Hey! 👋 I've created content for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and media orgs for 15+ years—AMA!
Hey folks! My name is Matt, and for over 15 years, I've worked as a content marketing specialist, creating and managing written content for startups, tech companies, Fortune 500 companies, and internationally recognized film and music magazines. Recently, I've been helping Nook Calendar create content ahead of their Product Hunt launch on May 9th. I've really enjoyed being a part of the Product Hunt community over the past few months, and I'd like to give back. I'm a lifelong learner and don't consider myself 100% an expert in any one topic when it comes to writing, content, and SEO. But I've been around the block, and will do my best to give you thoughtful, unbiased advice and share what resources I have when writing/content planning. Unsure how to create topic clusters? Want to make writing a daily habit, but don't know where to start? Wondering when to start investing in content creation? Need some good books on how to write better? Wondering if Grammarly is really worth it? Literally, ask me anything about writing and content! I'll be here all day ☕
Have you ever done content marketing for LinkedIn? If so, how do you attract more viewers and boost engagement? We think we have very quality content but our engagement isn't up to par.
@luka_vasic Oh man, great question! When I used to run social media for a media company we tended to avoid LinkedIn—it's a tough nut to crack—but in certain industries, especially tech B2B, it's an essential channel to master and more valuable than Twitter or Facebook. There are a few basic things you can do: - When posting content, if you don't have a team generating your own on a daily or weekly basis, consider sharing articles that are relevant to your product or service and would be interesting to your community, even if the content isn't made in-house—who knows, if a story starts trending, maybe your company's thoughts will be shared in an aggregated post. - When you post to your LinkedIn page, get everyone on your team to at least like, comment, or share the post—unlike other social media sites, other people's engagement seems to last in your personal feed for a long time, so chances are you can get a bit of extra engagement by leveraging your team's networks in this way. - Consider using three to four hashtags at the bottom of each post. LinkedIn has pushed people to do this in recent years. I've seen it work well for other people to varying degrees. It won't make or break a post, but it's simple enough to do and could help. - Become a member of communities related to your product and field: there are a surprisingly large number of groups in a variety of niche industries on LinkedIn that are fairly active. Just make sure you're contributing honestly and not doing self-promotion solely. I try to follow etiquette similar to Reddit when posting. - This is a bit of a weird one, but did you know you can actually comment on people's posts as your page? There's a whole tutorial on it here: https://bethebean.com/blog/how-t... Other than that, I'm afraid I'm not much help—it's never been a big channel for me. I will say: Unlike other social media channels, LinkedIn's community seems to value positivity (similar to the Product Hunt community), so strike an optimistic and engaging tone with your posts. There's a whole article I read a few months ago about the psychology behind it, but I lost the link and can no longer find it. :S Also, some people don't find LinkedIn beneficial for promoting content, because a lot of times your followers will be people who have applied for jobs at your company through LinkedIn. But I think that's a good opportunity to get more engagement, in some ways. If you're going through a hiring blitz, post more frequently to LinkedIn. Prospective candidates want to stand out and will more likely engage with your posts, which spreads your reach further. Here are some additional resources I'd check out: - https://blog.hootsuite.com/linke... (Step 4 onwards) - https://neilpatel.com/blog/linke... I'd also keep up to date with posts on LinkedIn's marketing hub: https://business.linkedin.com/ma... Similar to other services and platforms, they know what works on their platform better than anyone else, so you may find some good tips there. I hope this helps!
@matthew_ritchie Wow, didn't expect this long and detailed reply. Thanks for this. I found some things that can be of use, especially the blogs.
@luka_vasic Yep! One thing I need to work on: I'm not very succinct lol. All the best!
How do you get better at writing!?!?
@sanja_mitar I am living proof that you don't need to be a genius or have some natural talent to become a decent writer. I went to a high school that specialized in visual and performing arts, and for the first three years I barely wrote—I actually wanted to become a painter! But in my final year, I had a really great teacher who inspired me to write, and I ended up studying English Literature in university. I hated it. But near the end of my time I started working for my campus newspaper, levelled up to working for the local paper, and have written professionally ever since. There are three rules that are totally cliche but worked for me when I was developing my voice as a writer. - Write every day: Whether it's a diary entry, in a text chain with friends, or to a blog in Medium, it doesn't really matter. The more you write, the better you become at developing your own personal voice, recognizing what works and what doesn't, and easily transferring your thoughts to paper. Some people like to create self-imposed tasks or deadlines (i.e., if you want to write a book, doing a chapter a week, etc.) I think that's a great idea when starting out. Start writing for yourself, on your own, and once you feel good about it, consider reaching out to others for additional opportunities—in the tech world, that mostly comes in the form of guest posts. - Read what you write: Reading aloud allows you to hear what sounds natural and what doesn't. It makes it easier to recognize where pauses need to be added, which words are too big, and what's unclear. If you're doing it in a public setting (like at an office or in a cafe), mouth the words quietly to yourself, or find a quiet place to do so (I used to hop in the stairwell and do it all the time at my old job)—it'll make a big difference to your writing and make it sound nice and conversational - Write what you know: I don't necessarily mean through lived experience (although that's essential if you're writing a memoir or something that draws from your personal life) but do a lot of research before writing. When I'm writing about something I don't know, I consume as much information as possible—either through books, posts online, or one-on-one interviews—to ensure I fully understand my subject. If you're unsure about anything, do more research, or ask others for advice. Finally, don't be too hard on yourself. Even the greats have a few bad drafts before striking gold. It's a process.
