It’s 5:02 a.m. on Friday as I am writing this. The dog is on the floor licking…something (he likes to lick a lot!) and my wife is asleep beside me in bed.

The last 10 minutes have gone something like this:

• What’s happening on Twitter? Boring.

• How about Facebook? Someone else got engaged. Yay for them.

• Any new emails? Delete. Delete. Inbox Zero!

• Hmm…

Then I opened up the Buffer iPhone app (forgot I even had that installed).

When you are looking for mindless wastes of time, you get desperate.

That’s when I ran across the analytics section of the app and had a light bulb moment.

See, writing has been harder lately. I’ve still been ‘hitting publish’ twice a week but it’s been a struggle.

There have been two core issues:

  1. Coming up with topics that my audience is interested in
  2. Beating writers block and writing above a 3rd grade level

blog post ideas

1. Enter…The “Buffer Validation Method” 

After spending 15 minutes in the app, I realized I could see the exact topics that my readers are interested in by looking at what they interacted with on social media.

For example:

Most of the tweets on my personal account get 3-5 clicks. They might get a retweet or the occasional favorite or two.

While I was thumbing through the analytics in the app, I ran across several anomalies.

Some of my Tweets were 5-10x more popular than others.

While most tweets got 3 clicks others received 15-30.

Here is an example:

The lightbulb moment was this: These traffic engagement spikes validate that my audience is interested in reading about this topic.

So, if I write a post about this subject the chances of it getting traction are high.

Buffer analytics = Blog Post Ideas

Just schedule tweets in Buffer about topics that you THINK would be popular and measure the response.

The exact workflow to do that

I am playing around with the idea of doing an in-depth analysis post on Facebook Ads.

It would show you examples of 20 Facebook ads and break down the posts into a simple framework so you could create effective ads yourself.

It would also include a gigantic swipe file of 200+ Facebook ads as a giveaway.

Seems like a decent idea right?

But, what would it look like to validate that post before I spent all that time to write it?

  • Step 1: Goto Quora.com and find someone who has asked a question around that topic
  • Step 2: Buffer a link to that Quora post with their question as the body of the Tweet
  • Step 3: Wait a day and look at your analytics to see how many people interacted with it.

I put together a video showing you this process.

If there is above average interaction (2-3x normal), write the post.

If not, reform the question, pick a different headline and Buffer it again.

Do this 5-10 times until you find the right ‘hook’ to form the post around.

As soon as you see a spike in interactions, start writing.

2. Ok, great. But how do I write the freaking post?

Now you have a headline and are reasonably confident your audience will resonate with it.

But you still have a problem…writing the actual post.

As soon as you start to try to write, everything freezes up.

How can you fix this?

Don’t write.

Instead, answer questions.

Think about it like this:

If my wife asks me “Bryan, why do you think most people never act on their ideas?”

I would answer in less than 5 seconds with at least 3 minutes worth of dialogue.

No prep. No outline. No research.

However, If I were trying to write an article entitled “The 7 Reasons Your Idea Will Never Become A Business”

Gridlock. All dry. Words … are … hard.

There is something fundamentally different with writing about a TOPIC as opposed to answering someone’s specific QUESTION.

What if instead of writing ‘blog posts’ you just answered questions.

Then format those answers into blog posts.

(Seth Godin agrees.)

How do you turn a topic into a question?

Let’s use the tweets that I found in Buffer analytics and try spinning it into a question.

This was the original tweet.

Spinning that tweet into a question would give us something like this:

“What was the biggest influence in quitting your job and starting your own business?”

OR

“Is there a single thing you could identify that gave you the kick the butt to quit your day job?”

I can answer that!

To take it one step further I went to Quora to try to find an actual person with that exact problem.

Example question I found on Quora

Note: I’ve found that the more specific the person is and the more real they are in my head, the freer the words flow.

The absolute easiest way is to have an actual person ask you the question. However, answering peoples questions online can work just as well.

Now that I have a question how do I start writing?

Step 1: Don’t write, record

First, fire up your iPhone voice recorder app.

Next, have your wife or roommate ask you the question you came up with in the last step.

Last, press record and answer the question.

Just have a normal conversation about the topic. Give your answer, ask for questions and then answer those too.

Step 2: Transcribe your audio

Take all of the audio you just recorded and write it down word for word into a Google Doc.

It’ll take a few minutes, thats fine.

Step 3: Pretty it up

Edit out all of the “umm’s” and “ahh’s” and format it so it looks pretty (I’d suggest grabbing this $3 book to help you with that).

Include pictures to further describe the question.

Pro tip: If you don’t need pictures to describe what you are discussing in your post, go deeper until you do.

Step 4: Write 5 different headlines

Your headline is VERY important. Quality is huge but your headline is even more important.

Here is a simple process I use for coming up with headlines:

Step 5: Publish

You are done.

Proof it and hit publish.

I wanted to test this workflow on someone else

So, I enlisted Videofruit intern AJ and asked him to “answer a question” about a recent project he completed.

Instead of asking him to write about it, I flipped on my webcam and started recording.

Here is the raw footage:

Then he transcribed the video and cleaned it up. (see the transcription)

Next, he read this book and went through a short copywriting course.

He was able to go through the transcription and rearrange it to a blog-post-friendly format.

Then he brainstormed 5 headlines using the method I mentioned above.

  1. These 4 Easy Steps Will Have Your Logo Set In No Time
  2. How Logos Should Actually Be Created
  3. What Should Your Design Process Be?
  4. Creating What YOU Want: Cheap and Simple
  5. Steps Non-Creative People Take To Create A Design

He spent a total of 2 hours writing (and 3 hours on learning about copywriting).

This is the first draft: How to create a logo if you suck at design

Not bad for the first time to ever write a blog post.

Wrapping it all up into a pretty package

That’s a lot of stuff, so let’s review what we’ve learned:

  1. Use your Buffer account analytics to get post ideas by looking for engagement peaks.
  2. Don’t start your post by writing. That encourages writers block.
  3. Instead repurpose the ideas in Step 1 into a question then answer that question (record yourself).
  4. Transcribe your answer on paper and then reformat it and pretty it up.
  5. Press publish.

I have used the “record first” workflow for the past two weeks and it has been great.

It saves 1-2 hours per post and helps me to write even though I suck at writing.

PS: Do you have a writing hack that you use? Share it below. I need it!

This post originally appeared on Video Fruit. Check out the Video Fruit blog for tons of great articles on video, content, and marketing.

Image sources: The Noun Project, Blurgrounds, Death to the Stock Photo

The post How to Brainstorm and Write an Epic Blog Post in 4 Simple Steps appeared first on Social.

social media teams

Determine your strategy and structure

A survey by Altimeter discovered that the average number of people on a full-time social media team at a large (<1000 employees) company  is 11 professionals, working together in an organization chart that looks a bit like this:

definition-the-corporate-social-media-team-jeremiah-owyang

Depending how strictly regulated your industry is, this structure could also include occasional oversight from human resources, legal departments and lots more.

On a smaller team, maybe your organization looks more like this chart from Chief Marketer:

social media superteam

How do you keep everyone on the same page and in the loop? Creating a social media strategy everyone can agree on and reference easily is a great first step. This document might discuss your objectives for social media, your day-to-day process and your measurement goals, as represented in this neat framework from Advanced Human Technologies.

social media strategy framework

I really like Lisa Barone’s guide to creating a social media plan to help you through each of these steps.

Establish a consistent voice and tone

When multiple people are representing your brand and speaking in its voice, it helps to first make sure everyone knows what that voice sounds like. What’s your personality? What do you stand for? What is your purpose?

Establishing a strong and consistent voice and tone seem to be the keys to getting everyone on the same page here. At Buffer, we have a tone guide that is our North Star for talking with customers. It, in turn, is quite inspired by Mailchimp’s voice and tone guide.

Interested in coming up with your own? There are a few exercises we describe in our guide to finding your social media voice, namely this one:

Social Media Brand Voice

  • Character / persona – Who does your brand sound like? If you picture your social brand as a person (a character), here is where you can flesh out this identity with specific attributes that fit who you want to sound like online.
  • Tone – What is the general vibe of your brand?
  • Language – What kind of words do you use in your social media conversations?
  • Purpose – Why are you on social media in the first place?

Together, these four areas can help define the overall voice of your brand. It’s a helpful exercise to go through these steps to gain insight into each area.

Know how, where, and what you’ll post

It helps a great deal to chat with team members about which social networks are right for you, what categories and and types of content you’re going to post about, when and how often.

Will you focus on your specific niche only, or might you expand into more topics? Will you share only your content, or grow your thought leadership reputation by sharing a ratio of your content and great stuff by others?

Getting a focused view on these concepts helps to present your community with a consistent experience, but remember that your experiences here can evolve over time. Buffer started out by posting almost exclusively on Twitter tips and tools, and today we share from a diverse well of topics including social media, productivity, self-improvement, workplace culture and more.

Let your audience know who is posting

One big way to create a better feeling for the people you’re talking with on social media is to make sure they know that there are real humans behind that corporate social media account.

Particularly when you’re responding to questions or comments, it can be handy to identify who is posting. This immediately gives your replies a friendlier face and gives others the chance to engage with you as a person instead of just as a logo.

One popular method is to sign tweets with a carat (^) and your initials. Here, Southwest showcases that strategy:

Southwest signed tweets

This is a fairly understood convention by now, but there are lots of new people on Twitter every day with varying levels of awareness of all its ins and out. There are some people who may not know what your initials mean. What has worked a bit better for us is to sign each reply with our first names like so:

signed tweets

Since Twitter is a primary way for our customers to talk to us and ask questions, we use the tool Sparkcentral to funnel in and answer all @ messages, and this handy tools automatically our names with each tweet we send out.

For the other social networks like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, a small team of us do daily “drive-bys,” where we schedule a block of time each day to visit your social media profiles. During this time, we simply try to remember to sign our names as we drop by and talk with our community.

signed Google+

Another handy tip is to consider how you can add a human touch to your social media bios. You might think about mentioning the names of the team members who’ll be posting from the account, or linking out to a Twitter list with all your team members on it, or even use a picture of your team as your cover photo or avatar.

Delegate by shifts or networks

One of the most common issues that arise when working with a social media team is figuring out who is going to do what, when, without stepping on one another’s toes. In other words, “Are you going to respond to that message, or should I?”

There are a few different ways to create some structure here to help everyone work more efficiently. Since it’s not practical for one person to be “on” at all times, you might consider trying a shift system, creating a general schedule of times when team members will oversee the brand’s social presence. Especially if you normally have a high volume of messages to respond to, this makes sure that social media responsibilities are generally covered.

Another way to divide out the responsibilities is by which networks you and your teammates are most interested in. I enjoy hanging out on Google+, so I probably make more frequent visits to that network, while other teammates dig Facebook a bit more. Playing to each team member’s passions and strengths could be a great option for maximizing efficiency and creating more fun on your team, too.

As new social media networks pop up, you can also designate team members to dig into them and do some experimenting so you’re always in the know about the next new thing.

Use tools to make collaboration easier

Fortunately, there are many tools out there that help organize social media teams.

Larger teams with a bigger budget might opt for all-in-one solution, and smaller teams might want to go the piece-by-piece route.

Some great categories to think on when looking for social media tools for teams might be: listening, communicating, scheduling, responding and analyzing.

 Give everyone the right access

If we might focus on a particular category of tools for a moment, we’ve found that using a social media scheduling tool allows teams to be significantly more efficient when posting to social media together.

We rely on Buffer’s own social media scheduling and team member functionality to add posts into our social media accounts—if you’re a Buffer customer with either an Awesome account or a Business account, you can to add team members to your account, which is really handy to keep everyone on the same page. And there are lots of other great options as well, including SproutSocial and Hootsuite.

One thing you might want to look for in your scheduling tool is the ability to add team members at various levels of access.

With our Business plans, you can invite many team members to any of your social profiles, depending on which profiles you want them to have access to. as either a Manager or a Contributor.

  • A Manager can add updates to your Buffer account just like you can—they get added directly to your queue. They also have access to change your posting schedule.
  • A Contributor has more limited access. They can add posts to a profile, but the post won’t be added to the queue until you approve it.

In talking to to our customers, we’ve found that this arrangement allows everyone the right amount of access and keeps running smoothly.

Have you ever used social media as part of a team? What are your best tips on making it work?

Icon image via The Noun Project

The post Social Media Teams: Tips And Tools For Working Together Seamlessly appeared first on Social.