Lessons from Original Content Marketing

In our relentless pursuit for creating captivating content and stunning visuals, it seems as if the old rules for content marketing have gone ignored as a new wave of media delivery is setting new precedents. Yet, there is so much we can learn from the best original content marketing campaigns of the past, especially when it comes to placement and storytelling. The list below offers a few of those important content marketing lessons from some of the more iconic examples.

1. U-Haul made its marketing mobile, literally.uhaul-2

“Dad, what state is our moving van?” This odd but routine question has long become a norm for families moving with the use of a U-Haul moving. In fact, this became the most memorable part of the move for many as the random bit of state trivia was there at every gas stop and trip to unload. Even better is the free entertainment the state trivia placed on the side of each van offered to passersby while in commute. This interesting but simple to digest content has added some extra joy into the usually dreaded moving process for decades. As you can see by the image included, these state trivia tidbits have created a fan club and a line of apparel in itself. How can your brand add joy  to your product experience with simple content placement?

2. Cereal boxes brought gamification into breakfast.

booberryMy friend’s parents used to joke that if the back of cereal boxes were homework then we’d be geniuses. Sadly, it was true, as the morning breakfast ritual involved a bowl of cereal and 15 minutes of free entertainment by playing games and solving puzzles on the back of the cereal box. This strategic placement of content not only build my preference for cereal brands but seeing which had the best games but also encouraged me to plow through each box fast to get to the next challenge. The key lesson to be gained, reach people where they have unoccupied time to provide additional value.

3. TV Guide goes deep with storytelling content.

George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman, September 25, 1953

Before DVR there was digital TV and  real-time program listings. Before digital TV there was TV Guide, a super resourceful mini-magazine filled with each station’s program listings for the upcoming month. Yet, in addition to the benefit of those lists, TV Guide chose to go above and beyond to offer features on new TV shows and unrelated special interest stories. The irony in it all is they got avid TV watchers to spend considerable time reading the content around TV shows. By going beyond offering just the channel and time listings, TV Guide created a cult following with many of their classic issues being regarded as collector’s items today.

As you can see, the principles of content marketing are as classic as superman himself. Next time you are waiting for a bus, taking in a movie or just going about your shopping routine- stop and take a moment to see what content is placed along your journey that catches your attention and stimulates your imagination.

In a World of Experts, Be a Question Asker

6394571_mOne of my favorite podcast series, The Art of Charm, begins every show with the line “We may not have all the answers, but we ask all of the right questions”. This humble approach clearly sets the tone for each episode as being a provocative discussion, rather than tutorial around a variety of leadership and self-development topics. As a marketer, I found this message to resonate strongly with me as I play a role in social media marketing and teaching.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn and Twitter are filled with self-proclaimed experts in numerous fields, most particularly digital and social media marketing. It’s not these user profiles are aiming to deceive, most do have ‘expert’ knowledge in some areas. Yet, being an expert today has become the norm and very few are drawing the attention or praise they may have sought.

42308437 - what if words written on blackboard using chalkSo who is standing out online and in these rapidly evolving areas of marketing? In my opinion, it’s the question askers. Those professionals who are too humbled by their own curiosity about new opportunities or the unlimited possibilities that digital and social media are sharing the most important question online, “What if?”.  In doing so, they are pooling individuals of all levels of expertise together to redefine or imagine new marketing best practices. No longer do experts have all of the answers as the future becomes undefined with a simple like “What if?”.

This couldn’t be any more true in your career as it pertains to downward and upward management. Truly innovative companies are instilled with managers that ask this important question of their employees, supervisors and themselves. All to often, the way we did things last year is no longer the template for success today (remember G+ and Vine?).

The line between proactive and reactive marketing has become razor thin and those that have the passion to look forward with curiosity will position their marketing organization and themselves as pace-setters.

From Lame → Lust → Love

Every so often there is a quote we hear or read that resonates with us so strongly that it becomes impossible to forget. One of those lines I encountered came Dylan quotefrom the opening of Martin Scorsese’s highly acclaimed 2005 documentary on Bob Dylan titled, No Direction Home. The important line to me was “All I can do is be me, whoever that is.” It was insightful to me both personally and professionally as it shows the need for everyone to simply let their uniqueness be fascinating in itself. This wisdom also holds true for brands trying to find their voice in digital content and social media, especially those wondering what they can do to stand out.

I have come to seek out digital marketing case studies on the typically less glamorous brands that still are able to captivate and conquer their industries online. Not just the Uber and Zappos examples, success stories of companies that broke through despite being in fields that traditionally have offered little appeal and excitement, such as banking, health care, technical services and many more. Most may consider the products or services of these industries to be important yet not entirely fascinating for online conversations. Public attention is generally focused on more desirable topics such as the newest electronic devices, restaurants and travel destinations.

got-lustWhile brands in these low-interest categories may be considered “lame”, they are anything but that in reality. Every brand has it’s own amazing stories and opportunity to fascinate the public. Just look at the home fitness craze with P90X, PiYo and more that self-generates millions of sales through massive word-of-mouth buzz online today. In my own experiences marketing the typically less desirable products of hearing aid technology and banking services, I have enjoyed the challenge of unearthing golden nuggets of content and have found it to be easier than one would think. Mostly, I have found that all brands in fact have a lot to talk about when the focus moves away from their product features and goes to user success stories.

Lame= Just not yet fascinating

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Here’s how a brand can not only shed the “lame” label through digital storytelling but also start to create lust for their offering. It begins with understanding the customer and their unique wants. I intentionally chose ‘wants’ over ‘needs’ as wants is a combination of a need with desire. It’s the desire factor that creates online engagement beyond price shopping. The first step for any brand, particularly those that have low appeal to the general public, is to find what it is that makes their company compelling and unique. Some such value statement concepts may include the following:

  • The story of the company’s origin- the ‘Why’
  • Humble beginnings and belief in the idea of the company
  • Testimonials from those whose lives have been improved
  • User generated content showing how your customers enjoy your product or service, from their perspective.

Lust= We can take you to where you want to be going

In his book, The Story Wars, author Jonah Sachs promotes the concept of ’empowerment marketing’ as the new era in marketing. This concept involves messaging to be focused on helping to improve people’s lives through the use of the product or service. This content strategy can be adopted by any company. The logic behind this idea is that the empowering messaging creates greater desire as well as creating a lasting relationship built upon trust. A great example of this comes from the health insurance industry in UnitedHealth Care’s hashtag campaign last summer of #bummerfreesummer. The campaign, done in partnership with iHeartMedia, focused on encouraging people to how how they are being active but playing safely, as shown below.

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Love= Look at all that we have done together!

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Love for your brand will likely come over time as a residual benefit from the efforts done above to create lust appeal, if the product or service lives up to expectations. Most brands begin by begging for consumer love at the start before creating a shared story with their audience. “Why won’t they love us?!” company executives ask and “How dare they slander us so belligerently online for minor inconveniences!” Often these brands go straight to using compliment-filled messaging to potential customers but that level of respect is rarely carried out through the customer experience. What’s missing is the fundamental connection between customer groups that is achieved through the storytelling and empowerment marketing steps above. Just as in any good relationship, love is earned through actions and time. For brands, it just takes the same effort to build rapport and spread the love.

What do you think? Do you agree there is hope for all brands to build a devout following and dedicated fanbase online? Please share your thoughts and any examples that come to mind.

 

 

The Era of Connection Marketing

Content FactoryToday marketing departments are scrambling to be more active and visible with digital and social media with a robust content marketing strategy. Agencies are popping up everywhere to meet this new  demand, fully equipped with production studios and sophisticated copywriters to help crank out more content. The race is on to produce content that stands out above all others. The social media revolution has now seemingly spawned an industrial content revolution as marketing teams aim to function as a ‘content factory’. Yet, are these content factory initiatives just creating more messaging noise and pollution, adding to the bombardment of online media today?

In her presentation, “From Meh to Marvelous”, Jessica Gioglio shares her concept of ‘infobesity’ to describe the over-abundance of new online content being created everyday. To support this concept, Gioglio shared a startling statistic from Google that “more new content is being created every 48 hours than had been in the history of the world up to 2003″. Being those numbers are now over a year old one can only imagine where we are today , likely up to a daily frequency by now. Yet with all of this new content, a wide gap still exists for the production of meaningful connections and genuine experiences occurring as a result. This demands digital marketers attention.

Here’s the irony that I believe exists in marketing today; the best way to stand out is by being less active and vocal. Digital marketing can no longer be about just content marketing. The new aim for digital marketers  should involve a ‘less is more’ approach with a focus on strategic ‘connection marketing’. Rather than blasting consumers with half-attempts at personalized messages or blanketed promotional campaigns, brand marketers need to slow down a bit to truly find ways to create more meaningful connections. Here are two examples to consider below, one bad and one good. Let’s start with the bad as to end on a positive note.

