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The basics: content marketing

A bichon frisé dog leaps over a jump towards the camera. Text reads "content marketing."

Content marketing is one of those terms that gets thrown around all across the internet but, when you get people on their own, it turns out a lot of folks don’t really know what it means. This month I’m going to break it down for you and explain how it ties in to an organic, community driven social media strategy.

Brace yourself; this blog post gets a bit meta!

What even is content marketing?

Essentially everything is content. This blog post is content, your social media posts, podcasts you listen to, newsletters you subscribe to, videos you watch, it’s all content. However it is not all content marketing which is content specifically created:

  • For a target market.
  • To build know / like / trust factor.
  • With a focus on adding value over selling.

This blog post is content marketing; I’ve written it to educate small business owners on content marketing. My target market are small business owners and freelancers. I’ve noticed that the topic causes a lot of confusion for many of you so I’m educating you about it. The bonus is that through this blog post you also learn that I know about content marketing, I explain things well (hopefully) and I seem like a nice gal because I’m helping you out for free.

I did warn you it was going to get meta!

What is good content marketing?

The aim is to create content that’s genuinely useful to your target market and to offer it regularly. Knowing who you’re talking to is absolutely key (as with every other kind of marketing.) I could have created a campaign around agility training; a blog post about what it is and why it’s great, adorable photos and video clips of my talented pooch and I competing, the whole shebang. It would be great content but would it be great content marketing? No.

Happy Dog GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
GIF ID: TiLi, a bichon frisé, leaps over a jump and runs excitedly to an equally excited Alexis.

Why not? Because it’s not relevant to my target market or my own business and it doesn’t add value to your lives (unless you’re all secretly dog agility fans on the side.)

It really would make great content though!

Top tip: keep it relevant.

Content and community

Content is one of the ways you and your business can build and support your community. I talked more about business and community in a past blog post so I’m going to focus on how content marketing adds to that.

  • There are always going to be folks who can’t afford you yet; creating content which helps them out makes them far more likely to invest with you over other people when they can afford to.
  • Some people are really interested in things that have nothing to do with their work (very healthy if you ask me), so you may reach people who just have an interest in your industry but are likely to mention you to people they know who are your target market because your content is so awesome. They build their own relationships by sharing a great resource, you gain a potential lead. Everybody wins!
  • On a related note, shareable content is The Thing. Sure you could spend your cash on ads but you could also invest in creating amazing content that people share because it’s so good and that keeps people coming back to you. We’re getting picky with who we follow nowadays (also healthy), offering something useful is a fabulous way to ensure people want you in their feed.
  • It’s just a nice thing to do. Putting out useful content because you genuinely care about your audience and getting the warm fuzzies over the people who only support your free stuff is what community building is about. Not everyone will buy from or work with you, they have their reasons, be a good egg anyway.

Top tip: also share other people’s content with your community.

The content marketing tl;dr*

Personally, I love creating content for the sake of creating content, I just love the creative process, but even if you’re not there is so much to be gained from adding value to your community. It’s also worth noting that your content doesn’t have to take any specific form so you really can find something that works for you.

If you’d like to learn more about creating social media content in a stress free way, Out of the Jungle, my content creation course, kicks off on 21st September and I’d love to help you get out of the content creation jungle and ensure you never get lost there again.

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Why accessible content should be the next big trend

a person with pink hair in a wheelchair on a beach, hands in the air. Text above reads "accessibility is cool"

With reach being one of the key metrics people aim for on social media (I have a whole post on vanity metrics), it surprises me that making content accessible isn’t a higher priority for those same people. Why? Because accessibility directly impacts your reach and engagement. If you put out amazing content which can’t be consumed or understood by a percentage of people, those people can’t engage with it and aren’t going to share it or follow you.

Simply put, if you want to reach the maximum amount of people with your content, everyone needs to be able to consume and engage with it.

What is accessibility?

“Accessibility” refers to anything that makes your content accessible to more people. We’re talking captions / subtitles, image descriptions, content warnings, not using flashing or strobing effects in videos, including line breaks and utilising paragraphs in your text and using fonts which are easy to read.

There are many different types of disability which can affect how people consume content online and working to make what you share accessible to them is both good for business and a nice thing to do for your fellow humans.

Isn’t it hard / expensive / time consuming?

That really depends but it is becoming easier, cheaper and quicker to make your content accessible as technology advances. Ultimately it comes down to where you place value and therefore what you prioritise but if you’re on the fence about accessibility it’s worth noting that there are other benefits in terms of SEO and user experience, among other things.

Here are some of ways you can make your content more accessible.

