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Taking the ‘Hype’ out of Hyper-Local Blogging

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Our Message is Lost in the Noise


It Only Takes 10 Steps…

Rain god, Jonathan Washburn, made a statement in his recent ActiveRain blog article, “10 Steps to Localism Success“:

5. Do not post a bunch of self serving marketing material on the bottom of your post: If a home buyer or seller finds your information interesting they will figure out how to contact you. Also, our editors highly downgrade posts with built in – self serving marketing messages.

I’ve covered this particular subject on a number of previous occassions over in the Rain:

Here: “Removing Your Own SPAM” and here: “How to Sabotage Your Own Blog” and here “Don’t turn Your Blog into a Refrigerator Magnet!”

Obviously, as you can tell by these articles, like Jonathan, I’m not a big fan of ‘over-the-top’ blantant self-promtion within the context of blog posts, especially ones that are written and geo-targeted specifically for consumers.

It’s Just Noise

I enjoy reading Seth Godin. As someone who has been involved in marketing most of my professional career, I find his approach insightful and refreshing. One of the descriptions he uses for ineffective, old-school methodology is “Interruption Marketing.” Today’s sophisticated Internet consumers aren’t duped with relentless real estate commercials. It’s just noise to be ignored.

As real estate professionals, it has been deeply ingrained in us from Day 1 to ‘brand’ everything we put out there. We’ve effectively littered the local landscape with every conceivable form of self-promotion – from refrigerator magnets to grocery carts. If there’s a flat surface somewhere, chances are our name & logo/website is there!

As we transition into all things Web 2.0, it becomes rather challenging for some of us to leave old tricks behind. Incessant self-promotion is one of those old tricks making a very slow death.

Back in the Day…

Real Estate used to be ‘Agent-Centric.’ All of our marketing and promotion centered around us – my image, my website, my logo, ME ME ME! Glamour shots ruled the day!

Thank goodness the paradigm has shifted over to more ‘Consumer-Centric‘ focus. Now our energies are better spent on creating/developing marketing/information that offers actual value/benefit to potential clients.

Unfortunately, there are still many out there who feel that conversational blogging = advertising. Their usual blog post consists of a few jumbled sentences hurriedly thrown together. Then the remaining 3/4 majority content contains a business card on steroids, with every conceivable piece of contact information imaginable, endless realtor designations, accollades, website links, snappy catch phrases, logos, banner, etc..

How To Do It

A well constructed blog should contain sufficient navigation tools to facilitate a reader’s desire to contact you. Redundant links, banners, signatures, ad nauseum, only serve to clutter your content, and ‘interrupt’ the flow of meaningful dialog.

Creating good quality, hyperlocal content takes time, effort, and commitment. There are no shortcuts. Good writing will attract your readers and keep them engaged, and coming back for more!

Writer for national real estate opinion column AgentGenius.com, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    July 3, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I’ve thought about this issue a lot. I think that it can be a major mistake to assume that good content will automatically produce business. I think that at some point, you have to make it known to the consumer that you are willing to work with them, that you want to work with them, encourage them to reach out to you. I’m not saying that you have to hard sell them, or that you have to be obnoxious about it.

    I do think that opportunities can be missed if you don’t mention the fact that you are, in fact, in business. I love writing, creating what I think is interesting content, and blogging, but “art for art’s sake” it ain’t. It must be done with a specific purpose in mind, and that purpose SHOULD match whatever your overall goal is.

  2. Teresa Boardman

    July 3, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    When I look at localism posts on Active rain I can see that most of the bloggers don’t get it. Their posts are way to long or they are merely ads for property. I will go one step further and suggest that what passes for a good local blog post on Active Rain and what really works for local blogs are too different things. The community just doesn’t get it yet.

  3. Rich Jacobson

    July 3, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Teresa: You won’t get any argument from me on that one. All the more reason why we need more good examples, both from within and from without, on what constitutes good hyperlocal blogging. That is one of the reasons I have been featuring your stuff. The AR membership needs to have a standard to strive for.

