What is Content?

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“It’s just an image,” insisted one my client’s staff members. “Not content.”

After a little back-and-forth, I discovered that he didn’t think images were fit to be called ‘content.’ This was not the first time I had a moment of confusion with someone over this issue. Many people are under the impression that content only refers to writing.

In fact, there are a plethora of terms we marketers use that are frequently misunderstood. I strongly believe that defining terms is a great way to ensure we all get on the same page and speak the same language. So, in that spirit, here’s my attempt to break down the “language barrier” and define “content.”

What is Content?

In short, content is any form of communication that entertains, delivers a message, or educates. It can appear in the form of text, images, video, or audio and in a wide variety of mediums, including podcasts, vlogs, infographics, blogs, whitepapers, ebooks, and more.

Writing is what most people think of when they think of marketing content. But text is only one piece of the content marketing puzzle. Content is the stuff brand storytelling is made of. Brands may tell their stories through written content, but they may also tell them through video, which now accounts for well over 60% of internet traffic — a figure expected to increase dramatically by 2019. Or they may communicate through GIFs, audio recordings, photos, or other forms of media.

Should I use text, video, images, or audio?

The answer is: All of the above.

Each form of media plays its role and has its various uses. Furthermore, search engines reward those who regularly update their content on a variety of platforms.

A big mistake many brands make is thinking a blog is enough. It is incredibly important to have an informative and interesting blog that is optimized for search engines and updated frequently and consistently. However, those who don’t experiment with images, video, or audio are missing out on many opportunities for consumer engagement.

But, whatever medium/s you choose for your content, the most important thing to understand is that good content is no longer a one-way conversation.

At one time, brands chose the message they wanted to push onto their audience. Today, most of us tune out advertising. Consumers are savvier, smarter, and have a lot more choices at their disposal. They also have a lot more control over what content they interact with. This means “filler content,” so popular in the early days of the internet, no longer makes the cut.

If you want to win, you have to create content that provides real value for consumers. It’s no longer solely about creating customers. It’s about creating connection.

And the way you create a connection is by getting to know your customers and then creating content that’s focused around them and their specific needs. This takes time and research, but the good news is social media and other recent technological advances have made it much easier to gather data and learn about consumers than ever before.

Responding to the needs of your target audience by creating content that interests, informs, or inspires them creates more than just transactions. It creates relationships.

Taking the time to invest in these relationships pays off greatly in the long-run.

 

 

 

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5 Reasons Not to Do Social Media Marketing

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Social media marketing has grown exponentially in the last few years as more and more businesses have discovered the potential of this medium. But many businesses – even those who do post on social media regularly – are still confused by it.

When asked: “Why are you on social?” my hunch is that many people wouldn’t be able to provide a straight answer. Perhaps, you yourself are a little unsure how you’d answer that question.

There are many good reasons why your business should be active on social media, which I’m not going enumerate here. But what follows is 5 bad reasons to be on social media:

1. Everyone else is doing it.

I was once in a meeting with a lead who was in the business of selling watches online. The CEO explained to me that while he doesn’t understand social media marketing, he knows he should be doing more of it, “since everyone else is doing it and if you don’t do it, you’ll look like a fool.”

My advice is: Spend less time worrying about being a ‘fool’ and you won’t wind up being a ‘tool.’ Let me explain.

It is true that all smart businesses are using social media productively. However, that is not the reason YOU should be on social. Social media is not an end in itself. It is simply a tool. Many people get caught up on all the shiny new technologies and tools that are out there. Don’t be one of them.

Tried and true business principles such as setting goals and objectives matter today just as they did before the advent of social networks. First, figure out what are your business goals and objectives. And then figure out how social media will help you achieve them.

2. You want it to be separate from the rest of your business.

Many businesses consciously or unconsciously relegate the social media marketing to only one person or group within their company or organization. And therefore, some business owners try not to be involved in it at all.

It’s a mistake to silo social media marketing off from the rest of your business. In order to truly reap the benefits of what social media has to offer, make sure all of your departments and even all of your employees play a role in it.

Social media is valuable as a tool for customer service, sales, branding, and more. Consumers don’t care who is in what department. When they interact with your brand, they want the experience to be as seamless and as smooth as possible.

