Got Content? Milk It!

Originally published on The Whiteboard, Triad Advertising

Want to hear a secret? SEO is dead. Ditto social media, infographics, contests and surveys.

I hear you cheering. Hurrah! Best news since the arrival of the new iPhone. No more crafting the perfect title tag, blog post, meta description or Facebook post. No need to respond tactfully to cranky customers calling you out on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or Foursquare. No more keywords, no more hooks, no more trolls’ dirty looks. Just time for real company stuff. Finally.

Not so fast. The truth is that these things are more important than ever. As part of an integrated, coordinated content strategy. The days of piecemeal content creation and siloed SEO are over. That is the lesson of SearchLove, a two day conference put together by Distilled and SEOMoz which we were fortunate enough to attend.

Not too long ago, Google rolled out two algorithmic updates: Panda and Penguin. Both updates served to penalize thin content, lousy linking strategies and generally shady practices that had grown in popularity. “Grey hat” practices that worked in the past, like buying links, using exact domain matches without relevant content, and faking social media personalities, suddenly got sites reduced in search engine rankings, and sometimes delisted altogether.

Hand wringing and cursing ensued across the web. What to do?

Well, how about what you should have done in the first place? Create great content. Share it with communities for whom it’s relevant. Be deliberate and strategic in your online efforts. Connect marketing efforts online and off. And did I mention, create great content?

Great content is more than a random blog post about you every so often. It’s more than plugging a bunch of keywords into a page title. And it’s way more than trading links and submitting to search directories. It’s a new way of thinking about the intersection of your content, your company and your business goals.

So, how do you get started on this new content journey? Here are a few quick tips:

  • Don’t forget the basics. Yes – you still need to do all the nitpicky, little things for SEO, such as create descriptive title tags, meta descriptions and use keywords in your content. These elements tell search engines what your site is about.  Traditional, stand-alone SEO might not be as effective as it used to be, but you ignore it at your peril.
  • Think about who you are targeting. You might not need to be number one on search engine ranking pages for the entire world unless you are a global brand. Think and focus on local.
  • Don’t jump on every new platform that comes along! Where are your current and potential customers? Facebook? Twitter? Yelp? What about industry specific platforms or LinkedIn? Make sure digital marketing efforts are aimed at those places.
  • Make sure your content answers these questions: What problem do my customers have? How am I uniquely suited to help fix it? The more you demonstrate empathy with your customers, the more likely they are to look to you to solve their issues.
  • Keeping existing customers is as important – if not more important – than refilling the funnel. Use digital and social to keep your existing customers happy and coming back for more.

Yup, online marketing is more important than ever. Getting results requires more care. No more phoning it in. No more pretend engagement. No more slacking. Sorry.

Social the Bruce Springsteen Way

bruce-gilette-sm

Originally published on The Whiteboard, Triad Advertising

Thanks to the generosity of a fabulous friend, I danced Saturday night away at the Bruce Springsteen concert at Gilette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. A rocking, rambunctious girls night out might not be the most logical place to come up with your top four truths for social media and content marketing. But, truth comes from the strangest places.

4. Be prepared
Bruce Springsteen is famous for taking song requests from the audience. He fully expects his band to be able to play anything from their catalog at a moment’s notice. He changes his set list nightly. Songs played one night make no appearance the next. And, he plays covers on top of his own songs. That’s a tall order.

How does it apply to your social strategy? Are you able to deal with online complaints? Do you know who you are targeting? Do you know who your content creators are? Until you have the answers to these questions, you aren’t prepared to jump into social.

3. Know your fans
Bruce Springsteen has been around for a long time. His first album was released in 1973. Over the past 40 years, he has had commercial hits and flops, and in between. When it comes to planning his concerts, it’s critical that he pay homage to the fans who have granted him his long standing success. What are those favorites? Are they always his commercial hits? With a 40 year catalog to choose from, someone is always bound to be disappointed (I wish he had played Rosalita myself.)

It’s important to know what your fans will forgive, and what will turn them off, possibly forever. (Think Gap and Coca-Cola.) Make sure you are meeting your fans’ needs and wants. After all, they are the backbone of your success.

2. Try something new
Reunion tours are popular. Aging rock stars get together, sing their greatest hits, and collect the profits from a nostalgic, but formulaic tour. They try nothing new. They take no risks. They appeal only to the past, not the future.

But not Bruce. Rather than rest on his impressive rock star resume, Bruce continues to release new music. This tour supports his latest album. Many songs played were from the past few.

It’s critical for your business to keep up with the times. Styles and technology change. Whether that means changing your marketing or changing your logo, newer, potential fans expect you to cater to their reality. Now. If you stay the same while times change, you will be left behind.

1. Give it your all
Even at the age of 62, Bruce Springsteen is a hardworking, hard rocking guy. He put on a 3 and half hour show, never once slowing down. He was a singing, dancing, running, stomping, storytelling, joke making, machine. He played for a good half hour after the lights came on, including an extended version of Twist and Shout. He likely violated some local curfew. He made sure that everyone – from the newest fan to the oldest – had a great time. He played his heart out, making sure his fans – the consumer – felt like they were getting the most for their money.

How do you make your clients feel wanted? Do you make every interaction one they appreciate? Do you balance their needs with those of your business?

Springsteen demonstrated preparation, tradition, experimentation and execution. The very same things that lead to social media success. Bruuuce!

Which of your favorite entertainers pull off this balancing act? We’d love to know!

 

Should Social Ring the Register

pat=bb4-smOriginally Published on The Whiteboard, Triad Advertising

It’s Friday morning. Maybe you are sinking hoops using the Nerf backboard you put up years ago. Maybe you are kicking around your office, thinking about weekend plans, football training camp and… Facebook. Yes, you still aren’t sure about social. On one shoulder is the guy in blue, insisting that you have to do it. On the other is the guy in red yelling that you are busy enough as it is. It’s Friday afternoon, after all. Perfect time for a rousing debate with… yourself.

You aren’t alone. We know first hand that it goes something like this:

Red: I don’t see how Facebook can really help most businesses. For many, it doesn’t lead to sales. Any marketing tool that doesn’t lead to sales shouldn’t be used. It’s a waste of resources.

Blue: Facebook isn’t a marketing tool. It’s an engagement tool.

Red: What does that mean? Facebook takes a lot of time and energy. It diverts staff from real money making ventures to fluff. If it isn’t leading to sales, then why should companies bother?

Blue: It’s important to chat with your customers where they are. Facebook – in spite of press to the contrary – is still growing by leaps and bounds. People are probably already talking about you in social – so you might as well take part in the conversation.

Red: Why? Having that conversation on social is so public. It can go so wrong. Look at what’s happening with Chick-Fil-A.

Blue: True, but it can also go really right. When you use social and Facebook as an extension of your customer service, you can move your customers from paying you to loving you. Building that brand loyalty is super important, particularly in today’s economy. Chick-Fil-A – might be getting hammered on Facebook, but their fans are equally vocal in supporting them.

Red: I’m still not comfortable with recommending action that doesn’t have an easily measurable return on investment. People are so busy and it takes a lot of time and effort to make great content.

Blue: What’s the cost of not doing it? A lot of folks do their research before they commit to a purchase. They want to know a brand. What a brand thinks is important. What their friends think about it. If you don’t have that information out there, you could lose sales.

Red: Maybe. But a lot of people are putting a lot of garbage out on social. They aren’t focusing on what makes them different. They aren’t focusing on what makes their product special.

Blue: True. If you don’t take the time to create great content, you certainly won’t get the engagement and loyalty – and word of mouth promotion – you are looking for.

Red: And why is everyone so focused on Facebook? I see so many brands saying “I have to be on Facebook” without knowing why or what their goals are.

Blue: Absolutely. Not everyone needs to be on all platforms. Does a B-2-B need to be on Facebook? Maybe not. Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest… they might all be better alternatives depending on the industry, the client base, etc.

Red: So… what were we arguing about? Seems like social is like all other efforts to promote your business. You get out what you put in.

Blue: Yeah. Pass the basketball.

Blogging Is Dead! Not.

blog

Originally published on The Whiteboard, Triad Advertising

Recently, The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth released statistics showing a big decline in blogging by Inc. 500 companies. In 2010, fifty percent of the Inc. 500 maintained a corporate blog. By 2011, that number dropped to 37%. The study argues that this decline is due to growth in other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Great! You wanted to junk your blog anyway. It’s hard to come up with original content, you don’t see clear returns and now you don’t have to do it anymore. Not so fast.

The Inc. 500 is a specific set of privately owned companies, with at least 2 million dollars in revenue last year, and at least $1,000,000 in revenue in 2008. The companies range from 2 employees to thousands, and from industries as diverse and food and beverage to advertising to government services to clothing boutiques.

The only similarity between the companies included in the Inc. 500 is their willingness to apply for inclusion on the list. We can’t assume they all have the same online marketing needs.

You should you keep blogging. Why?

  • Search Engine Optimization: Blogs are useful for SEO for two reasons. First, blogs give you an opportunity to create fresh content, which Google loves. Second, your blog allows you to publish keyword rich content of interest to your customers. Stick those keywords in your post titles, post URLs, and better yet, in your article link text. (Bonus points if these links point readers back to your own website.) Strategic use of blog posts can make your primary website more easily found through search.
  • Establishing Expertise: Why should potential customers choose you? Price? Product? Service? How about because you are the perfect fit for their needs! You are the best at what you do! How do you demonstrate this? Online reviews help. So do social conversations. Blog posts give you one more opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of your field and your care for the needs and challenges of customers.
  • Social Feeding: You know all those other social platforms you want to post to? What are you posting there? You need content, right? Why not create it yourself! Original content always demonstrates authenticity in social circles. Add blog posts to the mix. It demonstrates that little extra bit of effort that many companies aren’t willing to undertake.

Yes, blogging is hard. But like your broccoli, it’s good for you and your business. Keep it up!

What do you think? Has your company started a blog? What were your experiences like? Let us know!

Fear of Facebook

facebookOriginally published on The Whiteboard, Triad Advertising

You sit down at your desk, fire up your computer and check your Facebook page. You notice that someone posted a critical review of your product or company. You are shocked, angry and maybe a little bit scared. What do you do about negative comments on Facebook?

Facebook is arguably the largest social network out there, and certainly one of the most active. There are 845 million monthly active users, who on average spend 20 minutes a day on the site. They upload photos, they like pages, they interact with brands.

But, with Facebook’s power comes risk. When you allow public participation on your Facebook page – or Wall – you also allow negative opinion. Some criticism may be valid, some may be simple disagreements, and some may be folks – sometimes referred to as “trolls” – looking to stir the pot. Regardless of the reason, you need a plan to manage negativity when it happens.

You might think that blocking people from posting on your Wall altogether, or moderating posts before they go live, will help you avoid unwanted comments on your page. But, if you block user comments, you will lose all of the benefit of being on Facebook – namely, your fans promoting your business for you. Facebook is the largest “word of mouth” platform on earth. People trust their friends, not advertising.

If you hold articles for moderation, you can prevent the posting of original negative posts to your timeline. But Facebook doesn’t allow for the moderating of comments. Instead, they go live in real time. (You can create a “spam” list which will block some comments, but this is an imperfect science for another post.)

So, how do you handle negative posts on your Facebook page? By following a few simple rules.

  1. Post a Facebook terms of service on your page. Tell your users your planned content for your page, as well as behavior that won’t be tolerated. Not all comments are appropriate for conversation. You don’t need to subject your business or your fans to abuse. You do need to define which conversations you will engage in. Coca Cola has a great and often copied policy. If you should need to ban someone from posting or delete content, you can point to your public terms of service as justification.
  2. Plan ahead. No one expects to see negative comments on their Facebook wall. But, as with most business operations, proper planning prevents poor performance. Who will respond to negative comments? He or she is your Facebook spokesperson. What authority do they have to craft a message for your brand? How well do they understand your business? These issues need to be ironed out before you publish that brand page.
  3. Respond quickly. Yes, this means checking your Facebook page 2 – 3 times per day. The web is a 24 hour business. You should assign someone to check comments evenings and weekends, as well as during normal business hours. If negative content is found, it should be reported to the designated spokesperson from Step 2.
  4. Respond calmly. Defensive responses will only get the naysayers riled up and more motivated. Just like you, they hope to see viral returns on the content they post to your page. The more you fan the flames, the greater the likelihood it will get out of control. Instead, at all times, just as when responding to any customer complaint, stay polite and professional.
  5. Don’t delete negative posts unless they violate your terms of service. While it may seem uncomfortable to keep negative posts on your Facebook page, remember that doing so demonstrates your commitment to open conversation.
  6. Take the conversation off-line. The last thing you want are accusations flying back and forth on your Facebook page. Remember our designee from Step 2? Post a polite response indicating their contact information and their willingness to engage in a conversation.

Have you had negative comments on your Facebook page? How did you handle it? What troll managing tactics did we miss? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Silos and snow

It's no secret. I'm not a huge fan of winter. I hate slugging through the snow. I hate being cold. I hate winds that burn my face walking up the street and slipping on the ice. I don't ski, I don't ice skate, I don't snow shoe. Instead, I wait, somewhat begrudgingly, for the warm winds of spring.

That said, winter can be absolutely, quietly, starkly beautiful.

The lesson? We are creatures of habit. We rarely stop to examine our likes and dislikes. How often do we consider whether there is something to appreciate outside our bubble?

This self selection is reflected in our media consumption habits. We tend to stick with who and what we know. We rarely seek out the other. Recent statistics tell us Facebook was the most visited website of 2010. Also on the top 10 for this year and last were Yahoo, Microsoft and Google email. We are creating silos of thought, and perhaps, just perhaps, missing out on learning or experiencing something new.

What do you think? Are there benefits to peering around our walls, or are tried and true the way to go? Would love to hear your thoughts! And Happy New Year. 

 

 

 

 

Why bother blogging?

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Pretty disingenuous and self-congratulatory for the first five minutes, no? Would he really have all those readers if he couldn’t capitalize on big university’s brand? Could he have grown that type of fan-base from scratch? Should those of us without a pre-built cadre of admirers just bail out of the blog-o-sphere? Is it just hopeless?

I certainly hope not. All blogs – even those read by thousands of supporters – start off with just 3 or 5 or 10 readers. Chris Brogan readily admits – and repeats – that it took him years to build his brand. Most folks in the social media rock star space do.

Building a blog, growing a brand is hard work.  There’s lots of competition. You will have ups and downs. You will have wins and losses. You will have traffic spikes and dips and days where your only visitors are friends and family. (Thanks Mom!) You will lose focus and motivation. You will be tempted to tweet about your breakfast. (Don’t.)

Most of us start at the bottom. But, if you love the process, if you want to create and share something new, then write that blog post, upload those photos, film that video. Engaging with total strangers requires a bit of vanity. From everyone. Regardless of the medium.

Fighting off the fear of failure is hard enough. Don’t let naysayers increase the burdens of production.

What do you think?  Is there room for those of us not on the Ad Age Power 150? Or, should we just quit wasting our time? Please leave your thoughts below!

 

Stretch! Share your imperfections

It’s easy being in a bubble. It’s fun chatting about the subject you love with other admirers. Social media and communications folks are famous for this. We read each other’s blogs, we buy each other’s e-books, we retweet each other’s content.

But, we aren’t the only ones. Everyone sticks to what they know. It’s scary trying something new. It’s frightening to fail in public. We often keep our hobbies to ourselves, afraid to let anyone see that we might not be perfect.

So, I’m recommending that everyone stretch. Try something new. Tell someone about it. Share what might be less than perfect and encourage others to do the same.

And, just to put my money where my mouth is, here is my first Flickr photo set. These were taken by yours truly at Long Beach, NY with a Panasonic Lumix FZ-35. (Yes, I confess, it’s a super-zoom).

Wind, Long Beach, NY

What do you think? Do we diminish our brand by branching out imperfectly? Or do we make ourselves and our world a little better by showing our flaws? Let me know your thoughts!

It’s easy being in a bubble. It’s fun chatting about the subject you love with other admirers. Social media and communications folks are well known for this. We read each other’s blogs, we buy each other’s e-books, we retweet each other’s content.

 

But, we aren’t the only ones. Everyone sticks to what they know. It’s scary trying something new. It’s frightening to fail in public. We often keep our hobbies to ourselves, afraid to let anyone see that we might not be perfect.

 

So, I’m recommending that everyone stretch. Try something new. Tell someone about it. Share what might be less than perfect and encourage others to do the same.

 

It’s easy being in a bubble. It’s fun chatting about the subject you love with other admirers. Social media and communications folks are well known for this. We read each other’s blogs, we buy each other’s e-books, we retweet each other’s content.

But, we aren’t the only ones. Everyone sticks to what they know. It’s scary trying something new. It’s frightening to fail in public. We often keep our hobbies to ourselves, afraid to let anyone see that we might not be perfect.

So, I’m recommending that everyone stretch. Try something new. Tell someone about it. Share what might be less than perfect and encourage others to do the same.

And, just to put my money where my mouth is, here is my first Flickr photo set. These were taken by yours truly at Long Beach, NY with a Panasonic Lumix FZ-35. (Yes, I confess, it’s a super-zoom).

What do you think? Do we diminish our brand by branching out imperfectly? Or do we make ourselves and our world a little better by showing our flaws? Let me know your thoughts!

And, just to put my money where my mouth is, here is my first Flickr photo set. These were taken by yours truly at Long Beach, NY with a Panasonic Lumix FZ-35. (Yes, I confess, it’s a super-zoom).

 

What do you think? Do we diminish our brand by branching out imperfectly? Or do we make ourselves and our world a little better by showing our flaws? Let me know your thoughts!

Naughty or nice? Which wins in social media?

Moms always say if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. This truism came to me a few weeks ago during an interesting online conversation with a colleague. I criticized a brand in the social media influence space. I thought they used a somewhat hypocritical approach to implementation considering their claims. In private, my colleague agreed. But, he said, he always tried to be positive on social media channels.

shhh_smHis viewpoint got me thinking. Is there a cost to honesty? Is it wrong to criticize in public? What about when it’s well founded? I’m not talking snarky, cutting, mean-girl pettiness. I’m talking constructive criticism of brands that I trust, that I frequent, that I support. Should we all be nice on social all the time?

Maybe. Statistics indicate that nice guys finish first on social. According to Dan Zarella, consistently negative tweeters have fewer followers. But, isn’t social media supposed to be about brands engaging with their users? Isn’t this supposed to be the new era of customer engagement and inbound marketing and allowing the customer to help you sell your brand? What about Domino’s successful advertising campaign that acknowledged – even embraced – the negativity?

I get that some subscribe to the “don’t make anyone cry” school of management.  But brands that are in the social space, that are using it to help their bottom line, need to be able to take it as well as dish it. An inability to differentiate between trolling and talking demonstrates the most superficial of social media strategies. And while constructive criticism may be hard to accept – I don’t like it any more than you – it doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Indeed, a well meaning critique might be just the thing to take your brand to the next level. 

Are you always nice in public? Do I need an attitude adjustment? Would love to hear your thoughts. 

How Scott Stratten Rocked the Inbound Marketing Summit 2010

Yesterday, I was privileged enough to attend – and speak at – the Inbound Marketing Summit. I was in the presence of oodles of A-list presenters. Social media and inbound marketing rock stars. There was lots to learn. Most speakers were – as you would expect – fabulous. But none of them rocked the day like Scott Stratten.

Many of you know Scott by his Twitter handle, @unmarketing. The last speaker on the first day, he had a thankless task. Re-animate an engaged, but tired and slightly burned out group on a dreary, cold, rainy October day outside of Boston. We already had cookies and too much coffee. His slide deck failed. He had nothing to work with but his message and charisma. Thankfully, those were more than enough.

My recap can't possibly do Scott's presentation justice. He was funny. He was animated. He said a lot of smart, intuitive things about social media, about marketing, about connecting and about business. The two most critical points – and probably least repeated were these:  

  1. People spread around emotion and awesome. So, only blog when you have something passionate to say. Better to blog once a week on passion, than three times a week on meh.
  2. Be you. Be authentic. When you are yourself, you have no competition.

In today's world of viral video and retweets and and Klout and page views and other measures of influence, these are the real takeaways. Don't co-opt someone else's persona. Don't be what you're not. Don't do what you hate just because it worked for someone else. And don't expect a quick fix. 

Be you. Be the best you that you can be. Share your best self with the world. Build your relationships slowly and with attention and care. Give value and authenticity and truth. And over time, you will build a network of people thrilled to hear from you. Just like he did.

I'm including this older video of some of Scott's work. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I would love to hear your thoughts. And Scott, thanks. Your presentation was the best part of my day.