The Art of Storytelling for Business

onceuponatimeA presentation from NewsCred reported that 78% of CMO’s think custom content is the future of marketing, and 86% of B2C marketers and 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing. These are pretty impressive numbers, but regardless of the exact numbers, we know that content marketing is important. (You’ve read our other blog posts, right?!) So the next questions is: what kind of content works? What should you spend your time working on?

Content that tells a story: engage and make emotional connections. 

One of the latest marketing buzzwords is storytelling. Why do we love books and movies? Because they tell us a story, they make us feel something – they make us care. Stories help create a connection, which is powerful in the marketing world. Once a connection is made, your audience could buy something, donate money, or assist with your goal in some way.

Stories don’t have to be daunting – they happen every day. The hard part is trying to figure out how to tell and share that story. I saw a video today about a dog trying to be brought into his kennel and he was huffing and barking what sounded like “no.” Viewers were easily able to understand what was happening and relate to this dog. Haven’t you ever been supposed to get out of bed and do something and just want to say no?

One of the best examples of storytelling to fulfill a marketing objective is Kickstarter or Indiegogo or any of the other internet fundraising machines. These websites force users to tell a story about who they are and what they want to do. They recommend using deals, but also keeping people updating about the process and developments behind the scenes. They are marketing themselves “face-to-face” to reach their goal and many are insanely successful.

Over the past few years we’ve grown accustomed to talking with businesses online. Whether you are writing a long piece of content or a short status update on Twitter, businesses need to share things that will resonate with their audience. Business content is shared on social media within a larger framework of stories and pictures from friends, so when given the chance to share that content, it needs to be compelling and original or it will be swiped to the sideline.

Think of all the TED Talks or speeches that have moved you to action (or want to take action). They have powerful stories in them that create metaphors for change. If you are having trouble creating a story about your business, try out the Pixar pitch from the book To Sell is Human by Dan Pink. The script helps you discover the storyline in your business:

Once upon a time there was _________. Every day _________. One day _________. Because of that _________. Because of that _________. Until finally _________.

 Take some time to discover how that story reads for you. When this narrative begins, your company might not exist, but you were able to discover something that needed to be changed. Then you worked to problem solve and create something out of nothing.

Everyone has a story to tell. Practice telling your story using words, images and video and see what you come up with! If your business has a good story to tell, please share it within the comments.



Medium: Blogging Platform for Writers and Editors

We talk a lot about blogging and content creation on this blog as it is important to share your stories through conversational marketing and maintain fresh content on your site to assist with your search rankings. There are several types of blogging platforms – WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, to name a few – but in this blog post I want to spend some time introducing you to Medium.

If you haven’t heard of, you aren’t alone. Although the platform, Medium, launched in October 2012, it is still a new platform. Medium is a blogging platform developed by the co-founder of Blogger and Twitter, Evan Williams. Blogging began as a tool for writers to share their thoughts, then with the wave of social networks, like Twitter and Instagram, short social images and messages became popular for sharing. Medium aims to meld both of these ideas and mix writers together with a social aspect.

A place for both amateur and professional writers, Medium organizes the writing within collections and user recommendations. Medium boasts a gorgeous online editor tool and online reading format that is clean and modern. Take a look at one of the posts to see how the story scrolls down the page. It’s a connected and collaborative platform that even tells you the average length of time each article will take to read!

Collaborative Editing

What also sets Medium apart from other blogging platforms is that there are opportunities to ask other writers for edits before and after each work is published. While the author is always in charge of what is seen publicly, readers and other writers can offer feedback and ideas using notes. Created for both positive and negative feedback, as well as general commentary, notes can help writers with their work – either through spelling or through insight into a different perspective.

Content Promotion

Writing is a learning process and Medium places a strong focus on the words on the page, not with how popular you are outside of your work.

Williams writes, “We think great ideas can come from anywhere and should compete on their own merits. On Medium, you can contribute often or just once in a blue moon, without the commitment of a blog… Through a combination of algorithmic and editorial curation, posts on Medium get spread around based on interest and engagement. Some get hundreds of thousands of readers — and not because they were written by famous people. Medium is not about who you are or whom you know, but about what you have to say.”

