Using content to build credibility and engender trust

Content is the most important ingredient in the five step plan to developing influence and trust. Without content, you will not able to influence your connections, articulate your knowledge, understanding, competence and thought leadership relating to your area of expertise.

It is proven that the more you talk competently and knowledgably about a specific subject, the more people will see you as an authority, thought leader and “go-to” person should they require information or assistance. In addition, the more you share value-adding content with your communities, the more you are viewed as a “trusted” source.

It is important to note that your target market consists of individuals who consume content in different ways and formats. Some individuals like detail whilst others prefer a high level overview. Other prefer written content, whilst others prefer video, images and/or audio. In order to cater for the diverse preferences of your target market, you may need to develop content to suit multiple platforms.

Content may be hosted on public and owned platforms. Whilst it is important to use public platforms, it is advisable to host content on owned platforms. Public platforms are subject to change or may cease entirely, however your platforms belong to you. Imagine the scenario where you published all your content on one public platform and they close down their platform. You will have lost all the content. The upside of having content on public platforms is that they are search engine friendly.

Whilst the five step plan to developing influence and trust advocates that you must never promote your company, products and services, you need to publish information relating to your company, people, values, history, products, services, case studies, customer testimonials and contact information which your prospects may read when they are ready. Your primary communication with prospects should focus on value-adding thought leadership, however your secondary interaction with prospects is providing inbound links to your website.

Using dating as an analogy, your first date would be a failure (in most cases) if you spent all your time talking about yourself (i.e. your company, products and services). You would create a much better impression with your date if you focused on them. As time progresses with successive dates, your partner will eventually want to know more about you.

The biggest stumbling block for individuals and companies is understanding how to write thought leadership. You have to be able to produce points of view that are interesting, compelling, educational, value-adding, insightful and sharable. You need to produce content that helps people live life and do their job better. You have really succeeded if your produce something that a person will take into a board meeting.

Advice for producing value-adding content

  • Research your target market thoroughly so you understand their challenges
  • Write thought pieces or points of views which provide insight on how to address these challenges
  • Think of all the topics you can possibly write about and make a note of them
  • In order to produce enough content for a year, you will need to write 30 – 40 thought pieces
  • Write reusable “evergreen” content which you can recycle if need be
  • Each thought piece needs to be fit for purpose for platforms such as your blog, Youtube, Slideshare, Pinterest, LinkedIn publishing platform, podcasting and screen casting.
  • Focus on four sections: 1. Problem statement, 2. An approach to address the problem, 3. Benefits that may be achieved, and 4. Invitation to contact you and/or visit your website to learn more about your company
  • Written content should be short and punchy
  • Content should be broken up into short snippets which are scannable and easy to digest
  • Highlight headings and points that you want readers to notice
  • Include images and video
  • Include an infographic if possible which provides interesting information and statistics
  • Ask questions and encourage dialogue
  1. Website

Your website should be the epicenter of your content ecosystem. Thought leadership should be hosted on peripheral platforms with links to your website, which prospects may use at their leisure. The call to action to visit your website should simply let prospects know that they can learn more about your company. All primary, “value-adding” communication should include a link to your website.

There are many digital agencies and individual specialists who provide a web development service. If you are going to go the outsourced web development route, there are pros and cons to consider. The positive side is that you are dealing with professionals who understand how users interact with websites and they will develop your website as such. Agencies also have search engine optimisation (SEO) specialists and will develop your website to be SEO-friendly. The negative side is that agencies can be expensive. If you do not have technical skills, you will always be reliant on someone else to update your website.

For small or one-man businesses, there are low cost to entry web development platforms available that do not require technical or programming skills. One of the post popular platforms to host your website is WordPress. There are hundreds of templates available and WordPress is easy and cost-effective to manage and host. The added bonus of using WordPress is that you can also use it to host your company blog. WordPress all ranks high in search engines. It may be worth your while to use a web specialist who knows WordPress to assist you initially.

Here are some website tips:

A Logical Roadmap – A website should be aesthetically pleasing, but it’s more important for it to be useful. Before you even pick a server or type an HTML tag, you should map out how you’d like the website to work. This is important both for user experience and for SEO, since Google considers the content and structure of a site when it ranks for search

Crucial Business Information – “The biggest failure that people have is that they try to build the website they want, not necessarily the website they need,” says designer Josh Frankel. Take a restaurant, for example — Frankel says “everyone wants music and this giant ‘about’ page,” but they neglect the basic things like the menu, contact information and directions.

