It’s Time for CEO’s to Get Social

April 9, 2013

Some CEO’s just ‘get it’ while others don’t seem to bother. We’re talking about social media, which seems to either be fully embraced by some companies while shunned by others as something that “doesn’t work for us”. If you are trying to get your CEO or company execs to embrace social media the following infographic by MBAOnline.com should help.

 

the social ceo infographic

The Social CEO, via MBAOnline.com

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Ten Tips On How To Promote Your Website Through Content

May 1, 2012

Note: This is a guest post by David Tully. See his bio at the end.

Image by mdurwin2 via Flickr

The emphasis on creating quality content has increased markedly since Google put the hammer down on many old tried and tested SEO tactics. Below I have listed 10 tips on how you can promote your website through content.

1. Offer How to Guides/Whitepapers/Analysis – Good first hand analysis or guides in relation to the niche you are in can really help boost visitor numbers to your website. You are giving valuable, relevant information which they will appreciate.

2. Utilizing personas – Always write content from the perspective of the intended reader. Questions that a reader may have such as “why is this information useful?” and “what benefits are there to me?” should be in your mind when writing content so as to hook the reader in.

3. Understand what works and what doesn’t – Get a form of site analytics set up on your site to assess what type of content works. You may find that a particular type of blog post does a lot better than others.  Optimizing content in this way can help rank better as more of your content is shared and read by web users.

4. Incorporate user feedback – The more interactivity you have with readers the better. If someone asks you a question of Facebook, Twitter or in blog comments, it is a good idea to create some content about it as it is more likely than that others within your niche market have the same question.

5. Regular posting – Many websites fall down on this last point. People will come to your site often for fresh content, if you don’t provide it, your audience will cease visiting. Google will also see the lack of fresh content and rank your far lower.

6. Repurpose content into different forms – If you have had a very popular blog post, there is every possibility that the content will do well if you repurpose it as a video, podcast or infographic. Each form may reach a slightly different audience helping to boost your website.

7. Social media promotion – The most important aspect for promoting your site through content. Google ranks websites depending on indicators from social media. In addition, the more something is shared on Facebook or retweeted on Twitter, the more site visitors you will have. Creating content which is more likely to be shared is therefore crucial.

8. Share your content on PDF sharing websites – PDF sharing websites such as DocStoc and SlideShare always rank highly in Google. If you have a great piece of content and want it spread as widely as possible, create a PDF file and share it on these websites.

9. Content Curation – Curating content is becoming ever more popular in marketing online. Basically, you are sharing quality content and adding your own take on stories or issues within your market. As long as you link back to your original source, this is an excellent way of using content to help improve site numbers.

10. Use of video – Some niches are not very interesting and when marketing your website, getting the message across in an inventive video can really make a difference. It has a greater possibility of going viral and helping your site.

 

About the Author:

David Tully has written many articles on content marketing and is currently a regular contributor to content marketing strategy website Bright Authority.


What Makes Ads Go Viral?

April 16, 2012

Face Masks, Japan By shibuya246 via FlickrLooking for a recipe to get your new video to go viral? In a recent Harvard Business Review article “The New Science of Viral Ads”, assistant professor Thales Teixeira from HBS outlines the ingredients you will need:

1. Utilize “Brand Pulsing”: weave your brand throughout the ad instead of placing it front and center. Example is the “Happiness Factory” video for Coca-Cola.

2. Create joy, or surprise right away: keeping viewers involved is key to get your video watched, so you have to use both joy (hey, this is funny) and surprise (wow!). Example is Bud Light’s “Swear Jar”.

3. Build an emotional roller coaster: people are most likely to keep watching if they experience emotional ups and downs.

4. Surprise but don’t shock: this is where you’ve got to be careful not to push the video too far… some surprise is good, but shocking may diminish the virality effect (nude people in the video makes it unlikely to be shared with office co-workers).

5. Target viewers who will share the ad: sounds obvious but is more difficult than you imagine. Is hard to target viewers based on their personality, but different types of personalities (extroverted vs. introverted) are a key ingredient in ensuring the video will get shared. Some people share it for ‘status’, or to rank up higher in social media circles, or to be seen as savvy in a subject.

The Science Behind Viral Videos

Interesting that the experiments Prof. Teixeira conducted made use of some high tech equipment. They setup infrared eye-tracking scanners so that they could determine where people were looking when the ads played and they used a system that analyzes facial expressions and were able to determine, based on slight changes on their facial muscles (this reminded me of micro-expressions and the Lie To Me series) what emotion they were experiencing.

HBR Viral Video Experiment

High tech gear monitored users as they watched videos

It’s All About The Content.. or Is It?

Interesting that four out of five key ingredients in the study deal directly with the content of your ad or video. You shouldn’t, however, discount the last factor of who you are sending that video to because as the article explains, if people don’t share your video… it won’t go viral (duh!). What good is creating great content if the reader is not willing to share? 

Makes you think not only about how to structure your content creation strategy but also how to plan for your content distribution.

The Videos

Here are the videos mentioned in the article:

“Brand Pulsing” example: Coca-Cola Happiness Factory

“Open with Joy” example: Mr. Bean

“Roller Coaster” example: Bud Light Swear Jar

“Surprise but don’t shock” example: Bud Light Clothing Drive

Using all ingredients example: Evian Roller Babies


The Danger of Automatic Feeds in Social Media

January 31, 2012

Note: This is a guest post by Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North. See Brad’s bio at the end of the article.

Participating in social media is time consuming, so it’s only natural that people look for shortcuts. However, some shortcuts become disastrous detours, and this is often what happens when a company relies on automation for significant portions of its social updating.

Automatic feeds come in two flavors. Fully automatic feeds publish to a social media platform without any human intervention. An example of this is setting up your Twitter updates to automatically feed into your Facebook company page.  Semi-automatic feeds require intervention. For example, my HootSuite social media interface allows me to publish the same message simultaneously on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and soon, Google+.

Why to Avoid Automatic Feeds

The catch is, while automation is tempting for publishers, it is often annoying to readers. The following three consequences of overfeeding are why you should avoid automation, or at the very least use it judiciously.

1. Stream clogging. Automation encourages publishers to over communicate. If you overload any given platform with updates, your connections will either mentally tune you out, or physically tune you out by removing you from their stream (think Facebook) or disconnecting from you altogether (think Twitter). Most social platforms enable users to finely tune and personalize their incoming content, dooming any type of mass merchandising effort. And even though you can’t stop your mail to prevent junk mail, social media users can and do stop messaging they regard as spam.

2.Redundancy. Publishers sometimes lose sight of how many of their connections frequent multiple platforms. When I see the same update on three platforms, I remember it, but not in a good way. My assumption is the sender either doesn’t understand me or doesn’t mind bombarding me. Either way, the sender is not inspiring me to interact or do business.

3. Inappropriate style. The composition of a tweet, which is limited to 140 characters, does not lend itself to doubling as an effective Facebook post. Conversely, updates from other networks feeding into Twitter may be severely truncated, rendering them cryptic or entirely incomprehensible. Each platform has its own stylistic conventions that encourage conversation and action. Ignoring them only renders your social media activity less effective.

How to Avoid Automatic Feeds

Why do companies use this sort of indiscriminate messaging? Besides the convenience factor, I believe many companies simply don’t have a clear and distinct communication strategy for each social platforms on which they engage.

For example, a B2C firm might use …

  • Twitter to announce daily Twitter-only promotions
  • Facebook as a place for customers to upload photos of themselves using the product
  • LinkedIn for business updates relevant to employees and stakeholders

A B2B firm might use …

  • Twitter to distribute industry news and analysis highly relevant to its customer base
  • Facebook to provide in-depth information on its products and solicit feedback
  • LinkedIn as a recruiting channel

You’ll notice that each example necessitates targeting a particular audience segment and then theming the message to appeal to that segment.

Putting a purpose behind social communication not only eliminates the temptation to use automatic feeds, it allows companies to give audience segments a clear and persuasive reason to connect and much more important, stay connected and engaged. A constant barrage of thematically unconnected updates might accomplish the former, but never the latter.

Any business in social media for the long haul needs a strategy that employs something other than convenience as the linchpin.

 

About the author:

 Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, an Internet marketing, Chicago-based agency. They specialize in niche, middle market B2B industries such as flame resistant apparel and thermoplastic injection molding. Follow @bradshorr on Twitter for non-automated discussion of all things marketing.


Listening to Your Customers In the Digital Age

January 19, 2012

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new” – Steve Jobs

What do customers want?

Let’s do a focus group and find out. This tried-and-true approach to innovation leading to brand extensions, new product categories, and new marketing approaches has and continues to be used as a cornerstone of market research efforts.

In an interesting BusinessWeek article dating back to 2005, titled “Shoot the Focus Group”, the author states that although there are plenty of examples and ample evidence that Focus Groups fail time and again, companies keep using them.

“The old-fashioned focus group still has its believers even with fiascoes like Pepsi Edge and a decades-long new-product failure rate of about 90%.” – BusinessWeek

You probably know the famous examples of the failure of Chrysler’s Aztek car and the surprising success of PT Cruiser, Coca Cola’s “New Coke”, Ford Edsel, and plenty of others horror stories of focus groups gone wrong.

And why is that? I like Gerald Zaltman’s explanation that “The correlation between stated intent and actual behavior is usually low and negative” which also reminds me of an episode of Mad Men where Don Draper chastises a hired researcher to do a focus group for one of their clients, see below.

Excerpt from Mad Men, Season 4. “The Rejected”.

Faye: Well, I’ve done everything but finish the report.

Don: How’d we do?

Faye: Well, it turns out the hypothesis was rejected. I’d recommend a strategy that links pond’s cold cream to matrimony– a veiled promise.

Don: Hello, 1925. I’m not gonna do that, so what are we gonna tell the client?

Faye: I can’t change the truth.

Don: How do you know that’s the truth? A new idea is something they don’t know yet, so of course it’s not gonna come up as an option. Put my campaign on tv for a year, then hold your group again, maybe it’ll show up.

Faye: Well, I tried everything. I said “routine”, I tried “ritual”… all they care about is a husband. You were there. I’ll show you the transcripts.

Don: You can’t tell how people are going to behave based on how they have behaved.

So, what’s the problem with focus groups?

In a Harvard Business Review article, Turn Customer Input into Innovation, Anthony Ulwick says “companies go about listening to customers all wrong”. Customers are asked to offer a solution to a problem but they aren’t informed enough, aren’t experts in the field and have a limited frame of reference.

“The problem, when there is one, is simple: Companies ask their customers what they want.” – Anthony Ulwick

The solution, according to Ulwick, is to focus on outcomes. This means that instead of asking for customers to submit solutions to a particular problem, they should focus on understanding what customers value most.

Leveraging Social Media for Market Research

But how about using social media? I strongly believe that traditional marketing tactics can be greatly enhanced by using digital tools and when it comes to market research, social media channels should be top of mind. That includes paying attention to comments on your blog, using your Facebook Fan Base to test new ideas, monitoring Twitter feeds, and more.

“I’ll take the status update that someone wrote from the couch in the comfort of their own home as more accurate than the comment they made in a focus group room when they are given a $100 gift card to show up.” – Mike Volpe, CMO at HubSpot

Whether social media will replace traditional market research is up to debate, the active use of social media to complement market research can dramatically improve a company’s success ratio for new product launches and maybe take away some of that bad rap focus groups have.

Additional Reading

Here are some interesting articles if you’d like to dig deeper into this topic:

Note: Mad Men is Copyright of American Movie Classics Company LLC.


How Viral Marketing Can Kill You

July 13, 2011

Flu Shots Sign picture from Confluence! by smilla4 @ FlickrViral Marketing, or the spread of ideas (also called Word of Mouth Marketing) is usually thought of as a good thing. You create a video or a campaign and everyone starts talking about it. You go home happy and maybe even get a promotion. But sometimes the “viral” element more closely resembles the bad kind, the on that kicks you in the teeth and puts you out in bed for a week.

Scott Stratton, author of “UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging.” tells in his book a personal account of how a viral marketing campaign went wrong. It is the best example I’ve seen so far of a)someone owning to his mistakes, and b)a marketing idea backfiring really bad.

The Start of a Good Idea

As Scott tells in his book, he was into motivational speaking and decided to put out a short video (this was in 2004, way before YouTube became the default video sharing site) in his website. It was really a rotating slide show with background music and some inspiring text on top, nothing fancy but was well done. You can watch it at www.thetimemovie.com.

His intent was to get people to watch the video, and contact him for a speaking engagement. Did he get what he wanted? Well, yes and no. He did get over 4 million views (yes, 4 million!) but… things didn’t necessarily work according to plan. Here’s why.

Breaking the Bank

After creating and uploading the video to his server, which was just a regular ISP that hosted his site, Scott emailed a couple hundred people from his list about it. Emails started coming back saying they were getting a “Page not found” error. Oops, what’s wrong? Well, his server had a monthly bandwidth limit, meaning only a certain number of hits to the page and downloads were allowed based on the plan he had at the time. That meant people were going to his site and because he had already exceeded his monthly allotted bandwidth, the server was denying visitors the video!

As he called the ISP and asked them to remove the bandwidth limit, the video went back online and people starting watching it. In droves. He got a $1,400 bill (a bit more than the typical $9 per month he had before the video went up) due to the hundreds of thousands hits he was getting on his video page. And that was just for that last week of the month! Ouch!

Engaging Viewers

Having put up a landing page to capture people’s email addresses was a good idea, but a friend pointed out that it was too confusing, there was just too much about him on the page and no clear call to action. With a quick redesign, he increased conversion from 8% to 24% and started amassing 4,000 new emails per day that he would later use for his newsletter.

Trying to avoid even more expenses (the scar left from the monthly hosting bill was still visible) Scott then decided against using an ESP (email service provider) and went ahead to email his newly acquired list using Outlook Express. Yup, not the full featured MS Outlook businesses use via an Exchange server, but the stripped down consumer version that used to come free with every new MS Office installation.

The process was simple, but time consuming. He would download the new emails captured by the landing page (19 hours downloads) and manually cut and paste each one into the email client. Out of frustration he deleted 140,000 email addresses. In the first couple weeks.

After also playing with free open source scripts to help get the email addresses imported into his email client, and not being able to do so, Scott caved in and went with Aweber, an email service provider which made the job of getting emails and sending out newsletters much easier.

Successful Failure?

There are those who would love to win the lottery, and those who actually play it. That’s what this next episode of his viral marketing gone wrong reminds me of. Scott was trying to get speaking engagements and created a great video that went viral. The problem is that he never actually believed, or was prepared, for the number of speaker kits he received. Back in ’04 when you wanted to screen someone prior to offering an speaking engagement, you would ask for  a “speaker kit”, which consisted of a resume, pictures, and tape reel showing snippets of that person actually giving a talk.

So after two weeks of the movie going live, 50 requests came in. How many speaker kits did Scott have prepared for the eventuality? Zero. And he was personally doing every speaker kit himself (printing, making copies, punching holes, and mailing). About 785 speaker requests came in before he was able to work out a good process to fulfill them properly. Requests for one of his “Relaxation on Demand” CDs were so many he had to refund people’s money because he couldn’t have burned the CD’s (yes, he was doing it himself) on time… and people complained they just wanted the product!

So, in the end was it all a waste? I wouldn’t say so, since Scott was able to book over $100,000 in new business but he definitely lost some potential business. The worst that could have happened I guess is if his reputation had been ruined because of that, which didn’t happen.

A Viral Marketing Lesson

“Please learn from my pain” – Scott Stratten

What can we learn from Scott’s mistakes?

  • Define success: what do you consider success? How will you be able to tell whether your viral marketing campaign was successful? Define metrics that you’ll use to make sure you haven’t wasted your time or money.
  • Be prepared for the traffic: can your website, call center, sales reps, and other relevant operations handle the potential surge in traffic? Sure, today you have YouTube to host videos but make sure you have all pieces in place before you start the viral engine. You don’t want it to break as the user is clicking your “buy now” button or similar.
  • Collect and Engage: make sure you have a way to collect information from those interested in learning more about your products or services, and have a process that will make collecting such information easy on you. Tweak your landing page, and test different versions. Also have a plan for following up and keeping up the interest and dialogue.
  • Plan for the success, and for the failure: be prepared, and react fast. Whether your success is bigger than anticipated or the idea failed miserably, know how you will handle it and make sure your team (if you have one) is ready.

Failure stories abound on the Internet, I just had not seen such a detailed account of “I screwed up” from someone like Scott. For more info on his book, check out the link below.

P.S.: If you’re in San Francisco you should come to the San Francisco Marketing Book Club where we’ll be discussing UnMarketing during our upcoming meeting.

Amazon Link to UnMarketing

UnMarketing Book cover


The Rise of the Content Marketer

May 9, 2011

Content Needs a King in Marketing

Content Needs a King

I know I don’t have to argue the value of content to readers of this blog. If you are even remotely interested in marketing it is clear that the more the web has transformed the way we promote our products, the more firmly ‘content’ has planted itself as the center of our lives.

Besides the rise of social media as marketing channel, the emergence of marketing technology, more specifically Marketing Automation systems, in which you can configure the automated distribution of content to customers and prospects has been changing the way marketers see and create conent.

The power of marketing automation is the ability to target your marketing database with specific content based on their behavior and stage in the purchasing process. According to a recent report from Forrester Research titled “B2B Marketers Must Better Prepare for Marketing Automation” (get it from Marketo for free), marketers have to really focus their efforts on content creation if they are to succeed:

“If they only push this type of content out in campaigns, they push their audiences away, since business buyers have a low tolerance for commercial messages. When companies start to tailor content to different audiences and stages of the buying cycle, they greatly increase the amount of content, and the type of content needed changes”

Marketing Roles Are Evolving

Marketing used to have clearly defined roles. Marketing Directors and Managers on top, Marketing Coordinators, Marketing Specialists in the middle, followed by Copywriters, Designers, Web Masters, and more at the bottom. Add a few other roles such as events coordinator and more recently email marketing specialist and maybe even something related to social media and you have the hierarchical organization of 90% of marketing departments today.

With the change and addition of new marketing channels, marketers now see themselves more as content creators than anything else. Twitter feeds need updating, Facebook pages need commenting, blog posts need editing, and YouTube videos have to be tagged. All of this new material requires some form of marketing organization, or better yet, organization and support from the marketing team.

What used to be clear roles (i.e. the copywriter writes copy for the ad while the designer makes the ad look pretty), is now morphing into a free for all. Interns are ‘liking’ pages on facebook while the events coordinator is Tweeting about the trade show giveaway at their booth. Sales reps are sharing webinar recordings with prospects, the CEO is blogging his latest thoughts on the industry, the human resources manager is updating the company’s LinkedIn page.

Does it sound familiar? And scary? Yup!

A new role is starting to take shape. I first heard a term I think will become norm at the last Power of eMarketing Conference in San Francisco, during a panel discussion in which Chris Baggott, Compendium’s CEO, talked about the “Content Coordinator“.

The Content Coordinator

The Content Coordinator is basically the person on your marketing team responsible for coordinating content creation and distribution. Note that this person is not necessarily responsbile for creating the content per se, and in fact some will argue that content creation and copywriting are the same, but rather helping with maintaining a consistent message across all channels (content creation should actually be encouraged throughout the company and a good social media policy put in place).

How you think about what content is for your company will determine how big this role is. Think about:

  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Presentations
  • eBooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Sales Collateral
  • Blog Posts
  • Tweets
  • Facebook Comments/Likes/etc
  • LinkedIn (company page, discussions, etc.)
  • Website

And the list could go on a few more bullets. But you get the idea… content can be as simple or complex as you make it. The important thing is how consistent, or integrated your message and branding is across channels. And unless you have someone paying attention to it, you’re likely to lose the opportunity to influence people towards buying your product.

So while adding another person to your marketing budget may seem tricky at first, maybe you don’t have to hire an additional person (although for larger organizations that should definitely be the case). You could simply rework some job descriptions to free someone’s time to focus more on the whole content coordination aspect. This could be a good stepping stone for a promising young Marketing Coordinator, for example. The important thing is to make it official and empower this individual to really take charge of content inside your organization. This will save everyone (especially the Marketing Manager) a lot of time and avoid headaches down the road.

Larger organizations may even start thinking of a higher level role, of Chief Content Officer, created in order to plan, coordinate the execution, and report on content ROI.

Whether you decide to formally create this new marketing position or keep things the way they are for now, one thing is certain – your content is more king than ever. How you decide to work with it will determine whether you succeed or fail.


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