In order for that to happen, people from all levels of your organization need to be involved. Interview your engineers for blog posts that you post on Facebook. Consult your customer service team before answering that dissatisfied customer on Twitter. Make sure your staff at the front desk knows about the recent contest on Instagram so they aren’t caught off-guard when a customer mentions it.

A team effort will go a long way toward building credibility, trust, and authenticity.

3. You don’t have clear metrics.

As stated earlier, you shouldn’t do anything on social media without first asking yourself what are your business goals and objectives. Everything follows from there. Once you set your goals and objectives, you must then identify concrete metrics or benchmarks to measure whether or not you’ve successfully reached your goals.

And these metrics must be as specific and measurable as possible. For example, if you say your goal is awareness, figure out how that can be measured. Perhaps, greater awareness translates to more likes on Facebook and Instagram. Maybe it’s more ad impressions on Google. Or perhaps it’s more mentions on Twitter or on review sites. Try to quantify wherever possible what success looks like. Otherwise, you’ll never know if your efforts are bearing fruit.

Every business is different. Don’t pick vague or ambiguous metrics. Pick specific ones that make sense for you and accurately demonstrate progress toward your goals. I strongly recommend spending the extra time it takes to ascertain your metrics. Consider it part of dong your due diligence. It may take time, but it will pay off later. If you don’t do this important step, there’s really no point in engaging on social media.

4. You think you can post the same kind of content across all social networks.

It’s crucially important that you respect the medium or the platform on which you market. This is part of respecting your audience and it is a major component of what it means to come across as human on social media. Spend some time hanging out on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn or Pinterest. Soak up the vibe. Get a feel for the local culture. There’s nothing more obnoxious than a tourist who doesn’t respect the societal norms and sensibilities of the place where he visits.

Experiment and test to see what content resonates with your audience on each network. Don’t just scan headlines or read articles by the marketing experts. Experiment on your own and learn what is effective.

If you think you can just plaster the same content across all of your social networks, you’re sorely mistaken. This is a common error and it’s a lazy way of doing social. Learn how to understand your audience and what frame of mind they are in on each network. This will inform how you communicate with them and show you are authentic.

5. You Need Results Fast and You’re Not Willing to Spend.

Social media success does not happen overnight. Patience is key. It often takes months of consistently posting good quality content, networking with influencers, providing solutions, and nurturing relationships to start seeing significant results from your marketing efforts. Social media isn’t a quick fix.

Relationships on social media – just as in real life – take time to develop. It’s not something that can be hurried or rushed. You don’t want to come across as pushy and self-centered. Beware of jumping the gun and being too forward too quickly. Remember to do a lot of listening. Think of the other person’s wants and needs when you engage with them. Be helpful and responsive. If you follow this advice, you’ll find that more people will want to engage with you.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, understanding people and human nature is a big part of social media. All social media has done is digitize the human interactions that we’ve always had.

Many people are under the impression that social media is free. It isn’t. It costs a money as well as time. While social media marketing is far cheaper than other forms of marketing and advertising (TV, radio, billboards, magazine ads etc.), it still costs money. Not only does it cost money to create good, professional-grade content – copywriting, video, graphics etc., but you need to pay in order to use the tools and programs needed to track your progress.

Facebook has largely become a ‘pay-to-play’ medium. It is now almost impossible to succeed on Facebook without utilizing its paid advertising and many other social networks are in the process of following suit. The good news is that Facebook allows you to create ads that are highly targeted to precise demographics. Compared to other more expensive advertising platforms that focus primarily on reach, Facebook’s advertising service makes it easier to get more value for your spend.

So, if you’ve been doing social media for all the wrong reasons until now, don’t worry. You can now start approaching it differently and reaping the benefits.

 

Research, Research, Research!

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I’m often asked questions such as these:

“What should I be doing to improve on Facebook or Instagram?

“Is this piece of ad copy good?”

“How do I get more followers?”

“What should the offer be in my search engine advertisements?”

It is often the case that behind these questions is the all-too common blunder of putting tactics before strategy. There is a world of difference between strategy and tactics.

A strategy is an overall plan of action designed to achieve a certain aim. A tactic is a method one implements as part of achieving that aim. In other words, your strategy may be comprised of a variety of tactics that help you reach your goals.

According to diffen.com,

“A strategy is a larger, overall plan that can comprise several tactics, which are smaller, focused, less impactful plans that are part of the overall plan.”