Contact Information – We can’t stress enough that most crucial business detail is contact information— which is why it has its own section. Mills exclaims, “How many times do you visit a website and think ‘how hard is to contact this company?’ Have a number, email, address and a contact form easily accessible and visible,” he says. It makes a difference because there’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to get in touch with a needed business or service.

Clear Navigation – A map is useless without a legend and a website is useless without clear navigation. Make sure you use easy-to-understand and logical names for the various pages of your site — contact, about, FAQ, etc. Being clever or cryptic will just be a turnoff for users.

Security – If you’re selling anything online, you need to put some effort into securing your site with an SSL certificate. The SSL will encrypt communications between you and your clients (i.e. a credit card number, Social Security number), which will allay their fears of providing such information, since there’s so much identity theft on the web. VeriSign, TrustE, Entrust and GeoTrust are good options to explore.

Social Media Integration – Twitter. Facebook. Tumblr. YouTube. Pinterest. Google+. LinkedIn. Instagram. Foursquare. There are a lot of social platforms out there, and you should promote your presence on them on your website, because social media is critical part of marketing your business. Though not a traditional business, digital savvy Team Coco does a great job promoting its many social channels on the website. Integrating these platforms into your website will help boost your SEO, improve your business’ footprint on the social web and build your following across numerous social platforms.

A Mobile-Ready Version – Smartphones and tablets are driving an increasing amount of web traffic, and the numbers are only going to grow as mobile devices become cheaper and more mainstream. Andy Chu, director of Bing for Mobile, says 70% of task completion happens within one hour on mobile sites, meaning that people are often browsing on the web with intent — they’re looking to do something, buy something or go somewhere. If someone searches for a restaurant on his smartphone, he’s likely to eat at that restaurant within the hour, says Chu. So your website better be readable on handheld devices.

FAQ – People have a lot of questions. As you hear concerns from customers and receive feedback via email, gather up the most frequently asked questions into a list and offer clear, concise answers. Questions often revolve around materials and ingredients used (for allergy reasons), shipping information, company history, sizing (for apparel brands) and cancellation or return policies.

Good Hosting – Don’t mess around with hosting. “You need your site on a mainstream provider, and it costs a handful of dollars every month to have 24/7 technical assistance,” says Mills. Not having good hosting can cost you in many ways. A slow site is frustrating, one that fails to load is obnoxious and both could turn off customers. But beyond annoying your users and increasing your bounce rate, poor hosting can also affect your rank in search engines, since many search engine algorithms detect webpage loading speed, says Malakai Whitston of design blog WebDesignFan.

2. Blog

The company blog is ideal for publishing value-adding articles and thought leadership. You should be encouraging your prospects to subscribe to your blog from email, social media and your website. Your blog is one of your nurturing communication platforms. One a prospect has subscribed to your blog, they will automatically be notified every time you publish a new blog post. This is an ideal way to keep in contact and stay “top-of-mind” with your prospects. Every time your prospect reads your blog posts, you build more credibility.

Even though your blog posts are the “primary” communication with your prospects, you are able to include links to other content on your blog. A popular blog template is to use the left and central column to display your articles and thought leadership. In the right-hand column and in the footer of the blog, you can include links to other articles, invites to connect on other channels (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube), a link to your website and conferences, seminars or webinars you may be hosting.

3. YouTube

Here are some interesting statistics to consider:

  • Online video accounts for 50% of all mobile traffic
  • 65% of video viewers watch more than ¾ of a video
  • 78% of people watch video online every week
  • 55% of people watch video online every day
  • In 2015 experts believe that video will take up 57% of internet traffic
  • By 2017 this will have risen to 69%
  • By 2018 this will have risen to 79%
  • More than 80% of senior executives watch more online video today that they did a year before
  • 75% of business executives watch work-related videos at least weekly
  • 54% of senior executives share work-related videos with colleagues at least weekly
  • 59% of senior executives agree that if both text and video are available on the same topic on the same page, they prefer to watch the video
  • 69% of marketing, sales and business professionals have used video marketing and another 31% are planning to
  • A massive 81% of people feature their video on their brand website
  • 93% of marketers use video for online marketing, sales and communication
  • 96% of business-to-business (B2B) companies are planning to use video in their content marketing over the next year
  • 52% of marketers believe that video marketing is effective for brand awareness, lead generation and online engagement

These statististics clearly indicate that video has to be an integral part of your content marketing strategy. The good thing is that it is relatively inexpensive to create and publish video content. In addition, Youtube ranks high on search engines and it renders exceptionally well on LinkedIn, Twitter and WordPress.

Here are some tips when developing video content:

Upload your video to YouTube – YouTube is second largest search engine in the world. More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month and over 6 billion hours of video are watched every 30 days. Uploading your video to YouTube will instantly get your online video content seen by the masses.

Create compelling content – Before creating a video, think of what the online community will be interested in. Making a video that is compelling to a niche audience will result in great organic growth.

Optimise your content – After you have completed your video; strategise as to what keywords you want your video to rank high for. Since Google owns YouTube, the search engine giant gives a lot of authority to YouTube videos in their organic search results.

Create a strong call-to-action – During the video editing process; create a lower third graphic that is unobtrusive to the video content. Including the website URL that you’d like to promote as well as the phone number and logo is ideal for driving traffic from the video to the website that you’re looking to endorse. Additionally, include a link to your website in the video description on YouTube so people can get to your site by simply clicking on this link. Another good idea is to create an end screen for the video that has a call-to-action. This will be the last memory the viewer takes away from your video so give them a reason to visit your website!

Run a small advertising campaign – The average cost per view for one of my YouTube advertising campaigns is between $0.02-$0.04. Compared to other areas of online advertising, this is very cheap for branding purposes. For a real estate company, for a $100 budget, I was able to successfully drive over 2,400 views for one of their 30-second commercials. Additionally, with YouTube advertising you can include a lower third message with clickable links. They also received over 158 views to their website directly from the commercial. You can simply set-up a YouTube advertising campaign through your Google adwords account.

Share, share, share! – Share your video across numerous blogs and social media channels. The more often your video is shared, the more visibility it will receive. Similar to link building, if your video is picked up on numerous websites, the search engines will view this content as more powerful which can improve your organic ranking for the video. Additionally, more people will see the video, the more viral it will become which will result in more publicity.

The more interaction, the better – The more “likes” you receive on your video and the more comments you obtain, the better. Just like a social media post, the more buzz that your video receives will result in greater exposure. Typically, if one of my videos receives over 20 combined comments and “Likes” and also generates over 100 views, the more likely I am to see the video spike in the YouTube and organic search results.

Add a transcript to your YouTube videos – Most people are not aware that through YouTube, you can actually upload a transcript. Create a word document based off of what the subject featured in the video is saying. Since major keywords that you want to rank high for will likely be included in the script, this will provide SEO juice for your video.

Obtain subscribers – Did you know that when someone subscribes to your YouTube channel, your most recent video will appear on the homepage of their account! If you subscribe to other channels that are interesting and actively participate in comment discussions, you can easily build your subscriber base. The more subscribers you have, the easier it will be for you to gain publicity for a new video that has been uploaded.

Upload your videos to other networks – YouTube is certainly the best bet to receive optimal online exposure for your video. That being said, uploading your video to sites like DailyMotion, Vimeo and Break will be beneficial for added exposure. Sites like Vimeo cost money to sign-up for but depending on your wants and needs for your video, it could very well be worth it. If you haven’t thought of video marketing, now is a great time to get started. With affordable advertising and tremendous search engine exposure, this rich form of media will help you obtain more publicity. Follow the ten steps above and you’ll see your video skyrocket in the search engine rankings in no time!

4. Slideshare

Slideshare is a great platform to host content in presentation format. It is very easy to upload PowerPoint presentations to Slideshare. An added benefit is that Slideshare is owned by LinkedIn so it integrates very well with the platform and Slideshare presentations render very well on LinkedIn.

You are also able to include an overview of yourself or your company on Slideshare as well as links to your company website, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Visitors are able to share content from Slideshare via email and with their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ accounts.

Slideshare provides a Tips section which provides all the information you will need to create and upload presentations to the platform. Slideshare also has a “Collect Leads” feature which enables you to ask visitors for their contact details when they view your content. This is a great way to obtain contact details for your email newsletter.

5. Pinterest

Pinterest is a visual bookmarking tool that helps you discover and save creative ideas. You will attract the attention of visitors to your Pinterest site with visually stimulating images or “Pins”. You can include an accompanying title, message and a link to your website.

Visitors are able to pin your image to their Pinterest account. Visitors are able to “Like” your pin and to share it via email or with their Facebook and Twitter accounts, Facebook messenger or they may create a link to your pin.

Here is how Bank of America used Pinterest successfully:

Bank of America created Better Money Habits (BMH), an online resource to help people understand their money. The site is open to anyone, with a focus on those just starting out – millennials. With the help of Promoted Pins, BMH content reached nearly 6 million people in less than 5 months and generated more than 29,000 Repins.

Reaching a future-focused audience

Bank of America first created a Pinterest profile at the end of 2014. When they launched the Better Money Habits (BMH) programme, they wanted to reach millennials, a group going through many financial firsts – from getting their first paycheck to planning their weddings to saving for retirement. Since one-third of all millennials are already using Pinterest to plan their futures, the Bank of America BMH team knew it was the right platform to reach their audience.

Bank of America used Pinterest best practices to make sure the creative on Pins would encourage organic discovery, feel native and drive Pinners to take action. They created boards for different life moments, like Buying a Home and Travel Plans, and populated each with relevant Pins that pointed to deeper educational content on BetterMoneyHabits.com.

“We’ve been successful because we’ve listened to what the community wants to know more about based on what people are searching for and customised our content to meet those needs,” said Christopher Smith, enterprise social media executive at Bank of America. “Whether you’re planning a wedding and need some budget help or are looking to buy a house – we know we aren’t the centre of those decisions, but we can help you plan.”

BMH promotes its Pinterest boards across different social channels. The team also added Pin It buttons to all of their site content and plans to add Rich Pins soon.

6. LinkedIn

Anyone who intends developing business relationships with senior decision makers at companies should be publishing content on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a publishing platform which enables users to publish blog posts. You are able to include a subject line and a header image. In the content of the post, you can include images, video and links to other sites.

Your connections and followers will be notified every time you publish a new post on LinkedIn. Once published, LinkedIn users are able to Like, Comment and Share your post on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Here are the top tips to create and publish a killer article on LinkedIn:

Best dates and times – Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning between 8am-9am is the best times to post. These times are based on AEST, you may want to test out your own time zone to see what works well for you.

Importance of quality content – I touched on this briefly before but the better and more valuable your content the greater impact you will make on your existing and new followers.

Preview your content – Before publishing your post always make sure to preview your work. This will allow you to see whether or not your text are aligned with any pictures or videos you have inserted, if heading are properly spaced out, and if your article is properly laid out, etc.

Include videos & images – Break up your text with images and videos so that people don’t get information overwhelm when they first visit your blog. Always make it a habit of listing a few tips or provide a how to guide within a section of the blog. Most people will skim through your article, so this is a great way to provide quick rich content.

Ask questions – Doing this demonstrates your genuine interest in feedback. It also makes it an interactive opportunity that encourages participation. Simple questions like “do you agree?” or “how have you seen this done?” are a call to action that can start the ball rolling.

Check the analytics – LinkedIn gives you great analytics to show you the success of your articles. This gives you a great opportunity to pay attention to which types of articles are getting the most views, comments, and social shares.

7. Podcasting

Podcasts are very popular with more and more people opting to download and listen to podcasts at the leisure. Audio is great for decision makers who can listen to your audio content whilst commuting. Unlike written and videoed content, all the user requires is sound to consume your thought leadership.

As with video, podcasts are very easy to produce and there are many cost-effective hosting platforms to choose from. If you want to produce high quality recordings, you may have to spend a couple of hundred dollars for a decent microphone.

8. Screen casting

Screen casting is great when you want to record an online event with the option of voice over, an insert showing you speaking or not. It is very useful to talk a person through an online event or presentation. Screen casting is ideal when creating training material or explaining a concept which requires visual and audio. There are many screen casting tools available in the market which are easy to use, do not require technical expertise and are inexpensive. As with podcasting, you may need to invest in a decent microphone if you want to produce high quality sound recordings.

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