@matthew_ritchie Thanks so much for this, Matt! So incredibly helpful and I especially love the last bit "don't be too hard on yourself"
If you're creating content for a startup, what are some of the most important SEO tips to focus on? I know there's a ton to think about here but I always like to hear a unique perspective. Thanks in advance!
@paul_vanzandt Hey! Great question, and something I've been thinking about a lot recently. Doing SEO for a startup is interesting. You're basically getting the motor running as you're building the plane to fly. It's tough! And I think there are a lot of avenues you can take and things to consider. First off: Any decent SEO-driven content plan probably needs about six months to execute to start seeing results and being able to measure them accurately. That's a big ask when you have a limited runway, as most startups do. That said, if you look at any guide or growth blog on getting higher traffic, they usually all recommend the same thing: content. Unless your product is truly game-changing, you won't get a ton of attention without it. If you're flush enough to afford an Semrush subscription, it has a lot of powerful tools when it comes to keyword research and seeing what your competitors are up to (if not, Neil Patel has some affordable tools that seem pretty decent for beginners or people who don't want to get bogged down by tons of features). I'd start by identifying a few competitors—from your biggest to more direct ones—and seeing which kinds of content or keywords they rank for. I like to begin by seeing what content is delivering the most traffic to their sites, and breaking things down further by what keywords they're ranking for on each page, and considering how to improve upon it (that's where a bit of creativity and further research comes into play, especially if you want to become an authority on a subject). From there, I usually like to dive into their paid ads (a good indication of what keywords they're targeting that deliver the biggest return on investment), new and improved keywords they're ranking for (this may indicate a new market they're going after or an opportunity that is ripe for the picking) and lost or declined keywords (unless a larger competitor hasn't stolen their space in the SERP, maybe you can create something to compete with them in the search results!). Prioritizing which keywords to go after is tough. Many SEOs will say to go after a keyword with low keyword difficulty, high-volume and tackle more difficult keywords over time. But in the early days, more often than not you'll probably find SEO opportunities that are low difficulty, small-med volume, which may be easy to rank for but don't necessarily move the needle forward. You need to think about each keyword and whether or not it's relevant to your audience or customer profile. That's just looking at competitors though, and if you're too caught up on what others are doing, you may end up playing "follow the leader" instead of creating something truly beneficial for your customers or audience. If you work with a sales or customer success team, ask them which topics your users care about or questions they're looking for answers to. If not, I'm a big fan of Brian Dean (who now works with Semrush) and he has a lot of good ideas for creating content that ranks. A lot of marketers think like marketers, but Brian's tactics are similar to how I've seen some newsrooms work in terms of content planning/ideation. He suggests coming up with a few keywords/topics and essentially falling down a Google/Wikipedia/YouTube rabbit hole to see what longtail keywords and queries are out there. Then it's your job to figure out what's worth targeting. At the end of the day, you need to try a few things to see what works and then begin replicating your efforts. And truthfully, I don't know enough about technical SEO or building backlinks legitimately—the two-other pieces of SEO's three-sliced pie—to give much advice in that regard. I think some of the most straightforward advice I'd recommend is to write like you're truly trying to help someone, not sell them a product. And write as a person, not as a company. Your content will be more genuine and resonate with your audience. SEO is only part of the equation. But it does help you build some momentum and shouldn't be ignored. I hope that helps!
@matthew_ritchie Super helpful advice Matthew; thank you so much. I like the idea of targeting competitors' paid advertisements alongside their organic traffic because it shows the clicks that matter the most to them. I'll definitely look into that and look into Brian Dean as well. Thanks again!
@paul_vanzandt My pleasure!
Any tips on starting a creative writing practice? I write poems and free form stuff for myself sporadically but are there any methods that have helped you keep writing on a consistent basis?
