As 2016 approaches, you’re probably looking for fresh ways to deliver compelling content to online users, particularly those in the social media realm. Rather than trying to get people to focus on run-of-the-mill blog posts and straightforward service and product pages, why not focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you?
With that in mind, what steps can you take to better inform and even entertain your current audience? How can you make that audience grow, not only on your website, but on social media? What tools or practices can you employ to make your content stand out from the competition?
We’re going to tell you about three online tools you can use to help you answer the preceding questions. Not only are each of the tools listed below fairly easy to use, but two out of the three of them are free. One is fairly new to the scene, but all the companies behind all three tools happened to make moves within the last couple of years that helped them reach a wider audience.
The best part about each of the tools on the following list is that there’s a storytelling component to each of them. Telling stories is a tried-and-true way of capturing people’s attention. As far as storytelling online is concerned in the age of short attention spans, this time-tested method can help keep eyes on your content longer. Using the online tools below will help you churn out great content that’s a little different than the norm, yet readily shareable on social media.
Without further ado, let’s get into the three tools (in no particular order) that can help you boost your social media marketing efforts and overall online engagement in the coming year.
This online curation service is probably the most recognizable name on the list. It debuted in 2010 and was free for everybody to use. A business plan debuted in 2013, boasting additional features not found in the free version. You’ve probably seen Storify stories embedded on media sites like Yahoo and BBC, as the features are very useful for journalists trying to aggregate content posted to social media.
Storify lets you easily pull from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SoundCloud and more in order to create one chronological story. You can write some text in between some of the social posts to give more context, but usually these stories are pretty light on copy, taking the best from social media and other online platforms. The stories are easily embeddable on your website, and your creations can get some extra views through custom social sharing features and on the platform itself, which functions as its own social network.
Even if you’re not in the news business, if you ever see a news story, event or trending social media topic that relates (even faintly) to your industry, that’s the perfect time to take to Storify. There you can grab social posts that either 1) best recap the online conversation, or 2) best illustrate whatever point you’d like to make. This can be a perfect way for your company to share your expertise on the trending subject and add value to the conversation. Your completed story will be perfect for sharing to social media and even embedding on your site.
When shared to Twitter, Storify stories make for one of the most interactive types of tweets imaginable.
— gtchat (@gtchatmod) December 19, 2015
If you go with the Storify Enterprise plan, you’ll have additional features at your disposal such as real-time story updates (perfect for live blogging) and the ability to blend an embedded story into your website’s format and color scheme. Overall, though, Storify is easy for any user to pick up and use for free.
This tool is the only one of the three on this list where your business is going to have to pay right off the bat, unless you’re counting the free 14-day trial. ThingLink lets you add interactive elements to photos and videos like never before. The company was founded in 2008, but arguably rose to prominence after receiving $2 million in venture capital funding in 2013.
In short, ThingLink allows you to put hot spots (or rich media tags) on a photo or video, which can bring up videos, product pages or stories (text or audio) that relate to that specific part of the image. Think of it like creating your own Pop Up Video. With ThingLink, a single image or video is just a stepping stone to a vast amount of content – as much as you choose.
Businesses that are naturally very visual-based have found many effective uses for ThingLink. Other companies have used the service to build landing pages, and even homepages, with a large photo that can take the user to various parts of the site. A spruced-up image or video through ThingLink makes for enticing content to tout on social media, bringing more eyes to the completed piece. Some images you can even share and allow outside users to tag parts of the picture and add content as they see fit.
If your business doesn’t do a lot of video or original photography, you still might try out the free trial on ThingLink and see what kind of feedback you get on a finished piece. If you see a strong ROI in that time frame, it may be worth your time to spring for a business subscription so you can work on bigger and better video and image projects.
Last but not least on this list is Apester, which has less to do with storytelling, on the surface, than the other two tools, but does allows you to churn out some visually impressive content. With Apester, you can create a slick, media-rich poll, survey or personality test to engage users and better understand your audience. Apester, a relatively young company that was formerly known as Qmerce, reached a milestone of $5 million in funding earlier this year.
Apester describes itself as a digital storytelling platform, especially when users take advantage of the service’s video quiz feature. Rather than having users passively watch a video, you can now create stopping points with Apester and ask the viewer questions – such as what the next lyric might be, if they’re watching a music video.
For other business purposes, if you have an educational video about a topic in your industry, you could use Apester to create places to, as educators would say, “check for understanding” about something the viewer should have learned from your video. The Weather Channel used Apester to quiz viewers of this informational video on extreme weather driving. After a user has voted or answered a question in an Apester-powered video or poll, they can share the content with their followers on social media.
If your company doesn’t do too much with video, the most practical use of Apester would be to create polls or surveys for your website. British media company UNILAD tends to use Apester polls at the bottom of many of their online news stories. For your business, you could embed a poll even on a services page of your website to see if visitors are understanding the content or to ask them what their most-pressing question or concern on the topic is. Well-worded polls can help you get to know get to know your audience better, which can help you market smarter to them going forward.
Did we mention the tool is free? You can use it for creating video advertisements, too. So, go ahead and sign up for Apester and start cranking out as much content as you’d like in ways that are going to boost your business.
Don’t just give your audience the same ol’ same ol’ in 2016. Bring content to life by trying the aforementioned online tools, as well as any others out there that you think will help your company in some form or fashion. Now’s not the time to let your content stay idle and one-dimensional online. Let’s step our collective game up and deliver appealing (and informative) visual content to social media and other online users in the new year.