The Shift from Visual Appeal to Content Marketing

I feel like I’ll be stating the obvious with this particular article. However, I still think there are a lot of business owners—and even some marketing companies—who haven’t quite grasped this concept completely.

The Shift Has Already Happened

The point is that in the world of online marketing, things have shifted dramatically in the past 5-10 years. Websites used to be about visual appeal. Fancy graphics, animated elements, complex designs—it was all about catching the visitor’s attention and making your company stand out amongst the sea of competitors online all trying to vie for the same customer’s business.

This is simply not the approach of online marketing anymore. Now, good content is more important. Sure, you want your site to look sharp. You want it to catch people’s attention and build value for your brand.

Modern Design Approach

However, design nowadays is more perfunctory. The most important thing now is to have a site that is mobile-friendly, with a format that is automatically adaptable to be viewed on different web browsers and different devices (desktop, laptop, tablets, phones, TVs, gaming systems, etc.). This goal naturally hinders how “fancy” you can get with your graphics and visual elements, which is why you see a lot of template-type sites. Developers like WordPress make it easy to build your own site. Or, secondary developers piggyback on these platforms to repackage and resell templates designed for specific industries.

I’m helping one of my clients right now get started with a home investment company and, of course, there are many companies out there with plug-and-play mobile-friendly websites that are pre-built with all the SEO keywords, content, etc. I’ve gone into customize the content and make it more unique to my client’s business, but otherwise most of the heavy lifting was already done and the site was ready to launch minutes after my client signed up for their hosting package.

Content is King

The point is who ever builds and/or hosts your site, the “look” of the site is only a small part of the battle now. The way to grow your business is through content marketing. We’re talking about the content on the site itself, targeted community or landing pages, SEO tags and keywords and business blogs. When you have a lot of content that is relevant to your customer’s interests, of high quality and is added frequently, you will boost your organic search engine rankings.

Heck, look at the world’s leading search engine site. Google’s design is as plain as it gets. Sure, the point of their site is finding information. And yes, they do change the header logo every day to something clever. Honestly, I’ve always assumed that their graphics department got bored one day and started doing those headers—just for something to do.

Look at Apple’s website, as well. It is ultra clean and simple. It’s all about the products and content. It makes you want to shell out your money to buy the latest Apple technology. I am not immune, as I just picked up my new iPhone 8 last week!

Put Your Focus on Content

If you are going to be successful in online marketing, you need to make sure the majority of your focus is on the content side of things. Nice visual elements are great and not to be overlooked, but content is king and it will be for the foreseeable future.

To learn more about content marketing and business blogging, schedule a free consultation with me. Contact me at NextGear Marketing today.

Why You Should Be Using Instagram for Business Marketing

Instagram is one of today’s premier social media channels. What started as a way to share photos has quickly evolved into something much, much more. Businesses can now advertise and promote posts, which is just one way they are leveraging Instagram to generate a consumer following.

Let’s face it. Some businesses will have an easier time using the Instagram format. When you run a lifestyle business, clothing line, car dealership, sporting goods store or restaurant, you can easily feature products and services that will have the necessary visual appeal to stand out on Instagram. If you rent out port-a-potties, your visual content may not be as interesting or attractive. However, there is always a way to take advantage of any social media opportunity, and Instagram is no exception.

What You Should Post

I work with a lot of automotive repair shops at NextGear Marketing, and it takes some convincing of my clients to get them to use Instagram. Greasy auto parts and mechanics aren’t that exciting to see on an Instagram feed, so they have to be a bit more creative with what they post.

With Instagram especially, I always recommend my clients post photos and stories that showcase the “personality” of their business. Even if your products or services aren’t that attractive to look at, you can still get a lot out of Instagram. In the case of automotive repair, you can showcase a before/after montage or story of a major repair. You can show your team at work or just having fun around the shop. You can show the service team interacting with customers (be sure and ask for permission from the customer before posting a photo of them). If you do body/paint work or custom work, then you should have some cool car pictures you can post.

If the customer posts a positive online review, post that quote on Instagram and see if the customer will let you take a photo of them alongside their car. Even a somewhat generic image with a good customer quote can be effective.

Remember that Instagram posts don’t necessarily have to be directly about your business. Show the style of your workplace and the personalities of the people who work there. Instagram is not about being too serious and making direct sales. It is about building a positive brand identity and giving followers a good feeling about your company, your products and your people.

How Often to Post

A good Instagrammer should aim to post once a day, but not more than once a day. People don’t like to be too bombarded on their IG feeds, so once a day or once every other day is a good plan. You may experiment with posting at different times of day to see which posts get the most likes and comments. Obviously, studying the feedback will also help you hone in on what types of photos/posts will get the best response.

Remember you cannot include links in Instagram posts, but you can hint for them to click on your profile to find the web link. You can easily change that link if you have a specific landing page or promotion you want to drive them to. Just remember to change it back when the promotion is ended.

Targeted Messages

Don’t forget hashtags and username tags. There is no character limit with Instagram posts and tags are huge in attracting followers. Let’s say you own an auto shop in San Francisco and you post a before/after shot of a classic Chevy Camaro. Here are some tags you might use: #sanfrancisco #california #chevrolet #chevycamaro #classiccars #musclecars #bayarea #marincounty #joesautoshop #autorepair #mechanic #autoshop. You get the idea, go broad, get specific and feel free to go nuts with hashtags in order to reach the most people interested in a variety of subjects.

Now, you can also run targeted ads and promoted posts/stories on Instagram like you can on most other social media platforms. Advertising is quickly growing on this platform and you can take advantage before it is oversaturated. Rampant advertising is one reason why social media channels become out of fashion as fresh ones are developed with little-to-no advertising options. Compared to Facebook, Instagram is still fairly unsaturated with advertising, but it will only get more prevalent as time goes on and money corrupts the system. You’ll be better off in the early stages of this trend than if you wait to jump on board later.

Whether you do advertising or just want to build your brand identity through regular posts on a free account, Instagram is a social media channel you should be using for your business. To learn more about social media marketing and web content, contact NextGear Marketing today.

Should You Write Your Business Blog in First or Third Person?

This is a very common question when it comes to business blogging, and it’s a good one. The answer may depend on your type of business or your specific blogging goals. In most cases, it comes down to simple personal preference.

Why I Like First Person

For me personally, I prefer writing blogs from a first-person perspective. I’m not just talking about my own blog articles, but also ones I write for clients of NextGear Marketing. I always ask each client at the beginning of the process whether they want their blog articles written from a first-person perspective or as a third-person narrative. If no preference is given, I will default to a first-person voice. But why? Let’s take a look.

Now, remember we are primarily just talking about blogs here. Most standard web content is presented in the third person, but I do see more and more that is written in first person and it can certainly be done. Print marketing is almost always in third person. Press releases should always be in third person!

On the positive side, first-person blog articles are more engaging to readers because they offer a little bit of personality. Blogs should inject some personal flavor. Unless you happen to have a business that is 100% one-of-a-kind, your blog will likely feature plenty of topics and information that can be found elsewhere online. Having your own voice to frame the content will help set it apart and build your brand message. If readers like the way you say things, they will be more drawn to your business and the information you are sharing on your blog.

How to Do It Right

On the negative side, writing effectively in first person is actually more challenging. It seems easy and natural to write in your own voice. Some content may come across as bragging and credibility is harder to establish. Oftentimes, using “we” and “us” as opposed to “I” and “me” is one simple way to soften the language. In this case, you are speaking for the whole company rather than just yourself as a lone representative of the company. At NextGear Marketing, we recommend first person, but it takes some skill and effort to get it to come across right.

Some larger companies prefer to have a more clinical approach to their blog content and may opt for a third-person voice. They want to deliver news, ideas and information in a direct manner. That’s perfectly fine. The larger the company, the more likely this is to be true. For smaller companies, however, establishing a rapport with readers is usually a priority. Therefore, a first-person approach may be more effective.

What About Second-Person Perspective?

Now, I don’t want to neglect the importance of second-person writing because it should be universal. Whether your primary voice is first- or third-person, you will always want to put some attention on the readers themselves. Address their questions, wants and needs with the strategic use of “you” and “your” in the content. Use metaphors and examples that they can relate to. In other words, deciding between first vs. third person is in reference to the general framework of the article, but the ultimate point is speaking directly to the reader and that will help keep them engaged.

Above All Else, Be Consistent

Whatever approach you take with your writing voice, it’s important to stay consistent. Trying to change perspectives based on different articles or topics can be tricky and you will lose voice consistency. You want to write as if the same people are reading your blog articles every week, even if that’s not really the case. You will build a regular following if you are engaging enough, but you will also get people who find specific articles through searches or social media links and that’s all they see. You still want everybody to feel like part of the target audience, no matter how they come across your blog.

To learn more about business blogging or to get started with a custom blog campaign for your business, contact NextGear Marketing today for a free consultation.