Is Your Blog Failing You?

Social media can often seem overwhelming for even the most experienced Outreach professional. There are thousands of tools and applications that you can use to enhance your use of social media. But we recommend sticking to what works best for your organization. Oftentimes, this includes blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter—the Big 4.

As we mentioned in this blog previously, your own, original, content is critical in social media. Sure, you can post articles from other sources on your Facebook Page, you can participate in a few LinkedIn groups, and you can retweet your favorite expert on Twitter.  Which is all perfectly fine to do, and encouraged. Social media, after all, is about being social. But to improve your Outreach communications, you need to drive people back to your website or blog as well. Social media, particularly your blog, can help you generate leads if used properly. 

By writing on your blog regularly, you’re creating content that you can share with your followers. They’ll come to look upon you as an expert within your field. We’ll discuss some writing tips in a future column as well as some ways to generate blog topics. 

Below are some tips on how you can instantly improve your blog to ensure that your readers keep coming back:

Add a sharing widget—On the Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News website and its sister publications, LakeOconeeBoomers.com and PittsburghHealthcareReport.com, we like using Shareaholic. But any social media sharing tool will work fine. The goal is to just make it a little easier for your readers to share your blog content with their own friends and colleagues. Limit your sharing buttons to 5 or 6 so it can stay on one line and keep a clean look. Our sharing buttons include: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Email, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. 

Install a email subscription form—Your readers should be able to opt in and register to receive your blog posts via email or an RSS feed. Feedburner is pretty good for this and is what we use. Other clients we have worked with prefer using MailChimp or Constant Contact.  Each time a new blog post is posted, your subscribers will automatically receive a notification via their email address that something new was added to the site. It’s a great way to keep in touch with your readers.

Resize your images—I often hear clients say to me that their blog is taking too long to load. Oftentimes, the culprits are the image files. Always be sure that the size of your image matches the exact size you want to use within the blog post. For instance, a good size for our site is generally 300 x 200 pixels for head shots. But we tend to receive these image files as high resolution such as 1,200 x 800 pixels which is perfect for the print publication. Print needs higher res photos; websites do not. Most blogs allow you to upload your images and then resize the images within its application. We recommend  not to do this; instead, always resize the photos before you upload them to the blog. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay extra to get more bandwidth from your hosting provider.

Edit and edit some more—Unless you’re operating a magazine website, try to keep your blog posts short, no more than 400 words. People’s attention span are much shorten when they are online. You are competing against incoming email, social media feeds, and anything else on the Internet that could be distracting to your audience. Keep your posts short and to the point. Even though these posts are short, use headers and bullets as often as you can. 

Post more often—Out of sight is out of mind. If you’re writing a new blog post once a quarter, you’re going to quickly lose your audience. They’ll probably seek out your competitor if you’re giving them good, quality information on a frequent basis. How often should you post? I’d recommend at least once a week if you are able. But keep it consistent. Pick a day you will write and post your new piece and stick to that schedule. 

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LinkedIn 101

Along with Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is another popular social media site, mainly used for outreach. It’s an essential, low-maintenance tool for Outreach professionals even if all you do is a set up a simple profile, which is mainly an online version of your resume, as a way for you to be contacted.

If all you do is set up your name and address and accept connections from people you know, you’re at least making it easy for you and your colleagues to stay in touch after a move.

Building Your Network

As a LinkedIn member, you maintain a list of contact details (such as name, address, email, etc.) of your friends, colleagues, or anyone else you’d like to stay in touch with. These contacts are called Connections. You can invite anyone to become a connection.

Through your Connections, you can begin to build your contact network, comprised of your direct connections (1st degree), the connections of each of their connections (2nd degree) and their connections (3rd degree). 

One of your degree of connections can be used to gain an introduction to someone you wish to be introduced to. It can also be used to find jobs, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in one’s contact network. Healthcare employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates. As an Outreach professional, you can review the profile of hiring managers and discover which of your Connections can introduce you. 

