Everyone is not well-versed in blogging and nor should they be. Your main objective, to say what you have to say. To give advice, sell your product. or whatever you do best. My objective, to help you know how to get them to read it. So as your write your post, be sure to keep these tips in mind.

Blogging tips that'll get them reading.
Blogging tips that’ll get them reading.
  1. Write about something your audience cares about. We often make the mistake of writing what we care about only. Well, what if no one else care?  If you’re a makeup guru, the majority of what you talk about should be makeup and fashion and not about what you did at school, unless you’re going to school for beauty and fashion. Similarly, if your audience is into gaming, the latest MAC beauty products shouldn’t be at the heart of your discussion – even if you are into beauty products.
  2. Write from your heart. There’s nothing more painful nor more dishonest than writing what you think they want to hear. Real content and authentic passion can only be conveyed when it comes from the heart.
  3. Capture their attention at the beginning. Start with a short story, statistic, or anecdote that the reader can relate to to capture interest. Then
  4. Select a title that captures your audience but is also SEO-friendly. Your title is crucial as it’s used to entice the reader. And it needs to be SEO-friendly because you want to entice the search engines.
  5. Make it plain. A blog is not a scholarly journal and your readers shouldn’t have to feel as if they’re looking to obtain their post-graduate degree by reading your blog. Even if the topic is more academic or advanced by nature, be weary of using terms that may trip them up or stop them from reading all together. Just because the topic is of interest doesn’t mean your audience is well-versed in the jargon.
  6. Use formatting and bullet points to draw interest to key points. I’ve said this many times and I say it again. This helps draw the eyes to important points to those with short attention spans (ahem, me).
  7. Get to the point and keep it short. Eliminate unnecessary works and back off the fluff. We get it. You like to play on words. Well, your readers like their time. There’s a time to be clever and a time to simply say
  8. Choose good pictures. While not even close to the most important pat of the blog, pictures add a visual element to a blog, breaking up the redundancy of the black and white. (Even wonder why people like to read magazines? Nothing scientific, but based on my 2 cents, I would say the images are why.) Start here for free pics.
  9. Vary the type of content you publish. Blogs don’t always have to be words. Think about embedding a video or maybe an all picture blog post. Reading is not everyone’s thing. Video engages the visual and audio learner. And pictures are just a good way to convey information differently.
  10. Provide the audience with a glimpse of your personality. People relate to people, and the words on the page have a way of conveying who you are. Leverage your uniqueness to add flavoring that only you can do. While there may be many who provide similar services, there’s only one you. Use that to your advantage.

Until next time

RP

Confused Man
That moment when you just want to get to the point.

In the corporate world, there is not a day that goes by where someone says something that says something that makes you want to smack them. And you want to smack them because you have to pull out the thesaurus to have even the most remote idea of what they are talking about. These things are so over your head that you feel like either you didn’t spend enough time on vocab or they are just trying to prove something. (Don’t believe me? Go to learnings.org, where the tagline is “Where corporate speak goes to die”.)

I feel that when someone says something so over your head, or as we like to say, use “big words”, they just don’t know what they are talking about. On the other hand, if they can take the time to break it down to the layman, then they have a great understanding of the subject…in and out. There’s no longer the need to impress. Instead, there’s a need to communicate.

The same is true for blogging. We get it. Your subject is deep or super creative or super geeky. Whatever the case is, while your audience may share the interest, their passion and level of understanding isn’t as deep as yours. In fact, that’s why they’re reading your blog; to learn and gain a greater understanding of the topic at hand. In this case, the last thing you want to do is use language that they don’t yet – and maybe don’t care to – understand. And if you can’t communicate on their level, you’ve lost them.

People have zero desire to get tripped up over terms, and they won’t waste their time on a site that makes them think about the words too hard. They want to gain information in the easiest manner possible. And if you’ve failed at speaking plain English, you lose them.

Instead, tell stories, use examples, and paint pictures that they can relate to. This approach much more palatable. It’ll leave a pleasant taste in their mouth, and they may even come back for more. And you once again are hailed as the genius you already know you are.

Until next time.

Live, love, prosper.

Regina

  1. Pinterest is the hot new thing, and we’re already effing it up, putting our little greasy paws in it. And we’re not going to stop until the next fad comes along.
  2. Competition is only a click away. That’s why we try to make sure you don’t EVER leave our site.
  3. We have a very short window to capture your attention and get you to take action. If we can get you to do this…shazaam, we’ve done our job.
  4. People are still scared to make transactions online…so umm yeah, the site better be secure.
  5. Design does make a difference…so get it right…or pay someone to get it right for you.
  6. In real estate it’s “location, location, location.” In content marketing it’s “ease of use, ease of use, ease of use.”
  7. Communicate quickly and clearly. No one is going to read through all the mess.
  8. There is an information hierarchy, but I’d have to kill you if I told you (j/k…that’s just kidding for you who still haven’t mastered those darn acronyms).
  9. We can smell a template, blog, and self-developed website from far away…so if you do it yourself, make sure you implement best practices. Otherwise…busted!
  10. I’m only on Facebook because you are.
  11. Twitter…how can I get them to my site in 140 characters or less?
  12. Social media isn’t the end all be all, but it’s free and EVERYONE is pining for it.
  13. A deep link is the best link. Don’t link a user to a destination and make them search for the information. That’s kinda rude.
  14. People die to hear these words: widget, flash, iWhatever, app, user-experience, user interface, HTML, code, CSS, SEO, SEM, social media, facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest, blog, Instagram, interactive, engaging, conversion…and the list goes on. Load your conversation with these words, and you’re instantly the smartest thing since the person who invented slice bread.

What’s prompting this message, you may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. As the Internet becomes increasing accessible and website templates become more and more popular, there are many who, with good intention, decide it’s a great idea to create a website. The issue with this is 1) they’re not a designer, 2) they’re not user experience experts, and 3) they have no clue how content plays a role in the design and execution of a website. However, they do feel it’s a good idea to create a website and make it public to the world.

If the website you created is for personal use, this message is not for you. However, to ANYONE who decides that they are executing a website as part of a reputable business endeavor, I urge you to read this message.

I don’t claim to be the best designer, developer, or content specialist. However, after working in the dot com business for a number of years, I do consider myself to be a darn good content expert and definitely well-versed enough to give the layman advice that will expose common knowledge within the industry and will encourage further research.

So, without further or due, here are some no-nos to put into your arsenal.

1) Don’t design pages in such a way that it distracts the user. While colors are great and fun, there is a fine line between fun and messy. In addition, too many images leads to clutter, while too little may make the page look very barren.

2) Don’t put music on your site without CLEARLY providing the user with a way to pause, mute or stop it. Simply because you love that song or style of music doesn’t mean your user will.

3) Don’t use fun fonts. Stick with the basics such as Arial, Calibri, Georgia, Franklin Gothic Book, Century Gothic, or Times New Roman. These fonts are much easier to consumer by the reader, and thus less distracting. If you do have the urge to use some of the more “fun” fonts, limit the use to parts of an image. By all means, stay away from Comic Sans; it’s a huge joke in the industry.

4) Don’t neglect getting a custom domain. It’ll make it much easier for users to get to your site. reginapatterson.com is much easier to remember than yoursite.com/reginapatterson-2736243845

5) Don’t use animated GIFs. This is so 1990s. Do like Nancy Regan said…”just say no.”

6) Don’t design a site without a goal in mind. Know what ultimately want your audience to do. This should guide what you put on your site and how you organize that information. If you want them to buy something, you should make it easy to find and purchase products. If you want them to register for an event, you should make it easy to register.

7) Don’t design a page without doing research. Research those sites that have been professionally vs. personally designed, and research sites of organizations that are similar to your organization. This should give direction and ideas on how you should proceed with your site.

This week, today, in fact, I was presented with some of the most wonderful, awesome information that I just decided to pass it on. It speaks volumes as to why so many websites area pretty, yet lack the means to make you engage. It denotes how why the functionality is there, but it still does get the job done. It speaks volumes on why social media is a big deal, yet many have a hard time using it for thier business. It even speaks to the fact of the importance of continuously thinking out-of-the-box, but with a strategy to go along with it. And finally, most important of all, this post outlines the fact that SO MANY DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT A CONTENT STRATEGIST IS!

Maybe after reading, you’ll be just as frustrated and yet invigorated as I am. As someone who specializes in content, merging the worlds of advertising, marketing, design, development, and the ever moving world of technology, this only solidifies the need for specialists as such to help businesses reach their goals. And, it’s not going anywhere honey, so you may as well jump on the horse,  embrace it, and enjoy the ride. (Thanks for this one @TechTwinks. It’s a goodie.)

Read the post: Speaker Interview: Karen McGrane | Do It With Drupal.

Live, love , prosper,

Regina R. Patterson, M.B.A.

Bringing you the secrets they don’t want you to know

I remember when MySpace was the talk of the town. Facebook wasn’t as popular and other social media channels were trying to put their stakes in the ground. Then suddenly it happened. MySpace became more obsolete than a chat room from the 90s.

So what did it? What did MySpace in?

1) What do you think led to MySpace’s demise? Facebook?  MySpace’s efforts to allow people to express their individuality on pages that resulted in a design convulsion? Lack of advanced functionality?

