Will You Fall Victim to the 2014 Digital Detox?

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Happy 2014, loyal Brandsplat readers! There’s nothing like the start of a new year to get us thinking about improving ourselves and our lives. And in 2014, in addition to those overly-ambitious, year-long-gym-membership-buying types, we’ve got another class of Resolutioners — those among us who have pledged to spend less time online. Whether it’s doggedly reading each Facebook update about people they hardly remember from high school or following every known D-list celebrity tweeter on the planet, some people have developed bad digital habits and are looking to perform a cleanse. We salute you, digital detoxers!

Luckily, our clients are in no danger of being crossed off anyone’s list. That’s because here at Brandsplat, we make sure their content is spot-on by spending time understanding what their audience needs before we write a single word, search engine optimized or otherwise. It’s because we know there’s more to expanding our clients’ reach than cramming a bunch of keywords into a spammy post in hopes of boosting their Google page ranks. We offer our clients the real deal: Content created just for them by an informed, engaged writer whose first and only priority is to make a connection with the people their services or products are designed to help.

True, not everyone can write passionately day in and day out about topics including investment scams, telecommunications challenges or how to know if you need to hire a lawyer. But then again, not everyone writes for us — just those who like to dig deep and create interesting, informative content to bridge the gap between our clients and those who need them; those who go beyond writing a certain number of words to spec; those who care that their client’s message is making it in front of the right eyes. In other words, real professionals.

Do you have real professionals writing for your company’s blog, website or social media channels? Here’s how to check: Watch your Google Analytics numbers over the next few weeks. Are they growing by leaps and bounds? Then you don’t need us. Anything less tells you that your company may have fallen victim to the 2014 digital detox and would benefit from the great combination of smarts and heart our writers bring to their work.

Go ahead and check. We’ll wait. Our number’s below.

Blog Like the Big Brands: LUSH Cosmetics

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Blogging for business is one terrific way to stand out from the pack, especially when your company is in an ultra-competitive industry. Blogs can help give your brand a digital edge in a crowded marketplace. And no industry is more crowded and competitive than cosmetics. The business of being pretty can get downright ugly, and the ones rising to the top are the ones using digital marketing to its fullest. LUSH cosmetics is one company rocking blog marketing to help stay on the radar of ever-fickle makeup devotees.

Launched in the 1990s in the United Kingdom, LUSH is the brainchild of husband and wife duo Mark and Mo Constantine. Since then, the company, known for its great-smelling products with all-natural ingredients, has become a major contender in the worldwide cosmetics market. But having a unique products and original take on cosmetics isn’t enough. LUSH has had to employ unique marketing techniques in order to remain a memorable and powerful force in its field. The LUSH cosmetics blog is part company newsletter, part beauty magazine and all LUSH.

The company keeps its products and philosophies on the front burner while blogging. LUSH achieves balance in blogging by maintaining an upbeat attitude throughout its posts. Beloved employees are celebrated with the same enthusiasm that new products are blogged about. Other recent posts include a behind-the-scenes look at how the brand creates perfumes, a profile of animal activist Jane Goodall and DIY recipes for Earth-friendly cleaners. Since LUSH’s products are different and environmentally-conscious, the copy in all of the posts celebrates the brand’s uniqueness.

Another smart move on LUSH’s part is having a toolbar which directs blog readers to easy access to Internet shopping for all their favorite products. LUSH is one of the most clever brands on social media, so it brilliantly makes access to its Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages incredibly easy from the blog.

Yet one of the greatest things the LUSH blog does is blog all of the time. Blogging with regularity is the only way to make it work, and clearly the brand has figured this out. Posting new blogs several times a week is a simple trick companies of any size can do to help them stand out from the pack.

Quick Tips for Fabulous Email Marketing

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Email is still a vital component of every content marketing plan. Some would even argue that as more and more people rely on tablets and smartphones for email, email marketing is beginning to become more relevant. Fine. But where do newbies start with email marketing? And how do mere mortals achieve email amazingness? Fear not, marketing mavens! We’ve come up with a list of easy-to-remember and even easier-to-implement email marketing tips that any size business can rock out.

1. Get Friendly: The No. 1 question small businesses ask when starting an email marketing campaign is, “Who do I email?” Sounds kind of silly, but the concerns of who are we marketing to and where do we get these mysterious emails are legit ones. We always suggest starting with your company’s database of frequent customers and your personal contacts.These folks, presumably, already get emails from you and therefore are a terrific place to start. Friends and loved ones aren’t just less likely to delete your emails, but they’ll also usually give you honest feedback.