Company Research

LinkedIn also allows users to research organizations you may be interested in partnering or doing business with. Simply, type the name of the organization in the search box and you’ll be able to see relevant statistics about that organization, such as their employee size, revenues, the location of the company’s headquarters and offices, and a list of present, past, and former employees who are on LinkedIn.

Other Ways to Use LinkedIn

These are just some of the basic ways you can use LinkedIn. Jason Alba, CEO and creator of JibberJobber.com and author of I’m on LinkedIn, Now What?, offers six other advanced ways that LinkedIn can be an effective networking tool for you.

Create a LinkedIn Poll.This is a fairly new and limited feature in LinkedIn, but it has the advantage of notifying (softly, not via email) your first degree contacts by allowing you to post a poll. The poll will appear off to the corner of their LinkedIn landing page when they sign in. It’s a nonintrusive way to get your brand or offerings in front of them. You can do this as often as you want, since it’s not intrusive.

Join a Group. It’s like joining any message board or forum. You’ll need to request to be part of that group. Once you are a member, be sure to contribute to discussions or start a new discussion. But don’t spam. Be a part of the Group, don’t preach or pitch to the Group.

Start your own Group. When members join a Group they typically leave your image (logo or photo) on their own LinkedIn Profile landing page–this image usually points others back to your Web site. 

Change your status frequently. As with Twitter or Facebook, you can post a status update. Try to post regularly. Through a free application like ping.fm, you can write one status update which ping.fm then sends to any of the social media sites you belong to. Each of the social media sites also offers an application allowing you to tie in your Twitter tweets with Facebook and LinkedIn, and vice versa.

Give LinkedIn Recommendations regularly. Through this feature, you can write a recommendation or a testimonial for someone you worked with. It does wonders for your relationship, putting your ink on someone else’s Profile, and sometimes your Contacts reciprocate.

Browse network updates to see who you could or should communicate with. If you’re connected with that ideal prospect or customer, browse through their connections, you’re to find other prospects who you should be talking with.

Of course, the best way to learn more about LinkedIn and its wonderful features is to dive in and explore it yourself. 

Are you using LinkedIn? What are some of your tips and advice?

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SEO Techniques to Improve Your Search Capabilities

One of the greatest Outreach tools at your disposal is your website. More consumers than ever are using the web and social media applications to gather health information about you and your business.

Many are using search engines, particularly Google, to not only scope you out, but your competitors as well. How well do you rank in search engines? Are your potential customers able to find you easily? Research indicates that visitors rarely go past the 2nd page after Googling a search term. With proper SEO (Search Engine Optimization) copywriting techniques, you can greatly improve your organization’s ranking on search engines and get a step up over the competition.

Need some help? Here are some ideas.

Keyword Search Tool

First, you need to know what keywords to use. There are many keyword search tools out there to help you select the keywords you should be sprinkling throughout your content. Google’s tool is one of my favorites and it’s free: https://adwords.google.com

Work on Your Headlines

Once you decide on the keywords, add some of these to the Headlines of your content. Search engines love this. For instance, instead of writing the header, “About Acme Homes,” on a retirement community website, you can write, “Acme Homes: A Retirement Living Community.”

Also, since search engines read content on a website page the same we do—left to right and top to bottom, position your headline on the top left side of each page. Be sure to add a headline to each page of your website. Make sure these page titles are clear. Always ask yourself if the title of the page make sense if it is the only thing you see.

Think of Number One

Remember to always focus on the number one: one topic, one page; one idea; one paragraph. This aids scanning and makes it easier for search engines to find.

Additionally, the most important information on that site should be located at the top of the page. For all you outreach practitioners, it’s like writing a press release. Think of the inverted pyramid. Also, use keyword phrases as intact when possible.

Include Bullets

  • Bulleted and numbered lists make information easy to scan and quick to understand.
  • Be descriptive—not clever.
  • If you need to, punch it up with question words or numbers.

