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Archive for February, 2013

How a book can boost your content marketing

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There was a time when the idea of writing a book and getting it published would have seemed like a pipe dream; but that’s no longer the case. Self-publishing platforms and eBooks in particular have turned the publishing world upside down and given rise to thousands of titles on a host of topics for even the most niche audiences.

So why don’t you write a book? I’m not talking about the Great American Novel. I’m referring to a book about your business, which no one knows better than you; or your marketplace or some new development on the horizon impacting your industry.

Customers and prospects, partners, suppliers, investors and even prospective employees could benefit from your knowledge and experience. Your book also can help you land speaking engagements. Trade show and conference coordinators consider authors prime candidates for featured speakers or panel members.

Make your eBook a key piece of your content marketing strategy. For starters, offer your eBook to your target audiences to introduce your products and/or services. Blog about it on your own blog or in guest posts. Share excerpts in Tweets and Facebook posts. Post questions on LinkedIn to your groups referencing sections in your book.

Choose your topic

There are many tips on writing your eBook from choosing a title to research to publishing platforms. For now, here are some tips to help you choose your topic. We’ll explore the other topics in future blog posts.

  • What keeps your customers up at night: Consider what problems your customers face in running their business. What topic would be most helpful to them?
  • Research what’s written: Check blogs, magazines and books to see what’s already been written and what’s missing? What question has yet to be explored in depth? Also if you write a blog, analyze what posts get the most traffic. That can tell you what topics are of most interest to your audience. Do the same with other blogs in your industry.
  • Use Google keyword search: Try keywords and phrases to see what terms are most often searched. For example, try something like 50 ideas for small business marketing if your expertise is marketing or 10 ways to move your business to the clouds if you an IT consultant or have a cloud-based offering.
  • Check your website analytics: Where are people going on your site and what keywords are they using to find you.
  • Lessons learned: What lessons have you learned from others or on your own about running your business you want to impart.
  • What matters to you:  Do you have a passion for something you want to share? Can you instill that passion in others or teach them how to do something?

As the saying goes, “there’s a book inside everyone.” Now just might be the time for you to write yours.

 

 

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Written by Barbara Kohn

February 28th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Marketing

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Social Media Best Practice – To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

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Once you have created great content, the question becomes what do you do with it? In addition to direct marketing and web campaigns, you should be using content to help build your social media following. However, that doesn’t mean you use the same content in the same manner on every channel.

It amazes me that many companies consider social media an extension of their brand strategy, but they don’t take the time to consider how to use each channel. Just throwing a blog post up on Facebook or tweeting about your research report is just social media spam. The best approach is to use your content to engage rather than bombard your target audience. And that means using each social media channel differently to reach your target market.

There are too many social media channels to discuss in a single blog post, so let’s take a look at the big four:

  1. Facebook – Everybody engages on Facebook, mostly because of its size. According to CNET, Facebook had 1.06 billion (with a b) active users per month. PC World is a little more conservative, ranking Facebook first with 693 million active users, Google Plus second with 343 million active users, and Twitter with 288 million active users. However, Facebook has a certain way to engage with followers. You want to post information that promotes commentary and builds Likes to expand your brand reach. The best way to build a following is to excerpt you best content in a way that consistently engages followers. This doesn’t mean posting everything, but be judicious, be clever, and talk to your followers. Also remember that Facebook is largely a social medium for consumers, although it does have some value for B2B.
  2. Twitter – Many marketers don’t think much about Twitter. After all, how much information can you squeeze into 140 characters? The value of microblogging is not just in the number of followers (I know that I dip in and out of the Twitterverse at random), but in searchable content. Many people go to Twitter looking for information that is trending or for specific information. As I write this, the hashtag #THingsGirlsLike is the top trend. If you can logically map your content to a trend, or create a searchable presence using keywords, you can make Twitter work for you.
  3. LinkedIn – LinkedIn is one of the oldest social networks and has evolved well beyond the role of job search. LinkedIn has become a terrific tool to connect with other professionals, research new companies and potential customers, and exchange ideas through specialty forums. For B2B marketing, LinkedIn can be an incredibly powerful tool. Sharing compelling content with connections and forums can start conversations that can lead to new business.
  4. Google Plus – Google’s social network is the newest social network and has a different approach. To gain a real understanding of how Google+ works you might check out Guy Kawasaki’s book, What the Plus! Like Facebook, Google Plus lets you share content with your followers, but you have more control over who sees your content. You can set up circles of contacts that matter to you, such as current customers, friends, or prospects, which gives you more control over the kind of content you share. And Google Plus has added the concept of “hangouts” where you can invite followers to an interactive video/voices session, either one on one or as part of a group. I have already seen actors promote movies with hangout meetups, and even the President has used hangouts for an interactive town hall meeting. It’s a great way to use content to move to a one-on-one engagement with your audience.