The Bad: Sun Country Airlines- On the morning of January 13th, 2012, the world learned of a tragedy involving a sinking cruise ship with hundreds of cruise_susnet_mainpassengers off the coast of Italy. For me, in the U.S., this news broke in the morning as I was logging into my computer at work and glancing at social media. Coincidentally, an hour later I saw an email come in from Sun Country Airlines, with which I had flown on recently, as a part of an automated series of promotional emails. What dumbfounded me was the subject line of ‘There’s never been a better time to take a cruise’! Obviously this wasn’t intentional but what made it worse is that I have never taken a cruise with them and had not expressed interest in doing so when subscribing to specific types of promotional emails. This is the risk in cross-selling and, of course, planned content.

Valencia, Spain

The Good: This last fall I put finally my Spanish to use again and pre-booked train tickets in Spain with a company called Renfe for our planned trip to Madrid and Barcelona. The booking process was easy enough in their half-English and half-Spanish page but what really impressed me were the  recommendations for things to do in the cities I planned to visit that followed. In initially providing those relevant tips for the cities I planned to visit, they got my attention as a possible credible resource for local tourism knowledge. Though, in receiving an later email for suggested side-trips to nearby cities, I was really intrigued as my travel itinerary had been tempted by a trek down to Valencia. Their email touched on the many things to do and see in Valencia which motivated me to adjust my plans and book an additional train ticket to go there as well. That’s just one example of how hyper-relevant content can create a lasting connection and a win-win situation with the consumer and brand.

To create meaningful connections via digital and social content the emphasis has to shift from quantity to quality. Many brands are already on this path but stuck in the mud trying to drive more frequent content to keep visibility up. This is a dilemma that is preventing them from taking the time to understand niche audience segments and speaking to their unique interests. To help in this process, I offer my own checklist for connection marketing strategies:

  • Does this communication speak to an identified need of most of the individuals in our identified target audience? If not, can the email or targeting list criterion be deepened to do so?
  • Does the message offer a solution to help simplify their problem solving process?
  • Is the user of the product, not the price, the focus and ultimate winner in the value proposition?
  • Can loyal customers be moved from retention pricing discounts into a deeper relationship via experience building communications?

This list can go on further but these are the key factors I now choose to focus on in crafting campaigns and communications. I would love to learn what you are adopting as well for successes in your connection marketing strategies so please share by commenting below.

Can Social Media Help Get Us Off Our Phones?

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Can social media help us break our compulsion for our smartphones? Ironically, it can! As long as we return to using social media as a way to find new local connections and to get out in our communities. Truly, anyone personal social media user or social media marketer can benefit from this approach as it offers a rewarding opportunity to create lasting social connections, in-person.

While social media has brought people closer together online today, we have become more disconnected from in-person interactions than ever before. Add in the increased adoptions of online education, recorded specialized training and telecommuting, it’s a wonder why we’ll ever have a reason to leave the internet to build new connections face-to-face. Yet, social media wasn’t meant to keep our relationship activity strictly online. Rather, individuals with a common interest once used social media to simply find gatherings or outings to join and create new connections by physically attending events or gatherings. For those with new interests or looking for new connections, social meeting was the starting point, not just a conduit to an online community. Below are some ways that social media can get us off our phones and connected in-person again, as well as how marketers can help in facilitating these meeting opportunities.

The Revival of the #Tweetup! 

Remember the #Tweetup? Not too long ago social media communities would transition their online conversations into planned get togethers to culminate their shared interests. Businesses even tactfully jumped on this trend by rewarding their Twitter followers with special events using tweetup01the Tweetup concept. Examples included restaurants hosting soft grand openings of new locations as Tweet-ups or sharing new menu items first at the similar planned events to connect their social media loyalists further to their brand, as well as to each other. This proved to be an enjoyable and simple to implement concept for many businesses and communities. It’s amazing to see rarely any longer in use today.

New to Town? You’re Not Alone.

Ever been the new kid in town? It’s not so easy to penetrate social circles in hopes of creating your own. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have someone welcome you in to meet others, even if it was via a local company that has created their own unique community? Many businesses are actually doing this today by promoting their own affiliated clubs and events. Yet many more could tap into this opportunity to Mill City Runningconnect individuals both around their brand and, more importantly, with other individuals with similar interests. A great example of this activity exists just a few blocks away from my house in Minneapolis with Mill City Running and their weekly public running groups that feature a planned happy hour event after the run. As you can see in the post example, their role as a brand is simply to form groups and organize events around running, helping individuals connect to each other. In the process they are building brand preference as well as in-store traffic, as their store serves as the starting point. How’s that for social media engagement!

Come Out and Join the Cause!

Another great way that social media can bring people together is to rally them around a social cause. Fortunately, many non-profits and social groups are still actively using social media in this manner but many more could follow-suit. One the  most active employers of this method is the Surfrider Foundation based out of Southern California. Not Surfrideronly does this organization use social media to build awareness for their cause, but they take it to the next level by forming events focused around activities to get their followers involved. As shown in the post example below, numerous events are planned throughout the year to get interested individuals together to help in beach clean-ups, educational talks or sponsored events. Promotion of these events through social media is a perfect example of how to get online activists out from behind their phone screens and into the community, working alongside each other for a common cause.

These examples above are just a few of the many ways that we can return to using social media as a means to connect us together beyond our smartphones and online communities. Whether it’s gathering like-minded individuals around common interests or to support community causes, the speed at which social media can build these connections is incredible. So what do you think? Does this type of approach make sense for your  own personal social media usage? Marketers, can your brand connect people to each other and your products through a similar strategy as displayed by Mill City Running? I think all will find the answer is yes. So put down your phone, take out a pen and pad and start writing down ideas on how you can get started today.

 

The Power of Positivity in Social Media

the-power-of-positivity-a-handbook-for-junior-designers-1-638Today more people are getting their current news information from social media, estimated at 63% of users by PEW research, either by choice or in updates from their peer networks. At the same time, an increasing amount of social media users are reporting burnout and even some symptoms of depression from social media exposure. This, to me, is not a striking surprise given the high ratio of negative commentary and news stories being tirelessly amplified across social media networks. At this rate, it wouldn’t be alarming to see more people further disconnecting from the overwhelming noise of social media to take a break from the chaos of arguments, bullying and fear-mongering that is running rampant in social media.

While it may not be that dire for all social media users, it is relatively safe to say that the general tone in social media networks has gone from seemingly a collaborative spirit to just cynical. So how can individuals and brands alike build healthy connections and maintain relationships in such a crowded and noisy setting? The answer comes with one simple word: Positivity. For social marketers, and everyone really, positivity now must become a close second to relevancy when deciding what to post in crafting and sharing messages on social media. Let’s take a look at 3 ways that positivity is becoming a competitive advantage for all active users of social media, whether that is brands, professionals or personal users.

1.  Deliver Delight to Others:

This strategy is so simple it embarrassing more aren’t doing it, but that’s what makes it an opportunity. Let’s start with the most popular example of using social media to deliver delight to others with Benefit Cosmetic’s #BeautyBoost. Started several years ago, Benefit created a program to give their current or potential customers a quick pick-me-up through social media when they aren’t feeling as pretty as benefitthey should. As you can see in the example image, anyone who tweets to the #BeautyBoost receives a reply with a delighting compliment to give them a perk in their day. It’s easy to understand how this clever idea has been so popular for so long and the lift in brand awareness and loyalty have been tremendous.

2. Build Communities Around Shared ‘Feel-Good’ Stories:

Even the least glamorous of brands can create remarkable content that inspires audiences. There are several examples of uplifting stories from funeral homes, utility companies and many other types of generally dreaded companies. While I will let Captureyou brainstorm how these companies have created positive storytelling narratives, let’s take a look at one of my favorite local examples with the Southern Anoka Community Food Shelf. As you can see in the post example, they showcase the many events they sponsor, such as the frigid Polar Plunge, and tie it back to the amount of help each donation to partake in the event raises. In doing so, they engage people online around their exciting events, building communities all under the spirit of giving to those in need at their  food shelf. Of their many events, the interaction continues on their social media pages well after conclusion of the event day as people share in the camaraderie created.

3.  Break Stigmas & Change Negative Perceptions:

Many industries, including my own in the hearing aid technology industry, have negative perceptions and stigmas associated with them. For these industries there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to add positive energies to their content to build new impressions for the product and service. In my own scenario, I was enlightened by an industry speaker named Curtis Alcock who runs his own Think Tank for Hearing out of the UK. His focus is around how the hearing industry has typically used inadequacy marketing tactics with messaging around one being alienated by hearing loss rather than seizing the opportunity to display our products in a more positive light, by helping to empower those with hearing loss. The logic was simple but striking so I put his suggestions to a test. As you can see in the examples below, I replaced certain words in social posts with a negative connotation with more empowering ones as he suggested and posted them on social media.

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To test how this lifted engagement I used 15 hearing clinic pages for the positive messaging and 15 for the negative over 4 months. The results were impressive as as the first test yielded a 3:1 ratio of Likes, comments or shares from the positive group of pages (3.7) to the negative (1). To validate this finding I ran the same test again, but this time switched the content so the first group now had the negative content and the second now posted the positive content. For this second test I saw a ratio of 4:1 for the positive:negative page engagement ratio!

Even without my formal study it has become apparent that positive messaging in my own challenging industry has a lasting impact. One recent example is a social media hashtag campaign, #ShowYourAids, started by two teenagers that were tired of being embarrassed Audibel September 2about wearing hearing aid technology and knew many others felt the same way. This campaign encourages anyone wearing hearing aid technology to take a selfie photo and share it with the hashtag to add to the movement in building pride over embarrassment. The organic engagement with this campaign is fantastic and supports the notion that people will gravitate to good vibes and uplifting messages on social media.

As you can see, anyone or any brand can change the tone of their message to a positive one with these simple tips. As I mentioned above, I have even helped a friend come up with posts for a funeral home to which he shared images of the beautiful remembrances that were displayed as a part of funeral ceremonies.  For many, these were uplifting messages that help convey the sense of caring and trust for a proper funeral service the business wanted to convey. If they can do it, so can your business! So take off your serious reading frames and put on a pair of sunglasses, figuratively, to start looking at the brighter side of things around you that you can share with others. Believe me, it can’t do you any harm to try to brighten someone else day a bit and shine through the cloud of cynicism and skepticism that is shrouding the social media environment today.

The Social Automator’s Dilemma

automator's dilemmaCan combining social media automation with the benefits of local storytelling prove to be an innovative process? For those familiar with Clayton Christensen’s novel, The Innovator’s Dilemma, he presents many arguments for how a corporation’s culture are crucial to adopting and implementing successful new innovations. What is intriguing, from a social marketing perspective, is that many of the same principles can be applied for the unique challenges in administering scalable social media campaigns and local brand storytelling initiatives. In this blog we’ll examine the automated and innovative means for how a social marketing manager can flourish in driving relevant content across nation-wide location pages rather than fighting a cannibalization of efforts.

Consider the following situation; You are the corporate social media champion tasked with delivering brand communications across numerous franchise distributor or owned-retail locations, such as car dealerships, coffee chains, etc. Yet, each of these individual locations wants to have their own unique social media presence to best relate their store to their local community. So how do you ensure the appropriate brand uniformity using syndicated content across each location’s social channels all while allowing ample flexibility for contribution of  local content to establish a community connection? Rarely are these logistic obstacles to running large scale social media initiatives given consideration. This is one of many scenarios in which exists a concept that may aptly be termed ‘The Social Automator’s Dilemma’.

Some large retailers, such as Macy’s, maintain only a corporate brand channel pages with no location identities. Yet other companies, such as Lexus, Old Navy and Quizno’s encourage location-specific pages to Macyscomplement their brand social channels. An entire separate blog post could be written to weigh the pro’s and con’s for each approach, yet let’s examine the ease in managing social channels to allow for optimal engagement opportunities. Macy’s, a highly active brand on social media, devotes their energy to uniform content across all channels and location pages. Given this preference for centralized communications to ensure consistency in product features and promotions , the idea of permitting each location to have a unique voice would likely create conflict with the core messages. Their social content for their retail locations content is syndicated through an automated social publishing platform.

Quizno’s, on the other hand, employs a much more decentralized social media content management strategy. While the corporate channel is the primary driver of the Quizno’s brand, consumer engagement through Quiznosunique local content and promotions are served up by the local social channels. One reason for this dynamic is the franchise ownership model that exists with Quizno’s as to allow these location owners to build their local brand, but also to best determine the product, pricing and promotion strategies excel in the local competitive market. The biggest reason, however, is the desire to connect with local customers and immerse their store with the greater community to create familiarity and trust. As you can see in the Quizno’s of Superior, WI post who used the opportunity to share a photo of a newlywed couple celebrating their wedding day pictures at the Quizno’s store where they met as employees.  What a great feature story!

Lexus instills a very similar approach with what seems to be a primary intention to build upon the client relationships that exists with purchasers of their cars and the sales staff at Lexusthe dealerships. While the Lexus brand pages deliver upon the prestige trigger, local dealerships look to establish trust in the services they offer to support these major purchases. As you can see in the post contained in this paragraph, a nearby Lexus dealership makes the monthly efforts to feature some of their customers that shared their proud Lexus ownership story. These type of earned media campaigns are proving to be more crucial than ever for creating implied endorsements of a business’s product and service. Being that these individuals story related to overcoming challenges specific to the area, i.e. winter driving, it provides great local content that resonates with their prospective new customers.

Similarly, Old Navy engages their local retail stores teams with flexibility to create unique social media content across various channels. As you can see in the captured tweet image below, to promote local sales and special events, heightening the call-to-action for nearbyOld Navy shoppers monitoring for deals.

So given the approach utilized by bland and Quizno’s, what tips can be offered to anyone else managing social media content in a similar dynamic to allow optimal location flexibility and ensure alignment with brand messages? Below I offer three suggestions from my own experiences in this model:

1. Coach for Consistency: the best way to allow location flexibility in posting unique social content without creating messaging conflict is to be active in coaching local content creators on the ideal types of content additions. Encourage those tasked in adding new content to look for unique local features, customer testimonials, promotion of sales events and other items that increase the local community connection to their store. This way, a blueprint is laid out for the optimal type of local content to empower these stores to contribute in complement of the core brand messages.

2. Provide Guidelines: while step 1 is intended to encourage types of location-specific posts, this step is meant to define the types of content that shouldn’t be posted. This is fairly self-explaining concept but it’s important to note the grave importance of setting parameters upfront and warning against misuse of the brand representation. It should never be off-limits for the social media manager to prohibit the privilege of a unique social media channel in the event of abuse or misalignment of messaging.

3. Share Successes: the best way to keep the momentum being built by those following your guidance in step 1 is to share the examples created that enhance the brand at a local level. Instead of writing post examples for store owners and staff to mimic, spend time curating strong examples of successful posts to provide real examples of creative and worthy local content contributions. Moreover, this helps in supporting your case that many of their peer store owners are following your suggested formula and sticking the script to everyone’s betterment.

While there is no way to automate local content, this manual process can prove to be innovative in it’s scalibility and sustainability. In a way, if all local content contributors are generating success on their own in following your recommended guidelines, it seemingly becomes an automated process in itself. This should be the dynamic and end result to strive for and it only comes with a smart plan and consistent coaching to the newly empowered local content contributors. Best of luck!

 

The Strange Shifts in Social Media

Something strange is happening with social media these days…

Is Facebook becoming a dominant video sharing platform? Has Twitter now become a image-driven platform? Is YouTube leading the live event video streaming charge for major brands and networks?strange social

Every time I log in to any of the major social media platforms it seems as if several new features are promoted for usage. Clearly the influences of Instagram (filters), Pinterest (dominant visuals), SnapChat (exclusivity in content) continue to be a major factor to the social media landscape. I used to joke about Facebook’s rapid progression to replicate other emerging social media sites, such as larger image areas to adapt to Pinterest’s popularity with visual content, by saying that eventually all social media sites will converge into one massive site called ‘Pinstagrambooker’.  While that hasn’t and probably won’t occur, I have noticed a definite pattern of follow-the-leader occurring with social media channel evolution.

Let’s take a trip back to 2010 to see how one of the largest consumer brands in the world, Target, was using Facebook to it’s then fullest capabilities. As you can see in the image below, it was beyond basic with the simple formula of message in question form a few times a week. Since then the possibilities have significantly advanced with Facebook to where having at least an attention-grabbing image with clever hashtags and a smart link are expected for even possible interaction consideration. Already, even that formula is Target FB Posts 2010old news as the auto-play video feature is upping the ante towards a need for short and stimulating videos to deliver the core message (in under 10 seconds). A significant amount of Facebook content today is video upload, do we see a pattern forming?

These Facebook posts from Target in 2010 reminds me a lot of Twitter’s inception, designed to be a fast moving hub of links, news and thoughts on various topics. Twitter didn’t really take off until Facebook evolved to a more complex format for content sharing that created longer posts and extreme privacy in personal content. While those changes occurred, Twitter just kept it’s format fast and simple. Recently, Twitter has become concentrated with dominant visuals driving the content. From my Twitter screen shot below, I could easily remove the profile image with round corners and replace with a square-cornered image and change the to interaction icons at the bottom to convince you this was a Facebook feed of 2013. Clearly the the influences of Pinterest and Facebook have created a shift in the Twitter interface to drive visual appeal prominent with messaging.

While I support these changes for adding to the user experience, it sure Twitter todaymakes life tough for social media content creators and curators. For many scheduling posts on Facebook brand pages, the auto-play video feature has thrown a wrench into our content syndication processes as that feature is only engaged when videos are uploaded directly into the page’s feed and not deployed through a publishing tool that uses a YouTube link. To test the assumed dominance in news feed views for auto-play videos, I have uploaded videos to over 70 pages in a weekend by logging in to each page separately. I’ll do anything for greater engagement apparently. Also, for content planners and curation specialist the shelf-life of content for re-use has diminished significantly as platforms evolve to meet changing user preferences.

So what’s the next evolution for major social media sites? Will YouTube continue to pursue live event video streaming in the wakes of Periscope App’s launch? Does Pinterest heighten their video embed or upload experience? Only the future can tell but regardless, social marketers will have to be quick to adapt and capitalize on new opportunities to stand out. Only time will tell but be prepared to act quickly to capitalize if so.

3 Ways to Make Your Content ‘Snackable’

One of my favorite analogies for social media marketing is how it relates to reader/ viewer consumption habits with the various styleSnackable_Content descriptions of ‘binge-consumer’, ‘slow-digester’ and of course ‘-frequent-snacker’. What makes this analogy great is not just the fun names but that it’s so true. These really are they the different ways the mass public spends their time online throughout the day. Which style are you? The ‘binge-consumer’ opts for a few long sessions on their computer, phone or tablet over the course of the day (i.e. morning, lunch and evening) while the ‘frequent-snacker’ tends to check the internet routinely from sunrise to sunset. Lastly, the ‘slow-digester’ is one to sit down after dinner and process information for hours until satisfied.

I definitely am a ‘frequent-snacker’ but I see the other types on content-consumers in my closest circle. My wife, for instance, sees medical clients throughout the work day so internet is not as easily accessible for content consumption, causing here to slowly digest the daily updates online after work. There is no right or wrong type to be as all probably spend the same amount of time online in the end of each day. Yet, what is surprising, is to see how many fellow content ‘snackers’ there are in the world. Just under a year ago ABC news reported that smartphone users check their phones around 150 times a day!! Imagine what that number is in 2015! While 18 of those glances were just to get the time, the other were pure ‘information gratification’ baby. We know we need it, maybe far worse than heavy smokers need their smoke breaks.

So what does this general tendency towards the content ‘frequent-snacker’ style mean for marketers? It means everything today when publishing content for online consumption. below is a short list (you’ll see why it’s short) for tips on writing to Snackable_graphicand being read by the many information gratification addicts (like myself):

1.  Use Short Lists (Think Buzzfeed.com): This isn’t a new marketing tactic by any means as some of the best advertorial print campaigns used headlines such as “3 Things to Know When…” or “5 Ways to Improve…” but it works even better online. If your blog posts, social media messages, website content don’t include this style of writing in the headline or copy, it’s time to change the approach. Your content is competing with hundreds of other messages, an intriguing headline is the best way for it to stand out.

2.  Make it Share-worthy: Just like in e-Commerce and local search, a friend’s shared recommendation carries a lot of weight as we decide how to spend our precious time online, particularly for an article or video. So how does someone make their content share-worthy? There is no secret formula but it starts by being different in your topic selection. This may involve taking a controversial, humorous or revealing look at your subject matter. Think about writing the ‘story behind the story’ in hopes of fascinating readers with new insights or lighthearted laughs. The Huffington Post has built a digitorial empire with this tactic.

3.  Get to the Point: When we’re content snacking while performing everyday activities like checking-out at the store, driving and ordering a sub sandwich (gasp- I know I’m not alone on these!), we need information to be easily synthesized in a matter of mere seconds. This last and final point is pretty simple- Get to the point! Just like this post, don’t drag readers snackable statsthrough numerous paragraphs to get to main subject. Aim to make your article the best 10 seconds of every reader’s day and you’ll win new audiences in the process. Just look at how quick readers today process information or stay engaged with a thought in this image courtesy of Conversity.

If you follow these 3 simple tips you will see an eventual increase in not only views but engagement. When publishing content online the goals are simple; get read, have it shared and inspire action. The great news is you don’t have to write a novel to do it. Instead take that content and split it up into bite-sized nuggets to keep readers coming back again and again.

Becoming A Better Person Through Social Media Marketing

blogimages-networingAs I have recently been sharing the fundamentals of social media marketing in a local courses I teach, I have came to find that the characteristics needed to be better in social media are the same important traits for becoming a better person. Let me explain more before I dive in to what led me to this realization. In using the original ‘social media is a cocktail party’ analogy, think about what characteristics and etiquette are exhibited by those individuals that stand out or are generally well received in such social gatherings. Typically those people you most enjoyed meeting were agreeable, genuine and question-askers in conversations. Then consider how brands and professionals engaging on social media benefit in demonstrating the same behaviors to create new consumer connections and lasting customer relationships. Clearly, the aim to become a better social marketer mirrors the path to becoming a better person. To do so, it involves continually improving upon and practicing the following traits to display your character, charisma and class.

What had led me to this conclusion were the teachings of 2 main ‘evangelists’ for social media marketing, Dave Kerpen and Guy Kawasaki. Firstly, in sharing Kerpen’s key philosophies around his concept of achieving ‘likability’, a brand’s ability to attract and delight individuals, he shares many important behaviors that business and professional brands on social media need to practice. The primary action that he preaches in achieving ‘likability’ for a brand is to “Listen first and never stop listening” when using social media. In fact, in his popular LinkedIn article, ‘Best Advice: Shut Up and  Listen’, he advises Kerpen Listen Firstbrands to stop talking about why they are great and instead listen to their connections unique needs and stories to learn how they can be great for them. Aren’t we often reminded that this act of being a great listener just as important to practice in our personal interactions and relationships?

Additionally, Kerpen also speaks to another important trait for a brand to achieve ‘likability’ and social media success- Authenticity.  Just like we all make mistakes ourselves, brands often encounter the mistakes made in product performance, customer service and more. Yet in either scenarios the most important thing is how the mistake is handled and resolved to return those impacted to satisfaction. All too often, brands will attempt to hid their mistakes or wish them to go away. As all social marketers learned early on from the “United Breaks Guitars” spectacle, that almost always ends up worsening the situation for those impacted by the mistake. Rather, Kerpen preaches the positive value of ‘authenticity’ in not only quickly acknowledging a mistake but also offering a prompt course of action for a resolution. Using this approach, consumers oftentimes gain respect for the brand as a result of the respect the brand has shown to them by trying to right their wrong. I can’t tell you the number of times my closest friends have displayed to me their value of our friendships by going to great lengths to repair any mistakes they may have made and, equally enough, I have done the same with them. Truly, these interactions have helped us grow our bond and trust increasingly over the years and the same results can be applicable for brands that practice authenticity with their core customer bases.

Also, the teachings of Guy Kawasaki, as is always enjoyed, provides a different perspective to provide similar thoughts on how to use social media with character, charisma and class. In his novel “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions” he proposes a proactive use of social media for brands to win over current and new customers exhibiting through ‘enchanting’ behaviors. Many of the main key points for how to ‘enchant’ definitely also provides meaningful advice for both social marketers and anyone trying toguy-kawasakis-enchantment-presentation-13-728 better themselves as a person. One such point involves his suggestion to “Default to Yes” in social situations. To this he explains that when meeting new people online or in person, always be thinking about ‘how can you help this person’ rather than ‘what can I get from this person’. If a person shares a need and requests your support, default to yes to at least offer to make an attempt to help. Oftentimes we are only as appealing as our intentions in the eyes of others, and that goes both for brand and personal interactions.

Also, Kawasaki advises to “Accept others as they are.” Not only does this mean dismissing biases of background and beliefs but also treating all connections and customers equal. In speaking of the influence that any individual can have in today’s digital age, with his persona of ‘Lonelyboy15’ he shares he brilliantly states “Nobodies are the new somebodies today.” So as far as the comments and needs expressed by ‘Lonelyboy15’ online, well those may end up being just impacting as someone from the Wall Street Journal or another institution with a large audience. Today, it’s too hard to predict who is going to help make or break your brand’s reputation and the best approach is to treat all connections with equal care and respect. In my opinion as a social marketer, nothing could be truer. I can’t tell you how many times a recent customer has created more referrals for our business than a feature in a major publication. In my personal life, I have been continuously surprised by the connections that resurface as I broaden my networks and the impact of their experiences with me as it influences my abilities to gain new experiences or relationships.

These four points shared above are just a small sample of the many compelling points that social media marketing experts, alike Kerpen and Kawasaki, have shared in their social media teachings which can be viewed in the same light as personal development. That similarity speaks volumes to not only show how social marketers can benefit from learning social media but also, how organizations should evaluate who is representing their brand on social media. In so many ways, the identity of the organization’s brand is likely to become an extension of the dedicated individual(s) very own character. So to be the best social marketing professional you can be, it all starts with becoming the best person you may like to be. The best part is you can start benefiting by bettering yourself in those areas today.