Content Creation: A Viable Marketing Option During a Pandemic

As we manage the delicate balance of staying healthy and staying in business, many businesses have found that the marketing options they once relied on don’t work in the current environment. In person meetings, conferences, tradeshows and other events that attract large crowds are put on hold for at least the near future. 

There’s one marketing option, though, that will be effective throughout this pandemic, and that is your content.

Content creation, in any form, is still going to work as we work from home, stay at home for the most part, and social distance. If you haven’t had a strong content creation strategy in your business before, now is the perfect time to start.

Here’s why content is a viable marketing option during this pandemic:

You can still reach your audience. Even if it’s not in person like you are used to, you can reach your audience through your digital content.  Pick your platform: social media, blogs, enewsletters, podcasts, webinars, etc. The list goes on and on. Content puts you in front of your audience and reminds them you are still there. 

You can step it up. If pre-pandemic you threw a social media post up a couple of times a month or wrote a quarterly blog, now you can do more. Create a content calendar. Start a blog. Grow your social media following. Identify that social media platform you know the least about and give it a try (I’m talking from personal experience here, check out my Instagram account). Finish writing that book. You may have a bit more time to invest in these platforms and can get a more consistent schedule going. Hopefully it will be one you can adhere to in the months to come.

You can identify your customers’ problems and provide solutions for them. Knowing your target audience’s pain points is crucial. And they may have different problems now than they did before this whole thing started. Research is always key to good content creation. Ask your audience for their feedback with a survey, a Facebook poll, or by talking with them on calls or virtual meetings. You can also use your undercover super-sleuth skills and do some social listening on your favorite platforms. 

Your customers may have more time to consume content. COVID-19 has landed millions of people in a home office. Without a commute, the hassle of dropping off kids, packing lunches, etc., they may have more time to read, listen, and engage. 

If it makes sense for your business, create COVID-related content to mix in with your evergreen content. You could have a separate category on your blog that houses all your COVID-related resources. Then later, when this pandemic is over —and I do believe that one day it will be—you can remove the COVID references and repurpose it into your content strategy.

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6 Reasons Your Business Needs a Content Calendar

Do you have a calendar or daily to-do list? 

Is there a calendar on your phone or in a planner that contains your goals, project deadlines, appointment times, meeting reminders, and conference calls?

Can you imagine how you’d get through your day without it?

Most successful people need some type of system to keep them organized and accountable so major goals and responsibilities don’t get forgotten.

Just as you need a calendar to keep your workday organized, you also need a calendar to manage the content your business is creating. 

This important management tool is called an content calendar, and it is crucial to your business success.

What is an Content Calendar?

An content calendar is a schedule used by social media experts, bloggers and marketers to plan, organize and schedule their content.

It is a publishing schedule for the upcoming week, for the next month or for the coming year. 

Depending on your business, your content calendar might include your blog topics, your social media updates, your videos or your infographics. It might also include company events, special recognition days, or other events you may want to generate content for.

While your content calendar should be a strategic plan, it should not be set in stone. It needs to be flexible to adapt to timely topics, last minute changes or other business updates.

What To Include in Your Content Calendar

Your content calendar should include the who, what, where, when, why and how of your content.

Your content calendar might include:

  • Your major categories or themes. Your calendar should identify the various topics you want to write about or discuss.
  • The types of content to be created. You can plan the combination of blog posts, social media updates, press releases, podcasts, videos, webinars, etc. you want to create that will best meet your marketing objectives. 
  • Who is responsible. Having multiple contributors is helpful in managing the content workload and offering different perspectives on topics. But only if everyone can see the big picture. Listing who is responsible for what helps to keep all your contributors on the same page. 
  • Deadlines. Your content calendar should include a submission deadline that allows for enough time to make edits before your publishing date. 
  • Publishing date. This is the date you plan to publish your edited content for your audience to read, view, listen to and respond to.  

