How to Hook Readers without Swearing in Headlines

hookEverywhere you look, people are playing fast and loose with language—even on “family”-oriented sitcoms! Inappropriate language and cussing are becoming more and more commonplace, but that doesn’t mean they are in any way acceptable in articles or blogs. As writers, we should be able to use a wide array of language to catch the attention of the audience without cussing or using inappropriate language.  The headline is the part of the article that will make readers want to read—don’t waste that with poorly-chosen or inappropriate words. Here are some tips to catch readers’ attention without swearing.

Use clever wording to hook readers. Alliteration is always an amazing answer to your search for alternative wording! Alliteration, as demonstrated in the previous sentence, is the repetition of a letter (or sound) of words in a phrase, such as “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” This requires you to flex your creative muscles in order to find the best words to use, but it also works as a great attention-getter in articles or blogs. Hooking readers with alliteration can also play throughout the article to keep hold of the attention of the readers and refer back to the title, making the article well-rounded and well-written.

Use an informative quote as your headline. Not only will this give readers a small insight into what your article is about, but it will show your readers that you’ve put in effort and done research as well as involving the community to produce a complete article. So many articles and blog posts these days are incomplete or poorly researched, so by showing readers that you put effort into writing because you enjoy it, it is likely that the work will shine through in the article and your readers will feel more engaged. Involving other members of the community also helps keep the attention of the readers, because they will be able to identify more with the article and it will be more important to the readers.

Reveal just a tidbit about your article. Paint a picture and reach out to the emotions of the readers. The goal of an article’s title is to pique the reader’s interest and reveal what will come in the article that will interest them. For example, if you’re writing a human interest piece about how the “downtown” portion of your city is taking shape, but it’s affecting pedestrians and bicyclists, try to portray the way in which the changes are affecting them. Try something such as, “Downtown Changes Mean Pedestrians and Cyclists Must Cross Paths.” The readers do not yet know whether crossing paths is a good thing or a bad thing, so they’ll keep reading to find out. The next challenge is keeping them interested paragraph after paragraph.

Use a question as a headline. “Will Changes to Downtown Spell Disaster for Small Businesses?” This asks a question that pertains to the community, the article, the readers, tugs at emotions, and may open up a new window of discussion. The audience will continue to read the article to find the answer, reasoning, and various expanded explanations as to why the question was brought to light. To ensure the undivided attention of the audience, use each paragraph for a different explanation or different reasoning before you answer the question at hand. Don’t overdo it, though, the reader will still want a quick, somewhat concise answer that won’t take them 45 minutes to sort out.

Overall, there are many ways to hook the attention of an audience without resorting to inappropriate language.  Alliteration, quotes, or questions and painting pictures for your readers to “pique and reveal” will create interest in your article.  Keep their attention throughout the article, which is the ultimate goal of any writer. PR Daily reminds us not to waste the space or take for granted the power that comes with a good headline because poorly-worded headlines are often simply skipped over by readers. Ask an editor to review your article to double-check that your headline works.

Get those creative juices flowing with the next article and write a strong headline to hook your readers! ~Hollyheadline

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Filed under Capturing Audience, Expository Writing, Introductions, Narrative Writing, Newsletters, Persuasive Essay, Revising & Proofreading, Words Which Sell

Seven Social Media Mistakes

thumb downIn this day and age, social media is the quickest way to stay in touch with friends and family all over the world. With at least five popular platforms, social media is also turning into another way for businesses and individuals to promote themselves to others. Whether you’re just starting to dip your toes into the world of social media or you’ve been active for a while, there are certain guidelines to follow. An article from Business Insider (based on a survey of sorts conducted by a small business consultant by way of LinkedIn) helped narrow down the list of social media mistakes that are regularly being made.

Don’t post too often! Sometimes, often when people get bored or have time to kill, posting on Facebook or sending a tweet on Twitter becomes an hourly activity. Not only does this clog newsfeeds, it takes away from productivity. Think how much more you could get done at work if you weren’t posting every hour on the hour, even if it’s just a quick comment on something. While you want to actively post if you’re promoting a business, don’t post multiple times each day—keep it in moderation. However, do make sure to check your page often. Many times customers will post to your page or send you a message consisting either of praise or a complaint. More often than not, these comments go completely unnoticed and are left without a response.

Don’t avoid posting—followers do want you to be active on social media! Posting once or twice (at most) a day will suffice. Sometimes business only post once or twice a week! Followers may be more likely to interact with you if they see your name once or twice in a newsfeed where they see other names upwards of four times. Keep in mind that commenting on posts is very different from posting in itself—customers will be happy to receive a response from you on something they posted on your page, whether they gave negative or positive feedback.

Don’t post or share irrelevant information or content. If you’re a small business owner, say an online store specializing in clothing, don’t share political content or science-related articles via your business page. Instead, share a link to a new product you have in stock. Customers and followers want to hear about things relevant to them—they made the choice to follow your page, so make sure to consistently post things pertaining to your page.

Don’t limit your social media activity to just one forum. Many businesses create a Facebook page and think it is sufficient social media coverage. There is also Twitter, Instagram, G+, and LinkedIn (just to name a few). Why limit yourself? The only thing that could happen is your business could grow!

Don’t overshare on personal matters. Even if the focus of your time on social media is your business, you will likely end up making a page for yourself. When that happens, keep the private details of your life private. On each page, you represent your company, so your followers don’t need to visit your company’s page, find the link to your page, and see that your relationship just ended and you were out on the town the night before. Yes, posting pictures is fun, it’s a way for people to see you are enjoying life, but keep in mind all the people who could view your page. Each social media site offers a privacy setting, some even offer a way  to change who can see what you post—use these settings. Do not toe the line between what should remain personal and what should remain professional.

Don’t link to articles or products if the content isn’t complete! Everyone has come across it at one time or another—click on an article and begin reading only to notice grammar mistakes, simple spelling errors, or captions that are completely missing from pictures. It’s frustrating for the reader and it’s not going to give your company a professional image.

Don’t get involved in social media for the wrong reasons. Many companies are heavily involved with social media, but don’t jump the gun—work on building your company first, focusing on creating the relationships. After you have a solid customer base, progress to social media as a way to stay connected and keep customers updated. Creating, building, and maintaining relationships is a big focus for companies with social media activity.

It may seem daunting at first, but remember to start small and build your social media reputation as a small extension of your company. Keep the focus on your customers and your company, not on your personal life. With this list of basic social media mistakes, you’ll be able to build a strong social media profile to better connect with your customers and grow your business!  ~Hollysocial media icons

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Filed under Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quora, Reddit, Social Media, Social Media contests, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, YouTube

The 10 Most Popular Social Media Sites and Why They’re Successful

Humans are social by nature and the multitude of social media sites tries to meet that need. Their popularity is measured by the number of unique visitors that each site has each month. With so many sites what makes the top ten stand out from the crowd? Each site identifies a new way for the members to connect with each other and makes it as easy as possible for them to make that connection.

Image courtesy of Flickr.com user mkhmarketing

Image courtesy of Flickr.com user mkhmarketing

1. Facebook – The most popular site with an estimated 900 million unique visitors each month. This incredible popularity comes from the wide range of ways that users can share information and connect with other users. Facebook has also taken full advantage of APIs and allowed their users to embed external content on to their personal profiles.

2. Twitter – Short tweets have become big news with an estimated 310 million unique visitors each month. Twitter’s popularity is based on the immediacy of the internet. Users can post short updates about their lives and easily keep their followers up to date on their daily lives. The final component of Twitter’s success is the ability for users to follow their favorite celebrities and feel as if they have a small connection to these incredible people.

3. LinkedIn – This is the first social media site with a specific audience in mind. This site is dedicated to individuals looking for professional networking. LinkedIn gives its users ways to publish their skills for potential employers to find. There is also a feature which allows the users to ask for an introduction to individuals through a mutual contact. Asking for introductions creates a method of networking that very closely resembles networking in person.

4. Pinterest – Pinterest owes its popularity to focusing on one function and then performing that function extremely well. On top of doing that single function well it is also simple to use so that no one will be intimidated by complicated methods of sharing information. Pinterest also focuses on what its users want their lives to be in the future instead of what they are right now. The focus on future hopes and dreams provides another type of connection that other social media sides do not address as plainly as Pinterest does.

5. Google+ – Google+ allows the users to customize circles of connections who all share the same interests. It also allows users to stay connected through all the Google applications instead of only on the Google+ site. The strength of Google’s software also allows its users to have video chats with multiple people at the same time. Finally by building a strong profile on Google+ individuals are building up their Google authorship and increasing web traffic to other sites created by the same individual.

6. Tumblr – Tumblr represents a combination of the immediacy of Twitter with the informative nature of blogs. Users are given the strong connection that comes from blogs as well as a much more social aspect that comes from easily sharing information to other users. Users are able to create customized profiles to highlight their individuality in a more visual way above and beyond the content of the blog itself. One difference between Tumblr and other social media sites is that the content can be found by individuals who are not Tumblr users.

7. Instagram – Instagram capitalizes on the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Instagram is targeted at the millions of mobile users who enjoy taking and viewing pictures on their phones and tablets instead of a traditional computer. Instagram also focuses simply on the images themselves and provides a simple method for viewing beautiful pictures. Instagram also provides a simple way for users to share their pictures across many social media sites without having to upload the same picture multiple times.

8. Flickr – Instagram may focus on quickly sharing pictures Flickr allows users to better organize and display a large collection of images. Instead of searching through cluttered news feeds or unorganized albums pictures can be easily organized and shared. Above sharing beautiful images Flickr boasts a large collection of communities focused on all aspects of photography from specific locations to the color orange.

9. Vine – Vine allows users a platform to post their short looped videos with the immediacy of a Twitter news feed. The incredible popularity if this app has created many Vine celebrities who are able to tell their stories in seconds. Vine, like Instagram, has capitalized on the number of people using their phones as cameras and has given them a simple way to display their creativity to other mobile users.

10. YouTube – YouTube has long been a popular site to search for a wide range of information. With 100 hours of video posted each minute there is a wealth of information to be found. YouTube also appeals to the new trend of video logging which is similar to the traditional blog but using a visual medium. Now YouTube is taking steps to become more social by allowing users to post videos as comments and increase their interaction with others who are watching the same videos.

Knowing why each site is popular can help you know how information is shared and who it is shared with on each site. This knowledge will help you create social content that others will appreciate and share.

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Filed under Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Social Media, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, YouTube

20 Questions to Ask Yourself about Copy before Starting a Project

As a business owner preparing for a project on your website can be a long process that is difficult to organize. Even as a writer it is easy to be overwhelmed at the beginning of a new project. To help overcome any potential problems it is very important to solidify the details of the project before the writing can start. Having these twenty questions clearly answered can make writing projects much easier for all involved.

Courtesy of Flickr.com user Milos Milosevic

Courtesy of Flickr.com user Milos Milosevic

What is the Project?

Is the project a small update to reflect a new season, is it starting a new blog to appeal to a new audience, or is it a full site upgrade? Without this information clearly stated it is impossible to accurately plan the rest of the project.

Why Create Content?

Once you decide what the project is it is important to know the reason for starting that project. Are there some pages that are outdated, poorly written, not SEO optimized, or is it something else? Knowing why a new project is being started makes sure that all the appropriate changes are made to what doesn’t work and what is working is left alone.

Is the Content Going to be Reused?

Is the content going to only be used once or will it be used again and again? Content that is intended to be reused will use evergreen phrases that will maintain their meaning for years to come.

Who is the Target Audience?

Your writers will need to know this information before they can start writing quality content for your project. Content that is written without a clear audience sounds too general and won’t give you any lasting connection with your audience.

What Need Does the Content Address?

Once you identify who the content is trying to reach you can increase your connection with them by finding a specific need or two that your company can fulfil. Knowing the needs that are being addressed means that writers can craft their content around that need.

Will There Be Any Other Requirements Beyond Writing?

