Miles Burke

Thoughts on startups, small business, marketing & more.

LinkedIn marketing

How to Go Viral Thanks to the LinkedIn Network Effect

I recently posted a status on LinkedIn that received more than 4,700% more views and engagement than my 10 posts prior. This is how to replicate that success for yourself.

LinkedIn is a powerful platform. At last count, there were 467 million people on LinkedIn, sharing views, virtually networking and connecting with each other.

I have always been a little lazy on LinkedIn. Whilst my network has been steadily increasing, and I have been frequently posting, I don’t really go out of my way to engage with my network.

I had an idea for an experiment, to see how I could grow my subscriber list for growth.email and build a bigger network on LinkedIn.

The results?

LinkedIn post statistics

LinkedIn post statistics

Instead of the usual 200 or so views on my updates, and little to no likes, I ended up blasting the stats out of the water with this one.

12,041 views of this single post
70 comments
34 post likes
4 reshares

This resulted in a number of positive effects elsewhere as well;

60 new subscribers to growth.email
39 new LinkedIn contacts
3 enquiries about the work I do

An amazing response, overall.

What’s the LinkedIn effect?

LinkedIn encourages posts that get engagement to spread across the platform. If a user comments on a post, they send it to their contacts feeds as well.

For example, I am a contact of the commentor below, not the article poster. I saw this in my feed because my connection commented on it.

LinkedIn activity in feed

LinkedIn activity in feed

A smaller effect is seen if you take a look at a connections profile. You also see their recent engagements on the platform, such as this example, which puts the article as a link there as well.

LinkedIn profile activity

LinkedIn profile activity

You want comments (& many!)!

The trick with getting a post to spread on LinkedIn, is that you want to get people commenting on it. It could be a simple Yes, which is what I used – the length isn’t the concern here, it’s the reach.

This made me think – if I asked people to subscribe to my email list, AND comment on a post, in order to get some valuable research, would that be too hard for most people? I would need to offer something of great value to do that.

What value can I offer?

So I put my thinking cap on – what would attract people specifically on LinkedIn, to go through that process? I always consider what would attract me, and what I thought would work is some deep data or research on articles that are shared.

Imagine if I had the top 1,000 articles that had been shared on LinkedIn? I could use that for a number of things;

  1. Build a list of curated content to share myself
  2. Use this as a basis for writing about new topics
  3. Find gaps in content that I could write about

I ended up collating the data, using a paid account on Ahrefs, which makes this process a lot easier, and saved it as both CSV and XLS formats.

Most shared articles on LinkedIn

Most shared articles on LinkedIn

Then I made a quick graphic to share (images are far better noticed in a LinkedIn feed, than plain text posts) and then wrote a quick intro to it, with the steps.

LinkedIn post

LinkedIn post

Don’t just stop there!

I nearly left this research as is, and walked away with this blog post and some learnings.

I then recalled my own advice; reuse content where you can.

I took the research I had put together, did some fairly trivial analysis of title lengths, share totals, etc and wrote an entirely different bit of content, as a 1,200 word blog post on the Bam Creative blog.

That way, I am reusing my research once, but providing great value again. To sweeten the deal even further, we uploaded the data to Google sheets, and made it a free download, with no content gate or anything that would stop readers getting to it.

At current count, this article has resulted in hundreds of reads, downloads and shares all by itself. It shows my digital agency is a thought leader in the space, and helps with our SEO and more.

If you’re interested, you can read it over here: Content Marketing Lessons from the Top 1,000 Articles Shared on Linkedin.

Blog post on Bam Creative blog

Blog post on Bam Creative blog

That’s not even counting this 1,100+ word article, which talks further about this experiment. I’ll (hopefully!) get further shares, subscribers and likes as a result of doing a wrap up article.

Things I would do differently

Sadly, I did make some mistakes, so here is how I would approach this differently, should (more like when) I do this again. I share these with you, so you can learn from my mistakes.

Choose a better time to share

For some unknown reason (What was I thinking?), I posted my initial article on a Sunday evening, Perth time. Given many of my contacts are in the USA or Europe, that makes it early Sunday morning. Who checks LinkedIn on a Sunday morning? I certainly don’t.

I should have posted it at an optimum time for my connections – this would have been late evening (local time) on a weekday.