  4. Rich Jacobson

    July 3, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Daniel: In my humble opinion, our writing should be able to accomplish both. But bottom line, one size doesn’t fit all, and you have to find what works best for you, in your particular market, and what translates into viable business. My primary point here is that many begin their blog journey by simply dumping their contact info into a post, and somehow believe that constitutes ‘blogging.’ It’s simply a static site that keeps getting repeated, over and over again. There’s obviously a learning curve involved to becoming an effective writer.

  5. Jonathan Dalton

    July 3, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    I always figure if it bores the living hell out of me, it’s probably going to bore the living hell out of my readers.

  6. Brad Nix

    July 3, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    @Teresa You said it, so many in this industry don’t ‘get it’. It’s hard to say what ‘it’ is, but you know it when you see it and it’s rarely seen on AR.

  7. Rich Jacobson

    July 3, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Jonathan: Yet another reason why I like you so much!…

    Brad: I wouldn’t say ‘rarely’….that’s a bit harsh. AR has a dedicated core of some really scary good hyperlocal writers. They don’t get a lot of attention in the way of Gold Stars or comments from other members, but their business is benefiting nicely!…

  8. Joe Zekas

    July 3, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Rich,

    Many agents may find it easier – and more achievable – to have most of their posts consist of good local photography.

    If a site is truly hyper-local, i.e. spanning an area of not more than 3 to 4,000 households, an agent should build a sizable library of content from images in just a few months. If those images are also available on Flickr, they can be a genuine traffic draw.

    Here’s an easy one: it’s summer, so consider getting a booth at a popular local event, taking tons of photos, and telling everyone to see themselves / their family at the local blog or by searching the event at Flickr (with each photo description linking to the local blog).

  9. Rich Jacobson

    July 3, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Joe: That’s an excellent starting point. Although I wonder sometimes, as I go through our local MLS, whether or not most agents have the ability to take reasonably good pictures of a listing, let alone trying to convey the sense of community! But utilizing Flickr is a perfect way to draw in the locals….thanks for commenting. I was just thinking about your the other day, wondering how things were going out your way….

  10. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 3, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    I think its all about balance. You want to provide a good user experience, but at the same time, you want to make it easy for people to contact you. There are several sites that I’ve seen that were OUTSTANDING: excellent content, aesthetically pleasing – but you had to look VERY hard to find a way to get in touch with the persons (On one site, it took me 15 minutes to finally dig up a phone number). For me, contact info should be tastefully available, and not IN YO’ FACE. But, of course the IN YO’ FACE style does work for some.

  11. Matt Thomson

    July 4, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Keep in mind that a site like AR is naturally going to attract many folks who “don’t get it.” There’s no real investment. Somebody invites you in, you don’t pay anything, so any return is a good return on your investment.
    Trying to search a site like AR for the top local blogs is a mistake. There are some great ones on there, but common sense says there’s going to be some bad ones on there as well. There’s over 90,000 members, of course it’s not all going to be good.
    Sites such as AgentGenius and others that are invitation-only are naturally going to produce better blogs, as are independent blogs in which the blogger has invested some $ and energy into the blog.
    AR serves a lot of great purposes (getting bloggers started, networking, etc), but to find great content you’ll have to search a little harder as the haystack is deeper.

  12. Broker Bryant

    July 4, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    There’s only one way to judge a good blog. Checks in the bank. There are many ways for a blog to be effective, as a listing broker, it is a great tool to “push” at my potential sellers. Every seller that contacts me, whether it’s through my blog or not, get’s sent to my blog as part of my prelisting package. For the ones that aren’t online(and there are many) I give them the “blog tour” from my laptop after my listing presentation. And, believe it or not, the the part they enjoy the most are my stoopid little videos, including Blogging Bertha. It gives them a chance to know me a little better and for us to have a laugh together. They love it!!!

    I think it’s important to remember that not all bloggers are blogging for buyers. Blogging for buyers and blogging for sellers is completely different. Buyers want to see listings…sellers are more into personality. My potential sellers could not care less about local “happenings”, photos and the such. They already live there and are moving out of the area. At least that has been my experience.

    I truly hope, that when Localism posts start being approved or denied by an editor, that they remember that it’s not always about the buyer.

  13. Broker Bryant

    July 4, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Matt, You mention that siteslike AG are naturally going to produce better content. My question is content for who? The consumer? AG, from what I’ve seen, is a peer to peer site.There is very little here for the consumer at all. There is far more consumer content on AR. Next trip over there just be sure you are not logged in so you can view it through the eyes of a consumer.