A large project will have many requirements beyond writing, such as new graphic designs and videos. Having these other requirements outlined early on will eliminate a lot of last minute confusion when attempting to bring all the separate pieces together into one cohesive whole.

How Many Hours Will the Project Take?

As a project progresses the answer to this question will change but knowing this information will help to determine approximate times and dates for when the content will be ready for customers to see.

What is the Budget?

This is important to discuss especially if external writers are going to be used.

What is the Tone or Style of the Piece?

Is your company an authority who is providing information to your readers? Or are you trying to start a conversation with your customers by asking them questions throughout your content.

Does the Content Need to be SEO Optimized?

Any content that is intended to attract the attention of search engines needs to be SEO optimized. More questions will come up when deciding what keywords to use and how to provide quality content that both meets the clients’ needs as well attracting search engine algorithms.

Word Count?

Do you need short descriptions to improve SEO rankings? Or do you need longer form blog posts intended to impart information to your readers? Good word count estimates will make sure that you won’t have content that won’t be used.

What are the Guidelines the Writer Should Follow?

Are there unique services that only your company provides? Are there words or phrases that should be avoided? Understanding what should be emphasized and what should be played down can only help your writers provide you with better content.

How Many People Will be Involved? Who of Those People Have Final Approval?

Even the most collaborative projects have one individual who can give the final approval. Knowing who this person is early in the project will prevent any confusion about who has the final say on the content.

Who Comes Up with the Topics?

Do the writers have the freedom to decide what topic to write about, or will topics be provided to them? Even if you decide on a combination of the two sides a writer will be happy to know exactly what is expected of them.

Do Any Drafts Have to be Seen?

Is content expected to be seen in a rough form as well as in a finished form? Rough drafts can help ensure that all the content has the same tone but it also can increase the amount of time a project takes to finish.

What is the Rewrite Process?

No matter if drafts are expected there are always revisions to be done. The rewrite process can become confusing if it isn’t clearly outlined beforehand.

What is the Timeline? And what happens if the deadline isn’t met?

While the final deadline may be decided earlier there are many smaller deadlines that need to be met in order to meet the final deadline. Deciding the consequences of any missed deadline allows everyone to know when work is due and what will happen if it is late.

Can earlier content be reused?

When content is simply being updated, keeping the older content is useful to show what topics should be discussed on that page. Poorly written content can become a good example of what not to write.

Any Specific Sources to Cite? If Interviews are Involved, Who Finds the Subjects to Interview?

Does your company have a close relationship with another company that should be reflected in the content? Letting writers know which sources to cite before work begins makes the writing process much easier because the writers will only use approved sources.

How will Success be Measured?

Once a project is finished what determines if the project was successful or not? Success can be measured by an increase in the number of visits to or an improvement in search engine rankings. By determining how to measure the success of the project you can decide which analytic tools to use to track the success.

 

These 20 questions will help you overcome many of the common problems that come up in every copywriting project.

~Megan

 

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Filed under Content, Project Management, Proposals, Time Management, Writing Resources

How Well is Your Online Store Organized?

Heading into the back-to-school and holiday season, most retail stores and companies are going to be brushing up on their visual marketing skills as well as scrubbing down their stores and inventory to ensure the easiest shopping for customers. A clean, well-organized store will make for happy customers that will be likely to return and shop with you in the not-so-hectic seasons. Those customers will also be more likely to inform their friends about the service and great products they found at your store. All that’s left is making sure your store and ready for the quickly-approaching holiday season!

Update Pages

Image courtesy of Annie's

Image courtesy of Annies

The first (and easiest) step is to go through the inventory and update pages. Make sure pictures, prices, titles, and descriptions are all up-to-date—this is a great chance for you to refresh some older titles and descriptions. Update the language to be more descriptive and catchy so you’re sure to catch the attention of your customers. For example, instead of writing “This product will be of good use in the kitchen,” try something more vibrant and informative: “This handmade dishcloth set is the perfect gift for new homeowners celebrating their first Christmas in the house!” You can subtly suggest a use for the product while gently reminding customers of the upcoming holiday. It’s an easy way of helping your customer make sure they check everyone off their list. You’re also telling them what the product is and how unique it may be. Clear, concise, and upbeat descriptions are what will catch the attention of customers.