Subtitles and captions

There are a lot of free auto-captioning tools available now and they are improving in accuracy, but I recommend listening to what deaf activist Rikki Poynter has to say about the issues with auto-captions. I use Rev for my video captions but before I started outsourcing I used YouTube’s auto-captions which I went in and manually edited. Transcripts of your video content are another useful way to make your content more accessible, or you could simply provide a written blog post which includes the same information.

Top tip: create fewer or shorter videos and spend the time you’ve saved editing auto-captions.

Alt text and image descriptions

Many social networks now offer options to add alt-text to your images, some even prompt you to do so. Whether you use the inbuilt options or add an image description to your caption, remember that you don’t need to describe the image in detail. Ensure you provide the key information or objects in the image or describe that parts which relate to the rest of the post.

Top tip: alt-text is also great for SEO.

Formatting and fonts

Sure that swirly font on a busy background looks super cute and is so on brand but can anyone actually read it? From Instagram captions using characters and symbols to create bold, italic or otherwise different fonts, to blog posts which are a wall of text, this is a real issue on the internet.

Try to format your captions and blog posts in a way which provides natural breaks and emphasises key information. Paragraphs, bullet points, bold or italic text, using headings and spacing your text out all makes it much easier to read for everyone, not only disabled people.

Top tip: when using hashtags as part of a caption, ensure they’re #CamelBackHashtags.

Content warnings

There has been a huge backlash against content warnings for reasons I will never understand because their purpose is to prepare people for something and give them the option to avoid it if they want to. They’re also not just for graphic topics; if you’re using strobing or flashing images or GIFs (which are best avoided), add a content warning for that at the start of the video or in a slide before if posting on something like Instagram Stories.

In written media when discussing potentially triggering topics, simply add “CW” or “CN” followed by the topic at the start of a post, for example “CN: violence.” In video you can add content warnings to the title, description and/or in the video itself.

Avoid censoring the topic in the content warning, as in CN: r*pe, as this will cause it to slip through filters that people may have set up to avoid seeing that content, it’s also not helpful for those using screen readers.

Top tip: use Twitter’s thread feature to keep the content itself away from the content warning.

Text and design

In both vocabulary and design, keep it simple. Avoid jargon, unless your demographic is people who will definitely understand it. Keep instructions clear and websites easy to navigate by using things like descriptive page titles and links.

Top tip: hire an accessibility consultant to check out your content and website.

The accessibility tl;dr*

Whether you do it because you want to actively include everyone in your content, to increase your reach or to boost your SEO, making your content accessible is worth the time and effort or money it costs you. Andrea Lausell’s video explains how important this is within creative and art circles and offers a more in depth explanation of some of the things I’ve covered here.

If you haven’t been making your content accessible so far, hopefully you feel more equipped and motivated to change that now. There is always more we can do to make our content more accessible, in writing this post I’ve made changes to my own Instagram 101 course (which includes accessibility tips specifically for Instagram) switching out PDFs for text documents. The key is to keep listening to disabled people and to do better when we know better.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

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The Basics: IGTV

IGTV has been somewhat overlooked since it launched back in 2018. Instagram are starting to push it more this year by introducing ads, enabling creators to monetise their videos and allowing Instagram Lives to be saved to IGTV. So how does IGTV work and how can small businesses use it to improve their social presence and make sales?

What is IGTV?

Essentially it’s just long form video on Instagram. Whereas the Instagram feed allows videos of up to 1 minute, on IGTV you can share much longer videos, much like you would on YouTube. Although when it started out it was vertical video only, you can now also share landscape video making re-purposing video content from other platforms much easier.

While IGTV does have a standalone app, it’s also baked into the Instagram app. On profiles you can tap the IGTV logo to view videos rather than grid posts and you can share videos to your Stories as you would any other post (currently IGTV videos shared to stories do not cross post to Facebook.)

Is it worth your time?

I vote yes. We all know video is popular and is a great way to connect with your audience and longer form videos perform well on other platforms; Facebook recommends a minimum of 3 minutes for videos, for example. It’s also a way to avoid posting longer videos using the carousel function; many of us have got round Instagram’s 60 second limit by cutting longer videos into 1 minute sections and sharing as a carousel grid post. Wahey for no more faffing like that!

You can use hashtags for IGTV just like you would on Instagram proper so you have a great opportunity to have your video content discovered. Additionally IGTV videos are included in the explore feed and previews can be shared to your grid.

In big news, URLs in video descriptions are clickable! That means that IGTV gives you an opportunity to link to places without needing to send people to your bio link. This is a real game changer for Instagram and a great reason to consider creating longer form video content on the platform.

Accessibility note: you currently need to burn in subtitles for IGTV videos as you cannot upload caption files.

As an aside; pre-recorded videos are a great option for people who don’t love going live but want to dip their toe in the video waters.