A frequent problem in the world of marketing is a rush headlong into tactics without first fomenting a proper and guided strategy. The problems that can arise when implementing tactics without a strategy already in place could be the subject of a much larger post.

However, here we will focus on the one thing that must be done even before creating a strategy:

Research

Yes, research. I know time is money. There is an insatiable urge to just get it all out there. We want results NOW. But without doing research all your marketing efforts will have been in vain.

According to Hubspot, a good marketing strategy must be built upon specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals (SMART). But how do you know your goals meet such criteria? How can one determine one’s goals in the first place?

The answer is research.

Although it doesn’t sound sexy, you must first spend some time doing research before you get started.  You must research such data as, demographics, market trends, and your current clients and customers. This will enable you to set SMART goals, develop accurate buyer personas to target, and figure out how to optimize in order to reach your objectives.

And research is not only something to be done at the beginning. You must research throughout the entirety of every single campaign and optimize accordingly.

The data revolution has brought with it the ability and the need to constantly research our marketing campaigns. Research is required at all stages of a campaign from awareness to consideration to decision.

So, before you worry about what to post on Facebook, first determine if Facebook is even the channel where you should be devoting most of your time and resources. Identify your ideal customers and find out where they hang out online before choosing which social networks on which to focus your efforts.

Before writing a piece of copy or trying to determine its effectiveness, do some research to find out who is your target audience and what are their pain-points, problems, and concerns. Don’t just try to get followers. Get engaged followers who want to interact with your brand. Your research should guide every piece of content you create and where you distribute it. Use research to guide all of your business decisions.

The only way to be successful in the long run is to take the time to do your due diligence and research, research, research. There’s no getting around it. There are no shortcuts.

Once you have done a sufficient amount of research, don’t be afraid to implement with confidence and then research some more.

 

Be Contagious

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Starting from a young age I had a knack for talking about my interests in ways that would get my listeners excited about them as well. Whether it was about a favorite comedian, band, book series, TV show, product, or paper airplanes, my enthusiasm was infectious. It was contagious.

However, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I would figure out how to turn this quality, which I always perceived as little more than an interesting quirk, into a professional career. Apparently, there is an entire industry based on hyping things up and generating interest. It’s called marketing. Who knew?

Recently, I spoke to several people about my chosen profession – digital marketing – and explained to them the vast amount of changes taking place at a rapid rate in this growing field. I prattled on about how the growth of mobile has created a shift from a linear sales funnel to a sales cycle powered by catching people in “micro moments.” The impact of an increasingly consumer-focused market that forces brands to engage with customers in an ongoing dialogue rather than dominate a one-way conversation. The interconnected nature of search and social and how the data revolution enables brands to get the most for their spend while painstakingly tracking every aspect of their operations down to the most minute detail and optimize accordingly.

When I was finished, my audience (who was not in the marketing field) was not bored, but enrapt. “I never heard someone talk about these things with such a genuine passion,” one person said. It wasn’t only what I said, but how I said it that made the difference.

And then it hit me. If I want prospects to get on board with my vision and if I want clients to be truly invested in our projects, then it’s not enough to be knowledgeable and passionate, but so effing excited about my work that it’s contagious. The strength of my conviction in progressive, relevant, consumer-focused, data-driven online marketing must be contagious enough to spread like a virus.

This applies not only to my field, but to any field. Don’t “sell.” Be genuine. This will be your greatest currency. Stand by your products 100% whether it’s furniture, food, entertainment, plumbing services, or clothing. Demonstrate that you love what you offer and believe in your products or services in a way that your target audience feels they will genuinely benefit and you will not only get customers, but create a tribe of loyal followers.

And once you have a tribe that has caught your disease, the real fun begins, because they will spread it to others. There is a reason it’s called “going viral.” It has long been known that “word of mouth” is the strongest form of marketing. A referral from a trusted friend will always beat  an ad or even an engaging piece of content.

In the olden days before print journalism, TV, or radio, word of mouth was all we had. Later, these forms of traditional media took its place. Now, we have come full circle and technology allows us to steer the conversation and generate word-of mouth marketing through large networks of fans, expanding our reach like never before.

Social media enables you to create a tribe of brand ambassadors who will then spread your message for you and further infect the population. If you’re effective, you’ll create an epidemic.

Don’t keep your enthusiasm quarantined. Hopefully, after reading this you have caught the bug and are ready to be contagious.