It Isn’t Supposed to Be Easy, but You Can Still Enjoy the Journey.

Building a business is hard.

Coming up with content every week (day?) is hard.

Earning the trust of people in a cynical world with so much competing for our attention is hard.

But, if it wasn’t, would we ever appreciate the reward?

I think how you answer the following question is very telling of how you feel about your work: If you were handed a million-dollar check every year, what would you be doing with your time?

If money were no object, would you be investing it in building your business? Would you be trying to earn more than that? Would you be exploring a different passion or hobby which you had not previously had the opportunity to pursue?

Or would you chill all day at the beach with a drink (or play video games or insert whatever other leisure activity you enjoy)?

I don’t think there is a wrong or right answer here.

But one thing is for sure. Nobody said getting to live life on your own terms doing something you love was supposed to be easy.

It isn’t, but I think embracing the struggle of it and loving the process will be a huge part of long-term success Perhaps, we can learn not only to savor the rewards but to love the journey itself.

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The Times They Are a’Changin’. Don’t Complain, Marketers! Embrace it.

Change.

Adapt, change, and adapt again.

Change seems to be the only constant in the life of a marketer.

Technology changes, the communication platforms which have people’s attention change, and consumer behavior changes.

And, yet again and again, we all seem to be so shocked and upset every single time we encounter change.

Everything from the demise of print and radio advertising and the shift to digital to the slightest update in the Facebook algorithm or the Snapchat UI sends marketers into a tizzy.

I get it. Change is hard. But all thehand-wringing, fist waving and feet stamping in the world aren’t going to make a difference.

What has to change is us. The marketers.

Our job is not only to communicate the message. Our job is to constantly stay on top of these changes and adapt accordingly.

Sure, we can commiserate amongst ourselves. It’s nice to vent with someone else who understands and is experiencing the same challenges.

But, don’t stay frustrated or blame “the system.” The only constant we can rely on is change and it’s a marketer’s job to adapt accordingly.

We can cry and complain that marketing isn’t what it used to be. That now, we have to spend a lot more time branding and earning consumer trust before asking for anything in return.

We can kvetch about the increasing ineffectiveness of interruptive advertising.

And to my fellow social media marketers, we can bemoan the fact that we can no longer “crush it” on social media with text & link posts or sharing alone.

Now, social will take a serious investment of time, money, and resources. Organic is dead on some platforms and dying on others.

The future (which is already here) of social media is paid i.e. sponsored posts, video, and influencers.

Social media is a much bigger production than it used to be. For some of us, and certainly for our clients, it will be more of a hassle. And trends indicate that the current state of affairs will only continue.

But it’s all about perspective. How you react to these changing realities makes all the difference.

If you look at them as an opportunity to do better — deliver more value in your content,

find new and creative ways to hack distribution, and realize that the market is ever-changing and your job is to adapt at scale, you will win.

Look at it this way. As social media begins to predominate and becomes the primary place where we spend time and attention,

it will also require an increasing amount of resources and tactics to compete and succeed on social.

This means we can finally have the courage to demand our clients take social more seriously and begin to allocate more of their budget to social,

And less to more costly, relatively less effective things on which they are still blowing most of their budgets.

In every challenge or change, there is room to cry or to find the opportunity and capitalize on it.

Which option will you choose?

Is Content Marketing Expensive? It’s All a Matter of Perspective.

Branding and content marketing are expensive.

Well, that’s what they say.

I say that it’s all a matter of perspective.

perspective

If you’re a new fledgling startup still getting off the ground without enough capital to even onboard one part-time employee, then yes, it is expensive. You can’t afford to outsource your content marketing (although this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing it yourself).

If you still don’t realize that content marketing is a must-have and not a nice-to-have, you’ll probably think it’s too expensive.

But if you’re a small business that plans to stay afloat over the next decade, then spending $20-50K a year on marketing really shouldn’t be breaking the bank. If it is, you’re probably in trouble.