2. Post Exit Signs: You want people to be engaged with your email marketing, but the last thing you want is to make them angry. So play by the rules and clearly post a unsubscribe option. As Cara Aley writes, “Nothing says spam like a lack of ability to remove oneself from an email list. Make sure that every email you send has a clear option for removal for your readers; it’s a part of the CAN-SPAM law, and you could be fined $16,000 for not abiding by it.”

3. Deliver the Goods: If your email list isn’t growing, could it perhaps be because your emails stink? We’re sick of digital clutter, and now we are all quick to react to companies who email us with boring spammy content on a daily basis. Instead, challenge you and your marketing team to come up with emails and email newsletter content folks will actually want to read. Consider adding value and really creative content to your subscribers’ in boxes and watch your list grow like a weed.

4. Get Real People: If you have an office or a brick-and-mortar retail shop, don’t forget to gather emails in person! Being able to explain how awesome your emails are to your customers face-to-face is truly priceless and an opportunity that should not be missed.

5. Creativity Wins: ModCloth, Fab.com, Amazon, Starbucks and Epicurious all create the kind of email newsletter we stop and read. Why? Because they all look great and are incredibly creative. Use your favorite email newsletters as inspirations and take them to your marketing team and designers before you start.

Blog Like The Big Brands: Star Wars

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Blog_like_the_big_brands_Star_Wars

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, branded blog writing was a boring affair. Companies were afraid to wink at their own image or be humorous for fear of turning consumers off. Yet being only sales-driven in blogging for business didn’t work, either. Clearly a new way of blogging had to be discovered. Where blogging is concerned we have to listen to the wise words of Yoda who said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” In other words, today’s branded blogging can be both loyal to a company’s image while being fun and self-effacing. Look no further than the official Star Wars blog for further proof.

Last fall, Lucasfilm made headlines when it was purchased by Disney for $4 billion, meaning that Mickey and the gang would soon be joined by Luke, Princess Lei and C-3PO. Judging by Lucasfilm’s digital presence, it was money well spent. Lucas and his team have kept up with every online branding and marketing trend, including blog creation. The Official Star Wars blog catches a reader’s eye initially with its great design. Modern, image-heavy, well-organized and covered in the franchise’s iconic logos and characters, there is no question as a blog reader that you have entered the Star Wars Universe. The blog keeps things informal and friendly, however, when it comes to the actual copy. From posts by fans and kitschy Star Wars-themed craft projects to wedding photos (yes, really!) and collectible news, the blog covers the vast Star Wars territory but does so with a sense of humor and whimsy. There’s no Dark Side here, just strong branding and a whole lot of fun.

Fun! Now there’s a unique idea — and a great takeaway to use in our own blogging practices. Not every one of your business blog posts has to be all serious all the time. Having a little fun, whether it be with videos, funny photos or lighter topics, not only makes your readers feel comfortable but also breaks up the monotony of industry-only related posts.

So, readers, how can your blog have a little more fun? Tell us in the comments section below. And may the blogging force be with you!

Blog Like the Big Brands: The Home Depot

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Blogging is where many a well-intended custom content strategy begins. It’s not hard to see why; blogging is an easy-to-jump-into and affordable way to reach out to customers online. Yet the success of corporate blogging largely depends on the tone of the blog. A right balance between informational, chatty and entertaining must be struck, otherwise a company is left with a bland blog that nobody wants to read. A global emporium of garden hoses, chainsaws and hardware, The Home Depot, is one company that has figured out the nuts and bolts of conversational blogging.

Who among us hasn’t wandered around The Home Depot in search of some do-it-yourself thingy? For the casual visitor, The Home Depot can be an intimidating place. Yet its friendly blog, The Apron, is anything but. The Apron has attractive and well-photographed posts primarily written for the home repair newbie. Storage solutions, how to build a simple wall organizer and winter gardening ideas are a few of the brand’s recent posts. Giving The Apron an easy-to-read, home improvement magazine style was a stroke of genius for The Home Depot. A store like The Home Depot should do whatever it can to convince regular Joes that they too can be a fix-it phenomenon, and this smartly-written blog helps with that mission statement for sure.

