How to Humanize Your Brand Through Social Media

Sometime around the close of the 20th century and the dawn of the 21st (but prior to the advent of Web 2.0), many companies began implementing a relatively new technology: complex phone systems.

The idea was that customers could help themselves to the information they sought by navigating tele-menus from their touch-tone phones.

Almost every major corporation and even many small ones reduced the number of customer service agents that they kept on staff and barricaded the few that remained behind a labyrinth of automated recordings.

What followed was years of consumer frustration.

If you wanted to dispute a discrepancy on a phone bill or question an item on a bank statement, the average American customer would have to first prepare mentally to do battle with the brainless robot that would answer on the other end of the line.

Discussing the aggravation caused by these phone systems became something of a pastime during these years.

Occasionally, you would meet someone seemingly grounded by a new type of Zen, who was always able to get through to a live human agent or even find a solution to their problems using just the automation without any hiccups.

However, a much more common species for the era was the screamer. This was the guy or gal who would instantly begin yelling things like “Operator!” or “Customer Service!” before even choosing between English and Spanish, as if there were still real people on the other end of the line who were just really far away.

Then there were the zero pushers—the people who would advise that if you simply pressed the zero button an untold number of times the phone system would go into a kind of cardiac arrest and an actual human would come to your aid.

All the different companies that used these systems were fully aware of the angst with which the populace regarded them. However, rather than revert to the good old days of human customer service, the companies doubled down on the technology, thinking that what we didn’t like about it was its less-than-humanness.

So, instead of giving us what we really wanted (an easier time), they gave us slightly more convincing robots. While the recordings were “improved” with a bit more synthetic humanity in the programming, the upgrades just caused us to become even more enraged.

It was somewhere around 2005 when most of this consternation began to blow over as more and more companies moved the bulk of their self-serve options to the web. Finally, we could all remain calm and just point, click, and read our way to the answers we sought.

For the most part, this is how things are still going. 

Now, on the rare occasion that a more complicated matter springs up where we really do need to talk to an actual human, there’s almost always a live chat option. Through the live chat you can type back and forth with another entity that passes the Turing test with so many flying colors that there’s no way they’re not just as alive as you. It’s really not too bad. In fact, it’s almost kind of fun.

Sadly, as a species it seems we have transcended our need for each other.

What started out as a demand for a return to one-on-one communication that evolved into a tele-dystopian nightmare eventually solved itself with the least human option of all.

And most of us like it this way.

We prefer surfing the web to having a conversation with a salesperson. A typed chat is superior to a phone call with a stranger. Texting with a friend is more comfortable than ringing them up.

The pandemic of 2020 and the various ramifications of social distancing and lockdowns have only served to exacerbate this condition.

Around the globe, humans realized that we could successfully work from home in far greater numbers than ever imagined.

More items, both necessities and luxuries, became fully deliverable than at any previous time in history. And for now, barring any further complications from supply chain shortages, we seem kind of okay with this new status quo.

But with the rise of automation, where does this leave businesses that rely on customer interaction?

The historically extreme turbulence of the economic climate over the past two years has seen many different businesses both succeed and fail. For now, staying relevant and competitive is dependent in part on making and maintaining a human connection to your clientele.

The modern customer is a highly complicated animal that loves new technology and expects constant improvement and increased convenience but shuns any tech that smacks of Big Brother by intruding on privacy or disturbing anonymity.

The modern customer has also grown accustomed to 24/7 online access to detailed information, pictures, and videos from their favorite brands. They also demand, when reasonable, the ability to buy the wares of said brands and to have them shipped at any time of day as well.

What the modern customer has grown weary of is the sterility and lonesomeness of it all.

While it’s not true that mall shopping or main street window shopping is a thing of the past, it’s definitely not what it used to be.

Some brands that were once extremely prevalent in physical brick and mortar locations have significantly decreased in number. Others have moved from storefronts to online only models. Some beloved brands are now completely out of business and are ostensibly gone forever.

Other brands were born into these conditions, however, and have managed to find success regardless of the roadblocks in their way.

One of the ways these brands have pulled this off is by humanizing themselves, finding their customers, and making human connections with them.

One of the best ways to humanize your brand is through social media.

There are a number of social media methods that you could employ that will help you humanize your brand.

6 Ways to Humanize Your Brand Through Social Media

Develop a personality (and stick to it).

While hiring a loveable spokesperson like Flo from Progressive Insurance and having her do all the talking for your company certainly isn’t a bad idea, it’s not what is meant by develop a personality.

You should decide ahead of time what your company’s social media voice should sound like and consistently stick to it.

It depends on what your product or service is and what kind of voice would be appropriate to accompany it.

Take Rolex, for example.

The copy that Rolex implements to advertise their watches sticks to a relaxed but serious, high-brow tone that complements their elegant photography and matches how the company wants you to regard their high-quality, high-priced products.

If Rolex were to suddenly introduce a watch-wearing cartoon character that cracks a lot of jokes about bodily functions, it would be completely off-putting and ridiculous.

But a different yet entirely serious and successful company could do that very thing and get away with it as long as it makes sense on a human level.

It’s possible that The Duluth Trading Company knows its prime customer better than any other company out there marketing themselves today.

Duluth’s main customer base is male, slightly larger than average, works with his hands, spends a lot of time out of doors performing skilled labor, does well for himself, is willing to spend more for quality and durability, and has a great sense of humor.

They maintain a tradition of combining hand drawn depictions of their clothing alongside clear photography and they broadcast humorous commercials that are in line with what their ideal customer finds funny.

Like an actual human being, Duluth’s social media presence reflects these various elements of a real personality and combines them all together evenly and appropriately.

Whether Duluth is being its usual funny old self or if it feels the need to be serious for a bit, the customer base accepts, believes, and appreciates the message because it connects on a human level.

Engage in conversation.

If you want to humanize your brand, you’ve got to speak human.

The use of common, everyday language is key to connecting to your customer base; they’ll appreciate it and subconsciously let their guard down.

Sonic Drive-In is a good example of a large company that rarely hesitates to converse in the language of the common folk.

Sonic also reaches out to their customers and simply asks them to share their pro-Sonic content through hashtags and callouts. The company then shares the best entries on their own page.

Reaching out to your customers and actively asking them for responses isn’t a practice limited to large companies with large followings either.

The Parkview Animal Hospital in Passaic, New Jersey, is a tiny veterinary outfit with a passionate fan club.

The only social media platform they maintain is a Facebook page, but the fun and friendly posts they regularly publish on it are enough to keep their clients feeling engaged.

Parkview is so respected and sought out in their area that they are often closed to new patients and the waiting list is a long one.

Whenever possible, show off your happy customers!

Ask for permission to include their stories on your social media accounts. You’ll be surprised by how often they say yes!

Acknowledge mistakes.

Putting your company out there into the social media world undoubtedly puts you at risk of receiving some very public criticism, but don’t hide it and don’t hide from it—own up to it.

If a customer decides to use the comments section on one of your social media accounts to vent about how one of your products disappointed them, listen!

You should appoint an employee to regularly monitor and respond to social media comments like this.

An unattended complaint looks bad. A deleted post looks bad. But nothing looks worse than a company arguing with a commenter, so don’t do that either!

The best approach is to apologize for their less-than-ideal experience and offer to make it right via a direct, private message.

Other potential customers browsing your posts will see the engagement and know that you take such matters seriously and are willing to do what’s needed to make things right.

Highlight your employees.

If humanizing your brand is your goal, it never hurts to remind your customers that you are a company of humans for humans with real live humans working for it!

Crutchfield, a purveyor of home and vehicle stereos and electronics, practiced this technique long before social media even existed.

Back when Crutchfield’s main mode of communication was their home catalogue, the company would regularly profile their own employees and highlight the individual’s personal car or home stereo system.

With an actual employee also acting as a spokesperson, it gives the customer the impression that your employees are happy (they better be!) and if they enjoy the products that they sell, a regular customer would too.

Crutchfield continues this practice to this day with nearly every one of the posts on their Instagram page.

It’s safe to publicly share company culture with your customers as well.

If you are celebrating a particular milestone, awarding a sales team for reaching a certain goal, or promoting a single staff member for a job well done, feel free to share the news online.

In the minds of your customer base, your company will come across as a positive work environment where hard work is rewarded. In turn, you’ll build more trust with your clients.

Tell stories. Sell the lifestyle.

Your social media accounts shouldn’t be reserved for just product placement and further advertising.

Depending on the focus of your business, you can allow your social media pages to act as forums for the greater lifestyle surrounding your products or the industry you’re engaged in.

If you sell running shoes, alert your customers to upcoming marathons in your area.

If you sell cooking equipment, document an impressive meal that one of your employees prepared at home.

If you are managing a record store, post a picture of a favorite musician and reminisce about a beloved album. It doesn’t always have to be about what you have in stock, how much it costs, and why they should buy it.

Have fun! Use emojis! Get into beefs?

The little pictograms known as emojis that became a huge part of our lives with the introduction of smartphones are here to stay.

Their use in social media descriptions have become so commonplace that it’s now rare to see a caption that doesn’t include at least one.

Embrace them, have fun with them, and test yourself to see how creative you can get with their use. But don’t get hung up on how much time you think you’re wasting scrolling through them—apparently social media posts that feature emojis get 48% more engagement!

Another idea to consider is that of a public, social media rivalry with a competitor. 

If you have a good sporting relationship with another business in your area or industry, it’s fertile ground for a lot of potential comedy that your mutual customer bases might enjoy. It can double as a cross-promotional opportunity.

Wendy’s and Burger King famously spar with each other from time to time in an ongoing social media troll war.

And sometimes it can get downright nasty.

But the “beef” between the two fast food giants never seems to generate any negative press.

It does generate a lot of laughs for their fans, though.

Honorable Mentions

Sometimes it’s not what you do on social media that gets you the most positive attention, but what you do as a business in real life that then ends up on social media that makes the biggest impression.

Chewy is an online retailer of pet supplies and food. They are a subset of PetSmart, run by executives from Amazon, Wayfair, and Wholefoods. They have decent prices. Their website looks a lot like Walmart’s.

From a distance they don’t seem like much to write home about—just another big box warehouse that has what you’re looking for.

But then Chewy’s customers started getting the letters.

Eerily specific thank you notes started arriving in the mailboxes of customers who had made purchases from the website that really really looked like they were handwritten.

Fake handwriting on junk mail was nothing new, but these notes, as neat and legible as they could be, really had an authenticity to them. They were so intriguing to so many people that Chewy’s customers began reaching out to one another online to see if they weren’t alone. They weren’t, and that’s how it eventually came out that Chewy really does employ an entire staff dedicated to sending out handwritten thank you notes to each and every customer.

They also send out holiday cards.

Oh, and sometimes they send you hand painted portraits of your pets, too.

Going the extra mile for your customer is basic, age-old, business advice—and it’s still good advice—because even in this modern era there are modern benefits to enjoy from the practice.

Taking the time to perform classy gestures for your customers without publicizing it, without asking for anything in return, without patting yourself on the back for having done it—can lead to exponential organic growth through social media.

JHS Pedals is a small company that manufactures guitar pedals in Kansas City.

The brainchild of founder Joshua Heath Scott (JHS), they have been in business for well over a decade, but over the course of just the past three years they have exploded in popularity by exemplifying every social media technique mentioned in this article.

One of the biggest contributions to their increased visibility is their creation of The JHS Show, a weekly YouTube show hosted by Joshua and his assistant Nick that drips with equal parts charm and comedy. During the show they discuss guitar centric electronics and demonstrate their capabilities through jam sessions. The final segment of each show is called Record Time, where Joshua offers up listening recommendations from often little-known recording artists.

What sets the show apart from others like it on YouTube is that JHS’s own products are the least likely to ever get featured.

In what would traditionally be considered an act of self-sabotage, Joshua eagerly tells the viewer everything he loves about his competitor’s products and demonstrates them for the camera.

Rather than directing potential customers away from his own products, Mr. Scott’s actions have seemingly had the opposite effect. Viewers have become loyal fans, endeared to him and his company. He has become known as an honest entrepreneur and a truly passionate advocate for an industry that was said to be on its last legs only a few years ago.

Thanks to the efforts of Joshua and others like him, the guitar industry has enjoyed a complete rebound.

By adopting some if not all of the practices discussed in this article, you’ll be well on your way towards humanizing your brand and winning over the hearts and minds of your customers.

If you could use some help getting your social media presence up and running, reach out for a quote today!

How to Incorporate a Blog into Your Content Marketing Campaign

To blog or not to blog? That is the question businesses often ask themselves. The answer to that question depends on the purpose of the blog.

For ordinary individuals, a blog is a means of communicating their ideas to the world. But for businesses, a blog can be a powerful weapon in their content marketing arsenal.

In this article, we will explore how blogs can become an effective part of a business’ content marketing strategy. We will also discuss how any brand can implement a blog as part of its overall marketing activity.

Using a Blog as Part of a Content Marketing Campaign

An effective marketing approach seeks to position a brand’s image in its consumers’ minds, therefore becoming the go-to reference for specific products and services.

This consideration suggests that consumers will automatically choose a specific brand over others based on their value assessment. Therefore, consumer perception of a brand’s value is the most effective means of positioning it.

Through content marketing, companies endeavor to provide value to consumers without sacrificing the brand’s overall proposition.  

While opting to give away free product samples, running special offers, or discounting products can help the consumer become acquainted with a company’s product, they cannot effectively position a brand’s value proposition due to their sporadic use. Consequently, brands require a consistent and cost-effective approach without sacrificing their value proposition.

Brands must instead show consumers their products’ values by showcasing their usefulness in solving specific pain points. These pain points encompass consumers’ needs that require a specific solution. The challenge is for companies to show the consumers how their brand’s products and services can provide those solutions.

But how is it done?

Through a concerted content marketing approach, businesses must provide valuable information that consumers can use for their benefit. Often, this information is “free” to consumers. Thus, content marketing can deliver value consistently.

This “free” value is where blogs can significantly contribute to an effective content marketing campaign.

Blogs are a predominantly text-based medium. While blogs may include images, sound, and video, their true value resides in useful text. Blogs can tackle specific issues in a long format. As such, blog posts can be as long or short as marketers need them to be.

Editor and publisher Tom Foremski offers this insight into the nature of blogs: “Blogging is a communication mechanism handed to us by the long tail of the internet.” Indeed, blogging intends to serve as a means of communication. Therefore, content marketers must look at blogging as an ongoing conversation between brands and customers.

Generally speaking, blogs are a one-sided conversation. Unlike social media, blogs do not usually afford readers the opportunity for a two-way exchange. Nevertheless, blogs allow brands to communicate with consumers outside of traditional media outlets.

Moreover, blogs provide a cost-effective vehicle to communicate as much content as necessary, allowing brands to break down a large message into smaller, more manageable chunks. This approach gives consumers a chance to come back regularly.

Blogging Strategies

When deciding to start a blog campaign, companies must begin by coming up with a blogging strategy. This strategy should include the purpose for the blog, as well as the theme and topics that the blog will address.

Pinpointing Your Blog’s Purpose

The biggest misconception most marketers hold is assuming that a blog means an abundance of writing. Thus, this misconception frequently leads to writing for the sake of writing.

While it is certainly true that blogs require content, more does not always equate to better. A blog must strike the right balance between the amount and quality of content.

The most significant consideration in a blogging strategy is to determine its purpose. Hence, marketers must ask themselves what the purpose of their blog is.

For instance, will the blog fill a purely advertising role? Will the blog strive to be informative? Also, will the blog serve to educate consumers on a specific topic? The answer to these questions will determine the blog’s overall scope.

In general, a blog should play an informational role. This role entails providing consumers with content they can use to solve a perceived problem.

For example, consumers looking to save money can turn to a blog to find helpful suggestions. Ultimately, the blog’s scope is to create awareness on saving money. In doing so, the brand can attract attention to its financial advisory services.

Also, a blog’s content must reflect its intended audience and support that audience through the value it provides. Consequently, a blog ought to share the vision and passion of its audience.

A fashion blog, for example, should attempt to capitalize on its audience’s love for specific items. The brand uses the blog to convey meaningful content that resonates with like-minded individuals.

Deciding on a Theme for Your Blog Campaign

A critical decision content marketing teams must deal with pertains to topics and themes for their blog.

On the whole, all blogs must have an overarching theme. As such, a blog must build an identity that can hit home with followers. This identity needs to be indicative of the brand’s ideal consumer. As a result, all content should fall within the blog’s thematic umbrella.

While the particular topic could vary, they ought to remain within the blog’s overall scope.

Renowned online marketer Neil Patel has this to say about blogging: “If you want to continually grow your blog, you need to learn to blog on a consistent basis.” Certainly, this approach is highly useful.

Successful blogs post content consistently. Doing so creates an expectation in followers’ minds, as the followers become attached to the blog’s content. Ultimately, making consistency synonymous with the brand’s identity boosts its positioning.

International film star David Aston offers this highly insightful tidbit: “Successful blogging is not about one-time hits. It’s about building a loyal following over time.” This insight underscores the importance of patience.

All successful blogging strategies must have a long-term vision. By delivering consistent value, blogs can build a loyal following reader by reader.

Selecting Appropriate Blog Topics

The most complex part of any blogging strategy is selecting appropriate topics. Choosing topics begins with the blog’s overarching theme. Naturally, a blog’s theme needs to reflect the brand’s identity and value proposition directly.

Particular post topics can subsequently focus on specific areas of interest.

In addition, individual topics can address consumers’ queries. A common practice asks consumers to submit queries and comments. This approach creates a two-way interaction between brands and consumers. Therefore, consumers themselves become a source of the material.

The relationship between theme and topics must also closely align with the target audience. Thus, it is necessary to define the target audience precisely.

Age, gender, and socioeconomic status all determine consumer profiles. From there, the alignment between theme and topic must coincide with those profiles.

For instance, a sporting equipment brand aimed at young males should deliver relevant information on topics of interest. These topics may include equipment maintenance, storage, or durability. The brand could then state how its products can alleviate the issues consumers face.

Matt Wolfe, the creator of the WordPress Classroom site, sheds light on successful topics: “There’s a lot of information out there for free, so you’ve got to figure out what makes your information different.”

Wolfe’s comments accentuate the need for a unique value proposition. Given the immense amount of information online, a unique approach is paramount to ensuring success.

The most practical means of producing relevant topics is through customization. Customization involves developing a keen understanding of consumers so that content creators know what consumers want.

A good rule of thumb consists of simply asking consumers what they want to know. Undoubtedly, audiences will let their favorite brands know what they want.

Clever marketers openly acknowledge follower questions and comments. This practice allows followers to spot how significant they are to the brand. In turn, brands must reward their followers’ loyalty by incentivizing their participation. Often, followers only seek attention. Thus, brands must take full advantage of their followers’ willingness to participate.

Lastly, a great call to action on every blog post is to ask consumers to comment. By encouraging the consumer to comment, brands openly foster active participation.

Instead of spending resources on costly surveys, brands can harvest comments for future blog posts. This practice creates a positive feedback loop that keeps consumers coming back.

Renowned blogger David Calacanis once said, “The currency of blogging is authenticity and trust.” Brands can create that trust by acknowledging their consumers’ needs at all times.

Building trust requires brands to keep their content authentic. Therefore, generic information will not suffice. Effective content must become as specific as possible. That type of authenticity will help position a brand in its consumers’ minds.

Getting Started with a Blogging Campaign

Image by Pexels

Starting a blogging campaign calls for three essential items.

First, a blog must fit within the brand’s overall content marketing efforts. A blog should represent another weapon in a brand’s content marketing arsenal.

A blog can make a great addition to social media, video, and even conventional advertising, filling a gap not previously addressed. For consumers who prefer long format reading materials, the addition of blogs can prove to be incredibly valuable.

Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo once remarked:

“The Internet destroyed most of the barriers to publication. The cost of being a publisher dropped to almost zero with two interesting immediate results: anybody can publish, and more importantly, you can publish whatever you want.”

The lack of barriers to publishing suggests that brands have unlimited possibilities to reach their target audience. Therefore, a blog is another publishing platform like any other.

The major difference lies in the lack of restriction. As a result, brands can personally engage their followers. This type of engagement is extremely difficult to achieve through traditional means.

Second, the brand must establish the blog’s purpose. This crucial decision hinges on choosing between a purely promotional or informational platform.

Blog marketing expert David Risley states, “Blogging is not a business by itself. It is only a promotional platform.” This statement showcases that blogging is a tool within a brand’s overall marketing scheme.

A blog with a promotional purpose delivers useful information while featuring the brand’s products. The products need to factor into the solution the consumer needs. Otherwise, the blog would revert into a shameless promotional plug piece.

An informational blog does not openly endorse the brand’s products. Like a promotional blog, it provides actionable information. However, the content intends to serve customers rather than pitch products.

Once the blog has a purpose, the last step is to define its content strategy. Topics comprise content strategy. As such, content creators must carefully address their consumers’ needs and interests. Initially, content creators can produce cross-cutting content. From there, consumer feedback can serve to define future topics.

Writer and entrepreneur Brian Clark offers this advice: “Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.” This advice points to the need for consumer-focused content.

As such, great writing can miss the mark if it is not relevant to followers. In contrast, great blogs resonate with their readers on a personal level. This degree of communication is possible when the content is tailored specifically for the target audience.

Last, a successful blog does not emerge from a mathematical formula. Many times, building an effective blog is a question of trial and error. Thus, content creators must learn to recognize what works and what does not. Eventually, a winning game plan will lead to delivering consistent value.

What Are Infographics?

Infographics are visual representations of quantitative and qualitative data and other types of information. Infographics provide clear and easy-to-understand formats that enhance an audience’s ability to grasp patterns and trends in a topic.

Infographics are highly visual. As such, they contain minimal text. Mainly, images are attached to numerical data to facilitate comprehension of large or complex data sets.

Their aim is to engage the target audience by providing interesting and useful facts. Because of this, opinions are not commonly represented in infographics.

Infographics may be standalone documents or part of a larger document. Infographics can also summarize an entire document, thereby facilitating its distribution and readability.

Photo by form PxHere

Uses of Infographics

Infographics have the following uses:

  • Provide a quick and easy summary.
  • Facilitate complex processes.
  • Visually present research information or survey data.
  • Sum up a long text.
  • Compare and contrast analyses.
  • Generate awareness on a topic or issue.

Types of Infographics

  • Thematic. Used to raise awareness of an issue or topic.
  • Reference. Used to present data from  research or to support claims.

Governments commonly use infographics to provide information, while companies often use them as a sales and marketing tool.

Parts of an Infographic

While there is no specific format for infographics, they contain the following parts:

  • Visual elements (colors and graphics)
  • Content (data and other information)
  • Key Points  (main takeaway)

Often, a simple statement summarizes the main takeaway of the infographic. Nevertheless, the main focus of the infographic is the presentation of data. Interesting color schemes and layouts serve to highlight the data and facilitate comprehension.

Image by Muhammad Umar Hamzah from Pixabay

Coronavirus Response: How and Why to Ramp Up Your Blog Content Quickly

As more and more Americans self-quarantine or are asked to work from home, online activity is skyrocketing. In fact, from January 29 to April 8,  usage rates rose 105 percent (from 22.6 million people to 46.2 million people in the U.S. using the internet during peak hours).

While the circumstances aren’t ideal, most business owners are asking themselves how they can capture the attention of all of those online browsers. In other words, it’s time to think about how you can attract those new visitors and grow your business (or brand). Even though it’s true that more people are surfing the web, it’s also true that how you approach your content during this sensitive time can determine the future health of your brand.

To Pivot or Not to Pivot

People’s interests have shifted during the pandemic, and content creators should consider this shift when creating their content over the next few weeks or months.  In general, content creators have two choices: pivot or don’t pivot. For some, pivoting will be easy because virus-related content easily fits in with their current content. For example, a business that focuses on working from home could write articles that include information about overcoming social isolation.  For others, pivoting their content may be more difficult.  Or, perhaps, your company believes pivoting to coronavirus-inspired content feels unnatural, contrived, or just downright tacky. 


Those who can easily pivot their content may have an advantage during this unusual time. For instance, typically publishes articles about home design and improvement. But the site has recently changed its content to keep up with the new demand trends. Today, you’ll find articles like “Grocery Stores Empty? These Cleaning Solutions Will Help” and “How to Disinfect Your Washing Machine After Being Sick”.

Royal Caribbean is publishing articles such as, “Fun, Royal Caribbean Indoor Activities for Families”.  Verizon Wireless’ latest post is titled, “Everyday heroes help us all, Verizon supports them.”  Amazon has gone so far as to devote an entire blog to coronavirus.

Don’t Pivot

Some companies will continue business as usual and keep putting out the same type of content that they always have.  As of this writing, for example, you’ll find little to no COVID-19-related content on the Costco Blog. Exxon has decided to keep its Energy Perspectives blog content true to its original purpose without straying into coronavirus territory.  Even if you decide to (mostly) ignore the pandemic in your content, you can still ramp up quality content production, which will help your site to take advantage of the global increase in internet traffic.

What Not to Do

Whether or not you decide to write a lot of COVID-content or just a few paragraphs, you will need to learn to be sensitive with your wording and approach.

Here are three things you should avoid in your content:

Don’t Pretend the Pandemic Doesn’t Exist

People’s lives are being affected by the virus, and companies that come off as insensitive may experience a negative impact on their brand. If you completely ignore the current situation, you could publish content that may be considered inappropriate. For example, an article about the best local places to eat out may fall flat, as will an article about arranging travel plans to Europe.  Publishing content like this could cause you to come across as tone-deaf during this crisis.

Don’t Blatantly Use the Coronavirus as a Marketing Tool

It’s natural to want to reach out to your customers and the general public to offer support. But even if your products or services can benefit them in these times, you should be careful in how you approach them through your content. For example, a blog titled “How to Take Advantage of the COVID-19 Quarantine by Using our Data Organization System” will come across as insensitive. Instead of trying to sell consumers something right now, try creating content that helps them get through these trying times. For instance, if you’re the data organization software supplier, you would do better by writing a blog entitled, “5 Ways to Be Productive While Quarantined” and subtly mention your data organization system as one of the talking points.

Don’t Spread Rumors or Criticize Politicians

These are polarizing times, and the last thing you want to do as a business is to take sides or spread rumors that may prove to be false. For example, if you don’t agree with a politician’s actions related to managing support efforts, keep it to yourself. Otherwise, you could end up offending the readers who don’t agree with you.

 You should also be respectful of the consequences of the virus when mentioning it. Only use official sites to relay information and stick to the facts. Some of the official sites you can use for reference are:

What to Do

Successful content creators will focus on a few strategies during the pandemic. Here are some key points to keep in mind as you create your content.

Talk About the Things Important Your Customers

Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole.  You still need to stay relevant to your customers.  Don’t write about the phases of coronavirus on your pottery website, even if it does show up is an oft-Googled search trend. However, if you run a financial blog, you could write about stock market tips for today’s unruly market. A real estate blogger could publish tips about house showings during quarantine, or a dating site could write articles about how to maintain relationships during social distancing.

Inform People About Your Business—Subtly

Being sensitive doesn’t mean you can’t subtly promote your business. As with the example above, data organization content is helpful and lets consumers know about a product that could help them in this time.  Hunker is continuing to establish its brand as an expert on how to live well in your home, but the content shift is interesting to today’s reader. The key is to give readers the information they want, while in a non-salesy way, informing them how your service or product can help them.

Be Consistent

As we established earlier, people are online a lot these days, and they are establishing new browsing habits. They are looking for sites that offer the most relevant content and are likely visiting those sites again and again. Your goal is to create content that keeps them coming back to your site. Publish daily or weekly, but stick to your schedule so your visitors will know when to come back for more.

Use Content to Strengthen Your Brand

Finally, if you create a page on your website that tells people how your business is responding to the coronavirus, it can give your customers a sense of security regarding your business continuity.  For instance, everyone understands that gig workers are being financially impacted by the virus. Uber did a great job of addressing this problem by creating a page on its website outlining the steps it’s taking to ensure the financial well-being of its drivers.

A “coronavirus-response page” can also showcase how your business is helping your local community.  If you are donating medical supplies to your local hospitals, talk about it on your website. If you are organizing a food drive for the local community, be sure to mention it on your site. Or if you are taking care of your employees by allowing them to work from home, let the public know about it.  Just be sure that when you mention these things, you don’t come across as self-serving. Instead, focus on your community and the people you are serving.

5 Ways to Quickly Ramp Up Your Content

Now that we’ve talked about the do’s and don’ts for content creation during the pandemic, let’s talk about how to ramp up your content to reach all those people who are online most of the day.

Here is a 5-step plan to help boost your content fast:

1. Think About What Your Audience Needs Right Now

We’ve talked about the topics people are searching for right now, and if you can write content to match those needs, you are ahead of the game. You will first need to understand your customers and then determine how your brand can help meet their needs. For instance, if you sell pet supplies, you can write articles about how to exercise your dog during quarantine, how to keep your pets clean and, using the latest scientifically backed research, whether pets can transmit the disease to humans.

2. Create an Editorial Calendar

It’s always a good idea to create an editorial calendar when running a blog, but if you’re going to ramp up your content, it’s even more essential. First, determine how often you want to publish, and then begin thinking of the topics you will cover. This will require some brainstorming and research about what people are currently reading. Use Excel to create a spreadsheet or just make a list of your content for the next month or so. When you use an editorial calendar, it reduces the time spent on each article and allows you to concentrate on the writing.

3. Use Social Media and SEO to Increase Your Reach

If you want to bring more people to your blog, expand its reach by posting your blogs to social media. This will allow others to share your content. You can use any social media platforms you want—but the bigger your audience, the better this tactic will work for you. For instance, you can create a live steam on Twitter to talk about the highlights of your article or post your blog to Facebook or LinkedIn.

Also, using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a great way to drive traffic to your site from the search engines. Use a keyword tool to determine the best keywords for your article and then use them in the title, headers, and content. And if you use more than one keyword, it will increase the visibility of your article.

4. Open Up Communication with Your Readers

Everyone is isolated right now and craving communication with others—even if it’s online. One way to offer that is to open up the comments on your post and interact with your readers. Starting conversations with the people who leave comments is a great way to build your brand and readership. In addition, use your social media accounts to communicate with your readers by encouraging comments and then responding to them.

5. Hire Professional Writers to Keep Up with Content Creation

If the thought of creating additional content seems overwhelming, think about hiring professional writers to do the job for you. If you’re not used to writing, creating a daily or weekly blog can take a lot of time. But experienced writers have it down to an art—and they will make you look good without your ever having to write a single word.

Are You Ready to Ramp Up Your Content?

Even though more people are online, only savvy business owners will benefit from increased internet traffic. If you want to get more eyes on your blog and build your brand, be sure to follow the above steps and advice!

Marketing Buzzwords Demystified

If you have turned on the TV or engaged in social media over the past decade, you have almost certainly heard the buzz about buzzwords. They are everywhere. From politicians to celebrities to company CEOs, it seems that everyone is using buzzwords. But, what exactly are buzzwords? And what are they used for?

Let’s start with a basic definition. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a buzzword is:

1: an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen

2: a voguish word or phrase

The original point of a buzzword was to make things easier to understand and to give terms a common phrase that encompasses everything that has to do with them. Frequently, though, buzzwords are overused in an attempt to make oneself sound smarter or more impressive than they actually are.

While buzzwords may seem like a new phenomenon, they have actually been used in American English since the mid-1940s. In fact, the word buzzword was originally coined by 1940s Harvard students, to describe key words used in a lecture.

It is likely, though, that popular buzzwords from the 1940s no longer have the same meanings today. That is due to the fact that buzzwords are just a trendy party of the living language that is English. And being that it is a living language, it is constantly changing and adapting to the times.

Take the word boat, for example. In today’s culture, the word likely brings to mind images of a water vessel.  However, in the 1940s, boat was a common buzzword that referred to a large, luxurious car.

But, why do we use buzzwords?

As much as buzzwords frequently appear to just be a trendy way of speaking, they actually do have functional purposes.

In the business world, buzzwords are often used as a type of shorthand between people who are already familiar with a particular subject and do not need lengthy explanations of ideas. For example, “touchpoint” may not mean much to the average Joe, yet anyone in the customer-service industry knows that it refers to the first moment of contact a prospective customer has with your business.

Buzzwords are also a very popular sales marketing tool. And when used carefully, they can compel and convince audiences to buy a product or take a specific desired action.

Take the word “superfood,” for example. As one of the latest buzzwords in the health-food world, seeing something labeled as a “superfood” makes consumers believe that the product has some kind of magical, life-changing quality.  In reality, there are no legal qualifications for calling something a “superfood,” so it truly is just a fancy buzzword used to sell food.

What’s the buzz on marketing buzzwords?

The marketing world is full of buzzwords— some valuable and helpful, and some just fancy sounding filler words.

If you do marketing for your business, though, it’s important to know what these words mean (and be able to use them when necessary). So, to help break these words down, here is a list of the top eight buzzwords you should know:

Authority Marketing 

Authority marketing is the art of putting yourself in a position where you are the expert, or authority, on a particular subject or industry. This is an effective way of marketing because, by establishing yourself as an expert in your field, consumers will be more likely to go to you for the products or services they need. Being an authority allows you to dominate your competition.

Branded Content

Branded content is the strategy of putting the focus on the value of your brand, instead of on the actual products themselves. Branded content uses the emotions of consumers to make them feel a certain connection with a specific brand, motivating them to be loyal to it.

Branded Journalism

Much like branded content, branded journalism differs from traditional advertising methods. However, branded journalism focuses on building stories to highlight a company or organization’s value. Through branded journalism, companies can build trust and establish themselves as an authority with their audience.

Content Marketing


Content Marketing focuses on the strategy of creating and putting out valuable and relevant content, and then letting the content do your marketing for you. Content marketing can refer to anything from social media posts and YouTube videos to blogs and newsletters. Content marketing differs from traditional marketing in that it focuses on what the consumer wants or needs, instead of the actual product that is being offered.

Content Marketing focuses on the strategy of creating and putting out valuable and relevant content, and then letting the content do your marketing for you. Content marketing can refer to anything from social media posts and YouTube videos to blogs and newsletters. Content marketing differs from traditional marketing in that it focuses on what the consumer wants or needs, instead of the actual product that is being offered.

Long-form content

Long-form content is basically just what it sounds like: content that is lengthy, comprehensive, and detailed. While shorter, more concise articles used to be considered “best practice,” it has actually been proven that long-form content generates more leads than shorter articles and improves a site’s rankings.  Long-form content is also viewed as being more authoritative and generally gets more shares (which, in turn, translates into more views to your site).

Native Advertising

Native advertising is the use of paid ads that match the look and feel of the forum in which they appear. Native ads frequently appear in social media feeds or as recommended content on a web page. Unlike traditional ads, native ads don’t really look like ads. They are made to match the editorial flow of a page, so that the reader is getting a subtle view of what is being advertised, instead of a disruptive in-your-face kind of ad.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)


SEO refers to a collection of marketing tactics used to organically increase the quality and quantity of traffic to a website by increasing the position of the website in search results on Google, or other search engines. In other words, the better your SEO, the higher you will rank, and the more likely that your website will be viewed.

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is all about using your experience and expertise to consistently answer the questions that are on the minds of your target audience. While being unique is a great selling point, thought leadership focuses more on giving the best answers and solutions to your customers on a consistent basis. By presenting your deep knowledge on a subject, you allow your audience to get to know you, and add credibility to your brand.

How to Write Business Emails that Sound Friendly

In today’s technologically advancing world, email has become the official choice for communication within businesses. The lack of face-to-face communication can cause a lot of issues and misunderstandings, though. Because of this, it is important that business emails convey a clear message, elicit the desired response, and, above all, not offend in any way.

But how do you write emails that are both professional and friendly?

Identifying Good vs Bad Email Etiquette

Before we tackle how to write friendly business emails, we must first identify what a good friendly email looks like, vs. a not so friendly email. Take these emails, for example:

See the difference?

In the first example, the author seems to take a bit of a hostile, negative tone. Reading this email may leave the recipient feeling like they have been attacked, and will, therefore, immediately put them on the defensive.

In the second example, though, the author was able to communicate exactly the same information, but in a much more positive and empathetic way.

Emails that are friendly and positive are much more likely to be received well and will illicit the response that you are hoping to get.

So, now that we have established what a friendly business email looks like, let’s discuss how to write one.

The Basics

When you are writing business emails, keep in mind that the recipient(s) probably already has a lot on their plate, so they are not going to want to have to read through a bunch of fluff. Keeping your emails clear and concise will ensure that they are not only read in their entirety, but that your intended message is understood.

Effective, yet friendly, business emails, should be brief and punctilious while conveying professionalism and affability.

While emails will vary, depending on who they are being sent to and the intended message, ideally, business emails should follow this format:

A Subject Line of No More Than 6 to 10 Words

Your subject line should be direct and spam-proof. “Workshop Date Changed” will immediately alert your recipient that there is information in your email that they need to read. You want to avoid things like ‘Urgent’ or ‘Reply Needed,’ though, as these subject lines might send your email straight to spam. You want the recipient to get and read your message. Check out this handy free tool that highlights phrases or words in your email that might trigger a recipient’s spam filter.

An Appropriate Greeting/Salutation

Every business email should start with an appropriate greeting. When you are writing to another professional—even to someone you may already know—be friendly and respectful, while not overly casual or laid back. Starting the email with a simple ‘Hi,’ followed by the person’s name sets a friendly tone, but does not sound stiff or too formal. When you are addressing someone by their first name, be sure that you have the correct spelling and are not using any nick-names (unless you have previously been directed to do so). The last thing you want to do is start your email off by offending someone.

The Body

Try to keep the text of your email short and to the point. When possible, one or two paragraphs of one to two sentences each is best. Your email should have a clear introduction that states the purpose of the email and a conclusion that is forward-leaning. Ensuring that your text is spam-proof is important here as well.

Your Signature

At a minimum, your signature block should include your full name, title, the company name, and your contact information, including a phone number. This will make it easy for your recipient to identify who you are, what your position is, and how they can best contact you if needed.

The Friendly Part

So, how do you write business emails that are friendly but not too casual? Recall the tips above on appropriate greetings and tone, and then consider the real-world experience of Brittany Cooper, Project Coordinator for The Writers For Hire (TWFH).

Brittany, who has years of sales and customer relations to her credit, has mastered the knack of communicating in a professional but friendly way. She deals directly with clients at the beginning and end of each project, and she checks in with them along the way. She is often the person clients feel most comfortable talking to if problems crop up.

Brittany describes her communication style as “upbeat —always upbeat.” She confesses to using lots of exclamation points to express “lots of gratitude.” It’s her way of communicating to clients that TWFH is excited to work with them and values the relationship.

Another way to convey a friendly and upbeat tone is to add a personal touch to the beginning or end of your email. Starting out by saying “I hope you are having a great week,” or signing off with “Have a fantastic day!” immediately gives your email a positive tone.

Brittany also makes it a practice to seek feedback—usually via email—on every project, following up to see if everything went smoothly and asking if anything could be done to make the process better.

Of course, things don’t always go smoothly.

There are times when clients need to be gently reminded of hard and fast approaching deadlines. In those situations, it is important to keep a friendly and non-accusatory tone. Simply reminding them of the approaching deadline, and asking if you can assist in any way, will help ensure that the deadline is made (without making the client feel like they are being scolded or blamed).

Even in the situations where a deadline is actually missed, it is important that you avoid using any kind of language that comes off as negative and harsh. For example, instead of saying “When you missed the deadline, you caused our project to be pushed back,” use something more neutral, such as “With the missed deadline, the project was pushed back…” and then follow it up with a positive suggestion for how to rectify the situation. 

And as a rule of thumb, everything you write in an email should be read and re-read before you hit “send.” Try to read each email from the perspective of your recipient. If anything sounds like it could be possibly taken in an adverse way, then it is safe to assume that it should probably be re-written with a more positive spin.

Other Helpful Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Use traditional fonts such as Arial, Calibri, and Times New Roman; these fonts are not only classic, they are easy to read. Stick to the color black, use 10-12 pt., and keep the font and size consistent throughout the email, including in the signature block. As much as you may enjoy playing around with different fonts and colors, business emails are just not the place to get creative.
  • Never write when upset. An angry screed defeats the purpose of conveying important information or soliciting the desired response. Chances are high that your anger will come across in the words you choose, and the recipient of your email will be able to sense your agitated tone.
  • Be cautious when using language such as “but” and “unfortunately.” Adding those words to your sentence tends to negate what is said in the first place, and can also come off as being condescending. “I apologize for the delay. I will have the completed document to you by the end of the day” will be received much better than “I apologize for the delay, but it couldn’t be avoided. Unfortunately, I can’t get the document to you until the end of the day.”
  • Do a spell-check but also proofread. Spell-checkers are our friends, but they can be fickle at times. Pay close attention to each suggestion you click on and re-read the entire text after you spell-check. It’s hard to be taken seriously when you send an email full of spelling and punctuation errors.
  • Think twice before hitting ‘reply all.’ The sender may have wanted a dozen or more people to see their email to you, but all recipients do not necessarily need to see your reply. Consider carefully. Is your reply important for everyone to read? Is the content of your reply appropriate for everyone to see?
  • Don’t use humor unless you know the recipient well—make that very well. What may be funny in a social setting among business acquaintances might not come across as funny in writing. Written communication is easy to misconstrue, so it’s always best to just focus on the point and leave humor for in-person conversations.
  • Don’t overuse the word “please.” This does not mean that you shouldn’t be polite and write please when it is appropriate. You should just make sure to reserve it for places where it sounds natural. Saying “Please find the attached document and let me know if you have any questions” does not sound natural, and frankly makes for an awkward sentence. Instead, consider saying “I have attached the document. Please let me know if you have any questions.”
  • Be sensitive to cultural differences. In some cultures, it may be considered rude to address someone by their first name. In others, discussing certain topics over email may be offensive. Before sending an email, do some homework on what may and may not be appropriate for your recipient.

Finally, remember that every email leaves a trace. Don’t write anything that will reflect badly on you or others should your exchange become public.

The Dos and Don’ts of Email Greetings

In this day and age, it is not unusual to communicate with a client almost entirely by email. Emails are a quick and easy way to relay messages and keep track of important information. ­

Figuring out how to start an email (especially when you are sending it to someone you don’t know very well) can be a bit of a challenge, though. You don’t want to come off as too informal, but you also want to be sure your email makes you sound friendly and approachable. 

The actual greeting is not the only thing you need to worry about. The name you address a person by is equally important. After all, most people have strong feelings about their name preferences, and calling someone by the wrong name or title can immediately give the person a negative impression of you.

And starting an email off with a generic greeting, like “To Whom It May Concern,” or “Dear Sir or Madam” gives a very impersonal feeling and can make the reader feel like you have no idea who they are and are just sending a generic email.

So, how do you know the best way to start an email? And what name should you use to address the person you are writing to?

This great article from LADDERS explains the importance of using the right email greetings and gives some great tips to help make your emails sound professional and friendly.

While there are several greetings that they have deemed as acceptable, depending on who you are writing to and how well you know them, there was one greeting that they deemed the winner: a simple “Hi (name)…”

According to the article, this is the best greeting because it is a safe and familiar way to address someone, whether or not you know them. Plus, you can easily add formality to the greeting by using a “Mr.” or “Mrs.” title, followed by the person’s last name.

While “Hi” was the overall winner in terms of which greeting to use, there were several greetings that the article advises against using. Some of them, such as “Hey…” and “(first name)!!” are just too informal. And others, such as “Dear…,” can be too formal and impersonal.

The article also warns against using too many exclamation marks, not verifying that you have the correct spelling of a person’s name, and using nicknames.

Ultimately, when sending emails, your greeting should be something that addresses the specific person that you are sending the email to in a way that comes off as friendly and respectful, while not overly casual or laid back.

And, perhaps most importantly, never send an email without a greeting.

Copywriter Q&A: Getting Social With Dana Robinson

Our resident social media guru Dana Robinson has provided businesses with blog and social media content for nearly a decade. Her career — much like a social campaign or Instagram account — grew organically, starting with newsletter and blog and social content for a single nonprofit client. Today, she manages blogs and social media campaigns for a variety of businesses.

For this installment of Copywriter Q&A, we asked Dana to share some of her tips, strategies, and best practices. A few key takeaways: do your homework when it comes to choosing a management platform, and make sure you have a rock-solid social media policy in place. 

TWFH: For many companies, the most challenging part of social media is staying organized. Do you have any recommendations for management tools?

DR: With social, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution. In general, the best platform depends on things like your goals and the size of your company. For small and medium sized businesses Hootsuite and Sprout Social are good choices: They’re affordable, and they’re a great starting point if you only need a handful of users for one or two platforms. On the other end, you have “enterprise tools” like Hubspot that are more appropriate if you’ve got 10 platforms and 100 users. The price point is quite different, too: An enterprise tool will cost $1,100 to $1,200 per month. Something like Hootsuite starts at $20.

My advice is to do research on different platforms. Look at the price point, the number of users allowed, and the available features. Shop around based on what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to grow a following, your platform needs to help you search for influencers. Or maybe you want a tool to help suggest content for sharing. They don’t all do those things. If you’re managing social media for multiple clients, you need something that has a robust client management support. If your main goal is to engage with your current audience or customer base, you need a good scheduling tool to make sure you’re reaching the right people at the right time with the right content.

TWFH: Speaking of “the right content,” how do you figure out what, exactly, that is? How do you ensure that you’re driving traffic and creating engaging content?

DR: I use algorithms to find out what keywords are trending. is fantastic. You can type in something like, “downtown Houston” and it’ll give you all these fabulous ideas. It gives you the exact keywords so potential readers will find you.   

You also have to know what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s trial and error; putting out a couple of different kinds of content and see what your customers are reacting to. Once you know that, give them more of that. Knowing when to say “no” to content is also a strategy. That’s a way to lose your audience: If six times out of ten, your content is something they’re not interested in, they’re going to stop paying attention.

TWFH: What about reaching the “right people” on social media? How can you identify them and make sure you’re speaking to them directly?

DR: This is another reason that you should have a good social media management tool. You want to choose a tool that offers good analytics; something that lets you extract the data and see who is interacting with your content and even when they’re interacting with it. This is especially important if your company has a marketing department — you can use the data to sort users into groups and work hand-in-hand with marketing and develop content that appeals to each group. And a good calendar tool can help you deliver that content at right time.

TWFH: Is there anything you try to avoid in social media campaigns?

DR: I’d say to keep politics out of it. Also, social is very meme-heavy, and you have to be careful with that. Sometimes as a social media manager, you can think something is funny and put it out there — and then find that it wasn’t perceived the way you meant it. My advice: Take a moment and ask, “Will this have good purpose if we post it?”

In general, smaller businesses have a bit more freedom in this area: since the company is more closely tied to one owner or a few specific people; there’s more of a personal relationship there. But larger business really have to “stick to the script” — social media is an extension of their advertising. All posts should be heavily researched and approved by your marketing department.

TWFH: And what about employees and social media? How can companies make sure that everyone in the company — not just marketing — is sticking to the script where social media is concerned?

DR: While your employee base can be wonderful tool, you also want to have fairly good control over how and where they use it. The last thing you want is someone from your company doing something on social media that damages your company’s brand or reputation or reveals trade secrets. Part of this can be eliminated by only allowing a couple of people the ability to post on your behalf.

And of course, you need a social media policy. In the event that you can’t control what an employee does on social, you’ll at least have legal recourse. Your policy should be very specific, and it needs to be in writing. You should have your employees sign something, and even provide a half-day training session on your social media policy. You also need to provide training on company image and customer service. We’ve all seen what can happen when a customer has a negative experience.

TWFH: Right, because you also have to think about how your customers are using social media.

DR: Customers have phones in their pocket, and they can record a negative interaction and post it to YouTube. Everyone remembers seeing that doctor getting dragged off of that United flight. People are going to remember things like that — and they’re not going to remember that expensive ad campaign you spent six months developing. This is why customer service has never been more important:

TWFH: Are there any legal issues companies should be aware of when developing a social campaign?

DR: Copyright laws. If you were to only ever post original content and images — content that belongs to your company, you’d be safe. But no one does that — everyone gets caught up in sharing social content. So you need to be aware of copyright laws and rules about attribution and permission. For example, if you’re using images from web sources, you always need to read license restrictions — even if it’s labeled “Creative Commons.” A lot of people see Creative Commons and think, “Okay, I can use this.” But there are different licensing levels even within Creative Commons. Some of my favorite sites for images are Pixabay and Flickr. You can find great images, but they don’t all the same license. You absolutely have to read the license restrictions on each image to see if you have permission to use it and what kind of attribution is required. You also have to be careful with Instagram. On Instagram, all images are assumed to be proprietary. So if you post an image to Instagram, it’s presumed to be owned by you. If it’s not your image, you need to have permission to use it.

Another legal issue that’s kind of new: If your company does sponsored posts or works with influencers, you have to be aware of disclosure laws. The FTC has cracked down on those recently. Ads have to disclose themselves. That was not always the case, but it is now. So, for example, if an influencer is advertising your product they have to say, “This was given to me for free,” or they have to explain how they benefit from the sale of your product.

How Email Marketing Can Improve Your Business

In today’s business world, online competition is fierce! Between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it seems nearly impossible to keep up.

Yet, some businesses seem to be thriving in the world of social media. So, what’s their secret?

According to this interesting article from Hostgator, if you’re going to have any chance of getting and keeping your audience’s attention, you have to develop a relationship with them that goes beyond the products or services you offer. And the best way to build those relationships is by giving your clients opportunities to interact with you regularly and directly through email marketing.

In their article, Hostgator explains how email marketing is vital for building and maintaining customer relationships. They also go into the specifics of how to start email marketing campaigns and give tips for the best ways to get (and keep) your customers’ loyalty.

What’s Different – and What’s the Same – in Today’s Job Search Game

You haven’t looked in a job for 10 years. But for a variety of reasons, you’ve decided to get back into the job search game… and you’re noticing that things have changed.

From LinkedIn profiles to targeted keywords, resume writing is a whole new ballgame – and a confusing one, at that. Our internet-centric world has made job searching trickier than in the past.

So what do you need to do?

We’ve compiled a cheat sheet to help get you up to speed on the latest job search trends and strategies.

It's (Still) All About Who You Know

Networking is still king.

Because of the limits of faceless online anonymity, the personal meet-and-greet is as important as ever. Keywords – even “the right keywords” – will never take the place of a handshake and eye contact. Having someone personally vouch for you can often preclude anything in your resume.

“Job search continues to be personal,” HR expert Laura Handrick tells The Job Network. “People don’t hire from paper, they hire people they trust will do a great job in the role.”

And hiring isn’t the only thing that’s moved away from paper.

Today, most open positions aren’t even posted on traditional sources like online job boards or classifieds: According to Forbes, up to 80% of all available positions are nestled within the so-called “hidden job market.”

These positions aren’t advertised in traditional sources like online classifieds or job boards because companies are increasingly avoiding open online applications that can lead to a lengthy (and expensive) hiring process. Instead, they’re using recruiting firms, headhunters, and even referrals from their own employees. This means job seekers often have to rely on networking to find out about available positions.

But what if your network has shrunk (read: You’ve burned some bridges)?

Or what if it wasn’t very wide to begin with (read: You’ve never particularly enjoyed those meet-and-greet social functions)?

Start by contacting anyone and everyone you know or worked with in the past – from employers and coworkers to clients or suppliers to friends and college roommates. Mention you’re looking for a new gig, and don’t be afraid to send them your resume. You never know who’s aware of those hidden jobs.

Then reach out to people you don’t necessarily know. Use social media platforms like LinkedIn to find like professionals and invite them into your circle, and to join a few associations with strong social presence. And really, if you’re not already on LinkedIn, stop reading now and take care of that!

Leveraging LinkedIn

These days, LinkedIn membership is really not an option. In addition to establishing a network of folks who might be able to help you in your search, you can use the platform itself to find advertised positions.

New to LinkedIn? Not sure how to leverage your account to help in your search? Here are a few pointers:

1. Your Profile

Unlike your resume – which is a static document once you send it out – your LinkedIn profile is a living, breathing, and ever-evolving creation. You can (and should) change it regularly to keep it current.

Think twice about publicizing your job search, though. For one, that might not be information you’d like to share with your current employer (who’s likely tracking staffers’ profiles). For another – and possibly more important – reason, announcing the fact that you’re looking for a job could make you vulnerable. Recruiters shy away from desperate-looking professionals and have even been known to even weed out profiles containing the word “seeking.”

