Is your content useful?

Lara and I make an effort to attend at least two conferences a year each - not including the one we organize. Last week, I went down to Toronto to attend Mesh Marketing 2013. It was one of the best conferences I’ve attended for learning, with an engaged and really smart audience that added a lot to what the speakers talked about with their comments on social media. Everything I learned through the day is useful to any business that uses content marketing, however, the day ended with one of the best and most important messages.

Jay Baer - our closing keynote speaker - is the author of the marketing blog, Convince and Convert, as well as the recent book, Youtility. Youtility is about creating something useful. (It isn’t necessarily about targeting a particular audience, but it needs to be relevant to your business.)

There are a number of ways that you can create useful content. Sharing tips, asking questions, and knowing the needs of your customers is a good start. But how can you take it a step further? How do you extend your reach? 

Be useful. Be helpful.

One of the social media examples Jay shared was the @HiltonSuggests twitter account. This is what they do:

This twitter account doesn’t sell. It doesn’t do anything but help people by answering questions. And helping goes a long way. There’s not a great deal of effort required for any one person. This account is manned by employees all over the world. That’s pretty amazing. And what are the chances that someone who’s already travelling might remember the help they received and book with Hilton the next time they’re off on a trip? Probably significantly better than if @HiltonSuggests didn’t exist.

Most businesses don’t have the need or the resources for this kind of social media activity. But here are a few ways that you can create your own Youtility:

1) Answer common questions.

If your customers are asking you questions, verbally or in emails, you can bet many more are asking the same questions on google. Does your website answer the most frequently asked questions? Instead of building a FAQ page, start blogging those answers. We have semi-regular “how to” posts on our blog so that if someone wants to know how to sign up for twitter, they can find that information on our website.

2) Share indirect, but relevant information.

Every business has crossover with related businesses. We get asked for referrals to web designers/developers, graphic designers, and more. Neither of those disciplines is directly related to the work that we do. However, it’s absolutely relevant because it’s part of creating an effective web presence. I can share quality graphic and web design articles to help our audience learn more about something that is not in their area of expertise.

3) Promote your community. 

We talk to a lot of social media users that don’t want to share personal information about themselves online. Sometimes, the reason is privacy; others it’s about keeping business and personal separate. We encourage being personable over being personal when the comfort level with sharing is low. When you don’t want to share things about yourself, you can build and encourage community by being a source of information about your area. (Community can mean a geographic area of any size or a common interest group - define it the way that works best for you.)

Committing to creating content that qualifies as “useful” can open the door for some really creative ideas that will serve your audience and grow your business. If you’re eager to learn more, be sure to pick up a copy of Youtility!

Do you have any examples of brands providing really useful information or services?  Tell us in the comments!

How do you find blog posts to read?

Over the last six months I’ve noticed a topic that has popped into conversations about blog traffic quite a few times and I thought I’d spend a little bit of time talking about it today.

How do you find blog posts to read?

When I first started blogging in 2006 I had a handful of blogs that I read religiously.  I had them all bookmarked and opened them one by one daily to see if there had been any updates.

I was in heaven when I realized there was a way to open every bookmark in a folder at once into multiple tabs, making my job of going to each of these blogs a bit easier.

Then I was introduced to the world of RSS readers and everything changed!

By having a reader I didn’t have to go to blogs that hadn’t been updated, and I would know about a blog that had been updated if I’d gotten tired of waiting for a new post and stopped checking in on them.  It was wonderful.

But then information overload happened.  I was subscribed to literally hundreds of blogs.  And if I missed a few days of going in, the reader told me I had 3,000 posts to read, or something similarly ridiculous.  So I would feel overwhelmed and not read things.  And then I started avoiding my reader completely.

I think  it’s now been about three months since I opened a reader.  That means that all of those blogs I used to read regularly are pretty much forgotten…  ones I really enjoyed reading too!

I now find my content differently.  There are a handful of blogs I’ve gone “old skool” on and have started typing in the url a few times a week to see if there are any updates. There are also a few I’ve signed up for email notifications for, but email notifications and information overload go together really well too!

The rest I go to if I see a link go by on Twitter or Facebook.  That means if you have a blog and you aren’t tweeting and Facebooking the link WHEN I HAPPEN TO BE LOOKING, I am going to miss your blog post.

I wondered if others were feeling the same way and doing the same things so I did a quick and informal Facebook survey.  Here are the results (click on the image to see it more clearly):

By quite a large margin people are finding their blog content by clicking through links.  Some continue to use their RSS readers, and some continue to keep urls bookmarked, but clearly if you aren’t throwing your content in your audience’s face you are missing a key way to get their attention.

This poses a whole other issue though - information overload on Facebook and Twitter.  Content is getting lost there too (especially since Facebook now nests types of posts like Networked blogs and Wordpress).

It will be interesting to see how things evolve because I am sure everything will continue changing. For now, if you’re looking for traffic, I highly recommend finding ways to grab people, because in today’s blog world, you need to stand on the street heckling the crowd to come in instead of waiting for them to happen on by.

How do you get your content out to your audience? What do you find works best?