What do you want to accomplish? What resources you have available to you? What is your experience and understanding digital marketing and social media?
The answers to these questions can help you understand exactly what level of social media help would enable you to reach your business goals in the most efficient and effective way.
For more about what you can expect from social media and how to decide what help you need, read my post on Linkedin, What Kind of Social Media Help Do You Need?
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Are you allocating enough money, time, and talent to run a successful social media effort?
Social Media does not need to be costly, but just like everything else, you do need to put the right amount of investment in to get the result you are seeking.
In my article, Calculating the Cost of Social Media I outline what resources need to be considered for various levels of effort.
“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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There’s more to content marketing than writing blog posts, creating ebooks and promoting your content through advertisements and social media post.
To be successful, you need to be active and engaging and offer information people are looking for.
One of the biggest mistakes that brands make when they are creating content is to focus on sales and advertising. Their focus is on what they want their audience to know about them.
This was how marketers thought for a long time. However, content marketing is an evolving organism that changes alongside technology and consumer preferences. Not too long ago it was easy to create content or an outbound message and grab the attention of your target audience. Today, however, consumers are confronted by outbound strategies constantly through commercial interruptions, pop-up ads, junk mail, and unsolicited emails. Not only have people become numb to it but they are also using technology to block it.
To be fair, promoting content all about your brand is an honest mistake because the questions you start with when you begin to craft a strategy start with focusing on your business goals. When I sit down with a client I start with the questions what do you want your audience to know? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do?
If your content planning stops there your strategy will be very one-sided and one-sided relationships are never very successful.
The next step of developing your content strategy is understanding what your audience wants from you.
Without a holistic plan, your marketing efforts can be a waste of time – or worse a recipe for a failed relationship with your prospects and clients.
If you want to develop quality relationships with your audience, develop a plan to be there when they search for answers, be engaging, and inspire action. Here are a few ways to make that happen.
You Need to Know your Audience
Your goal is to attract the best potential customers, not just anyone with a pulse.
To do this you need to know more than demographic information of the people you are trying to reach, such as income, zip code, age, or gender. If you are looking to develop a content strategy that builds relationships which lead to sales and brand advocacy, you need to know their story.
To develop their story, look beyond the problems you solve for your customers and reflect on who they are. What are their goals? Who would they turn to for advice? What do they value? Who are they trying to impress?
Knowing these answers will help you to create content that is more than information. By knowing their story your content can create a picture of a solution that not only meets a need but aligns with their identity.
You Need to Stand Out
When everybody and their mother is able to create and publish content the Internet becomes a very noisy place.
A 2013 Nielsen survey showed that 27 million pieces of content are shared every day and according to the 2015 Content Marketing Institute survey 86% of B2B marketers and 77% of B2C marketers use content marketing.
So how can your content stand out?
1. Make your titles actionable or tangible. Let people quickly know what they will get when they tune into your content.
2. Be sure that your content is easy to quickly scan. Many people now scan through the content first before deciding to invest the time in reading your content or watching your video in-depth.
3. Make sure you are using the keywords that your audience is using. This not only helps you rank higher in their search results, but it also means you and your audience are aligned with how you speak about and think about the topic.
4. Don’t put obstacles in the way of your content. Don’t litter your content with several call-to-action buttons or advertisements. Your audience is giving you their attention to learning from you, not to be sold to.
5. Take your audience on a journey. Make sure your content is organized with a well-defined beginning, middle, and end that had valuable nuggets of information to discover each step of the way.
Bonus: Let your personality and personal stories shine through.
Right Time Right Place
If you spent your late nights calling on your daytime business prospects and then slept during the day when they returned your calls, your business would definitely suffer.
The same is true online. When you post your content, not just time of day but also the day of the week, time of the month, or season of the year will have an impact.
Knowing who your audience not only helps you write content the feels personalized for them, it also enables you to know how they spend their days, weeks, and months and what content may be relevant to them at a specific point in time.
Getting your content published at the right time is only the beginning. Through targeted advertisements on the various social media sites, you set your content to show up right when your audience is writing about or search for a specific topic.