The tone of The Apron helps set the stage for success. Each post has a helpful (but not condescending) tone of “Why don’t you try this?” Also ingenious is how The Home Depot has kept the blog decidedly gender neutral. By appealing to men and women of all ages, the blog increases the potential customer base while smashing the idea that only guys fix bathrooms or leaky roofs. We talk over and over again in these pages about how important being approachable is in blog creation. This is especially true for brands like The Home Depot, which sell products or services that need some education and explanation. Instead of scaring readers away at the thought of learning something new, The Apron inspires them to go for it — and that’s a great blogging goal for companies of every variety.

Quick Content Ideas for Busy Bloggers

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Save the story… we’ve heard it before: You want to throw yourself into content marketing because your business desperately needs it but you just don’t have time to sit down and whip up stunning blog creation. Blah, blah, blah. The truth is that fantastic blog posts don’t take that much time. In fact, recent data suggests that readers respond to and comment on blog posts that are shorter and more concise in length (under 700 words) than ones that drone on and on. Personally, we think great blog posts can happen in 30 minutes or less. But if a half an hour is still too time-consuming for you, Mister Busy Pants, we’ve come up with a handful of quick blog post ideas that could be even faster (provided you don’t dilly-dally).

Survey Says: What do your followers think of your new layout? How do your customers rate your services? What would your readers like to see in your blog? Don’t ask me! Ask them. Posting a poll or survey in your blog isn’t just a fast solution to the “What the !@#$ am I gonna blog about?” question, it also helps you get to know what your readers are thinking. The interactive nature of polls makes them a favorite with blog readers, and posting one could even bring in new fans. Plus adding a poll on WordPress-based blogs is super easy!

The Hot Seat: Let your inner Barbara Walters come out and post an online interview in your blog. Send email questions to a person you and your readers would like to get to know more about. Publish said questions along with their witty answers and voila! You’re a journalist! When it comes to picking interview subjects, go for people you know (because they’re nice and less likely to tell you “no”) and individuals whose answers will be entertaining to read. Keep the interview short — no more than 10 questions — and edit the answers to keep the piece a tight and compelling read. Best of all, your subject does the heavy lifting by being charming and interesting.

Reheat the Leftovers: As a huge fan of cold pizza, day-old pasta and Thanksgiving stuffing on Black Friday, I highly approve of “reheating” old blog posts. There’s an artful way of doing it, of course. Creating a “greatest hits” week, reposting a blog from the past that mirrors news happening today, adding brief updates to popular posts or running an old blog to celebrate a company milestone are ethical and fast ways to turn old things new again. Just make sure you reanimate your leftovers, even if only slightly. Google doesn’t love crusty old blog posts trying to be passed off as something new.

Phone a Friend: Still have no time but still want that blog taken care of? Well, get some help, for Pete’s sake! We blog content management types do what you’re putting off all day long. The best part of using a blog content agency is that it leaves you time to handle everything else in your busy, busy world.

Blog Like the Big Brands: UPS

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One of the incredible benefits of custom content like that offered by corporate blogs is that a brand gets a daily opportunity to communicate company beliefs and mission statements in interesting and fun-to-read ways. Blogging-for-business campaigns remind readers what a business is all about. UPS, a massive shipping powerhouse which will distribute some 527 million packages during the holiday season, recently ranked No. 27 on Interbrand’s Top 100 Best Global Brands List for 2012. For a business that sends out more gifts than Santa, reliability is a value UPS tries to impress upon consumers over and over again. With a revamped ad campaign and lightening quick responses on social media, the company also uses blogging to remind users that when it comes to dependable shipping, UPS is a brand that delivers.

Upside, the official UPS blog, has the challenging task of making the world of shipping sound interesting. With ideas on sending luggage, tips on applying for part-time work at UPS and creative solutions to shipping problems, Upside meets that challenge head-on — and succeeds. Naturally, UPS’ signature brown color palate and recognizable branding pepper the blog’s layout. But where Upside really succeeds is in making consumer feel secure in choosing UPS. Through posts written by real UPS employees and customers, readers get a glimpse at how UPS works. A recent guest post, for example, illustrated how Appalachian State University Football ships 10,000 season tickets to alumni, students and fans. Steven White, Athletic Ticket Manager at Appalachian State University, blogs about how UPS makes keeping those fans happy a lot easier. Post after post on Upside reminds users that UPS can make their lives easier, too.

Using your blog to simultaneously establish yourself as an expert in your field while pushing your company’s values and mission statements is a great idea, whether you’re a global shipping magnet or a spunky little independent business. UPS proves that knowing what you’re talking about and being proud of your company’s values can, indeed, make for interesting blog posts. Customer-written posts are also a great idea. After all, who better to toot the horn of your company than the folks who are already happily patronizing it?