Get Involved

Medium isn’t a standalone blog that requires you to post every day or every week. You can write on it if you want, but you can also read articles, leave notes for authors, and recommend the works you like. The homepage is a great place to start to find links to editor’s picks of interesting content, as well as what is trending at the moment. Are you intrigued? Did you set up an account yet? I’d love to see what you’ve written – share it below and I’ll take a look!

3 Content Marketing Resolutions for 2014

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.


Can you believe that we are almost finished with 2013? Time just keeps trucking along and we’re already in the season of New Year’s Resolutions. While you never need to wait for a new year to try new things or revisit your goals, this is the time of year set aside for revisiting what was accomplished in the past year and planning for the next year, as Oprah Winfrey says, quoted above. Goals, as stated by Lululemon, “inspire you to do the work, excite and even scare you, and are specific, measurable and written in the present tense.” I’m sure we all have different personal goals – from flossing to eating right – but I’d like to share a few content marketing resolutions for you for 2014 at this time. Feel free to use them, adjust them, or share your own in the comments!

1.  In 2014, I use social media daily and engage in each of the networks of which I am a member.

Social media is a legitimate channel for conversations and shared social content. With successful networks, like Facebook and Twitter, that are trading publicly, social media is proving itself to be far from a fad. If you don’t have social media channels set up yet, get those set up for your business and listen to what people are talking about. Engage authentically. If you don’t know where to start, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest are some of the top networks. Depending on your goals and audience, Tumblr, Instagram, Vimeo, Vine and YouTube are other channels to explore. (You aren’t just limited to those either!)

Resolve to use social media daily to share, but also to engage in conversations – ask questions and find out what your audience is interested in. This easy access to focus groups allows you to learn what your audience is looking for and take your business to the next level!

2. In 2014, I create engaging, informative content that tells a story and answers the right questions.

Google (and other search engines) love websites with unique, relevant content that is posted frequently. (New content sends signals to Google to come back and check out your site more often.) Blogs are a perfect opportunity to add fresh content about your company or industry. Resolve to set up a schedule for blogging and curate a list of topics that answer questions you’ve heard from customers or found online. Engaging and sharable content helps promote your business and drive increased traffic to your site due to the inbound links and higher search rankings.

Determining who is responsible for the content creation is important. Business owners realize the importance of having a dedicated team tasked with creating authentic, compelling content. Whether the writers are hired in house or not depends on the needs of each business.

3. In 2014, I improve my mobile website and blog experience.

Resolve to share great content (goal #2) on social media (goal #1) on an up-to-date mobile experience (goal #3).

Mobile has been one of the top focuses for marketers for the past two years, so as we transition to 2014, it is imperative for your business to have a successfully-designed mobile presence. Whether you are an online or offline business, people are looking for you online and a poor website experience could turn away business if things don’t load properly or appear in a clear way.

Resolve to take a look at your website on the iPhone and Android operating systems and their respective browsers, along with several iPad and tablet devices. Do your blog posts format correctly when shared on social media? Do you have to scroll left-to-right to see the full screen? Are buttons super difficult to click? Check out responsive web design over separate mobile sites as the size of the page and content will automatically adjust based on the size of the device. User experience is so important and can ruin even the greatest content and authentic conversation.

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been…”

Share your other content marketing goals in the comments below!

LinkedIn: Does it Matter?

With over 259 million users, LinkedIn is no small social network. Considered the top professional networking and job search site, LinkedIn is a useful tool for both professionals and businesses to share their talents, experiences, and references. LinkedIn is also a goldmine for business news and discussions as users and businesses share articles and stories aggregated across the web on one platform. Sounds like LinkedIn matters to me!

A powerful tool for marketing yourself and your business, LinkedIn allows for numerous opportunities to showcase yourself and your products to gain contacts that can lead to future jobs or clients. In this post, I’ll explore highlights of personal profiles, as well as company profiles that are key to presenting yourself in the best light.