With each piece of content, you publish and promote you can track various analytics to learn more about your audience so that you can make continuous improvements
The final step of your plan is to make sure you have not lost focus on why you are creating content in the first place. It is about supporting your business goals. Every piece of content you produce should have an actionable and measurable goal attached to it that is tied to moving your prospects through the sales funnel.
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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.
As more and more brands embrace social media as an extension to marketing, advertising, pr or customer service efforts, the line between social media marketing and the essence of online communities continues to blur. However, it is important that these efforts not get mixed up otherwise the purpose and benefits of each effort will get diluted and the tactics and measures of success will become a confusing mess.
Social Media Marketing can be measured by the number of impressions, the reach of the conversation, as well as the number of transactions. Social Media Marketing can have very specific and measurable goals such as increased share of voice, improve brand reputation and/or awareness, or direct sales.
Online communities are much more nebulous. Communities, in general, are a very ancient creation. Communities of people gathered together for interdependent reasons. Therefore, a community is about the experience of belonging.
There are many benefits for a brand to develop a community, including the ability to scale. If you bring together people with passion and expertise then every person in the community gains tremendously for the small efforts of many. Think of Wikipedia.
Oftentimes efforts to building online communities involve bringing together more people with questions than answers. This makes sense when you are trying to find people with a need that you can fill. That is called selling. People do not become part of a community as a means to be sold to.
If we think of communities like we think of our neighborhoods, then what we are seeking are people with common interests, people we like to invite to our house, people with expertise such as…I don’t know…plumbing. Most importantly we are looking for people we trust.
So how do we build online communities? We set out to bring together people with a passion and expertise to share, we give them tools that help them get to know each other and we highlight ideas and insights of the members.
Building an online community takes a lot of work. Hospitality must be top of mind. Think of hospitality as the welcoming of strangers and offering “gifts” with no expectation in return thus creating an environment of trust and safety.
As your community grows it is tempting to think it centers around you or your brand. It doesn’t. It is important that community members always know that they are appreciated and are often reminded why they are there – what is the benefit to them.
So, should your social media efforts focus on marketing, advertising, pr, customer service or community building? That depends on your goals and resources, however, do not confuse community building with marketing or you may find that you create a road map that does not lead you to your goals.
What a week! and it is only Wednesday.
When I got started in Social Media I gave myself the title Idealist. I saw a vision of the many wonderful opportunities the open web was going to bring. That was a long time ago. I have been slapped multiple times with a healthy dose of reality. Especially this past week.
The lessons of the week have been very enlightening. In a short time, I found myself explaining the three issues I have with the current state of social media in such a way that I was able to see how these three issues are related and how they are hurting us from truly embracing the opportunities that social media offers.
1. Social Media Has Been Hijacked by Marketing and PR
Social Media was not created to be a channel for marketing and PR. It was created by innovators who desired a way to collaborate with each other. They needed tools and so they created the tools and offered them freely, or mostly free to anyone who wanted a platform for conversation and collaboration. That WAS the dream of social media when I got started. Now the dream is to drive traffic to your website, get word of mouth marketing, make a video go viral, create buzz, and so on and so on.
Need evidence of this? Just look at the latest articles that claim that your social media manager should be under 25. What can a 25-year-old do for you? Well they know the language, they know the tools, and they can spit out your message. But they are not the people making business decisions nor do they have the experience to consult with the company about what business changes need to be made based on conversations that are happening online. No, social media does not have the respect that it deserves yet, so it has been taken over by loudmouths, aggressive salespeople, and spammers which now vastly outnumber the type of innovators, entrepreneurs, and change agents that gave birth to the social web.
Jim Collins was wrong, Good is not the enemy of Great, Fear is!
Social Media is still foreign to many communicators. Some fear the technology, some fear the openness, some fear making a mistake, some fear the idea that people get to talk back. This fear can no longer stop them from being a part of social media. It is no longer a choice. Communicators are being directed to have a social media presence, but having a presence does not mean embracing social media. For many, it means outsourcing social media responsibilities to someone else who can be blamed if anything goes wrong. It means using social media channels to do business the same old way, connecting with media outlets and institutions and avoiding any and all contact with individuals. It means doing as little as possible and then pointing out that their social media efforts are not working as well as traditional messaging. Meanwhile, scrappy little start-ups and courageous thought leaders will continue to be disruptive causing more fear and uncertainty among those who are too scared to truly dive in.
3. Left Brain Thinking
My frustration from the beginning has been how often organizations embrace the new technology without considering the new skills and approaches that must come along with the technology. On the flip side, many people I know who develop new technologies believe all they have to do is build a great tool and it will be successful. We have seen enough great tools fail to know this is not true. Look at absolutely every tool that Yahoo! purchased such as Delicious, Upcoming and Flickr. Great technologies that they thought would bring them social media success just because they enabled users to be social. But without ongoing innovation and a nurturing community manager, all of these great tools are disappearing. More recently RIM (Blackberry) purchased two of my favorite tools Gist and Tungle. Guess what…Gist is going, going gone.
Why does this happen? I am currently reading the book, A Whole New Mind, which does a good job explaining how our traditional celebration of left brain thinking (engineering, number crunching, logic, SAT stuff) is starting to lose some of its spark as we are starting to realize that we have evolved to a point when beauty, empathy, and nurturing communications is required.
That is what social media requires for us to move forward; a desire to create, collaborate and connect. A desire to nurture our right brain in spite of the logic of our left brain. A desire that is strong enough to overcome fear.
Social Media has empowered many people to live a life that was not possible 10 years ago, myself included. It has also forced people to make changes they were not ready for and caused a lot of anxiety. And as we have all seen it has given power to voices who do not know how to appropriately use such power.
It is a messy, messy place, but it is not going away. I can only hope that we, as the human race, continue to evolve to a place where we can take advantage of the opportunities that were envisioned when these collaborative tools were created.
originally posted on Concept Hub
This past week I faced an interesting challenge that has helped me to confirm my belief that social media will impact every industry and every department within every industry.
Social Media has changed the face of marketing, not by introducing new channels for messaging but by introducing new technical capabilities that have enabled the fusion of multiple customer-facing disciplines, including;
Marketing+Sales = Relationship Marketing
Marketing+Customer Services = Customer Relationship Marketing
Marketing+Training = Educational Marketing
I consider these to be the 3 pillars of social media marketing because no matter your industry, these are the 3 disciplines that will impact your bottom line.
Last week I was contacted by the Reusable Industrial Packaging Association. They are hosting their annual conference in New Orleans and considering having a speaker to present how social media can help their business. Tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and such are now becoming mainstream words, but the exact “hows and whys” of these tools still tends to be a mystery to many people.
The people who will be attending this conference are executives of $5 – 40 million companies that are responsible for industrial reusable packaging such as oil drums. Now for several years, I have been saying social media impacts EVERY industry and EVERY department within every industry. But I have to admit, this one stumped me for a moment.
The companies represented at the conference will be:
- Have no or very little PR needs.
- Have no or very little reputation management concerns.
- Have no or very little concern about protecting their intellectual property.
- Are not necessarily trying to grow their client base.
So why would they need to consider looking at social media for their business?
The more questions I asked the more I learned about how their businesses are family owned and rely on their strong relationships with their clients.
I also learned the importance of efficiency and how it is tied to customer service.
Customer Service Marketing
Beyond that I learned that to have a container, not in use is kind of like having a hotel room or plane seat not in use; it is not generating money and potentially even cost money. To put these containers in use it is important to keep “just in time” information published about what is available and the costs and benefits of the containers that are available as well as be ready to respond to changing needs.
I explained that tools such as Twitter and Facebook may or may not be what these companies are looking for, but the capabilities of these tools definitely need to be taken into consideration. I explained that social software has the potential of revolutionizing industries such as theirs in much the same way the Just In Time technologies revolutionized similar industries over a decade ago. Together we began to explore the possibilities of illustrating how these companies can become more profitable by becoming more efficient and by communicating information in ways that help their clients become more profitable.
Once again I confirmed, at least to myself, that social media will impact every industry and every department within every industry. I will be delving in to understand the impacts more as I put my presentation together that I will be delivering to the Reusable Industrial Packaging Association annual conference in New Orleans.
originally posted on Concept Hub
I really only have one good fish story. I was 11 years old and my native American Step-Grandfather took me to a pond to fish using a cane pole. I actually caught something. I did not know what, but it was big. Too big to pull it out the way my grandfather was trying to show me. So I flung the cane pole over my shoulder and started running up the hill. Behind me was a big ol’ Bass flapping as it was being dragged up the hill. Behind the bass was my Grandfather rolling on the ground laughing.
So, if I am not much into fishing, what is up with the title of this post?
I am working with a client on a very ambitious social networking project. We have done all kinds of research from evaluating the current landscape of relevant online networks to multiple focus group meetings. Today as I began laying out the plans to launch our first online outreach program I sent my client a question to clarify our direction. Her response was that we need to “fish where the fish are.” That one cliche’ started me thinking about what a great analogy that is for many social networking sites.
Recently I was having a conversation with someone about the challenges of launching what seems like ‘yet another social networking site.’ People are on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the many other various sites that keep popping up. Creating just another site would simply be adding to the noise.
This is true if that site is not offering anything of value that is not being offered somewhere else or is only created to be self-serving. So staying with the fishing analogy, the first thing you need to do is know what kind of fish you want to catch. The second thing you need to do is learn their behaviors, likes, and dislikes. What kind of fishing lures do you need? What is the best bait to use? You also need to know if they feed in the morning, afternoon, or at night.
Finally, you need to know if they swim in schools, at the bottom of the deep end or in shallow water. Are they in salt water or fresh water? Imagine someone trying to seriously fish and all they do is take a cane pole to a pond with a bit of bread and cast it out in the middle of the afternoon. That is equivalent to what many social networking efforts look like. Yes sometimes they might catch the big bass, but if that wasn’t what they were fishing for, they might just have to throw it back. The moral of the story is before launching into your social networking efforts, know your audience and their behaviors, know what they are hungry for, and then go fish where the fish are.
originally posted in Concept Hub
I have participated in several strategy meetings related to building a successful social networking site. In those meetings there always seems to be the same common disconnect, which boils down to the purpose of having a social networking site.
I have heard ideas that to build a social networking community we need to drive traffic. The idea is that if we get X number of visitors to the site then Y number will add content.
I have heard that theory but when put into practice I have not seen it work. Why?
Again, it is about the purpose of the social networking site.
When the Internet became a common communication channel for businesses, websites were equivalent to billboards. The goal was to drive traffic, ideally relevant traffic that would respond with the appropriate action. So the equivalent is related to driving down I-75 on your way to Disney World and you see the sign that tells you to exit now for discount tickets.
That is what a website is, a billboard. We are driving around on the world wide web with a specific destination or purpose in mind and we are directed to the most relevant sites.
Social Networks are more like the local pub.
You jump online to socialize, to connect with your peers, to start or join a dialog. Sure you need to let people know that your local pub is there, but you need to do so in a much more strategic way than a billboard. This is not a mainstream restaurant like Chili’s, this is the local pub. People are not coming here for a meal, they are coming here to socialize.
So you attract people by starting with the people you know, those who care about you and those who like hanging out with you. You give them reasons to invite their friends. You join their other networks and learn what topics of conversation are hot and you create opportunities to explore those topics at your site.
After a while, your friend’s friends are inviting their friends to your site and you are tasked with tending the bar full time. People passing by join in because they want to know what all the hype is about. When they come to the site they find conversations, debates, and friends sharing stories.
Remember Facebook was started by one college kid connecting with just his circle of friends.
You will know your site is a success, not by how many people are passing by, or by how many people have contributed content, but by how many regulars that are hanging out and inviting their friends.
The point is websites will always have their place. Social networks should not replace the standard information and transactional website. Social networks have a different role in online communications, whether it is a B2C local pub or a B2B Exclusive club. Either way, you will not build your community by focusing only on getting traffic to the site.