Author: Anna Ritchie

Anna Ritchie is a marketing and communications practitioner, focusing on social media, content marketing and Online Community management.You can follow her on Twitter @apritchie.

By anna-ritchie published April 6, 2012

Ready, Set, Write: The Ultimate Guide to Blogging

Blogging is one of the most important content marketing activities your company should embrace. But for various reasons, many companies are hesitant to do so.  Why? Budgets? Fear of the workload? Lack of content strategy or brand voice? All of the above?

But alas! It must be done. Why?

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By anna-ritchie published April 2, 2012

6 “Start-Me-Up” Tips for Novice Content Marketers

The concept of content marketing can be an overwhelming notion for any start-up business owner. Where does content come from? Who does it? How do I find time between sales meetings, investor meetings, client meetings (and sleep) to do it?

You can. In fact, you probably already are. But to help you gain the confidence you need to become a content marketing superstar, here are six tips just for you newbies:

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By anna-ritchie published March 23, 2012

100 Inspirational, Educational, and Just-Plain-Cool Content Marketing Examples

Looking for content marketing ideas? Aren’t we all? In the moments when I feel most overwhelmed with all the blogs, white papers, articles, social media posts, and more that exist online, sometimes it helps to take a step back and just browse my favorite sites for inspiration.

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By anna-ritchie published January 5, 2012

A Webinar Case Study in Using Social Media Channels for Content Distribution

Several weeks ago, Joe Chernov published an article about how to make your content live longer, starting with Step 1: “Stagger your distribution.” In it, he encourages marketers to “distribute and re-distribute [content] to maximize the number of people exposed to your work.”

While this is a great practice for marketers who may struggle to find the time, resources, or budget to create the volume of content they need, it’s a challenging undertaking, to say the least. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to distributing content, as different groups will choose to engage with your assets in different ways, often depending on which social platform they are using. This means you must be constantly tweaking your approach, and messages, to meet your audience’s changing needs without compromising your style or integrity.

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By anna-ritchie published November 16, 2011

How to Meet Google’s Newest Quality Standards for Content

The cute, cuddly Panda bear has struck again. In the midst of Google’s latest algorithm change, many marketers are in a tizzy over how their search engine presence — and ranking — will be impacted. The SEO game keeps changing, and as a content marketer it’s important to understand what the changes are and how to use them to stay competitive.

The latest change is actually designed to reward, not punish content writers (or at least the ones who are doing their jobs well). In a recent press release, Google states, “Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven… are best when they’re fresh.” This time around, the algorithm change is designed to place relevance on the quantity of new content a site contains (remember, the focus of the Panda update earlier this year penalized low-quality content, and content farms). It’s been projected that these latest changes will impact 35 percent of all search queries.

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By anna-ritchie published November 9, 2011

Lead Your Community with Trustworthy Content

Becoming a thought leader isn’t something that happens overnight; for many companies, it doesn’t ever happen. However, in order to achieve the status of “go-to-resource” for a particular industry or market segment, your company will need to work day-in and day-out on its concerted efforts. (For background, read Michael Brenner’s piece on what thought leadership is and why you need it.)

The most common way for companies to reach this enviable position is with a concrete content marketing strategy that’s designed to build trust with your target audience.

How daunting and elusive does that feel, though? Build trust? How do you even start?

Trust is something that can be built through education, engagement, and content. One way I’ve seen companies succeed at this is by building a content-driven online community packed with the valuable information your audience seeks in the ways they want to consume it. Here are some content steps a community-manager can take to host a site that builds trust and establishes thought leadership:

1. Don’t be a show-off (it’s all about them)

The challenge with managing an online community isn’t necessarily getting people to your site, but keeping them there (and getting them to return). If someone visits your site and is immediately bombarded by your branding, ads, or marketing promos, they’ll be gone before you can say “community bust.”

Think about your online community and where it’s positioned in your 3-pillar marketing strategy: It’s part of the structure but not the core. The core should be quality content. If people want to learn all about “you you you”, they’ll visit your company website. To get them engaged on your online community, it needs to be relevant and interesting — and all about them.