Rethink Category Pages

Cleaning up your pages also presents a chance to create product categories to better organize items. Break the products down into categories: Kitchen Wares, Bathroom Essentials, Holiday, and Welcome Baby are a few good ideas—these are types of gifts that cover a multitude of events. A clean, organized store (even if it’s an online store) will entice more people to shop, so always make sure that the best-selling and most popular products are at the top of the page—your customers may enjoy browsing through the products in your online store, but sometimes they’re looking for that one specific thing that they saw had multiple great reviews. If it’s an item that is selling regularly, even if it may not entirely apply to the holiday season, keep it in a prominent place on your page. Everything you do to prepare for the holiday seasons is simply going to result in making your online store much more consumer-friendly.

Talk About Your Store via Networking

This is also a great time to brush up on your networking skills. Whether it’s through a social media channel or by way of a blog, get in contact with other online shop owners! Communicate with them to get new ideas on selling products or visual marketing. Whether the stores are similar or completely different, building a network is a great asset as the stores grow. Social media activity will bring in new customers, too. If your store isn’t involved in social media or blogging, start today! Friends of friends of customers can like, read, or buy just by way of Facebook. Create a Facebook or an Instagram page or a Twitter account for your store and start showing off your products! Use hashtags, post pictures, follow stores and people (try to follow the people who follow you as a way of thanking them) and communicate. Create a blog to write about your products, what consumers could use the products for, and (if they’re handmade) write about the creation of the products. Have a few key words that are used multiple times in each blog entry to pull people in. Add pictures and links to individual products as well as the main page of the store.

Prepare for Holiday Traffic

Prepare for the upcoming holiday season by preparing your online store—give products and product descriptions a quick refresh, organize products into categories, and start using social media to promote products. Get in contact with other online store owners and start getting feedback, learn some new ideas, and apply those ideas to your store. With attention to details, your store will be better organized to finish the year strong!

~Holly

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Filed under E-Tail Category Content, Holiday Blog, Product Descriptions, Time Management

Five Ways to Increase Profits Through the End of the Year

How do small business owners stay afloat during trying times?  Here are five ways to help increase profit and get your business humming again.search funnel

Look Inside

  • Assess your current costs. Make sure that every dollar spent is absolutely necessary.  You may need to streamline staff or create more efficient processes and procedures.  Don’t be too arrogant as to think that you can’t learn something new.  This becomes an issue when a business hasn’t looked inside for a long, long time.  They begin to believe there is not a better way than theirs.  It’s worked so well for all of these years, why fix what isn’t broke?  Well, because times change – and so should we.  Always be willing to consider suggestions from your team.   They have a different perspective; they see things you don’t.  Which brings us to the next point.
  • Your team is your most valuable asset. The vision and passion that you bring to your company cannot be duplicated but it must be transferred as you build enthusiasm within your culture.  Even if you are a one-man show it is essential to stay motivated by being mindful of the bigger picture.  Get excited again about what you do and why.   Regardless of the work, having a sense of doing it for a greater good, a higher purpose, meets a fundamental human need.  You would be surprised what your team is willing to do for you and your vision if you make them a part of it.  Collaborate with them on ways to cut costs other than letting them go.  They will appreciate your trusting them, and in turn, often times, they will work harder.   Today’s new grads have been raised in a culture of collaboration.  Don’t let old philosophies of management keep you from drawing the best out of the stewards of your business.
  • Maximize current business opportunities. By tapping into an existing client, you further secure your relationship with them and they of course love the efficiencies they gain.  It’s a win/win.  Building on this you’ll want to consider expanding this idea of maximizing current opportunities to include social media.  We must understand social media is about building relationships.  Honestly, haven’t relationships always been what good business has been built on?   You and members of your team have a virtual Rolodex of connections through Linked In, Twitter etc.   If you don’t know how to use these resources to their full potential, you should think about having someone on your team become your social media expert, or hire someone to train you.  Which brings us to our next point.

