Category Archives: content strategy

SEO Works and Content Marketing Amplifies Good Content

A colleague recently sent a Forbes blog post around for comment, The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, and Real Content. My reply turned into almost a blog post so I thought I’d post my thoughts here.

This headline may attract attention (great job!), but it’s similar to the headlines over the past few years proclaiming email is dead. Such headlines attract discussion, but email is not dead and SEO is not on its deathbed. Technologies and information processes are just refined over time. It happens. We, in turn, evolve our business practices.

The sub-title: “The Rise of Social, PR, and Real Content” is the real message where brands should focus. It calls for brands to uplevel social, sharing and PR in order to help make the “real, valuable, relevant content” more visible to audiences. How might that be accomplished, in addition to great SEO?

1. Get more inbound traffic with social sharing and content syndication. Not only can the brand’s main social channels reach people, but employees are largely an untapped market to increase social sharing. It’s easy for employees to get ‘heads down’ and think it’s not their job if they don’t have “social” in their job title. But, employees can do more to increase their own social visibility and sharing content that relates to the content their employers create and publish.

2. Uplevel sharing opportunities on domain. Did you notice on the Forbes article at how prominent the sharing buttons are in the article? They are stationary in the left margin no matter how much you’ve scrolled. Plus, there is a small horizontal row of sharing options under the post. Making sharing opportunities more visible instead of just an afterthought would help build visibility and traffic for good content.

3. Build more internal PR for content. How many brands have active internal programs to increase external social sharing by employees? Training interested employees and turning them into brand ambassadors, would also help create more visibility and traffic for good content.

In addition to the SEO work that we do when we publish blog posts or web content, we have to realize that our work is not done. Content marketing or content activation is the second half of the solution. Each of the above suggestions are other areas that can help brands grow traffic for great content that aligns with Google’s changing search algorithm.


Social Content Marketing With a Shelf Life: Style and Substance

Pink Breast Cancer RibbonRoger Warner has a good point in this post at TechCrunch, Social Media Gurus Push Conversations Over Kudos and Fail. He argues brands should do more meaningful posts that make customers look good, than just engage in simple banter on Facebook that doesn’t really amount to much or go to the brand’s mission.

Similarly, I have a problem with simply publishing pretty pictures in social expressly for the purpose of getting likes and pins. While pretty images can be “on brand” and engaging, and they can be used to good effect as a way to create visual interest by including an image with a blog post, it’s more valuable to the brand to have a larger story to share along with the image.

Take for example, the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. It adds visual interest to this post, and also reinforces my argument that we need both style and substance. If I was really on point, I would have been able to come up with an idea for an image that also connected with “shelf life” in my title.

Having both visual images and valuable content makes for a stronger social content marketing strategy. Let’s provide content that informs, inspires, or solves a problem for consumers, along with images that help make meaning memorable. Doing so can also generate search value over the long term. It’s also more valuable to our customers.

If we’re just going to publish images for the sake of “likes,” then let’s do so in a way that gives more recognition to the person who created the image or artwork.

Small talk may be social and it might be a good way to open a conversation, but it’s here today and forgotten tomorrow. Along with a little conversation, we need to do more social brand marketing that has a longer shelf life. Let’s mix it up a little. Offer social marketing and content with both style and substance.

Create Great Content: Test Logical, Emotional, and Ethical Appeals

In this post, The Emotional Sale: Selling through Social Media, Sam Fiorella argues consumers are shifting from logical decision making to emotional decision making as a way to compensate for information overload and time crunch pressures.

Logical Appeals
What types of content appeal to the left side of our brains? Sam suggests feature comparisons, testimonials, and white papers may be important types of content to provide. If we want to sell stuff using this approach, we need to think about creating evidence to bolster our claims.

Emotional Appeals
What types of content can create an emotional appeal? Sam suggests the following types or features of this type of content: crowdsourced, video/audio, and tone are most important. I agree that developing more affective content designed to appeal to viewers’ emotions can move the needle on an engagement level, but just creating this type of content will not guarantee it. We still need to compete for their attention and getting someone to contribute to crowdsourced content is getting increasingly difficult unless there is a prize component attached.

One additional appeal we can add are ethical appeals.

Ethical Appeals
What types of content can we create so as to appear as trusted expert? While Sam doesn’t call out ethical appeals by name, he does ask us to consider where customers fit in to the equation. It’s good advice, and I’d recommend content in this category would need to be balanced and have a fair-minded approach. We would especially want to consider the readers’/viewers’ perspective and acknowledge what questions and concerns they may have that would preclude or solidify a purchase. I’m not saying that ethical appeals are the “magic sauce,” but it’s one more appeal to (formally) consider.

In addition, we’d want to test various content to…

1. Provide the best type of content for the consumer’s place in the purchase process
Higher funnel content needs to generate awareness and connect on an emotional level. Left-brain type content may be more important in the research phase.