Have the hook in first two lines

Have a look at the grab above again. I added the ‘Want a copy?’ in as an edit after 24 hours. The issue is that most people will see the ‘status preview’which is only 2-3 lines in length. I put the original offer to share too far down for that initial view.

Clarify the process

I feel I made this a little hard. The description on how to get it was difficult. I didn’t know if I could send it to non-contacts easily (you can’t), and I have a habit of getting wordy. I should have edited heavily and made this post shorter.

Automate the process of delivering the data

The issue was it was manual – I ended up sending individual messages to 60+ people, with a shortened link to the data. If I had been smarter, I would have changed the welcome auto-response email when you subscribe to growth.email to include a link to the data, so then those LinkedIn comments would have been useless, however I would have asked for them anyway. It’s not like people would know, until they got a nice email with the data (and I doubt anyone would have called me out for it).

Understand what you can and can’t do with non-contacts

I don’t use LinkedIn messaging often, so I hadn’t realised they had locked down In-Mail to only paid LinkedIn accounts, and even then, significantly throttled how many you can send.

I ended up sending connection requests to non-contacts, with a custom message including the download link, as a work around, however that wasn’t the most eloquent way to approach it.

Takeaways

Here are my four big takeaways from all of this work.

  • Make sure you add true value to your audience. Nobody bothers engaging with garbage.
  • Plan ahead; choose the right time and article text.
  • Reuse the efforts – a blog post to follow up the article means more shares and exposure.
  • Effort in, results out. I could have gone half cocked, but wouldn’t have enjoyed the same results.

Best of luck! Let me know how you go with doing something similar.

build an email list

Digital Marketing Success: Build an Email List

I’ve worked with business and personalities large and small over the years, who have a large focus on social media audience building. This is fantastic – but don’t forget to build an email list!

I recently gave some advice to a musician I know, about how he should build a larger audience and engage with them better. I follow him on a couple of social platforms, and I see that he is building a strong following. Yet there’s an activity he seems to have missed – that is, continuously build an email list.

At the moment, there seems to be a big focus on vanity metrics out there. The average punter is asking how large can you build your social media following? The issue with too much focus on followers and connections, and not enough on actual engagement, means these people may end up left behind.

Your email list subscribers are something you’ve earned, and have control over. Unlike your social media audience, which is very much a ‘rented crowd’. Let me explain in more detail why it’s imperative you build an email list.

Audience at concert

Audience at concert

Benefits of email versus social

Social media is fantastic; I am not suggesting you should take your focus off this channel. However, to ensure better engagement with your audience, you’ll want to include email in the mix; here are seven compelling reasons why you should build an email list.

You own the audience

Unlike social platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, you aren’t sharing your subscriber data with services that sometimes have dubious privacy policies. Remember, these platforms are in the business of selling advertising.

Add to this, you could lose access to your account at any time, even though if you play by the rules, it’s unlikely. If you read the Terms of Service for Facebook and Twitter, you’ll find that your account can be terminated at their sole discretion. That’s a scary concept if you’ve spent money and lots of time, building that audience.

More visibility

Sending an email ensures you cut through the noise better, than posting on a crowded social media channel, such as Twitter.

Emails tend to get opened more (see below), read for longer, and are less likely to be clashing with similar messages at the same moment.

Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. – McKinsey

Better segmentation

The issue with social networks, is that your followers are in one big list. If you build an email list, you can also segment your audience by anything you wish to define them by.

If you can segment your subscribers, then you can email them more appropriate messages. If I have bought your album, I may want to hear about gigs in my hometown. If I have bought a ticket to a concert, I’m likely to be interested in your new album.

The footer of every email should also be used to promote your social media channels, to encourage subscribers to join you in the social ecosystem.

Email marketing example

Email marketing example

Ability to personalise

You can’t personalise a message to your audience on social, without hitting each audience member one on one, which is laborious and generally frowned upon.

Email allows you to personalise with whatever merge data you have available. Want to email a thanks to me (and every other person) who bought a ticket to your concert? Easy!

Increased engagement

Email has a far better open rate, than the chances of a followers seeing your social media post, organically. Social@Ogilvy reports the average Facebook page has a 2% organic reach. In a recent Mailchimp report, it showed artists have an average 27.12% open rate for emails.

