Content Marketing: It’s Not Just Blogging Anymore

Content Marketing Comes in Many Forms | Learn more via @HighleyDesigned

I recently started hosting a podcast with Lancaster Podcast Studio called Open Chat and my guests this week were local marketing professionals. We had a great talk about digital marketing and social media but the topic we kept coming back to was content marketing – what it is and how to provide value to your online audience. (To listen to the full show click here.)

I think one of the biggest challenges we face as marketers is defining our audience and creating a variety of media for them to consume. With the numerous social media platforms we have to post on, content marketing isn’t just blogging anymore. And Google is getting smarter – you cannot just blog to add keywords to your website – they want to see that you are providing valuable content that’s user friendly.

So regardless of what industry you’re in, if content marketing isn’t just blogging anymore, what is it? Well, content marketing can be a free eBook, a standout visual, a video or tutorial, an infographic or a free download. There are various tools to create this kind of media and most of them are FREE so it’s easy to incorporate video, GIFs and tutorials into your marketing mix. To learn more about free tools for creating video and standout graphics see my previous blog.

Now that you know what content marketing is, let’s talk about adding value. Something is not valuable if it’s been written about and talked about a million times already. If you are going to write or create a video about something that’s yesterday’s news, you better have a fresh perspective to keep your audience interested. Another tip – if you can’t explain a process in a few simple steps then leave it to someone else. Adding value means providing your audience with something that’s fresh, easy to follow, entertaining to watch and useful to learn about.

With all of that in mind, think about the various social platforms your brand is using. After you write a great blog you can repurpose that content over time to each of your social platforms as a different form of media. For example, I recently blogged about working from home. I then created a graphic for Instagram and shared a link to the article on Facebook and Twitter. Before writing this blog I decided I’d take that content a step further and create a video to share my 3 favorite tips for work from home success.

The key to content marketing success is simple:

A. Define Your Audience
B. Keep Your Content Fresh
C. Use a Variety of Media – Blogging, Video, Graphics, Downloads, GIFs, etc.
D. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

If you’re a work from home entrepreneur, blogger or freelancer, enjoy my video! And be sure to checkout the Open Chat podcast – It’s available each Wednesday on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

 

3 Tips to Be More Productive Working from Home

3 Tips to be MORE productive working from home via HighleyDesigned.

Most people think working from home is a breeze. No schedule, no rules, no boss to check in on you and no annoying coworkers… But the truth is, as great as it can be to set your own schedule and get your creative juices flowing, working from home can be hard. It requires a ton of self motivation, organization and planning! I’ve been working from home running my freelance marketing business for nearly two years now and I’ve learned a lot about what works for me so I thought I’d pass along some tips this week.

  1. Plan Plan Plan. 
    When you’re managing numerous projects and accounts, planning is essential. Whether you use a detailed spreadsheet or a good old fashioned to-do list, make sure you have a plan for the week. Set realistic expectations of what you can complete each day and plan for unexpected things to pop up. Don’t fill your schedule to the brim so that an impromptu phone call throws you for a loop – give yourself some wiggle room. If you know it’s going to be really nice out one day, plan to finish early so you can enjoy the park!

    I use an Excel spreadsheet to manage all of my tasks and keep track of deadlines. A color system lets me know if things are HOT, WARM or COLD, and I work from red to blue. The goal is to keep all of my tasks in the blue – meaning I have plenty of time to finish them. Occasionally I’ll have a day full of red tasks that need to be done asap, but if I manage my time effectively, that’s not often, saving me time and stress.

  2. Develop a Routine.
    As nice as it is to “wing it” sometimes, working from home is a commitment that requires routine. If you’re not a morning person, that’s fine. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty because you enjoy your sleep. Maybe you do your best work from 4pm-11pm, find what works for you and stick to it! If you work from home so that you can take care of your kids, you’ll probably need to work around nap time or school pick-up etc. When you find what works for you, make it a habit!

    My daughter is 9 months old and requires a lot of attention, so my mornings are typically dedicated to her and keeping our home in one piece. I can count on getting back to emails and responding to any “red hot” tasks when she takes her morning nap. In the afternoon, I do the rest of my work. Not only does a routine help keep me organized, it helps me set boundaries so I can decide what I can commit to or decide if I’m too busy. As a freelancer it’s easy to take on a ton of projects so it’s always important to think ahead so you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

  3. Take Time for YOU.
    It’s easy to get lost in a project when you’re working from home. I know I’ve had those sweatpants and crusty t-shirt kind of days when I can’t seem to pull myself away from the computer until I finish ONE more thing! But the truth is, nothing good comes from overworking yourself (or wearing sweatpants all day.) If this sounds like you, put the laptop down, take a shower and eat a good meal! You can’t produce your best work if you’re not feeling good about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable while you work from home, but I find getting myself together in the morning, eating breakfast and just taking time to be human is a huge benefit to my work life.

