If you write a blog post but no one sees it, does it even exist?
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How to optimize blog posts for social
- How to include other voices and build engagement
- Tips for encouraging your greater team to share the content
- Advice on amplifying/repurposing everything you create
- Todd Cordill
Amanda: Today, I'm very excited to welcome Michelle Garrett. She's a public relations consultant and an award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, non-profit start-up and corporate experience. And today, she's here to chat with me about how blogging, paired with other amplification strategies, like social media and repurposing content, can boost your content's ROI. Welcome to the show. Michelle.
Michelle: Thank you so much for having me, Amanda. It's a pleasure.
Amanda: Of course. Yeah, I think this is something that applies to a lot of people. I think anybody in content has at least touched a blog at one point or another, if not now, and, you know, everybody wants to find out how to get their content seen by more people.
Michelle: Absolutely. I mean, if we take time to create a blog, write a blog, and no one reads or looks at it, I mean, does it even exist? You know? So, that's a good question.
Amanda: Yeah, so, I like to start episodes pretty general. So, I think the question for you would be, why blog at all? What is the value it can bring you?
Michelle: Well, there are a lot of statistics about the fact that blogging regularly will drive more traffic to your site. And of course, I think Google has changed, you know, the way it looks at blog content, and now, it's more about quality content versus you know, keyword stuffing, of course, which was never a good idea. So, you know, thank goodness for that change. But I think there are just, I wish I could pull out a couple statistics for you, but I know that for example, in B2B, which is, you know, most of my clients are in that sector, there is a lot more success if they include blogging as part of their inbound marketing strategy.
Amanda: Well, that's a great way to get a lot of that authority on their own site, right too? Because they're driving traffic to their own brand, rather than always talking everywhere else. But that being said, and we'll get to this, but social and some of these other platforms are great places as well to communicate and also promote some of these things.
Michelle: Yes, absolutely.
Amanda: Say, somebody listening, they have a blog, and they spend a lot of time putting their posts together, and they've optimized it for search, but they haven't really actively promoted it in the past. So, they've relied on organic, which is fine. I mean, that gets you a lot of traffic, usually, if you do things right. But there are also ways to elevate that. So, where would someone even begin setting up something like a social promotion strategy for it?
Michelle: Well, of course, there are tools you can use to do that. But I mean, you can do it on your own too. And because I work with a lot of smaller businesses that have a limited budget, and can't always afford a lot of tools, I mean, we set up content calendars, using, you know, a spreadsheet in Excel, for example, or a Google Sheet and we, you know, kind of plot out a month of contents, and, you know, the cadence, how many times a week count, you know, which platforms, I always advise, if you're starting out not to do too many, you know, try to kind of pick, you know, the top, maybe one, two or three that you feel, you know, are going to be most effective or most of your audience might be, and then just really focus on that, and you can do it on your own.
Amanda: How can you optimize the post itself to be better suited for social?
Michelle: Well, I mean, I think visuals are a big part of it. I know that, you know, people are drawn to content that has more visuals, and, again, that doesn't have to be expensive. I think sometimes people hear these ideas and they think, "Oh, you know, that's going to be very, you know, that's not going be very cost effective.". But of course, there are many databases with images like Unsplash that you can use those are, you know, free to go in and of course, you can credit the photographers that contribute to those platforms, but there's no cost to doing that. And they're beautiful images, and they have a searchable database. So, you can just plug in your, you know, keyword and take a look; that's one of the most fun parts, I think blogging is, finding the images and the visuals to go with it. And of course, you could generate your own charts and graphs. I mean, Andy Crestodina does a great job of developing those types of visuals that go with his blog posts, and I think that makes them you know, a lot more eye catching and more shareable and all of that.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, social can be so visual, sometimes to at least get people to stop when they're scrolling and captivate them a little bit. And then I see some blogs like Content Marketing Institute, with their click to tweets in their posts. Like, some people are really diligent about those types of things, and have you seen a lot of success with stuff like that?