2. Provide content types for different types of consumers
It’s all good. Some consumers over index as more logical decision makers or as more creative right brain decision makers. It may be more difficult for brands to create video and audio content than just churn out text-based content. However, different types of content appeal to different audiences.

3. Provide the right content type for specific media channels.
Brands may decide the best course of action is to syndicate video/audio type content that links to more logical or ethical content types. Or, the opposite may be true. Providing content types that travel best in social media may create more visibility than even a video. The content needs to match the context.

If time and budget allow, we can create multiple forms of content and carefully design tests that can be repeated at various intervals to determine the best course of action.

Create More Video: 7 Video Types for Social Media Engagement

film reels

Are you a video star? Do you own a flip camera and do all your own on-camera work and well as production and even calendaring and scheduling? Or, do you hire a production team, talent, and staff to do your video work? I’m curious to learn what types of video content you’re creating and whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a team of people to help you get it right.

From a content strategy perspective, do you consider video a supplementary effort, best sprinkled sparingly? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, are you offering a daily live video feed to engage site visitors?

Below are seven popular types of videos you could consider creating for social media engagement. Depending on what you want to achieve, you will want to focus your efforts appropriately.

1. “viral” videos — These videos are the of the “Will it Blend?” variety. These videos generate conversation about your brand and are at the top of the marketing funnel. Depending on the quality of your ideas (and possibly whether the planets are in alignment), these videos may be wildly popular. Before you click publish on this type of video, you want to answer the “now what” question. In other words, you’ll want to consider what you want the traffic to do once they view the video and make sure that you’re including an appropriate call to action to enable them to take the action you desire.

2. product videos — These videos explain product features and benefits. In all likelihood, these videos offer similar content as does the text you serve on your website. In order for these videos to be successful, I’d suggest you choose an entertaining speaker who knows how to connect with your audience, or this video type could be much like stale bread — great when it was fresh, but of short shelf life and dry to the taste after the sell by date.

i.e. Google Maps: Draggable Driving Directions — from a few years ago, but my go-to example of the type.

3. brand videos — these videos deliver on the brand characteristics if done well, or are the “sales” type videos that discuss all the wonderful things the brand is doing. Often they are heavily produced and require various content approvals and licensing. There isn’t anything wrong with this video type, but it takes a lot of budget and time to get it right. You will want to supplement with another video type that is less cost and time intensive.

i.e. Coca-cola Happiness Machine — it’s really hard to pull off and make it viral as well, but Coke is one company that can make it happen.

4. user-generated videos — these videos are created by your audience. Many consider this video type to be the “gold standard” because they indicate a high-level of engagement with your brand. However, you might ask if your target audience  is the type of web site visitor that creates videos. If not, then the next two video types may be the best type to create.

5. experiential videos — These videos bring the benefits of your product to life. Think about how Steve Jobs demos new products. He doesn’t provide all the technical product features. Instead, he concentrates on demonstrating how you might enjoy using the product. These videos will be highly entertaining and successful if done right.

iPhone 4 Revealed — from Cnet: oddly enough, it’s now got a Windows phone ad on the front of it.

6. educational videos — These videos offer how-to content that helps your users learn more about a complex subject. This video type might also expand upon a closely related subject. You may consider creating a series of these videos with the goal of generating repeat engagement.

Augmented Reality in Plain English – My favorite creator of how-to videos is Common Craft and their In Plain English series.

7. streaming videos — Do you have breaking news or are you launching a new product? If so, you might consider going big with this type of video performance.

What other types of video are you creating?

Drop me a note in the comments below if you’re considering adding video to your content strategy. Or if you’re a video pro, I’m also interested to know what types of video deliver results for you.

Pre-Commerce: A digital strategy driven by consumers

In Pre-Commerce: How companies and customers are transforming business together, Bob Pearson, formerly of Dell Computers and now Chief Technology & Media Officer at WCG, a marketing communications agency, delivers the goods on why and how to create a successful pre-commerce program that delivers solid relationships with your customers and strong e-commerce results.

The Transformation of Business
Gone are the days when consumers would walk into a store and get all of their information and questions answered by store clerks prior to purchasing a product. Even consumers who formerly would do research online prior to making purchases, online or face-to-face, now research products, check ratings, poll their friends on Twitter or Facebook, search for infographics, whitepapers, and FAQs, as well as read countless reviews, blog posts, and forum discussions before making an online purchase or stepping foot inside a retail store.

In addition, marketers need to customize digital experiences and downloads for consumers with an eye to potentially more than one device including web, notebook, netbook, tablet or mobile device.

Layer Listening in Social Networks with Goals of Establishing Relationships and Delivering Expert Customer Service
Are you listening to what your customers are saying about you in social networks? And are you participating in those networks and providing content to help influence how consumers perceive your brand? Or even asking customers to contribute ideas to improve your products and services? Pearson indicates that these areas provide huge pre-commerce opportunity areas for brands.