 

FREE Tools for Creating Social Media Graphics and Videos

FREE Social Media Tools for creating standout visuals and videos! Learn more via @HighleyDesigned

One of the things I have the most fun doing as a social media manager is creating graphics and videos! Most of the apps I use are absolutely FREE, so I figured I’d pass along the savings and share some of my secrets.

Canva

If you use PostPlanner you are probably already familiar with Canva, but if not that’s okay. For newbies, PostPlanner is an awesome tool for finding viral content to share on your social networks and it has an integrated Canva app so you don’t even have to leave the PostPlanner website to create a custom graphic. If you’re not using PostPlanner, simply visit Canva.com to get started. You can create a free account and all features are free but some designs contain special elements (fonts, backgrounds, layouts) that do cost extra. The good news – the extras are all $1 a piece so the most I’ve ever paid for a not-free graphic is about $3. And most that aren’t free use only 1 or 2 paid elements so you’re looking at $1 or $2 for an awesome, professional custom graphic.

What sets Canva apart from other apps is that they have pre-designed templates for almost any social media site! This includes templates designed to the right dimensions for posts, ads, cover photos, you name it. This is a huge time saver for me! I use Canva for custom Facebook and Twitter posts, blog graphics, ads, and even full page flyers and more. I typically use InDesign if I have a big project that requires lots of detail but what’s awesome about Canva is you can download your designs as JPGs, PNGs or PDFs. So, if I need to create a simple flyer to print copies of and I don’t have lots of time, I can create something with Canva and download it as a high quality PDF. See below, a flyer I recently created for a client of mine.

Beautifully designed flyer using Canva free elements!

Not only could I download a JPG for online use, with Canva you can download high quality PDFs for print!

 

PicMonkey

PicMonkey is very similar to Canva but it does not include all of the pre-designed templates. PicMonkey is great if you want to edit or add effects to an existing photo or use their awesome overlays and themes to create something original. I like PicMonkey for creating custom images that feature quotes and original photos. The site is really easy to use and that’s part of what makes it so great! You can download JPGs and PNGs but no PDF feature (at least not yet!). Also similar to Canva, PicMonkey does have a “Royal” plan which allows you to use any premium features for a low monthly price of about $4. So if you are using sites like these a lot the cost is comparable.

Legend

Legend is an awesome app for creating short GIFs and Videos. Simply take a quote or expression, select a photo and then choose from tons of awesome animations that bring it to life! This is an app for mobile only so it’s great for making videos that stand out on Instagram. You can download your animation as a GIF or Video so keep in mind you can now upload GIFs to Facebook and Twitter but for IG you need to download your animation as a video.

Filmora

Filmora is an awesome app for desktop that allows you to create professional looking amateur videos! You can create a full video or use photos and simply add background music or text overlay. I am not a filmmaker but video is such a big part of social media, and apps like this allow you to compete with the big guys that do have a budget to hire the professionals. Filmora allows you to create standout video shorts for Facebook and I find them especially effective as ads! Have you tried a video ad yet? What are you waiting for? Video isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s everywhere and with the tools at your fingertips it’s time to dive in or be left behind.

The only downside to Filmora is that it isn’t free, but for just $29.99 you can download the software and start making your own videos! Below is a simple video ad I created for Facebook using Legend and Filmora. It performed really well and I spent about 50 cents per page like during the campaign which is awesome! Enjoy and have fun creating custom graphics and videos this week. For more tips be sure to subscribe or like my Facebook page! 

 

 

Everyday SEO Part II: Alt Tags that Rock!

Learn how to optimize your website's images with descriptive Alt Tags. Everyday SEO via Highley Designed.

The images and photos on your blog or website can be helpful or or hurtful to your site’s overall Google ranking. The goal is for them to be helpful! Things to keep in mind include photo size which can effect your site’s load time and whether or not your images are optimized with the appropriate Alt Tags/Text and Titles.

So what are Alt Tags and why are they important? Well, they’re not really tags, they are more like descriptions. According to Yoast, the SEO experts, “Alt tags and title tags strengthen the message towards search engine spiders and improve the accessibility of your website.”

So let’s break it down. This is a complete HTML image tag:

<img src="image.jpg" alt="image description" title="image tooltip"/>

 

If you’re using a visual website builder, HTML is the text “behind the scenes” that tells your server what to display. Most website builders have options for viewing and editing the HTML directly, but to add your Alt Tags and Titles you shouldn’t need to. In fact, if you’re using WordPress, adding your Alt Tags is easy. After uploading your photo simply click “edit” and you’ll see these options.

Learn how to add Alt Tags and Titles that will boost your website's SEO via HighleyDesigned.

If you’re using another platform you will have similar options. I suggest finding your image options or settings where you should be able to add the same things – Captions, Alt Tags/Text and Tool Tips. The Alt Tag/Text is what appears by default when you Pin an image to Pinterest. If you enter something in the Tool Tips field that text will appear when someone hovers over the photo on your website.

Now that you know how it works, let’s talk about what your Alt Text should include. Just like it’s important for your site Title and page Titles to include keywords and phrases, your Alt Tags should do the same. Alt Tags should be a full sentence or phrase that describes what the photo is all about or why it’s on your site. Yoast also recommends that “If your image is an image of a specific product, include both the full product name and the products product ID in the alt tag, so it can be easily found.”

Now that you know how to optimize your images, go back and edit the photos on your site that don’t have custom Alt Text and be sure to add it to any of your new photos and images in the future. SEO is always changing but this is a tried and true method to make your website more Google-friendly.

Stay tuned for more SEO tips and be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest in social media marketing and web design.

 

 

The Fantastic 4 Tools for Social Media Marketers

The Fantastic 4 Tools for Social Media Markters by HighleyDesigned

 

1. Hootsuite

If you’re not using it yet, your life is about to change. Hootsuite allows you to schedule all of your posts for almost every platform in one place. You can also view your newsfeeds and Twitter streams from one place so that you don’t have to login and logout of every account you manage just to comment, like or RT. There are a handful of new sites like Hootsuite, but from my experience none of these new sites offer the sophistication and ease of their predecessor. Hootsuite has everything you need to effectively schedule posts and interact as your brand – all in one place. And it’s less than $10 per month.

2. Evernote

Evernote is a free app you can download on your phone and your computer. It syncs automatically so if you think of an awesome idea or make a note while you’re out and about, it will be on your desktop when you get back to your office. I use this ALL the time. It’s also a great place to save reminders, grocery lists… anything really. When you still have “baby brain” it is truly a life saver!

3. Canva

Canva is an amazing design site that lets you create professional looking social media graphics. It’s perfect for making FB cover photos, Twitter cards, question posts and more. You can choose from pre-made templates or design your own. If you use any of their “paid” elements like a stock photo or a custom design – they only cost $1.00 each. I love using Canva for branded posts. I start with a fun background then do some kind of text overlay – usually a question. These are great for engagement!

4. Unfollowers

If you’re not sure why your Twitter following is stagnant, this is an awesome tool. Unfollowers allows you to see exactly who’s following you, who followed you but unfollowed you and more. It also allows you to schedule Tweets and auto DMs. I don’t like super fake sounding auto DMs, or auto DMs that are trying to sell you something, but a friendly “thanks for following me, etc.” is a great way to start a networking conversation. Using Unfollowers you can track what works and what isn’t as effective so that you can grow your network in a smart way. Most plans start at $5-$10 per month!

 

~ Rachel

Work From Home Mom, Tip #21: Get Outside

 

Getting Outside for a Walk

Tip #21 – Make time to get outside

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you’re working on or to feel bogged down with laundry, dirty dishes, a fussy baby etc. There are days I feel overwhelmed and realize I’ve hardly accomplished anything on my to-do list and I just need a “reset” so I can clear my head and focus. On days like those  (and today was one of them) it’s so helpful to get outside and take a mental break.

Not only is the fresh air good for you, but studies show Vitamin D can also be a mood booster. I know this is true for me, especially this time of year when it’s getting dark by 5 pm. If I don’t have time for a walk I’ll check the mail and play fetch with our 100 lb labradoodle for a few minutes – he loves the attention and I love the way a little time spent outdoors can help me clear my thoughts and refocus on writing or design, whatever it is I’m working on.

If you’re struggling to build a routine or stay motivated working from home, try getting outside on a daily basis and see how much better you feel – and how much more focused you can be. It’s worth it!

-Rachel

10 Tips for Working from Home (with a Baby)

working from home

1. Create a schedule
When I first began working from home I had only a few clients and could get most of my writing done at the beginning of the week leaving me with a few “free” days for running errands etc. That is no longer the case so a schedule has become essential. My schedule doesn’t dictate what time of day I work on things, but it does tell me what needs to be done each day. Mondays – Pinterest, Tuesdays – Blogging, etc.

2. Make a to-do list
I keep a simple Excel sheet with a list of my clients, what needs to be done and when. I date everything when it comes to social media management so that I remember when I last worked on something and when those social media accounts will need to be worked on again. Being able to schedule posts ahead of time is a huge advantage but I try not to go more than two weeks out because a lot can change during that time and I always want posts to be relevant. For additional items like “Buy dog food” or “Pick up dry cleaning” I use the app Evernote. It’s FREE and a great way to remember things. It syncs between my phone and laptop so no matter what I’m working on I have access to my latest notes or reminders.

3. Plan ahead
I like to stay at least one week ahead when it comes to content creation – this way if something comes up it’s not the end of the world. When you work from home it feels like you have all the time in the world to complete tasks but at the end of the day with a fussy baby there are moments I find myself saying “What did I do today??” If you know your little one is acting fussier than usual, plan ahead and get an extra hour of work done when he or she goes to bed, so that if you lose time the next day it’s okay. I also make sure to keep Dr. appointments, meetings and anything else on the same calendar so that I can plan around things and be prepared.

4. Take advantage of nap time
This is a big one. I will make sure to save my most challenging work for nap time. I try to do things like vacuuming, folding laundry and household chores when baby is awake because it doesn’t matter if I’m interrupted a million times, but when it comes to writing, design or content planning – nap time it is!

5. Be willing to be flexible
I recently read the quote “Perfectionism is the enemy of Hustle.” I think this is perfect for remembering to stay flexible. When you have a baby toddling around nothing is ever going to be perfect and this has taken me a while to learn. I am seriously OCD when it comes to my home and keeping things tidy but at the end of the day that doesn’t get things done.

6. Schedule phone calls
When you have a baby the worst thing that can happen is an unexpected phone call during nap time or a door bell ring followed by incessant barking and chaos from your 100lb dog. (Maybe that’s just in our household haha) Regardless, nothing can mess up your day like an unexpected 30 minute conversation when you could have done a bunch of other more important things during that time. I ask all of my clients to email first and if they need to talk on the phone that’s fine but I schedule my calls in advance so 1. I can be prepared and 2. It doesn’t mess up nap time and 3. It doesn’t interfere with my other work.

7. Plan time to check and respond to emails.
Email can be a major time-sucker. Unless it’s urgent I don’t open it right away – this way it remains highlighted so I know I need to come back to it. I try to check and respond in the morning and again later in the day. As much as I want to be available to my clients, email can become a serious interruption to other work. I find I can write a better response when it’s not rushed and I’m not doing other things so setting a time for email checking and responding has proven valuable.

8. Designate a work space
I love that working from home means I can work wherever, but I like some stability so when I sit down I know, “okay, it’s work time.” We have an “office” but I hate it. It’s secluded and baby girl has no room to play. I have commandeered the breakfast bar in the kitchen as my work space instead – there’s ample space for me to spread out papers, drink my coffee and plenty of outlets for chargers. Plus I can put baby Kline in her walker or jumper and let her go to town, all within watching distance. Having a work space is great – even my dog knows when I’m sitting here I’m not to be bothered.

9. Limit distractions
Okay, we all have our lazy work from home days when we catch up on our favorite shows or watch the Today Show for an hour but when it comes down to it I cannot do my best work with the TV on. Even catchy music can get distracting for me so I limit myself to a few classical Pandora stations for some welcome background noise. I highly recommend “Piano Guys” radio to anyone that loves music – it’s all instrumental versions of your favorite songs so it’s fun but not distracting. I’ve also learned to successfully tune out Disney radio but sometimes when Frozen comes on I just have to belt out “Let it go!” for the world to hear. (baby girl thinks I’m a great singer!)

10. Enjoy your little ones while you can!
The best part of working from home is getting to spend time with your little one (s) so do it! They may be your biggest inspiration when it comes to your next creative assignment and when I’m stressed nothing is better than some quiet time nursing my baby girl. Don’t forget why you’re working from home to begin with. “Work” can always wait or you can catch up on something when the kids are in bed.

What are your top tips for working from home with kids? I’d love to hear them!

– Rachel