Add Internal Links

It’s frustrating (at least to me) to visit a website and see a lack of hyperlinks to the internal pages of a website within the body of the copy. For example, if you own a medical practice and mention your dedicated staff of highly qualified physicians on the home page, be sure to add a link to that page within the content. What will be most effective is if you can link the keywords to other pages on the site.

Forget Meta Tags and Keyword Density

One thing to keep in mind is that keywords in the Meta Tags (the coding behind websites) are no longer important. In fact, Google basically said they’re ignoring keywords because of bad apples abusing them. Yahoo stated that while they still index the Meta Tags, the ranking importance given to them receives the lowest ranking signal in their system.

Another practice that is no longer as important is keyword density. However, it is important that your keywords appear naturally in the content. Add the keywords in the content as early as possible (again, think inverted pyramid), and make sure it doesn’t look too spammy. Google and Yahoo hate that and will ignore your site.

Other SEO Copywriting Considerations:

  • Chunk your paragraphs so they are between 150 and 300 words.
  • Cut the fluff and get rid of empty words and phrases.
  • Short pages may be 400 words or less. If you have less than 200 words, you might not have a page.
  • Keep longer pages around 600 words.

Have any suggestion of your own?  Let us know in the comments below!.

Using Pinterest in Your Outreach Efforts

With an average of over 12 million unique monthly visitors users and counting, Pinterest (www.Pinterest.com) has become the latest social media darling. In fact, according to Lemon.ly, a visual marketing firm, Pinterest was the fastest independent website to reach 10 million unique monthly visitors—faster than Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

So what’s all the fuss about the site? And more importantly, how can your business take advantage of it?

Basics of Pinterest

First, let’s discuss what Pinterest is. Simply put, the social networking site is a virtual pinboard. Members register for free and upload their own photos or post links to photos of products or images they want to share with their followers. This is called “pinning.” 

When you pin an image on Pinterest, you can embed a link to the site where you found that particular image. As a result of allowing users to embed website links, a Shareholic study found that Pinterest is now generating more referral traffic to websites than YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn combined. 

Get Involved and Be Engaging

As with any social media site, the more engaged you are, the more beneficial it is for your brand. This means commenting on images posted by your Pinterest followers and sharing their images with your own followers. In order to establish your presence on Pinterest, become engaged. 

As we mentioned in a previous article, think of social media as a big party. The more you interact with others, the more exposure you’ll receive. If you’re not participating, you won’t get noticed. 

Pinning your Images

Whatever images you decide to pin to your board, just be sure it’s visually appealing. You want to give your followers a reason to comment on your images or share your images. If you work for a healthcare construction firm, you may want to pin your completed projects. 

Show off your best work—and write a brief caption of what that project is and maybe what makes it unique. Want to share some real estate design tips with your readers? Create a visually-appealing image with some tips and pin it to your board.

Since you are driving people back to your website or blog with some of your pins, I also highly recommend that you have an interesting site or blog to entice people to want to come back. If you just have a static, boring website, you run the risk that people will stop following you. 

Promote More than Just Your Products

You don’t necessarily have to pin images related to your business of course. Did you snap a photo of that tree now blooming in the front of your office? Pin it under the “Outdoors” category on Pinterest. Took photos of a cool office party to celebrate a holiday? Pin it under “Holiday.” 

The beauty of Pinterest is that you can categorize your images under several topics such as architecture, art, people, photography, products, sports, and technology. Not sure where your image fits? There’s an “Other” category. 

If all you are doing is pinning your own images and refuse to share other images, you’ll appear to be too self-serving. That defeats the purpose of any social media site. The goal is to share so don’t be afraid to post images from other sites, even if they may be from another organization. 

Allow Others to Pin Photos

Pinterest allows you to let other contributors post images to your pinboards. If you’re part of a hospital or medical practice, your pinboard can contain photos from your patients and employees. Invite your followers to pin pictures of themselves or their favorite things on your pinboards. Some great photos are patients coming home from the hospital.