The real value of any social media channel, of course, is reach. Your objective is to use content to get your brand message in front of more people. You want to tap friends of friends, get people to retweet, share LinkedIn content, or get others to share your posts with others in your circle or hangout. Building a brand following is a matter of delivering compelling, creative content to the right audience, in the right format, so they keep coming back for more.

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Written by Tom Woolf

February 27th, 2013 at 1:58 am

Content Curation: It’s About Quality, Not Quantity

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In the world of content marketing, you hear a lot about content curation. Curation typically means acting as a curator or conservationist, preserving history for the future. In a digital sense curation can mean the preservation and management of digital assets. However, in the context of content marketing curation really means organizing and distilling relevant information so your readership gets the best of the best.

Effective content marketing is really about delivering meaningful, quality information that demonstrates your expertise and reinforces your brand value. Consider the exabytes of information that is being pushed out over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and other inline forums. It’s too much data to sift through. Curation organizes the information in a way that makes it manageable, provides meaning, and focus. You want your message to be crisp, concise, and relevant. Curation helps cut through the clutter.

Beth Kanter, who advises non-profits about social media, recommends using the three S’s – Seek, Sense, Share – as part of your social media strategy. The same three S’s form the foundation of a good curation strategy:

  1. Seek out the most relevant content for your audience.
  2. Make sense of that content and help your audience interpret it. You can use blog content, annotations, comments, and other means to overlay relevant meaning on content.
  3. Share the content through the channels that are most meaningful to your audience, sharing the data points that are most relevant.

When considering the process of content curation, like any marketing undertaking, you need to have a goal in mind, and then you can find topics that support your goal. Once you have a cadre of relevant topics, then you can apply the three S’s – seek out the topics, make sense of them for your audience, and share.

By using an organized, considered approach, you can cultivate vetted content from relevant sources, repackaged and reinterpreted so it’s more relevant to your message and your audience. Your content is of higher quality and greater value because you took the time and attention to distill it to make it relevant, focused, and meaningful.

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Written by Tom Woolf

February 21st, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Ten content tips to drive engagement on Facebook

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Spark the conversation with Facebook and drive visitors to your website       

“Think of social sites as trade show booths. They’re excellent places to spark conversation, find new leads, and spread the word about what you do. But you still have an office where the main work gets done. That’s your primary site. Keep it …well primary.”

That’s how Copyblogger describes the value of Facebook as part of your content strategy. While Facebook is a great place to engage with your customers and prospects, get feedback on your products and services and share your company’s personality and brand value, you get the most out of it when your posts bring followers back to your web site. There you want to build the engagement with quality content – articles, blog, videos, and infographics – to keep visitors on your site longer and keep them coming back.

Get more Facebook likes and followers

So if you are going to use Facebook to attract more visitors to your website, here are 10 ways to get more likes and more followers:

  • Post often: Data from SocialBakers, a social media analytics platform, indicates that the ideal number for brands is 5 to 10 posts per week. You may find different figures, but posting once a week is definitely not going to build an engagement.
  • Keep posts brief: According to Facebook, posts less than 250 characters generate more interaction and 60% more likes, comments and shares than posts greater than 250 characters.
  • Vary your data: It’s a cliché but variety is the spice of life. That applies to social media engagement as well. Mix up your posts with text, links, images (followers like images; use lots of them), products and even graphs and video to maintain follower interest.
  • Offer relevant and shareable content:  Focus on more than your products and services. Be a reliable source about what’s happening in your market and industry. That includes breaking news on your Facebook page that is relevant to followers or featuring quotes and comments from other industry sources, including your customers/clients and partners.
  • Like other pages: As part of being a resource, like other pages related to your business or industry.
  • Provide tips: Ask someone from the industry or choose an expert on your team provide a weekly tip or suggestion via text or video.
  • Ask questions and ask for opinions: Get your followers more involved in your business. Ask them about new products/services they’d like to see. Ask them how they feel about developments in your market. Get their opinions on events or developments in your marketplace.
  • Guest posts: Ask clients and customers to contribute notable items and photos or interview an industry expert.
  • Employee stories: Let your followers know what your company is all about. Share photos from staff events; post videos to showcase staff expertise; celebrate promotions and other events in the lives of your staff.
  • Surveys: Ask fan to vote on something or conduct a survey. You also can share most commonly asked questions.

These are just some content ideas to grow your Facebook followers and keep them engaged. What content have you found effective in getting and keeping more Facebook?

