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Top MarketingSherpa Blog Posts of 2013: 10 lessons in social media, content and email marketing

December 26th, 2013
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After tallying up the number of times our audience shared posts, social media, content and email marketing are the areas to receive the most tweets from your peers. That means inbound marketing as a whole once again reigned supreme on the MarketingSherpa Blog, earning 10 of the top 15 spots of 2013. We’ll break down these three areas with key lessons we can learn and apply to our efforts in the new year.

And, since this list is all about the tweets, we’ll include some interesting ones about select posts. Carry on to learn the top 10 lessons of 2013.

 

Social Media Lessons

Lesson #1. Adapt your social content so that it is appropriate for each social media platform 

In his post, “Social Media Marketing: Which type of content is appropriate for different platforms?” Jonathan Greene, Business Intelligence Manager, MECLABS, used an unusual set of analogies to help marketers understand what tone and content to use on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read this post to learn about the personality each platform has, and how you can effectively put them to work.

 

Lesson #2. Be able to answer why customers should like or follow you

When it comes to social media buttons, you should ask yourself why your customers should follow you. This can be a tougher question for companies that aren’t natural content producers.

You must provide some value for customers in exchange for the privilege to show up in their newsfeed. Value can be ongoing, like exclusive discounts just for Twitter followers, or a one-time opportunity, such as a chance to win a prize.

Read more about this question, and three others, in the post, “Social Media Marketing: 4 questions to ask yourself about social media buttons.” You can also use value proposition to better answer this question, as described by Jonathan Greene in this post, “Social Media Marketing: Why should I like or follow you?

 

Lesson #3. Add visual elements to your social media content

While a quote is just words, it doesn’t mean you can’t bring a visual component to the content. The New York Public Library created graphics for an already popular content type –  celebrity quotes – to create a social media campaign with impressive results. Learn more about its efforts from Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS: “Social Media Marketing: How New York Public Library increased card sign-ups by 35%.”

Interestingly, it seems this post was the most shared on Twitter for certain individuals:

 

Lesson #4. Go beyond the “like” to track your social media success

David Kirkpatrick, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS, broke down a chart covering social media marketing metrics tracking in the post, “Social Media Marketing: Social metrics from “likes” to ROI.” While social reach (e.g., “likes”) tops the list, some marketers are also measuring ROI, leads and conversion. See what other metrics your peers are using to benchmark success in their organizations.

 

Content Marketing Lessons

Lesson #5. Analyze your blog to identify areas for improvement

There are a lot of elements that make up your blog. When was the last time you stood back to evaluate if all of those pieces were working as well as they could?

In his post, “Content Marketing: An 8-point analysis for your blog,” Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, explained the eight points on which to focus your evaluation. From the frequency of your posts and their titles, to author bios and social media integration, you could have untapped potential waiting to be found.

 

Lesson #6. Use WordPress, or any tool, to its fullest potential

No matter what channel or platform you’re using, you want to get all you can out of it. For the post, “Content Marketing: 5 tips for WordPress blogging,” Erin Hogg, Copy Editor, MECLABS, broke down some ways she’s learned to improve a WordPress blog. Learn how to cross promote media with embedding, use basic HTML to improve the look and feel of a post, and more.

 

Lesson #7. Implement (and stick with) a style for your content

AP? Chicago? MLA? APA? There are many established styles, and one might work as-is for your organization. You could decide to create your own.  At MECLABS, we use the Associated Press Style Book as our foundation and supplement it with a set of our own guidelines.

No matter which direction you choose, it’s important to stick with the guide for all of your content. Having well-proofed and consistent content adds to the credibility of your content and builds the authority of your brand.

Erin Hogg explained this and other tips in her post, “Content Marketing: 7 copy editing tips to improve any content piece.”

 

Email Marketing Lessons

Lesson #8. Don’t forget about current customers when designing triggered email campaigns

In the post, “Email Marketing: 3 overlooked aspects of automated messages,” Daniel Burstein said nurturing current customers is one of the most overlooked automated email opportunities. He shared a list of triggered email types you can implement to strengthen relationships with you customers, including product education and upselling.

This post also features two other overlooked aspects of automated emails: customer lifetime value and the gap between what marketers should do and what they actually do.

 

Lesson #9. Test your emails to discover what really works for your audience

You could be using every best practice you’ve come across, but unless you know it’s best for your specific audience, then it might not be the practice you should be using. Testing lets you know what your audience best engages with.

Justin Bridegan, former Senior Marketing Manager, MECLABS, explained how testing revealed two segments of the MarketingSherpa email list prefer different email lengths. Read on to learn his other tips in the post, “Email Marketing: What I’ve learned from writing almost 1,000 emails for MarketingSherpa.”

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Content Marketing: 5 tips for WordPress blogging

May 28th, 2013
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When I joined the MECLABS team in January, I was fully aware I would soon become best friends with WordPress. I truly believe WordPress is one of the most efficient ways to put out great content that not only looks polished, but is very simple to use.

Clarity is extremely important when it comes to content, so producing blog posts a reader can understand relies heavily on how it is displayed.

A blog post with photos in random places, sections without a subhead and discussing a process without the use of photos to accompany text are just a few of the millions of ways a reader can get lost in your message.

However, these are all elements you can control.

Here are five tips and tricks I’ve learned to improve a WordPress blog …

 

Tip #1: Use invisible tables for side-by-side comparisons

Sometimes, if you have just one image in a blog post, you can get away with setting it on the left, right or even in the center of text. This works great especially if your image can stand alone. However, if you have two images (a before and after example, etc.), it is definitely worth taking the extra time to craft an invisible table and place your photos into the code.

Here is an example from the MarketingSherpa blog post in which I placed two examples of an email side by side for easier comparison.

 

As you can see, placing the two images next to each other works well in this case. If they were placed one on top of the other, the reader would lose the before and after effect of the email. I would also recommend adding a caption to the photo, if the meaning without it is not very clear.

Coding an invisible table in HTML is an easy process that takes just a few tweaks. You want to start by uploading your images into the WordPress Media Library. Then, within the actual post, switch from the visual editor to the HTML editor. Next, paste the below code where you want your table to be:

<table style=”border: none;” cellspacing=”10″>
<tbody>
<tr style=”border: none;”>
<td style=”border: none; vertical-align: middle;”><a href=”FILE URL 1“><img class=” wp-image-11378 ” title=”IMAGE TITLE 1” src=”FILE URL” alt=”” width=”xxx” height=”xxx” /></a>CAPTION</td>
<td style=”border: none; vertical-align: middle;”><a href=”FILE URL 2“><img class=” wp-image-11379 ” title=”IMAGE  TITLE 2” src=”FILE URL 2” alt=”” width=”xxx” height=”xxx” /></a>CAPTION</td>
<td style=”border: none; vertical-align: middle;”></td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>

 

Now for the important part. Go back to the Media Library, select “edit” for the image you uploaded, and copy the File URL provided. Paste that URL into your first table box, and return to the upload gallery to grab the image title.

Be mindful if what you’re putting into the table does not match the upload information, it will not work.

Once you put the image title in, you will once again need to put in the same image URL. Finally, include the dimensions of the image, indicated by “xxx” in the example above. There is no need to change “wp-image” number.

Repeat this process for other photos you want to put into the table. It is also easy to make a third or fourth photo in the table: simply copy one of the table boxes, which is the code in between “<td style… and </td>,” and paste it into the code.

 

Tip #2: Use padding around images to separate from text

When using smaller images, a design that works well is to nestle the photo to the right or left of text. For example, this blog post used a small image placed to the left of the text.

Sometimes, if you put in an image, it may be too close to the text, or might cause strange separation of the text. For example, you might have a lost bullet point separated from the list, or maybe a few words orphaned from the rest of the sentence it belongs to tucked away under an image. To fix this problem, play with the vertical and horizontal space of the image to place the text into a desirable format.

In this MarketingExperiments blog entry, the original design plan was to have images larger in size, centered and acting as separators between paragraphs.

However, with multiple images, it is easier on the eyes and for the reader to have them neatly in the margins, sized smaller, but with the ability to be viewed larger once clicked.

 

Plus, for a post containing steps, having smaller images adds a level of clarity as the reader can fully see the steps in the subheader and the steps of testing, all without having to scroll all over the page.

For the first image, it was necessary to add a horizontal space to the right of the photo so the bullet points would not overlap over the image. This was done after the photo was uploaded and set into the appropriate spot to the left of the bullet points.

Vertical spacing is also a great and easy way to make sure there is enough space above and below the image.

One important tip to note is moderation is key – you don’t want to have an image on the left and an image on the right back to back in the body of your content. Try keeping a series of images or photos all on the same side of the page if they are in close proximity of each other.

Then, by selecting the image in the visual editor and selecting Advanced Settings, you can add any amount of space into the options. Here is what I used:

 

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