What to post

Of course this will depend on your business and audience but here’s some ideas

  • Intro video; talk about who you are, what you do and why. Let people get to know you.
  • Product/service highlight: explain in detail one of your products or services, who it helps and how.
  • How to: how to use your product, how to do something relevant to your business, how to do something and why your product helps with that.
  • Interviews: chat with some interesting people and share it.
  • Vlogs: behind the scenes or day in the life style vlogs remain a popular type of content.
  • Testimonials: create a fun testimonial video or ask your clients to send a video clip saying how awesome you are!
  • Meet the team: if there’s more than one of you, why not introduce your team members and have them talk about about why they love working for you or what led them to do so.
  • News and views: talk about industry news or your thoughts on related news articles.

Devilishly Handsome Productions have shared some more ideas for Instagram video marketing over on their blog.

The IGTV basics tl;dr*

While it’s not set to overtake YouTube just yet, Instagram is such a popular platform that I think IGTV needs to be a part of your Insta-plan right now. With huge viewership on Stories and ever increasing app usage, it just makes sense to share any video content you create on the platform, even if you don’t have the resources to create content specifically for it.

Starting out on Instagram or looking to take the platform more seriously? Start sowing your social seeds with my free 5 day Instagram challenge. We start on Monday 6th July and I’d love you to be there.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

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Facebook Rooms for business

a tropical forest area. Text reads "Facebook Rooms for business"

Facebook Rooms was a much anticipated feature following Mark Zuckerberg announcing it and now it’s out in the wild many of us are testing it, seeing how it works and trying to figure out how it fits into our lives. I’m specifically interested in how it will fit into community focused marketing strategies, like the ones I use with my clients.

Exactly how useful it will be for businesses will depend, as always, on your business, community and overall marketing strategy but here are some ways I can see Facebook Rooms being great for businesses.

In case you haven’t seen the announcement, Facebook Rooms is a group video calling option which will be available on all Facebook apps; Facebook and Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. Think Zoom but on Facebook. Anyone will be able to join a Room, whether they use any of Facebook’s services or not, using the link that’s provided to you when you open a Room.

Events

Whether you’re running a healing circle, a fun event, a fundraiser, online training or any other kind of event, Rooms are going to offer a great way to connect with attendees and allow them to interact with each other. There are some limitations with Facebook Rooms so if you want to be able to effectively teach, Rooms is probably not the best option just yet, but for group events which would benefit from simultaneous interactions they are likely to be amazing.

Community check-ins

If you’re running a Facebook group this is a powerful way to build community in it and connect further with your members. Whether you just drop in at random and open a room for people to hang out, allow others to create Rooms, or set up regularly scheduled group chats for members to look forward to, it’s another layer of connection for you. Remember you can title Rooms so you can make it clear that Room is about one specific theme or topic if that’s important or you’ve allotted a set amount of time for it.

You could even offer casual versions of your services through them; group coaching, mini trainings, Q&As, etc.

Market research

Planning a new product or service? Other business decisions that you could do with speaking to some customers about? What an amazing way to do market research; open a Room and ask people to give you their feedback, be brutally honest about what they love about what you do, what they’re less keen on, why they chose you, etc. Bouncing ideas off your target market is so helpful and Facebook Rooms offers a new way to do this.

Pre-announcements, special deals, etc

Speaking of Facebook groups, why not give some insider info and advanced notice to members through a Facebook Room? If you have a big launch coming, new products in the works, business changes or any other news, let your inner circle have some info before it’s public knowledge. Open a Room, hang out with your OG fans and give them some behind the scenes or super secret (but maybe not too super secret!) information, a special discount code, or other titbits to show you appreciate them.

Include your email list by sending them a link to the Room so they can join too!

Collabs and biz besties

If you’re a lover of grand plans or creative missions, Rooms are a great place for thrashing out ideas and involving others. They offer a new way to organise collaborations with other businesses or influencers, discuss your big idea, who’s going to do what, how it’s going to work, what the aims are, etc. An hours video chat can often accomplish days worth of email interactions (and I’m pro-email, so that’s a big statement!)

If you’re running a small charity, this feature also offers a great way to involve your volunteers from across the country or world with fundraising plans and events.

You can also jump in a Room with your biz besties to work through your confidences crises, business pivots or anything else that only those amazing folks who get you and your business model can help with.

The Facebook Rooms tl;dr*

To me, the key to Rooms is collaboration. They’re not about one person talking and others listening, they’re about groups interacting. They’re the digital space to share ideas and experiences and just hang out. So stop, collaborate and listen! Try them out, see what works for you and your community and then implement them, or not, in ways that benefit all of you.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

If you’d like to work with a creative, passionate social media manager to get your own social strategy together, with or without Facebook Rooms, contact me. I have space for a new client to start right now!

