10 tips for getting more done with less effort

Time Expired

These days it seems like we don’t have enough time in the day to do everything we need to do. How often have you heard: There are not enough hours in the day! I have no time to work out. I don’t have enough time for social media. Whatever the excuse is, we all have a lot on our plate.

So the question is: how does one find more time in the day?

Here are 10 time management tips that you may be overlooking:

1. Ask smart questions about your email inbox.

Let’s face the facts. We live in our email inbox—whether it is your work or personal email. Are we asking ourselves the right questions when it comes to our email? Can this email wait until later? Does this email need my attention right away? Can I direct that person to someone else? Am I really ever going to ever respond to this email? Is this email just an FYI, is there action required or is it for my files? The key is to be aggressive when it comes to your email inbox. Will you really need this email 6 months or a year from now? No? Delete. You may want to read 4 steps to inbox zero.

2. Keep your emails short and sweet.

Don’t send one-word emails but get to the point fast. As they say in the journalism world: don’t bury the lead. For example, change the email subject line when an email changes topics. You may want to read 6 CEO productivity tips to steal for yourself where it talks about that you should think about your emails like you do with your tweets (limit them to 140 characters or less.

3. Take advantage of web tools.

Like it or not, organizations and users are going to the cloud. Think Adobe’s acceleration its shift to the cloud. Learn how to take advantage of web tools like Adobe’s Creative Cloud and free tools like Pixlr Editor. File sharing tools are also making it easier for collaboration. You may want to read 22 file-sharing tools for easy collaboration.

4. Pick web browsers that don’t slow your system down.

Internet Explorer has features that slow your browser experience down so users are switching to Mozilla’s Firefox or Google Chrome that are faster and include useful features like bookmark syncing. Chrome has recently passed Internet Explorer to become the world’s most popular web browser. The key is to get the most of your web browser space with extensions like Hootsuite’s Hootlet and minimizing bookmark icons. You may want to read 6 ways to maximize your browser real estate.

5. Lose the clutter in your work or home office.

Do you have a lot of clutter in your work or home office? Clutter can drain you. It can frustrate you. It can make it difficult for you to accomplish things. You should think about how you cause clutter and how your office or home design creates clutter. Working in the right workspace can help you get more done with less effort.

6. Discover how you are spending your time.

How do you spend your time every day? You may want to fill out your own Wheel of Productivity. Then, give it a hard look. Are you spending enough time to the colors that matter most to you? Another good way to find out how you are spending time is to fill out your calendar with tasks you accomplished that hour or half hour. Then, look over the past month. What did you accomplish? When did you accomplish the most—the morning or the evening? If you don’t know already, it may tell if you are morning person or evening person. You may want to read how your body clock affects your life.  

7. Get your calendar under control.

Don’t fill up your calendar with standing meetings. These meetings may be good if you are not doing anything else but evaluate whether certain meetings have taken their course and need to be restructured or canceled altogether. Another way to reduce time is by bundling meetings by location. If you are traveling back and forth from a certain location, reduce the travel time by booking all your meetings in that location in one day. As Stephen Covey said, “the key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” Are you investing in your time the right way?

8. Run meetings more effectively.

You have probably been in those meetings are a waste of time. Do they start on time? It is common across corporate America for meetings to be a waste of time, not fun, and to start late. So how does a meeting run more effectively? Have the person who organized the meeting discuss the goals of the meeting. Make sure that he or she gives “homework” assignments either before or after the meeting so people know what to expect for the meeting or what to do for before the next meeting. Another time is to book the meeting for the length you need. Most meetings will go the full 30 minutes or hour if that time is booked for that. As Parkinson’s Law states: “work will fill the time available for its completion.”

9. Manage your energy not your time.

The key to managing your energy is to take breaks every 90 minutes. It helps you better work with your body’s natural rhythms. It is simple concept: spend energy more wisely and you will have more of it. The key is to be conscious of the ways you are building rest and renewal into your day. You may want to read 6 ways to use less energy to get more done.  

10. Get a good night’s sleep.

Are you getting enough sleep? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. How much sleep you need depends on you and as we get older. Adults generally need seven to eight hours but according to a national health interview survey, nearly 30 percent of adults report getting less than six hours of sleep. To make sure you get sleep you need, try to go to bed the same time every night, avoid large meals before bed, and avoid caffeine and alcohol right before bed. You also need to get good, deep sleep. You want to ready about an iPhone app that promises no more sleepless nights.

In the end, managing your time well is taking the time to ensure you prioritize tasks based on importance and urgency.

What productivity tips would you add to this list?

10 steps to building and managing your personal brand

Personal Branding Formula

Personal Branding Formula (Photo credit: stefano principato)

“All of us need to understand the importance of branding… we are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. …our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called you,” wrote Tom Peters, an American writer on business management practices, in Fast Company. Are you branding yourself in everything you do and developing and refining your personal brand?

What is a personal brand?

Personal branding is also knows as your career or professional brand. It is the way you present yourself to your colleagues and your network online and off. With the growth of LinkedIn, blogging, social networking and people use search engines all the time, it is important to portray your brand in a positive professional light. Just like a company differentiates itself to stand out from its competitors by identifying and articulating its unique value proposition, you should do the same. If you take a proactive approach to your personal brand, it can benefit your career.