A great way to show your visitors just how much you appreciate them is with surveys and polls: Use their opinions to drive the continuous evolution of the community. Ask your audience, “If you could add one element to this online community, what it would be?” Or  give them a rating scale to rank certain content pieces or discussion topics. The more you engage your audience’s input, the more they will want to return to your site to see their ideas and suggestions brought to life.

Adding incentives or promotions is another way to get your audience engaged: Offer a reward to the “top blogger of the month” or “best video submission” as a way to not only get content ideas from your audience, but also to show them how valuable they are thus building their trust in you. But don’t be too aggressive with your promotions as if you’re trying to buy their relationship. Centering promotions on content makes it a trustworthy exercise around community building rather than just a numbers game.

2. Educate openly and honestly

Each online community has a different objective, and many managers have taken to “gating,” or adding a sign-up form before certain content assets can be viewed. Though I understand the need for protecting intellectual capital, I think there’s a balance that needs to be reached when cultivating an online community.

In order to build trust, some content must be given willingly and freely. For example, case studies, videos, eBooks, data sheets, articles, and discussions are all things that are available openly and freely on the web; if a community visitor is looking for information that you won’t give openly, chances are they’ll look somewhere else for it. For your research reports or white papers, provide enough information that’s valuable (Marketing Sherpa does this pretty well), such as graphs, full chapter excerpts, or a summary of findings. This way you’re giving your visitors some information and establishing your credibility before asking anything from them.

Educating openly and honestly also means being the go-to-resource for industry information. This means (gulp) talking about your competitors on your community and keeping any feedback — bad or good — about your own services “on the table.” The more you have this information available on your site the more you’ll be perceived as  a confident and secure company to communicate honestly with your audience.

3. Be a nurturer

Using content to nurture your audience is a powerful way to build their trust in you. For example, a regular newsletter is a great way to collect and distribute your community content and keep visitors educated during the time they aren’t able to engage directly within your community.

A newsletter is also a way to provide community updates, welcome new members, or highlight popular discussions or contributions. By being a nurturer, you’re making the community all about the visitors, helping them view you as a company that truly values their input.

4. Go beyond education into socialization

Anyone can go online and find an interesting article or press release. But can they easily find all the conversations happening around the latest industry news? Integrating social media into your online community is a great way to establish a strong relationship with site visitors and break down the “company–customer” barrier. Aside from the incredible content your community provides, your customers will appreciate the open and honest conversations, the ability to comment, and the opportunity to interact with other site visitors.

In addition to including your Twitter feed and mentions, use a widget to show how many people “like” your company on Facebook and stream the latest comments. You can also use popular LinkedIn discussions as fodder for online community blog articles, and always be sure to give shout-outs to top contributors. Though this takes time and effort from you, the community manager, it’s worth it. By giving people props for contributing to your site, they will be more likely to share your content amongst their social networks.

At the end of the day, it’s all about openness. The Internet isn’t a secret abyss anymore, and along with all the content out there comes more opportunities for people to talk about you, good or bad. If you own the conversation, nurture your community, and give them the information they seek in an easy-to-digest manner, you’ll be well on your way to achieving that thought leader status.

What content practices have you seen work on an online community? What hasn’t been very successful? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

By anna-ritchie published September 13, 2011

How to Create Harmony with Your Online Content Voices

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the need to add flavor and personality to your content marketing pieces by establishing your content style. An engaging content style is key to ensuring your messages are resonating with your target audience, but style can vary greatly, depending on what voice you need to use.Continue Reading

By anna-ritchie published August 15, 2011

You Have Your Content, Now Where’s Your Style?

There’s a little flip book of inspirational quotes that sits on my desk (in addition to the piles of files, hand-written notes and haphazard to-do lists) opened to a page that reads, “Content is of great importance, but we must not underestimate the value of style” (Maya Angelou).

But as any writer knows, sometimes “style” is hard to incorporate into your corporate messages.Continue Reading