Look at it this way:

For the cost of a part-time or entry-level full-time employee, you get an entire team — a marketing department — who will help your business grow.

You’ll build a brand, gain awareness, and get new leads and sales all for the cost of a low-salary employee. And not just any employee performing a task, but one that actually grows the business itself.

When you’re busy with the day-to-day, you don’t have much time for creating full-scale media (video, written content, audio, and images) to generate new business.

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And, the feeling of relief you get from having an entire team do it for you for a relatively low cost is something money cannot buy.

So the next time someone tells you marketing is expensive, remember that it’s all a matter of perspective.

Marketing is Like Dating. Romance Your Prospects and Make them Fall in Love with You.

As a single and a marketer, I’m noticing some interesting parallels between marketing and dating. 

Nobody wants to transact on the first date. 

Asking for the sale right away makes you look creepy and lame. Offer to help first.

You’ve got to romance your prospect a little bit. Compliment them. Talk about what they’re interested in. Keep it focused ON THEM. Not you.

Give them value. Make them want you. 

And, timing is everything. You’ve got to be able to feel it out and read the situation carefully. 

When the time is right, you go in for the ask. 

And if they say yes, you’ve got yourself a date. If you play your cards right, one date will lead to more and eventually blossom into a fruitful, long-term business relationship. 

Keep At It! Building Your Brand Takes Time.

Becoming known or developing a brand online takes time.

And a whole lot of effort.

Some of the people with the biggest audiences whom we all admire today were active for YEARS, steadily putting out content and engaging with others before anyone noticed.  If your content is quality, you’re careful to engage authentically in a human way with others, and you post consistently, you’re more likely to have success.

Of course, you have to also have a) the talent and b) learn how to hack distribution.

A) is pretty much in-born (although it can be improved upon).

B) will require you to learn how to use these platforms effectively.

Google how to do things, test, learn, Google again, practice, over and over.

But, don’t give up. Especially, if you’re starting to notice any of the following:

1) Increased page views

2) More engagement i.e. increasing number of likes, comments, shares, and mentions

3) Link-backs

These are all signs from the Universe and the market that you need to keep pressing on. Use these KPIs and metrics as benchmarks of success and let that propel you forward.

What you’re doing is penetrating the noise, but you need to keep going and building momentum.

I’ve been putting out content for years now. On a frequent and consistent basis, only in the past two years and even more-so in the last 6 months.

Only now am I starting to see a steady trickle of interest building.

So, keep at it! And pay attention to those indicators, which are showing you what is working. If you’re not seeing any of those things after consistently posting for a year or so, it might be time to pivot.

But, if you are seeing those results, persist and don’t get discouraged.

You’ll get there in time.

Why Facebook’s Recent Announcement is Good News for Marketers (and everyone else)

When Mark Zuckerberg announced at the beginning of the new year that he would be making some changes to Facebook, I don’t think people expected those changes to be made so quickly.

Only the following week on January 11th, Facebook released an announcement that it would be making major changes to its News Feed and the algorithm which determines what content will get more exposure. And, naturally marketers did what they always do whenever Facebook makes an announcement. They freaked out.

Marketers went especially ballistic over this part of Zuckerberg’s statement:

“We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Predictably, many marketers are reacting as if this news is a catastrophe and the end of the world. The exposure of content from many publishers and brands will now be even further relegated to the margins, which means they will have to pay Facebook more money for the privilege of getting their content seen and engaged with.

Mark Zuckerberg Constipated

Most users, on the other hand, see this is a positive change, rejoicing that they will now see more content from friends and family and less ads, “fake news,” or other pieces of content that they don’t care about. A recent article in the Atlantic went as far as claiming this recent announcement is an admission of defeat from Facebook, which it seemingly blames for toxifying political discourse and tearing apart the very fabric of democracy. As users, there is no question we benefit from this overhaul of the Newsfeed.

