Why vanilla is the worst flavor of marketing

I have a friend who recently wrote a blog post for the agency she works for. It was a great post: well written, included graphics she made herself, was helpful and offered takeaways, and had a title just interesting enough to garner clicks without being click bait. Then, the CEO had her take it down. “It might give the wrong impression.” (It didn’t.)

Vanilla is the worst flavor of marketing-title image

Vanilla is the worst flavor of marketing

Maybe you love vanilla ice cream, or vanilla pudding, but no one likes vanilla content. To make an impact among the overly crowded digital marketing space, you need to do something to stand out. You have to take a position. You must offer helpful information while not turning your content into a snooze-fest lecture. With the concept of Content Shock looming over all of us marketers, you have to write something worth reading.

Maybe try chocolate instead

Embrace a deep, rich, and possibly darker side of content. Piss someone off, start an argument, take a stand. But be willing to back up your argument with informed points and a reasoned point-of-view. Don’t just troll the world. In Jay Baer’s “Jay Today” video series, he goes on some pretty serious rants—calling marketing and service mediocrity where he sees it. Some people may disagree with him on some points, and that’s ok. His definitive, and sometimes angry, perspective is visceral and real. People remember it and share it if they relate to it. Do you have a viewpoint in opposition to the status quo? Talk about it! I did in this guest post, and things got pretty hairy, but I stood by my points and even helped some people in the process.

Vanilla marketing click to tweet image
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Don’t forget the savory bits

My choice would be salted caramel, but you do you. Ahem, I digress. Give people definitive takeaways and sharable tidbits in your content that they just can’t help but share with their friends and followers. For example, provide a click-to-tweet takeaway image (like above) that makes sharing those points seamless (something else Jay Baer does really well with his Social Pros podcasts). Try putting some key takeaways in bullet points to visually sum up what the reader should get out of a post. Before you hit publish, seriously ask yourself, “What exactly will someone reading this post/article/blog get out of it?” If the answer isn’t clear, fix it.

What’s better than regular ice cream? A sundae.

Don’t be afraid to mix up your content. Slap on some toppings, mix up some flavors, and create a tantalizing piece of content people can’t help but share. Here are some examples of how you can incorporate different media to see what resonates with different audiences.

  • Embed a slideshare in a blog post to reinforce the points you’re making.
  • Record a video clip to break down a complicated concept rather than writing a long-form post.
  • Try embedding tweets surrounding a hot topic you’re discussing to show its relevancy and highlight important points-of-view.

Your content has to have some character, something uniquely you. There are likely other posts in the world on the same topic you’re writing about, so what makes yours different?

Admit it, you totally want some ice cream now, don’t you? Sorry about that.

Now go get your social on!

Learn to create content like a boss with the #ArtOfSocial

I recently had the opportunity to read and review The Art of Social, the new book from social media powerhouses Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzgerald. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book early). The short of it: if you’re getting started in content creation, or just need some great inspiration, this book is definitely worth your time.

Art of Social by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzgerald content marketing book

If you’re already comfortably familiar with social media platforms, you may find yourself glossing through some of the basics in the first couple sections. I actually advise against this. You’re likely to miss the many gems of knowledge inserted among these tips. If you’re reading the digital version rather than the physical edition, you’ll find tons of linked examples that are worth taking a peek at. Some of these offer step-by-step guides you’ll want to keep around. (For example, how to embed social content into a blog post.)

The book is a pretty easy read. Guy’s voice (which is the point of view that most of the book is written in) is casual yet informative, entertaining yet frank. You’ll likely find yourself chuckling, while also taking note of a really useful tidbit.

Peg and Guy

If you’re anything like me and love to check out the latest and greatest tools, you’ll be drooling over this book. Guy and Peg offer up a plethora of tools they recommend for social posting, monitoring, listening, content creation, and curating. Some you’ve likely heard of, but I almost guarantee there will be some new ones on your radar after reading The Art of Social.

The book also goes beyond simply talking about social media platforms and strategies for posting content to them. There’s an entire section on how to successfully run an event (including an extensive section on holding Hangouts On Air events) and make it a socially shared success. I really, really recommend this chapter if you have an in-person or virtual event you’re planning for 2015. You’re nearly 100% likely to find at least one piece of advice you’ll incorporate into your plans.

The Art of Social is a really great book. The only downside to writing a book on social media is how quickly things change (and there are already a few things that have changed since the book was written). In an awesome interview on the Social Pros Podcast, Guy and Peg mention that there will potentially be sporadic digital updates to the book, which leads me to recommend the digital version over the physical one (plus, you’ll have access to all those helpful links).

Couple this book with Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content (full disclosure, I work for Ann), and 2015 will be the year you completely rock every aspect of social media and digital marketing content. Your fans will thank you, your boss will thank you, and you’ll probably sleep better at night knowing you’re consistenly putting out great content thanks to the guidance you’ll find here.

You can purchase The Art of Social here.
Pick up Everybody Writes here.

Now go get your social on!

Two Productivity Hacks for Bloggers

Let’s be honest. One of the toughest parts of blogging, and content marketing in general, is finding time to collect your thoughts. Setting aside a block of time to brainstorm, write, and flesh out ideas can be exceedingly difficult.

I’m all about using little hacks and unique ideas to make myself more productive, or at least a little more organized. In this post, I’ll share a couple of my favorites with you.

Evernote snapshots

First of all, if you’re not using Evernote, you should. The mobile/desktop/browser experience is completely seamless, and it’s such a great tool for collecting your thoughts, blog post ideas, resources, and reminders. One of my favorite features is the snapshot feature. This feature may be old news to some, but I recently discovered how useful it is and I love it.


You’ve probably heard that the best writers read a lot, and it’s true. Ideally, some of that reading should translate back into your writing in the form of informed points of reference. But if you’re anything like me—I can’t remember what I DID last week, let alone what I read—so that doesn’t always work out so well. Enter Evernote.

Evernote’s snapshot feature lets you take a document-size photo. In this case, you can photograph a page from a book with important points of reference. Those photos then become searchable documents within the app. This makes it so easy to go back and find that quote you only remember half of, or that pivotal point made by an author that you want to quote and attribute properly. Enter a keyword into the search bar in Evernote and find your page. It’s genius, and a massive time saver. Check out this page I captured from Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. I then did a search for “reimagine” on Evernote, and this is what it looks like.


Save things to Pocket and use tags

If you’re not familiar with Pocket, it’s an app (formerly known as Read It Later) that is basically like bookmarks on steroids. The browser extension is brilliant, and it is built right in to the Twitter mobile app once you select it in settings. Pocket allows you to save articles, blog posts, and web pages easily.

The best part is that you can use the ‘tags’ in Pocket to organize important articles categorically so that you can easily find sources for future posts on specific topics, like ‘content marketing’, ‘productivity hacks’, or ‘how-to articles’. More than that, you can go deeper. Think about what specifically struck you about the article or web page. Put THOSE words in as key words, so later when you’re trying to find that one article on a broad subject that mentioned one very specific thing, you can search your tags and find it quickly.


Are you using these two apps already? What would be another quick hack you’d add for bloggers and content publishers? Share your feedback below.

Now go get your social on!

What Grand Budapest Hotel Taught Me About Blogging

I just got home from watching Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. I loved it. It was everything I wanted it to be: quirky yet familiar characters (with delightful cameos), magical use of color, symmetry and music to paint a beautiful picture, and a story just absurd enough to still maintain some believability while making me laugh out loud. In short—unabashedly and unapologetically Wes Anderson. As I left the theatre, I began to think about what I love about Mr. Anderson’s movies, and it struck me. In your blog, you should be unapologetically and unabashedly you, too.


Wes Anderson has haters, believe that. There are people who detest the precocious nature of his characters, the quirky, dry nature of his scripts, and the very specific look that makes sure you know it’s a product of his creative mind. That doesn’t stop him from continuing on that trajectory though, and this fact has won him a fan base that will follow his every endeavor and a group of talented professionals that are thrilled to work with him again. He’s not afraid to be who he is, tell the stories he wants to tell, or be true to the nature of what he envisions. The same can be done on your blog. 

Have you ever written a post, be it for your job as a content marketer or social media specialist or whatever, that you just didn’t really feel sounded like it came from you? Have you ever written something that just felt forced? On the other hand, have you ever sat down at your computer, or with your notepad in the park, and just felt like you couldn’t stop writing? Like the words were just flowing out of your mind faster than you could type or write them? That’s the person you need to be. That’s the voice and mindset you need to follow. That’s the dream.

Now, that being said, some of you may be in the same boat I am. I have absolutely no idea who I want to be, what I want to do when I grow up (at 32, mind you), or what kind of content quite feels right for me to continually pursue. I do feel passionate about some of the things I write, but not as much so about other things. Marketing will do that to you sometimes. Regardless of how much you want to enjoy what you do, you still have to sell a product, an idea, or a service when you work in marketing. But I do enjoy my job, I can say that. When you’re writing for a company though, you have to maintain their voice, their personality; which is why I still go back to my own blog from time to time and write what’s on my mind and what really comes from me. 

I hope to be as confident and steadfast in my voice as Mr. Anderson. I’m not quite sure how to find exactly what I’m passionate about, but I’m making it my goal this year to work on figuring it out so I can chase it. What about you?

Have you found your passion? Are you following it? Are you like me and are still searching for it? Or have you found it, but are afraid to go get it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

Chase your dreams. I plan to. 

Now, go get your social on!