Developing Content for Today’s “Content Marketing” World

Today we have marketing channels not even imagined a decade ago.  It has brought us a whole new vernacular; we “Tweet” messages and count “Likes.”  We talk relentlessly about it being a content-driven world.  The styles and forms our content can take today really call for an organized way of creating the message and properly disseminating it to your audience, at the proper time.

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Where to begin on content?  From the beginning is usually the best choice.  Here is a step by step guide to creating content that works:

Start by defining your audience.  Describe who they are.  Find out what they are reacting to now.  What content seems to matter to them?  What’s the answer to the age-old question “what keeps them awake at night?”  This way you can come up with topics that you know will resonate with your audience.

Determine how you will reach your audience.  Where does your audience go for information?  Will Twitter be an effective way to reach them, or might LinkedIn be better?  Does your audience embrace Facebook or might a blog be a better vehicle.  What is your off-line promotional strategy? Don’t assume you’ll just blast your message all over the place, be targeted and use each communication vehicles’ strengths.

Match content length to the tasks.  Each of the marketing channels you have available to you have different norms as to the length of message that can be effectively delivers.  Twitter has their 140 character limit, but you can also send along a link to longer content.  Blogs have an established norm of around 500 words.  White papers run thousand of words.  These vehicles deliver different things sought at different times during the sales cycle.

Be aware of the sales cycle.  Different content is needed by potential buyers at different times in the buying cycle.  There is the early stage when the prospects are educating themselves, the middle stages where they are evaluating options and the later stage when they are looking to justify a potential decision.   Content therefore, should speak to one of these stages and be offered when the prospect is in that stage of the process.

Commit to the long term.  Content marketing is not a one-time promotion; it’s a long term way of doing business.  It takes time to develop an audience, hone your content and learn to distribute it.  It’s also good to ask the audience now and then, to make sure you are hitting the mark.  It does not happen overnight.

“Content marketing” has become the marketing buzzword of 2013; we’re all trying to figure it out and apply it to our worlds.  Recognize that we evolved to where we are today; there we no overnight revolutions on the way.  Content is still content, it’s just operating in a more complex world. There are also different expectations from the audience.  If you recognize all of this and can apply it in an organized way, you’ll soon be a content marketing expert.

What has been your biggest challenge moving to “content marketing?”  Where are you in that process?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Start Treating Your Content Like Gold Now!

Content has been a big topic the last few years.  It seems every time you see a survey of the things that CMOs are concerned about, producing enough quality content is usually their number one concern. We even have a style of marketing now called “content marketing,” which of course doesn’t actually market content, it uses content to market other products.  Are you following this?

Content is Gold

Content is the fuel that makes today’s marketing work.  Simple as that may sound, not everyone has swallowed the Kool-Aid yet.  Can you do quality marketing without quality content?  Perhaps.  There are some businesses that are not in the stage of the market that content earns it’s keep.  Some products don’t really lend themselves to the written word; others fail in diagrams.  All is not created equal.

So to help you understand the landscape, here are 5 important points to contemplate:

You can calculate and communicate the exact value of your content.  You can learn in pretty good detail exactly what kinds of content resonate with your audience.  Especially if you hold some other variables constant (audience, medium) while you vary the content.

You can pass content as value to your channel partners.  Everyone wants and can use quality content.  Especially your channel partners.  It used to be that channel partners would look to their vendors for MDF or “leads” and while money still talks, compelling content that supports the marketing effort benefits everyone.

Use different content for the top and bottom of the funnel.  It’s best to use broad subjects and provocative subjects to entice people to enter your funnel where you can educate and nurture them.  Bottom of funnel content will be more product based; reviews, case studies, technical white papers.

Content can be reused.  I know it’s crazy to overstate the obvious, but quality content can be used in much more than one was.  Snippets of a white paper make blog posts; a reworking of a brief can make a contributed article.  Some folks are absolute artists at doing this.  Find one for yourself and stretch your content!

You buy it once, it pays many times.  This is my favorite. Having quality content is a bit like having money in the bank.  You can use it to make money in a campaign, you can use it to make our channel partners smile, you can use it in your PR on your website and in your emails.  And you only have to buy it once!  The inventory that never depletes.