Hey @jamie_bursey! One method I learned in university was to write short-term and long-term goals on a piece of paper and stick them somewhere where you can see them every day. So for developing a creative writing process, maybe you want to create a short-term goal of free form writing once a week for a month, a monthly goal of writing a poem, and a long-term goal of submitting one of your poems for publication at the end of a six-month period. I did this when I was getting my writing career started as a journalist to hold me accountable, and it really worked! Within two years I went from writing album reviews for my campus newspaper to having multiple cover stories in my weekly arts and culture paper. Other than that, I'd consider getting a habit tracker app on your phone, and if you're feeling stuck creatively, look at writing prompts online, and assigning one to a specific time of day each week when you'd be available to dedicate time to write. I find putting tasks in a calendar extremely helpful. Give it a try! And as a designer, may I recommend Brian Eno's oblique strategies for inspiration—they are VERY cool: https://www.enoshop.co.uk/produc...
Thanks for hosting the AMA. What are your go-to strategies for building connections with journalists? Any tips on the contents of the pitch, ways to reach out to them, and build relationships?
@maya_ovice Hey! Thanks for your question. I started my career as a journalist and used to work in-house at a music magazine, so I know all too well what it's like to receive pitches from people trying to build connections and get coverage. 😅 I'll start by saying for the past four-five years I've worked at companies with large enough budgets to use PR as a middle man, so I haven't done much networking/direct pitching myself in recent years. So, I think I'd like to approach this question by focusing on what journalists hate, because I think ensuring you don't make these same missteps could help you develop connections and get pitches accepted a bit more easily: - Journalists HATE when you call them: Journalists are incredibly busy, and no phone call is going to convince them to cover your company, accept a pitch, or set up an interview. Start by emailing them first, and then once you develop a personal/professional relationship, then it's alright to call them. When I worked at a magazine, a bunch of us actually set all of our voicemail messages to say, "I don't check my voicemail. Please send me an email at XXX@XXX.com)," because we received so many pitches each week. - Journalists HATE when you don't have assets ready: So, say someone accepts your pitch for coverage and they ask if you have any press materials—such as a press release, high-res images, or video files—but you don't have any. Well, that's a surefire way to piss of a journalist. I can't tell you how many times I spent hours in the final days before publication of my magazine hounding comms teams/PR professionals asking for high-res photos. Often, we'd be forced to cut entire pieces of coverage due to a lack of proper assets, and the artist would have no idea that they just had their cover story reduced to a one-page spread because of something simple like the wrong file size. Always come prepared. - Journalists HATE when you pitch them something that's not in their wheelhouse: One time a PR person pitched me their new laundry detergent and suggested I talk about it in any future "Back to School" lists for university students. The problem was: I was a film editor. The pitch had nothing to do with my area of focus. This is an extreme example. But I hope it illustrates a point. Rather than blindly reaching out to people, I'd focus on particular journalists who have written about your competitors in the past or your particular sub-section of the tech industry. - Journalists HATE when you harass them: I've had people email, call, slip into my Twitter DMs, and LinkedIN DMs, all in one day trying to get coverage. It's a bit aggressive. Many journalists will explicitly state how they prefer to be pitched—generally on their website, in their Twitter bio, or LinkedIn bio, etc. Start with those first, and if you don't hear anything after a few days, then I'd try following up through a different channel. In general though, I'd say the biggest thing to remember is you want to make these people's lives easier, not harder. When pitching, don't ask, "is it alright if I send you a pitch?" If you're trying to get some coverage as a thought leader, send over a brief outline, or hey, even the whole article for them to read over. Keep your correspondences short. And if you don't hear back from them after multiple emails, it's probably time to move on. I hope this helps a bit!
Hey Matthew - amazing answers, you provide real valuable content. Do you have any social account where I can folow you apart from PH?
@ludovico_petrali Hey! Thank you for your kind words. I'm not too active on social media at the moment, but plan to start using Medium to post articles about content, SEO, and things I find interesting. Currently, most of the articles I have there are about the retail industry (from one of my previous jobs), but I hope to overhaul it in the near future: https://firstname.lastname@example.org...
/@matthew @matthew_ritchie Thanks Matthew - Congrats for the the amazing launch! I have a couple of questions if you don't mind answering. I noticed that Nook has been hunted by Kevin-William, do you have any suggestion on how to have a "warm" intro to this guy? I really like the products he hunted in the past and we are planning to launch soon so I would love to have the opportunity to speak to him. Do you have any suggestion on how to build a community and make some target content marketing for a B2B software start up? our product will target Marketing personas of subscription based businesses...
Any lessons learned you can share from your role that come from interacting with the other roles (e.g. content creators, lead devs, product managers, …)?
@__tosh Thanks for your question! I tend to rely heavily on devs/customer success/sales teams when brainstorming content. I find using an SEO tool handy when it comes to seeing what people are searching for, but like to speak with others internally to learn more about a product's use case or get some feedback on how to market it. Speaking with people who are closest to the pain point is extremely enlightening, and although time-consuming, often ends up with better content IMO because you find more unique observations than simply following the pack online. I think great ideas can come from anywhere and love to get feedback from others on my team. As a content marketer, I consider myself an "amateur expert," so like to get other people's input before writing, especially if it's on something I can't learn about easily on my own. As the saying goes, "write what you know." Previously, I worked with an outside company on one occasion to outsource content creation and didn't entirely enjoy the process. They were great! But I love working on a smaller team. I also think it's better to invest in content creation internally rather than externally, because it's easy to iterate on a piece of content and expand a person's knowledge about a subject, rather than walk someone through it time and time again. It's a long-term investment but worth it IMO. When working with other writers (my chosen medium), I like to really flesh out every outline or brief, especially in the early days of working together. In the past, I've done the research myself to identify which primary and longtail keywords we want to hit, I usually include a three-sentence brief, and sometimes will include an outline of every H3/H4 I think should appear in the page, just to give the writer more of a framework when writing the piece. Of course, the overall layout is usually subject to change, but I like to over share than under share, especially if I know the topic well enough. I'll often also share some similar articles for inspiration as well as further readings on certain topics, just to get the writer/content creator learning more about a subject. Authority is key here. Again, if I can't learn about a topic online, I'll usually direct content creators to internal subject matter experts, so the content is more balanced. I hope that helps!
@matthew_ritchie great answer, appreciate it!
@__tosh My pleasure! If you haven't seen it yet, the team I'm currently working with launched on Product Hunt today. You can check it out here: https://www.producthunt.com/post... All the best!
Content consumption: There's so much new content everyday across platforms, what are some of the platforms you primarily use? Content curation How do you source content? How do you find fresh brains/ perspectives that help you create good content and synthesis around that? Do you share resources that you find useful regularly? Content creation: Do you have a flow for this? Sorry to bombard you, but you're exactly the person I'd love to learn from. :')
@shivam_jha3 Hey! No sweat. I appreciate all your questions. I'll do my best to answer them. Content Consumption: I used to love using social media to find content, but find it wayyy too overwhelming now. Recently, I read that disinformation spreads 10x faster on social media than accurate information, so these days, I like to take a slow approach to what I read. As someone who worked in journalism, I have a huge amount of respect for editors—they're the gatekeepers of good content. I'm pleased to see more platforms hiring full on editorial teams to pick and choose the best content to share with their channels. I'm a big fan of Pocket. I don't find the algorithm works that well in terms of what I save/tag and what ends up in my inbox every morning. But overall, they have a great eye for important, well-written and shareable stories. I've discovered a lot of great content (and even a few publications) on there. I get a lot of content from newsletters these days. Again, I like receiving a curated list of content at once that's been chosen by real people, rather than have it fed to me on a steady drip throughout the day. Maybe I'm old-fashioned. Content Curation: Currently, I'm an army of one and have worked with no more than 1-10 writers at any given time, whether as a marketer or a journalist. I'm a hands on person and prefer it that way, so I'm afraid I don't have much good advice in terms of sourcing new talent. Anytime I work with someone, it's usually a previous connection—either from a newspaper/magazine I worked at or from journalism school. In general though, I go with my old bosses advice and like working with people who have journalism experience first and marketing experience second. I'm probably biased, but I find the writing better from someone who either went through journalism school or has written for a media organization. In terms of resources, my favourite content marketing expert is Brian Dean. He writes very clearly and is super well-informed. He doesn't regurgitate the same advice as everyone else. For writing, 'Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style' is an incredible book. I've been reading it on and off for years and frequently go back to it for insights and advice. I should probably spend more time with it, honestly. Content Curation: I'm lucky to work somewhere that doesn't have a lot of meetings. I prefer to work in two-three-hour chunks of deep focused work, usually 10 a.m.-noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. I know not everyone can do that though, and I'm incredibly lucky. The big thing is it to get into a good flow state. I like to listen to IDM (intelligent dance music, like Aphex Twin or Boards of Canada) and get lost in the process. To keep me on track, I usually do one full day of research followed by one full day of writing, with a break for editing and smaller tasks in between the start and end of each week. I hope that helps!
@matthew_ritchie legend. i'm going to share this with my entire team as a must read. thank you so much, much love!
@shivam_jha3 Oh wow! You're very, very kind. I'm glad I was able to offer some good advice. Again, I am no expert. But I've been around the block lol!
@matthew_ritchie you're more than helpful. i just joined ship30for30 cohort. do you have any thoughts about Dickie Bush's work? i'm learning how to write better. :)