There are 10 key steps to help you develop and take control of your personal brand.

1.    Search the major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) to search your name and its variations

What are the search engines saying about you? Is there someone else in the world that has your same name? Is your identity correct online? If there are variations of your name, have you search those names? The first place to start with your personal brand, especially online, is to find out what is being said about you and what information comes up first in the search engines about you.

2.    Clean up your web presence

Are you looking to do some “spring cleaning” because you don’t like what you see? You may want erase some of yourself from the Internet by using a tool like justdelete.me. This website ranks the process of erasing yourself from easy to impossible. Social networks like Twitter are easy to delete while others like Pinterest are impossible.

3.    Proactive create your online reputation with free tools

Create your own personal website that lists all of our social networks with a free tool like about.me. Or use brandyourself.com that will give you a letter grade relating how your name ranks in search results. Read 10 free tools to manage your personal brand and online reputation. Also, launch a blog (see step 7).

4.    Claim your social media profiles and your personalized URL on LinkedIn

Have you protected yourself from cyber squatters when it comes to your social media profiles? To ensure you secure your desired username or vanity first, visit namechk.com to see if it is still available. You should also secure your personalized URL on LinkedIn. It also may worth creating a Google+ account to ensure you should up on the right hand column of search results. You may want to create a Twitter account to share helpful information with others. I found that my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to show up near the top of my search results since I share a lot of articles through these networks.

5.    Buy your own domain name (even if you are not using it yet)

Do you own the URL of your name? If not, you should secure it at a website registrar like godaddy.com or networksolutions.com. You may want to read 3 reasons why buying a domain name for your child is a good idea. By owning your own domain name, you can be sure that if you use that URL, you will rank high in search results. If you don’t own your name, you are leaving your online reputation in the hands of the unknown. Purchasing your name is around $10 to $15 a year. Read why you need a domain strategy.

6.    Set up an ongoing monitoring alert system

It is important to constantly monitor what is being said about you online. Set up Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts, a free alternative to Google Alerts. When you create the alerts, make sure you put your name with and without quotation markets. You should also include the different variations of your name.

7.    Launch a blog where you can publish content and show your perspectives

I found that my blog is ranked within the top 5 search results in Google. You may want to create and publish content on your blog using a platform like wordpress.com or blogger.com. Read best free blogging websites. When you do start up a blog, remember the Internet is a copy machine. Think before you publish. If you get angry or emotional reacting to something you see online or someone else is provoking you, you may want to email yourself first or ask yourself: would my parents, friends or colleagues like to read this post? A blog is a great way to demonstrate your personal brand. It helps you position yourself in a way that you want to be seen. A blog helps you grow your network beyond your work colleagues, may position yourself as a thought leader at your company, demonstrates your expertise on a topic or topics and shows that you know how to write and communicate (skills your current and potential future employer value).

8.    Take some time to get to know yourself and share helpful content on a regular basis

What do you want others to think of you as online? What types of articles do you share with others? Are they personal growth articles, leadership articles, career articles? What do you want to be known for? Your personal brand reflects who you are. It is important to really know your strengths and weaknesses and do what you love. If you can’t blog, do you share useful tips to your colleagues about the industry you work in or how to do PR or marketing better? By learning who are you and what you are good at, you can better take control of your personal brand.

9.    Create your elevator pitch and key messages

Just like a company brand creates its elevator pitch of who the company is, why it is unique and different, and why you should care, the same goes with your personal brand. Do you have your elevator pitch created and validated? What are your core or key messages? A good example of where you should really have your elevator pitch down is your LinkedIn summary section or your bio page on your blog. That paragraph or two should sum up your personal brand in a short, concise and compelling way.

10. Develop a feedback loop with those you trust and evolve your personal brand

Just like company brands change over time, your personal brand is constantly changing and evolving. As you gain more work and life experiences, your brand changes to reflect who you are at work and in life so it important to build a feedback loop with friends, family, colleagues and others you trust so they are helping you polish and refine you and your personal brand.

As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, one said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Do you know people are saying about your personal brand online and off? Are you taking steps to build, polish and refine it? The key is to remember your personal brand is more than just your job, it is your career. It is the brand called you!

What helpful tips would you add to this list?

5 common social media mistakes and how to avoid them

Photo Credit:   All rights reserved by infekted.it

Photo Credit: All rights reserved by infekted.it

Social media can help grow your personal and company brand, if done right. If social media is not done properly, it could send the wrong message to your community and it could hurt your brand. It is important that you don’t put your social media on autopilot and you don’t neglect it. Social media takes a lot of care and feeding.

We have created a list of five common social media mistakes and how you can avoid them.

1. Not customizing your message to the social network

How many times have you seen @ signs on LinkedIn? Probably a lot. Do you listen to those messages when you know they are for another social network? Probably not. What about learning about LinkedIn on Twitter? Are you really going to read an article about LinkedIn tips on Twitter? It is a common mistake that people make is not customizing posts for each platform.

The fix: Remember what the purpose is of each network is and its ins and outs. LinkedIn is a social network for professionals; therefore, your posts should be more professional. Facebook is a network for friends; so these posts should be less formal, more casual. Remember to cater your message to the platform. For some that is communications 101 but for others that is a common mistake.

2. No strategy

Have you ever asked yourself why you are on Facebook? What about Twitter? Are the people your company trying to reach on that social network? Are your friends still on Facebook or have they left for another platform like Instagram? Who are you trying to communicate with? Before you or your company joins a social media platform, ask yourself: why?

The fix: Create a social media strategy. Having an intern manage your company’s social media presence is a big mistake (here are 11 reasons why). A seasoned and experience professional should be handling your company’s social media presence because he or she knows your business well and can avoid crises.

3. One-way communication

Social media is not a platform to blast messages one way. It is a way for people and brands to listen, learn and engage. How often do you see a brand or person never respond to a post or a message they sent? How often do you see questions or concerns go unanswered by brands and people? It shows a lack of understanding the true essence of social media: being “social.”

The fix: Social media is way to humanize brands (here are 20 tips on that topic) and open up possibilities for people to connect with people around the world. Social media is a platform for two-way not one-way communications. For everyone @ mention on Twitter, reply back. It doesn’t take a lot of time to say thank you to your followers who care about you or your brand.

4. Selling. Selling. Selling.

Social platforms are not for selling. People don’t join social media networks to be sold to. They join them to converse, see what others are doing and learn about the world. How often do you see posts about companies talking about themselves too much?

The fix: Share news and expert content that is helpful and shareable. Find a balance of posts that promote others and you or your company once in a while. Share content created by your colleagues and industry experts. Be helpful not salesy.

5. Inconsistent or no posts

How many times do you see a company create a social network but they haven’t posted in months or years? The page looks like a ghost town. For example, how many Twitter accounts have you seen where the person still has an egghead and has never tweeted? Inconsistent posting on social sites can say more to your followers than what you are actually posting. Would you work with a company that didn’t care about its social media presence? How you would be treated as a customer? Would you get neglected as well?

The fix: Make sure you post at least once a week. On some social networks, you may want to post once a day but you don’t want to clutter your followers’ feed. For example, Twitter is a much faster moving feed so posts can be much more frequent than Facebook. On LinkedIn, you may want to make an update at least twice a week because your home feed on that platform is getting more activity recently with the launch of sponsored updates.

What would you add to this list? What are you seeing that others are doing wrong on social media?

This post is courtesy of guest blogger Cassandra D’Aiello, social media manager at Perspectiv3

3 free image editing apps for social media

Image courtesy of YaiSirichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of YaiSirichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

If you are active on social media, you know that social networking sites frequently change the look, feel and functionality. Look at what happens almost on a monthly basis with Facebook. Not to mention LinkedIn and YouTube. They both recently underwent a series of updates and changes.

One day you have a perfect background photo and the next day you don’t.

It is important for you and your company to keep up with these changes because it is a key component of making a good first impression and keeping your community coming back for more. They are more likely to engage with you and your brand with eye-pleasing images that make their experience on your pages enjoyable and fun. Not to mention, it also provides an opportunity to show off you and your company’s personality.

But social networking sites don’t make it easy.

Have you tried to edit your graphic or photos using Adobe Photoshop or your pre-loaded image editor?

Have you tried over and over to successfully maneuver your way through editing a picture to the correct pixel size that each social network requires?

As you may know, Facebook requires your timeline cover photo to be 851 x 315 pixels, Twitter requires your background to be 1920 x 1080 pixels and YouTube requires your header to be 970 x 150 pixels.

We feel your pain.

Below is a list of three photo-editing apps (with their pros and cons) that can help you edit you and your company’s social media images for free (now you won’t have to use image editing websites that charge a hefty monthly or program subscription fee).

1. GetPaint.net

Pros: Range of effects; straight-forward interface; and diverse menu items.

Cons: Software download required; limited brush types; and lack of layer effects.

2. Pixlr

Pros: Facebook compatibility; basic layer canvas feature; and no download necessary.

Cons: Limited import/export options; no frame options; and no option to save favorite effects.

3. PicMonkey

Pros: Easy to use; variety of editing and features; and blemish fixing tools.

Cons: Lack of undo option; many options not free; and limited fonts available.

What free image editing apps would you add to this list? Let us know!

This post is courtesy of guest blogger Cassandra D’Aiello, social media manager at Perspectiv3

5 ways to jumpstart your content marketing

jumpstart content marketing

Are you having trouble producing enough content?

Want to do more with less staff?

Need to develop a long-term plan for your efforts?

Here are five things you can do in 2013 to help you answer your burning content marketing questions.

1. Assemble a diverse content marketing team.

Make sure each team member knows one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Build in processes so team members can depend on each other as you develop a diverse team of specialists, generalists, and hybrids. For example, there may be certain people on your content marketing teamthat may not be as detail oriented. These team members most likely would make better editors or proofers, whereas the more creative team members might be better writers or graphic designers.

The key is to have a wide range of skills and interests so team members can learn from one another. It may be helpful to have people outside the marketing department help you with your efforts.

2. Develop a marketing technology roadmap.

A shiny, new content marketing tool can be helpful, but before you go out and buy it and implement it into your existing systems, you should really understand how it would help your team. It might be wise to create a marketing technology roadmap so you can see how all your systems will “talk” to one another.

