The Hello Bar is a simple notification bar that engages users and communicates a call to action.

Social Media

Developing a template for an effective blog post can help you pound out more content in a shorter period of time. I’m a big fan of checklists and templates, but it’s also important to remain flexible and let your creativity fly. A good structure starts with a template or checklist then showcases the writer’s individuality. Here’s a basic checklist you can use to write a winning blog post, in less time.

Blogging

1. Write a Good Headline

Crafting your headline can sometimes take as much effort as writing your entire post. Your headline is the first thing readers see, and it’s intended to entice them to read more. A good headline says, “Go ahead and click, you know you want to see more.” It’s a little bit like a good strip tease, it leaves some things to the imagination but definitely gets their attention.

If you don’t know how to write a compelling headline, you can always use the surefire headline templates at Copyblogger until you gain some experience. They also offer some great resources and pointers on creating magnetic headlines, here.

2. Make Good Use of White Space

Let’s face it, we’re information junkies and most of us spend way too much time on the Net. We read and consume massive amounts of information in digital formats. And all that screen time leads to eye strain.

Think about it.

If you visit a page crammed with colors, images, and big solid blocks of text that scroll on forever, do you take the time to read or do you just hit the back button and try another webpage?

According to the U1 Group, white space is critical.

“We recently did research for a government agency. One of our findings was that the agency’s website was overly cluttered. There was simply too much content packed onto the individual web pages, leaving users feeling overwhelmed and confused as to where to focus, let alone where to click, on the website.

Users found the website did contain useful information, but they felt unmotivated to read on when faced by dense pages of text. Part of the problem was the way content was presented on the website and that there just wasn’t allowed for sufficient whitespace.” (Read more here.)

Too little white space results in user overload and loss of interest. Embrace the enter key online.

You can also use bullet points and lists to help break up the visual monotony and keep the post flowing.

3. Utilize Images and Video

If there’s one thing visitors like on the Web, it’s videos. Most would much rather hit that play button than read to obtain the same information. They want to feed their overstimulated brains and be entertained.

However, be very careful about stuffing your posts with too many videos, or even autoplay features they can’t shut off. There’s nothing worse than finally getting everyone to bed and sitting down to consume some quality Net time and being greeted by a blaring autoplay in another tab. Some instances call for quiet reading, and you should respect your readers enough to provide that option for them.

Images can help you communicate effectively and break up blocks of text. But Derek Halpern has wise advice for using images: choose carefully, your images affect your conversions.

4. Linking Matters

One of the great things about blog posts is their ability to drive traffic. Search engines love blog posts and use linking to travel from one Website to another. When you write, be sure to take the time to go back and insert links. Not only do you want to cite sources of your text or images used in the material, but you want to provide further resources for readers who want to dig in deeper.

External links to other Websites should always be checked before including in your posts. Only link to reputable websites with quality content to avoid getting slapped with penalties from search engines for associating with spammy URLs.

Internal links are also an important part of your posts. You can get further mileage out of your old posts and drive search engine spiders deeper into your Website through internal linking. Darren Rowse at ProBlogger recently advised his readers to participate in repurposing old content.

5. Call to Action- The Point of It All

If you’re blogging for business, you have a purpose for your actions. You blog regularly (or pay someone else to do it) to help your online business and attract potential clients or customers. Don’t be afraid to ask them to do something in exchange for the “free” advice or information you’re providing. Ask them to click, enter an email address, or buy from your Website.

HubSpot has terrific examples of calls to action that entice readers to click. What you’ll notice about each one is they are uncomplicated. They present a simple solution to a common problem you’re likely to be experiencing. Their (often free) service solves your problem and provides one-click access to make it happen. Check out services like Evernote, DropBox, and Pinterest to see how this works so well for successful online companies.

6. Polish Your Reputation

If you’re going to be blogging regularly, you’re going to be the object of a little online scrutiny. Your words are either going to inspire and resonate with someone or irritate and even infuriate others. Plus, people are generally nosey and it’s easy to “snoop” online anonymously.

Google your own name regularly and monitor what comes up in search engine results. If you need help cleaning up your online presence, hire a reputation management professional.

You’ll also want to clean up your website and any other pages you’re driving traffic to so visitors will be left with a good impression of you and your business. Make sure your homepage, contact page, and about us pages are all in order, as well as your social media profiles.

Writing Faster

7. Embrace Social Media

The lifeblood of any blog post is social media. Spending time on social media channels helps build your audience and advertises your latest blog posts, products, and thoughts. Social media is a large part of doing business online and if you just haven’t acquired a taste for it, you can always hire someone to manage your social media presence for you.

8. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

The heart of the Internet is certainly information, but presenting that information in a fun and lively package can help prevent writer’s block, boredom, and burnout. Infusing your posts with your company’s personality, values, and mission can help set your brand apart online.