Key Features of Your Personal Profile

It’s important to optimize your personal LinkedIn profile by filling in every section as completely as possible. This will help manage your online reputation by optimizing your profile for your name and skill set.

Recommendationslinkedin recommedations

LinkedIn recommendations are important for LinkedIn users who are either trying to secure a new job or a potential client by showing off some of your highlights. Recommendations are the LinkedIn equivalent of references and I recommend personally requesting recommendations from those who you have a strong relationship. In that note, ask your reference to give a specific example, if possible, so the recommendation holds more weight. In my opinion, Recommendations are much stronger than the Skills section since anyone can give you props for a skill even if they have never worked with you in that area.

Professional PortfolioLinkedIn Professional Portfolio

LinkedIn’s portfolio feature is a great way to showcase your professional experience using rich visual content. Key areas of this great imagery tool are in your LinkedIn summary, experience, and education sections. Types of content that can be added are photos, videos, presentations and audio recordings. Here is the official list of approved providers, like SlideShare and Spotify.

Key Features of Your Company Page

Again, it’s important to fill in every section as completely as possible to provide the story of your business in a visual and concise manner to show your business in a positive light.

Company UpdatesDell - Best LinkedIn Page of 2013

When sharing posts from your company page, share useful tidbits of information to grab your readers attention. Also, sharing information about your corporate culture helps readers connect to your brand, which is helpful in growing brand ambassadors. Companies, like Dell, one of LinkedIn’s best company pages of 2013, “doesn’t bury the lead” when they share status updates. “Companies with snappy intros catch the eye and get better engagement.” Check out some of the other top pages of 2013 here.

Use Visual ContentFour Seasons Visual Content with References

Rich media and visual content doesn’t end with your personal page. With Company Pages, you can create large image (and clickable!) headers, as well as individual icons for each product and service you offer. There are also several places within your page where you can include short videos to engage your visitor.

So to answer the question, does it matter? Yes. Yes, LinkedIn does matter. Comment with your success stories below.

Tales of Failed Google Social Networks

With every successful social media network (think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), there is a social media network flop. You might have trouble remembering the ones that didn’t make it since you may have never heard of them or heard of them only in passing. What makes a social network take off and what makes a flop? The best social networks make sharing with the people you want to share with easy. There are ways to easily identify privacy (although this is a touchy subject with Facebook) and it is clear how to share. Connections are made and users have fun playing with the different settings. To me this describes the social networks I enjoy using. When planning for new social networks, it’s not that this isn’t considered, but for one reason or another, timing isn’t right and the network doesn’t take off.

In this post, I’ll share a few Google social network flops and my opinion about what didn’t work with each. There may be more opinions on why each network was passed over by the masses, so please share your opinions below in the comments. I’d also love to hear what you think makes a social network stick.

Google Buzz

BuzzWasn’t this essentially Twitter? Yes! (at least that is what it felt like) Launched in 2010, Buzz was the social network that worked in tandem with other sharing tools, alongside your email contacts. Using Buzz, you could share to networks including, Twitter, FriendFeed, YouTube, and Blogger. It even integrated so that you could like an article on Google Reader straight from your Gmail account or mobile. Poor privacy control, alongside the idea that users want to share social content with their email contacts, quickened Buzz’s demise. Just days after Buzz launched, Gmail users realized their email contact lists were public without their consent (they never explicitly signed up for Buzz). This sparked a giant privacy controversy that caused many to not even give Buzz a shot. Google ended up in a lawsuit and paid a fine to the tune of $8.5 million. Lesson learned: keep privacy policies clear and make sure users understand the goal of the network.

Google Orkut

OrkutOrkut could have been Facebook. It even could have been Google+, but it never had that chance in the United States. Facebook launched a month after Orkut in 2004 and the rest is history. Orkut is the social network of Brazil and India, however. So timing didn’t ruin everything, although Facebook has been gaining in traction for a while now in those countries. If you visit and are logged into your Google account, you can check it out. Feels like an outdated Google+ to me!

