“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak” – Rachel Zoe
If you know me, you know I am not a fashionista. But just because I do not have a closet full of the finest clothes and shoes does not mean I don’t understand that how a person shows up will dictate how they are perceived. My fashion style is more aligned with my personality: relaxed and casual. The rope sandals that I buy from Bonnaroo each year are much more representative of who I am than any high heels.
The way we dress will affect the expectations that people have. Wouldn’t it be weird if I were in my jeans, t-shirt, and rope shoes but extra serious and all business? Or if I was wearing an expensive suit and Prada heels but was completely relaxed and careless?
The same is true for your online content. The first thing a person sees when they come to your site is the style you present. This includes the colors, the layout, the size and type of font, the number and type of images, and the number and type of advertisements and call-to-actions.
I may see an enticing headline but once I click on it if the actual site is not appealing I rarely stick around to read the content that drew me there. Even if the site is appealing, if the content is not laid out in a format that’s enjoyable to read, I move on. I am sure you do the same thing. Here are my 3 tips for creating content that represents who you are and appeal to the audience you want to attract.
You Do You
Your content marketing should differentiate you from everyone else. Let’s get real: Whatever you are writing about, there are thousands of others writing about the same thing. And if you think you’ve found a topic that no one is writing about, then that begs the question if anyone is looking for such content.
Your content should represent the story you have to share with the world. A good story is authentic, creative, makes an emotional and personal connection, inspires actions and takes an audience on a journey with the brand.
Although there are various design best practices and trends that you should follow, ultimately when you look at your site you should be confident that it represents you in the way you want to show up to the world and it communicates the expectations you want to set for your audience.
If your site was a person at a networking event, what would it be like? If you have a site that presents a reader with lots of pop-ups and advertisements as soon as they land on a page, then your site is like that annoying sales person who goes around shoving their business card in everyone’s hand. If the font on your site is extra small and condensed with lots of words, then your site is that person who stands in the corner like a wallflower but if you start a conversation with him he will talk nonstop.
Think about who you are and how you want the world to see you and then allow your content and its style represent that.
What Are You Trying To Accomplish?
Why are you dedicating time and resources to publishing content?
Are you trying to build a brand identity? If so, the total focus of your content is to align your brand–whether it is a company name, a stage name, or your birth name,–with what you want to be known for. Be consistent, be unique, and be engaging. Draw people in by connecting with them on an emotional level. Create content that aligns with what you and your ideal audience have in common. Make sure your site is dressed up the way you would show up.
Are you trying to find sales leads? Then your content should show your expertise and help your audience think through how to solve problems. Run a keyword search to see what questions people are looking for answers to and answer those questions but also provide a personal insight or unique idea. Perhaps present a boring answer in a fun and creative format. Whatever you do, do not be a salesperson. No one wants to be sold to. Don’t dress your content up with pop-up ads or lots of call-to-actions that demand their information. Instead, be a valuable resource that people are willing and wanting to do business with.
Are you trying to get people involved? Maybe you are trying to get people to advocate an idea or event or share their own opinions or insights. If this is the case then you need to write content that is conversational and includes your audience. Hit the points that are the emotional triggers for them and then allow them to include their own thoughts. Curate your audience’s information and talking points. Give your audience something to do. Perhaps you can choose an audience member to take over a social media account. The biggest difference between how you dress this kind of content is that people should recognize your site is a place of community collaboration.
Dress Appropriately For the Occasion
When using social media channels to publish content or promote your blog content, keep in mind that consumers go to Facebook and Linkedin with different goals and mindsets. Facebook provides a fun and entertaining diversion. It is a place where people go to see pictures from their friends and celebrate life’s little moments or to debate the latest political controversy. When you are on Facebook be engaging, be fun, and keep it light.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is where people turn for career advancement. Content that helps users build skills for their current job, find vendors to solve business problems, or get another job would be well-received there.
Each platform has its own community rules and culture. Be sure how you show up does not make you stand out in a bad way.
Finally, do not try to be everything to everyone. Each person and brand has its own unique style and each person has their own taste. Your goal should be to attract an audience that shares your style and taste which is the foundation of a solid, long-term relationship.
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What does social media mean to you? That is an important question to ask every stakeholder involved prior to launching a social media initiative. This question not only needs to be asked, it needs to be discussed in-depth, debated, and documented.
There are people who believe that social media is an extension of marketing communications, others who believe it can generate sales, some who see it as a way to provide exceptional customer service and those who see it as a necessity for reputation management.
I, personally, am in the “all of the above” camp. Social Media enables conversations with and about brands. These conversations can be started by the brand, but only if the brand becomes part of a community. Ultimately the conversations will be driven by the community based on what community members are looking for. This could be product information, customer service, exclusive information, or up-to-date news.
Many emerging and/or larger brands have worked hard to build their brand image, an image that connects with the target audience profile. Style Guides have been created that dictate images that should be used to represent the brand as well as the words and sentence structures that are used when discussing the brand. This works well for marketing and advertising campaigns where there are copywriters and designers that create controlled images and experiences. But how does a style guide work within online conversations?
The answer is it provides your social media manager with insights of what to listen for and what conversations are most relevant to get involved with. But it cannot dictate what to say if the brand is seeking an authentic and timely voice.
I am seeing a lot of brands trying to force their controlled brand experiences within social media channels and the results are mixed. It seems if the brand is already established and has a significant amount of loyal fans, then people will comment, like, and share the creative copy-written messages. Below is an example of such a great copy-written tweet from Coca-Cola:
“When you open a coke, 12,607 bubbles are born. Happy birthday bubbles!”
But is that a community-driven conversation starter? No. Is it an effective brand builder, especially as it is re-tweeted by the millions of followers of Coca-Cola? Absolutely!
This effort works for Coca-Cola, which has decades of expert brand building efforts behind them. Coca-Cola did not have to start the online conversation, they had to join it. By the time social media even hit Coca-Cola’s radar there were already thousands of conversations happening about them each day.
But can emerging brands or even large brands who do not have thousands of mentions within online conversations happening each day create a community with only an authorized brand voice, or will they need to empower selected ambassadors to use their real and diverse voices?
Does a strict brand voice have a place in online conversations? I say yes; 40% of the time when social media is used to distribute news or create unique and creative brand impressions, a strict brand voice should be adhered to. For the 60% of the efforts needed to create an online community, such as providing exceptional customer service, offering solutions, requesting fans to share their stories or celebrating the successes and stories of their fans, brand guidelines should be followed only to the extent of how the brand is represented whereas not to prevent brand ambassadors from speaking personally as a means to connect with people as people.
I have witnessed many brands trying too hard to control their message and use only approved copy-written words within social media channels. Typically the community growth and engagement remains stagnant, the return on engagement is very low and the value of social media gets lost in translation.
originally posted on Concept Hub
In short, the answer is no.
However, we now live in a world where people are tuning out commercials and advertisements. Our attention is short and fragmented.
By May 2010, YouTube was exceeding 2 billion views a day. To put that in perspective, the 2011 Super Bowl was the most-watched program ever…with a mere 111 million viewers.
With so many people getting their information online through their social networks the challenge for brands has been how to break through the noise and get their message spread, i.e. go viral.
One of the early viral videos was the Dove commercial which tapped into the existing conversation of a women’s natural beauty compared to the airbrushed distortions of what we see in advertisements that tell us how beautiful we could look. This message was a direct contradiction to what I learned in many of my Marketing classes in college about creating a need to be better. Although the brand was front and center throughout the video, the message was more of a public service announcement than a commercial.
People like to feel good and they like to see the world changing for what they feel is better. The Dove video captured both the element of empowering women to feel good about their image and the idea that the world was becoming more “real.”
However, consider the gum video…I honestly forget what the brand was that produced the incredible video Where the Hell is Matt. Oh! how many people saw that video and had tears in their eyes at the end. What an incredible soundtrack paired with an incredible journey. No one knew it was sponsored by a brand. No brand is mentioned, but our emotions were swept away…until we learned it was all filmed on green screen and sponsored by that gum…what was the brand? Whatever the brand, it left me with a bitter taste.
Many brands are trying to create viral videos that are entertaining. My all-time favorite is…not Old Spice, but Evian’s Roller Babies. I mean not only impressive technology, cuteness, but also a song that brings back memories of my own childhood. I am entertained, but I am not running out to buy a bottle of Evian (or Old Spice). These brands are more top of mind for me, but I am not emotionally connected. I have not seen any numbers about whether or not these videos actually impacted the bottom line of the brands, only the numbers of how viral they were and the lift in awareness. At the end of the day, awareness does not necessarily increase sales.
Today I saw another video, one made in Taiwan with English subtitles. It was posted on Facebook by my friend Toby Bloomberg. The video took me on a journey. Told me a story, and connected me to the characters. At the end, I felt inspired. I felt I had a responsibility, a call to action to answer the question, “what am I living for?” And I felt I had a bank that was by my side who understood life is more than our daily grind. With the very minimum mention of the brand, this video not only raised awareness but also built brand equity with their story. A story that has gone international asking the world the question “What do people live for?” Too bad they’re not in my neighborhood….yet.
originally posted on Concept Hub
In 1998 a high school math teacher who considered himself to be supremely intelligent told me that the Internet had no future. He told me that it was created for small communities to share information amongst themselves and that the amount of information was growing too fast to be able to keep it all organized. Therefore the Internet would eventually become cumbersome and useless.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, were possibly thinking the same thing but with a different perspective. Instead of dooming the Internet to oblivion, they figured out how to organize it, giving users the most relevant information quickly and easily.
Because of the rise of tools that make publishing content online easier than ever as well as the ability to interact with such content the Internet has become equivalent to the Wild Wild West. Whereas Google may have once been the sheriff of the Internet maintaining order, it seems the invasion of social media communities has established a new order.
Peer to Peer Networks
When a site has lots of varied content, lots of updates, and lots of links, it will typically rank very high in search engine results. Conversations happening online tend to have lots of varied content, lots of updates, and lots of links. So when someone searches for information on a person, company, or topic of interest often times they will come across an online community. The ongoing dialog and depth of information that is provided tend to be more interesting, helpful, and richer than any static informational website. Trust develops because it is a back and forth dialog with links to supporting information. The user who has stumbled upon such a community may begin to follow the conversation and click on the links provided, all while developing impressions of brands, companies, and individuals based on what this particular community has to say.
Many organizations have spent lots of time and resources developing sites that are authoritative, informative, and ranked well in search engines. However, if they lack a community, they lack references to the site from trusted peers, varied ideas, and content which means they may not have the ability to earn the trust of their audience in the same way an online community can.
Communities and conversations happen in a variety of interconnected sites. People are embedding photos and videos from various photo and video sharing communities into other conversations. They are adding widgets and linking to their social bookmarking accounts on their profiles. The result is a member of one community is drawn to other communities by discovering relevant information and links from different community members. Each person participating in a community has become an influencer, a connector, and a salesperson at varying different levels. As more and more people begin to rely on their community to provide the most relevant information, their attention and time will shift from marketing messages and independent research to the information that is readily available to them by the people they trust the most whether it is through Twitter, Del.icio.us, Digg, RSS feeds or any other social network they are a member of.
Social Editing and Social Helpdesk
So if a person has a question that has not been addressed by one of their various online networks, where do they turn to?
Wikipedia ranks among the 20 most visited Internet domains in the US, according to Hitwise. In spite of the controversy of the accuracy of the information, more and more people see Wikipedia as a trusted resource because of the community that supports it. If someone sees inaccurate information or vandalism on the site they have the ability to go in and change it. If there is a question or dispute of what should be considered accurate there are forums for ongoing discussion.
Following along in the same spirit is the latest trend of Social Q&A. Have a question about a city, a service, a product, or an idea? Ask the global community through sites such as Yahoo! Answers or LinkedIn Q&A.
Interestingly enough I found this question on Yahoo! Answers;
Why do so many use Wikipedia as a source for their answers?
Wikipedia is an open forum. The sort of people who answer questions on YA can place and edit articles on Wikipedia. Yes, all postings are checked by someone but they sure don’t know everything. It’s not an encyclopedia, it is people just like you and me, claiming that what they are posting is fact. So much on Wiki is incorrect it’s not even funny. So why do you keep using it and claiming it as fact?
It seems even the critics of information found on social media sites are using social media sites to gain insights and information.
Search Engine Participation
Search engines are still the first place most people start when looking for information. Therefore efforts and knowledge of how to be found through such techniques as Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing are very important. However as the Internet evolves from static brochureware to a dynamic, interconnected, global marketplace, organizations need to start considering their participation strategy so that they are part of the conversation when people are seeking answers about their industry or cause.