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“Do you guys have e-mail addresses?” asked an attendee of the Salt Lake Chamber’s, “What to know about Online Marketing,” event, last Thursday.

How could 4 internet professionals forget to put their e-mail addresses on the slide show presentation about Online Marketing?

The truth is that this moment in itself is an indication of how social media is fundamentally changing the way we communicate.

E-mail addresses and business cards were an afterthought to making sure the attendees knew how to find us on Twitter.

As a member of SLCSEM, SearchEngineLand’s Elisabeth Osmeloski reached out to me, via Twitter of course, a few weeks ago and asked if I would speak about social media, content, blogging and public relations.

Things are changing fast, and the ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years. Trying to get this point across without overwhelming those just getting their feet wet with internet marketing, I focused my presentation around the power of great content. Simply put, it’s time for your business to create your own damn news. Let me explain.

Your Business is a Newspaper and You’re the Journalist

Maybe it’s because I’m a former journalist, but I really think that brands should look at themselves like they are a leading newspaper or magazine within their industry. What’s going on in your industry? What types of reliable content can you produce that readers are going to find informative, relevant and engaging? How can you create interesting content that people look forward to so they “like” “follow” and “subscribe” to you? Businesses no longer have to wait for journalists to write about them, they can now be their own reliable new source and tell their own story.

The Power of Blogs

Blogs are an easy way to direct more traffic to your website; in fact website will receive 55% more traffic if you have a blog. Blogs also help your authority and your search engine rankings. There’s a variety of different types of content you can place on your blog that will interest your readers:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Memes
  • Micrographics
  • Videos
  • Press Releases

Creating the Big Ideas

But where do you come up with ideas for all these different types of content? As a wise man once said, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” At SEO.com we’re hyper aware of what our competitors are saying, in addition to leading SEO minds are saying like those at SEOmoz and SearchEngineLand. Find out what others are saying and put your own, better, spin on it. You can even check out the comments on popular articles and see what additional questions are being asked on a particular topic. Here are a few other places to find story ideas:

  • Quora: A Q&A site where people are asking questions about particular topics.
  • LinkedIn: Sign up for industry groups and join in on the discussions
  • Holidays/Events: Base story ideas around up-coming holidays. For example, at SEO.com, I’m planning on writing a blog post around Halloween about “The 10 Scariest Online Marketing Tactics to Avoid.”
  • GoogleNews: Search what’s trending in the news, and find creative ways to incorporate those things in your story. A good example is Vocus’ post, “Six Twitter Marketing Tips Inspired by NFL Players,” which was published right when football season started.

Writing for Short Attention Spans

After you’ve come up with a killer blog post idea, it’s extremely important to remember your readers have, about, the attention span of your favorite reality star beauty queen Honey Boo Boo. In order to keep your readers from bouncing off your page be sure your blog posts include:

  • A Clickable Title: 100-118 characters, short, sweet, to the point. Some ideas include, The Top 3,5,10, 100 List, How Tos, Tips, Reviews etc.
  • A Solid Introduction: Getting people to view your article is half the battle. Don’t lose them in the first sentence.
  • Good Imagery: A picture is worth 1,000 words
  • Subtitles: No one likes to read big blocky chunks of text.
  • Bullets: Make content as easy to read and digest as possible.
  • Share Buttons: Include Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, Google+ and LinkedIn share bottoms at the very least.
Inc.com does a really good job of crafting great content for the web:

If Content is Your Newspaper, Then Social Media is Your Paper Boy.

Just like a newspaper wouldn’t be successful if it didn’t have subscribers or way to distribute content, a business is the same way. Social media is your paper boy; it’s your tool to promote your content and deliver information to those who care the most. It should be said that social media isn’t a fad and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Two notes you should know about Facebook, despite the IPO flop:

  • Facebook now tops Google for weekly traffic in U.S.
  • If Facebook were a country it would be bigger (population wise) than the U.S. It would be the third largest country behind China and India.

Social Media Goals

When people are starting off with their social media campaigns they often times get hung up on arbitrary goals, like the amount of likes or followers they have. Here are four goals to keep in mind that will help you remember your end goal (dollar, dollar bills!):

  1. Raise Brand Awareness
  2. Increase traffic to your website
  3. Increase amount of time visitors spend on your website
  4. Convert visitors into customers

Build Your Social Media Following

The million dollar question that start-up businesses want to know: How do I get more followers?!? There’s certainly not a one-size fits all social media campaign or strategy that will fit every business but some general tips to follow include:

  • Be authentic, relevant, fresh and relatively non-promotional: No one wants some random marketing invading their social space. Make sure the relationships you are seeking to build are real. Listen first, sell second.
  • Listen, engage, respond: It’s important to acknowledge comments, tweets and other social engagement. Even if it’s a simple, “thanks for sharing!”
  • Ask questions: Let your fans feel like they are a part of your brand. Do things like ask their opinion on which tee-shirt design they like better, or what’s the craziest Halloween costume they’ve seen.
  • Run Contests: There are 3 simple guide lines for running contests.
    • 1. Keep it simple
    • 2. Provide value/incentive that relates to your brand
    • 3. Include required FB/Twitter interaction.
  • Know that things don’t happen overnight: Gaining loyal fans is a marathon not a sprint.

The instantaneous nature of news, the web and social media has made the modern day newspaper’s ability to adapt to an online platform natural. That same adaption should also be the focus of your business. A big key to your brand’s success will be producing great content, distributing it properly though social media and getting it in the hands of those who care.

You can check out the slideshare and see what @Elisabethos said about the basics of web design and SEO, what SundanceCatalog’s Allison Schwam (@Schwame) said about PPC and what Adobe’s Maria Corcoran (@Mariacorcoran) said about analytics.