Thinking about leaving your current job off your profile? Consider this: JobHunt reports that this action could drop your ranking and push your profile “several pages lower than what it would have been.” Of course, if your current job isn’t something you’d like to publicize, by all means omit it.

2. Your Keywords

Keywords have become a big deal in today’s job market. TopResume tells us, “The algorithm behind LinkedIn looks at keyword density to rank your profile in a search.” Sure, this might sound daunting, but the casual consumer does essentially the same thing: When you search for ANYTHING online, you want only the most applicable results.

Same goes for recruiters. They are looking for candidates with very specific skills, and they target their searches to find only those who fit the bill. This means that your LinkedIn profile needs to include those target words. Be sure to use the exact wording of those desired skillsets included in the job posting. Try this hack: Copy the position description into a free word cloud app. WordItOut is particularly user-friendly and lets you visualize a summary of the qualifications that the posting highlights most.

Meanwhile, JobHunt claims that “the keywords in the Job Title field (an area highly indexed within LinkedIn’s search algorithm) can draw additional traffic to your profile.” And adding the sought-after keywords in your Skills & Endorsements section can also increase your page ranking and profile views.

3. Your Photo

Definitely post a current, professional-looking headshot. Recruiters tend to think that profiles without photos look suspicious. Plus, LinkedIn flags photo-less profiles as “incomplete,” which can negatively impact your search rankings. One statistic even claims that profiles with photos get up to 21 times more views.

4. Your Search

Use the “Jobs” tab to search by keyword, country, and even zip code. Use “Advanced Search” to refine your search by date posted, experience level, specific location, job function, company, and industry. If you have a specific company in mind, visit the company profile to see if they’ve posted job openings on their LinkedIn pages. LinkedIn can also save your job searches and send you emails about new job postings.

5. Your Contacts

Before applying, secure an introduction so someone will be watching for your application. In addition to linking with colleagues from your current endeavors, join your university alumni group to connect with names from your past.

6. Your Connections

Remember that old party game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?” That’s kind of how LinkedIn works. Your contacts – or connections – are organized into  a hierarchy of first-degree connections (people you know directly), second-degree connections (people who have connections in common), and so on.

Ask your first-degree connections if they can introduce you. Additionally, you could see if any of your LinkedIn contacts works there or knows someone who works there.

Once you’ve applied, don’t just sit back and worry that your application got lost in cyberspace. LinkedIn makes it possible to find contact information for the actual hiring manager, using the search bar at the top of the page. Click “People,” then input your target company name in the “Current companies” filter pane for a list of employees.

Social Media Presence

Have you Googled yourself today?

Since you’re already updating your LinkedIn profile, it’s a good time to consider your online reputation.

Recruiters will be looking you up on Google – you should do the same. Tweet this

“Google yourself once a week,” career consultant Mark Anthony Dyson recommends. “Take note of any results that tarnish your image – including those that may be about other people who happen to share your name.”

In fact, The Job Network cites statistics that 70% of employers report screening candidates via social media before offering positions. even claims this tops 90%. Add to that reports that 54% of employers say they have chosen another candidate after viewing the applicant’s social media profile and another 57% report being less likely to even interview someone they can’t find online, and the implications are clear: You must be active online to be competitive in the job market.

And being active is more than just setting up your LinkedIn profile.

Sure, that’s a good first step. And keeping it current is another. Then stay alert and engaged in your industry by keeping the conversation going with your online colleagues.

Not sure what to post? Consider:

  • Responses to posts you enjoyed reading
  • Articles you’ve recently published
  • Awards or accolades you’ve received

Modernize Your Resume

Today’s job recruiter spends maybe six seconds reviewing a resume. You read that correctly. And six seconds isn’t a lot of time. You need to “impress the judges” from the get-go with relevant details they can’t turn away.

So how do you do that? What are the new “rules” of resume writing? What’s changed over the past decade or so since you last actively sent out your resume? For one, you’ll be doing a lot more fill-in-the-blank online application forms these days. Still, keeping these tips in mind will beef up your resume so yours is sharp when you hand over a copy during a discussion about hidden jobs.

1. Forego Your Physical Address

Gone are the days of including your physical address. Hiring managers don’t send job offers through the mail anymore, so they don’t need to know where you live. They do, however, need to have an easy way to find you to schedule a meeting or even offer you the job. Make it easy for them by providing your email address, your phone number, and (yes, you guessed it!) your LinkedIn profile link.

2. Choose Your Email Address Wisely

If it’s been long enough, your last resume might not have even included an email address. That’s a must now – as is using an adult email address. Your resume is all about first impressions. Can you really expect a hiring manager to contact you via [email protected]? Even if you’re emotionally invested in that email address you set up in college, get yourself a professional-sounding handle for all your job search communications.

3. Give Yourself a Title

Add a concise (two- or three-word) position title that summarizes your skills as a professional. Run this just underneath your contact information as a quick way for recruiters to know what you do (or what you want to do for their company).

4. Use Plenty of White Space

Use plenty of cushion around the key ideas you want to be particularly noticeable. Too much copy overwhelms the reader. If your resume is hard to read, recruiters won’t bother. This means that you shouldn’t cram your resume onto one page. Keep as much white space as you need, flowing onto two (or even three) pages in a very readable font, ideally at least 11-point type.

5. Take Action

Use strong verbs and be concise. If you’re stuck using the same mundane words, check out this amazingly comprehensive compilation of resume-worthy verbs from The Muse. Describe your job responsibilities with the concrete skills you’ve honed over your tenure in the position. Better yet, detail your accomplishments and how your successes help the company. Provide specific measurements whenever possible.

While that resume tip hasn’t changed over time, there are a couple “accomplishments” you should omit at this point. Don’t claim to be an expert in Word and Excel. These “skills” are assumed at this point. And don’t state, “References available upon request.” That, too, is a given in today’s hiring world.

6. Mirror the Lingo

Many hiring managers try to save time by using software like an applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan applications for keywords and weed out the ones that don’t belong. Estimates vary, but reports indicated that more than three-fourths of resumes never even make it across recruiters’ desks – the ATS rejects them outright for missing the right keywords. Sounds a bit daunting… all the more reason to make sure that your resume, just like your LinkedIn profile, contains some of “the right words.” Match the exact wording used in the job post. JobScan is a handy way to compare the content of your resume with the language of the position listing to help earn you a nod.

7. Keep it Scannable

Employers will scan your document in a “Z pattern.” They start at the top left, scan to the top right, then move quickly down to the lower left, and end on the lower right (remember, this only takes about six seconds!). So, the strategy is to keep the important details toward the top left (above the top third of the page) and the extra niceties toward the lower right.

8. Ditch the Objective

In the past, many professionals were encouraged to add a few sentences to the top of their resumes that described their ideal positions. But let’s face it: Recruiters today don’t care about what kind of work you want. Instead, you need to convince them of why you’re the best person for the job at hand. Replace your old objective statement of “Avid bird-watcher in search of pet-sitting opportunity” with a professional profile of “Animal lover with 20 years of providing the best in-home care for pets.”

9. Highlight Key Skills

What are the 8-10 main skills you most want to highlight about yourself? Think of the tasks you complete regularly and how you most help your company; when possible, include things you can quantify.

Another “new” trend is to include a two-column list under your professional profile. Keep in mind that resume format options are infinite and extremely personal. And your resume, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If your ideal job is a straight-laced corporate position, opting for a more traditional black-and-white resume. A role in the arts might lend itself more to a bolder look.

Regardless: Clean, concise, and easy to read are always the best choices.