Look Outside

  • It is still true that it takes money to make money. Sometimes it is necessary to bring in outside help to evaluate our team and us.  Being willing to be honest that there are some things that need to be fixed can make or break your business by the years end.  Often it takes an outside observer, seeing through the lens of their expertise to expose an area of weakness, which can be remedied once it has been identified.  If your organization is in serious trouble, but you can afford to bring in a consultant before your forced to shut the doors, it may just keep you in business.
  • For some time we have been creating and requiring careers to be highly defined and specific. Now those same careers are becoming obsolete.  Adaptability is the name of this new game.   Looking outside may mean considering partnerships or a modified product line.  It may mean giving up brick and mortar and strictly selling on line.   It comes down to looking outside of our box to see who and what we might become to generate some revenue.

It’s important to know that people, relationships, are still the foundation of business. Remember we’re in this together; we need each other and that ultimately, is good for business.  ~Jennifer S.

 

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Who was Lev Vygotsky and why is His Theory Important to Marketers?

Lev Vygotsky made great strides in educational theory.  Today, with so many data-driven and social media tools available to marketers, much can be learned from Vygotsky when thinking about how to better understand customers and influence purchasing choices.

Lev Vygotsky via Wikipedia

Lev was a Russian psychologist who developed Social Learning theory in the early 20th century.  He proposed that learning is a “continuous process focused on the connections between people and the cultural context in which they act and interact in shared experiences.”  Developing the Zone of Proximal Development (which is the area in which the concepts are too difficult for the pupil to master on his own, but with guidance and encouragement from a knowledgeable person, are able to master), he developed the Social Development Theory of Learning.  This states that social influences greatly affect learning, and learning occurs when concepts are modeled.  That’s Lev Vygotsky and his theory in a nutshell.

What about its practical implications to marketers?  According to this theory, which places great importance on social influences of cognitive development, marketing can alter consumer behavior by modifying thought processes, namely through advertisements.  As marketers, we should try to understand what drives consumers to purchase products to increase revenues.

Develop Consumer Profiles

Using qualitative marketing research to create consumer profiles allows companies to more wisely spend marketing dollars.  One technique is to conduct marketing questionnaires.  Employing Vygotsky’s theory in this realm generates more genuine feedback from research, whereas direction questioning results in more superficial answers.

Modify Cognitive Behavior of Consumers

According to The Vygotskian Approach,

“He believed that just as physical tools extend our physical abilities, mental tools extend our mental abilities, enabling us to solve problems and create solutions in the modern world. When applied to children, this means that to successfully function in school and beyond, children need to learn more than a set of facts and skills. They need to master a set of mental tools—tools of the mind.

According to Vygotsky, until children learn to use mental tools, their learning is largely controlled by the environment; they attend only to the things that are brightest or loudest, and they can remember something only if has been repeated many times. AFTER children master mental tools, they become in charge of their own learning, by attending and remembering in an intentional and purposeful way. In the same way that using certain mental tools can transform children’s cognitive behaviors, using other mental tools can transform their physical, social, and emotional behaviors. From being ‘slaves to the environment,’ children become ‘masters of their own behavior.’”

Whether through advertising or direct sales, Vygotsky’s theory may be used as an effective tool for success.  By using a model to demonstrate the product being used or purchased, the advertisement can help the consumer develop a script, which is a group of small bits of information the consumer collects about a product, which are stored in memory, being called upon later.  Your marketing strategies should strive to develop the consumer’s script to the point that the consumer feels connected to the product or company, resulting in sales.

Create Consumers with Internalized Cues

Marketing aims not only to drive immediate sales, but also to create a throng of repeat sales.  You want your customers to possess brand loyalty.  This occurs when the consumer’s schemata, or packets of knowledge about your product, create cues that reinforce future sales.  There are important cognitive processes which occur between the input of information and the output of behavior.  As marketers, we should strive to instill into our consumers familiarity with our product or service.  The more experienced the consumer, the more developed the script concerning your company.  The more developed the script, the greater the sales.  This translates to successful marketing.

This sheds some light on the mental structures that stand in casual relationship to our customers’ actions.    ~Tricia

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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Education Strategy, Social Media