If you want to reach more people from a single post, then email will give a 14 times better return.

Decreased costs

Whilst email isn’t free, and social media organic posts are, the challenge is trying to be visible to most of your audience. Statistics show a 2-8% of Facebook followers may see your latest status message. They want you to spend $20-$200 on promoting that post to your followers, making the platform nearly a pay-per-post business.

If you build an email list, you can enjoy a 25%+ open rate, and it will only cost you a few cents per subscriber or less, to reach their inbox.

4.24% of email subscribers will purchase, versus 0.59% of social media contacts.
Monetate.

Ability to connect socially

If you have someone’s email address, this means you can use this data to connect with them on many social platforms. You can also use this to display an ad, specific to your subscribers.

For example, Facebook advertising has a custom audiences feature, which means you can display a specific ad for your subscribers, where Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to send a connection request based on an email list.

Tactics

You want to link up all your active social profiles back to a website, and have that website link back to the different social platforms that you are active on. Think of it as your own small network.

Social platforms and website

Social platforms and website

This means that social media followers can visit your website and join your email list, and website visitors can find the appropriate social platform for them to follow you on. See my article, The Complete Guide on How to Use Twitter for Content Marketing for further tips on social media.

Say I find you on Instagram. I don’t use Instagram daily, whereas I do use Twitter a few times a day. I can click your profile link, find your website and then see you’re on twitter, and Bingo! I follow you on the social platform I prefer.

If you don’t have a large website, or you are in the early stages of building your own personal brand (such as a musician in this example), you want to ensure you have a clear primary and secondary focus when people visit your website.

This quick sketch below shows how a single page could work for you. Have a photo of yourself, a short biography with contact details, a prominent email subscribe form, as well as links to various social platforms.

Website with email and social

Website with email and social

There are a truckload of different methods to encourage visitors to subscribe to your email list. An often used technique (especially for musicians, writers and creators) is a freebie for signing up; in the musician example this could be an MP3 track off a previous album, the chance to win tickets to a concert, discount merchandise or more.

Out of all the channels I tested as a marketer, email continually outperforms most of them.
– Neil Patel

Summary

Successful digital strategy should always include an activity to build an email list – this helps protect you from the rising costs and dropping engagement rates on social media, and allows you to be better prepared for longer term success.

The seven main benefits again, are;

  • You own the audience
  • More visibility
  • Better segmentation
  • Ability to personalise
  • Increased engagement
  • Decreased costs
  • Ability to connect socially

Now that you understand that email is a vital component of your digital marketing, get cracking, and build that email list and engage better with your audience.

Join a Startup Community

Why Every Entrepreneur Should Join a Startup Community

Many people engage with their local startup community, and plenty more don’t. There’s many reasons these people may not engage. In this article, I explain why they should.

People who don’t join a startup community use reasons, such as;

  • There is nothing to gain from the time invested;
  • People in the community will steal their idea;
  • The startup they are working on is unique, and;
  • The startup community are not their ideal customers.

They’re mistaken, and they are missing some great opportunities. Here’s why.

What is a startup community?

A startup community is a group of entrepreneurs or startup folk who focus on innovation. These communities often engage in formal and informal meet ups, such as physical meetings, Slack channels, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and mailing lists.

These physical and virtual places contain both new and seasoned startup founders, entrepreneurs, investors and others, and can be a powerful network for you to engage with.

Here are five reasons why you should join a startup community in your area (or a virtual community).

Learn from experienced founders

If you’re new to the startup world, joining your local startup community is an essential step towards your success.

People who have been in the trenches before you, often have valuable advice to give. You may feel your situation is unique, yet I disagree.

You could be facing an issue with customer validation, marketing concerns, product development or something else. I can assure you that it is likely you’ll find someone in the ecosystem who has been there before you.

Have a read of my article, Why You Shouldn’t Ask Friends or Family for Startup Feedback [& Better Ways] – you could be using your local community to help with validation, rather than biased friends.

Find potential customers

I have had contacts in the local startup community refer their customers to me, and even result in being customers themselves.

You may assume most people in the startup community are busy building their own products or businesses, and don’t have time to help.

What you will find is that many people are also employed by larger businesses, which may be your ideal customer.