With the right systems in place, your team will perform at a higher level. According to David and Lorrie Goldsmith of the Goldsmith Organization in a recent Fast Company article:

“Having the appropriate systems and structures in place is one of the most effective ways of bringing out the best talents and highest productivity of your people. Yet it’s one of the most ignored factors in organizations today.”

By understanding how your marketing technology systems fit together and the processes you should have in place, you will have a more efficient, productive, and integrated content marketing team.

3. Construct an overall theme around your content.

It is important to develop a central theme for your content for a certain time period. Theming—or the use of an overarching framework that creates a holistic and integration organization around one theme or topic—can help with the development of your content portfolio. A theme can help your team (and your audience) understand how all the content your organization produces ties together.

It may be helpful to think of your content like a television series. A series has an overall theme and each episode helps tell the story or theme of the series. Theming helps successful content marketers create and refine their content marketing editorial calendars.

For example, content marketers can create a theme for the entire year where all the content (magazine issues, newsletters, webinars, etc.) ties into this theme.

4. Determine where your content marketing capabilities stand today.

In order to understand where your company is going with its content marketing efforts, you should know where your organization is today. Determine where it lies on Altimeter Group‘s content marketing maturity model, and/or build a maturity model specific to your organization.

It can be helpful in communicating to your organization—especially to upper management—where your company stands and where it’s going. For example, your content marketing efforts might be taking place but are hemmed into silos by particular departments or even individuals.

5. Create a vision for what the future will look like.

After you determine where your content marketing efforts are today, you should paint the picture of the future. What will your content marketing department look like in a year or two? What are you trying to accomplish? What does success look like? What is the purpose of your content, and how does it fit your company’s vision, values, and objectives?

Coca-Cola recently created a “must-watch” video series called Content 2020 to show where its content marketing efforts are heading. The vision: to create the world’s most compelling content by moving from creative excellence to content excellence. If Coca-Cola accomplishes this task, it will earn a disproportionate share of popular culture. That is easy to understand, whether you are a content marketer or not.

What content marketing tips would you add?

10 free tools to manage your personal brand and online reputation

Personal branding dilemma

Personal branding dilemma (Photo credit: stefano principato)

Do you Google yourself and find another person with your same name pops on the screen?

Want to prevent a recruiter from seeing those drunk college photos that your friends posted on Facebook?

Want others find out quickly who you are, what you do and what content you are sharing online?

If your answer to all those questions is “yes” then you will want to monitor and be proactive about your personal brand and online reputation.

Managing your personal brand and online reputation is not an easy task but here are 10 FREE tools that can help:

1. BrandYourself

This website is a great way to manage and take ownership of your search results. This tool makes sure that the search engines like Google and Bing find the “real” you and not someone else who may have a name close to your name (or in some cases the same name). It helps you put your most relevant results at the top and improves your personal brand.

BrandYourself

2. About Me

This website helps you create your own personal homepage that is a central place for all of your online website properties like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and blog. This tool can help you improve your presence on the web and help others quickly learn about who you are and what you share online.

About.Me

3. Social Mention

This tool sends you alerts of your keywords. It analyzes when you are mentioned and how important those mentions really are. In other words, it is social media search engine. It searches user-generated content like blogs, bookmarks, comments and videos.

SocialMention

4. Who’s Talkin?

This tool is similar to SocialMention in that it alerts you of your mentions. It helps you search for conversations that you care about the most.

whos-talkin

5. NameChk

Want to know if your name is available on a social network? This tool is helpful in making sure you secure your domains and don’t let cybersquatters steal your name on social networks. It helps you figure out if your desired social media username or URL is still available on tons of social networks.

namechk

6. HootSuite

This tool helps you manage and measure your social media presence in one simple dashboard. You can manage multiple social media profiles, schedule messages and tweets, track mentions of your name and analyze social media traffic.

hootsuite

7. Google Alerts

These alerts are still a must-do today for searching for the keywords you want to know about such as your name or nickname. It also helps you stay up-to-date on keywords you are interested in like public relations, content marketing, brand journalism or social media.

google-alerts

8. Google’s Me on the Web

This tools notifies you when your personal data like email address or phone number gets published online. This helps you keep up-to-date on what information is being published about you and whether you need to take action or not.

google-me-on-the-web

9. Yasni

This tool can help you search for a phone number, email address, profession and location of any person. The tool provides news and links about any individual.

yasni

10. Naymz

This tool measures and manages your social reputation. This tool gives you a score based on how people find you. You can calculate your social influence and earn badges/endorsements of your strong reputation and influence like Klout does.

Naymz

What free tools have you found helpful to manage your personal brand and online reputation?

The A to Z guide to social media

alphabet stamps

alphabet stamps (Photo credit: river seal)

Sometimes it’s worth getting back to basics.  Here is a compact roadmap to social media – compiled as an easy-to-follow A to Z guide.

Access. Some companies still deny access to social networks at work.  According to a Cisco study, 33 percent of college students and young professionals under the age of 30 say they would prioritize social media access over salary in accepting a job offer.

Balance. Brands and people should balance the amount of time they spend on social media and the amount of time they spend on each of the different social media networks.

Channels. Don’t get caught up in social media channels – instead develop a social media strategy.

Democracy. According to some reports, social media has sparked democracy. What do you think?

Engagement. Social media provides brands with direct access to their primary audience: customers. Read 21 rules for social media engagement.

Facebook. Despite some people getting frustrated with Facebook, it is still the top social network a majority of us still use. According to Business2Community, 77 percent of B2C companies acquired customers via Facebook.

Google+. This is now the second-largest social network. Google+ is appealing to many because of three reasons: search results, hangouts and the new Communities.

Humanize. Social media is humanizing brands. Humans connect with humans – not with brands or logos. Social media helps tear down the traditional walls that large organizations put up. Read 10 ways to humanize your brand on social media.

Instagram. Despite Instagram recently losing 25 percent of its daily active users, it is still the choice of photo sharing today. Read 5 things brands can learn from the Instagram fallout and 3 ways to grow your Instagram community.

Journalists. We are all now citizen journalists. In other words, we all play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. Remember how social media played a big role in the US Airways airplane crash into the Hudson River.

Knowledge. You can learn a lot on your social networks. As a job seeker, you can learn about your future company before you interview with them. As a brand, you can learn about the digital body language of your customers.

LinkedIn. This network keeps growing with more than 200 million users. It is the top social network for many B2B companies (read 7 steps to LinkedIn success for B2B companies). Their new endorsements feature has negative and positive reviews but the jury is still out. In the meantime, you may want to read how to make the most of LinkedIn endorsements.

MySpace. Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy back to MySpace. But is it enough? Only time will tell but it is worth keeping an eye on. Read 5 things marketers will love about MySpace.

News. People now go to Twitter or other social networks to find out their news since it can break faster than through the traditional media outlets. Read how social media is taking over the news industry.

Openness. Whether you like or not, you are learning a lot about your friends and brands than you ever did before … the good, bad and the ugly. Social media is breaking down the traditional “walls” of information that friends or brands put up.

Pinterest. This network has exploded. It is on its ways to becoming a household name in social media. Pinterest is addictive and it recently launched business pages. Read 5 ways brands us Pinterest to authentically connect.

Quora. With the death of LinkedIn answers, this Q&A site has a lot of potential. Bing has integrated it into its social search. Read 9 ways to get more out of Quora.

Relationships. This is what social media is all about. Connecting with others.

Slideshare. This is the most underutilized site out there. Read 7 reasons why B2B marketers should love SlideShare and 11 ways to use SlideShare for content marketing success.

Twitter. Twitter is where a lot of news breaks these days. According to Twitter, there are over a billion tweets sent every three days.

Universe. Social media opens up your world to the entire universe, not just your city, town, neighborhood or street. You can connect with people all over the world with a couple of clicks.

Voice. It is important to find your authentic voice in social media and craft your own voice. Read how 5 brands crafted their social media voice and 5 tips to strengthen your company’s social media voice. Have you developed your own personal social media voice? What about your brand’s voice? Read 20 great social media voices and how to develop your own.

Widgets. Social media networks have developed stand-alone applications that you can embed into other applications like a website or a desktop. Some of the top social networks widgets: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.

X-factor. Social media is changing the game. It can be hard to truly describe social media’s influence on marketing, public relations, organizations and people but social media is changing worlds.

YouTube. Gangham Style video on YouTube now has more than 1 billion views. Need I say more about the popularity of this social network?

Zest. In other words: vigorous and enthusiastic enjoyment. This is what social media is all about. People enjoy spending time on social media. In the United States, people spent 121 billion minutes on social media in July 2012, according to Nielsen’s 2012 social media report. That is 6.5 hours per person (if every person in the U.S used social media).

What would you suggest as alternative letters to this list?

5 effective content marketing habits for success

effective content marketing

Content marketing is gaining traction at many companies, and some may argue that it is now mainstream. According to the 2013 content marketing research reports for B2B and B2C industries by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 91 percent of B2B marketers and 86 percent of B2C marketers are using content marketing. In addition, 54 percent of B2B marketers and 55 percent of B2C marketers will increase their content marketing spend in the next 12 months.

When you see successful content marketers, you may ask yourself: “What are they doing differently?” “What do they know that others don’t?” “What are they consistently doing right?”

Here are five habits that will help you become an effective content marketing pro and help you rise above the competition:

1. Know how to explain content marketing in business terms

Even though marketers understand content marketing, a lot of marketers have trouble making the business case for content marketing to senior leaders in their organization. It is important to have advocates of content marketing in the C-suite, especially your chief marketing officer and chief executive officer.

Companies that successfully demonstrate how content marketing can or will help them meet their business objectives can grow their content marketing budgets. They can also tie their content marketing goals to enterprise-wide business goals. For example, a company’s goal may be to build brand awareness. Content marketing helps by providing authentic and engaging content that helps current and potential customers learn more about the perspectives of a brand.

Another example of a business benefit gained from content marketing is customer loyalty, which can be built and maintained through delivering relevant, useful information to your audience in the form of email and print newsletters, print and online magazines, or live customer or virtual events.