Are you a manufacturer? Invite followers to post images of your products being used. You can even hold contests on your pinboard and each month select the best photo pinned to your pinboard. The goal here is to just get your fans involved and help spread the word about your products.

So what do you think of Pinterest? Are you using it? If so, share with us some of the creative ways you have used it? 

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5 Tips for Writing Better Leads in Your Next Blog

As we had written about previously, content marketing should be one of the key components of your Outreach initiatives. A blog is one form of content marketing. Last week, we covered how you can make some tweaks and improvements to your headlines that can drive traffic to your blog. Headlines are certainly important in capturing the eyes and attention of your audience. The lead paragraph is just as critical. A good lead will convince your readers to read further.

Some of our LinkedIn connections offered some tips and advice on how to write an irresistible lead in a blog post. Below were the 5 top responses.

Be clear

Don’t worry about trying to be clever, says Diana Bradford, a marketing director in Missouri. Instead, get to the point right away.

“It’s more important for search optimization to include keywords that will drive traffic to your post,” she says.

Bradford recommends being clear and to let your audience know what the article is about rather than impressing them with your wit.

“You can do that in the body of your post,” she says.

Keep it short

Brevity is essential as is keeping the language simple, notes Kevin M. Norris, a health and fitness entrepreneur in Washington, D.C. He stresses that there is no need to impress with verbosity or big words.

“If all else fails, humor. Impart it cautiously but don’t be afraid to use it even under the most serious of circumstances,” he adds.

People don’t like to read long blog posts because their attention span is short on the web. Instead, say what you have to say short and sweet, then move on. Also, keep your sentences short.

Write the lead last

Rather than stare at a blank sheet of paper for hours on end, just start writing. It will save you a lot of time in the long run. In fact, Margaret Yokels, a brand marketing manager Fare Buzz in New York City, tends to write the entire blog post first and then goes back to the lead paragraph.

“This way I can sum up what the whole piece is about, and at that point I’m well into the groove of writing so figuring out something catchy comes easier,” she says.

Tell a story

Elizabeth Shih is a copywriter from Canada. For her, “telling a fascinating story or an anecdote are both common ways to start an article or blog posting.”

People enjoy reading stories and real-life anecdotes. Oftentimes, they can relate and it also can capture and enthrall the reader and bring some personality and flavor to the piece.

Daniel Hall, an online marketing specialist in New York, NY, agrees.

“Personal anecdotes do work best,” he says. “Some examples include how someone, or some company benefited financially or otherwise from the use of business services or systems, or even how you or someone can give important value to other persons in their businesses.”

Use humor

While we cautioned against being witty, using humor can oftentimes get your readers to continue to read.

“It doesn’t have to be belly laugh all of the time but simply something that leaves them smiling will always have them seeking out whatever you have to say,” says Howard R. Berger, a Raconteur from Chicago, IL.

For example, Berger used to run a training department for a firm and they had a quarterly newsletter. He always had about five or six lines of of humor and wisdom in his leads.

“Everyone went to the training department’s section first,” he says. “Even the Managing Director liked it best.”.

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Improve Headlines That Will Drive Readers to Your Blog

As we mentioned in a previous post, a blog can be an effective part of your Outreach activities. But are you capturing your readers’ attention when they first come across your blog? Besides the content, your post’s headline and the lead will make a difference on whether the readers will continue to read.

I recently queried my LinkedIn connections and asked for their best tips on how to write a snappy headline and an irresistible lead in a blog post. The response was overwhelming. I received over 50 tips, but for brevity, I whittled down what I felt were the 5 best responses for each category. We’ll focus on the five best ways to craft a headline that will make your readers want more.

1. Use numbers

There’s a reason why I used a number in my headline for this article—it works. Think about how many articles and blog posts have caught your attention over the past week just because it contained a number.