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Written by Barbara Kohn

February 19th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Building a Case Study Campaign – Making the Most of Your Content

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To leverage a good story, you need cooperation from all the participants

One of the truths of successful content marketing is you never waste a good story. Some of your best stories will be customer case studies – nothing sells like a real-world application. However, case studies are only implicit testimonials. For most of our clients, their customers will not endorse a product or service, although they will explain, in detail, how they use that product or service to improve their own operations and promote their own brand. The trick when working with customers for case studies is making sure that everyone gets to shine and tell their story, but without detracting from the objectivity that gives the case story its value.

“What’s In It for me?”

When I interview case study candidates, I try to make sure they have a chance to shine and tell their own story in their own way. I look for ways to make sure that the interviewee gets to promote his company and its brand in an appropriate fashion.

Usually, the case study needs to show how the customer is outperforming the competition thanks to your product or service. The objective is to make them look smarter and a leader in their industry because they were wise enough to use your product. Sometimes, a middle manager is seeking to build his reputation, his personal brand, and by being featured as the expert in a case study his or she gets to strut their stuff.

However you approach any case study, everyone has to look like a winner.

How far will they go?

As part of the case study qualification process, you need to assess how far the customer will go in talking about your product or service. Some customers will only speak as anonymous vendors, while others are willing to talk to analysts, editors, prospects, and even stand up at trade shows and brag about how they use your product.

You need to ascertain how enthusiastic your customer contact is about the vendor relationship and the product, and more importantly, how much authority they have to speak for their organization. More than one case study has been quashed by legal, the PR department, or somebody in the C suite.

Once you find the right spokesperson – someone in authority who is an enthusiastic evangelist, the sky’s the limit! You can use that contact for sales referrals, interviews, and other strategic opportunities. However, be judicious about bringing out your best customer advocates. You don’t want to go to the same well too often; it will run dry.

Rinse and repeat

Once you have the case study approved and in the can, and your customer spokesperson primed and ready, what’s your next step? How do you get the most value from a case study?

1. The web site – Of course, you want to make sure that online visitors can read your latest tale of triumph. Consider using a teaser approach, so visitors get part of the story but they have to get the payoff after becoming a Facebook follower or subscribing to your newsletter.

2. Campaigns – If it’s a good story, use it for a direct marketing campaign. Build your mailing list by providing a PDF of the complete case study in exchange for an email address.

3. Article placements – No good story should be wasted, so why not place it in a trade magazine? Editors are always looking for good user stories, if you are willing to remain objective and tell the story without flourishes or hyping your product. (Don’t worry, the readers will know it’s your product.)

4. Videos – If your customer is willing to tell his or her story in front of a crowd, make a video. Video content is very powerful and can be used and reused for a variety of marketing programs.

5. Webinars – Better than a printed story is a demonstration. Webinars featuring case studies are a great way to promote your products.

6. References – Industry analysts, editors, and even sales prospects want to talk to customers. They need reassurance that your value proposition and product claims aren’t just empty promises. Having a catalog off referencable customers you can rely on for references can be invaluable. Just be sure to keep them informed before you drop their name, and be sure they stay happy.

Happy customers with an interesting application story can be gold for any marketing program. Be sure to spend them wisely.

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Written by Tom Woolf

February 14th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

How an editorial calendar helps your content marketing

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Think like a publisher and plan ahead to ensure fresh content

If content marketing is important to your marketing effort then you need to start thinking like a publisher. Creating fresh content on a regular basis requires planning to ensure you  feed your social media channels, turn up in search and nurture customers and prospects through each stage of the sales cycle.

An editorial content calendar helps you manage your content marketing process. It ensures that your content  – press releases, white papers, case studies, articles, blog posts, videos, and more – are ready when you need them for maximum impact.

Determine your annual content needs

Plan your calendar with a year-long view. Consider the following dates or milestones as you plan the content you need:

  • Product or service offering launches: Figure out what content you’ll need to reach targets with your new offerings. You might need a mix of press releases, blog announcements, updates to your website, videos, a white paper and more to support the launch.
  • Company events: Factor in your attendance at trade shows or conferences.
  • Selling cycle: Determine if you need to disseminate specific information to support selling cycles in your industry.
  • Industry announcements: Decide if you need content timed to counteract competitors’ planned launches or coincide with the release of annual research.
  • Be opportunistic: In addition to the above, allow for developments within your industry that might create a need for new content.

Create and manage your calendar

To ensure you stay on top of your calendar and that the content supports your marketing objectives:

  1. Appoint a calendar coordinator: Put one person in charge of the calendar to keep it up to date and ensure content creation meets goals and deadlines.
  2. Assign responsibilities: Each piece of content needs a producer who is responsible for seeing the content through to development and, if necessary, design.
  3. Identify audience: Align your content with the appropriate audience(s) based on their need for information to furthering the engagement and/or the buying process.
  4. Determine distribution: Determine the best channels for distributing your content and re-purposing it for other materials. A blog post should also be targeted for appropriate social media channels and bookmarking sites and can be included in an email marketing campaign or newsletter.
  5. Set metrics: Establish metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your content in meeting objectives.

You can create your own calendar; content calendar templates also are available from a number of sources online. Once your calendar is complete, make it available to your team on your company server or in the clouds. Used properly, your editorial calendar is an invaluable tool to keep you on track to provide content that connects with your audiences.

 

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Written by Barbara Kohn

February 12th, 2013 at 1:52 am

The Elements of a Successful Case Study

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Adults tend to learn best by example, so tell a compelling tale.

There is no single formula for a successful case study, but there are common elements to tell a compelling story that that connects with readers in a way that prompts positive action.

The beauty of case studies is they are concrete, and provides newfound knowledge in a real-world context. Adults tend to learn differently from children, acquiring new skills because they want to in order to grow and expand their knowledge and capabilities. Case studies help facilitate that growth with “hands-on” application of knowledge.

Research shows that adults learn differently. Malcolm Knowles, the famed adult educator, based his theory of andragogy on four basic premises.

  1. Adults tend to learn best when they understand why they are learning something.
  2. Adults learn best through experience
  3. Adults tend to view learning as an opportunity for problem solving
  4. Adults learn best when the subject is relevant and can be immediately applied.

That’s why case studies are so powerful – they provide knowledge based on experience that solves a problem and can be immediately applied. Hence there are common elements that are required for any compelling and successful case study:

  1. The problem – What specific issue needs to be overcome? Typically you want to state the problem in terms that your intended audience will recognize, and with which they can empathize. Remember that a good case study requires good storytelling, so your problem should create a commonly understood conflict that needs resolution.
  2. The organization – Provide a profile of the case study subject, including background, how long they have been in operation, setbacks, and other details that give the subject company character. Remember, your case study subject is the protagonist in your case study drama.
  3. Process – How did the company come to identify their problem and what steps did they take to try to solve it? This is where you get a chance to highlight your strengths over the competition without actually calling them out. Explore the characteristics of potential solutions and why they were rejected.
  4. Discovery – How did your case study topic achieve that “a ha!” moment when they encountered your solution? What led to the epiphany that you could solve the problem? This is an important part of building the drama of the case study story and the journey your customer/protagonist had to go through.
  5. Solution – Here is where you have the opportunity to show why you shine. Present your solution to the problem as a logical extension of the discovery process. Explain what features deliver the benefits the customer was seeking, but be sure to keep the tone educational and informative, and not promotional.
  6. Implementation – What steps were required to implement the solution, including dependent elements and other factors? The objective is to promote credibility by honestly revealing how much time, support, and training might be required.
  7. Results – This is where you get to make your case. Be concrete and try to provide metrics that will be compelling to the reader, e.g. savings of time, money, improved efficiency, or some other factor that affects the bottom line.

The specific elements and returns will vary based on the example, the industry, and the metrics that will be meaningful to your case study subject. However, the storyline needs to have universal appeal so the reader can identify with the problem and the solution. A skilled storyteller can help you reveal the problem, benefits, and solutions in a way that will allow your case study to appeal in a way that it will support a call to action, which is the next topic in this blog series.

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Written by Tom Woolf

February 7th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Getting down to brass tacks about content marketing

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Short and sweet answers to 24 top content marketing questions

Despite all the discussion online and off about content marketing, are you still wondering where to begin and why? Maybe you haven’t yet come to terms with the concept of giving away your company knowledge free of charge to win over customers and prospects?

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, addresses 24 of the top content marketing questions he routinely gets. He doesn’t wax philosophical.  He cuts to the chase in (generally) fewer characters than a Tweet.

Not that content marketing is so simple that you can learn everything you need to know from just 24 questions and answers.  Still, I think Pulizzi does a great job of addressing the basics, which could be quite valuable to those of you still at the starting gate and not off and running down the content marketing track.

Here are a few of my favorites among Pulizzi’s top 24:

How do I create more content?

You most likely have enough content. First look at stopping some things that aren’t working and reallocating those resources to quality content initiatives.

But my content is not in story-ready form?

True, most companies have content assets, but they aren’t in a compelling form. Hire or contract out a journalist, editor, or natural storyteller to help get those assets into shape.

Should I insource or outsource my content?

Most companies do both (content marketing research here). It doesn’t have to be either or, and there is no silver bullet. Find the resources necessary to get the job done. It will never be perfect, so don’t wait.

What is the difference between content and content marketing?

Content marketing must work to enhance or change a behavior. If it doesn’t, it’s just content.

Read them all in “24 Top Content Marketing Questions Answered in Less than 140 Characters”

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Written by Barbara Kohn

February 5th, 2013 at 4:18 pm