2. Build a strong and integrated content marketing team

You can’t do it alone; it takes a team to be successful. Read “Creating a Content Marketing Team and Workflow Plan,” to learn how to assemble a team and develop your editorial plan:

  • Establish processes that are flexible but firm, so your expert team can develop content that is relevant and meaningful. Furthermore, you will want to expand your reach beyond just the content marketing team, so other parts of your organization can benefit from the content you create.
  • You may also want to develop a content marketing advisory board that includes people from many different parts of the business to ensure you are producing the right content for your audience, and can use your content to address their goals at every point of interaction.

3. Tell compelling stories

This is the part where effective content marketers really shine. As one Copyblogger blog post says, learn how to be interesting. In other words, tell great stories and get your audience hungry for more (read “Brand Storytelling Lessons You Can Steal from Hollywood,” for more tips on how to do this).

It’s also helpful to take a tip or two from professional journalists, who write their content as “must-read” stories (for inspiration, read “6 Ideas B2B Content Marketers Can Take from Professional Journalists“).

Some tips you can take from professional journalists:

  • They create stories that might refer to a specific product or service, but they don’t’ directly promote or endorse them.
  • Journalists follow strong editorial guidelines to ensure the consistency, accuracy, and integrity of their work and the publication they write for. These guidelines also help them determine whether a given article meets the quality standards of their publication.
  • Journalists also know what constitutes a valid, reliable source of information, and how to attribute those sources correctly.

You can also learn to tell compelling stories by learning the key components of journalism and basic storytelling principles.

The first key component: Know the five stages of developing a story. These stages are:

  • Brainstorm
  • Find a source
  • Conduct an interview
  • Draft the article
  • Meet the deadline

The second element is learning how to create different acts (or “mini stories”) within your stories. For example, modern storytelling has a three-act structure. The first act is called exposition, where a writer identifies the main characters, their relationships, and what type of world they live in. The second act is referred to as the rising action, where the main characters can’t resolve their problems because they don’t have the skills or the right state of mind to overcome them. The third act is the story resolution, where questions are answered, problems are solved, and the characters often gain a new sense of themselves.

The third key element is good graphic design, or how imagery and graphic design helps bring out the story. That leads us to the next key component: the importance of combing words and visuals to paint the picture. Basically, this means keeping an eye on how you associate the written word with visuals that help illustrate or enhance the emotion of the story.

The last element is an understanding of how stories can build upon other stories. Journalists are good at reporting the story, but often a story will continue to develop over the course of days, weeks, or even months. Reporters write about what they know at the time, and they report on the story again when the story develops. By building upon the previous report, a larger story begins to develop, and the full story is eventually told. Sometimes, journalists even create a story recap of all the developments over the course of time so you can see the timeline of events.

By understanding these key elements of journalism and storytelling, you can craft an integrated and holistic brand story that will draw your audience in and drive them to take action on behalf of your business.

4. Lead change

Content marketing may require a mindset shift at your company so that you are prepared to create content that tells a compelling story, rather than offering up the same old promotional copy. In order to accomplish this feat, you will need to know how to lead successful change at your organization.

The fable, Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions, illustrates the eight-step process of change. It is an easy-to-read story about penguins that realize their iceberg is melting, and go about making necessary changes to improve the situation. Today, effective content marketers should be more than just storytellers; they should also be agents for change. Why? Because successful organizations that excel at content marketing are able to function almost as if they were a publisher or a media company. That is why content marketing is sometimes called “brand journalism” — because it requires a brand to think in terms of what their readers or viewers are most interested in, rather than what the brand itself wants to talk about.

What do journalists do really well? They pump out a lot of quality content that makes their audience want to come back to them to get their news and information. The same should apply to your company’s content: the information you provide should be considered your product.

But while the information-as-product concept may help you address some of the tactical decisions involved in branded content creation, getting your company to really take a strategic, integrated, and editorial approach to content marketing may require a more significant mindset shift. The most essential step in leading change like this is creating a sense of urgency that such a transformation needs to take place (which takes us back to the first habit: Know how to put content marketing in business terms).

5. Audit and assess content continually

It’s urgent that content marketers have a detailed awareness of what is in their content inventory, and a solid understanding of how each piece of content integrates with their overall content strategy. For example, if you produce an article on a particular topic, do you have a white paper or video that presents a more in-depth perspective on the topic? Is there a way you can use the two pieces together to tell the larger story in a more vivid way?

The ability to slice, dice, separate, and recombine content in new ways is why you may want to consider conducting a content audit, which will show you what stories have been developed, what stories you may need to refresh, and what stories still need to be told on behalf of your brand. It will also help you avoid content archipelagos. Just like an archipelago is a group of islands that is typically uninhabited or rarely visited, this is a group of content that didn’t resonate well with your audience and wasn’t shared at the level you were hoping for. By auditing your content to see what performed to your expectations, you can get valuable insight that will help you decide what content to change and what to create more of.

Content marketing is as much science as it is art. With the availability of marketing automation tools, web analytical tools, and social media tools, there is no shortage of usable data at the content marketer’s fingertips. But what makes successful content experts stand apart is their ability to incorporate the information they gather from the data and use it to improve the content they create and distribute.

For example, if you are seeing that your blog post, “10 tips for topic X” is being read and shared a lot, do you have a plan in place to make sure you recognize its popularity and develop more content on that topic? Do you have a content calendar to keep track of the content you have produced, and what you would like to produce in the future?

It is also just as important that you and your team understand why your most popular content got the increased attention. Did they spend extra time engaging with your article because you included a video or slideshow? Was the topic related to a hot-button issue that drove a lot of conversations in the comments? The more you know about the factors that contributed to the success of a particular piece of content, the easier it will be to deliver the content your audience is looking for.

What do you think successful content marketers do differently? What would you add to this list?

This post originally appeared on the Content Marketing Institute blog.

The A to Z guide to content marketing

Whatever level you are at when it comes to content marketing –- beginner, intermediate or advanced – it is important to know (and master) the fundamentals.

Here is an A to Z guide to content marketing.

Action. Your content should get your audience to take action. When you boil down your content, your message should compel your audience to do something. Read proven formulas of call to actions.

Budget. To grow your content marketing efforts, you will need to grow your budget. While you can still do a lot of innovative content marketing tactics on a shoestring budget, it always helps to have money to add staff and create more original content.

Commitment. There are a lot of C’s when it comes to content marketing: content, creation, curation, choice, and conversion, to name a few. But the biggest C that content marketers should have is: commitment. Content marketing requires taking a commitment mindset not a campaign mindset. Your audience (and the search engines) expects that you or your brand to produce a lot of content.

Different. Your content should be different than you can find anywhere else. Are your perspectives on a topic or topics different than others? Does your content stand out compared to your competitors? To be successful in content marketing, you should be different.

Earned. Content marketing requires that you take the earned media approach. Read defining earned, owned and paid media. It requires a lot of work to build trust from your audience. Through a consistent effort over time, you will earn a reputation as a “go to” place to get useful and relevant content.

Format. It is important to remember that content can take many different forms such as blog posts, videos, images, presentations, and slideshows. Make sure your content has a variety of formats because your audience wants variety. And different formats will attract different audiences.

Gathering. Get your audience coming back for more. Every piece of content you create should help your audience: solve problems, entertain, inform and provoke new ideas.

Helpful. Your content should be helpful not promotional. Don’t talk about yourself too much just like when you go to a networking event you don’t want to get stuck in a conversation with someone who only talks about himself or herself. Read creating talkable and useful content.

Imagery. The saying “a picture paints a thousand words,” fits here. Your story or content should paint a picture by using infographics, photos, slideshows and videos. Read 15 reasons to make your content marketing more visual.

Journalism. Learn from professional journalists and what they do well. Implement those best practices. Read 6 things content marketers can take from professional journalists. Sometimes, content marketing is called brand journalism. Whatever it is called, it is important to tell compelling and relevant stories.

Karaoke. Get your audience to participate with such tactics like encouraging guest blogging, getting them to comment on articles and developing case studies about them. Just like Karaoke encourages you to sing along to songs, your content should encourage your audience to join in.

Lists. People love to read lists. We live in a world where we now scan content. Lists are easy to digest and easy to understand. Read 3 reasons why list stories work.

Measure. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” the old management adage goes. Unless you measure how well your content is doing with your audience, you don’t know how well you are doing or not doing. You don’t have to spend money to do it. Use a free tool like Google Analytics to find out your most popular articles and how much time they spend on an article.

Numbers. People love facts and numbers. Just like the best resumes have numbers included, the same goes for content. For example, 91 percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing and 86 percent of B2C marketers are using content marketing.

Objective. Before you start anything, it is vital that you set goals and develop a plan to know where you want to go. Even though content marketing is becoming a bigger part of the marketing mix, only 38 percent have a content marketing strategy.

Print. Print is NOT dead. Even though the world is going digital, there is still a tremendous opportunity to connect with your audience via print. Read 7 reasons to rethink print.

Quality. With content marketing, quality trumps quantity any day. Read Zen and the art of content marketing.

Recycle. Since we are all doing more with less, it is important to recycle content and put a new angle on it or freshen it up. Read 56 ways to reuse content marketing.

Story. What is your content trying to communicate? Effective content marketing is all about mastering the art of storytelling. Watch this video: Justina Chen and the importance of story-telling.

Team. You can’t create or curate content without a good team. Throughout the content marketing process, make sure your roles are identified and defined. Read creating a content marketing team and workflow plan.

Utility. As Mitch Joel, the author of  Six Pixels of Separation, says marketing today is all about utility marketing or giving your audience something so useful and valuable. It is similar to what Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, calls refrigerator journalism. It is creating content so compelling, so relevant and so brief that you want to cut it out and stick it on your fridge.

Vision. Content marketing may require a mind shift change at your company. The key is to paint the picture for your team and senior leaders at your organization how your content marketing efforts will impact the bottom line and help your company grow.

Writing. Write, write and write some more. As Copyblogger, says you only way to become a good writer is practice, practice and practice. Read 10 steps to becoming a better writer.

X-ray. Just like an x-ray examines a person, it is important to examine your content. Assess and audit your content so you know what content you need to create, how your content ties together and what content you should produce more or less of.

