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

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

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

5 Shocking Facts About My Blog

So I think I’ve been doing this long enough to consider myself a blogger.  Officially, yes, I am a blogger.  I write a blog!  Now that I have reached this lofty designation, I am able to look back and make meaningful observations about how different it looks now that I am, well you know.

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Pretty sure I went into it with my eyes open.  Since I have been writing and producing marketing materials forever; tackling a blog is a related activity, right?  Well, yes and no I guess.  Here are some things I learned along the way:

  • The headline/subject is the most important part of the blog  I guess I knew this before I started, but it more true than I ever imagined.  There are lots of blogs, lots of Tweets and lots of Facebook postings.  Everything goes by quite quickly.  If the subject is compelling and catches the eye, you have a chance of a few folks clicking on and reading more.  Hopefully, the shocking headline works for this blog.  Without the catchy headline, the reader is on to the next post…
  • 500 words is an excellent length for a blog.  I see longer and shorter postings, but I find I don’t like them.   I shoot for 500 words and find you can set the stage, make a good point and summarize it, all in that length.  It’s a quick enough read that people actually will finish it.  I find that when blogs start to be 700 words (and often broken up by more headings) it goes a bit too long.
  • Pictures are required.  I wasn’t aware of this at all.  Published my first few blogs without any pictures or graphics.  Started looking at other blogs and found that the visuals helped make the topic interesting.  I started using photos and wow, it made the posts more attractive.  Like the blue “Blog” bubble here.  I purchase most of the pictures from a royalty-free photo site, although I have also added charts I have made, or pictures I have taken.  The tchotchke photo was a picture I took of stuff in and around my desk.  So now, I will always use a photo or graphic with my blogs; I like the way it looks both on the blog and in the LinkedIn postings, etc.
  • The feedback has been amazing.  I guess I have had some beginner’s luck in starting my blog and that has allowed me to get a pretty good reach with my ideas on “marketing, business and management” and have had great discussions and comments from marketing professionals all over the world.  When you see the map of who read your blog today and it includes several continents, you get a feel for the power of the communications we have.

So, am I glad I started the blog?  You bet!  I’ve had great fun, have met many, many new people as a result.  It helps me work through issues I am having as a consultant and gives others a quick look at my marketing and business philosophies.

Is it more work than I thought?  No, I think I had a good handle on how hard it would be to keep it going.  But I do keep it going.  Now let’s publish this one and move on!

What have been your blogging experiences? Are you still looking for the 5th fact in this blog?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

6 Problems to Avoid on Your LinkedIn Profile

I have been looking at a lot of LinkedIn profiles lately, as part of a project I am working on.  Because I think so highly of LinkedIn and believe heavily in their mission, I am shocked to see that some have taken their profile entirely too lightly.

Linkedin page

I covered the “why” LinkedIn is important in another article and I also wrote about the pictures on LinkedIn profiles, so we should be past those two issues.  Here are 6 issues that many profiles have and you should take a moment to make sure you do not have.

  1. No contact information.  Yes, it’s true other LinkedIn members can send you messages if you’re connected and  “Inmails” if not.  However, to not put an up-to-date email and phone number (even your mobile phone) on your profile is to rob the reader of normal avenues of contact.  What are these people afraid of?  Someone actually calling them?  Isn’t that the whole point?  I find this one hard to believe, but it happens more than you’d think.
  2. Out of date information and links.  Check your profile carefully.  Make sure the company website link is actually your company’s website, not the one from 2 jobs ago.  Remove old or invalid emails.  Make sure you are actually linked to your former employers, if possible.  You’ll be easier to find, the company’s logo will display, etc.
  3. Overuse of one or more terms.  Many LinkedIn profiles read a bit like resumes and often repeat the action word or phrase of the day, such as “responsible” the most used word on LinkedIn, follow by “strategic” and “effective” as two and three.  There are “word cloud” technologies that can easily help you understand the word frequency on your profile.
  4. Don’t let every sentence begin with “I” This is a tough one for some of us.  It is hard sometimes to do that, since you are the subject of everything on the LinkedIn profile.  However, with some clever wording and sentence planning, you can do very well without much effort.
  5. Being too informal.  We are somewhat accustomed to an informality on social networks that, since everyone in our network is a friend, is commensurate with friends.  Do not assume that informality transfers to LinkedIn.  In is a place where professionals look to connect with other professionals.  Informality at some level begins to detract from that.  Plus, your LinkedIn network likely has many people who do not know you well or are just getting to know you through your LinkedIn profile and activity.
  6. Having picture issues.  I recently wrote an article on LinkedIn photos so I won’t overdo it here.  However, it’s quite clear that the profile picture is the first and most viewed item on the page.  To let it be less than it could be is a huge lost opportunity and, if your picture is bad enough, a potential distraction.

Improving your LinkedIn profile is very often well worth the effort. Like it or not, your LinkedIn profile will be viewed by virtually every person you interact with for the rest of your career.  The sooner you get it right, the better!

What is the status if your LinkedIn profile?  Do you have any of the 6 issues?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm