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Welcome to Futureforth

We teach companies how to reach their people.

We are a social media strategy, digital marketing consultancy, and communications company based in Nashville. Our goal is to teach you inbound marketing, social media best practices, and everything you need to succeed with content marketing including your blog, email newsletter, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other favorite social networking platforms.

Don't have the time to produce content? We can help with that too.

The Futureforth Blog

Helpful tips and articles about social media strategy, content marketing, and business networking. 

Filtering by Category: Blog

5 Must-Know Blog Post Ideas For Your Business

Dave Delaney

When it comes to building our businesses online a blog is an essential tool. Your company blog earns organic (unpaid) traffic from search engines. You can use it to network with your customers, potential customers, employees, and industry peers. Blogging for business helps to promote your products, services, and culture. Consider your site as your brochure and your blog as your business' heart and soul.

The trouble with blogging for business is you can easily run out of ideas for new topics to write about. The following are five ideas (and a bonus item) for blog posts that will help inspire you to keep hitting the publish button.

1. Ask your customer service department for the most common questions they receive.

Your customer service department is on the front lines of your business. They are the first to receive and answers calls and emails from your customers. By asking them for the most common questions, you will be inspired to answer them in blog posts. Not only does this help you create new content, but your customer service team can then point customers to the blog post for further help.

2. Subscribe to industry blogs and trade journals. Write an opinion post about a new trend in your industry.

A quick Google search will help you discover industry specific publication websites. These sites typically have blogs of their own with an array of different content related to your field. Write a blog post sharing your opinion about a story. Be sure to link back to the original post. Bonus points if you take the time to include the author's Twitter handle, so they will see your post. I also recommend tagging the publication on Facebook when you share your blog post on your Facebook Page.

3. Feature your favorite customers or partners.

Use your blog post to shine the light on your biggest fans. Ask them for their own advice about using your products or services and include it in a blog post. Ask them for a photo and how they wish their name be credited in the post. Be sure to follow up and send them a link when the blog post is live, so they may promote it to their friends and colleagues too.

4. Search YouTube.

YouTube is still the second most popular search engine. Pop on and do a search for industry terms or experts. Watch a presentation or documentary video and share it in a blog post. Use the embed code from the video to display it within the post, so readers can click play and not leave your blog to view it. Don't forget to let the presenter or brands know you wrote about them on your blog.

5. The Mini Book Report

Be diligent about taking notes as you read your next non-fiction book. Write a mini book report blog post that includes the key things you learned reading it. Don't give everything away, but use the post to help promote the book. Link back to the author's page and be sure to let them know you wrote the blog post.

So often we rush from post to post without letting people know we wrote about them. Directly reaching out to a person featured in your blog post can lead to a new relationship. They may even share your blog post with their own friends, fans, and followers driving organic traffic back to your site.

According to Blogher, eighty-one percent of US online consumers trust information and advice from blogs. A study from InsideView found that business to business marketers who use blogs generate sixty-seven percent more leads than those that do not. If you aren't blogging yet, or if your blog has run out of juice, it's time to get it back up and running.

Something for you.

I have a five-step, super-secret blog strategy that I share with my clients. I've made it available to you here: supersecret.futureforth.com.

 

This article was originally published in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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Psst, Blog Strategy Ahead...

Dave Delaney

Super secret blogging strategy

Psst, want to hear a secret? I have come up with a blogging strategy for businesses who wish to connect with their local communities. This is a simple way you can use your blog to network with fellow small business owners. Using this technique will also promote your people, which is essential in employee retention and growing a sound company culture. 

How does this sound to you?

Are you ready to have my secret strategy revealed? There is no cost to you. All you need is about twenty minutes. You can watch this video during your lunch break, in fact, I encourage it because it will leave you hungry. Ok, enough teasing from me. 

Check out my super secret five-step blog strategy

When you use this, please leave a comment. I would love to hear how it works for you.

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From Podcast to Page: Why Repeating What You Learn is Essential

Dave Delaney

From Podcast to Page: Why Repeating What You Learn is Essential

There is a problem with how we listen to podcasts.

If you are like me, you listen to podcasts. The percentage of Americans 12+ who say they have listened to a podcast in the last month is now 21%, up from 17% last year, that's about 57 million Americans. Many of the programs I listen to are interview shows. I enjoy the format because expert guests share their wisdom with smart hosts.

By listening to the best business podcasts, I improve my business and use what I learn for my clients. But there is a problem. The information we hear can often go in one ear and out the other.

Admit it, you have listened to podcasts or nonfiction audio books, only to forget the bulk of what you heard afterward. We recall information by repeating and recording it. This is why we take notes during meetings and lectures.

“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” - Zig Ziglar.

Most people who listen to podcasts or audio books do so on their mobile device. Listening often occurs as we are driving, exercising or doing manual labor. It would be difficult to break out a pad of paper and a pen to jot down notes as you are running on a treadmill or vacuuming under your couch.

In order to get the most return from the time we spend consuming podcasts, we need to make an effort to record the best bits of information we can use for our businesses and lives. The following are a few suggestions on how best to do this.

Snapshot the timeline

All podcast player apps include a timeline. Take a screenshot of your phone as you are listening when you hear a pearl of wisdom. When you get back to the office, review your photos and skip back to the times in the show to revisit what was said. On an iPhone, push the home button and the power button at the same time to capture the screenshot. On most Android devices, press the volume down key and the power button at the same time. Even if you forget to return to the episode right away, you will when you discover the images on your phone later.

Text yourself

When I hear a part of the program that gives me an idea, I text it to myself. Using my iPhone headphones with the inline volume and microphone button, I hold the button down to page Siri. I say, “Text Dave Delaney” and then record a brief message. My transcribed message appears in my phone, so I can return to it later to plan how to use my new idea. There are multiple voice recognition apps to do the same on an Android device. Sorry, I’m clearly an iPhone user.

Write what you learn

It’s not just a matter of going back and listening again, you should be writing down the ideas. You can record what you learn in a personal journal. I like to share what I learn with the readers of my blog, so they, too, can use the information. I also do this as a courtesy to the host and guest of the podcast by linking back to them in the blog post. This lets them know I appreciate the time it took to produce the episode.

An example of this was on a recent episode of Erik J. Fisher’s "Beyond the To-Do List" podcast. Fisher interviewed author and entrepreneur Pat Flynn. Flynn just published his book, “Will It Fly? How To Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don't Waste Your Time and Money.” During the conversation, Flynn provided many great tips, so I transcribed them into a blog post on my personal blog.

Do yourself a favor and write what you learn, privately or publicly. I promise you will retain the information better when you repeat it. Now, put what you learned to work in your life for the best results.

Looking for a new podcast to listen to? I have a collection of some of my favorite podcasts on Pinterest. I update the board from time to time, so subscribe. My friend, Scott Monty, also has a list in this handy Google Drive doc.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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How to Spread Kindness

Dave Delaney

John Sweeney Random Acts of Kindness

How to Spread Kindness

February 17th was Random Acts of Kindness Day. Did you celebrate? Did you miss it? That's okay. I didn't realize it was until I stepped through the door at Crema for a coffee.

I glanced down at Twitter on my iPhone as I waited in line, when I saw a tweet mentioning the special day. Suddenly, I found myself facing the barista who was eagerly ready to take my order. I asked for a Cuban coffee and my idea for some random kindness struck me. I quickly turned to the person behind me and asked what he was drinking. I explained that it was Random Acts of Kindness Day. He was flabbergasted as I paid for his drink too.

The happy stranger thanked me and noted that he would have to pay it forward. I nodded in agreement as we parted. I hope he did something nice that day too.

This got me thinking about how we can all do better in how we help one another. Why not celebrate Random Acts of Kindness every day? I try to be thankful each day, even when it's not Thanksgiving. I express love to my family every day, even when it's not Valentine's Day. I dress up as a zombie each day, even when it's not Halloween (ok, that part isn't true, but you should see me before coffee).

We can all do better

My point is we can all do better by striving to help our friends, colleagues, clients, and strangers. It can be as simple as holding a door open for someone, or buying a stranger a coffee.

On my daily goals worksheet, I have a space to introduce two people in your network each weekday. These introductions can lead to great things. You can also provide in-person introductions at the events you attend. Always be looking for ways to help others.

I have a couple of friends who just published a book. I scheduled a tweet each day to my followers to promote it for them. I use a fantastic service called justcoz.org to automatically allow tweets to be sent from my profile for causes I believe in. A friend lost her job, so I have been using my social media profiles to ask around to see who might be hiring, so I can provide an introduction. It is these little things that can be of great help to others. 

I know there are plenty of other ways I can help too. You can probably think of some random acts of kindness that you can do too. Check out how John Sweeney dropped flowers and kindness messages on every car in a parking lot.

Sweeney has his own list of ideas at kindness.gg.

Here are a few:

  • Treat your work colleagues to some cakes or doughnuts.
  • Give someone a book you think they’d like.
  • Give someone a hug.
  • Do a Pay It Forward coffee.
  • Write your partner a list of things you love about them.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Make two lunches and give one away.
  • Help someone struggling with heavy bags.

Don't wait a whole year for the next Random Acts of Kindness Day. Do something nice today.  If you like this idea, please share this post. Thanks!

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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How to Strategically Amplify Your Best Content

Dave Delaney

How to Strategically Amplify Your Best Content

Did you know that according to a study from Hubspot, companies that blog have 97 percent more inbound links? According to InsideView, B2B marketers who use blogs generate 67 percent more leads than those that do not. Thirty-three percent of B2B companies already have a blog; do you?

If you don't have a blog for your company yet, I can help you with this. If you do, but you are not satisfied with the results, I have some advice for you to amplify your best content.

We are all guilty of setting and forgetting. We publish our latest blog post, promote it across social media and email, and move on to what's next for tomorrow or next week. We tend to forget about what we have already published, and this is a bad move.

I always recommend publishing your content on your blog first, but there are platforms online where you should consider using the same content again.

The following are three platforms where you can take your best content from your blog and re-publish it for new audiences. This will increase traffic back to your site, improve engagement among your readers, and strengthen your company and personal brand.

3 Blog Publishing Alternatives

1. LinkedIn Pulse

 Click to see live demo.

Click to see live demo.

LinkedIn Pulse is LinkedIn's blogging platform. It has an interface similar to most popular blogging software like WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Squarespace. Take the post you have published on your blog and copy and paste it into LinkedIn Pulse.

Upload an image that makes the post jump out to LinkedIn users. Keep the subject line brief. Add links that go back to your site within the post, so readers can learn more about what you do. Add a byline about who you are at the end of each post, so readers can get to know you better. Don't forget to include a company link.

LinkedIn also provides a helpful analytics dashboard that reveals statistics about your posts, including demographics of your readers and the number of views your posts receive.

2. Medium

 Click to see live demo.

Click to see live demo.

According to Quantcast, Medium.com reaches over 863,000 people in the U.S. monthly. Medium is a beautiful platform for authoring or sharing your most personal blog posts. It was created by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone with Jose Pino.

The interface is elegant and simple to use. One trick many users don't realize is you can add a link to an image. Insert an image, click it, and select Command+K on a Mac or Control+K on a PC. Like LinkedIn Pulse, when you copy and paste your blog post in Medium from your blog, be sure to test your links to ensure they work correctly.

Remember that Medium is a social network, too. You will get the most from it if you read and engage with other readers. It is not for promotional content, it is for personal blogging. Share stories about forming your company, or the obstacles you had as you raised capital.

3. Facebook Notes

 Click to see live demo.

Click to see live demo.

The Facebook Notes area seemed like a long forgotten feature of Facebook. It was never clear how to use the simple text box. Last year, Facebook upgraded Notes to be a fully functional blogging platform.

You can use your personal profile to compose and publish a note, or publish the note to your company page. Just like Medium and LinkedIn Pulse, you can add vibrant images and links to make the content more appealing for your readers.

Before you hit publish on any of the above platforms, consider your audience. It may be suitable to tweak the copy of your original post to suit where you are publishing it. For example, if you are posting it on LinkedIn Pulse, perhaps you will want to link to your LinkedIn company page.

Try this today. Review your analytics and choose your most popular, evergreen content from your blog. Select one or all of the above platforms to re-publish the post. Google Analytics can help you determine what traffic the blog drives back to your company site. Use these platforms to amplify your original blog content. If you need help, let me know.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.

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A Powerful Blog Idea For Your Business

Dave Delaney

Marketers can often be left overwhelmed, scratching their heads to come up with ideas for their business blog. If you own a community-based business, and you are not blogging about your local favorites, you are missing an opportunity.

I recently had the good fortune of speaking at a law firm conference. From that experience, I began working with several new clients. As I do with all of my clients, I conducted a thorough audit of what they are currently doing online for their businesses. I found one big thing in common - a lack of community content on their blogs.

Each client tends to blog about their areas of practice, rather than the communities they serve. I understand the value in industry specific blog posts that can help with business networking and search engine optimization, but it leaves out the clients.

This idea will drive traffic to your site, empower your employees, and support your local community. Are you ready?

You should allow your staff to contribute to your blog, give them a voice. You retain editorial control, while you encourage them to participate. Ask your staff what their favorite businesses are in their own neighborhoods. Have each contribute a blog post outlining their favorite restaurants, cafes, things to do for the family, live music venues, movie theaters, etc. Take it a step further and give the employee a gift certificate for one of their picks. Word will spread and other staff will want to contribute something.

Create a blog series of Nashville Neighborhood Favorites. Be sure each blog post links to the corresponding business, so readers can click to learn more. Include photos of the businesses and brief descriptions of each. The posts shouldn't be grocery lists, they should be succinct articles describing the best local shops. What makes them your favorite?

This is important. Once each blog post goes live, you need to notify the businesses that are featured. Don't assume they are tracking mentions of their brand.

You can probably find each company's Twitter profile from their website. Mention them in a tweet and link back to your blog post. Don't include all of their Twitter profiles in one tweet, break it up to several tweets and schedule them throughout the week.

Hi @XYZ, we included you in our favorite Germantown businesses. Check it out: LINK

Do the same by tagging the businesses in Facebook posts on your company page. By tagging them they will be aware they were featured as a favorite on your blog.

Here are a few great reasons why this strategy works:

  • You empower your employees.
  • You support your community.
  • You produce content on your blog consistently.
  • Your organic traffic can increase to your blog when someone is searching for "best coffee shop in Germantown".
  • The featured businesses will likely share your blog post with their friends, fans and followers, which will drive traffic back to your blog and increase awareness of your brand.

You don't have to be a law firm, any local business can benefit from creating staff neighborhood favorite blog posts. Give this method a try and let me know how it works for you. If you need more ideas for your company blog or social media strategy give me a shout.

Photo from Flickr by Christian Schnettelker.

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How To Handle LinkedIn Connection Requests From Strangers

Dave Delaney

To accept or not to accept, that is the question. Like all social networks, LinkedIn has it's fair share of scammers, spammers and spambots. It's easy to never accept connection requests from strangers, but you may be missing out on opportunities to connect with good people. When someone doesn't have a profile photo or they send the generic, default connection request, it's hard to know if they are worth connecting with right away. It takes too much time to click each profile and snoop around to decide if you should accept their request.

Here is how I handle LinkedIn connection requests from strangers

Step 1.

I send a standard reply to anyone I don't immediately recognize. This only gets a little embarrassing if I just met the person recently, this is seldom the case.

Sorry for not accepting your LinkedIn request yet. Please remind me where we met. My head is foggy today, not enough coffee yet.

Cheers, Dave

Looking for LinkedIn tips? Check out http://www.futureforth.com/blog

That's right, I plug my blog right there in my message. Why not?

Step 2.

LinkedIn Connection Requests from Strangers
LinkedIn Connection Requests from Strangers

I do this to the page of pending connection requests. Once I have done this I select to ignore all of the messages (tick box on the top right side). I skip the option to indicate why I'm ignoring them and move on to the next page of requests.

Step 3.

I eagerly connect with the people who write back. This is a little bit of a pain, because you have to return to their original connection request message. Search for their name in the LinkedIn Inbox and accept their original request.

You will find many won't reply, which means they were probably a spammer or spambot. Some will virtually slap you upside the head to remind you that you met them recently. Others will admit they don't know you personally, but wanted to connect for networking purposes or to pitch you their wares.

At the end of the day it's up to you how you handle connection requests.  I have found this method works well, because it starts a conversation that may otherwise not occur. Of course, you won't have this problem if you send a personal connection request in the first place. ;)

Whether online or offline, networking is about quality over quantity.