2) With current efforts to re-brand, do you think there’s hope for the future?

Let’s hear it.

The Good Ol’ Dayscut outs holding hands

I remember Facebook. You know the one that you needed a college ID to have an account. The one where I connected with my friends from school who had gone afar and no longer within convenient reach. The ones who were still in school or who had ventured back to their original homes…or even settled into new destinations.

The good old days when people were poking others (whatever that meant), Twitter didn’t exist, and MySpace was the treacherous beast that I still have yet to understand why so many spent they’re beloved time.

Yes. The good ol’ days of social media. (What was that? Like 6 years ago?)

And Then it Got Big

Fast forward to 2011, and we’re in a world of social mayhem. Facebook has transformed from a simple interface with basic functionality to a beast that holds games and pictures and apps and brands and whatever else the world decides to throw at the screen.

Add on Twitter, YouTube, and the numerous blogging sites that allow us to share our intimate secrets with one another via words, video and pics, and we have social networking in a nutshell.

Well, that’s if you leave out marketers. You know. People like me. The ones who pitch their brand with the goal of keeping you connected, driving sales, and getting your buy-in.

Using Social for Good

But there’s another sector. Those who use social media for good.

While all the above is at times good, today I would like to pay homage to those who use social media for good. You know organizations like GOOD, World Food Programme, Join(Red), and Amber Alert. Or those individuals and organizations who use social media to raise money for relief for areas impacted by natural disasters such as Japan and Haiti.

The reality is that we, as individuals or marketers, have an opportunity to use social media for good every time we enter the social arena and make a post. Yes. I understand that this is not always realistic with present goals, and maybe even our target market’s desires. However, I would like to say “thank you” to all the organization who have posted even one post for the good of humanity because you don’t have to, and you’ve decided to go beyond yourself and truly make the world a “better place” – Michael Jackson.

The Reach, The Span, The Change.

Whether you have 5 followers of 100,000, social media is a powerful tool allowing us as people and organizations to make a change. Let’s not only use it for ourselves, but let’s take small moments to make big changes one tweet at a time.

Much love.

Regina

Regina R. Patterson, M.B.A.

Marketing & Web Content Consultant

reginapatterson.com

info@reginapatterson.com

616.443.6401

twitter.com/reginaconsults

facebook.com.reginaconsults

Window Displays Aren’t Just for Show
Lady gazing through window
I really enjoy shopping. I mean, I REALLY enjoy shopping, and on the account that I shop so much, I’ve gotten hip to the psychology behind shopping. (Well, that and by reading “The Science of Shopping.”) The way organizations pull you into their stores. The sale signs. The lively colors. And of course, the window displays, showcasing lovely mannequins with beautiful silhouettes covered with trendy layers of cotton tops, laced tanks, and boot cut bottoms.

As you gaze beyond this entry point of aspired adornment, you see racks of even more fanciful items that support exactly what was portrayed in the store’s window. And you feel, “I just gotta go in.”

This, my friend, is a perfect analogy to what your website represents to your customer.

Your site is an extension, or maybe even an entry point to your brand. It’s the place where customers either make their first decision as to what your brand stands for or they further solidify (or diminish) what they expect from your brand.

As users take their first gander at your site, they’re make a decision by subconsciously, or even overtly, asking the following questions:

  • Is this brand trustworthy?
  • Is the site  up-to-date?
  • Can I fulfill my needs or desires?
  • Does it relate with me emotionally? (And if you love saving, the four letter word “SALE” is enough to do it for you.)

Users make this judgment based on the BIFT philosophy.

The B.I.F.T. Philosophy

B is for beauty.

This day and age, it’s not enough to simply have a website. Your website must be beautiful. It must be designed in an up-to-date fashion, using current graphics and terminology helping users know they’re in a place that’s just a much in the 21st century as they are.

Additionally, beauty doesn’t end with graphics. Web copy also lends itself to a site’s beauty. However, as my friend, Clarence said, the copy “doesn’t have to be witty. It just needs to be well written.” I’ll add, the copy needs to be written for the medium, and different types of sites and even mediums on the site would require different copy considerations.

I is for intuitive.

Secondly, users review the time and thought investment it would take to accomplish a task  on your site. In English, they want to know if they can do what they want to do without a lot of thought.

To overcome the “I” barrier, you have to lead customers to take the next step on your page, and you have to help them understand where they will land. Both instructional and call to action copy as well as visual cues such as change in copy color, arrows, etc. help customers understand what action they should take.

F is for Functional

“Functional” is a big word that means – does the site do what it’s intended to do, and in a timely fashion.