    By the way I think AG is a great site. It’s just not consumer content.

  14. Bill Lublin

    July 4, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Broker Bryant- I agree with you that Blogging is for many a commercial project, and its effectiveness is measured by the impact on the business of the blogger. And I think that you were accurate in pointing out that AG is a peer to peer Blog, but the idea that a Multi-Author Blog might be a more effective blog might still be correct. I’m still playing with my blogs, just as I think the whole process for our industry is still relatively undeveloped, so it is tough to know the “formula” if such exists.

    Rich Great Post, and I will point out that AR, by virtue of being home to a huge group of people experimenting with Blogs has to have more bad ones then any other single place – and since many of the really good ones seem to go on to wordpress or typepad blogs, its impossible to really know the extent of the positive impact AR has had on this part of the industry, but there should be no question that it has been substantial.

  15. Robin

    July 4, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Uh Oh…It might snow in Florida And Arizona..I agree with Broker Bryant, Jonathan Dalton And Bill Lublin in the same thread. OMG!

    IMO, blog content , like that of a magazine, needs to be tailored towards your expected audience. Those who read Sports Illustrated may not necessarily be the same who read Good Housekeeping.

    A good blogger has to know or at a minimum needs to try and learn who their audience is. What I find too often on AR is that too many of the bloggers there feel their audience is each other. I had one AR blogger email me and was ticked off to the point of anger becasue she said we did not know that AR was for networking with each other. When I told her she wasn’t my audience, she freaked.

    I remember that happening here to a small degree as well. I take great care in crafting the posts on our real estate blog to laser target those clientele that I am seeking to reach.

  16. Barry Cunningham

    July 4, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Oops…was logged in as my wife’s account..that was me..sorry

  17. Broker Bryant

    July 5, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Bill, a multi author blog certainly could be more effective but again it depends on who you are writing for and who the co-authors are. I guess it really depends on what you are trying to achieve. I agree with this statement completely: “I think the whole process for our industry is still relatively undeveloped, so it is tough to know the “formula” if such exists”. In my opinion, there are way to many blogging “experts” when the reality is we all still learning and tweaking.

    Barry, The magazine comparison is spot on. In my opinion, a blog needs to have an over all theme if you want folks to come back. I have read some folks who are very good writers but their articles are all over board. I want to know what to expect when I click on. I also agree that many bloggers on AR are using it to talk amongst themselves, including me, on occassion. My goal on AR has always been to help my peers in their business. That’s what I enjoy doing. BUT….most of my posts are geared towards my peers AND the consumer. Even my posts about “justifying our commission” are kept public for a reason. I want the consumer to see how I interact with my peers while at the same time seeing how I conduct my business.

  18. Barry Cunningham

    July 5, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Hey BB..yep…you got it. One thing I wonder, and maybe Rich can add…In looking how Localism is being promoted, it seems that AR is encouraging bloggers to basically become extensions of the local newspaper.

    You know I follow the tutelage of Mary McKnight and one of the things she always says is to keep your local posts about real estate..NOT about current events and such. Point being we don’t want to be ansering questions about what time the parade starts.

    In as far as hyperlocal blogging, what’s everybody think? Should the current events be involved or should it be just about real estate.

    My feeling is I want to attract buyers, that’s my demo…If I post about the girl scout troop brownie drive is the buyer going to matter?

    Interesting conundrum. I once wrote about a restaurant that has all you can eat crab legs and I get a lot of traffic for people searching all you can eat crab legs but they don’t search properties or look to buy…they just want the restaurant info.

    So why is localism pushing the whole community thing when it really does not do anything for real estate..or so it seems.

    What do you guys think? (Notice the inquisitive, non-accusatory, really want to know something positioning of this comment ..:)

  19. Norm Fisher

    July 5, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Barry,

    I’ve tried posting on a few “events” and they have pretty much bombed in terms of the overall number of reads.

    We now focus on local real estate and often discuss provincial and national real estate stories. We also post on economic stories (job growth, wage growth, migration, etc.) but they are pretty much always tied to the real estate market in some way. People who are interested in the economy are usually interested in the real estate market and we’re happy to have them around, even if they’re not in the market right now.

    I do think that there is probably some good potential in covering “neighborhoods” and “what’s available in this community” but I can see it being terribly time consuming.

  20. Jonathan Dalton

    July 5, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I’ve usually avoided the local event kind of stuff, unless it really interested me and then I wrote about it because it’s all about me. Then again, I also don’t go hyper-local with the blog … still think it’s viable to write more generally than hyper-locally.

  21. Broker Bryant

    July 5, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Barry, That’s a good question and, for me personally, I don’t post about events and the such. One reason is that there just ain’t much going on in Poinciana. I guess I could write about 2 for 1 chuck steak at the Winn Dixie:) Poinciana is one of the largest PUDs in the Country. 72,000 people and 20,000 “track” homes. You’d think they’d have a lot going on but the reality is there isn’t. It’s a residential community.

    Now from what I understand, Localism is being designed to really focus down on the local communities. I too am concerned how restaurant reviews and the such are going to drive buyers and sellers who are ready, willing and able to purchase or sell now. BUT….in real estate, everybody is a potential buyer, seller, renter, at some point. So I guess even if they are driven to Localism by “Joe’s Pool Hall’s 8 Ball Tournament” they may see something or someone they like and come back when they are ready to buy, sell or rent.

    My biggest concern, that I touched on earlier, is how the editor(s) are going to pick and choose what articles are relevant for Localism. Will they realize that a post I write about dealing with a short sale is actually information that a Seller will be interested in? Or will they be more interested in listings, market reports, community news etc.? Those things, with the exception of market reports, have no value to a potential seller. Sellers want to know what I do and how I do it. They’re not interested in listings in the least bit.

    Now having said all of that. I have been a member on AR since the beginning. There were only about 600 members when I joined. The AR guys have built trust with me. I have seen how they listen and make changes when warranted. They are excellent at taking AR where it needs to go and I have no doubt that they will do the same for Localism.

  22. Broker Bryant

    July 5, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Barry, I forgot to mention that I will be writing about the 20% closing rate for Realtor(s) on their listings. So stay tuned. It should be a good one. Make sure Brett puts on his attitude before he stops by 🙂

  23. Paula Henry

    July 5, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Having started on AR and not knowing what the heck I was doing, I only wrote neighborhood posts about a specific city. I included stats and data about each neighborhood I could find. It paid off in 5 closed transactions last year. Those posts are still found and I have closed three transactions this year and have had four listings from AR/Localism.

    I expanded on that in my current blog and have to say, I would rather be found for the content about a local neighborhood with “real estate” key words than one for “how long do appliances last” which was also a post I wrote.

    I don’t contribute to AR much anymore because I found the time factor too much to do additional blogging beyond my current blog. I do post my listings because I like Localism.

  24. Rich Jacobson

    July 6, 2008 at 3:34 am

    Barry (Robin): You’re right, in that many times, members on AR are, in fact, writing for each other. That’s a HUGE benefit to involvement there – the sharing of information and experiences between professionals. Localism was intended, and will become, the interface that places our consumer-oriented content in the fore front of the public view.

  25. Missy Caulk

    July 6, 2008 at 7:09 am

    Rich, I agree a long “this is who I am and this is what I do” is too much. Some of the signatures take up a fourth of a page. But….those people who have and are doing it are getting listings. So IMO a little how to contact me is good, and a lot is overkill.

    I am gearing my outside blog on AR to localism and my original AR blog to agents and the industry. I’m glad there is a way to make a clear difference.

    I wonder how long it will take those blogs to stake over SE, like my AR blog did and helps my other web sites.

  26. Rich Jacobson

    July 6, 2008 at 12:08 pm

  27. Barry Cunningham

    July 6, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Hey rich..read the AR post…sure if it works for an agent then fine. Obviously a number of ways to get the job done. Following Mary’s we were able to take a new site to page one in google in 50 days. Some “community stuff” sprinkled in..mostly about the market.

    I wish you and the guys at AR the best with Localism.

  28. Karen Goodman

    July 6, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I’ve only been blogging for about 8 months, but I’ve learned a lot since I started. I like the idea of having a consistent format for all of my posts, and at the beginning I started ending all of my posts with my name and a link to my static website. I do think it is helpful since the blog platform that I am on, Point 2, doesn’t allow for much custimization and it isn’t very easy to find a my contact info. I’m in the process of moving my blog to WordPress, and plan to drop the signature stuff when I do.

    As time has gone on, I started plugging my services as an agent much less, though I do mention it lightly at the end of my posts about once a month that they can contact me if they need help with the topic of the day and don’t already have an agent helping them. There are still a lot of readers out there that aren’t very internet savvy, and they can use some help finding the information.

    I also want to put in my 2 cents on posting on community events for the consumer focused blogs. I recently was looking for a comprehensive list of all the area summer free concerts in my town, and couldn’t find a site that had them all. So, I put together a list and posted it on my site. Even though I’m still in Google’s sandbox and have no page rank with them, my traffic from Google shot way up and this is now one of my most popular posts. The traffic should last all summer, and next year I can just update the dates easily.

    My point is that if you put something out there that you were looking for and couldn’t find, then other people will likely be interested too. If you are just repeating the same event info that can already be found in a dozen places, then you are probably wasting your time.

  29. Joseph Ferrara.sellsius

    July 8, 2008 at 7:42 am

    I agree with Broker Bryant. The transactional visitor is the one who puts checks in the bank.

    I believe in the value of local events but it need not be a focal point. Try using a local events calendar or other sidebar widget or just link to a local events site in your sidebar or maybe a page for local events– the events are usually the same and you’ll only need to change the dates yr to yr. The value may come from including a signup for free email updates on local events & combine it with free blog updates– this will build your subscriber base. If you write a post about a neighborhood, just add the link to see local events, get free updates. Perhaps you contact event organizers and get some discounts/freebies and offer them to your readers— get an interview while you’re at it and create a connection. Like most of these questions, I think anything can work if packaged & marketed correctly– it just takes creativity.

    Rather than just posting on local events, you might do better attending them — or starting your own.

    My opinion on multi-author blogs– better for the transactional visitor if local– Rain City Guide is the perfect example. If you want to be a “national” blog– good writers from anywhere does the trick for readers but I’m not convinced of the efficacy for getting checks.

  30. Jay Thompson

    July 8, 2008 at 8:39 am

    I’m just going to come out and say it.

    Sometimes (OK, often) I think “hyper-local” is an over-rated and over-used term.

    I had a ridiculous amount of traffic on July 3 and 4, for people searching for where to view fireworks. And yes, I had a post about that. Why? Because I found it was a pain in the ass to find places to view fireworks, so I compiled a list and shared it. Not to get buyers and sellers, but just because.

    The good thing about that traffic is it was all local. And many visitors that came looking for that page viewed others. And they stayed around, they subscribed, and they saved home searches.

    Not every post has to be about real estate. Many clients have told me their “favorites” have absolutely NOTHING to do with real estate. And not every post has to be about Phoenix either.

    I write about what interests me. Apparently some others also find it interesting. My blog appears to be a hodge-podge of “stuff” but believe it or not, there is a method to the madness.

    I don’t think, actually, I know that you don’t have to go “hyper-local” to have a successful blog (success as measured by checks in the bank).

  31. Paula Henry

    July 8, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Jay – Funny – I had the same thing on the 3rd and 4th, except it was for fireworks in a specific park. Whoops! I didn’t write about it. People did find information about the park, as it pertains to the city, but nothing about fireworks.

    We have a great local website which features everything there is to do in Indy, which I have linked to.

    I do find the local “real esate” specific posts can be mixed with our interests, posts for fun and just stuff, while still being found for real estate.

    I also know, “hyper-local” is where I get most of my business from blogging. Once the online prospect has decided an area or neighborhood they want to live, they will find me, assuming I work in that area. I just mix it up!

    It’s a balance and I’m still working on it.

  32. Barry Cunningham

    July 8, 2008 at 11:33 am

    @ Joseph from Selsius….”Rather than just posting on local events, you might do better attending them — or starting your own.”

    Now why would I spend the money to create my own event or promotion to attracts thousands of people when I can just knock on some doors on a Saturday afternoon?

    Spoken with all the satire, tongue in cheeck rhetoric I can muster.

    Mr Ferrara, this is a marketing ploy that we have used on MANY times to great success. It’s, as you know, called event or experiential marketing and it’s phenomenal…yet most agents won’t touch it because of cost and risk. I count on that as I know I will NEVER have any competition.

  33. Joseph Ferrara.sellsius

    July 8, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    You got that right, Barry C. Nothing better than swimming in a blue ocean 😉

  34. Bob

    July 8, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    The AR membership needs to have a standard to strive for.

    How about “Publish your own content on your own domain”?

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Business Marketing

Simple ways to improve your organic reach on Facebook

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Facebook continues to make businesses and pages pay to play, but businesses still have a shot of improving their organic reach, according to experts in the field.

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Facebook open on laptop with white desk and small potted plant, open to organic reach.

Facebook organic reach is not dead, but you will need to work harder to get eyes on your pages. Here’s a rundown of what experts are saying will help you reach your audience. Facebook is still the top social media platform that marketers use and where consumers tend to look for and follow brand pages. So don’t despair!

Those running Facebook business pages have been seeing ever diminishing returns on their effort at getting their content in front of their audiences and fans, especially since around 2016. Yet Facebook remains the #1 platform for building an audience. Once upon a time, Facebook was incredibly fertile soil to grow our entrepreneurial and creative gardens in, at little to no cost to us. Many businesses are seeing a drastic reduction in reach, meaning that a tiny percentage of people are seeing our posts, even among those who follow our pages.

Have you ever heard something like, “The first one’s always free; that’s how they get you”? This has long been a business philosophy to hook prospective customers, used by savvy marketers and drug dealers alike. Facebook went and took that to the next level, introducing an easy-to-use platform where almost anyone could find and engage with their target audiences of customers, fans, members, and more.

Of course, there had to be a reckoning, and now that Facebook has more than 2.6 billion active monthly users worldwide, they continue to change the rules. Consider the amount of users and the amount of posts being made, and it makes more sense that Facebook tries to narrow the audience for any single post to a reasonable chunk. Otherwise, our brains would explode (okay, my words, not an actual medical opinion). Really, you don’t need to reach everybody, because not everybody is interested in what you’re offering. You need to reach the right people who are going to engage and build a smaller, engaged loyal group of diehard customers.

Community is key
Here are some of the latest tips and best practices to increase organic reach in 2021, provided by Facebook pros. Mark Zuckerburg keeps bringing up the concept of community, and the algorithm favors engagement, not only on Facebook, but across platforms. Nobody wants products and services constantly jammed in their faces.

This is a conversation, not a one-way portal into your customers’ brains and wallets. A constant barrage of salesy content, urging people to buy buy buy, grows real tedious real fast. “If you build it, they will come.” Only instead of a baseball field in the middle of nowhere, work to build a community.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you creating conversations?
  • Are you using your platform to act as a resource and provide helpful or inside information in your niche or area of expertise?
  • Are you asking your audience what they want and would like to see more of from you?
  • Are you taking current events and trends into account, reacting to local/national/world news at all, and creating timely posts?
  • Are you using a variety of post types (photos, videos, links) and taking advantage of Facebook’s built in post tools?
  • Are you taking data into account for what content people are responding to favorably and when?
  • Do you ever invest in Facebook ads or boosted posts for important content or events?

Find the answer to these questions to reevaluate your strategy, work on promoting a dialogue with your audience, and ideally you will see more engagement on your pages, fruitful interactions that ultimately lead to loyal customers and bigger sales.

Create Conversations
Zuckerburg himself comes back to this point repeatedly in his regular updates on the state of all things Facebook and how the algorithm works, saying Facebook will “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.” Not every industry lends itself to deep thoughts, but it can be simple enough to engage your audience with community questions. People love giving their opinions or talking about a shared interest.

Community questions can be fun, lively, and create fun interaction between your audience and the business. A simple This or That question posted on one of the background color templates can get the conversation started. If people don’t have to invest a lot of time to answer, then great! Depending on the industry, these can be easy one-offs: Red wine or white? Beach vacation or mountains? TikTok or Reels? Mac or PC? Harley Davidson hogs or Kawasaki crotch rockets? Early bird or night owl?

Hot takes, unpopular opinions, are another way to get people chatting. I’m not espousing trying to stir up controversy here, unless that is appropriate for your business, but people get emotional as all get out for something as simple as pineapple on pizza or beans in chili. What’s a popular or common opinion in your field? How can you introduce a hot take to get people chatting? For an entrepreneurial page, you could put out a hot take on a cluttered desk, or making lists, or standing desks.

Sure, these conversations may start out superficial, but who knows? When people begin interacting on your page more, they begin seeing more that you post, and that’s when you can introduce something a little weightier, asking them to share their expertise or advice on a relevant topic.

Become a resource
Whether your business is a science journal, digital marketing, interior designing, or a Texas Hill Country resort, your business and your audience is unique. Real estate agencies have become good at this, so we’ll use them as an example. If you are selling or leasing properties in Austin or San Francisco, sell the area. Don’t only post the properties you’re selling or agent profiles. Post those, yes, but also post industry news and local attractions.

When people are interested in moving to a new city or a new neighborhood or investing in opening a business there, they need to know why the area is attractive. What is the business climate? What are the financial perks associated with living there? What is the area known for (local restaurants, live music hiking trails, swimming holes, no traffic)? Has the area made a list for quality of life, affordability, great job prospects in X industry? Sharing blogs, articles, infographics, videos, and photos highlighting any of these can help your page serve the interests of your target audience. This is a good thing.

Ask your audience
This is a simple tip for keeping things closer to your audience’s interests, helping you identify areas where your page may be lacking–and opportunities for growth, and keeping the conversation going. Be careful not to overuse this one, but it’s an important tool.

  • Try a simple question, such as “What would you like to see more of on this page?”
  • Create a poll, which is much faster to answer, and helps you narrow answers down to what you really want to know.
  • Similar to the community questions, ask them to share something that has helped them. A classic example would be “What is the best entrepreneurial advice anyone has even given you?” Or “Please share some tips to fight procrastination.” Or “What is the top time-saving tool you use in your business (or for scheduling)?” Having your page followers (and hopefully others) chat with each other this way is helpful for them and for your organic reach.

Take current events and trends into account
This one’s simple: Read the room. This goes both ways. If there is renewed interest in, say, downtown lofts or sea shanty dances on TikTok, can you use this momentary heat to bring interest to your page? On the other hand, if there is a natural disaster, tragedy, or financial crash that has caused great suffering in an area? That’s a good moment to review your scheduled posts and delete or postpone anything that could be unintentionally triggering or offensive.

Some types of businesses are better suited to jumping on the latest trend. Do you have a bar or restaurant with a fairly young, social media savvy crowd? Go ahead, Photoshop that Bernie-Sanders-in-mittens image sitting on your patio (only if you can do it as the trend is hitting). Are you targeting an area that has recently been hit by extended power outages? I’m sorry to tell you, but this is not the time to promote that popup restaurant where diners experience eating in the dark.

Mix it up and use native Facebook tools
Of course you want to stay on brand, but please don’t get caught in a rut where all of your posts are one type. Consistency is one thing, but beware that this doesn’t turn into monotony. Assess where you can change things up. Add photos, videos, links to relevant blogs and articles, or community questions. Different people respond differently to different types of input. Use all the tools at your disposal to generate interest, draw people in, and get them reacting to and engaging with your page.

Facebook and all social media platforms have built in tools. They want you to use them. Often, this is a Facebook effort to capitalize on a similar, competing app. Trust me when I say, you will get brownie points (higher reach) when you take the time to use these native tools. Facebook Watch, Facebook Live, Facebook Stories, even using a background color template from the Facebook options, are all ways to show Facebook you’re paying attention and want to optimize the tools they are giving you.

Use provided data
You need to be able to look for patterns, evaluate the factors that made a particular post popular, and know when your customers and followers are likely to see your page and interact with it. Facebook provides a number of insights in the platform, but there are numerous external marketing tools you can purchase or sometimes use for free (depending on how many pages and platforms you are running, and how in-depth you want your data to be).

Posting willy nilly is not the most effective way to be. Decide what data is useful to you and make time to study it, and be willing to make changes to your content strategy based on the data. Like many other aspects of marketing, expanding your organic reach is a mixture of art and science, a balancing act of intuition and cold, hard numbers. Use them.

Consider paying to play
I know, I know, this story is about organic and not paid reach, but the fact is strategically paying for a Facebook ad or boosting a post to highlight a launch, event, special deal, or other important news will bring more people to your page. If the other tips, tools, and best practices referred to here are in place, once they find your page, you have the ability to keep their attention through organic means.

Keep on truckin’
These tips should help you expand your page’s organic reach. More importantly, they should help you build and support a community, earn loyal followers and customers, and generate positive buzz about your business. Keep working on becoming a resource and sharing helpful information. Have fun with it and experiment with new media and types of posts. Know yourself. Know your audience.

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Business Marketing

Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.

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Man working in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.

Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.

Four-Day Workweek Trials

In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.

“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.

Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.

With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.

“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”

Trial Results

Company Productivity
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.

However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.

The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.

Employee Well-Being
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.

What’s in store for 2021?

Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.

“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.

The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.

For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.

Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.

If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.

But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.

“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.

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Business Marketing

Should your content management system go headless?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) You may be familiar with your typical content management system, but had you heard of a ‘headless’ model? Let’s dig into it together.

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Person using content management system with hands on keyboard and small bit of desktop visible.

At some point, you have probably worked with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. If you haven’t already, you at least know that this computer software is used to manage website content.

But, have you ever heard of a headless content management system before? We didn’t. So, we set out to find out what it’s all about and how beneficial, or not, it can be for your company.

What is headless CMS?

Unlike your classic CMS, headless CMS is a back-end only content management system. It decouples where your content is stored and authored (body) from the front-end where your content is displayed (head).

This CMS isn’t tied to a particular output like a web page. Content is transmitted as data over an application programming interface (API). It’s a content repository that delivers content seamlessly to any device.

Benefits of Headless CMS

More versatile
Headless CMS isn’t your classic “monolithic” CMS so you aren’t constrained to an all-in-one system that might work for websites but not mobile devices.

Content is consumed by customers in more than one place now. Headless CMS provides a more versatile way to deliver multi-channel content to websites, Android and iOS apps, and even IoT (internet of things), like a smartwatch or in-store kiosk.

Businesses will benefit from this because only one back-end is needed to manage and publish content for different services and products.

No need for specialized developers
Developers aren’t tied to a specific programming language or framework. A developer can choose between using Javascript, PHP, Ruby, or any language they prefer.

If you already have a talented developer, you don’t have to scramble to find someone else who specializes in a specific system or language you are moving to. Your current developer can do the job for you in the best way they know-how.

Better Security
Security is important. Not being married to the front-end, headless CMS has a security advantage a regular CMS doesn’t. Usually, content provided to a headless CMS is read-only, and the admin portion lives on a different server and domain.

With the back-end detached from the presentation layer, there is a smaller target area to attack. Also, layers of code can be used to hide the content-delivering API making it safer than a traditional CMS.

Real-time collaboration
With two separate systems, content editors and web developers can work concurrently. This shortens a project’s timeline and helps get your product and services to market quicker. Also, content editors don’t have to spend more time creating the same content for each system. Designers and developers can take care of that.
Downsides of Headless CMS

As with anything, headless CMS isn’t perfect and isn’t for everyone. It has its disadvantages.

More technical
Little technical involvement is called for in a traditional CMS. As a result, the tool can be picked up quickly by almost anyone.

A deeper understanding of CMS, coding languages, and front-end technologies is needed when using headless CMS. You must have a developer that can build the web or app just for you.

Increased maintenance
With the body separated from the head, there are two systems to maintain. Implementation and maintenance could potentially become complex.

Bigger price tag
Building a system from scratch costs time and money. With a traditional CMS, there is one account, and, most likely, one payment. With headless CMS, you’ll have multiple payments for the CMS, a developer, and the infrastructure running your website or app.

Your custom CMS also isn’t coming from a pre-built content management system. All that hard work takes time (and patience) to get it done right.

Conclusion

Headless CMS lets you create a unique user experience and allow for cross-platform publishing, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all content management system.

Before you jump ships, take inventory of all your content needs. Does your content need to be published on different platforms? Will a simple stand-alone website work for you? Only you can decide what works best with your business, but we hope this information helps.

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