Other marketers are not too worried about the change. In a recent blog post, Mark Schaefer of Business Grow cautioned marketers against blowing this whole thing out of proportion. “Organic reach [was] already dead,” he pointed out. “The organic reach for an average business is [already] less than 1 percent…In reality nothing has changed.” In Mark’s opinion, this entire hullabaloo over Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm change is much ado about nothing (I just really wanted to use the word, hullabaloo).

My initial reaction to the news was similar to that of Mark Schaefer. Organic reach is already dead and has been for a long time. No news here.

But, after reading the announcement several more times and letting it all sink in, I actually think this change may, in fact, be a good thing for marketers and the rest of us too.

Let’s all pause for a second and stop hyperventilating. Take a deep breath. Facebook has made gigantic changes in the past that threatened to hurt the reach of branded content. In a recent episode of The Science of Social Media, a podcast by Buffer, it was rightly pointed out that this new algorithm change will not virtually destroy the reach of branded content and is much less severe than an update Facebook made in the past. Whenever Facebook has made a change, good marketers have always found ways to adapt.

But, while this change might make it more difficult for brands to reach their target audiences on Facebook, let’s look at the positives here. While most marketers are getting their panties in a bunch about the part of the announcement, which predicts that users will see less from publishers and brands, they seem to have overlooked this part:

“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

In other words, content that is relevant and helps stimulate engagement will get more priority. Facebook is simply trying to put the social back into social media.  

Facebook’s Vice President of News Feed, Adam Mosseri had even more encouraging words for content creators. He told Wired Magazine:

“…content that generally gets—that facilitates or inspires more meaningful conversation or meaningful interactions between people will get more distribution, and content that does so less will get less distribution.”

In a recent interview with Stratchery Mosseri said:

“So if you and I had a back and forth conversation on a post from a Page, that would actually count as a meaningful social interaction,” Mosseri said. “So it’s more about the interactions between people and less about just the consumption of content from friends.”

So publishers and brands need not fear. What they will need to do is create content that fosters meaningful engagement.

It’s fair to say that the collective bar has been raised. This new update will not hurt brands who are already posting relevant, quality content that the audience actually wants to consume and interact with. The winners will continue to win. Those who provide value may actually experience greater reach and engagement than they did previously, thanks to this change. The spammers and noisy self-promoters, however, will no longer be able to dominate the feed.

And, we all know that not all content from friends/family is quality content that leads to meaningful social interaction. Therefore, brands putting out good content need not worry.

Practical Takeaways from Facebook’s Latest Newsfeed Change:

Go all in on Groups.

In the recent announcement, Zuckerberg stated that the new change will encourage interaction between people who are in communities based on common interests. For example, says Zuckerberg: “there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams.”

If you’re in any Facebook groups (I’m in way too many), then you’ve already noticed that the posts in these groups are increasingly finding their way into your feed. This is a trend that will continue to grow. Facebook said it hopes that by favoring group content in the newsfeed, Facebook will become a platform that facilitates greater social interaction and conversation. Content that users only consume passively by watching, dropping a Like, and scrolling on with their lives will be voted down in the feed.

So, make sure you participate in groups. Do so authentically and not in a spammy way, of course. Start discussions. Answer questions. Better yet, start your own Facebook group!

Go live. Just do it!

Facebook has been telling us for a long time now that Facebook Live is heavily favored by the algorithm. Facebook has taken steps to prioritize video in general, but the platform especially favors live, because it often prompts greater engagement — comments etc. “We’ve seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones,” said Zuckerberg.

Interestingly, when Facebook Live emerged in the summer of 2016, many people, initially excited by this new feature, started testing it out. I noticed the organic reach, impressions, and engagement was much higher on my live videos than on the rest of my Facebook content. Eventually, the novelty wore off. Personally, witnessing so many people making boring and pointless live videos kind of ruined it for me. However, Facebook took pains to remind us in their recent announcement that live still works and that it will reward us for using it by giving it greater post reach. So, go live!

Relax.

aligeasynow

Don’t worry so much. If you’re doing right by users, then you’re going to be fine. I’m optimistic that this new change will push the bad content further down in the feed and allow the good content to rise to the top.

It’s Time for Brands to Wake Up

If you’ve been paying attention to culture and society for the past few years, you know that there is a growing movement — mainly comprised of the young — that is becoming increasingly aware and vocal about important issues having to do with race, culture, gender, and lingering social inequality. Those who consider themselves especially awakened or conscious about these subjects are colloquially known amongst their peers as “woke.”

Social issues and matters of identity politics are most hotly debated — often uncivilly — on social media platforms where an increasing number of people, particularly younger demographics, are getting their news and discussing the subjects of the day.

While many of us are exhausted from all the discussions on social media surrounding politics and political correctness, the #StayWoke movement — love it or hate — shows that people are thinking more critically about everyday, long unquestioned realities and social constructs.

Interestingly, the fuel behind much of this widespread “wokeness” and heated discussion is social media. While some blame social media for the breakdown of civil discourse and democracy, it can’t be denied that social has helped bring awareness to issues that were not previously addressed by the mainstream media. Perhaps, the best example is the recent #MeToo hashtag. Social media discourse has not only led to debates, but to the resignations and firings of prominent figures and revolutions that have toppled repressive regimes.

Perhaps less interesting, but nonetheless important for brands and marketers is the disruption of the communication space and the democratization of media content creation, which is the engine behind societal changes and grassroots movements.

All the way back in 2010, Eric Schmidt said that we create more information every two days than has been created in the entire history of the human race until 2003. The amount of data and content we create on a daily basis is mind boggling. We are living through the greatest shift in communication in history since Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. And, we are the first generation whose entire lives will be documented, which means what we say and do on social media will forever be on the record. Your great grandkids will read all of your tweets — even the mean ones you send to Jimmy Kimmel at 4 am.  

There has never been as much content published daily as there is now and the competition is fierce. And, social media has completely changed the game. On these platforms, brands do not simply compete with one another for the attention of consumers.They also compete with viral cat videos, friends’ photos of last weekend, your nephew’s baby pictures, and breaking news.

In the current media environment, we are drowning in a sea of content. Consumers are no longer a captive audience the way they once were on TV (pre-DVR) and radio. They often miss or deliberately block your advertisements. The only way to break through the noise is to frequently and consistently provide value, create content worth paying attention to, and actively engage with the audience. Paying to boosts posts on social media has also become the norm, especially on Facebook. Today, more than advertising or content, the key to success is interacting with your target audience on the platforms that have their attention.

One-way broadcast communication is increasingly less effective and the importance of facilitating two-way communication with an audience is growing with every passing year. Companies who don’t devote sufficient time and resources to engagement are losing their share of the attention graph as well as the market. Brands that don’t wake up and realize that they are no longer advertisers who sell products, but media companies will soon become irrelevant.

As brands begin to focus more of their energy and budget on social media, many of them are making one crucial mistake that continues to undermine their efforts: They’re treating the new platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn as if they are one-way broadcasts. They’re bringing an old-world traditional media mentality to social media, pushing out their messages without understanding these platforms and their nuances on their own terms. This shows that most businesses don’t fully appreciate the broader shifts that are occurring in social communication.

Social media is NOT an extension of your sales pitch or simply a distribution platform for your content. It’s much more than that. It’s a medium where brands can have meaningful interactions with their customers and build relationships. While many brands have woken up to this new reality, many more are still not getting it.

Many businesses are missing enormous opportunities and leaving money on the table by not doubling down on social media. Others are doing social media all wrong. Comfortable sticking to what they know, many businesses remain hooked on their addiction to spending inordinate amounts of money on billboards that no one sees, because consumers are too busy looking at their phones. They blow the bulk of their marketing budgets on flyers and magazine ads that most people throw out or skip. And, they blow most of their digital marketing spend on banner ads that have an average click-through rate of only 0.05%!