How do you handle requests from people you don't know on LinkedIn?

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Custom LinkedIn Mobile Connection Requests, At Last!

Dave Delaney

How to send a custom LinkedIn connection request message on mobile.
How to send a custom LinkedIn connection request message on mobile.

LinkedIn drove me crazy for a long time. I hated the way you could not send a personalized connection request on their mobile apps. I have written here before about the importance of sending a personal message and being human on LinkedIn.

How to send a custom LinkedIn connection request message on mobile

I am happy to report that issue has been solved in the current version of the LinkedIn Connected application.

To send the message click the three dots on the top right corner of the person's profile. You'll be given an option to send a customized invite. You can also forward their profile if you choose.

This is your chance to send them a friendly reminder of where you met and what you talked about. Be specific, so they will remember who you are. Don't forget to include a call to action in the message. Schedule a coffee, lunch or a phone call.

LinkedIn Star List

In the latest update of the iOS app (Version 2.4), you can now add a star to contacts that matter most to you. LinkedIn will give you more opportunities to keep in touch. The app note mentions this feature may not be available straight away, but should be rolled out fully soon.

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#Xerohour interview about LinkedIn and Networking

Dave Delaney

The Xero Hour
The Xero Hour

I am thrilled to be the featured guest on Saul Colt and Bob Knorpp's brilliant new podcast, The Xero Hour. We had a great time discussing LinkedIn tips and how to use the social network to improve your professional networking efforts. Listen here. The Xero Hour is a podcast for small business. In each episode the hosts and guests reveal successful strategies and ideas for today's entrepreneurs through interviews with thought leaders and accomplished business people (like me). I hope you enjoy this interview.

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Advising to Acquisition

Dave Delaney

I am proud that I advised a company that was acquired by LinkedIn. I joined Refresh last July as an advisor after I met co-founder, Bhavin Shah. With enough guidance and insight, your company can go to great places. I first learned about Refresh from my friend, C.C. Chapman, who showed me the app at a conference we were speaking at. I was blown away by how much information Refresh could find on a person.

Refresh finds common ground with the people you meet. It searches the web and social networks to deliver insights about your contacts: mutual interests, shared passions, and important moments. Refresh lays the foundation for better relationships and prepares you to connect in every meeting on your calendar. It’s all the research you need to be prepared but don’t have time to do.

Each day the app would email me a dossier of the people I was meeting with. Refresh would reveal popular tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, and it would provide links and details from other social networks and content the person had created. In some cases it would even give me insight to sports teams, political parties and religions that person was associated with.

Refresh app acquired by LinkedIn
Refresh app acquired by LinkedIn

I was so impressed, that I reached out to Bhavin to see if he would be a guest on my podcast (listen below). He kindly agreed to speak with me about the history and future of Refresh. We had no idea at the time that the company would end up being acquired by LinkedIn. His amazing story even led me to write an article in my column in the Tennessean newspaper.

A short time after the interview, Bhavin visited Nashville to speak at a conference. He reached out and we met for dinner. During the dinner I came up with ideas to help promote the app. Shortly after, I was offered a role as an advisor for Refresh.

During my time advising, I was privy to Refresh's announcement of Salesforce integration. I helped develop planning for Refresh to exhibit and network at Salesforce's massive conference, Dreamforce. I also was an alpha tester on the updated app and desktop site.

Launching Futureforth, I knew I would be helping companies understand and use LinkedIn, but I had no idea a company I advised would actually be purchased by LinkedIn. I'm so proud of this achievement and happy for everyone at Refresh.

Special thanks to Bhavin Shah, who left me a wonderful recommendation of my work on my LinkedIn profile.

"Dave Delaney was an advisor for Refresh from July 2014 until our acquisition by LinkedIn in April 2015. During this time, Dave provided us with valuable insight and feedback as a thought leader in the area of networking.

In October 2014, we attended Salesforce's Dreamforce Conference, where we revealed our integration with Salesforce’s AppExchange. Dave provided guidance and recommendations on strategic ways we could promote our news before, during and after the conference.

Dave played a strong role in helping us make Refresh a success. I recommend you reach out to him for marketing, social media and promotional strategy assistance."

Let's talk about how I can help your company too. You never know where it will lead.

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