9. Keep a Swipe File

I don’t believe in writer’s block because I’ve never had it. Seriously, almost ten years of writing professionally and I’ve never had the dreaded BLOCK. If I don’t know a lot about a topic, or have written everything I know, I read what others are writing about the subject. And I start a conversation with myself. Then I write. I write anything, even if it’s bad. I can always rewrite it later but I’m never faced with paralyzing fear and the endless blinking cursor on a blank page.

If you’re plagued by writer’s block, keeping a Swipe File is a must. Templates, writing starters, ideas, and trending topics can pull your butt out of the fire as many times as you need. Start a bookmark folder for when you’re surfing the Net to collect things you think you can use later. Use Evernote, OneNote, or OmniFocus to collect your ideas and snippets so you can access them quickly.

10. Always Keep Learning

If you don’t care enough about your business and industry to stay abreast of changes in your field, do yourself a favor and hire someone to do your blogging for your business. Keeping your mind fresh with new information will spark your creativity and your writing will reflect your interest.

Learning new things is good for your brain and it’s good for your business. Check out our post on how to get a DIY MBA to help your online marketing.

What tips do you have to write great blog posts fast? What would you add?

And in case you didn’t notice, if you’re not comfortable performing your own blogging, social media management, or marketing, it’s always a good idea to outsource. REV Media Marketing has just what you need to make it rain new business, online and off. Contact a marketing professional today to talk about what REV can do for your business.

Conquering your Twitter feed can feel a bit like crossing six lanes of traffic on foot, at rush hour. And while there are thousands of tips available for using Twitter effectively, many of them can be pretty complicated. It shouldn’t take a PhD in Twitter usage to make good use of your time on social media. One of the best ways to learn is to DO, which requires a few actionable tidbits you can put to use right now to make your tweets more effective.

Twitter

rvlsoft / Shutterstock.com

12 Actionable Tips for Better Tweets

 

1. Easy Retweets. Make it easy for readers to retweet your high-points when you publish content.

When you publish a shareable tidbit you want to promote, add this section of code, replacing the “____” with your tidbit, and your twitter user name for the “@UserName”. (Just remember to respect the 140 character limitation. You can use this Twitter Character Checker if you’re unsure.)

<a href=”http://twitter.com/home/?status=_______. via @UserName”>tweet this. </a>

It will look like this:

“Making it easier to retweet is always a good idea.”-tweet this.

2. Track and Shorten. Use a URL shortener and tracker to gain insight into your retweets. The more data you have, the better you can fine tune your marketing efforts.

Bitly is a great tool for Twitter, but there are many others available.

3. Interact. Balance auto-tweets/scheduled tweets with real time retweets and live interaction.

Twitter scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer are essentials for business owners and social media managers but it is still critical that you spend time interacting on Twitter.

4. Brevity is Best. Be short, but intriguing if possible. You don’t have to use all 140 characters if you can entice them to click with 120.

5. Be Personable. Allow your personality to shine. It can be easy to hide behind your brand and get caught up in the anonymity of online interactions. But personal interactions and authentic personality can help you build connections with others.

 

Personality

 

6. Keep It Clean. Watch what you Tweet. While being yourself is important, it’s crucial to choose your tweets and retweets wisely. You are representing your brand, your client’s brand, or your boss’s brand. If you wouldn’t say it in front of an audience comprised of your boss, your customers, and your mother, don’t tweet it. (Of course, if your brand is off-color, this tip doesn’t apply. Let it fly.)

7. Relevance is Relative. Don’t be afraid to “go off topic” and tweet about current events or something your followers or clients will care about. For local businesses, you can really capitalize on this and garner community support by involving yourself in what matters to your customer base.

 

Local Business Twitter Tips

 

8. Keep it Interesting. Retweet the things that interest you to attract like-minded followers.

9. Use Keywords. Include relevant keywords in your profile description to make it easier for new followers to find you.

10. Retweet Responsibly. Make sure you’re not retweeting broken links, spammy content, or bad information. If you won’t take the time to click and scan, don’t bother retweeting because your audience won’t either.

11. Keep Focused. Keep the bottom line in mind. It can be easy to get caught up in the information overload that continuously flows out of your Twitter feed. But remember you’re on Twitter to generate traffic for your website and generate income. Don’t get sidetracked. If you have trouble knowing when it’s time to get off the Twitter train, set a timer.

12. Variety is Good. Try to vary the times of day you actively spend on Twitter so you don’t miss out on interacting with people in different time zones. You might meet some terrific people by hanging out on Twitter late at night or early in the morning from time to time.

Tweriod is a Twitter tool that can help you determine when you should be focusing most of your Twitter activity.

 

These tips are designed to hone your tweets, focus your audience, and expand your reach to make your time on Twitter more productive. Using Twitter effectively can help boost your business, and like most things, you can put in a lot or a little effort, and your results usually reflect how much work you put into it. But putting a few actionable tips into use right now can increase your effectiveness while you’re digging into the deeper aspects of using Twitter for business. As busy professionals, we don’t always have the time to research best practices thoroughly in one or two sittings. Actionable tips can help you tweet better, now, while you tweak your Twitter usage and learn valuable information.

