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Cas McCullough from SaaS blog app Writally on content and social

Agnieszka Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 14 July 2017

Blogger, entrepreneur and content driven social professional Cas McCullough on SaaS technology platform Writally

Writally logo 150x150Social Media Portal (SMP): What is your name and what do you do there for Writally?

Cas McCullough (CM): I?m Cas McCullough. I?m the founder of Writally.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about Writally.

CM: Writally is a SaaS app that helps bloggers create original content in half the time by providing a customised structural framework (aka a "blog post recipe") for each blog post. This helps the writer create a more engaging blog post in record time because they have a structure to follow that is a perfect fit for their needs.

The app can combine up to 80 storytelling elements in each blog post recipe and these depend on what the user wants to accomplish with their blog post. So, if they want to write a simple beginner's guide the story elements will look vastly different than if they want to write an opinion piece. With the algorithm we've developed, we can create over 3 million combinations of blog post recipes.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

CM: The target audience we?re aiming at for our early adopters are small and medium sized businesses who are subject-matter experts and need to create original content. They are the ones who are least likely to be able to afford copywriters on an ongoing basis and most likely to blog themselves, but the time it takes is a huge barrier.  If we can address that problem, and help them create quality content, it improves their chances of making an ROI on their blog posts.

SMP:  When was it founded, how many people work there and how it is funded?

CM: Writally was founded in March, 2016. I am a solo-founder but I?m part of the Bluechilli accelerator program and they provide business advisory, product management and development support. So, although I?m a solo founder, I am backed by a huge team at this early stage and once the company grows, I?ll recruit my own internal developers. The MVP was funded by Bluechilli, the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and a private investor. In February last year I won the Suncorp Small Business Challenges competition and that kicked off the opportunity to attract funding for the initial product.

Photograph of Cas McCullough founder of SaaS blog app Writally

SMP: What are the plans beyond the blog offering?

CM: A lot of apps try to do many things. We just want to do this one thing really well. At the moment, it?s a huge experiment. We ran a content hackathon last weekend and it was a huge success. We?ll definitely be doing that regularly. Members of the platform get to join our Slack community for support and feedback on their blogs and I have plans to run regular online events for my customers as well, but with a difference. People love to blog in packs I?ve found and when they have a tool like Writally to support that process, they can achieve a lot more in a short space of time. Writally does also offer writing and editing services but it?s not a core part of the business because it?s not easily scalable.

SMP: Briefly, what does your job entail and what does a typical day look like?
In the early stages of a startup your job entails pretty much everything. Your budget needs to be kept lean, so you can lengthen your runway. A typical day involves blogging for the website, fulfilling customer and user recipe requests, meetings with potential partners and investors and meetings with my mentors at Bluechilli, and checking in on my tribe on social media. I also am a mum, so I?m often sitting under a tree with my laptop or in a café, waiting for kids to finish basketball or acting classes. Thank goodness for mobile tech.

SMP: What are the challenges that you?ve encountered and how are you overcoming them in what you have been doing so far at Writally?

CM: Time and balancing running a startup with a family is always a huge challenge. I was home schooling and that came to an end this year because it was just too hard to run a startup and home school. My kids are settling into school well though and my eldest has started his university pathway. I sold my house last year and have pretty much been living off of the proceeds ever since, so that I could devote the time to Writally. It's definitely a leap of faith! When you have a family to feed, it's a huge risk to take. There's no easy way. You just have to hustle and spend your time wisely. With the tech, the biggest challenge has been working out how to scale the process. At the moment, it?s still quite manual in that we select the recipes by hand and edit them to suit the customer?s needs manually. That process will be automated in the future. The other challenge has been to create a questionnaire that works for business owners who are fairly unfamiliar with marketing terminology. I?ve learned a few hard lessons about user experience in this first version and we?re making some small changes that will help users. Money is always a big challenge in this early stage. To build quickly, you need capital and while we have a little revenue coming in now, it?s not enough to make any massive changes to the platform. I?ll be doing another capital raise over the next few months so we can further automate the platform.

Image of Writally homepage

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

CM: Seeing business owners achieve ROI from new blogs has been incredible. Users are reporting that their blog posts are being shared and engaged with more, and they are writing them faster. In quite a few cases we've seen people write entire 400 to 500 word first drafts in 20 minutes or less. A female plumber who is trying to grow her all-women plumbing business reported that an opinion piece she wrote about women in trades attracted a lot of social media engagement and more qualified employee applications to her business than previous methods. One business coach made $7K in under 2 weeks from an idea that was sparked by a blog post recipe. A speech pathologist attracted 10 new recurring clients from her third blog post (ever) and her post went viral. These early results are extremely promising! We know we're on the right track! Another highlight has been running the live blog and content hackathon events! These events have been very powerful in terms of empowering business owners to blog fast and building a tribe of raving fans.

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities for your sector and the competition that you have?

CM: There?s a lot of content out there but much of it is rubbish. Business owners need to be empowered and enabled to create high quality content that actually works towards a business goal. At the moment, a lot of people and marketers just create content for content?s sake and they don?t put a lot of thought or strategy into it. One of the reasons why is because it takes a lot of time to create original, high quality content. This is why having a tool like Writally in place is important and a huge opportunity. Businesses know they need quality content and Writally bridges that gap. In terms of competition, high quality writers are expensive to engage with longer-term and the process still takes a lot of time. Writally can actually make that process quicker for people who are hiring writers, and for writers, Writally can improve profit margins by cutting the time it takes to write a piece. So, even though we have competition, our competitors can use our tool to their advantage as well. One of our clients uses Writally to help his Virtual Assistant write blog posts. This is a great use of the tool.

On the lower end of the scale, you have template solutions and content scrapers. Templates are okay to a point but not adaptable to the writer?s needs. If you write a post in the same way every time, it gets pretty boring for the reader. How many websites have you been to where all the blog titles are X ways to do Y. Yawn! Content scrapers are just enabling plagiarism and that is not good for someone who wants to build their reputation and authority. Writally is the only tool that enables business bloggers to create high-quality, original content, fast and affordably.

SMP: What is the most challenging part of building upon your brand presence in digital environments?

CM: Breaking through the noise and being memorable is always a huge challenge. I chose to start small and build a community from the moment we launched and that is starting to pay off. If you look after your customers and audience, they will look after you. Relationships need to be nurtured. You can?t start by talking to a crowd of strangers. I?ve invested a lot in US content marketing conferences so I can start connecting with key influencers in my space. These days, with so many people trying to build personal brands, it?s hard to break through the influencer glass ceiling but, again, I focus on relationships and that takes time. I have local influencers already singing Writally?s praises. It?s only a matter of time before someone with a huge audience does the same because it will help their tribes.

Image of Writally app homepage

SMP: Why are blogs still part of the content ecosystem?

CM: Blogging is a very important part of the content ecosystem. Every blog post you create that is relevant to your audience and high quality, helps you improve your search engine ranking. Video is becoming more and more important and while they can be used very effectively on blogs, you still need written content to go with them because, currently, video content is not able to be search engine optimized without written descriptions, transcripts and the like. A blog is really just a home for all of your content. Also, if you aren?t giving people a reason to go back to your website repeatedly, that makes it more difficult to retarget them through social media ad campaigns and Google ads. Blog posts enable you to refine your targeting for ad campaigns and narrow down your interested audience. Most marketers don?t take full advantage of this. The thing is, if you?re a consumer looking for information, you will be more likely to buy from someone who has helped give you everything you need to know than someone who hasn?t. Blogs build trust, authority and help people make a connection with you and your brand.

SMP: What do you think is going to be the most interesting aspect regarding content, social media, social networks and/or technology for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

CM: Probably the biggest shift in the next 12 months will be the prevalence of content marketing over traditional. There are still many SMBs that think of marketing in more traditional terms but many are starting to see that content is the way forward. Content marketing is likely to become a multi-billion dollar industry in the next 18 months as a result.

Artificial Intelligence and use of bots is becoming a huge talking point and that will only grow. I?m seeing some industry influencers start to use Facebook Messenger bots. However, that can get invasive pretty quickly, so my expectation is that people will start tuning out messages on Facebook like they do emails.

Development of tech in this space is imperative if we are to scale content. At the moment people are doing much of the heavy lifting, but that will change as tools and AI develop.

SMP: What are your top five predictions for blogs, content and social media for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

  • I predict that more businesses will be using Facebook Messenger over Email marketing in the next 18 months because it?s still new and people are taken in by the novelty factor.

  • I also predict that Facebook Messenger will quickly reach saturation in the next 18 months and that audiences will start to tune out, just like they do with email.

  • Marketers will use tools that help them scale content and the roles that people fulfil will gradually be replaced by technology.

  • Businesses will find it harder and harder to differentiate themselves online. They will have to invest more in content strategy in order to break through the noise.

  • Facebook ads will become a lot more expensive as more businesses adopt them over more traditional marketing methods.

SMP: What are your top overall five blogs, content and social media tips and why?

  • If you struggle with content strategy, create content sets around a short-term marketing goals so you?re not just producing content for content?s sake.

  • Use your most popular content in Facebook ads to narrow down your interested audiences and retarget offers to people who click through to view your content. This will save your money on ad spend.

  • Put the time and effort into identifying your perfect reader?s mindset. Then develop content that is catered to their needs, questions and concerns. That way, your content will be more relevant.

  • Repurpose your blog content in different formats on social media. Get as much value out of your content as you can.

  • Don?t try to be everything to everybody. Find your tribe and focus on them. Targeted leads are what you want.

SMP: Best way to contact you and Writally?

CM: Email or via the Facebook group, or

The Writally app:

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