Today’s marketing not only  requires the ability to find, write or purchase content that gets the most out of your campaigns.  It also requires a knack in actually using that content..

How does your content stack up?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

8 Secrets to Becoming a LinkedIn Group Star!

It’s kind of an understatement to say that LinkedIn groups have become popular: there are over 1.9 million of them.  They cover (obviously) a wide range of topics.  The best ones are thriving communities where industry professionals interact with one another and share valuable ideas and insights from their professional worlds.

LinkedIn Groups

For some an online community such as LinkedIn can be ominous to the point of non-participation.  This means missing out on the valuable connections and learning that LinkedIn Groups have to offer.  LinkedIn is much more than an online resume site and the groups are a major part of the community.

So here are some hints you can use to get more out of your LinkedIn Group experience:

  1. Join groups that match your interests.  With 1.9 million groups there a good chance you will find a group that matches your interests exactly.  Search out those groups.  If there are several groups in your topic area, try them a few at a time.  Leave groups that do not keep your interest.
  2. Not all groups are created equal.  You may join some groups to keep in touch with college or company alumni or to get updates from a specific organization.  Not every group requires frequent interaction; the LinkedIn tools allow you to choose the frequency of interaction.
  3. Watch a group’s behavior before posting.  You’ll want to fit it, not stand out, at least at first.  Watch the tone and style of posts and comments, etc.  See what kinds of topics get commented on most often.
  4. Stay on the topic of the group.  The best groups do not approve posts that are not of specific interest to the group members.  The closer you stay to home with your post topics, the more often you will be approved and the more often group members will comment on your posts.
  5. Do not “self-promote” Unless the group was specifically created to post your home carpet cleaning business or your catering success, you should not be sharing it.  You should post things that will be interesting to other readers.
  6. Bring new information to the group.  Find and post articles that bring new ideas to the group, don’t rehash the same old topics.  You also want to look like a thought leader and by posting articles about new concepts and up-to-date marketing techniques, etc., will help you get there.
  7. Post insightful comments.  The writer certainly enjoys the “Great post, Bob” comments, but the whole community on the group enjoys a well thought addition to the discussion.
  8. Focus on creating and participating discussions.  The best contributions are those that promote interaction and discussion between group members.  It’s a beautiful thing when it works.  You should look for these discussions and get involved.  When creating a discussion, ask questions that are food for thought, make it easy for people to comment.

LinkedIn is here to stay and offers each of us an opportunity to promote our personal brand and grow our networks and the LinkedIn groups are central to that.  Each of us should spend some time learning to get the best from the LinkedIn community.  The effort pays off!

Have you gained from the LinkedIn groups?  What are the topics you like to see?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

The Top 4 Reasons CEOs Don’t Get Social Media

Social media is no longer something new.  It’s not the cool thing we all should look into any more.  It’s a live, breathing world where fortunes have been made and marketing professionals have been focused. Small companies have become large companies based on the strength of their social media reach.  Even Mom and Pop restaurants know the importance and power of social media.

Why is it then, that CEOs and other smart industry leaders often totally miss the facts?  Completely oblivious to the trends going on around them.  Yes, they know it’s happening, they just think it has no relation to their business or they recognize the importance, have “put their best people on it,” but don’t understand any of it from a personal level.  Social media is in fact “for somebody else.”

5 Reasons CEOs Don't Use Social Media

CEO.com and Domo conduct research annually on Fortune 500 CEOs and where they sit on social media.  This year’s report shows an interesting state of affairs.   Here are some findings from the report, as well as descriptions of some other forces involved.

  1. Most Fortune 500 CEOs do not have a single social media presence.  Yup, you read that right.  In this example “most” is 68% as in two-thirds.  It’s real hard to understand social media if you do not participate in any way. If  a company used television advertising, the execs would watch television, wouldn’t they?  Kind of shows how important social is to them.  After all is it quite easy and simple to, for example, sign up for twitter, get an app for your phone, follow a few folks you know and like.
  2. Of the CEOs that are engaged, most are only on LinkedIn.  The CEO.com/Domo report found that 2/3 of them are on one network only and 74% are on LinkedIn.  Now that’s good in the sense that it is an excellent social network that a CEO could find useful, etc.  It’s not a full view of social media, however.
  3. These trends trickle down.  In smaller companies, my impression is that age is a better determinant of social engagement company size.  In the CEO.com study, there is obviously a lack of younger folks in the sample.  (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the only F500 CEO on all five major social networks.)  While there are certainly companies headed up by 20-somethings; it’s just not the norm.
  4. Social networks are a challenge for anyone trained traditionally.  The way you extract value form a market via traditional “interruption marketing” tools is much different in today’s “in-bound marketing” world where companies seek to educate the target market and bring valuable tools and content.   I’ve also noticed that the more traditional among us (a group over-represented at the top of all size companies) are not comfortable with the lack of in-your-face “Buy Now!” signals in social media.

I guess it isn’t that this is this particular state of affairs that is the bad news.  No, the bad news is that it’s not changing very fast and is not likely to anytime soon.

What is your CEO’s level of knowledge on social media?  Is it an active part of their personal brand?

 

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

How to Keep Your Content Short!

There is a study recently released from Pardot that covers a number of content related issues.  One of the most reported, retweeted and rehashed findings from the study was that 70% of the 400 B2B buyers in the survey thought that content should be less than 5 pages. Frankly, I am kind of surprised that anyone is surprised. If we could get the same information in 1 or 2 pages, why would we want 5?

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Some of the popular social media tools have us looking at ways to spread more gospel with less characters. There is a whole science of distilling your message down to the right number of words or characters for different media. These are all good trends taken from the tactics newspaper writers have used for years.

But it’s not just Tweets and Facebook postings that could use an eye toward brevity; nearly all our communications can benefit from the trend. I went to a business school that had an across-the-board maximum size for all written assignments. The theory was, if you can’t distill it down to a page or page and a half, then no one will ever read or understand it. The training served me well!

Here are then, some tips to keep your writing short, sweet and to the point!

  • Start with an outline.  It seems obvious but if you start by distilling your message down to three points, communicating the three points in a concise fashion now becomes an easier task. This works for blogs like this one all the way to voice mails. Detail the things that must be communicated and start from there.
  • Decide on the tone of the communications.  Determine the level of background to be presented along with the main points. Make it the same for all points. Don’t go in to great depth on the first point and less and less for each one.  How deep you can go will be determined by the overall length of your piece and the number of points you must make.
  • Use visual tools.  You can make a shorter communication more clear with bullets, numbering and the like. These tools make it easier for the brain to absorb the content.  Pictures, chart and graphs also make the data easier to embrace. New content choices like “infographics” have taken the task even further by providing tools that are not limited to just words on a white background.
  • Remove unnecessary words.  The old litmus test was that if the sentence/paragraph meant the same if you removed a given word, then the word should be removed. Many communications can benefit from this type of review and end up shorter with no loss of clarity.

One of the good things is that there is much good content in the world that you can look at and emulate to make your content even better. Note the way others get to the point quickly and completely without a lot of extra words. This style of writing gets read and gets the message across.  Adapt the style as your own!

Have you ever tried to reduce the size of your content? What techniques have you used?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

The 5 Biggest Social Media Mistakes Companies Make

Social media.  Much had been written, everyone is talking about it.  Everyone wants to know what you are doing in it.  Still many folks do not understand the process.  But that doesn’t stop some companies from jumping in anyway.  However, that might not be the best strategy.

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Executing a social media strategy that makes a difference takes thought, planning and consistent execution.  In social media many companies feel the pressure to be involved and jump in before they have really thought it through.  They end up making one or more of these easy-to-avoid mistakes:

  1. Starting without a plan.  A fairly common way for some companies to get started in social media is to sign up for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts and then “let’s see what happens.”  It’s also likely that almost nothing will happen and certainly the world won’t beat a path to your door to see what your next pearl of wisdom will be.  Social media is a crowded place and you need to carefully stake out your audience, your voice and your expertise.  It will not “just take off” on its own.
  2. Not knowing the audience.   Social media platforms are excellent places to find and grow an audience for what you have to say.  However, your content must be relevant to the audience to get noticed.  You’ll attract different audiences based on how your position your social media accounts and by the content that you post.
  3. Broadcasting the same exact thing over all networks.One seemingly popular strategy is to join all the relevant social media platforms and then, send out the same exact news releases, at the same time, on all of the networks.  Since many in your audience will sign up for multiple social media networks, based on their favorites, you’ll be sending out redundant messages.  A more forward thinking strategy would be to give each network a different voice.  Concentrate on different things in different streams.  Grow different types of audiences.
  4. Mixing business with pleasure.  This tends to happen with small entrepreneurial companies where the owner uses the company’s Twitter account to tweet out personal opinions, comments on service at restaurants and the like.  Telling us you have a hangover is not a way to enhance your brand.  Keep this type of chatter on a personal account and not on anything associated with your brand.
  5. Losing interest over time.  Many companies start sending out all sorts of content through social media and after a few months have run out of ideas or the person who was doing all the activity left the company, etc.   Social media is no longer something you “try and see if it works.”  It works and your competitors are making it work.  If you begin a social media outreach the goal is to make it an asset to your business and a major boost in your branding.  “There is no try; there is only do.”

Social media is with us to stay.  It’s become a complex and interesting world where marketers have a chance to differentiate our brands and showcase innovative content.  Embrace it, understand it and make it happen.  You hopefully won’t make these mistakes!

Has your social media implementation had issues?  Did you make any of these mistakes?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

The 5 Most Important Trends in Business use of Social Media

Businesses have been flocking to social media now for several years and some important trends are emerging.  The research shows that not all social media is created equal.  Some tools are better suited than others and now that social media is beginning to mature, it’s fairly clear where the market is moving.

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In this year’s often-quoted survey of social media tools used by the Inc 500, shown in the graphic above, we see clearly that Facebook use by this group has fallen while LinkedIn use grew year over year.  Blogging is up and YouTube is down. These are not mirages; they are really happening.  Here are few reasons why these trends are happening and will continue to happen:

Trend #1: Use of Facebook is down 7%.  Facebook is a sometimes uncomfortable mix of business and pleasure and its use by the Inc 500 group is down.  Many Facebook users look upon the site as a place to interact with family and friends.  The folks in your network are indeed called “friends.”  Facebook is very sticky as we see what our friends are having for lunch or what exotic local they are visiting today.  It’s not a place, however, where we go for knowledge and enlightenment about the products we purchase.

Trend #2: LinkedIn use is up 8%.  LinkedIn was designed from day one as a business tool and it shows, as it has become the most popular tool with 81% of the Inc 500 using it.  As the online resume site, designed initially to replace your Rolodex and keep up with your contacts, LinkedIn is all about content and professional interests.  If you follow the latest trend toward “content marketing” especially in the business to business world, LinkedIn is uniquely situated to segment and deliver content to groups that are interested in that content.

Trend #3: YouTube use is down 15%.  Not all content translates well to video presentation, and YouTube experienced quite a drop in use.  We are all users of video, but the built-in time it takes to download and watch a video often exceeds the time we want to spend on the topic. We can easily scan an article or blog and quickly get the information we want.  We can’t do that with a video.  While there is always that potential viral upside to a a well-done video on YouTube,  more companies are bypassing it.

Trend #4: Blogging is up.  Quite a few more companies in the study are now publishing a blog, adding 7% in this survey to 44%.  It has been said that all companies need to be publishers; blogs are an easy and effective way to do that.  Blogs are usually a shorter form format that can be easily digested by the audience.  They are often written directly by subject matter experts and not product marketing committees.

Trend #5: Twitter remains steady.  Twitter is popular with the Inc 500 businesses and gained a little momentum year over year, rising 4%.  While celebrities remain the most followed group on Twitter, companies can also gain huge followings there and use this very powerful tool to communicate with that audience, take advantage of viral opportunities and receive feedback with their audience.   It has become standard to Tweet out links to other forms of content making this a well used tool.

Social media will for sure continue to evolve and change.  Some of today’s tools may be replaced by new tools, others will stand the test of time.  Our focus as marketers however, should be to use the most effective tools available and be aware of the changes taking place.

What trends have you had using social media in your business?  Which tool works best for you?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm