Grow your audience with guest blogging


Grow your audience with guest blogging

If you want to grow your audience and you aren't guest blogging, you're missing out on an important opportunity!

What is guest blogging?

Guest blogging is preparing content that is posted on the blog of a website other than your own. I submit at least one "guest" blog post a month at a minimum as President of the Women's Business Network, because I write the President's Pen which is published at the beginning of each month. I link back to my own site each time, which brings me to the benefits of guest blogging. I occasionally manage to sneak in posts on other sites as well - this is something I want to do more often.

Accumulate backlinks

Your website is your home online. The goal with any content marketing is to lead followers back to your website. Backlinks are links from other sites that lead back to your website. When a site that is linking to yours has greater authority, it gives your site a little boost. Backlinks aren't a one and done activity.

It's important to keep working to get mentions by other sites or use opportunities to be a guest blogger as part of an overall linkbuilding strategy (simply put, linkbuilding is a proactive effort to accumulate backlinks). The better the quality of your backlinks (i.e., links from more popular sites), the more it helps you. Since they have a cumulative effect over time, it's an ongoing process.

New audience

I have a decent sized audience in my own right. It's not huge, but any chance I have to reach out to a new audience is an opportunity to grab the attention of someone I can connect with. It isn't always about getting business. As we all know, the ability to get quality referrals by clearly communicating what you do and who you do it for is every bit as important. Ten quality referrals of clients within my target market are far better than 1,000 cold leads that will go nowhere. 

That's why it's so critical to deliver stellar value when you create guest blog content. There's a delicate balance that you have to achieve between offering valuable information and trying to make a sale. The easiest way to avoid the appearance of trying to sell is not to try to sell. 

Showcase expertise

My dad drilled it into my head growing up. Don't lend money with the expectation of being repaid. Sometimes the loanee just can't seem to get ahead of their financial obligations to be able to repay the loan. Sometimes they just forget, especially if it's a small amount. The point is that if you lend without the expectation of repayment, you will never be disappointed. 

The same goes for guest blogging (and a lot of other content marketing activities, too). Give freely. Give openly. Give without expectation. It's okay if you don't give every last detail of how you do your business - I would never suggest that. But you can give a lot of valuable information away without affecting your bottom line. If you aren't trying to make a sale, the content will resonate more completely with the people you're reaching. 

Guest blogging challenge

I challenge you to write and submit a guest post for another site by the end of April. Will you do it? Don't worry - your post doesn't need to be published by the end of April. Just submitted to the site. This is an honour system challenge. :) 

Try it once. See how it goes and come back and tell me! 


How are you making a difference?


How are you making a difference?

Your work is making a difference for someone. I know it is, because my work makes a difference too. 

You have stories in what you're doing, even if you don't yet realize it. I bet you tell your stories when you go home in the evenings, or when you're visiting with friends. If you truly don't, then why are you doing what you do?

Stories are a bridge that create a connection. In the telling, you can provide information about what you do, why you do it, the outcomes you anticipate, and the kinds of problems you can help solve.

How does a story make a difference?

What you have to say can make a difference in numerous ways:

  • Inspire ideas,
  • Spur action,
  • Provide help,
  • Incite understanding,
  • Solve problems.

These are the things I love about the work I do. What do you love about your work? That's probably one area where you're making a difference. 

Find stories to tell

Think about a time you got excited about your work. Maybe a client or customer showed appreciation for you leading them to something they needed. Maybe it's a product. Maybe it's an idea. Maybe they didn't even know they would find it helpful! 

Tell your stories

I see friends with businesses tell stories about breakthroughs with their clients every day. In fact, while I was in the middle of writing this post, one of my clients sent this in an email to me:

I didn’t even know that was do-able! You teach me something new every day.

That kind of feedback is exciting to hear, but it also tells me that I'm continuing to provide ideas and information that help, even when the client hasn't been looking for it. 

Are you thinking about the work you do in terms of how you contribute to helping others? If not, take a few minutes and write down five ways you made a difference for someone last week. It doesn't matter how big or small. You can feel good about the fact that you've helped someone else. 

And, if you're so inspired, write some content about it. (Then come let me know so I can check it out!)


Don't get caught violating copyright


Don't get caught violating copyright

And when I say "don't get caught", I actually mean don't violate copyright. I'm going to talk to you about how you can avoid copyright infringement in your content creation, but keep in mind that I'm no lawyer and I'm not providing legal advice.

Copyright laws were established to provide protection for creatives, such as writers, artists, designers, and other disciplines. The laws lay out what the creative's rights are and how they can be assigned. In other words, if you want to use something you don't own, you have to ask permission. It's really no different than asking your neighbour for a cup of flour. 