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Go live or die trying!

If you follow me across the internets you may have noticed I’m making something of a name for myself as that social media expert who doesn’t go live! I’m not sure if that’s really where I want my branding to go but for now, let’s run with it!

Do I think that going live isn’t a great way to boost reach and engagement on your social media? Nope, not at all. Live video consistently does well across all platforms for a variety of reasons, it’s also a great way to connect with your community, add even more value and get discovered. The thing is, it’s not for everyone and that’s ok!

You don’t need to go live for social success

As I have said a thousand times over, great content is what matters. Whether that great content is live video, plain text or something else, great content does well.

If you love going live and you come across best on video then absolutely focus on video content. Your personality and will shine through, making the content engaging.  On the flip side, if feel uncomfortable on video or going live, that will also come across in the content and, while there’s something to be said for seeing our shy-selves represented, people are generally less excited and drawn in by a quietly spoken video.

There are so many ways to connect with your audience now. Live video might be the current big trend but that doesn’t mean other methods aren’t awesome.

Great, not live, content

I’m a writer. I love writing and I also love the necessary delay that comes from communicating through writing. Hence these blog posts and my longer form social media posts, I express myself best through text and, no matter how many people tell me I come across well on video, it is never going to be my favourite method of communication. And let me say this again; that’s ok!

You can build a community and a successful business on social media using only text posts, or only image posts, or only video. You can use a mix, you can use a selection. You can build a fabulous social presence in a way that suits you. The important thing is knowing your audience and adding value through your content.

Live workarounds

There are a few options that you may not have considered to get some of the benefits of live without the abject terror of going live though so, if you’re baby stepping towards this particular precipice, here’s some ideas.

Stories

The temporary nature of Stories means you can test the waters without the fear that your nervous waffling will live forever on the internet. They also benefit from being shorter so are a great way to practice video when you get a 5 minute burst of bravery!

Premiere

Pre-record your video but release it as a premiere. This option essentially schedules the video but then releases it initially as if it’s live, along with a live chat which you can join in with.

Watch party

Upload and publish your pre-recorded video as usual and then hold a watch party in your Facebook group or Page. Similar to a premiere this gives you the live chat but you can organise a watch party at any time, not just on the release of the video like with a premiere.

The going live tl;dr*

If you love live, go live. If you don’t, all other types of content are awesome too. Find the way you express yourself best and get creating great content in any format.

Stay safe, be kind and, as always, be a human!

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

To quiz me about going live or any of your other social media queries, I’m currently offering power hours for just €25.

This is a temporary price to make it as accessible as possible to small businesses during this time. Due to the already reduced price, my other discounts cannot be used with this offer.

Book a 1-to-1

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Business and community

A field of cows with text overlaid reading "business and community"

The world is changing right now. Our society is shifting; we’re reassessing what’s important, we’re redefining work, we’re reconsidering what is valuable, and we’re rediscovering the value of community.

That last point is what I want to talk about this month because community; community, business and social media.

A field of cows with text overlaid reading "business and community"

What does a community look like for business?

Community around a business looks like any other community because it is like any other community. The commonality is your business, be that by what you offer, who you help, or your methods. For example, my community is made up of business owners with morals and manners.

A key thing to remember is that communities should support everyone in them; your community is not there simply to support your business, your business must also support your community.

Building a community

Growing a community requires you to be clear about who you’re for and what you share; the easiest way to do that on social media is by having a clear bio and posting relevant content. Your presence online should make it clear who would feel at home in your community without needing to explicitly say it (although explicitly saying it sometimes is a good idea!).

It also requires you to show up consistently for your people. That doesn’t mean you need to be posting lots, but your community needs to know when to expect you and that they can rely on you.
Showing up doesn’t only mean on your own profiles; comment on things posted by members of your community, get involved in discussions elsewhere, be an active participant in the community as a whole. No member of the community is more important than another and that includes you.

Community vs sales

Building a community doesn’t mean you can’t sell on your socials but you can’t build a community if all you do is sell.

Consider what your community needs, what they enjoy and what is valuable to them. Build your content plan around that and you should find that you can naturally drop in sales posts and promotions. For example if you’re sharing some top tips to reduce stress, that’s valuable content, you could include a mention of your amazing guided meditation which can be purchased.

Focus on adding value but don’t feel that a call to action to buy your product or services negates that value.

The community tl;dr*

Be clear about who would enjoy your community by being clear about who you are and what you do. Offer advice, tips and support to your community. Engage with them on their posts as well as your own.

Stay safe, be kind and, as always, be a human!

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.

For personalised advice on building your own community or to hit me with all your social media questions, book a power hour for €75.

Book a 1-to-1