Here are six reasons why having a carefully crafted content calendar in place is crucial to your business’s success:

  1. It keeps you organized.  Having a plan of what content will be released will help confirm you are covering the topics and issues that are important to your audience.  
  2. It keeps you accountable. Knowing that there are tasks to be completed on a certain schedule helps to make sure you get it done. 
  3. It ensures consistency of posts. With a content calendar, you will avoid posting “spurts” of content some weeks followed by a dry-spell during your busier weeks.
  4. It takes the stress out of coming up with a topic. When you know the topic you are going to write about ahead of time, you won’t be under pressure to both find a topic and prepare the content for it.
  5. It ensures a consistent voice throughout your content. Delivering a consistent message with the same overall “tone” is important to developing and maintaining your brand. By planning ahead, you’ll have time to make sure that your voice sounds the same throughout.
  6. It establishes you as a professional. Having a regular schedule of helpful content going out through different outlets will impress your audience. Sharing your knowledge and providing information about real issues and problems your audience faces makes you a credible resource they will want to do business with.

Your content calendar should be a constantly evolving tool that you refer to on a daily basis, just as you would your regular calendar or daily planner. It serves as a document for existing and future content, and content that can be repurposed and used on other media outlets.

It ‘s also an archive of all of the content you have produced.

How has your use of a content calendar benefitted your business?

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Tips for Battling Writer’s Block

It’s a typical day at the office and we’re up against deadlines, putting out fires and being pulled in a million different directions. Because we understand the importance of written communication with our customers, we attempt to carve out time to write.

But when we finally sit down to write that blog post, email, newsletter article or e-book, we draw a complete blank. We freeze in our seats, watching the computer curser blink as it waits impatiently for us to make it move across the page with our insightful, inspiring words. But the words aren’t there. Our minds are an empty slate, and the harder we try to think of something to write, the emptier that slate becomes and the panic begins to set in.

As if our plates weren’t full enough, we are now dealing with a classic case of writer’s block.

Writer’s block happens to everyone—business professionals, college students and even professional writers. Chances are, it’s happened to you before, and it will happen again in the future.

The demands on business owners are unrelenting and distractions are a normal part of our day. It’s no wonder we have trouble sitting down to focus on one thing, attempting to corral our scattered thoughts into smooth, coherent sentences that our customers will appreciate and gain value from.

When its crunch time and the projects just have to get done, here are a few strategies for combating writer’s block and helping you clear your head.

  • Take a timed break. Give yourself 10 or 15 minutes to let yourself calm down. Do whatever you need to do to relax – meditate, close your eyes and take long deep breaths, pray, or brew a fresh cup of coffee and step outside to enjoy it. When the time is up, sit back down and try again.
  • Have a brainstorming session. Set a timer and write for 15 minutes about anything. It doesn’t have to be about the project you are working on. Just don’t stop writing. Sometimes the simple act of consistent thought flow can be enough to break the locks on your creativity.
  • Do something else that is creative. If you like to paint, sculpture or play a musical instrument, take a timed break to do it.
  • Change locations. Write in a different room of your house, the conference room of your office, or eliminate all workplace distractions by going to a restaurant, coffee shop or the library.
  • Talk it through with a co-worker or friend. Sometimes putting a voice to your thoughts and getting input and feedback from others can be enough to open the floodgates.
  • Participate in physical activity. Go for a walk, a run or lift weights at the gym. Get your heart rate going and don’t think about work. Come back to it with renewed energy.
  • Reward yourself for progress or completion. Make a deal with yourself that when you have written for a predetermined number of minutes, have met a certain goal or have finished the project, you will treat yourself something small. An extra long break, a cup of coffee or a small piece of chocolate can be great motivators.
  • Always carry a small notebook or use a voice memo app for your phone. The perfect words will come when you least expect it, and you should be ready to record them when they do. Keep a notebook in your laptop bag, your purse, your car or by your bed.

Writer’s block is a function of being over-programmed, distracted and unable to focus. Taking the time to step back and eliminate distractions can help us ease anxiety and feel refreshed, relaxed and ready to tackle the task at hand.

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5 Steps to Identifying Your Writing Voice

As a business owner, you write every day. Before the day is over, you may have written countless emails, submitted project proposals and contributed to your company’s blog or newsletter.

Although it is you writing all of these things, they shouldn’t all be written the same way. They shouldn’t all “sound” the same.

To be most effective, you will need to consider your audience and purpose, and adjust your writing voice accordingly.

What is a Writing Voice?

Much has been written and debated about our writing voice, or the way we “sound” when we write. Some believe we are born with our own unique style, others believe we can learn it, still others are certain its as individual as our personalities and we can’t learn it, escape it or change it – we just have to find it.

Yesterday, I wrote an email to a potential client. Afterwards, I wrote a blog post for my website. Later, I wrote a sympathy card to a very close friend. My voice was behind each of these items, but my email was businesslike, my blog post was informative, and my card was sympathetic and personal. All were written by me, but each had a unique tone and style.

I do believe each of us portrays a bit of our own personalities and personal styles into what we write. But I also think we can and should adjust our voice to better communicate with our audiences. Sometimes we do this naturally. Sometimes we have to consciously make it happen.

Why is Voice Important?

The voice we use when we write helps our audience understand our purpose. It gets their attention and keeps it. When our audience feels we relate to them, it establishes credibility. We become a professional or authority. It ultimately helps us sell our products and services.

If you work at a bank, you will want to use a professional, informative and trustworthy voice. If you own a funeral home, your voice will be sympathetic and reassuring. Using humor, trendy expressions or a casual voice would not be appropriate for either of these industries. You would sound unprofessional, and possibly even offensive.

However, if you were writing for a young rock band, a hip teenage clothing store or a mommy blog, a casual or humorous voice would speak well to your audience. Anything professional or formal could be ineffective and come off as stuffy and out-of-touch.

How to Decide What Writing Voice To Use

Not sure how you should “sound”? Here are five steps to consider when deciding on your writing voice.

 

  1. Define your audience. Who will be reading your writing? What are their ages, backgrounds, and education levels? You will write differently to an educated audience than you would to a group of middle school students.
  2. Know your purpose. Are you trying to educate your audience about your cause? Are you trying to persuade your audience to buy a product or support a candidate? Know what you want to accomplish before you start writing.
  3. Consider how well your audience understands your topic. Are you writing for a trade organization where everyone knows the industry? Or are you writing to the general public who may not know the specifics of your subject? You will need to explain things more and avoid industry jargon if the audience is not familiar with your topic.
  4. Understand the outlet you are writing for. A press release written for the media will need to have a journalistic style, with the most important information reported first. A blog may take on a more casual, informal tone. A newsletter article will be customer-focused and friendly.
  5. What action do you want your audience to take? What is your call to action? You will need to use a persuasive voice if you want your audience to buy something. You will be more instructional if you want to educate your audience about new information.

Following these important steps before you begin writing will help you identify your writing voice, and make your audience feel like you are speaking directly to them.

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8 Tips to Avoid Distractions and Stay Focused on Your Work

We all have responsibilities and projects to complete every day, and there are many demands and distractions that work against us. Whether it’s coworkers, the phone, email, social media temptations or kids, distractions are all around us.

Procrastination and avoidance are easy responses to projects we can’t focus on, are not looking forward to, or are feeling overwhelmed about.

When you have a project to do or an assignment to write, you will have the most success if you plan ahead for the inevitable distractions. Setting yourself up to succeed is the first step in conquering distractions.

Here are eight tips for staying focused and avoiding distractions when working:

Tip #1: Commit to a time. Tell yourself that you are going to push everything else aside and focus on this one project for a certain amount of time. It could be 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or however much time you think you’ll need and you have to spare. It doesn’t really matter how much time it is, just pick it and commit to it.

Tip #2: Organize your workspace. Whether you are working at your desk, a conference room or a comfy chair, make your workspace neat and orderly. Keep the things you’ll need close by, and remove other items – such as files, magazines or other uncompleted projects – that could distract you from your work.

Tip #3: Grab your favorite beverage. Water, tea, coffee or a soda can give you the thirst-quenching satisfaction you need to keep working for your committed time period.

Tip #4: Turn off your digital distractions. This includes your email, office phone, mobile phone and social media accounts. Mute the alerts and notifications that go along with all of them.

Tip #5: Close your door. If possible, eliminate distractions and alert those in your office that you are hard at work by keeping your door closed. This will prevent your coworkers from casually dropping in for an unnecessary conversation.

Tip #6: Select your background noise. For me, it’s silence. I prefer to work in the quiet. But other people work best with music, white noise, or the buzz of people around them. Know what background you can be most productive in, and get it going before you start.

Tip #7: Don’t edit. Just write. If you are writing a blog or an article for your newsletter, don’t stop every couple of sentences to work out the kinks. Just get as much written as you can. You will go back and tweak it later.