Meanwhile, these same brand managers and advertising executives have the temerity to raise their eyebrows and smugly ask: “So, what’s the ROI of social media?” Too many companies are still not taking this underpriced and effective marketing channel seriously, delegating it to interns or family members who lack sufficient knowledge of or experience with social media marketing. And, they don’t think it’s a good use of their time or money to create content or engage with their target audience on these platforms.

As maddening as it is for all of my fellow social media marketers to watch this, we are powerless to prevent this slow-motion trainwreck from happening. Unfortunately, most brands will not wake up until it’s too late. Even as big brands lose market share and retail stores around the country go out of business, companies are still slow to make changes. The brands who are spending time on social media, learning how to use it, testing and learning, and engaging directly with their audience are winning and in the long run, they will win the day.

Moving beyond content

Content is still king, but more effort must be invested in two-way engagement if companies want to win attention and remain relevant in a 2018 world.

We are oversaturated with content. It’s never been so noisy. And, unless you were a first mover on the new platforms when early adopters took advantage and nabbed nice chunks of real estate, you will now have a tough time getting noticed and creating a presence.

There are simply too many options. Our attention spans are divided by a plethora of devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktop) and platforms (Snapchat, Instagram, blogs, Medium etc.).

People distracted.jpg

To get people to care about you, it’s important to put out relevant, quality content that touches on current trends and other topics of interest to your audience. However, creating good content is not enough anymore.

The Internet and the social platforms where most of us now live are so crowded that most of the content you share will get lost in the noise no matter how good it is. Not to mention, platforms like Facebook have killed nearly all organic reach. Hacking distribution or taking pains to ensure that the content actually gets seen and interacted with is tricky and more important than ever.

2 ways to hack distribution:

Influencers and collaborations

Influencers, particularly micro-influencers are still tremendous resources of underpriced attention who have a strong impact on what consumers purchase. These influencers have most of the attention and influence on social media platforms where your audience hangs out. By partnering with them, you will be able to siphon their attention and direct it toward your brand. Of course, you should only partner with influencers who make sense for your brand and for whom you can add value as well.

You can achieve this by offering influencers free product and/or monetary compensation in exchange for a mention, a photo or video of them using the product, or a guest blog post. For a relatively small spend (average is about $193 for Instagram micro-influencers), you can gain hundreds of impressions, likes, comments, new followers, and last but not least — leads and sales.

Stay out of the way

These influencers know their audience best. They got to where they are, because they are good at creating content that will elicit a positive response. Therefore, give them creative control and allow them to create the content. Understand that they will have to be subtle in their mention of your brand, lest they come off as too pushy and lose their credibility. If you connect particularly well to one influencer and their audience, consider a long-term partnership in which the influencer becomes a brand ambassador.

Engage, engage, engage

Although it may sound obvious, you would be surprised by how many brands — even small businesses and startups fail to simply respond to comments on social media. Acknowledge and encourage your fans! Reward their loyalty and positive feedback. Respond to your audience’s questions or complaints. Reach out to people tweeting about your space and offer them help without asking for the sale. Send a direct message or a personalized piece of content to prospects, loyal customers, and influencers. Talk, converse, and be human. In other words, be social!
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Technology has fundamentally altered how we communicate and disrupted the entire way we message and connect with our audiences. If you think your self-serving piece of content i.e. ads, humble brags about about your accomplishments, and mercilessly PR-ing yourself is going to get attention in a world with more options and decreasing attention spans, you’re really not understanding what is happening. You’re not woke. You’re asleep at the wheel and you’re in for a crash.

Notice the shift going on around you. The way you’ve been playing the game until now is not the way you’re going to succeed over the next decade. Don’t simply focus on the culture wars on social media. Look at how it is impacting how we communicate and how we get our news. Pay attention to who and what has the eyes and ears of your target audience. And, work hard to build authentic relationships with them built on trust. Not only will it pay off, but you can’t afford to market any other way.