One reason why these headlines are popular is that readers love numbered lists. A number in your post’s title indicates your article or post contains a numbered list. People tend to skim, especially on the web, and a numbered list makes it easy for them to do so.

Example: 5 sure-fire ways to write a catchy headline

2. Ask a question

George F. Snell III, a digital communications executive from Boston, recommends leading off with a question.

“Ask a question and then answer it,” he says. “Make it concise, punchy and interesting. In addition, avoid jargon at all costs.”

While a good question can intensify your reader’s curiosity, be sure to ask questions that the reader will feel compelled enough to continue reading.

Example: Are your blog’s headlines driving your readers away

3. Be witty

For James Day, wit can never be underestimated.

“Use puns which are applicable to either something topical or a well-known phrase,” says Day, a social media manager from England.

In fact, last month, he wrote an article on pitching to potential investors, and by using this title: “Pitcher-Perfect: How to Optimise Your Pitching Skills” received more feedback than a standard post.

Example: A prescription for what ails your blog

4. Write for your audience

Jonathan Eaton, a web usability specialist, also from England, advises authors of blog posts to think about who your audience is.

“Create a spokesperson for them and critically evaluate everything you say as if he or she is reading it,” he says.

For example, Eaton has created a spokesperson who he calls Nigel. He only ever writes blog posts that he knows Nigel would be interested in.

“I try to write about topics that I think Nigel needs to know more about,” he says. “What I really want is for Nigel to talk to all his friends about what I have said. So it is important that Nigel can understand and then explain the concepts in my articles.

For Eaton, it’s difficult to come up with that clever or catchy headline until you know who your “Nigel” is. Think about what he or she needs to know and what you want to tell them, and then write your lead in the way that they would expect to read it.

Example: 5 incredibly simple tricks to improve your healthcare blog

5. Study pop culture and gossip magazines

“Grab a copy of Cosmo and the National Enquirer—seriously,” advises Andrew Martinsen, a sales strategist for WalleyeFishingSecrets.com in Duluth, Minn.

Martinsen says that the headlines from those publications should provide enough inspiration for several years’ worth of catchy blog post headlines, no matter the market.

“When using these magazines for modeling your headlines after, just tame them down and make them more professional, again, depending on the market,” he says. “And of course don’t copy the headlines verbatim in any case.”

How about you? Any good suggestions on how you can improve your headlines?.

5 Elements of a Successful Blog Post

If you maintain a blog as part of your Outreach activities, there are five main characteristics that each of your blog posts should contain if you want to get your point across and generate some attention. We’ll explore each of these elements below. 

Get attention  

If your posts do not draw the eye of your readers, they will most likely ignore it and your message could be lost forever. The online space is crowded—your audience is inundated with hundreds of emails clogging their inbox; their RSS feeds could run the entire length of their laptop screen; and they may have dozens of web browser tabs open.

One way to get attention with your blog posts are generating attention-grabbing headlines. A good headline will stop readers in their tracks and compel them to read further.

Another way to capture your readers’ attention is with great visuals. An appealing image can get your blog post noticed. But be sure the image applies to the content of your blog post. Remember, you can’t just grab images using Google. Many images you find have copyright protection. Instead, use a service like istockphoto.com where you can purchase images or better yet, take the time to take some original photos on your own.

Focus on your audience

Keep the readers in mind as you write your blog posts. Always write from their point of view. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their problems. For instance, if you’re writing blog posts for benefits managers at small companies, you may want to learn which trade magazines or website they read or even attend some of the same seminars or webinars they do.

The more you understand them and their problems, the more you can write effective posts that address their concerns. And always write in the second person. Pretend it’s a one-on-one conversation with you and one customer or client.

Include examples to illustrate your point

While you may offer great theories and have a tremendous amount of knowledge to convey in your blog posts, you still need to write your posts in way that your readers can easily understand and apply in their own workplace.

The best way to do that is to offer mini case studies or brief examples so they can better grasp what you’re trying to say. Concrete examples can help your readers better relate to your blog posts. These examples can be real-life situations; however hypothetical scenarios work just as well.

Add a call-to-action after each post

After each post, you want to direct your readers to take some call-to-action to keep them further engaged. These call-to-actions can include: following you on Twitter, subscribing to your blog, leaving a comment, joining your mailing list, or even buying a product or service.

If you neglect to include a call-to-action and your post just ends abruptly, you could potentially miss out on a good prospect. Some bloggers will include their call-to-action in the middle of a blog post; but we find it more effective at the end of each post.

Make your blog post easy to read

As we mentioned earlier, your audience is crunched for time these days. They’re not going to have the time or the patience to sit through a three-page blog post. Keep it short and to the point.

Use subheadings (as I did in this piece), bold or italicize your text, and insert bullet points to break up copy. Using these formats will make your post easier for your audience to scan and read.

What tips have you found to be effective when writing your own blog posts? Comment below!.

Improve Your Outreach Productivity With These 7 Social Media Tools

Whether you recently started managing your company’s social media channels or have been doing it for a number of years, it can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. Sometimes you just want a shortcut to help you be a little more efficient and to also help you better manage your social media outreach activities. You’re in luck—there are probably thousands of social media applications and tools available to help improve your productivity. Below is a list of just 7 that we recommend. Keep in mind some of these tools are free and others come with a fee. 

Lucky Orange (www.luckyorange.com): Do you manage your company’s blog? If so, you know the importance of monitoring your readers’ activity. Lucky Orange allows you to see which pages your visitors are reading, where they came from and how long they stayed on your site. You can also view recorded or real-time videos of your visitors browsing your site. (Fees vary per month)

Broken Link Checker (www.brokenlinkcheck.com): Ever come across a blog or a website with a broken link? Doesn’t that bother you? Imagine visitors experiencing the same thing on your site. This free tool goes through your site and then generates a list of any pages on your site that contains a broken link.

PicMonkey (www.picmonkey.com): By now you should know that sharing photos through your social media channels improves the visibility of your post being seen. PicMonkey is a free online photo editor that allows you to crop your images, add text to your photos, and more. If you don’t have access to PhotoShop, this is a great alternative.

Tweak Your Biz Title Generator (http://tweakyourbiz.com/tools/title-generator): This was a cool online tool we happened to stumble upon a few weeks ago. Ever stuck for a title for your blog post or even an article you may have written? Tweak Your Biz Title Generator creates a list of possible titles for your content based on the keywords your enter.

Tagboard (http://tagboard.com): With Tagboard, you can check out what’s trending in social media based around certain hashtags.  This tool allows you to see an overview of the hashtag you choose on a variety of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

Facebook Like Box (http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like-box/): If you maintain a blog or your company’s website — and you have a Facebook Page — be sure to add the Facebook Like Box to help increase your likes. This Facebook widget makes it easy for your visitors to become a fan of your page by simply clicking on the Like button right from your website.

ManageFlitter: (www.manageflitter.com): One way to quickly grow your following on Twitter is to follow those who are relevant to your business. ManageFlitter allows you to search through Twitter profiles and find people who meet keywords. Another nice feature of ManageFlitter is that it allows you to unfollow those people who are not following you back.

Have any suggestion of your own?  Comment below!.

Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Employees

Do you have a social media policy for your employees?  Having clearly defined rules for both personal and professional behavior online is an absolute must.

Establishing a policy is simply for your company’s own protection. You can’t stop conversations happening online, but you can at least set the guidelines of behaviors you expect within your organization.

Having a policy in writing also alleviates potential “I didn’t know” issues with employees and provides clear direction for those involved. When you develop HR policies, it should also be accompanied by a custom social media guidebook that explains the various platforms the company will use, how they function and best practices for each. This should include brief ‘what’s okay’ and ‘what’s not okay’ examples.

Below are some essentials to be aware of before creating a social media policy for your team.

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