Network for investment opportunities

Whilst I haven’t gone looking for investment myself, I have been approached if I plan to raise any time soon. In exchange I have connected those with investment funds to those who need them.

Even if you are bootstrapping your startup, you never know when your focus may change; these investor or angel contacts are very valuable to have.

Find others to partner with

Getting involved in the startup community can provide fantastic opportunities to partner with other startups which can further advance both businesses success.

It could be partnering through marketing, through to offering opportunities to each others customer bases.

Give more than you receive

The golden rule of networking in the startup community, is to always give more than you receive. That is, you should offer advice and suggestions to others, with zero expectation of return.

You will often find by providing this help with no strings attached, that you end up benefiting as well. I frequently offer advice or assistance where I can, and in exchange I have a network of people who help me with advice, referrals and more.

What about those initial concerns I mentioned?

There is nothing to gain from the time invested

Sure, you may find some events or online communities not useful, yet without engaging, how would you know where to spend your time? It needn’t be the burden of hours or days per week – put in whatever time you feel comfortable with.

People in the community will steal their idea

This is such a false idea. Many people in the startup community are already working on their own ideas, and aren’t interested in taking on more. You’ll find that ideas are plenty – it’s the team and execution which matters.

The startup they are working on is unique

Sure, it may be a unique product or concept, but I can assure you, the general framework won’t be unique. There are only so many different business models out there; it is very likely someone similar is within your reach.

The startup community are not their ideal customers

That can be true, but as I mentioned above, they may currently be employed part or full time with your perfect customer – or can introduce you to someone who is. My business has enjoyed some new customers this way.

How to find your startup community

If you aren’t yet involved with your local community, here are a few ways you can find one.

Local startup communities

If you know any other startup founders in your city, they are often the best people to ask. If not, try searching for accelerators or co-working spaces in your local area, and ask.

Many co-working spaces list regular events on their website – try going along to a few and see what happens.

Searching MeetUp.com is also a very handy way for finding informal groups that meet nearby.

Worst case, try searching for ‘entrepreneur group [your city name]’.

Virtual startup communities

There are a multitude of startup communities online. They often centre around real time tools, such as Slack teams, or use the groups feature on Facebook or LinkedIn.

See this fantastic list of 100+ Slack Communities for a Startup CEO.

Search for Facebook and LinkedIn groups as well, with the former often having better engagement. In my experience, many LinkedIn groups seem to be pretty vacant or full of spam.

Perth Startup community

Perth Startup community

Summary

By joining a virtual or local startup community, you create great opportunities in many ways for both yourself and your startup.

Remember to offer genuine help to others with no expectation of return. Being genuinely helpful often results in a great return.

Twitter for content marketing

The Complete Guide on How to Use Twitter for Content Marketing

There are over 300 million people tweeting around the world each day. They are sharing thoughts, taking photos and videos, and importantly for bloggers, writers and content marketers, there is nothing better than Twitter for content marketing – it’s a great channel for sharing links to articles, videos and resources.

If you are writing content, such as articles or blog posts, and you aren‘t yet using Twitter for content marketing, then you are missing an extremely important part of your content promotion mix.

If Twitter is used well, it can drive tons of traffic to your blog or website. However, simply auto-tweeting the title of the blog post with a link back to your website every time isn’t going to work.

Social referral analytics

Social referral analytics

There are six important steps in using Twitter for content marketing;

  • Finding your audience
  • Engaging your audience
  • Curating related content
  • Sharing your content
  • Thank people who share
  • Review your analytics

Let’s go through each of these steps in more detail.

Finding your audience

If you plan to use Twitter for content marketing efforts, then you have to build a sizable audience. The easiest way to get followers naturally, is to follow them first.

The people who are most likely to appreciate the content you are tweeting are those who tweet similar content. There are a number of different tactics you can use to find these people, and follow them.

Start by clicking on a relevant hashtag, and see who is sharing or tweeting using that hashtag.

Another method is using Twitter Search to uncover who shares other related content, and looking at what else these accounts share. You can even get a little smarter, and use the URL search operator to find people sharing your competitors content (example).

Twitter for Content Marketing

Twitter Search

These are manual methods, and there are also a number of automated tools  that will help you uncover Twitter accounts you should consider following.

