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

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

Content is King in Today’s Marketing: 3 Easy Steps to Hail The King!

In the stone ages of marketing, savvy and educated consumer marketing professionals cranked out slogans, taglines and clever plays on words, then made them come to life on paper, radio and television and distributed them ad nauseam.  Their B2B counterparts crafted copy that detailed benefits and advantages galore, as if the potential buyer had no choice and would suffer great disappointment if their product was not purchased.  Very little of this content educated or excited the purchaser, but marketing departments produced it by the truckload.

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That world is gone.  Forever.  It didn’t even say goodbye. Today’s potential purchaser has mass quantities of information available and is not so easily fooled by clever but meaningless dribble.  Moreover, given today’s social media focused, smartphone engaged, constantly connected world, the consumer holds the power to accept or reject the content. They can unsubscribe your email list, unlike you on Facebook and stop following your Tweets.  With no consequence, no guilt and no warning.  The buyer had no such choice in the stone age of marketing.  But today’s buyers have these abilities and aren’t afraid to use them.

How then does the marketer avoid being “unliked?” The answer is quite simple. You have to say something that the buyer wanted to hear.  Something that they find interesting, that makes them think. Content that educates them, that is straightforward, honest and fair.  Content that is not blatant chest puffing or insulting to your competitors.

Now, just avoiding being “unfollowed” is not nearly enough.  Necessary, but not sufficient.  You must be noticed in an increasingly crowded space, where content is mixed between personal interests and the business-related.  Content falls victim to that constantly.  Most of us do not have time to read every tweet or Facebook posting.  Often only those that “jump out at us” get read.

How then to avoid these pitfalls?  I’ll suggest these three rules for pitfall avoidance:

  1. Know your audience.  Be up to date on the issues your customer is focused on.  Ask your audience for feedback on a regular basis.  Find out what their concerns are and help them solve those problems through your content, even if it’s not directly related to your product.
  2. Start with a content plan. Create educational content, not “in your face” marketing.  Respect the customer’s intelligence.  Deal with them in a straightforward manner.
  3. Be consistent.  Let the audience get to know you.  You’re in it for the long term.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

You can easily find examples of both good and bad content every day.  Look in your email and your Twitter feed.  Some get it; some don’t. Observe, learn and make your content the best it can be!

Do you have a content plan?  How would you rate your own content?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Facebook v LinkedIn for B2B Marketing. And the Winner is….

Facebook and LinkedIn have a lot in common. They are both well-known social media sites, they both had very famous IPOs and they both allow users to share about themselves while keeping up with the people in their networks. It’s also a fact that they are both working hard to monetize the huge social worlds that they have built.

Monetization for both of these social networks essentially means selling access to or data about the people in their networks. In a social-network acceptable way, of course. I’m betting both networks will figure it out, although there will be some bumps along the learning curve.

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Facebook seems to have garnered more headlines over the past few years and has many more users than does LinkedIn. Early on, Facebook was considered an innovative social town square while LinkedIn was an online resume site. Hype was heaped on Facebook, while LinkedIn silently gained traction.

For business to business marketing, LinkedIn is the clear winner. They have steadily evolved their tools and had a very successful IPO. As I write this, they are the cover story on Fortune magazine, certainly an indication of the important role they play as the master connector between professionals. Fortune reports they have 141 million monthly users, a 37% increase over last year.

As a B2B marketer, I have purchased data on businesses and decision makers within those businesses for my whole career. The lists are, and have always been, glaring poor. We all understand the difficulty of the task. Businesses change names, move, merge, close and evolve and never notify the keepers of the data. People within the business likewise move around, change jobs, responsibilities and so on and the data keepers have never kept up.

The advent of the internet spawned some data aggregators who claimed they could harvest data from websites, press releases, articles and other public sources that would be more up to date. While an interesting concept, the execution was dismal. One of those firms listed me as a Vice President at Compaq Computer. I’ve never worked for Compaq Computer. However, Compaq was an investor in a dot-com startup where I was a VP, so I understand the connection. For B2B marketing purposes however, that would be a failure.

As I look at my own LinkedIn network, I imagine the targeting a savvy B2B marketer could do, given the wealth of data on each person’s profile. Already, LinkedIn has changed the executive recruiting world. Many top recruiting firms have abandoned their once-revered internal databases in favor of subscribing to LinkedIn’s recruiter tools. Internal recruiters have followed suit with 88 of the Fortune 100 using the tools for their own recruiting needs.

Fortune Reports that LinkedIn is working with NetSuite, on a sales product that looks at potential customers’ social networks. I expect more of this in the future as LinkedIn develops the tools for B2B firms to meet new customers, in a socially acceptable way.

Does your company use LinkedIn to help identify and understand future customers? How do you feel as a LinkedIn user when you are targeted with marketing messages?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Permission Marketing is Still the Rule of the Day

There has been a steady stream of changes in the way we market our products and services to our customers.  However, no change was bigger than the change the Internet has given us.  Seth Godin described the sea change best in his seminal  book “Permission Marketing” which came out in 1999.

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Godin’s thesis is that prior the advent of the Internet and email (and later with social media) we had what he called “interruption marketing.”  An example is that you are watching television and a commercial come along.  You didn’t ask for the commercial and it’s interrupting  your show, but you are forced to watch it.

The same thing applies to magazines, radio, bill boards and even to banner advertising on websites.  I’m not here to see your ad, but it comes along anyway.  We understand that the sale of these messages to sponsors pays the bills.  Even if that message means nothing to you, the advertiser still must pay.  Hard to believe but many marketers hold on to that world.

Enter email and later, social media.  The central difference between these two-way communications worlds is that the receiver of the message must give his or her permission to be marketed to by signing up for an email list, liking something on Facebook or following a company on Twitter.  By doing any of these, they’re saying to the advertiser “Hey, I’m interested in your message.  Talk to me.”

Now for the most important nuance.  At any time, without notice or explanation, the receiver can revoke that permission.  They can unsubscribe, unlike or unfollow something as easily as they liked it in the first place.  With no consequence.  They can always come back.

This is new responsibility for marketers.  The message must be accepted by the receiver.  If it’s not, you may lose them as quickly as you got them.  But wait, there’s more. Ultimately, the goal is not just to get your content read, the goal is that your readers engaged enough to comment or share what you have to say with their network.

What’s the “secret?”  Content that resonates with the receiver.  Make sense to them.  Adds something to their knowledge of a subject, not detracts from it by confusing them.  Helps them reach their goals.  Teaches them something.  Today’s content producers must be aware.  Know their audience and go deeper in their exploration of a topic.  Be willing to take on the point of view of the end users.

If that sounds intimidating it is.  Self-serving content about how great your product is was easier to write.  Since it was force-fed to the masses, little effort was required to improve the style of marketing content.  Failure to improve today could lead to catastrophic consequences.

How do you avoid this pitfall altogether?  Make content King.  Define the audience, decide what the message will be and develop the content.  Test and review with a critical eye toward the usefulness to your audience.  If it’s not useful, it’s not likely to be read.  If you doubt the usefulness for the audience, ask them!  Rewrite it until you’re confident it meets the need.  Then, decide how you’ll disseminate the content, through what channels and in what depth.

What’s the status of your content?  Is it thought provoking or self serving?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm