Epic Content Marketing: 5 Key Elements You Need to Know

joe pulizziI mentioned a few weeks ago the privilege I had to hear Joe Pulizzi speak at the Interaction Marketing Summit hosted by The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron. Pulizzi’s approach toward outcome merited its own blog post, but I wouldn’t ever want to discount the epic message that he conveyed during the event.

So if you have a website, you have content. But what exactly is that content doing? Is it sitting stagnant? Is it fodder for your next Facebook post? According to Pulizzi, 90% of all companies are doing some form of content marketing, but sadly only 40% believe that their content is successful. And let’s face it, at least 10% of those people are painfully optimistic (but that’s my own deduction).

So how DO you become a successful content marketer? According to Pulizzi, if you follow these five key elements, you will be on your way to successful content marketing.

  1. Sales, Savings & Sunshine – This is the WHY question that should be applied to your content strategy. Just because everyone else has a Facebook page doesn’t make it the best platform for your business. So as you are generating your content and pushing it out, be sure to ask WHY. Does your eNewsletter initiate sales, savings or sunshine?
    • Sales – content that generates revenue
    • Savings – content that saves money
    • Sunshine – content that makes your customers feel good
  2. Create a Content Marketing Mission Statement – Does your business have a mission statement? Are you living up to that mission? Are your content efforts supporting your mission?
    • Audience – Establish your core target audience and know your niche.
    • Delivery – What will your message deliver? Does it have a purpose?
    • Outcome – Add an outcome column to your content strategy. What is the outcome for the audience?
  3. Don’t Build Your Content Ship on Rented Land – Yep, we’re talking about Facebook (mostly). We’ve all seen our Facebook engagement drop over the past few months. But don’t turn Facebook into your content marketing scapegoat.
    • Customer Data – Know your customer base. Collect customer data, work with your IT department and learn how to gather that customer data that is so valuable to your content message.
    • Focus on your subscribers – What is the difference between those who subscribe to your eNewsletters and your one-off customers?
  4. Leverage Influencers and then Build an Audience – This doesn’t mean hire the mayor for your next car dealership commercial, but if the mayor buys a car from your lot, talk about it, tweet about it, blog about it. If you own a local business, don’t be afraid to tweet to local celebrities, a simple Retweet or Mention can lead to a big boost in followers and can help to spread your message.
    • Make a list – Find 5-10 influencers to target and find ways to incorporate them into your content strategy.
    • It isn’t all about YOU – We find this far too often with social media. Sure, your product or service is awesome and you want to shout it from the rooftop – but try to follow the 4:1:1 rule. Simply put, the rule means that for every one self-promoting tweet, blog post or status update, you should share four new pieces of content and one re-share.
  5. Open Up Your Wallet – This one kind of gave me shivers when I first saw it, but I get it.
    • Pay to Play - As much as we scoff at the idea of boosting our Facebook post just so people who ALREADY like our page can see it, pay to play is becoming the new normal. And do you know what? It’s working. People who pay to boost their posts are getting more engagement when they pay to play, even within their existing audience.
    • Build vs. Buy – Are you looking to expand your market? Before you start from scratch, consider a buy-out. Acquisitions are becoming more popular for brand expansion, even on the local level.

So this was a lot of information, right? Before you dive in head first and wind up flailing around calling for a life preserver, consider starting out slowly. Take one or two of these ideas and perfect them. It might take a few months, it might take a year. Once you have those tactics perfected, add another and another, until your content is truly epic.

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Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines Tip: Develop Supplementary Content

google-quality-rating-guidelinesIn early July, Version 5.0 of Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines was leaked. The document is intended for 3rd party agencies hired by Google to rate the quality of search results. Accordingly, while it does not directly answer the million dollar question of, “Why does [insert competitor] rank higher than my company in search results?” it does provide some helpful insights on the best practices search engines look for when determining which websites to display in their results.

The link above goes to the full 160 page document on scribd.com that requires a fee to view the entire document. Fortunately for you, members of the SEO community have shelled out the cash, read the entire document, and provided their own interpretations on the guidelines so you can get right to the good stuff at no charge!

One of the first blogs to provide a summary is TheSEMPost.com. Their article Google Rewrites Quality Rating Guide – What SEOs Need to Know covers quite a bit of ground. One area of particular interest I’d like to highlight relates to supplementary content:

While previously the quality rater’s guide focused on the main content of the page, with only a brief mention of supplementary content, now there is a new emphasis on not only supplementary content, but types of supplementary content as well. Gone are the days where you can have a high quality page with just navigation for the supplementary content.

The important takeaway here is the need to develop content-rich information hub pages on your website that contain helpful links to other related content on your site. For example, after you develop a general product page to describe your amazing widget, you need to support that page with links to related content such as:

  • A case study of a customer who used the widget and describes how great it is
  • A video gallery showing the widget in action
  • A calculator showing how much money can be saved by using the widget
  • Accessories to customize the widget for various business needs
  • Related widgets you offer that might be of interest to your prospects
  • Blog articles about the widget
  • Contact a sales rep to ask questions and purchase

By producing good supplementary content on your website, you will increase the depth of content and the time on site spent by your visitors. This will result in your prospects having the meaningful information they need to make informed decisions to work with your business!

Want ideas about the kinds of supplementary content you can develop for your website? Leave a comment below describing your product or service.

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Social News: Facebook Eases the Pain of Managing Multiple Business Pages

Do you manage multiple Facebook business pages and/or ad accounts?

If the answer is yes, you’ve likely felt the mind-numbing pain and frustration of trying to keep all of your accounts straight. Up until now, Facebook hasn’t made it easy for users to manage multiple pages.

At TKG, we manage multiple business pages and advertisement accounts – and it can get quite cumbersome to navigate from account to account, in addition to having the risk of using incorrect payment methods on different advertising campaigns without a way to switch between payment methods.

All of that has changed with the launch of Facebook’s business manager tool. Marketers, rejoice!

The new tool will allow admins more control and keep everything in one place.

Here are the basic steps to get your Facebook business manager account setup:

Step 1: Login to your Facebook Account

Step 2: Go to http://business.facebook.com

Step 3: Scroll to the bottom of the page and click get started.

setting up facebook business manager

Step 4: Read the “Getting Started” page, then click “Next”.

Step 5: Enter Information about your business, then click “Next”.

Step 6: Enter your business name and select which page you want to use as your primary business page. Please note that you need to have admin privileges for the page you would like to use as the primary. Click “Next” to move to the next step.

Step 7: Enter your personal information to setup your business manager user account, then click “Next.”

And just like that you are set up to add business pages and ad accounts. From now on, you will need to go to http://business.facebook.com to manage your primary business page.

Try it out and let us know what you think! Does the change help your business?

Do Social Media Best Practices Work for You?

best type of tweetIt’s easy enough to read article after article on general best practices for Social Media. We’ve even posted some of those general best practices here, because they are great guidelines for businesses looking to get started or to enhance their Social Media efforts.

While these general best practices are named so for a reason (they do indeed fare well on Social), there are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Adhering blindly to any practice without monitoring and testing to ensure its best for your audience can often mean plummeting results in engagement or followers.

Businesses and brands who use best practices as initial guidelines only, and move forward to develop their own unique formula for Social usually fare well in the mercurial world of selfies and viral Kickstarter campaigns. Here are some ways I’ve been seeing how non-general-best-practices have been working for clients lately.

1. “Normal” Tweets

Twitter upgraded its platform to be much more visual. In fact, a Twitter feed is now virtually identical to a Facebook feed, with links, photos and videos blended seamlessly together in a single stream.

While this visual experience can make for a richer interaction with your brand, some of our clients are actually seeing better results with “normal” Tweets, or Tweets that are simply statements or questions, with no photos, videos or links attached.

The important thing with normal Tweets is that they contain compelling, shareable or engaging content to help them stand out from photos or videos. Often, they come in the form of a question, a fact, or even just a witty take on a service or brand promise.

2. Tagged Posts and Mentions

Facebook, of course, swings heavily visual, especially with recent updates including more video in feeds. If you’re running a Page on Facebook, however, you’ve probably noticed that even visually compelling posts have taken a nosedive in organic reach.

You’re not alone. Recent algorithm changes have hit Pages hard, meaning that less and less of your content will be seen organically by your fans (the platform is gradually moving toward a world where brands will likely need to pay for, oh, just about any exposure in individual user’s feeds).

However, we have seen some better than average engagement with posts that not only feature a photo, but also tag or mention other businesses or brands in the photo caption or status update. Not only does this tactic seem to push the post a little further into the feed, it can be a great help to fledgling pages that need as much exposure as possible.

Do be careful here, though, to use this tactic in a natural and friendly way, since it can very easily morph into spam.

instagram clean photos3. “Clean” Photos

When sharing photos, especially on Instagram, it’s tempting to overuse enhanced controls and filter options. Sometimes these filters can be used to great effect…and sometimes, well, less is more.

For some of our clients (and even TKG!), we’ve seen higher engagement with photos with no filters, or with filters that only subtly enhance or alter the photo.

While I’m currently monitoring from month to month to check numbers against each other (it’s possible that certain hashtags are coinciding with no filter posts, or that we simply haven’t stumbled upon the “right” filter for our audience yet), it is interesting to note what is working in the present. In a sea of harsh burnouts and overly wide frames, it does appear that simple, well-lit photos are outshining layer after layer of poorly used tilt shift.

Again, best practices are named so for a reason, and they’re always a great place to start for your brand or business. But as the competition to be heard continues to increase on Social Media, it’s more important than ever to closely monitor analytics and insights and adjust general best practices to your best practices.

This Week in Social Media: New LinkedIn App

LinkedIn recently announced a new iPhone app to replace an outdated Contacts app.

The new app, called “LinkedIn Connected”, is designed to help you stay better connected with your network. Connected will allow your network to see special moments in your career or life and increase your ability to receive endorsements as well as many more profile views.

LinkedIn says users could receive 6X as many profile views with LinkedIn Connected, as well as 7X as many endorsements.

Because the goal of the app is to help you stay more intimately connected with members of your network, LinkedIn says the app includes easy ways to invest in your relationships: big moments, personal victories and professional accomplishments are all highlighted in LinkedIn Connected.

“We know you’d love to reach out and catch up with everyone in your network over coffee, but that isn’t always possible. Connected gives you relevant, and timely, reasons to reach out and keep in touch with the people in your network,” said LinkedIn’s David Brubacher. “This app helps you invest in your relationships today, so opportunities blossom for you tomorrow.”

The early reviews of the app from early users are overwhelmingly positive, with most reviewers noting ease of use and functionality.

What they say is true – it really is all about who you know sometimes. Keeping your network up to date (and your prospects warm!) is important. It looks like this app might help with that. It is now available in the App Store.

Have you tried LinkedIn Connected yet? We’d love to know what you think of it!

Why you need a case study (the answer may surprise you!)

you need a case studyI’ve been working with a few clients recently that were having a difficult time figuring out what to add to their websites.

They each had good descriptions of their products and the services they offered, but were hoping to get even more out of their website. New content is a great way to build up a site, but sometimes it isn’t easy to develop and execute new ideas.

This is where I often recommend adding a case study.

As a very simple introduction, a case study should include these four elements:

  1. Background: This is your chance to setup the story and explain what is going on
  2. Problem: Explain what is causing the pain. Often the problem is that something is broken or because it doesn’t work well enough in the situation (which you have explained in the background)
  3. Solution: This step allows you to show how your product or service addressed the problem.
  4. Impact: It all comes together in this step. This is your opportunity to really sell the value of solving a problem with your solution

One of the key elements to note about a case study from an online marketing perspective is that it gives you a chance to talk about the problem.

Why is that a good thing? Because many times potential customers may not have any idea that your solution exists. So instead of searching for things that you sell, they are looking online for information about the problem they have. Search engines are pretty amazing, but they still have a hard time matching a search for a problem with a solution.

This is where case studies come in to play. A good case study will connect the dots from the problem someone else is experiencing to the solution you have to offer.

Interested in adding a couple case studies to your site? Check out our post on the 5 Things you Need to Know when writing a business case study. Or, even better, contact TKG to see how we can help with your specific needs.

Building a Strong Brand on LinkedIn

building a brand on linkedinLinkedIn is a powerful tool to display your company professionally. But it should also be used to expand your follower and fan base, release company news that might not fit well on your other Social platforms and recruit from the diverse and talented group of professionals that use the platform.

It is important to put thought into your brand’s logo, description, connections and external links on LinkedIn. A LinkedIn profile is a snapshot of your brand and can often be a prospective client’s first impression.

But why use LinkedIn for your brand in the first place? LinkedIn offers several benefits for companies, including:

  1. B2B Networking: Find and vet new vendors, suppliers and manufacturers, connect with partner companies or organizations and simply keep an eye on the competition
  2. B2C Networking: Build your brand, add a different facet to your brand, increase likability and trust through transparency, product promotion
  3. Lead Generation: Network with possible consumers through an optimized profile and robust product and services descriptions
  4. Staffing: Find and recruit qualified active and passive candidates
  5. Customer Satisfaction: Interact with customers on a one-to-one basis, such as through conducting surveys, answering questions or solving customer complaints or problems
  6. Promoting Corporate Culture: Connect with employees and leverage employees to interact with the page, share stories, accomplishments or awards and show the human side of the business

LinkedIn is so much more than a simple “digital business card.” It is a valuable way to promote your company to thousands of customers, build your brand, and promote your company’s culture.

When building your company page, first think through why you’d like to leverage LinkedIn for your brand. It can be for any of the reasons listed above, but having a good idea of what you’d like to accomplish will help you begin to build a strong brand on the platform.

Next, match the overall look, tone and feel of your brand as closely as possible on the platform. No need to re-invent the wheel; use images your customers and employees are already familiar with and can easily recognize.

But beyond creating a consistent profile that matches the look, feel and tone of your brand, there’s more. Frequent, consistent posting helps companies build their audience on LinkedIn while also giving followers a “behind the scenes” look at their business. Showing this angle to your business, as well as adding showcase pages or posting current job openings, lends to a feeling of transparency to your company, which can be an excellent way to attract new customers and bolster your overall brand.

Just remember, LinkedIn might be a platform dedicated to business, but it is still a Social platform. So think through how customers or employees might want to socially interact with the “business side” of your business. You may not want to post your latest press release in its entirety, but you might want to post a quick snippet with a photo that then leads to a link on your website. Think in small snapshots, and your followers will be grateful.

Are you currently building your brand on LinkedIn? What tactics have you found helpful?

Are You a Brand Journalist?

brand journalist

A shopping cart full of Shearer Perfection!

It was me.

It’s true; I was that crazy lady snapping pictures of her shopping cart at the grocery store this weekend. And of the nice endcap display. And, umm, I may have taken a few of some random guy’s cart.

Yeah, that too.

Don’t judge. It was all in the name of good content.

It’s no secret that brands and marketers everywhere continue to scramble to figure out what good content is and how they can create and incorporate it into all of their platforms.

Everyone knows that content is king (if you haven’t heard that, you’ve likely been living under a rock!). But what a lot of people don’t realize is that good content isn’t this crazy, hard-to-obtain thing. Good content is everywhere, and the simplest things are often the best.

The key to finding that perfectly on-target content is to just live it. Rather than try to dream up an idea that will make people everywhere swoon to ‘like’ your content, try coming by it naturally. If you know your product and audience, you shouldn’t have to reach too far.

The trick comes in mobilizing your staff to become brand journalists of sorts, and able to report what they see in real time.

In social media, it’s the difference between your company telling people that it is awesome vs. someone else relating to other why your company is so awesome. It kinda inches up the credibility a notch.

At TKG, we often become brand journalists for our clients, taking every opportunity to take notes and snap pictures when we see the product or service of one of our clients in the real world. Essentially, we become another set of eyes that can capture stories as they are happening.

And yes, sometimes that happens at the grocery store, like it did for me last weekend. Shearer’s Potato Chips is a TKG client, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to snap a few pics for them of some perfectly placed Shearer’s chips in the cart in front of me. Or the wild riceworks that just so happened to jump in my cart (side note: you have to try them, they are amazingly delicious and addictive).

People connect with brands through social channels when they can see their lives in it. Good content is relatable, relevant and personal. And in the ever-evolving world of news, it’s important for brands to be able to tell their own story.

Is your brand telling the story of your business? Is your staff mobilized to spot good stories that should be shared? Are you sharing them in a consistent and well strategized way? We’d love to hear how brand journalism is working for you.

Google: King of the Cloud

With Google, Microsoft and Apple all vying for the dominating space in the Cloud, it can be difficult to choose which is best for you. I can’t tell you which one you MUST go with or that you NEED to have. What I can tell you is that, for me, there is one clear winner.

Welcome to the Google Cloud! It’s nice here. It’s comfortable. It’s … easily accessible. Oh, and it’s free (if you don’t need more than 15GB of storage space for certain applications).

Android

One of my favorite things about Android is how Google-based it is. In fact, Android is made by Google! Android is the best. Android is perfect for the Google Cloud too! It allows you to use all of your Google applications on your phone or tablet seamlessly!

Moving on to Google’s Cloud dominance. Even at a base level, Google offers the most comprehensive cloud services. Google Drive offers all of the productivity-based applications, such as Documents or Spreadsheets. I have used all of these in some manner or another. The bonus to this suite of productivity applications is that you can export them all into pretty much any format you may need.

Documents

This is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, you can write a document. You can format a document. And do all of those other document-writing functions you might want. Not only that, but I can switch back and forth between writing a document on my computer and editing it on any of my Android devices.

Spreadsheets

These are perfect for any formula or organizational projects you may have. Personally, I use these when I am planning out SEO tags for a website or while doing some sort of lengthy research report involving percentages and comparisons. This is also available on Android devices.

Gmail

We have reached what is possibly the most successful application that Google has ever rolled out. Gmail keeps us at finger’s length from our email. And 15GB of email storage space to boot (this storage is separate from the Drive storage)! Gmail is the most intuitive and user-friendly email application around. Oh, and Gmail runs great on Android.

Google Chrome

Google developed what is by far my favorite internet browser. You might think I’m pre-set to use Chrome since I use everything else by Google, but I started using Chrome before I had anything other than a Gmail account set up. Being able to transfer my bookmarks, tabs and browsing history via my Google account is great. If I have www.tkg.com bookmarked on my desktop and need to bring it up at lunch, I still have the bookmark available to use. There’s a wonderful Chrome app for Android too!

Everything Else

Google has gone above-and-beyond in making apps, features and various functions that are all designed to help. The Play store offers adults and children an immense library full of apps and books to keep us all entertained. Considering how much of a mobile world we live in, such availability of entertainment is paramount.

Obviously these are all surface-level summaries of the applications that Google offers to us as consumers. I started using the Google Cloud applications out of a desire to not pay for other application suites. The ability to jump from device to device and not miss a beat is of utter importance. Everything is faster and it will keep gaining speed. Google is helping to pioneer the concept of a complete cloud. It’s a cloud where you can hold meetings, share documents, finish projects, communicate, market, play and live.

I don’t know if the cloud was in Google’s original plans, but I wonder what the catalyst of their cloud formation was…

This Week in Social Media: Should Facebook Suggest You Unfollow Pages?

Should Facebook suggest you unfollow pages? Have you noticed that Facebook has started asking if you want to unfollow pages as you scroll through them in your newsfeed?

As if people didn’t already know they could unfollow pages, now the option is right in front of their face – and the dreaded unfollow is just one click away.

Allfacebook.com reported the new practice is a test by Facebook.

The worry for marketers, of course, is that the test will become permanent and pages will lose even more visibility in newsfeeds.

The reason it matters to you? Your posts need to be primo – top notch and on-target every time – in order to retain your fans. More than ever, brand posts are going to have to matter to fans, so make ‘em good! Posts will also need to reach out to fans in more substantial ways than, “Like and Share if you agree!”

Why? Because you need interested and engaged fans.

It all boils down to what is more important: visibility or engagement?

Visibility vs. Engagement

Some think that having inactive fans unfollow a page could be a good thing. They may have followed the page to win a contest, get a coupon or whatever, but there was not further engagement after that time. Having them unfollow enables a brand to target and reach a specific audience that they know is interested in their products.

On the other hand, many brands may take less followers as adding insult to injury after also watching their organic reach decline rapidly over the last several months. The visibility they feel like they have built up in their fan base may now begin to decline as well.

Many companies, especially smaller businesses, have had to work hard for each and every “Like” or “Follow.”

Fans, on the other hand, are often glad to “clean up” their newsfeed and drop brands they don’t want anymore.

So what’s your take? Will this invitation by Facebook to “unfollow” pages result in a decline in visibility for brands? Or do you think it will it just foster engagement with those who are truly interested in the brand?

Let me know what you think in the comments!

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