Copyright protection is inherent in most works

Not all. Most. But I'm only focusing on works that do inherit protection.

This post is protected by copyright even though I haven't gone through the process of registering it. The automatic protection is one of the best parts of copyright legislation, but for more important works than a lowly blog post (say, the great Canadian novel?), it's not a bad idea to get intimately familiar with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office

The Internet has brought copyright protection to the forefront of many people's minds, because creating quality content that gets attention isn't easy. I hear stories of bloggers having their content stolen on a regular basis. And there is an astounding lack of understanding about what constitutes theft of content. (Tax? Really? Massive misunderstanding right there.) 

Theft of pictures

Search engines have this fantastic option to search for images. I use it all the time myself. Sometimes I'm searching for ideas. Sometimes I'm searching for logos. Sometimes I want to figure out what something looks like. 

The thing about all those photos that come up in image searches is they're protected by copyright. It's super easy to right click and save them to your computer and then re-upload to your website or social media accounts, but when you do that without permission, you are potentially violating the rights of the owner.

Using pictures on your website is pretty much a requirement now, and having good quality images just makes you look like you know what you're doing and care. I'll write a follow-up post about how you can find good quality images without breaking the bank, but today's pro-tip is that searching for images on Google orBing is not the answer.

Breaking copyright laws can cost you

The downside of using a "free" picture you've found in an image search is the cost of defending yourself in a lawsuit, and shelling out damages to the plaintiff. Experienced photographers, in particular, zealously defend their work. And they should. Because if they don't, it can become a lost cause. The bottom line is that "free" picture can cost you many times more than the cost of licensing the photo for your legal, permission-based use. 

Bloggers, unfortunately, don't seem to have the same options available to photographers and other artists. I couldn't find any cases of successful lawsuits over content theft. You're basically on your own to prevent/defend content theft. 

Your integrity is worth the effort

I want to blog weekly, but time is limited and sometimes I just don't have the creative juices to come up with a good angle on any topic. So, I end up skipping a week or four or something. I would rather do that than lower my standards or steal from someone else. My integrity is worth more to me than that and it should be to any business that wants to succeed. Dishonesty online creates a record and the consequences can be far-reaching.

Know what is right and do what is right and you'll always be able to hold your head high and confidently defend your actions and choices.


Content creation for highly regulated industries


Content creation for highly regulated industries

The most common industries that come to mind with challenges to creating content are those that have strict rules handed down by regulatory bodies, usually because they handle highly confidential, sensitive information: lawyers, accountants and other financial services, government contractors, etc.

I think we can all agree that there are few more regulated entities than the United States White House, right? Look at what President Obama has had to go through to sort of be able to use a Blackberry

It's impressive (if you have an interest in such things like I do) to see how much Obama has embraced and used technology and the internet to connect with the world.  

If the man who is considered the leader of the free world (and keeper of the ominous buttons we hope never get pressed) can have a successful, useful, engaging social media presence, why can't lawyers, accountants, bankers, investment advisors, government contractors, and others do the same?

Think differently

Some might think it's a trite and overused phrase, but it's what's required! Too often organizations focus entirely on what they're selling, pushing out all kinds of sales-y posts that offer little to no real value for readers. 

Here's a quick truth bomb for you (and I may have to do these more often): No one cares about your product and service offerings enough to connect with you and only ever hear about your product and service offerings. Remember the saying "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"? The bottom line of this truth bomb is that all sales and no value (or entertainment) makes you boring, irrelevant, and less likely to be followed. 

Instead of focusing on selling what you do as content (the act of telling), share stories about your industry, give followers a glimpse of your human side and the culture of your workplace, educate them about related industry topics that your target audience would be interested in.

Bust myths

Highly regulated industries, particularly government and professional services, give the world a lot of fodder for erroneous beliefs. We've all heard so many jokes about doctors and lawyers - often around the fees associated with going to one or the taxes we pay. (Well, maybe not so much doctors in Canada.) While the beliefs may be based in factual experiences of some, it's not a given that they apply to all.

How can you combat myths? Within reason, within the bounds of confidentiality and regulation, share the truth of what you do and what goes into your work.

  • Re-certification and ongoing licensing requirements
  • Insurance
  • Professional associations
  • Pro bono activities
  • Continuing education

No doubt every highly regulated industry has a laundry list of mythical stories floating around about how they operate. Where you can, share the truth in a way that educates - defensiveness not required.

Be helpful

Seriously, above all else, be helpful.

There are probably hundreds of topics that elected representatives can create content that educates followers. Besides education pieces, public service announcements, and useful information that apply to your audience are all valuable content that helps. 

People who work in regulated industries get all kinds of questions ALL. THE. TIME. You have to answer them when they come in, so take the ones that you can use to help the masses and use help the masses.


What should a brand post during bad news cycles?


What should a brand post during bad news cycles?

Tragedies happen. Deaths are inevitable and high profile people get a lot of attention - and there have been a lot of high profile deaths this year. If you listen to people like me telling you how to manage social media for your business, you're posting regularly - yes, even using tools for automation - and you might end up posting during a time when people are upset about one event or another. There are two common questions: The first is whether you should pause your business feed. The second is whether or not you should comment on said event. 

I tend to have a more open viewpoint on these questions than some, and I don't agree with the view that there's a best practice in this area. I think there's a safe practice. If you err on the side of not posting, you're not opening yourself up to criticism. Therefore your brand is safe from the inevitable ugly scrutiny, such as the outrage that spread quickly after Prince's recent passing. 

Is it truly inappropriate to post during a tragedy? This is a hard question to answer, because the answer is "it depends". Here are just a few questions to think about:

  • What is your business' relationship to the tragic event?
  • How much impact is there in your community?
  • Are you geographically close?
  • Do you have connections to those affected? Are they business or personal?
  • Is your business in a closely relevant industry? 
  • What is the scale of the event? Are we talking one or two local news cycles or will this be talked about for weeks or months nationally?

When you start to weigh all these things, it's easy to see why so many default to the "don't post" rule. The problem is that rule doesn't take into account the absolute fact that there are humans behind brands with feelings and good intentions that don't always include the desire to make a sale. Yes, sometimes the inclusion of branding is blatant and comes across insensitive and salesy. Perhaps in those cases there's good justification for criticism, like these blatant sales messages during Hurricane Sandy. To me, this tweet from Getty is in the realm of salesy, not tribute:

Should you pause posting as a brand?

I don't remember the first time I saw outrage about brand posts after a tragic event, but the one I remember best was about 3 years ago after the Boston Marathon. I was attending a conference in Toronto at the time and about an hour or so after I heard about the bombing, I got news of a cancer diagnosis of a close family member. Needless to say, I really don't remember anything about the conference that afternoon. Tragedy struck a city on a major scale. Cancer struck my world on a major scale. 

I stopped tweeting about the conference. I used the conference hashtag to let others who were tweeting know about Boston in case they were unaware. The tweet stream went on through the day. People didn't stop talking about what was going on at the conference. Life was going on, as it does. But it didn't take long for the criticism to start. People were killed and maimed, probably by a terrorist bomb, and people were online talking about their lunch or their business, or the conference they were attending. And if anyone appeared to let scheduled content continue to run, they were pretty much the devil incarnate.

The reality is that life does go on even in the midst of devastating news and events. When such incidents come to light, it's important to weigh the impact of these events on the audience you serve. The last thing a city, state, country, etc., experiencing tragedy wants to see is an invitation to order a pizza or buy clothes or other frivolous calls to action. 

Once again, it depends on the situation whether it's appropriate to pause. It's a decision that can and should be made on a case-by-case basis unless you opt for the blanket "don't post" approach. While I can respect that view, it does feel somewhat like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 

Should your brand/business entity comment on tragic events?

This question is even harder to answer than the question of pausing your feed. And here's my possibly unpopular opinion:

"Brands" are entities. They are not human, but the creators and operators are. Brands do not exist without humans in the background. I guess that's why I don't really have a problem with many of the tributes that came out from various brands after Prince died, with exception to the Getty one I mentioned above and a few others that were seriously misguided. It's too bad that Cheerios deleted their tweet - I just don't see that one as offensive. No one is going to be persuaded to go out and buy Cheerios because they dotted the i with a Cheerio. 

Brand tribute. Not on social media. No complaints.

Brand tribute. Not on social media. No complaints.

The Daily Dot piece suggests that many of these sentiments could be shared on personal accounts, and I agree. But it smacks of a double standard toward brands to tell them they shouldn't react in a human way to events that impact us as humans. It's fine to want them to donate to causes that help make the world better, but showing sentiment takes it too far? 

Content marketers talk all the time about how content shouldn't be about selling all the time, but the minute a death or tragic event happens and a brand responds they're exploiting said event for profits. (That's a bold judgement for anyone who isn't in the room with the people deciding what to post to make unless the messaging is a blatant call for sales, like Getty. Can you tell theirs rubbed me the wrong way?)

We can't have it both ways. Either brands must be human and be allowed to show human sentiment, or we have to relegate them to corporate drone status, with only the ability to sell. 

I'm not a fan of the latter option personally. I connect better with brands that show a human side and appropriate reactions to any event - good or bad. 

Criticism distracts from the real issues

One last thought I had as I was considering all of the angles of how brands can deal with these situations is that the immediate rush to judgement is actually a major distraction from news of an incident. Yes, the first one to post a negative article wins, but then the whole debate starts and that becomes the news rather than the news being the news. I think this is less of an issue with a celebrity death, because let's face it, we connect with celebs on a different level than we do family or friends. However, I'd find this (old and tired) debate inappropriate if it occurred after news of the Paris or Beirut attacks or another similar event, such as the Boston Marathon. 

The bottom line is brands that go too far will not be rewarded. Like any piece of content, if their audience doesn't like it, they will suffer for it. Brands that have appropriate reactions may get some criticism, but they're probably getting criticized to a similar extent no matter what they post. Reactions to news events are, understandably, going to get greater attention and higher amounts of criticism. Unless the criticism is disproportionate compared to other content, I don't see why damage control measures should be required, but that's also not an easy call when you're in the thick of a negative situation.

As followers and influencers, we have the ability to help brands learn what is and is not appropriate. While not everyone will agree onappropriateness of different items, it doesn't help to instill fear into brands (big or small) about posting when bad news strikes. If we want to have better, more human content, we also have to give brands permission to react when individuals are reacting to events. After all, the people behind the brand don't turn into robots when they walk into work every day.


Be original. Be classic. Don't jump on the bandwagon.


Be original. Be classic. Don't jump on the bandwagon.

Because the bandwagon isn't original or classic. It also gets old pretty fast.

I've started to get meme-fatigued in recent months. I'm also list post fatigued, and how-to post fatigued, and all sorts of other typical kinds of content fatigued. It's not that I never find value in these types of content, because I sometimes do. There's an enormous volume of them out there, though. 

I've gotten away from producing these kinds of posts myself, because I want to focus on ideas and concepts at a higher level. That's not to say I won't ever write a listicle or how-to post, but it won't be a go to source of content for me. Truthfully, it'd be easier if I did. 

Jumping on the bandwagon

The thing is, those kinds of posts are a dime a dozen. They're unoriginal and usually not terribly creative. They serve a purpose, and even if there are 100,000 posts of the same list from 100,000 different sources, there are still probably many people who haven't seen that set of information who could benefit from it. That's where we're at now in this world of constant content.

People like to jump on bandwagons. There's even a book about doing it as a strategic tactic.

One recent bandwagon is the "Be Like Me" meme, which allows users to create lovely passive aggressive internet wisdom in the form of a "funny" cartoon to share with their friends. (Some really are funny, some are dumb, but most are judgey and we can all do without seeing them.

And now, of course, brands have gotten in on it. Because, why not?

In truth, I think the brand renditions of the meme are a mix of the usual combinations of bandwagon-jumping - some lame, some meh, some all right, but nothing really exceptional in that particular list.

The easy path to content

It took me about five minutes to create and save the images in the gallery above. So easy. If I wanted to create something branded it may have taken me 10-15 minutes. Longer if I decided to get fancy about it. Either way, the idea is easy and effortless. It's not particularly strategic because the statements aren't going to tell anyone about my business or what I have to offer. Though in the case of the brand examples in the article above, it was also a mix of vague to blatant. I did appreciate that Firehouse Subs basically created a sort of on-brand PSA. 

In general all of the brand examples felt like forced, unnatural, unrelatable (Maybe Pizza Hut is more woo-worthy in India?), contrived content. Who wants any of those words used about their content!? I sure don't.

Think about how many times brands have been accused of leveraging tragedies or catastrophic events to get attention/make sales - every 9/11 anniversaryHurricane SandyDavid Bowie's death, and I could go on and on.

It's not always a bad thing

When a meme or formulaic type of content serves as a good way to create great content, why not use it? 

There's honestly no reason not to.

But ask yourself:

  • Is this actually great content, or is it easy filler? (There's nothing inherently wrong with easy filler, but consider that it could waste your audience's time and you may lose their attention.)
  • Does it communicate something relevant or important? 
  • Will it be lost in the far-too-similar noise of others using the same tactic?
  • Is there a better way to share this idea or information?
  • What are the chances it will generate positive/negative sentiment?
  • Does this fit the brand I'm building?

Good content is good content

The formula you use to create great content really doesn't matter in the end. And no, not every piece you create is going to be a winner. However, that's no reason to hitch a ride on a bandwagon that's already overfull. We all have the capacity to do and be better than that.