Tag Archives: content marketing

Why Your Budget Must Include Website Re-Investment

Yes, it is that time of the year. Sure the leaves are falling and nature reinforces her beauty, but I am not talking about that. It is budget season and everyone is looking at what they have done in the past year and tweaking allocation numbers.

But before you finalize your budget by simply modifying last year’s budget, you need to take a fresh look. What will truly yield growth of brand awareness, consideration, sale, loyalty, and advocacy? I’d expect website revitalization was not on last year’s budget. I will also bet that many say, “websites – oh that is so ‘90′s,” but I will tell you a “correctly designed” website is so 2020′s. Let’s explore why.

website reinvestment

First, let me state that I am very bullish on social marketing as a way to win over an audience and turn them into your most valued customers – advocates. But if we look at social media platforms today, we see that the platform evolution now hinders brand engagement with target audiences. Just look at Facebook. They have practically eliminated organic reach of brand postings. And you know just about all social platforms main objective is to optimize their own monetization. They also look to appeal to their audience. Not the brand’s audience. Social platform’s first concern is their success; not marketers success. Don’t be naive.

Second, I always state that marketers must have complete empathy for their target audience. Culture has been transformed by digital technologies. More people get information online (social networking, mobile, and the Internet) as a primary source. This consumer/client behavior means your website would be extremely compelling if it was a) dynamic with continuous content updates (posts), b) more interactive and social, and c) mobile ready.

The first step in revitalizing your website is to start thinking like a media company. Think about being the “Buzz Feed” for your brand category news, information, and entertainment. Produce original content regularly. Curate relevant content and include it on your website. Think about what it takes to be a resource for your audience such that they want to go to your website daily to get up-to-date information.

The next step in revitalizing your website is to make it more interactive and social. If we look at human behavior, we see that they do want to engage with brands. That is, if the brand makes it worth their while. Converse with your audience. Listen to your audiences needs and wants. Produce compelling content based on their input and comments. Build sustainable relationships. Facebook and other social networks have clamped your ability to engage. So bring that functionality to the digital platform you own and you control – your website. Consider building a community integrated within your website. True, you may not get as many subscribers as Facebook likes or Twitter followers, but certainly you will get individuals that want to remain engaged and are likely your best customers/clients.

At the same time, various social platforms do continue to be an important part of your marketing mix. They should be used to proliferate the content on your website. Additionally, paid media of social platforms is a very important budgetary consideration. The greatest value of paid media on social platforms is the ability to target specific demographics. I have seen paid media deliver very strong click through results (back to your website).

I hope it goes without saying that your website MUST be mobile ready. More and more people access the Internet via mobile device. Do you really want to eliminate access of your website to a majority of the population because you have not made the investment to make it mobile ready?

I have given you the three areas to focus on with regards to the revitalization of your website. Staying consistent in numerology, there are three reasons why website revitalization must be part of your 2015 budget:

1) Audience use of digital is not only ubiquitous but their individual use is very strong,
2) Your website is something you completely own and control … you do not have to worry about the usage rules being changed, and
3) Your website is likely the strongest digital source to monetize your brand.

Make sense? Can do?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under community, content marketing, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve, website

4 Tips for Winning Content

Most brands are challenged delivering compelling content continuously. They feel the pressure to come up with new content day-to-day or week-to-week. And when they do come up with posts, articles, photos, and videos, it often does not resonate with their audience.

So I have just one, most important tip for you, but it consists of 4 questions. As you develop your content strategy, plan, calendar, and execution ask yourself four questions. Find the intersection of the answers of all four to guide your content development.

Q1 – What are the interests of your audience? Independent of the product or service that you market and sell, understand the content that your audience is looking for and what they typical consume. For example, here is some data for content “moms” regularly look for and share …

content for moms (Source)

Q2 – How can I help? If you want to win your audience over, be as helpful as can be. Appeal to your audiences’ needs and desires with information and entertainment.

Q3 – What is relevant? Determine what the current and emerging trends are. What cultural events are happening? Oscar’s. Emmy’s. Grammy’s. Tony’s. Superbowl. World Series. George Clooney marriage … etc. Think about tying your content to something current that captures the interest of all.

Q4 – What is my brand position? Finally, we look at you, the brand. When you deliver content, you want that content to reinforce what your brand stands for. Not necessarily pushing a product, but rather support of your brand story.

Realize that you need to answer all the questions and find the intersection of all. Answering one and then developing content will not lead you to the correct destination.

content elements

Let me give you an example. Let’ say that you are a laundry detergent brand. (Pretty difficult to build a content strategy around laundry detergent, huh?) Consider the content moms care about – kids, vacations, pets. Consider how you can help your audience – laundry tips, time savings, “cramming it all in.” What is relevant – Halloween is just around the corner. What is your brand position – superior cleaning, environmentally friendly.

So a content idea is doing a story of Halloween 2014 where you provide ideas for kids’ costumes and suggestions for when your dog gets into the candy and has an “accident” on the laundry pile. Hopefully you get the idea. I intentionally picked a brand category that many would likely find difficult to develop content around. Heck, if compelling content can be developed for laundry detergent, you can certainly drive winning content around your brand.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Time to Rethink Social Media

As I shared with you a couple of weeks ago (and many others have covered) Facebook is changing the way it treats brand’s posts and their distribution (or lack thereof).

rethink socil media

Should anyone really be surprised? Does it not make sense to monetize the accomplishment of being the number one social network? Sure, you can get ticked off, but can you really blame Facebook.

And you know what … you should take some blame yourself. Does it really make sense to put the control and success in the hands of another platform? What has kept you from putting control and destiny in your own hands?

So if you agree that you need to keep control and manage your own destiny, this means that you, the brand, need to have your own platform. Here is what I mean by this …

Every brand should have its own “home court.” This means that brands should have a content repository where all their content is housed. This content repository should sit on the brand’s website. Often the content repository takes the form of a blog. Brands should not place their content on a platform that someone else controls. You should control this platform.

Now this does not mean that I think brands should not use social media, but the social channels should be used to proliferate content. Social media should also be used as an extended channel for brand engagement with their target audience. A brand should put together a content strategy for the owned digital asset (their website) and then think about using social media channels to distribute abstracts of the content such that digital traffic is driven to a platform they control.

When a brand builds success driving traffic to their website, the next step is to think about building a community there. About two years ago, I indicated “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.” Now some may say, why should I bother to build a community? Why would anyone come to my community when there is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others? Can I really get a crowd developed? Well, think about this. If you truly deliver content that is interesting, entertaining, and/or compelling, you will capture a crowd. And if you are worried about the size of your community, simply look at each individual as a potential ambassador of your brand spreading your content and brand value. Give them a reason why they would want to join your community. Even if you had a handful of ambassadors, that is a major accomplishment. Earlier this year, I provided a play book describing “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

I am certain there are some that will say they don’t have the resource or budget to do what I am suggesting. Heck, I’ve heard it from the companies I have worked for and clients I provide strategy and plans to. My answer to this is simply … if you truly care about your customers and potential customers you will find the budget. I say this not because this is the business I am in, but rather because the audience behavior demands it. I am a marketer first and foremost. I got into digital and social media because I followed the audience behavior.

And now new Facebook procedures demand change. Change that I recommended even a couple years back. Change that demands you keeping up and adapting your marketing skill set.

And needless to say, other social platforms will change. So here is the question … are you going to stay stagnant with your digital, social, and overall marketing? Or as the title suggests, isn’t it “Time to Rethink Social Media” and your whole digital approach. Audience behavior, technology, and platform operations demand you be adaptable. Don’t get comfortable. Put your seatbelt on and drive the course to success. If you expect a straight road you are fooling yourself.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Delivering the Content Your Audience Wants

When it comes to social marketing, there is only one response to the question, “what is the content your brand delivers to its audience?” The answer must be “the content they want.” Social marketing is not about delivering a marketing communication to push content on your audience.

And the second mistake most make in social marketing is thinking that their job is done when they acquire a high number of likes, followers, or fans. I like the way Nate Elliot puts it in his June, 2012 report “The ROI of Social Marketing” – “Fans have little innate value; it is what brands do with their followers – not merely that they have them – that creates value.” And this means delivering consistent value to those fans on their terms.

Lets talk about this through a case study of a leading consumer brand I recently looked at as an off-shot of some work I was doing. (Let’s just call them Brand-X)

Brand content reach and engagement

From the figure above, you are likely to think that the brand is performing well using Facebook to deliver content and capture strong reach and engagement. But when we look into real execution, things are not as pretty as they seem. First off, look at the peaks. While 500K people talking about this seems impressive it is less than 2% of the 27 million likes. It is also worth noting that the new product and service spikes came with paid sponsored posts. The content the audience reacted to most were celebrity video posts and a contest, and still, these posts reach less than 2% of the fans captured (which were likely via paid Facebook as well).

Once again, Nate Elliot expressed some interesting information. This month, the Ogilvy agency released data showing that the brand pages they manage reach just 6% of fans. For pages with more than 500,000 fans, Ogilvy says reach stands at just 2%.
Some have realized this for a bit, but were apprehensive to come out and say anything against the social media behemoth. Brands and agencies are now openly talking about their discontent. More and more brands are disillusioned with Facebook and are now placing their bets on other social sites — but few of them want to go on the record. In addition to poor Facebook measured results some see the biggest problem with Facebook is their constant rule changes.
But do not think for one second this does not mean that there is not a great value to brand social marketing. And I am not totally knocking Facebook either. But here are some points.