Google Dodgeball

DodgeBallAcquired in 2005 by Google, Dodgeball was ahead of its time. Essentially a mobile check-in service,  users weren’t ready for mobile location awareness. In 2005, we weren’t using our cell phones like we are now and people may not have understood the value of sharing places and locations with others. Google shut down this service in 2009 and replaced it with Google Latitude (which if you weren’t aware, was shut down in August of this year). Also, in 2009, the founder of Dodgeball created FourSquare and the mobile check-in app took off like wildfire (which coincidentally, is another name of a social product acquired by Google).

What do you think?

Would you have thought these products would have lasted for such a short time? Why did they not make it and others did? Share your opinions by commenting below!

Six Pinterest Tips for Business

With Pinterest’s roll out of promoted pins last month, I figure it’s time to revisit Pinterest as a tool for business. Pinterest will test sponsored pins for a while, and I’m sure they will roll out more options and features to advertisers in the future. In the meantime, here are six tips for improving your Pinterest presence, which can lead to increased traffic, sales and leads!

While Pinterest easily makes sense for food, clothing and events, Pinterest-ers share all images, so get creative with your brand! Teachers are sharing classroom worksheets, marketers are sharing infographics and news outlets are sharing memorable quotes from their published content.

1.    Connect your Social Media Accounts

By connecting your Pinterest account with your Facebook and Twitter account, you can tweet pins to followers and show what you are pinning in your Facebook friends’ feeds. This allows followers on Facebook and Twitter to easily see what you are sharing and by clicking can repin or follow you on Pinterest, gaining followers from your other networks. For brands that aren’t run by a specific person, do note that it is not yet possible to connect a Facebook business page to the account.

I recommend including a link to your Pinterest (and all other social media accounts) in your Facebook about section, as well.

2. Write a Keyword-Friendly About Section

Once a user decides to check out your page, the About section is the first thing they see – and the main section you have to describe yourself in words rather than images. You can write up to 200 characters (just over that Twitter bio you so carefully crafted). Bonus: This section is indexed by Google and the other search engines, so include your focus keywords here. You can also include your geographic location, which is helpful if you do have a storefront that people can visit.

3. Follow Other People/Brands To Grow your Reach

When users are followed or their images are repinned, they may be alerted. They will also see that you follow them in their follower list and may be likely to follow you back, growing your reach. Start by following influencers in your industry, brands you have worked with, and people you already know.

If you connected your social media accounts (as mentioned in my first point), Pinterest has made it easier to find your friends and connect with them. Click on your name in the top right corner of Pinterest and then select Find Friends to find friends and followers from other networks to follow on Pinterest.

If you are looking to find new people with similar interests or influencers in a certain industry, search for one of your focus keywords. Pinterest will show you pinners, boards and pins that contain this keyword. Then, begin following people and boards who share similar pins to what you share and plan to share. Some of these people will follow you back, which is an excellent way to grow brand awareness and follower count!

4. Create Relevant Boards and Post Useful Pins (and place the best ones near the top!)

Since Pinterest is a great way to drive traffic to the site, share relevant images and pins on your focused boards. (Tip: If you only have one or two images to share on a board, maybe you aren’t ready to create that board yet.) Boards that are positioned at the top of your page will receive the most views, so take time to craft the order of your boards. I love how Pottery Barn – in the image above – has repositioned their boards to highlight the upcoming holidays. They know that their audience is looking for ways to celebrate and decorate for Thanksgiving, so their first two boards are Thanksgiving themed (and include those keywords for improved searching!) Also, note that their boards stay focused on their theme – you won’t see a winter craft pop up on their Thanksgiving board!

By creating focused boards, you are more easily able to keep with your brand image. Don’t think though, that you can’t create a few boards that are outside the box! Show some personality with your boards and pins and like with all social media, share other content and products. (If you are scared of copyright issues, maybe having a group board could take some of the ownership issues away) By sharing useful content from other authoritative sources, you increase your authority and make it more likely a follower will return to you for more information.

To keep content fresh and to stay visible for users who visit the site at different times of the day, try your best to post at regular intervals. If you use Pinterest frequently (and are like me), you may get annoyed when one person has repinned a bunch and is hogging your home page!

5.Update Your Website with Pinterest buttons

Now that your Pinterest page is a rockstar, it’s important to let your website visitors know you are pinning! Pinterest has created several different options for your website and I recommend considering how they can be integrated onto your site. The Pin It Button reminds people to pin images from your website onto their Pinterest pages; the Follow Button lets visitors follow you from the comfort of your website; the Pin Widget allows you to embed one of your pins on your site; the Profile Widget allows you to show up to 30 of your latest pins on your website; and the Board Widget allows you to show up to 30 of your favorite board’s latest pins. These options let you show your users you are located on Pinterest and pinning great stuff, which will generate traffic to your Pinterest page and back to your website.

6. Always measure!

It’s always fun to jump right in to a new social tool without a game plan, right? Sometimes. While you take time to craft how you are going to use the tool, remember to take time to figure out how you are going to measure your efforts. Why spend 4 hours a day on Pinterest if you aren’t gaining any traction for your brand? With the following tools, you have more options to build and measure your campaign.

Pinterest Analytics:

As a verified business Pinterest page, Pinterest allows you to use the free analytics tool. This tool is fairly basic, but you can track how many people are pinning from your website, viewing your pins and clicking your pins. Through this information you can see what pins are getting the most pins and who those influences are, which can inform your Pinterest strategy so you don’t waste a lot of time on images or information people aren’t thinking about.


If you have some money to spare, this paid tool allows you to respond to interactions through the platform, as well as schedule pins, which allows you to be more efficient and plan out your week. Other options with this platform are monitoring keywords for sentiment and purchase intent and create visual promotions. The Curalate dashboard allows you to measure entrants, impressions, organic growth, your top images and your ROI.

Does your business use Pinterest as part of the marketing strategy?

Pinterest is an awesome visual marketing channel and a great way to organically convert followers and brand ambassadors. It’s responsible for the majority of traffic for many brand websites through  unique storytelling. I’d love to hear your success stories and challenges with Pinterest! Have contests worked for your brand? Have you tested group boards? Do you comment on pins or mention people in posts? Which of your pins get the most shares? Share your stories and questions below.

The Who, What, and When of Content Marketing

Let’s face it. Content marketing is a challenge. There never seems to be enough time and really, what exactly is content marketing?

According to Content Marketing Institute, “content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action… The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”

Without content, marketing is close to impossible as quality content is key to successful marketing tactics. Without content, what do you share on social media? Without content, how do search engines consistently find your site? Without content, how do you address consumer issues? Content marketing is the way to bring those quality customers to your website and build your brand presence, generating loyal consumers.

This all sounds wonderful, but put into practice, is a lot harder to implement. Below I’ll share 3 challenges facing content marketing and a few ways to address those challenges:

1.     Who is going to write this content?

Depending on the size of your business, you may have someone in the marketing position that can fill this role and be in charge of leading content creation. However, many employees in small businesses are already busy enough and don’t have the time to allocate to an additional responsibility. Take a look at the subject matter experts in your company and see if they can assist in this process – providing quotes, doing a quick interview – or take a look to see if the content could be outsourced to help create enough quality material.

2.     What is this content going to be about?

To know this, take some time to understand your buyer personas. Buyer persona is a fancy way of saying your customer and prospective customer base. For example, if you run a print shop, you may have several buyer personas including brides to be who need wedding invitations to executives who need large scale printing for corporate events. Provide information that will help these personas and you will show yourself as a subject matter expert who they can trust and go to for more information.

3.     When is this content going to be published?

This is a very common challenge when it comes to content marketing – everyone has their own schedules and determining who is to curate content and what the content will be about is time consuming. Without the right resources, content marketing can seem exhausting. Overcome this challenge by creating a content marketing editorial and production calendar. At WordWorks, we use one to direct this blog, as well as other client scheduling. That way we know who is working on what and when the drafts and final products are due.

Now that I’ve shared a few challenges facing content marketing, I’d love to hear if you share these same challenges and what other challenges you face (and ways you’ve found to overcome these challenges!)