The screen grab below shows how Manage Flitter works. Tools like this are a lot smarter than manual methods, as you can search by all sorts of filters, to ensure you uncover only the most likely accounts.

Using Manage Flitter to find potential audience

Using Manage Flitter to find potential audience

Engaging your audience

Twitter is often misused as a broadcast medium; people set up accounts, blast 20 tweets every day about their product, and then wonder why they have awful engagement. A huge Twitter for content marketing fail.

Repeat after me; Twitter is a two way communication tool.

If you plan to just hook up an RSS feed and never engage, then the best of luck to you. It is typically difficult – unless you are a large media company – to get away with that sort of behaviour, and frankly, it’s lazy.

The better approach is to mix your own content shares, with other content, and off the cuff ‘ad lib’ personal tweets. For example, my most engaged tweet so far this month, was when I complained about US marketers not considering their international audience. It didn’t have a link, an image or even a hashtag.

Curating related content

There is nothing worse than seeing a Twitter account sharing their own content over and over and over again. It makes your account look purely self-promotional. You need to make the effort to find related content that is high quality, and useful for your target audience if you want to effectively use Twitter for content marketing.

If you have Hootsuite or Buffer, you can use the content curation service, Quuu, to automatically queue up related posts in specific categories.  They have a free plan, which means you can tweet their curated content twice a day for zilch.

Another method that works well for me, is to export my growth.email spreadsheet as a CSV, add appropriate hashtags, and share these. Why just use all that hard work for just my newsletter?

Another more advanced method, is by using a content discovery tool, such as what comes with Ahrefs, which makes collation of content to possibly share a breeze. Simply search for a phrase (see screen shot below), sort by shares, download as a CSV, and then check out the links – this ensures you know the content you’re sharing – and queue it up with appropriate hashtags.

Using Ahrefs to uncover content

Using Ahrefs to uncover content

Sharing your content

The most important tactic for anyone using Twitter for content marketing, is sharing your own content. If you want to do it well, however, you need to do more than tweet just the article title and link. The more effort you put into writing your tweets, the better the result.

For example, here’s a tweet my digital marketing agency made recently, about an article we had recently written (which we have shared at least six times now, to maximise awareness).

Notice how we referred to one of the takeaways, used emoji’s and threw in a suitable hashtag as well? This engages much better than just tweeting the title and link.

Have a lot of previous articles on your blog? See my article, How to Regularly Promote Your Content in No Time at All on how to make sharing your cornerstone content (blog posts that last with time) a five minute process every month or two.

If you want to get your content shared by hundreds of other social media users, check out the Quuu Promote offering – it’s a great way to push your content sharing to a whole new level.

Seven elements of an awesome tweet

Include an image

All the research shows that an image makes people notice. If you can use a non-stock image, even better. At least not a cliche one, and definitely don’t overlay lots of text. The example above was drawn by one of our talented team.

Add value

Every tweet should be useful, and not overly salesy. If you don’t see value in it, nor will your audience. I always err on the side of quality not quantity.

Take a look at what your audience is sharing; what is it that makes them appreciate it so much, they are willing to share it? Mimic that level of quality.

Be succinct

Studies show that tweets that are under 100 characters long, tend to get higher conversions. When you’re promoting an article you’ve written, write a brief intro – enough that the reader knows what to expect when they click through.

Content that I share from other sources, I try to include something, even if it’s just a ‘Great read!’ and the relevant hashtag to give readers direction to what it contains.

Use a quote

Try using a teaser from your post. The quote needs to be precise and give a good idea of what the post is about. The following tweet was created by using a tool called missinglettr (great name!) that helps find quotable content in your posts.

Use a hashtag

Hashtags are a great way to uncover interesting content, and many Twitter users agree. Use common yet relevant hashtags to help others find your content. A nifty service to find the right hashtags is hashtagify. They track the use of hashtags, and suggest relevant ones that also appear regularly.

Hashtagify

Twitter hashtags tool

Mention others

If you are sharing an article or post that mentions other brands or people, be sure to mention them in your tweets. They’ll be flattered and there’s a good chance they’ll share it too, which helps you reach their audience as well.

Using the twitter feature, Who's in this photo?

Using the twitter feature, Who’s in this photo?

