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Creating Breakthrough Content: There Ain’t No Magic Feather #SMMW17

If you want to write amazing content like Ann Handley, don’t be a Dumbo.

Dumbo was convinced he could only fly while holding a “magic feather.” When he lost the feather mid-flight, he plummeted toward the ground. It wasn’t until he believed he could fly without the feather that he was able to take off again.

Too many would-be content creators are searching for their magic feather--the book, online course, or perfect antique typewriter that will make them a writer. And while they search, they can’t or won’t write.

So Ann began her session at Social Media Marketing World by asking us all to recite a pledge out loud:

“I don’t believe in unicorns, fairies, or Santa. There is no magic feather.”

Despite the slander against Mr. Claus (who I have on good authority is very real), it’s a crucial first step. You have to know that good writing is a learned skill, not something magically bestowed on those with the right talisman.

You can do it. You can get better at it.

Here are Ann Handley’s five tips for writing “ludicrously spectacular” content.

#1: It Starts with Not Writing

At least half of the writing process doesn’t look anything like writing. Now, you may be thinking, “frequently what I’m doing while I’m supposed to be writing is not writing.” That’s not quite what Ann means, though.

“Not writing” means being in idea-gathering mode all the time, when you’re out in the world, bingeing on Netflix, or just daydreaming at work. Writers should gather ideas like squirrels gather nuts--always on the lookout, never passing one up, and stashing them where we can get at them later.

The difference between a productive writing session and a frustrating hour staring at a blank screen is having a stash of ideas to go through. Whether you keep them in a notebook, or a service like Evernote or OneNote, commit to hoarding at least five ideas a day.

When you’re ready to write, snag an idea from your stash and, as Ann puts it, “explore the daylights out of it.” Use tools like BloomBerry, Board Reader, and Buzzsumo to see how people are talking about the idea, so you can develop your own approach.

#2: Write an Ugly First Draft

When you do start to write your first draft, silence your inner critic and focus on getting the words from your brain to the screen. Know that you will revise the work at least once--probably more--before you publish. It’s incredibly freeing to accept that your first draft will be bad.  As Ann puts it, “You can’t write well without first writing spectacularly badly.”

That first draft doesn’t have to be a fully-fleshed out draft, either. It could be a list of points you want to cover, a really informal summary of the piece, or even something you dictate into your phone. The point is to give yourself something you can build on. It’s a giant leap from nothing to something--anything you do after that first leap will be easier. So whatever it takes to get something on the page, go for it.

After you finish your ugly first draft, let it rest for a while. Give your brain a little time off and let the piece sit. You’ll be better equipped to edit if you have some distance.

#3: Screw & Do

It’s not as salacious as it sounds: first, identify the ‘screw,’ the one key point for your reader that your whole piece revolves around. Second, do the editing you need to get to the screw as quickly and compellingly as possible.

How do you find your screw? Develop pathological empathy for your reader. Ann recommends the “so what?” process. Start with the statement you want to make, then imagine your reader shouting “SO WHAT?” Keep asking “SO WHAT?” and refining your message, and you will find the purest version of what you want to say, expressed in terms of benefit to the reader.

For the editing process, start with a self-edit by chainsaw. Ann says, “make every paragraph earn its keep.” In the first pass you’re trying to carve out huge chunks of writing that, while they may be very pretty or witty, aren’t serving your screw. Seek to create momentum for the reader by cutting out the junk that slows them down.

Then break it down to the sentence level. Edit with your scalpel, making sure each sentence is earning its keep. Edit for voice--when you read it out loud, does it sound like a person with a point of view wrote it? As Ann says, “If the label fell off, would they know it’s you?”

After the content is in fighting trim, then you can edit for grammar, formatting, all the small stuff. But the grammar should be the last consideration. There’s no point in repainting a condemned house. Get it structurally sound first.

#4: Write a Killer First Line

“Your reader is always looking for reasons NOT to read,” Ann says. You know it’s true--we’re always looking for the next distraction. A boring first line does your reader a favor; it gives them permission to move on.

Your first line needs to captivate the reader. Always lead with something that can capture attention. It could be a funny line, a wild statistic, or even just a strong point of view. Don’t be afraid to evoke an emotion, whether it’s amusement, wonder, or even fear.

#5: It’s All about the Voice

Your voice--or brand voice--can be a major differentiator in a sea of same-y content. Your voice should express:

  • Who you are
  • Why you do what you do
  • What you are like to deal with

Which means, of course, you need to know the answer to these questions before you start.

Marketers are often encouraged to ask, “If your brand were a person, would you want to hang out with it?” When you’re writing brand content, you’re asking people to hang out with your brand. Not every brand needs to be the life of the party, but your voice should communicate why your brand is a worthy companion.

Take the Spectacular Writing Pledge

Even in the age of infographics and videos, good writing and great content excel. From landing pages to blog posts, eBooks to ad copy, let’s pledge to create ludicrously spectacular content.

Feel free to stand up wherever you are and repeat out loud Ann Handley’s pledge:

“I will collect & hoard 5 ideas a day. I will not hit backspace while writing a first draft. I will not go straight from writing to publishing. I will have pathological empathy for the reader. I will not sound like everyone else. And there ain’t no magic feather!”

And if you do stand up and say it out loud, please take a video and tag Ann @MarketingProfs when you post it.

The post Creating Breakthrough Content: There Ain’t No Magic Feather #SMMW17 appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Online Marketing News: Millennial Micro Influencers, Apple Clips, Facebook Seasons

Infographic: Who Is the Millennial Female Micro Influencer?
Who is a millennial female micro influencer? How does she compare to your average social media user? She tends to have a larger following with more engagement, and posts about topics like travel, fashion and health and fitness. This infographic sums up who this person is and what her followers and habits are like. AdWeek

Apple introduces Clips: the fun, new way to create expressive videos on iOS
This week, Apple introduced Clips -- a new way to create expressive videos out of music, photos, video clips and more. These Clips also feature interactive titles that are based on your voice, and are easily posted directly to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo or a variety of other platforms. Apple

New: Save Your Live Video to Your Phone
Late last week, Instagram announced the newest addition to its live videos - users can now save their live videos directly to their devices. However, these saved videos will not retain comments, number of views or interaction data. Instagram

52% Say Majority of Their Business Marketing Activity Is Digital [DATA]
Search Engine Journal reports: "According to a survey sent out to Search Engine Journal’s Twitter audience, 52% say majority of the overall marketing activity for their business is digital." Does this mean that brands are straying away from traditional advertising in favor of digital? According to a recent study by AdRoll, 65% of marketing decision makers spent more than half of their marketing budget on digital marketing. Search Engine Journal

Facebook rolls out seasonal greetings at the top of the News Feed
Facebook's Goodwill team -- the same folks that brought us Friend's Day videos -- have rolled out new animated media to announce the change of the season. In the northern hemisphere, users will see images of birds and flowers. In the southern hemisphere, users will see falling leaves. TechCrunch

New: LinkedIn’s Matched Audiences will target ads based on people’s web browsing, email addresses
According to Marketing Land, "Later this year LinkedIn will once again let businesses target the people who visit their websites with ads on the Microsoft-owned, business-centric social network. On top of re-adding website retargeting — which is already offered by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Pinterest — LinkedIn will also enable business to target ads based on people’s email addresses, as its aforementioned rivals already do." Marketing Land

How Much Instagram Influencers Charge to Post Sponsored Content
MarketingProfs reports: "Influencers charge $271, on average, to share a sponsored post on Instagram [...] Modeling influencers charge the most ($434, on average) per sponsored Instagram post. Music influencers charge the least ($201, on average). Modeling influencers also tend to have the largest audiences (141,563 followers, on average), and music influencers tend to have the smallest (26,403)." MarketingProfs

Google Admits Brand Safety Is a Global Problem
Prompted by recent events in the UK, where a media group paused all of its clients' display spending due to ads appearing next to questionable and/or unsafe content through Google's ad network, Google is reevaluating their practices around unsafe advertising. However, advertisers must also call themselves into account and ensure they understand where and how their ads are being placed. For brands to maintain safety, everyone needs to be watching. Ad Age

What were your top online marketing news stories this week?

I'll be back next week with more online marketing news. If you have something to share, sound off in the comments or Tweet to @toprank.

The post Online Marketing News: Millennial Micro Influencers, Apple Clips, Facebook Seasons appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Facebook Messenger Marketing: What Marketers Need to Know

Do you want to communicate with your customers via Facebook Messenger? Wondering how Facebook Messenger bots and Messenger ads can help? To explore this topic, I interview Molly Pittman. More About This Show The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy marketers and [...]

This post Facebook Messenger Marketing: What Marketers Need to Know first appeared on .
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Better Collaboration with Recent Enhancements Across Sprout

Sprout’s platform enables teams to better collaborate and more easily manage their workflow. We’ve recently released many enhancements to further refine user roles within Read more...

This post Better Collaboration with Recent Enhancements Across Sprout originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Superheroes of Social Media: Your Must-See Guide to #SMMW17

In a past life, I was a minor internet celebrity. One big perk to that dubious career was being a vendor at San Diego Comic Con for seven straight years. Our little indie booth saw visits from superheroes and celebrities alike. Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, DC & Marvel Comics: It’s truly a nerdy [...]

The post Superheroes of Social Media: Your Must-See Guide to #SMMW17 appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Choose the Best Live Video Platform

Do you want to add a sense of urgency to your marketing? Interested in using live video on your social channels? Live video creates a unique, real-time experience that encourages your audience to comment and interact, turning individual customers into a community. In this article, you’ll discover the platform benefits and how to use live [...]

This post How to Choose the Best Live Video Platform first appeared on .
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Mejor colaboración gracias a las mejoras recientes en Sprout

La plataforma de Sprout les permite a los equipos colaborar mejor y administrar más fácilmente sus flujos de trabajo. Recientemente, hemos lanzado muchas mejoras Read more...

This post Mejor colaboración gracias a las mejoras recientes en Sprout originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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A plataforma do Sprout permite que as equipes colaborem melhor e gerenciem mais facilmente seu fluxo de trabalho. Lançamos recentemente muitas melhorias para refinar Read more...

This post Melhor colaboração com as recentes melhorias no Sprout originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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8 Twitter Bio Ideas to Attract More Followers

How much time did you put into creating you Twitter bio? If you just treated it as an afterthought or rushed to finish, there’s Read more...

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B2B Marketers Are Way Behind on Influencer Marketing and Here’s the Solution

Influencer Marketing is a hot topic, but what is really working, what isn’t and what are the future trends for marketers? Those are the questions we set out to answer in the research report: Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing. With analysis from Brian Solis of Altimeter and a research partnership between Traackr and my [...]

The post B2B Marketers Are Way Behind on Influencer Marketing and Here’s the Solution appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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