Let’s Say You Get the Argument: What are Next Steps?
Pearson & his colleagues at WCG have developed what they call the Four As — awareness, assessment, action, and ambasadors to understand and create your new digital strategy. Here are some action steps for you to follow to begin to craft your new pre-commerce strategy:

Awareness: brand awareness is now created when customers can evidence your participation and engagement
1. Listen to what consumers are saying online
2. Join in appropriate conversations at appropriate times
3. Provide the right content at the right times

1. Provide content consumers can “download, view, read, and act upon” when, where and how customers need it
2. Assess how well you’re meeting customers’ needs prior to purchase or purchase intent.

1. Customers have acted on your offer in some way

1. Assess how well you’re doing in social media by measuring interactions and ranking sentiment to arrive at positive share of conversation

1. Build relationships with these loyal customers
2. Provide them with even more information
3. Give them opportunities to share their positive experiences of your brand

Note: It’s no mistake that assessment is listed twice — Pearson argues it’s critical to regularly keep score on how well you’re doing. See page 20 for a list of questions to ask if you’re ready to begin (or improve) your efforts on these fronts. Please note that Pearson has some caveats for this model:

“It is driven by customers, not corporations. The customers will decide when they listen, what they’ll discuss on the internet, where they’ll research their purchases, and where they’ll make them. Brand loyalty won’t come from the cave-wall paintings, it will come from persistent, positive interaction between a company, its brand, and its customers” (18).

Check out his text for more information on how to do each of these well. Then, you can use the following four criteria to measure how well you’re doing:

1. Search — where does your brand show up in search results and “within the customer-search journey?”
2. Peers — how do influencers rate and recommend your products and services?
3. Active Sharing — how often do influencers in step #2 above share your content?
4. Available Content — how often do you provide fresh content for influencers to share and are you providing it in the form they want to share?

Pearson gets social media. You will too — once you read and apply the important and timely advice he offers in Pre-commerce. After reading, you’ll be able to outline imperatives specific for your brand in order to create real change in the ways you connect with consumers and in the results you help your company achieve.

Create Your Content Strategy: Bring your dish-to-pass

Potluck Dish-to-PassI attended my first SXSW this month, and I am intrigued by various sessions about creating and marketing content that seeks to inspire, entertain, and educate an audience, be it an audience of consumers who have grown more skeptical about what you have to offer, students who have become more and more disengaged by coursework and classrooms, and even some SXSW attendees who are less than enthralled with the size and spectacle that SXSW interactive has become.

See Various Sessions: Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, Content First, Everything Else Second, Not My Job: Content Strategy Smackdown, Brave New World: Debating Brangs’ Role as Publishers and No Child Left Inside: Mobile Tech Meets Education.

These days I’m mainly focused on creating content for a large brand. In my opinion, creating and marketing compelling content for a brand can be one of the most important intersections of business, social media and marketing because it gives the brand something to have conversations about and around other than their products — conversations which, by and large, are falling on deaf ears. You can think of this more engaging and compelling content as the dish-to-pass that you bring to a potluck. Like most any meal among colleagues or friends, it’s the object that warms them up and creates an opening for conversation and connection.

Good Content & Good Potlucks
The content you create serves many purposes and can meet different business objectives. Like any good potluck — the event gets better the more different kinds of dishes there are. The types of content we can create may include videos, podcasts, text, slideshares, infographics, white papers, FAQs, apps, games, etc. Because of SEO issues and trying to serve the needs of a diverse audience, creating as many of these types of content as possible is important and necessary. Plus, you can consider how you might aggregate content to invite conversation and build engagement. Of course, when you’re ready to ramp things up, you can ask your users to help create content.

Having worked for several large brands, I know that content development and content aggregation can be one of the biggest challenges facing teams because of all of the different forms that “content” can take. And, from what I’ve seen, not many brands are staffed with expert content developers in all of these areas.

Content Strategy Priorities
Once you have your business objectives in hand and before you begin creating all these different types of content, you should consider the following.

1. Define the target audience
2. Identify the content topics that will appeal to each audience
3. Specify the level of content detail to provide and all associated metadata
4. Create appropriate calls to action to achieve business goals (engagement, sales, etc.)
5. Develop an editorial calendar to guide and prioritize the creation and publishing process

Next Steps
Once you have a content development strategy, then some next steps include:

1. content marketing: as you create the content, you also need to figure out the mix of paid media and social media you’re going to do to promote the content and build engagement around it, as well as how content aggregation might fit into your plans.
2. content measurement: define your plan so you know what content is working and you’re able to fine tune your efforts
3. content management: (not to be overlooked) you need to define the lifecycle of the content and what plans you have to maintain, archive, or delete.

In The Thank You Economy keynote, Gary Vaynerchuk advocated developing strong relationships with consumers and showing them that you care — not in just fuzzy-feel-good-ways — but in authentic ways before, during, and after the sale. As he writes in his book by the same name, “If your organization’s intentions transcend the mere act of selling a product or service, and it is brave enough to expose its heart and soul, people will respond” (ch 1).

Add one more quality to the list of what makes for great content: genuine. People can tell when you’re faking it.