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Facebook social partnering is the cat’s meow for one rescue

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If you are looking to increase your Facebook following, you might want to talk to Ava Gardner. Not THE Ava Gardner who stole Ol’ Blue Eyes heart. This Ava Gardner is a cat whose enormous popularity supports the belief held by many that cats rule the Internet.  Ava Gardner the Cat’s Facebook page has managed to attract a following of 326,000 fans – and she’s not even Grumpy.

Ava’s popularity even confounds owner Susie Newton. Two years ago, she got the idea to put up a Facebook page for her Tuxedo cat that was found stray in 2011 in the San Francisco Bay Area and turned over to a cat welfare group.  Ten months later, Newton and her family adopted Ava.  What followed once Ava’s page went up is the stuff of Facebook legends. Her popularity just took off and today the 12-year old kitty basks in the adoration of her thousands of  fans.

Newton, who claims no social media marketing experience, soon saw the potential in her social media darling to save the lives of other cats in need. A volunteer with several Bay Area cat rescue groups, Newton began including posts about other homeless cats on Ava’s page. The posts, which she consistently updated three to four times a week, boosted Ava’s popularity and helped other rescued cats find homes.

Last July, Newton began volunteering with Maine Coon Adoptions (MCA), a highly regarded San Francisco area rescue group. Among her primary activities, Newton took over managing MCA’s Facebook page, which had already attracted about 4500 loyal fans. Newton began re-posting MCA Facebook posts on Ava’s page.  By the end of the year, the social partnership proved to be hugely successful. MCA’s following tripled to 15,000, and continues to climb, and Ava’s fame spread even further

Newton actively posts for the MCA page about four to five times a day and tracks what posts are the most popular. She varies the posts between adoptable cats featured on MCA’s website, upcoming events, and special fundraisers. But the posts that get the most likes and shares are the ones about adopted cats living the good life in their new homes. As Netwton puts it, ‘Everyone loves to see the cats living happily ever.”

Ava Gardner the Cat and Maine Coon Adoptions highlight the value of establishing a social partnership to help grow your follower base.  Ask an affiliate or partner to mention your company or organization in their blog, share your posts on their Facebook page or give you a re-tweet, and return the favor.

Ava was a rescued cat who now is sharing her limelight to help other cats in need. You can’t get much more social than that.

 

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Written by Barbara Kohn

February 17th, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Follow Me! Converting Social Media Leads

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I have been receiving a lot of spam messages lately from hucksters offering to sell me Facebook “Likes.” The most common come-on is $60 for 600 Likes:

Addition of 600 REAL Worldwide Facebook Fans’ “Likes” for $60

- All Likes/Fans Will Be a Mix Of Male And Female Real random Worldwide People.

- Likes/Fans come from real active people from our Facebook applications(~400) and websites(~200).

So is your online loyalty worth a dime? I think it’s worth more than just $0.10.

True online followers want to read what you have to say, and comment. They are engaged because you have given them something interesting and informative and entertaining that keeps them coming back for more. Your followers are putting a degree of trust in the online experience they will get from following you, which means you need to work to honor that trust by providing content worth reading.

Of course, lead generation and revenue generation have to be a priority for any social media campaign, but if you use hard-selling content, you won’t attract many followers, and you won’t keep the ones you have already acquired. You need to give followers a reason to follow you; you want to attract prospects and nurture them until they are ready to buy from you. Remember that no one is sold a product, but they will buy a solution that solves their problem.

Why is social media so valuable for lead generation for a number of reasons:

  • It’s basically free
  • Your prospects are self-selecting; you are attracting pre-interested parties.
  • It’s viral. Like attracts like, so your followers are likely to share with their followers so you social media base could start growing geometrically (if you entice them with interesting content).
  • It’s intimate. Social media gives you an opportunity to get closer to your prospects than direct mail, advertising, or any other vehicle. You can see what they respond to, talk to them directly through comments and Likes, and get a true understanding of where their interest lie.

How do you convert social media fans into paying customers?

Not all Facebook followers are created equal. Some are qualified prospects who ultimately will buy from you. Others may know qualified customers. Still others are just interested fans, but you never know who they know. So how do you convert followers into customers?

  1. Understand where social media falls in your sales process. If you are using content correctly, then you are using Facebook and other channels to herd followers into your sales process. To do that you need to understand how social media generates leads. Do you need to offer a gift of coupon for a trial? Do you need to get them to a webinar? What mechanisms do you need to apply to incite your followers to become active prospects?
  2. Remove any obstacles to lead conversion. Don’t make it hard to go from social media to a more direct interaction. Use easy to complete landing pages, e-book downloads, white papers, case studies, and other mechanisms that make it easy to ask for more information, and ultimately a sales call.
  3. Offer baby steps for soft conversion. Don’t use a full-court press to convert followers. Let them get to know you better at their own pace. Offer softer conversion mechanisms, such as giving up an email and no more. Maintain the trust you nurtured through social media throughout the sales process.
  4. Treat your fans with greater respect than traditional leads. Your followers are used to valuable content from you. Respect that and continue to provide value and insightful information that directs them to a buying decision. Be prepared to engage, answer questions, overcome objections, and convert the fan to a lead, without hitting them over the head with a sales message. They will tell you when they are ready to migrate into the traditional sales channel.
  5. Measure the results and refine the program. Determine what content and social media channels are working for you. Specific messages and social media outlets will yield better quality results and remove barriers to entry into the sales process faster. Identify them and measure them.

Starting with quality content to help prospects make a decision to become followers is the first step. Once they become followers you have the opportunity to talk to them, nurture them, and persuade them to become customers. And no matter who your followers are, they all have value because you never know why they are following you, or who they might know. And treat your social media followers like gold, because that’s what they’re really worth, not just a measly dime.

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Written by Tom Woolf

September 20th, 2013 at 11:19 pm

“Excuse Me; May I Buy Your Product?” – The Inbound Marketing Payoff

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Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to promote your company and customers just beat a patch to your door? You don’t need to invent a better mousetrap to get that kind of customer attention. You just need to find a better way to communicate with them to get them to want to do business with you. That requires better content to attract them and better channels to reach them.

Thanks to the web, customers have become self-selecting and proactive in their search for new goods and services. Rather than responding to outbound marketing – advertisements, billboards, TV spots, etc. – they are more inclined to respond to inbound marketing – a two-way dialogue often empowered by social media. If you think about it another way, you are earning the trust of your inbound marketing prospects instead of shouting at them to get their attention.

Inbound marketing is all the rage for some obvious reasons:

  • 44 percent of direct mail is never opened.
  • 86 percent of viewers skip through commercials.
  • 84 percent of younger buyers (25 to 34 years old) have clicked out of a website because of an intrusive popup ad or an irrelevant ad.
  • The cost per lead in inbound marketing is substantially less than traditional outbound programs.

What drives inbound marketing programs is content – blogs, social media posts, white papers, videos, podcasts. You have to use informative content that entertains and adds value to create a positive connection with the consumer. Once you engage with the consumer, he or she is more likely to take a closer look at your products, feel a connection to your brand, and ultimately make a purchasing decision.

While this is a better mousetrap, it requires patience and persistence. Conversion doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it often never happens. But permission-based inbound marketing campaigns, where you invite participation, are always less expensive and promote greater customer loyalty than outbound programs.

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Written by Tom Woolf

April 29th, 2013 at 2:16 am

The Three Essential Steps to Killer Content

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No matter what your marketing program initiative – a social media campaign, blogging, direct email, a new web site – you need the right message to appeal to your target audience. That means going back to basics if you want to create killer content. You need to talk to your clients in a language that resonates with them, sharing content that is interesting and appealing. Remember that content marketing is all about engaging in an online exchange, and good conversation is driven by good content.

As we have said in the past, good content is like good storytelling – your objective is to tell your story in a way that engages your audience; that resonates with them so they learn to trust you, trust what you have to say, and they follow you. Building online trust as a credible source is what keeps your audience coming back for more. And if they trust you they will do business with you.

So how do you create awesome content that speaks to your clients? There are three essential steps:

1. Listen. Too often, organizations launch into an online marketing program without testing the waters first. They start posting without thinking, flooding their online channels with messages that basically say, “He, we’re here! Isn’t it cool being online! Want to buy our stuff?” Boring and obnoxious! No one will engage with you to hear a sales pitch. When creating content, your goal is to provide information that is both valuable and promotes your brand. You want to be seen as an expert with something interesting to share. To do that, you have to understand what your audience wants to hear. Listen before you leap.

  • Who are the influences in your market? Those are the people to follow. See what they are saying on their blog, on Twitter, and on their Facebook page. They probably have interesting subjects that you can talk about.
  • What are you peers talking about? What topics are hot in the Web in your market? You can use keywords and key phrases to uncover similar conversations? Search the webs, the news feeds, the blog feeds, and elsewhere to see what others are saying about those topics.
  • Where does your target audience hang out? If you want to reach consumers, are they on Facebook or Twitter? If they are professionals do they have their own blog, their own online forum, or are they on LinkedIn? Find relevant conversations and follow the thread. And remember to use those same online locations to share your own content.

2. Empathize. Every good writer has to make an emotional connection with his or her audience. Your content has to show empathy for your reader. Think like a reader; project yourself into his or her shoes and see what fits. What information do they want from you? What makes their lives easier? What obstacles prevent them from engaging with you?

Your value proposition, or if you prefer your brand promise, needs to align with your target market. To do that effectively, you have to understand what your clients want and how you can fulfill their needs and desires. That kind of empathy needs to be reflected in your content.

A proven marketing tool to help you understand your audience is creating a profile or “persona.” Create a portrait of your ideal client and use that persona or character to test assumptions about your product or service – what would your customer do? And don’t’ be shy about asking your customers and online followers what they think and what they want to hear from you.

3. Engage. Once you understand what makes them tick you are ready to engage. Be an information resource. Offer advice and answer questions about topics of interest and that are relevant to your brand. Be sure to approach your topics with confidence, as an expert, so your followers understand why you should be a trusted resource.

Remember that content is the tool you need to build an online rapport. Once your followers become comfortable with you and look to you for advice on your areas of expertise, they will seek you out when they need your help. That’s how you use content to build your business.

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Written by Tom Woolf

April 19th, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Appetizer versus Entree: Don’t Overstuff Your Content

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“While I have your attention, let me tell you about…” This attitude is the bane of content marketing strategies. Too often, marketing managers want to cram 10 pounds of brand messages into a 5 pound bag. The truth is if you bury your audience in content, chances are they won’t pay attention to any of it, and they won’t come back.

Effective content marketing is focused, giving the audience enough information to satisfy them based on whatever forum you are using. Social media, for example, thrives on sound bites. You use images, short messages, and content that can be taken in at a glance to drive awareness. You can use social media as an appetizer to drive traffic to the main course, such as a case study, white paper, or webinar, but you should always be aware of how much information you audience will be willing to absorb.

Infographics provide an interesting example of how to overstuff your content. You have undoubtedly seen infographics posted on Facebook, blogs, company web sites, and elsewhere. The problem with many Infographics is they suffer from infographic overload; they try to tell the entire history of mankind in a single graphic. The more information you stuff into an infographic, the harder it is to digest. You should reserve infographics for specific campaigns and content programs. As Leslie Bradshaw, co-founder of JESS3 and one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Women in Tech, told CCO Magazine:

Infographics are a high-level tactic that are good for educated audiences; they are not actually good for consumer audiences. Consumer audiences are much more likely to share something on Facebook that’s really ‘snackable.’ Think about Pinterest. Those are the pieces of content we call snackable content—short, bold statements. If we produce content that has just one or two data points, we call it a data graphic.

For JESS3, a data graphic is Infographic lite; a short graphic that offers one or two data points to tell a story. This kind of graphic is idea for Facebook of other social media outlets, and you can link it back to something meatier, such an infographic or white paper.

If you feed your audience bite-sized bullets, the trail of breadcrumbs will eventually lead to the heartier content where you can tell an in-depth story where you can build a case for your product or services with examples, ROI statistics, and more.

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Written by Tom Woolf

March 5th, 2013 at 6:32 pm

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