What actionable tips do you have?

We’ve all seen those people on social media who overuse hashtags. You may have even met someone who speaks hashtags in a face-to-face conversation. And you’ve probably grumbled about hashtag use at some point in time because, let’s face it, hashtagging overuse can be annoying.

If you’re one of those hashtag over-users, not to worry. There’s an intervention waiting in your near future.

Annoying Hashtags

Hashtags are meant to be used to add categories for your social media posts, adding your posts with the posts of others who have used the same hashtag, so you can all get together and see what everyone’s talking about at the same time. For instance, say you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, and you want to live Tweet your reactions as you watch the latest airing and gripe about any idiosyncrasies that don’t coincide with the original plot in the books. You might add the hashtag: #GameOfThrones. Then, you can perform a search on your social media platform of choice and see what everyone else is saying.

You can use hashtags to find others with similar interests, join in a conversation, or just snoop around on a subject (or person). Hashtags take all the social media posts with the same hashtags and throws them into the same conversational bin so you can wallow in the hashtag topic of your choice without the irritation of extraneous conversations. It’s great if you tend to obsess over something and want to garner as much info as you can in a short period of time.

 

Want to know what’s happening with a particular news story right now? There’s a hashtag for that.

Need to know who’s winning a sporting event? There’s a hashtag for that.

Looking to connect with people who have a similar interest as you? There’s a hashtag for that.

Want to know what a your favorite celebrity is up to this week? There’s a hashtag for that.

Wondering how prevalent cheating on your spouse is? There’s a hashtag for that, too.

 

 

Hashtag

#HowNotToHashtag

Hashtagging is meant to categorize your social media posts, to index them, so they can be searched more efficiently. Consider them the phone book and card catalog of the Internet’s social media sites (for those of you who are old enough to have used a phone book and/or card catalog). Hashtags are great for those people who like to sort their M&Ms by color and prefer to work on a perfectly clean desk. They’re also great for those people who mix M&Ms and Skittles in the same bite and work in an utter landfill of chaos. Hashtags don’t judge.

Hashtagging done poorly can irritate those who take the time to read your social media feeds. Here are a few do’s an don’ts:

  • DO use hashtags if your social media post contains something of interest to others, such as a popular TV show, pictures of cats, or industry-specific news.
  • DON’T use never-ending hashtags, like this one: #addinganentiresentencetoahashtagisnotonlyannoyingbutitssuperconfusingtooandnoonewillreadthisallthewaytotheendanyways.
  • DON’T create your own random hashtags that will never apply to anyone else: #mycatisblueandtheskyisred.
  • DO write creative hashtags that others will love.
  • DO put some thought into your hashtags.
  • DO limit your hashtags to no more than five per post
  • DON’T post personal information you don’t want the Internet the know and include hashtags.
  • DON’T use hashtags in face-to-face conversation unless you’re with really good friends who find you funny, love you, and overlook your quirks.
  • DO check your hashtags for typos.
  • DO check your posts for potentially offensive info before hashtagging. Those hashtags can be indexed years later, even if you delete the post. Manage your reputation and your company’s reputation responsibly online.
  • DON’T put hashtags where they don’t belong, like on billboards and written communication, unless you’re announcing a new hashtag as part of a promotional campaign
  • DO keep a sense of humor when it comes to hashtagging- someone is always going to annoy you by breaking hashtag rules.

You can use hashtags to help find new social media connections in your industry or to keep abreast of the latest on a topic of interest. Hashtags can help you keep the pulse of a hot topic and find out what’s trending at any given moment online. But clogging up your social media posts with unruly hashtags is the equivalent of spamming those you’re connected with online. It’s just not polite.

#HashtagConcerns

When in doubt, don’t hashtag, especially if you’re posting for a client or company, or if you care about your online reputation.

Hashtags and social media posts have cost countless people their jobs and probably resulted in missed opportunities for numerous others. When people want to check out a new company, employee, or even someone they just met, they turn to the Internet. And those hashtags can come back and bite you. And search engines love to index hashtags and social media posts. Even if you think your posts are “private” or shared with just a few close people, adding a hashtag can make that post accessible to the public.

And if you want to make it easter for hashtag newbies to “get your tags” try “CapitalizingEveryWord. It helps clarify what your hashtag is saying.

Creative Ways to Use Hashtags

Hashtags are great for live social media coverage of an event. If you’re planning a launch, premier, or other crucial event, consider brainstorming potential hashtags far in advance of the event. Your creative team can them decide which hashtags to use, and these can be released to the public a few days before the event. This can help control the flow of hashtagging so social media posts are funneled into the same indices and give the public a place to start when searching for related posts about your event.

Try to use descriptive words when coming up with new hashtags to make them easier for people to remember. Promotional hashtags are essentially mini-taglines that need to say a lot in a few words. Using rhyming words or words with a similar cadence can help your hashtag catch on.

Don’t forget to register your tag so people know what the heck you’re talking about it they see it trending on social media. You can define your tag here.

How are you using hashtags? What’s worked for you?