Tip #8: Reward yourself. Congratulate yourself for staying focused and completing your goal. Grab a cup of coffee or go for a walk outside. Having an incentive can motivate us to get the job done.

The most important part of staying focused is to know your weakness. If you can’t stop checking Facebook, close the app. If your phone keeps you hopping, turn it off. You can call or text them back. Self-discipline takes practice, but the more you do it, the better you will become at it. Committing to staying focused will help you be a more productive and efficient worker.

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How to Identify Your Target Market

In order for a business to be successful, you not only need to identify the product or service you will be selling, but you also need to thoroughly research and identify the group of people who will be buying it – otherwise known as your target market.

Your target market is the specific group of people who need the product or service you are selling. It’s who you will tailor your message to, and whose specific needs you will be meeting.

Why is Knowing Your Target Market Important?

A business cannot be everything to everybody. Even if you could do it well, most businesses could not afford such vast specializations in so many areas. Targeting your business to a specific group allows small businesses to compete with larger companies.

Once you know who needs your product or service, you can become the expert in your industry and be more strategic in your marketing efforts.

For example, the medical profession has hundreds of target markets. A general practitioner can provide initial care to address your overall health, but if you had a heart condition, you would want to see an experienced cardiologist who spent years focusing on the heart and who provide you with the most specialized care. If you were having a baby, you would go to an obstetrician. If you needed medical care for you child, you would make an appointment with a pediatrician. One doctor cannot be all things to everyone, just like you can’t offer products and services to every type of customer. No one can know everything about every area. Developing your niche or specialization makes you more successful and effective in your business.

 

How to Identify Your Target Market

Here are 5 steps to determining who your target market is and how to best reach them:

  1. Evaluate what you are selling. What unique benefits do your products or services offer? How do they benefit the customers who purchase them?
  2. Look at your current customers. Where is your business coming from? Where are you making the most sales, and who is buying what you have to sell?
  3. Identify your customer profile. Study the characteristics of the people who need your product and the customers who are currently buying it. Then create a customer profile. What is their age? Gender? Education level? Geographic location? Income level? Consider psychological information as well, such as lifestyles, behaviors, hobbies, and interests.
  4. Research the market. Read everything you can online about your target market to determine if it’s growing. Conduct surveys, interviews or focus groups to assess the need, and get opinions from local experts. Research what your competition is offering. Is there enough of a need to support your business?
  5. Know how to reach your target market. Once you have determined there is enough of a need, find out what websites your target market visits, blogs they read and social media outlets they comment on. Use this information to compose your message and determine the best way to deliver it.

Identifying and studying your target market makes you stay focused, helps you to be more effective in your business, and allows you to develop your niche.

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How to Repurpose Your Content

Coming up with fresh, valuable content on a frequency can be a challenge. And the content we do produce – such as blog posts, e-newsletters and social media updates — is usually only utilized once, and for a short time. This is a waste of good information.

But you can make the most of that valuable content you worked so hard to create. You can do this when you repurpose your content.

What Does “Repurpose Your Content” Mean?

When you repurpose your content, you take the main idea of the content you have already created, change it slightly, and produce a new work.

It is sometimes referred to as recycling your content, because you are changing it around, breathing new life into it, adding more details or targeting a different audience. Just as the phrase indicates, your repurposed content has a new “purpose.”

 

Why Should You Repurpose Your Content?

One piece of content can’t possibly reach all people when it’s produced one way for one target audience. Repurposing your content allows you to fully utilize your work, produce more with less research, and make your content generating efforts more productive.

By changing the size, format and medium, you’ll be able to reach a new and different audience. The more mediums you are able to utilize, the more value you will be able to create.

 

How to Repurpose Your Content

There are many ways to repurpose your content. Here are just a few examples:

 

  • Elaborate on the details of a blog. Add graphics to it and transform it into an ebook or white paper that your audience can download as a PDF file.

 

  • Summarize the major points of a blog into a short list, add images and create an infographic.

 

  • Rework the major points of an article into a question-answer format. Post as a frequently asked questions page on your website.

 

  • Turn an article made up of a numbered list into a series of individual posts/tips on social media.

 

  • Convert your e-newsletter into a slide show; post on Slide Share.

 

  • Record yourself discussing the blog post, and change it to a video, a podcast or a webinar

 

  • Take phrases or key points from your blog articles and use it as social media posts

 

Shorten your content, lengthen it, change your target audience or select a new medium. These are all powerful ways to keep fresh, valuable content in front of a larger group of potential customers.

 

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Why Your Writing Needs a Call To Action

A beginning, a middle and an end; a topic sentence, supporting details, and a summary.

Much of what you write contains these components, but there is one important item that is often left out of the content you create.

And when you leave it out, you miss the opportunity to develop a relationship with your audience.

The missing piece is called the call to action. 

What is a Call to Action?

A call to action is a statement or invitation that accompanies your content – usually toward the end – that asks your reader to do something.

It’s a request, an offer, a suggestion or an encouragement for your audience to take a certain action. A call to action entices your readers to connect, learn more and engage with you at some point in the future.

Why You Need a Call to Action

A call to action is an opportunity to present more information to your audience, build credibility and establish yourself as a trustworthy expert in your field.

A call to action benefits you because it is a way to identify your target audience. The readers that take you up on your call to action offer are the ones that are interested in what you have to say, would like to learn more, and have found value in the content they’ve read so far.

A call of action is the first step in developing a relationship with your audience, and leading them through the sales cycle.

Types of Calls to Action

Calls to action come in many forms; some are more forward than others. Your ultimate goal is to make more sales, but in order to do that, you have to take the time to prove yourself trustworthy, and develop an ongoing loyalty with your customer. A call to action is your invitation to your customer to begin that relationship.

Here are different types of calls to action you may want to consider adding to your content:

  1. Sign up for your blog. By simply entering their email address, your audience can receive an email notification of your new blog posts as they are published.
  2. Opt in to your email list. By signing up, they will receive your email newsletter and other important announcements.
  3. Leave a comment. Especially for your blog, ask your readers for their thoughts, questions and input on the topic you wrote about. Be sure to acknowledge and respond to all of the comments timely.
  4. Follow you on social media. Include a link to your Facebook business page, your Twitter account or any other social media profile you have. Be sure to like or follow them back, and respond to any questions or comments they may post on your page.
  5. Email or call you directly. Perhaps the most personal, including your email or phone number is a great way to invite questions and comments and be accessible.
  6. Link to your website. Encourage your readers to click on your website link to learn more about you, your business and the products or services you offer.
  7. Fill out a form. Be sure your form has required fields, such as an email address, so you can respond quickly.
  8. Download a white paper or ebook. When they enter their email address, you can use it for future correspondence. Content like a white paper or ebook also confirms your credibility as a trusted resource.
  9. Buy your product or service. This is your ultimate goal, but depending on your business, you may not ask for that right from the start. You might need to take baby steps by starting with the other types of call to action. These let your customer get to know you and trust that you are worthy of their investment of time and money.

Don’t just create great content and leave it hanging. Use your content as a way to connect with those who need what you are offering, develop a relationship and ultimately make more sales.

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7 Steps to Effective Content Creation

We create all types of content as part of our normal workday. We write emails, create proposals, write blog posts or maybe even update our business website.

Creating content is a crucial first step, but making sure that content is creating value is just as important.

If what we write doesn’t resonate with our readers, they aren’t going to continue reading, they aren’t going to learn more about our business, and they aren’t going to be a potential customer.

So how do we create content that engages with our customers and sells?

If it sounds complicated or overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Regardless of what you are writing, there are seven steps you can follow that will guide you to creating valuable content that engages your reader and increases your sales.

 

Step #1: Know Your Audience.

Your target market will be different depending on what you are writing, so you’ll want to make sure you are writing for the intended audience. Ask yourself questions about your audience. How old are they? What is there education level? Where do they live? Are they primarily male or female? Create a picture in your mind of one person who has all of the attributes of your target audience, and write directly for him or her. If you can do that, your writing will be more effective and personal.

 

Step #2: Find Your Voice.

Your writing voice is how you “sound” when you write. It’s your point of view, your attitude, and your personality that comes through when you write. You’ll want to choose a writing voice that is appropriate for your business. If you are a banker or financial planner, your voice will be knowledgeable, informative and trustworthy. If you are a funeral director or work for hospice, your voice will be sympathetic, comforting and reassuring.