Michelle: Well, I think that that's another way to try to get you know, folks to share your blogs. I think also, just including, you're making it easy to share with you know, buttons, social sharing buttons on your blog. I've seen blogs that don't have that, and it's, you know, I use Buffer, for example. So, sometimes I can make it work that way. But I mean, it's a lot easier if you just have the buttons right there for people to use.
Amanda: Right, eliminating any steps so, that it is a easy as possible. Totally. So, aside from like, if you're setting up a social promo strategy, is that basically, "Okay, here is what we're going to write for each of those platforms that you selected.", and if that's the case, do you have tips on how to make those messages more visible to people?
Michelle: Well, I mean, I guess the key point of that would be that they should be different. I mean, I know companies and you know, I give them credit, anybody that's on social and is consistent about it. I mean, as long as you know, it's not, you know, filled with errors or just, you know, poorly written worded, you know, posts, I give them credit for that but when they just are blanketing you know, "Let's share this on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.", the same you know, like message, just repost. You know, you just kind of throw your hands up like, "Well, that's not how that works really.", because obviously, you know, Instagram is a completely different platform than LinkedIn, and, you know, Twitter is different than Facebook. And so, I mean, I think you can tweak the content, the post, you know, and perhaps share the same content, but it has to be the message, the post has to be written a little bit differently.
Amanda: Do you have advice on how to best tailor that content for each platform? Like, what are some unique things about each one, do you think?
Michelle: Well, I mean, Instagram is very hashtag heavy. I will say, I don't do as much on that for B2B clients, because I don't know that that's the best platform for them, but I have a personal account there. It's a business account, but I mean, I use it for, you know, for my own brand, so, I use it for both, I guess. But, for example, it's just not, you know, you would never put 20 hashtags in a post on LinkedIn or Twitter, you just-- I don't think that that would be, you know, a very effective way to go with that. And it's very, you know, Instagram is about visuals. So again, B2B sometimes struggle to find the right visuals to use and to share. And so, I think, to me, some of those are a completely different beast than, say, Twitter and LinkedIn, which are the two that I see most often in use by B2B clients.
Amanda: And for Twitter and LinkedIn, what level do people have to be maintaining these social channels for their promotion of their content to work? So, like, if they're just tweeting out the stuff that they do, is that going to be effective?
Michelle: No. That's another thing, but I do have clients that only want to share their own content, you know, so then you have to have that conversation because, you know, to really be effective and grow your followers, you have to engage. I mean, that's what social media is about, it's not just you know, yelling at people, posting at people, shouting at people or whatever; it's the engagement that really gets you, you know, gets you where you want to be, and I think that's where kind of the magic happens, is engagement. And so, if you're just posting your own blog content or your own press releases, or your own news articles, or whatever, it might be, just all about you all the time, I don't think people are as likely to engage with your content. And I think there are some tricks to it too. I mean, with blog posts, a lot of times you can feature influencers in your industry, for example, in the blog post, and then you can tag them when you share it, and you can ask them to share it too. And so, that can be very helpful and getting more people to read and share and draw in more traffic.
Amanda: Right. That's a tactic. I know, you've mentioned Andy Crestodina, but he definitely uses a lot and has promoted in some of his talks, and it certainly does work. You include things from other people, get some different advice, adds more value to the post anyway, to get different perspectives like that.
Michelle: I think so. I mean, you know, you don't want to hear from the same you know, two people, the company, maybe, you know, the executives are writing all the posts or you know, somebody's ghost writing and that's, you know, it's coming from them or whatever, I just think it gets boring and it could, you know, be mixed up a little bit if you, you know, were willing to include and, you know, quote some other folks in the industry or, you know, whoever it might be.
Amanda: How do you recommend balancing brand accounts versus personal accounts? So, I know that some people build up their personal branding within a company, right? And they share things on their own. Do you recommend that versus the company saying things as well? Do you do both and just tweet you know, similar to like you would on different platforms, you just kind of tweak the way it's said? What are your thoughts on that?
Michelle: That's difficult because, especially with executives, because sometimes you know, we ghost you know, ghost write their content, and to capture their voice, because they have an account and then the company, the brand has an account, and so, you know, you don't want it to be exactly the same but you really kind of have to try to get in their head to do it effectively, and it can be a real challenge because I think they expect you to know, you know, like what their tone is, and you can learn over time. But there is, you know, it's not the same as if they're doing it themselves, I will say that because nobody can capture you the way, you know that you would say it, especially right off the bat, you know, again, over time, and, you know, you can effectively go straight for executives, you know, if you have access to the executives, you know, that's another thing. I find, sometimes I don't want to spend time with the writers. I'm like, "Well, now wait a second, you know, how are we going to do this if you want us to sound like you, you have to talk to us or give us access to something that, you know, we can use to capture your tone.". And so, I think that's a challenge. On the corporate side, I feel like that's, you know, it should be different, but that's probably a little bit less pressure, I think, to come up with those posts. Because, you know, ideally, it should be something that, you know, fits in their mission and with their goals and all that. So
Amanda: Yeah. On a related note, when it comes to, like you said, sometimes executives not giving everything you need to succeed at some of these things, do you have tips on how people can get more of their own teams involved in different ways? So, whether that's like you're saying, providing content to use, or helping to promote it and amplify it, liking things, sharing them themselves, do you have tips on that?
Michelle: Well, I think that, first of all, it is an area that needs attention, because I think that's the easiest place to go, you know, to amplify your content is to go to your employees, right? I mean, hopefully your employees are excited to share your content. And if they're not, you might want to be, you know, like thinking about why are they not and then, of course, nobody wants to look like they're forcing people to do it, right? Because that will not come off right but you can help them, maybe they don't have time to think through what to say, you know, and so, maybe you can craft some posts that they could share, you know, with a blog post or something, you could just maybe make three to five, you know, just write a few for them and say, you know, "If you'd be so inclined, you know, here are a couple, LinkedIn, you know, ideas for a LinkedIn post, you could share along with this blog post or something like that.", I think that can help. Because I think a lot of it is time, people are just like, overloaded, and I've had this happen to me in professional organizations, where I've headed up communications, you know, on a board or something, and, you know, you want everybody, and everybody would be on board with sharing it, but they're like, "Well, what do we say?", you know, and, "I don't have time to think about what to say, and I don't know what to say.". So, if you make it easy, that way, I think that can help.
Amanda: Yes, that theme of making it as easy as possible, right? And then, increasing the chances that people will take action. Yeah. So, like, it's across the board in marketing. So, aside from social, right? That's one way you can, like get the most out of a piece of content you write, what about repurposing? So, I guess there's a lot of different ways you could be doing that. Do you have a strategy you employ all the time, across the board, places where you-- either places, I guess let's start there, like channels where you repurpose it?
Michelle: Yes, well for myself, I'll tell you, I mean, what I do, and I just, I kind of use it as a model for clients too. Although, obviously, sometimes clients are not, you know, wanting to buy into a complete, you know, package across the board of everything that you might do for them, but I certainly use myself as a guinea pig in a model. So, for example, okay, so I'm just going to use, and I believe that I included you in this post I wrote, it was a, “Predictions for 2020”, which you know, I wonder how those are going to fare. But in any case, I published that blog post on my own site, and then I pitched it to PR Daily to see if they would like to have it and then they ran it, and then I believe it even ended up on Ragan.com, which is you know, kind of they own PR Daily but sometimes things don't make it to that point, you know, if they're really popular, then they might get there. So, that one did really well, because I started with it just on my own site. And of course, I had, I think I had 20; 20 people for 2020. So, almost everybody shared it, that was quoted in the article too. And then, you know, we were able to leverage it and get it out to those other publications as well. So, that's just an example.