1) Facebook is extremely powerful when users (as opposed to brands) share the value of a product or service. Marketers may not need to focus on content distribution to Facebook, but certainly look to motivate their audience to share in all social channels.
2) Content marketing is extremely valuable. Brands need to get their marketing departments to evolve from traditional marketing communications to storytelling communication.
3) Compelling pictures and videos win audiences.
4) Think about numerous channels where content can be delivered to your users. (For example, I just did some research on a particular target audience for a brand and found out the targets were most active on Google+ and LinkedIn.)

When push comes to shove, pushing and shoving does not work in social media. Deliver compelling content YOUR AUDIENCE wants in the places that are likely to turn the best results. Think about having your own media repository and using social channels to distribute that content. Have others share it on social channels and be the place for conversations and engagement.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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The Content Development Plan Every Marketer Should Use

As I work with a number of brands, the most difficult challenge I see them having is grasping how to build a content calendar. So many seem overwhelmed by the idea of building out a plan for 90-day’s worth of content, yet alone an entire year.

I like to encourage building an entire year’s plan because that allows a budget and plan to be set for not only article production, but photos and videos as well. Now don’t get me wrong. Brands still need to work in the moment of current events and have their content reflect that, but certainly themed topics can be planned for one year going forward.

Before I give you an execution methodology for building a brand content calendar, I want to first share with you a couple of reinforcing facts with regards to why content marketing is so important … It is not hype. I read an article (complete with a great infographic) this week titled, “Why Our Brains Crave Storytelling in Marketing,” and there were two facts that solidify why content is such a vital part of brand marketing. First, 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like stories. Why not just give the audience stories that reinforce the intersection of brand and audience value. The second was that the brain processes images 60 times faster than words. Need any additional motivation for the need to produce pictures and videos?

So let’s get to the helpful part now … How to plan your content calendar. As always, all marketing strategy should start with a complete understanding of your target audience…. What are their wants, needs, interests? What are their digital behaviors. If you do not have access to specific research to gain this information, start Googling and you will find the definitions required. From this information, you want to determine content themes your audience is looking to be covered and social channels where they are active with brands. Consider about 6-10 themes and about 4-8 social channels.

You need to be customer-centric and the first step is always about understanding content that will resonate with them. But in the next step, you need to consider your brand, what you sell, what the value proposition is for customers, and your overall position. Use this information to sharpen your content themes, but make sure you are still planning to deliver content your audience is looking for, not corporate communication.

The last step in refining your content themes is to do some due diligence on your competition. Look at their site, blog, and social channels. Understand what content resonates strongest with their audience. Look at posts and determine what types yielded the most audience engagement.

Once you have your content themes narrowed down, determine the cadence for each topic. How many articles will you produce, photos taken, and videos to be made. When considering content cadence, remember visuals work best. Think about your audience’s attention span. You can likely keep them interested with a number of photos per week, a video a week, and an article or two. Think about which theme topics lend themselves best to article, picture and/or video. Consider ways to generate UGC (user generated content) for some of your content.

I like to take the information I described and create two spreadsheets to determine a brand content calendar. The first spreadsheet lists each theme, the cadence for production, and channels where the content will be seen, as shown in the diagram below.

Content Calendar 1

Use all channels as appropriate for each content piece. Notice that in some cases, the actual content will not be posted on a channel, but rather the social channel is used to reference the content piece and provide a reference link. This is often done with blog articles and referencing them on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

Once you have built out the Theme/Cadence/Channel Content Chart, add spreadsheet tabs for each channel determined to use. On each channel tab, build a one-year calendar. Next, go back to the Theme/Cadence/Channel Content Chart and copy a theme, look at the cadence specified, and paste that theme on the social channel chart per cadence specified. Do this for all themes and all social channels as shown below.

Content Calendar 2

Now you have a plan in place for content production. Not that you need to explicitly follow this calendar, but it gives plan activities for each week, each month. It allows you to pre-work content production. When executing, consider ad hoc changes driven by cultural changes, news, and brand industry specific events.

Don’t just wing your content production and posts. Your content production should be run much closer to the mentality of a media production company. When done this way, you will see a much greater audience following and engagement. Tell your audience great stories.

Make it Happen,
Social Steve

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Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community

The ultimate social marketing success is having a platform that stands out as the go to place for your target audience. If your product/service aims to capture an audience with special interests, you should consider a social strategy and plan that integrates content and community. Special interests groups could include fitness minded, wines enthusiasts, tech innovation, pet lovers, executive peer groups and many more.

CC1

As I have stated many times, content is the core of social. So brands should think of themselves as publishers. Every brand should have a digital platform where they produce and curate industry related content of great value to their target audience. Do not think of this as product or service literature. Produce content that addresses the needs and interests of people within your brand’s industry.

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Launch your own brand’s digital blog, magazine, or journal.

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Be committed to continuous production and updates so that your audience is inspired to keep on returning and builds strong affinity for your “Brand Digital Media” platform. You want to build a reputation as being the go to place for your industries information, insights, and entertainment.

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In order to accomplish a “go-to reputation” you should consider a number of different types of content, which include original content, curated content, and UGC (user generated content).

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As example, consider the slide below as the “BRAND Digital Media” content hub for your brand…

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Determine a finite set of topics you will cover. Use the navigation bar to list these topics and allow your audience to click through directly. Build frames to pop in various content types. Try to keep a set template for these content frames so you can condition your audience to access information they desire and know how to easily obtain it. Update at least one frame a day. Include social sharing and follow buttons.

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Once you have established a “BRAND Digital Media” platform, use your social channels to proliferate the content. Include content reference updates on these social channels.

And make sure you are tracking how well the BRAND Digital Media content hub is performing. Consider metrics as follows …

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Once you have built a successful BRAND Digital Media platform, now you are in the position to launch an industry community platform.

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Assuming you have an audience coming to your content hub for information, why not give that audience a place to engage with your brand and one and other.

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As people come to your BRAND Digital Media site for information, give an opportunity to sign up and sign in to your community.

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The BRAND Network is an extension of your BRAND Digital Media hub. It is a place for people to connect, converse, and network.

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While anyone can get content at the BRAND Digital Media site, only members can comment on content, engage with other users, set up meetings, and network with peers. For starters, consider the following BRAND Network feature set.

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The power of having your brand serve as an industry related community is that your brand delivers great value to the target audience. Strive to be the industry digital leading member’s forum. Avoid overt product push. Just aim to be an extremely valued industry information and networking source.

And like any other marketing effort, you need to track success metrics. Consider the following for your BRAND Network …

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So think about what you can do to deliver a BRAND Digital Media hub and BRAND Network. If you deliver stellar content and a networking platform your target will truly value your brand.

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Yes, building an industry leading content and community front takes much effort, time, resources, and budget. But do you want to be a recognized industry leader or is just being part of the pack good enough? If you want to be a leader, demonstrate leadership. Building the industry best BRAND Digital Media platform and BRAND Network demonstrates leadership.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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A Content Marketing Approach That Works

Content marketing seems to be the new buzz. Everywhere you turn, you see another piece of content on content marketing (pun intended). eMarketer reports that “59% of marketing professionals will increase [content marketing] efforts this year.” But content marketing is not a separate marketing effort. In fact, well over a year ago, I reported “Content Marketing / Social Marketing – You Can’t Have One Without the Other.”

And yet, companies continue to struggle with content marketing.

emarketer content marketing
(http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Content-Marketing-Struggle-Start-Finish/1010550)

The big problem is to know what content to deliver such that your target audience values what is delivered. When we think about content relevance, the main challenge is coming up with content that resonates directly with each individual within your vast target audience. It is hard to balance one-to-one marketing versus mass marketing. If you write content for the mass target audience, it likely will not resonate with any individual. Conversely, just about all companies cannot scale for production for one-to-one content marketing. So how do you solve this problem?

Let’s start by reviewing target audience dynamics.

customer audience

You want your content to appeal to that small group of ideal customers, but at the same time you want to attract a large enough audience to meet the required scale for business profitability. Look at the bulls eye as a metaphor. The challenge has been determining how far off the center circle you need to go to win the right number of customers while not watering down your content such that it is not compelling to the ideal customer.

Consider listening to the entire target audience mass. Understand what they are saying and segment the audience in subgroups based upon their behavior as determined by their conversations. Then produce and curate content that resonates with the segments and point those segments to the applicable content.

Let me give you an example … say you are marketing a fitness club.

fitness club target audience

The ideal customer is a fitness zealot. The largest group of the target audience would include anyone interested in looking good, feeling good, and/or losing weight. If we listen to the large mass of the target audience, we would likely learn the entire audience can be segmented in groups including a) health conscious, b) interested in losing weight, c) looking good is more of an issue than fitness and exercise, and d) an aging group wanting to stay fit. (Of course there are other possibilities, but this is just an example.) Thus, you would need to produce and curate content that appeals to those audience segments and reach out to them to share.

fitness club target audience segments

This approach solves the issue that mass content marketing does not resonate with individuals because the content is too generic for individual’s interests. (Please note that it is still important to have individual conversations with influencers of your target market … a different topic I have covered in the past.)

Net – net … as content marketing begins to get much greater attention, marketers are going to jump on the bandwagon, if they haven’t already. In any event, marketers should have a content strategy that works for their target audience. The content strategy should quantifiably increase your audience stickiness and advocacy, and attract new people as well.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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