 

Step #3: Write a Catchy, Attention Getting Headline.

Your headline is important because it helps your audience decide if they will keep on reading. It piques their interest, invites them in, and poses a question they want the answer to now. It should be short, direct, descriptive and enticing.

 

Step #4: Make Your Content Readable.

Most readers want to get their information fast, and will initially scan content instead of reading word for word. Therefore, you want your content to be easy to scan. Use short sentences, short paragraphs, lots of white space, and bulleted or numbered lists. Photos, images, inline links and subheadings all help the content flow smoothly and make your content easy to read.

 

Step #5: Build Trust.

Bob Burg said, “All things being equal, people do business with and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” You can build trust with your potential customers by providing valuable content, responding to comments and providing testimonials. Do what you say you will do, and be there for the long haul.

 

Step #6: Have a call to action.

A call to action is a statement or invitation that accompanies your content – usually at the end – that asks your reader to do something. It helps develop a relationship with your audience, and is the first step in the sales cycle. Calls to action can ask your audience to sign up for your blog, opt in to your email list or comment on your article. Other examples of calls to action are to follow you on social media, visit your website, or download a white paper or ebook.

 

Step #7: Be consistent.

Consistency takes discipline, commitment and organization. It’s not always convenient or easy. But it shows you are reliable, dependable and trustworthy. By being consistent, you are allowing your audience to know you, potentially like and trust you.

 

Follow these seven steps the next time you are struggling to create content for your business. By breaking the process down into manageable components, you can identify your goal, organize your writing, and create engaging copy for your potential customers.

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The Perfect Trio: Your Website, Blog & Social Media

The Three Musketeers, The Three Tenors, The Three Stooges. Many successful and famous things have come in three’s. And the same holds true for your business.

Three parts of your business form the perfect partnership. They are the perfect trio, supporting each other, complimenting each other, and together form a powerful marketing foundation.

They are your website, your blog, and your social media presence.

Independently, they are important. Together they produce results.

Your Website

Your website is the online heart and soul of your business. It’s where you ultimately want your customers to end up, to learn more about you, your products or services, and how to contact you.

Through your website’s content and customer testimonials, you build trust and credibility. Your website is where conversion takes place. It’s where your customers will make their buying decision, purchase your products, or hire you for a service. The ultimate goal of all of your marketing efforts is to lead your customers to your website.

Your Blog

Your blog is composed of articles on your website that provide value to your customers. They are articles that contain helpful information that solves a problem, answers a question, or provides advice for your customers.

Blogs help build credibility and trust, because by providing this information, you become known as an expert and trusted professional in your industry.

Your Social Media Presence

Social media offers a great opportunity to connect and engage with your current and potential customers. By joining them on the social media platform they are on, you can provide tips, information and links to resources your customers will find helpful. Those resources should include your blog articles.

How the Trio Works Together

Think of your website, blog and social media trio as a funnel, with social media at the top of the funnel, leading to your blog in the center, and ultimately your website at the bottom, where your website visitors become customers. Here’s how they work as a team to benefit your business:

  1. Blogs improve website rankings. Search engines favor websites that publish fresh, updated content on a regular basis. By writing blogs for your website, you are improving your search engine rankings.
  2. Blogs lead customers to your website. Informative, well-written blogs containing information and words your customers are searching for will rank well in search engines. These blogs lead customers right to your website. While they are there, they may visit other pages or read other articles that are of interest to them. This helps with traffic to your website, and allows your reader to learn more about you and what you do.
  3. Use social media to promote your blogs. Links to your blogs make excellent social media content, because your articles are helpful, and readers that are interested in the topic will want to learn more. When your potential customers click on the link to your blog, they are taken to your website to read the article.
  4. Include social media share buttons on every blog article on your website. If your visitor likes the article and finds it helpful, he or she may share the article with their social media network, improving your exposure.
  5. Add social media follow buttons on each page of your website. This provides a quick and easy way for your visitors to follow or like you on your social media profiles.

Your website, blog and social media trio are a continuous, overlapping relationship. Make the most of your marketing efforts by connecting them. This will give you the opportunity to earn your visitors’ trust, and ultimately convert them into long-term, loyal customers.

If you’d like more information about how this perfect trio works together, please contact me or join my email list below.