Rather than just include a bunch of @username mentions in your tweet, consider uploading an image, and tagging them in it, by clicking on the ‘Who’s in this photo’ link, as shown above.

Just be sure to only mention people either in your article, or you know who will enjoy the article – it is frowned upon (for good reason) if you add the maximum 10 accounts to every image you share.

Facts and figures

If your article includes statistics, try to quote these – people love facts and figures.

The right statistics will help support your message and provide validity to your content. It is a great way to infer your content takeaway and adds credibility.

Thank people who share

If you are using Twitter for content marketing, and want to build an engaged audience, and be genuine at the same time, a simple thank you goes a long way. Keep an eye out for people sharing your articles, then reach out to say thanks (and fave the tweet, by clicking the love heart).

There are two types of shares; those who tag or mention you, and those that don’t. For me, that’s probably a 40/60 split, with many articles shares not mentioning me, so I ensure I go out and find them.

Thank people who share

Thank people who share

To do this, I have a daily habit of manually searching Twitter for my domain name, since most of my articles are here. The query should be url:domainname.com which returns something like the following.

Twitter for content marketing

Twitter search

I then try to show my gratitude by saying a quick thank you – sometimes with an emoji, sometimes with their first name. These thank you tweets are often replied to, or at least liked in return.

It shows the sharers that you appreciate their kindness in sharing, and it encourages them to follow you and share other content you have written.

Review your analytics

Twitter has an awesome tool called Analytics which can be found in the desktop navigation menu under your profile image.

Top media tweet

Top media tweet

These analytics go deep into your audience interests, general impressions, and which tweets worked best. This fantastic data for anyone using Twitter for content marketing – it means you can see what content and tweets are resonating with your audience.

This example shows that people enjoyed that article. Ideally, if it isn’t time relevant, queue it up again and again, using different titles, over a period of time. See my article, How to Regularly Promote Your Content in No Time at All to see how I do this regularly.

Twitter for Content Marketing recap

In summary, using a little effort, you can promote your content to your Twitter audience, therefore driving traffic and without looking like a spammer.

Remember to follow the six steps to success, being;

  • Finding your audience
  • Engaging your audience
  • Curating related content
  • Sharing your content
  • Thank people who share
  • Review your analytics

All the best! (Whilst you are at it, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter; I’ll follow you back as well!).

featuredstartup.com

How I Created My Latest Side Project in 3 Hours for $13.24

I have had this side project idea for a while now, which combines my love for promoting early stage startups and my interest on hearing the stories on how they were inspired.

I spent a few hours last Sunday afternoon, in between household chores and playing computer games with my youngest child, putting together an MVP of it, to see how well received it would be. In this article, I share the tools which I used, and the process I went through.

Planning

Who needs detailed planning, when it’s just a side project? That’s not exactly true, however I knew this was just an MVP to gauge initial reactions to the idea, so I avoided doing much planning, outside of writing a few rough dot points to give me some direction.

Side project dot points

Side project dot points

Register a domain name

So this is where my big budget of $13.24 ended up being spent. I had noticed the featuredstartup.com domain name was available a while back, and took the plunge and bought it.

I have a terrible habit of buying domain names when I notice them, and I currently have a few dozen domain names already in my name, so I was quite proud I held off purchasing it until I actually needed it.

Featured Startup domain receipt

Featured Startup domain receipt

Set up hosting

I’m using Digital Ocean for these side projects. I have a bunch on there already, and it costs peanuts for a great server. 1Gb of RAM and 30Gb of SSD space costs me a total of $10 a month, and I have around 10 side projects in various stages hosted on it, with 29Gb of disc space spare.

Install WordPress

WordPress is literally the easiest CMS to get up and running; it takes all of five minutes before you are ready to add your first post. The best part is the trillion themes, plug ins and developer communities out there supporting WordPress already. It would be insane to choose anything else for this.

Find an appropriate WordPress theme

This is one of the most time consuming parts, because there are literally hundreds of places to find thousands of free and paid themes.

I wanted to find a theme that would work well with an interview style format in the individual posts, and a simple method to display the latest startups on the homepage. I ended up settling with the free version of Tracks.

Given this is literally the first incarnation of this site, if my previous projects have shown me something, it is likely I’ll change themes a few times until I am really happy.

Add my three favourite WordPress plugins

Every time I install WordPress, the first thing I tend to do is install the same three very useful plugins. They are;

Yoast SEO
This is a very useful plugin that provides you with a quick summary of how your SEO will look for a particular post, and makes suggestions on getting your content ready to rank well.

Insert Post Ads
I use this plugin to drop in a standard call to action (CTA) in the middle of blog posts, such as the subscribe box here on my blog.

Jetpack
This is the official WordPress plugin, created by Automattic, the people behind WordPress. It has a bunch of useful features, and the free plan tends to be enough for most side projects.

Create a form to collect responses

To avoid email ping pong and keep things easy for me, I created a survey form using Google forms.

The two main benefits with Google forms (besides being free) are that you can save the responses in a Google sheet, which is what I needed for the automation I wanted to do, and you can update the form questions at any time.

I have these survey responses being saved per line in a Google Sheet, so I can do some magic to save time, as per my next point.

Create automation magic

As mentioned, I wanted to do some automation magic with the form responses, so I hooked up Zapier to automatically grab the latest responses in my Google sheet and post them as drafts to WordPress, using this Zap.

This was the fun part. I know from previous experience, it can be very time consuming to copy and paste interviews and responses from an email thread, format it all nicely and consistently, and then plonk it into WordPress.

Using this Zapier recipe, means that as a new line appears in the Google Sheet (above), it automatically imports it into WordPress, formats it, and saves it as a draft for my review.

I can then tweak things, add an image and blockquote, etc in no time at all. Awesome!

Set up email marketing

I’ve been using Mailerlite for my own personal blog and a few other side projects, and I’m becoming a bigger fan every time I use it.

I created a simple email template which grabs the latest articles from the RSS feed, and sends them out once a day to subscribers.

Featured Startups email

Featured Startups email

Created a popup email form

The great thing with Mailerlite over similar email tools, is they provide an easy way to create a popup form in literally a few minutes, and then you just take the provided Javascript, and add it to the WordPress template. Voila!

Add an email subscribe form

As I mentioned earlier, I installed the very useful Insert Post Ads plugin, then I whipped up a quick subscribe box, so it appears in every interview.

Set up Twitter

As per usual, I created a Twitter account. I couldn’t get @featuredstartup which was frustrating, so I settled on @featurestartup which was close enough.

I actually cheated here slightly, renaming an existing yet dormant Twitter account I already had, and set up some quick branding.

Featured Startups Twitter account

Featured Startups Twitter account

You will notice there’s a nice image of a laptop showing the Featured Startup site, both in the header of the Twitter account and this blog post. Nope, that isn’t my laptop or coffee table. I created this image using a fantastic resource, called Magic Mockups, which allows you to import an image or URL, and place it on a variety of photographs of different devices and settings.

A little Twitter automation

Another cool Zapier zap is the ability to grab the Twitter username from the Google Sheet which stores my survey submissions, and send out a personalised thank you tweet.

Example automated tweet

Example automated tweet

In the example above, the @bobs username was taken from the sheet, along with the ‘Billys Bargains’ name. Neither of these are real, by the way. This was just a test to show the automation works before I start getting real submissions using the same workflow.

The Final Result

After around 2.5 to 3 hours of work, my latest side project is now live and ready for you to check out. Currently, Featured Startup will be posting a new startup every weekday. This may grow over time, depending on the volume of submissions and interest from readers.

Worst case, the site doesn’t get much interest and I’ll eventually just leave it stagnant. Best case, the startups I feature get plenty of new interest.

How to get your startup featured

If you take a look at the site, you’ll find out that in order to submit your own startup to be possibly featured on the site, you will need to join the mailing list, and visit some of the other startups that get featured.

Without giving all the fine details away, it is fairly trivial to see which subscribers are actively engaging with the emails, and the corresponding invitation links will only be sent to those subscribers with a certain minimum engagement score.

The purpose of this is to see if I can increase engagement, and make the selection process a little harder to stop the ‘drop a link and run’ types. I’ll report back later how this has worked.

Note: Both the Digital Ocean and Mailerlite links above are affiliate links. I get a small credit in my existing accounts (as do you), if you sign up from that link. This hasn’t influenced my mention of them; they are both awesome services in any case.

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