing can work by itself, but it’s most powerful when partnered with other techniques. The impact of B2C content marketing, in particular, will grow significantly when it’s used in conjunction with transactional marketing efforts.

Here are three ways to better connect your action-oriented marketing to your content initiatives to create a more personal and relevant buying experience for your target audiences.

1. Connect programmatic buying with programmatic content

Do you automate the purchase of your online advertising (programmatic buying) across publishing outlets?

As marketers, we view programmatic buying as a smart move – it’s efficient, and buying inventory in bulk means lower pricing. The complex ad-distribution platforms do the heavy lifting, but too many of us think our involvement ends when we buy programmatic. We are boring our audiences with traditional “buy-me” ads. Moving content to the forefront will separate your B2C brand from the mediocrity that consumes programmatic buying.

Example: Lowe’s

Lowe’s appreciates the value of tying together programmatic buying with programmatic content. In this example, a finalist for Best In-Stream Video 2015 Digiday Video Awards, Lowe’s customizes its digital ad based on locale, channel, and device to drive in-store sales. (G/O Digital partnered with Lowe’s & Eyeview on this campaign.)

In all versions of the video, music plays as a cartoon bird waters seeds that grow into flowers that spell “spring,” before the voice-over delivers the closing lines about how spring is calling and your local Lowe’s store is ready for you. The end of the video is tailored to the viewer’s locale – showing different products, as well as the closest store’s address and map.

Why it works: The real win for Lowe’s is the ability to easily tailor its ads with content relevant to its local stores and products. For example, viewers in Phoenix are more likely to have the outdoor space for a grill and to want to take advantage of the nice spring weather, while viewers in Brooklyn are less likely to have outdoor space and good weather in the spring, so they may be in the market for an indoor stove instead.

Marrying scale, efficiency, and targeting of programmatic buying with a more relevant message (content) – in this case targeting specific products to consumers based on locale vs. sharing one generic message – makes the ads a lot more effective.

2. Invite product content to the content marketing party

Product-specific content – from what’s on sale to in-store inventory – is too often forgotten or ignored in the content marketing strategy. If you ensure your content marketing connects with products being sold, you’ll be able to get bigger wins.

Example: Lowe’s

In the first example, Lowe’s brought its products into its content about the approach of spring. In this example, Lowe’s adds more layers or cues of content connected to products to encourage more engagement to drive a profitable action. It stacks its “content marriage” – product (transaction marketing), how-to video links (content marketing), and store locator (transaction marketing).

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Why it works: Lowe’s targets people who want to improve their homes. It sells hardwood so people can lay the floors themselves. Rather than just trying to sell based on product descriptions, Lowe’s opts to enhance the buying experience by posting links to its own videos to show customers how to install the materials they might buy.

Example: Walmart

Walmart puts together its transactional and content marketing to accompany an independently authored guide to summer. Walmart shows summer-related purchases – from bathing suits and backyard pools to lawn furniture and outdoor grills. It offers viewers the opportunity to create their own shopping lists with the “My List” feature. Then, Walmart connects the products to helpful content. “Grilling Tips Brought to You by Kitchen Daily” offers how-to videos for healthy grilling techniques.

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Why it works: Walmart offers content that viewers can use even if they don’t buy the products – that content marketing initiative expands Walmart’s profile as a source for quality content at the same time it enhances the direct-buying experience.

3. Connect social and content to drive sales

Social media ranks as the No. 1 content tactic for B2C marketers, with Facebook being the top channel. For B2C marketers, closing the loop from social is an important goal. Facebook’s launch of multi-product ads signals a step to help make that happen.

Example: Shutterfly

Internet-based image publishing service Shutterfly is an ideal B2C brand to benefit from Facebook’s new offering that allows retailers to showcase up to three dynamic products in a single ad unit. Shutterfly can tailor who sees its ads based on activities, interests, etc.

Note: This approach is limited as it’s initially focused on e-commerce and doesn’t enable the inclusion of varying price points, the impact of inventory levels, etc.

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Why it works: Facebook product-ad offerings promote online-related transactional marketing through personalized content marketing to drive audience relevancy and ultimately sales. The challenge is to craft messaging that resonates across those attributes.


When B2C content marketers look beyond their silos, they can discover why they should hook up with actionable marketers – further leveraging their content to improve their brand’s transactional marketing. Working with automated systems to send tailored messages, enhancing advertising platforms with helpful content, and targeting audiences for transactions through social media allow content marketers to expand their toolboxes and ultimately their impact on the brand.

Want to get the latest insights to improve your B2C content marketing? Connect today with the Content Marketing Institute and sign up for daily and/or weekly highlights of the CMI blog and exclusive content from CMI Founder Joe Pulizzi.

Cover image by Matt Hobbs, Public Domain Archive, via pixabay.com

The post 3 Ways to Create Action-oriented Content Marketing [Examples] appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

Source: content marketing institute

5 Engagement-Driven Elements You Should Add To Every Blog Post


Engagement! Everyone wants engagement from their content. The problem is we’re not quite sure of the best way to get it. Engagement is one area in which content marketing is more art than science.

Even though there are no formulas to predict engagement, there are patterns of success. Here are five things you should add to every blog post to increase engagement.

But first, what is engagement? Since engagement is the whole point of this article, it’s important to define terms. Many of the how-to articles on online engagement simply gloss over the missing definition of engagement. If it’s so important (and most content marketers agree that it is), then what is engagement?

It’s kind of fuzzy

Much of the discussion around engagement happened a long time ago – 2007ish. Engagement has come a long way, and so have our tools for measuring it. In spite of the progress, the definition of engagement still needs to be clarified.

Mark Ghuneim, General Manager of the Curator tool for Twitter, proposed a consumer typology of engagement that looks like this:

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Chart source

Still, that’s vague, at least to me.

Here’s a working definition

To keep it simple, I define content engagement as real people responding in measurable ways to your content. There’s a lot of overlap between social engagement and content engagement, but I’m focusing on the actual interaction with the content itself as opposed to how that content is distributed on the social web.

Engagement starts with objectives

Before you try to measure engagement, make sure you understand the goal of your content. Why does it even exist online? Most businesses have one or more objectives. Here are some common ones:

  • Increase leads
  • Increase page views (Note: For many sites, the goal is simply to increase traffic separate from any other level of site activity.)
  • Boost brand awareness
  • Encourage audience interactions such as:

To get your engagement right, you should first get your objectives right. Here’s how the process is pictured by Digital Telepathy.

dtelepathy-web-analytics-stack-image 2Image source

From your objectives, answer the question: What is it that I want these blog readers to do? You want viewers to make some behavioral change. That action is the engagement.

Engagement simplified to six features

For the sake of simplicity, I want to boil down this discussion to six features of engagement that I will tell you how to increase:

  • Comments – People share their thoughts, ask questions, or criticize your blog post.
  • Social sharing – Users share the article on their personal social networks.
  • Dwell time – How long do users stay on the page? This metric available in Google Analytics tells you if people are spending time on the page.
  • ReadingRavenTools says “the best way to measure reader engagement is to track user scrolling.” Tools such as Crazy Egg allow you to view scroll maps (where, how much, and how far people scrolled) and heat maps (where people click).
  • Links – The quantity and velocity of inbound links tell who considers your content to be important. More links equal a higher trust, better SEO, and more readers.
  • Conversions – Whatever your conversion action, it is one of the most meaningful engagement metrics. Many blogs use email sign-ups as the primary conversion action.

Your engagement metric depends on your content platform

To measure engagement, though, we need to know what platform is used. For example, if you’re hosting a webinar, you would measure engagement by the number of sign-ups, attendees, duration online, interactivity in online comments, the number of questions asked, and conversions after the webinar.

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If you use Google+ as your primary content platform, then you can measure engagement by plusses, shares, and ripples.

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Now that we have a basic understanding of engagement, let’s figure out how to improve our blog engagement.

Increase engagement with these five simple elements

1. An obvious point

Your article or blog post should be extremely clear as to what it’s trying to say. It needs to have an obvious point.

This may sound obvious, but many blog posts fail to do so. Why is this so important? If your content is unclear, then people won’t understand what you’re trying to say, and will, therefore, have no motivation to share or read the article.

Next time you comment on an article or share it on social media, ask yourself what about the article compelled you to do so. Chances are that you understood what the author was trying to say. His point was obvious, and you responded.

How do you communicate an obvious point? Let me share a few of the things that I’ve used:

Your point should be in your headline.

A weak headline is a nonstarter. A strong headline, by contrast, is motivating.

Here’s an example of a strong headline:

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The headline tells me everything I need to know to motive me to read the article, with just enough understanding and a bit of curiosity. It tells me the content:

  • Poses 25 questions
  • Is about social media marketing
  • Will help me define a social media marketing strategy
  • Will give me answers to the questions

Clear, compelling, and obvious. That’s what you need to accomplish in your headline.

Make your point in your first few lines.

Your opening paragraph or two should convey your basic idea. Don’t leave people wondering, “What the heck is she going to say?” Put forth your main idea, then develop it.

Long, wandering introductions are not compelling. You lose readers before they even understand what you’re trying to say.

Support your point using the structure or outline of your article.

The structure of the post (discussed below) must support your main idea. You need an outline that explains or proves the point of the article. An article is not a bunch of disparate thoughts. It’s a cohesive series of thoughts that supports a main idea.

Repeat your point in the conclusion.

The conclusion wraps up the article by making the main point obvious once again. Remind people of what you’re saying. Don’t let them forget.

2. A structure

Every article needs to have a clear structure in order for it to be engaging. The idea of structure has two parts – logical and visual.

Logical structure — Make it coherent.

As you research and write your article, create and follow an outline. Don’t merely string together a few thoughts. Instead, create something with shape and substance. Your outline forms the bones for a successful and engaging article.

Visual structure — Make it easy to read.

Visual structure is just as important as logical structure. Why? Because no one will read (i.e., engage with) your content if it isn’t visually pleasing.

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Image source

Compare that wall of text to this:

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A few well-placed visual formatting techniques make a huge difference. These include:

  • Headings
  • Short paragraphs (no longer than seven lines)
  • Bullet points
  • Numbered lists

Breaking up your content compels viewers to read and engage with it.

3. A conclusion

How does your article end? If it concludes with a whimper, then your readers will whimper away without engaging. If it ends in confusion, then your readers feel the same. If it ends abruptly, your readers won’t know what to do next.

Somehow, the conclusion of an article has become one of the most neglected pieces of real estate in the entire Internet. We labor over headlines and opening lines, but we forget what to do when it’s time to say “This article is over.”

The way you end it has the potential to engage readers or leave them floundering. Take a look at the ConversionXL blog if you need an example of great conclusions.

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The end nails it. It is obvious with the use of that single word, conclusion. The wrap-up is clean. It sums up the article, reiterates the main point, and makes a great call to action.

There are a few basic elements to a great ending:

  • It’s labeled as a conclusion.
  • It’s short.
  • It sums things up concisely.
  • It encourages action.

Give your conclusions a little extra time and attention, and you likely will improve engagement on your posts.

4. A question

Not everyone does this, but I’ve used it with incredible success. At the end of almost every article, I ask a question.

Why do I do this? Because it makes people think. Engagement doesn’t always have measurable metrics. When readers reach the end of my article, I want them to be thinking about and applying the principles that I’ve explained.

Asking and answering questions is one of the most effective techniques for teaching critical thinking and building knowledge. A simple question in closing helps to produce this response.

My questions are not an attempt to inspire comments, though they sometimes do. Instead, my question is a simple challenge to encourage thought.

Here’s one of my recent blogs, which includes a somewhat obvious question. People didn’t answer the question in the comments, which was fine. I didn’t expect it.

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Sometimes, writers ask a question or call for action in the comments. This is appropriate. Author Tim Ferriss does on his blog, and he finds it successful.

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5. A bit of controversy

This one is optional, but it doesn’t hurt.

Controversy is everywhere. I have encountered it within every niche in which I’ve dabbled. Some controversy is silly. Some is serious. Most is engaging.

Take this discussion from Moz. The topic has to do with the disavow tool, a rather abstruse SEO issue. The issue was apparently controversial.

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The post was so controversial that the editor had to step into the comments to weed out inappropriate argumentation.

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Controversy is like fire. It can be dangerous. You might get burned. But at the same time, it’s especially useful if you want engagement.

Conclusion: Don’t stop at engagement

This is an article dealing with engagement so I’m not going to turn around and tell you that it’s not important. I do, however, want to offer a caution. Content marketing is not all about the engagement. Engagement is only part of content marketing, not its sum and substance.

Even though engagement isn’t the end-all, it is important. And even in the swirling maelstrom of social change, we should still try to measure it.

Measurement tools exist, and developers are making these tools even better. But we need to realize that if we focus only on engagement, then we may miss some of the most significant components of business success: brand value, trustworthiness, customer loyalty, etc. These things can’t be measured, but they can be achieved.

Engagement is one way of achieving these successes. So go ahead and work to increase engagement. It’s well worth the effort.

What are the best ways you’ve found to increase engagement?

Stay engaged with the latest content marketing news and insights. Connect today with the Content Marketing Institute and sign up for daily and/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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Source: content marketing institute