  • When I got to your web address, am I greeted with a page?
  • When I click a link, does it work.
  • Does it load quickly?
  • Do the widgets work?
  • Are there pages that say “under construction?”

There are many ways to resolve functional issues.

  • Check images sizes and maybe revise images if necessary, as images can slow down a pages load time.
  • If widgets don’t work, remove them. If possible, create a different solution. However, it’s worse to have something that doesn’t function on your page than not having it at all.
  • Instead of writing under construction, don’t publsih pages that aren’t ready for public consumption.

T for Trustworthy.

Between payments and donations, organizations are asking for sensitive information on the web. And yes, even the payment experience weighs in on the perception of your brand. Questions include:

  • Is the interface up to date?
  • Would you feel comfortable making a payment on the site?
  • What do other payment interfaces look like?

Not only do the answers to these questions determine whether or not you actually obtain the payment, the answers place your brand in a certain class – the class of great, ummm, and no so much.

My Customer’s Already Know My Brand

Yes, they do. And what they’re saying about it depends on the experience they’ve had, which could very well be great experiences. However, if you’re a mom and pop or some other small start-up, looking to take it to the next level, your site can help turn the impression from “my cousin’s shop” to “Jeff’s big time business” taking preconceived notions into brand ambassadors for the future.

Regina R. Patterson, M.B.A.

Marketing & Web Content Consultant

reginapatterson.com

info@reginapatterson.com

twitter.com/reginaconsults

facebook.com/reginaconsults

Hyper ManEven  my grandma knows about Twitter. I get it. It’s HOT. But really, after all the cute stuff is said and done, is it converting? Is it doing what you want it to do?

This is more than just making money. (If you’re using only social to drive sales, your mix is so unbalanced even an elephant wouldn’t be able to help tip the scale in the appropriate direction.) 

Here are a few great ways to measure conversion from a social standpoint.

Awareness. Do more people know you exist?
Loyalty. Are your customers or clients more loyal because they have that networked connection?
Engagement. Are people interacting with your page?
Traffic. Are you efforts driving traffic to your site or brick & mortar locale?
Sales. Are your sales increasing as a result of your social efforts? (For most, this is a hard one to measure. However, you may see increased sales in the long run through awareness, loyalty, and repeat traffic.)

I don’t knock social. I’m out there myself. The key is that social media is only a portion of a balanced marketing mix. It’s not the end all, be all, and defintely shouldn’t be treated that way. However, when done well, it for darn sure will have it’s benefits.

Not yet in the social media game. Just getting started?
Social Media…Consume. Contribute. Collide?

For more information on developing a social media strategy, contact:
Regina R. Patterson, M.B.A.
Marketing & Web Content Consultant

In their faintest voice, I sometimes think I hear web pages screaming, “Yo, I’m not print!” As I witness its simplistic character being smothered by images, text, images, and more text, I suddenly want to reach into my monitor and redeem what was once glorious white space from it’s misery. Old Typewriter

The Reality

The bottom line – online users don’t want to try hard to find what they’re looking for. They expect clean pages accompanied with information arranged in a manner for easy consumption.

However, we (in all our content generating greatness) get uber excited and decide to crowd pages with images of today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Then we add a layer of text that has no value to the end user simply because it “sounded good.”

Once we put all this information on the page, we fail to organize it in a manner in which the user can easily digest.

The Result

They leave.

Cluttered spaces create cluttered minds. Similarly, too much information leads to information overload. When this happens, users

  1. Become frustrated and leave
  2. Fail to make a decision and leave, or
  3. Complete their transaction. Then they leave (and avoid your site like the plague).

At any rate, the end user isn‘t happy, leaving unattained goals. (By the way, this makes room for the competition to come in and swoop up your customer – Prime examples: Google vs. Yahoo and Facebook vs. My Space.)

The Solution

Begin with a goal in mind. Is there action you want your user to take or are you looking to simply present information?
Consider your medium. Facebook wall & Twitter are meant for super quick encounters (“wham, bam, thank you ma’am”), informational sites benefit from a delicate balance between text and images, blogs are generally text heavy, and search results are generally directional with limited information.
Remember white space is king. If there is an ample amount of white space on a page, the user will know that the part of the page with something on it is actually worth paying attention.
Don‘t be afraid to use links. While you don’t want users to go on a wild goose chase to reach their destination, remember links allow you to provide a great deal of  information without initially overwhelming your users.
Befriend text formatting. Bold, italics and underlines all help generate text that is easy to scan, which is exactly what your user will be doing.
Edit, edit, edit. Goal = Eliminate unnecessary words.

For more information, contact:

Regina R. Patterson

Marketing & Web Content Consultant

616.443.6401

reginapatterson.com