Amanda: What would you recommend other people do when they decide they want to pitch something? So, how did you go-- I mean, you've been in this industry for a while, so, you'd know who the big players are, right? But, you know, how does that process work?
Michelle: Well, I mean, you could take a look at, you know, in your industry, you know, what are the publications where you would like your content to be seen? And, you know, you don't want to start, you know, with maybe the top tier, but there are certainly, you know, no end of publications and industries that accept contributed content, accept contributed articles. You can turn your blog post into contributed article, and a lot of times, they will accept something, even if it's been published on your site, sometimes you want to start and publish it through them first, sometimes they'll have you do it that way. And then, some of them will allow you to republish it afterwards so, then you could even-- you could put it on your site, but you could also even publish it on LinkedIn or publish it on Medium, something like that. So, then you could have a couple of, you know, get a little bit more bang for your buck that way as well.
Amanda: And it kind of ties back to what you were saying about social media where, it's syndicated to Ragan because it was popular, right? And so, at the very least, social media, things get engagement, it's an authority signal; it shows other people like, "Oh, other people like this, so I probably will, too.".
Michelle: Yes, absolutely.
Amanda: That's something to keep in mind when people are trying to get justification for social, right? Like, benefits.
Michelle: Yeah. And if you're not sharing it at all, then you just have no opportunities at all. I mean, you know, like even if you just published a blog post and shared it on your social media and used hashtags that were relevant, somebody could pick it up, and you know, on their own or come to you and say, "May we use this? May we republish this in our newsletter, on our site?", or whatever. So, I think that, you know, that's like the very bare minimum, you know, the bottom that you can start with. So
Amanda: Definitely. So, are there any other methods that you recommend for amplifying content that's already been created?
Michelle: Well, I just think that every time you create a piece of content, you should be thinking, "How can I repurpose this?", and we were just-- I was on a live stream, I will call it, yesterday. It was a podcast with video, and we were discussing how great that is to repurpose because you can take snippets, you know, you could take audio snippets, you can pull quotes, you could take video snippets, you could turn it into a blog post. I mean, just think about all the things you can do, and then of course, all of that can go on social because you need to feed that social media machine, you know, every day. So, you know, there's just a lot you can do, usually. I mean, I think some are probably a little bit more limiting than other types of content but there's usually at least, I’d say a few ways you can probably repurpose it.
Amanda: Yeah, podcasting has been fun for me to experiment with that. I use Libsyn for hosting and they were promoting this tool Headliner, which I had never used and it takes the podcast audio and creates like, not a video, I mean, it kind of is, it shows like the audio fluctuations and stuff and it's just like so much more engaging than the way I've been doing it before. And I'm like, "You really can just repurpose this stuff in so many different ways.", and I think it's just time that keeps people from doing it to its full potential, you know, like, it's not that much time, but it's still added time. And in that line of thought, how do you think people can justify to themselves or to their team or whomever that this is a worthwhile endeavor?
Michelle: Well, one thing is, it's not a short-term reward. I mean, you have to be in it for the long-term, I believe, to really reap the benefits of, like many things, like we were saying, you know, make it easy is one principle, is very important in marketing. But the other is, you know, think about the long game, you know, don't just say, "Okay, we're going to do this for two months, and if it doesn't work...", you know, I see that with PR too. It's like, "Well, you know, we wrote a press release, we called a couple of media outlets, and nothing happens. So, it doesn't work.". Well, you know, you might not be giving it enough time, you might not be putting in enough effort, you know, so I think, think longer term about it. And then also, of course, you can measure, you know, and there are tools you know, you can use to do that, you can also do it by looking at Google Analytics to see where the traffic is being driven to your site, to see which platforms are more successful perhaps. And I had, I don't know if you know, Todd Cordell, but you know, he's kind of an SEO guy and analytics guy, and he just helped me a little bit with my own analysis, and I was surprised to see, you know, where the traffic was really coming from because I spent so much time on Twitter. But some of my traffic is, you know, being driven by Facebook too, which I don't spend nearly as much time on. So, it's just interesting to look at that, and that will give you some clues as to where you might want to increase your activity, decrease your activity, kind of retool a little bit. And, yeah.
Amanda: Yeah, I think it's a great point. There's so much in marketing, where if you don't give it an honest try, you won't see if it's actually going to work. Like, I can't imagine doing social for like, a week or two, and then being like, "Oh, we don't have 1000 followers yet.", you know, like, you have to actually give it a solid effort, otherwise, you'll have no idea if it would work or not.
Michelle: That's absolutely right. And I see people give up way too soon. And, you know, again, with a couple of tweaks, they could be successful. But I mean, I think people that are-- have been doing it a while are way ahead and that gets like, if you're just starting, that can be kind of daunting, but you shouldn't really let that stop you because everybody had to start somewhere, and if you don't start today, you know, you might, in six months be like, "Why didn't we start six months ago?", you know. So, I think that you just need to try a few things, then go back and look at, you know, how they're working, if they're working, and then kind of retool based on, you know, what your findings are.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. Checking back in on those analytics so, you don't take something for granted. Like, you said, you can kind of make assumptions or guesses, but the data is there so, you can go take a look. And like, that's interesting that you found out Facebook, you know, was a driver more than you're expected, because how would you know otherwise?
Michelle: No, I don't spend nearly as much time on my Facebook business page as I do on my Twitter or LinkedIn, and so, yeah.
Amanda: So, one of the questions I usually wrap these shows up with is, regarding getting buy-in. I like asking people is, what do you think is the biggest mistake people make when they have these conversations with their higher ups?
Michelle: I think you have to go in prepared, you can't just wing it and say, "Well, you know, I see that, you know, we've got, you know, 50 more followers than we had last month.", or you know, like, I think that the metrics are different now, and I think that execs want real numbers and real data. And I think that, sometimes to get that, you can do it yourself, of course, but I do think the tools can be helpful, you know, you can run a report, and you can take that to the meeting with you and show the results. And you can also see which content is more successful than other content, you know, it helps you understand maybe where you should be focusing more than, you know, on this rather than that, and that kind of thing.
Amanda: Yeah, it sounds like if you're taking careful looks at what channels are working best, you can use that to justify more investment in those channels, if you have those actual numbers.
Michelle: Absolutely. And of course, we haven't talked about paid social but that's another, you know, avenue to pursue once maybe you try some organic and maybe see how your success rate is, and then maybe you want to just try a very limited budget of, you know, trying some paid social to implement, you know, to kind of compliment, I want to say, that's what I wanted to say, compliment that. So
Amanda: What about email? Have you used a lot of email as part of your promo for the blog posts?
Michelle: Well, I personally do not do that; I know clients that do it. I mean, I have clients that will use a blog post in every possible way, and I mean, I applaud that to a degree as long as it's not like, you know, overdone. But I mean, if you have a newsletter, why not, you know, put a link to it or a blurb and a link in the newsletter, that's something else, you know, I think is very valuable, and another way to repurpose your content is, if you don't have one, start a newsletter and start your list, even before you launch the newsletter. Start building your list, you know, again, today, don't wait on that.
Amanda: Yeah, definitely. So, the last question I always ask is, knowing the objective of the show, who would you recommend to be guests on future episodes?
Michelle: Well, I mentioned Todd, I don't know if you knew Todd.
Amanda: That's true, I don't know Todd.
Michelle: I would make that introduction; he would be great. He's a CM world, CMI guy, and he's on the chats a lot, and we've met in person now at the conference as well. But he helps companies with SEO and analytics and marketing strategy, and he has some specific niches that he kind of specializes in. But I think he would be a really fun and valuable guest.
Amanda: Awesome. Yeah, I'd love that intro. I feel like he's one of those people I've seen a lot on social but haven't interacted with. Well, thank you so much for taking the time Michelle, it was a pleasure.
Michelle: Thank you so much for having me, Amanda.