Year-end. Do you summarize your best content at the end of the year? What better way to close out the year than giving your audience a very accessible snapshot of your best work. You can also do it on a monthly or weekly basis but it should be done at least on a yearly basis.

Zeal. Are you passionate about creating or curating content? How enthusiastic are you? Only those who are have a strong interest and desire for content will be successful.

What words would you suggest as alternatives in this A to Z guide?

The 7 Cs of a successful social media strategy

A lot of people and companies decide, after using social media for a while, that they need a strategy. Of course, that approach is like putting the cart before the horse. To ensure success, think about your social media strategy in the context of the seven Cs.

1. Community

Like all good communication, it is best to start by determining your target audience. Where do they spend time online? What social media channels do they use? Before your social media efforts can take shape, you should listen and learn about your community. For example, a B2C consumer goods brand like Oreo, one of their top social media communities is Facebook. Their recent salute to the Mars landing was a huge hit with their 27 million Facebook fans. For a job seeker, he or she will most likely find a community on LinkedIn because according to a recent survey, 93 percent of job recruiters use LinkedIn to find qualified candidates.

Finding out where your community interacts on social media is the first step of a successful social media strategy. It is important to first determine what type of conversations are taking place about your brand and in your industry before engaging in a community or building a community from scratch. If you decide that your brand should build a community from the ground up, you should learn from Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich) and how she build an engaged community on the popular Spin Sucks blog or you may want to talk to Mark Ragan (@markraganceo), the publisher of the Ragan’s PR Daily.

2. Content

After you figure out how your community engages with social media, you should next figure out what content you are going to share with your followers. For example, if you are looking to grow your personal brand, what articles are you going to share to highlight your expertise about your job or personal interests? If you are a company, how can you show your clients and prospects that you are a thought leader or that you are trying to make their lives easier? To learn more about the importance of content, you may want to read the Content Marketing Institute blog.

3. Curation

You can’t think about content, without mentioning curation. Curation is a way of sharing other people’s content. According to Beth Kanter (@kanter) in her post Content Curation Primer, content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way. Rohit Bhargava (@rohitbhargava) in his post Manifesto for the Content Curator defines a content curator as someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content a specific issue. Content curation is one of the easiest ways to share content because you don’t have to create anything. This leads well into the next “C”: creation.

4. Creation

Creation is the act of creating content online, whether it be in the form of text, images or video. If you have posted a blog post, uploaded a video to YouTube or took a picture and posted it to Instagram, you are in the creation business. One of the ways to help you create content is to create an editorial calendar. It may be helpful to use this editorial calendar template. If you don’t like spreadsheets, then you may want to consider using an application like Divvy. For the more advance content creators, using a content marketing software platform like Kapost should be something you consider.

5. Connection

After you have either curated and/or created content, the next C is the physical act of sharing content. This C is about connecting with your community and getting a deep understanding of what your target audience likes about your social media activities and strategy. Based on measurements and data, what content are your communities attracted to and willing to share with their friends and colleagues?

Many brands today have created buyer personas so they can better understand and connect better with their target audience. In other words, personas are fictional representations of your ideal clients, based on real data about demographics, online behavior, along with educated assumptions about their history, motivations and concerns. On the personal branding side, use these 5 tools to manage your relationships online.

6. Conversation

This C is all about having a conversation with your community. This C is very similar to the community, but the important difference is the actual engagement part of communicating with your communities. To help you with this concept, learn the 3 key social media conversation starters.

7. Conversion

The seventh C is conversion. You can’t talk about social media without having a return on investment (ROI) conversation. The important thing to remember here is that your social media strategy should be tied to your business strategy. To help you get started, you may want to look at these 14 social media ROI metrics.

When thinking about this from the company perspective, it is important to remember to look at it two ways: the external view by your clients and prospects and the internal view by your employees. To develop a successful social media strategy, it is important to communication, convince and most importantly, convert social media into action, both externally and internally. Whether your social media metrics are at your company, they will be boil down to three main categories: awareness, sales and loyalty.

On the personal branding side, social media is a way to help you advance your career—whether it be successfully climbing the corporate ladder or launching a successful business. You can judge the success of your personal social media strategy by whether or not you are top of mind with your network and whether it helps you get that interview or land that perfect job.

One of the ways to maximize conversion with your social media strategy, you may want to learn about the social media maturity model. According to Forrester, there are 5 main stages of social media maturity and adoption.

More than 7 C’s

In conclusion, a successful social media strategy should include: finding and engaging your communities and/or building a new community; making sure you have the right mix of content curation and creation (according to research, the sweet spot of curation to creation is 60-40); connecting well with your community; having relevant and meaningful conversations; and converting on your goals. Just like the 4 P’s of marketing has grown to the 9’s P’s of marketing, I am sure there are more C’s than seven. What C’s would you add to this list?

Some additional resources

You don’t have to take my word for it. There is a lot of great information online about developing a social media strategy. Some my favorite blog posts on this topic include the post by Amy Porterfield (@amyporterfield) on the Social Media Examiner about the 3 steps to an effective social media strategy, the post by Jay Baer (@jaybaer) on his blog Convince and Convert about how to develop a social media strategy in 7 steps and the post by B.L. Ochman (@whatsnext) on Mashable about the three things you should know about social media strategy.

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