Thursday, May 22, 2014

Be the King [10 Content Generation Resources]

Content is king in marketing, right? The marketing data analysts, direct marketers, brand marketers, market researchers, etc. may not always agree to this, but I think we can all agree that when it comes to social media, quality content is not only king, it is highly consumable.

With each person's "feed" on each social media channel moving at a constant pace, there is only a small percentage of your companies "viewers" who are going to even see your content. [At my current company, our organic Facebook page posts average just under 10% viewership of our entire following.] And of those that do actually see your content, only a percentage will be interested in what you have to say.

If you want to increase the virility of your content, you must have good, relevant, interesting content that will resonate with your following. But where do you find this content? How do you create enough content to satisfy?

For my current company, I base our content in multiple categories: industry articles, current events, local news, company updates and humorous/fun/offbeat posts. Much of the content is self-generated. But to position your company as an industry expert, you also need to find third-party articles that back the message you are trying to promote. 

If you are posting regularly to multiple social media channels, you may need 50+ content pieces per week, equaling out to thousands of pieces of information a year. For individuals, small businesses, and small marketing departments, that is a daunting task.

So, to help, here are my top ten resources I use to find quality content to post or re-post.

  1. Your Competition. Seriously. Follow your competition on every blog, social media channel and news station around. See what they are talking about. Chances are, it is relevant to you. And, even if you don't want to be the late one to the party of posting on a topic, often their content will give you ideas for new content you can generate. Plus, it's just good business to know what your competition is up to!
  2. Your Own Employees. Most marketing professionals have a pulse on every department within their companies. It is part of marketing. But, that does not mean we have visibility to everything happening.  Promoting and relying on employees to help generate content with expand your voice. From industry articles I may have missed, to customer selfies past on to me, to employee congratulations for life events, the content my company's employees send me is priceless. It puts a human voice to our corporate accounts.
  3. Industry Magazines Online...and Their E-Blasts. I have found that many of the leading industry magazines I subscribe to have not only online versions, but email digests. Yes, these can clutter your inbox. But when you are looking for the latest, greatest articles, the daily digests [with email rules to put them in a folder for later viewing], can help you grab content quickly and efficiently that is also highly relevant.
  4. "Categories" on the Major News Networks. You own a business in the financial industry? Find the finance section of the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo News, Fox News, MSNBC, etc. Sometimes, it takes a little digging within a site to get to the "top page" for whichever topic you need. Once you find it though, you are set. Bookmark those section pages. I organize my bookmarks into folders within my browser. It doesn't give me instant access, but having a folder called "News Sites - XXX Industry" helps me focus on those specific sources I need quickly. 
  5. If you want to build your relationships, this site is awesome. You must authorize Newsle to have access to your social media accounts. Although I am usually leery of this, once it does, Newsle scours the web for mentions of any of your contacts across your social media channels. It will show you articles published on the web by your contacts, mentioning your contacts, and about your contacts. There is a simple share tool within Newsle itself so you can broadcast kudos to those in your network. What a way to win brownie points with your network, and you'll never miss important spotlights!
  6. Google + Circles. Okay, we can all admit that Google + did not take the social media industry by storm. But there are tons of companies and individuals out there posting. And, with the power of Google search behind it, you can narrow in on content that is relevant to you and your company. Using the native Circles inside Google +, I have created focused feeds for myself based on the different industries and types of posts I like to use for content. Using a tool like HootSuite, you can take these Circles, and generate feed lists that help me quickly navigate the noise to the articles I need.
  7. Twitter Lists. If Google Plus has noise, Twitter is utter chaos. That is, until you create or follow lists. These "lists" allow you to only see posts from the Twitter accounts you have on that specific list. Carefully crafted lists can help you quickly scan and find the right resources in a very loud social media arena.
  8. Klout Create. Klout recently renovated their site. As part of the new Klout, there is a "Create" section. You can add topics and it pulls content based on what's freshest [Hot Off the Press], most relevant [On Target], what is trending for sharing [On the Rise], and little known posts that fall within the topics you ask for [Hidden Gem]. You can even share and schedule the content from inside Klout. Initially, I brushed this off, but with Klout sourcing everyone else on social media, they tend to get articles that I'm getting great reactions from posting.
  9. LinkedIn Pulse. It was called "LinkedIn Today", then moved to Pulse. It started with media articles, added Influencers, and now is rolling out publishing to the entire LinkedIn community. Like Twitter, I feel that Pulse is getting quite loud. However, being the professional social media channel, content is generally high quality here. I value my Pulse Daily Digest email everyday with the 7 articles I must read. And, did you know there is now an app? Having a world of articles, sorted by the topics I need, at my fingertips, in my email, and on my computer has been a wonderful plus to this social media channel.
  10. Need to find the best performing content for a topic? Or to go on a specific social media channel? Buzzsumo analyzes the content out there and gives you the ratings. You can also filter by time frame, type of post, topic, and/or domain. Fairly new, you can also find the influencers on topics. A great way to find, follow and curate content!
These are my top ten go-to's when I need to generate content. I don't make it to every source every day, but if I am sitting down to generate content for a few days, these are the first places I check. What about you? What are your most valuable content generation tools?

Oh, and as an aside, as I researched for this post, I came across this article. It is a great list of 130+ different kinds of marketing. Being a marketer for small business, I have to wear many hats...seeing how many hats there are was highly entertaining to me [so I thought it might be to you too!].


Image created by Lindsey Garrett. 
Stock Photos Used in Compilation by:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Just Stop [Social Media Isn't for Every Business]

social media doesn't work everywhere

Here comes the backlash. But I'm prepared. 

I was recently corresponding with a graphic designer on LinkedIn. Because he saw that I consult on social media and spend quite a bit of my time working on improving companies' social media endeavors, he was cautious about telling me his thoughts about social media. But, he eventually wrote this:
"As for social media being a great tool and one that makes some businesses a lot of money, I've never seen it. I'd welcome any education on that subject because, frankly, I get kind of tired being the only person on the planet who feels otherwise. I've just never seen social media used in a way that was even effective, let alone a money generator. Mostly I've seen company Facebook pages that post pics of employees at BBQs, playing ping pong and things like that. I've only seen once a company that posted relevant articles about things that could help educate their clients. But even then, I couldn't imagine how that would translate into making anyone money."

I have to agree to a certain extent. As someone submerged in social media every day, I can honestly say social media ISN'T for every business, and the gentleman above was right - a lot of small businesses do social media poorly. Fortune 500 companies aside, with their entire social media teams working 24/7, for most small to medium businesses it is incredibly tough to use social media properly and even tougher to measure ROI. 

The Time Investment
Social media takes time. It takes tons of time to do it right - and most businesses fail because they don't put in the time. I have actually talked to a company that received a phone call asking if they were still in business, because the person calling had found a Facebook page that hadn't been updated in six months.

Many traditional avenues in marketing, like billboards, magazine ads, commercials and more are "set it and forget it" marketing tools. Social media though, is a living, breathing, ever-changing medium. 

To do social media right, a company has to have eyes on their social channels daily. They have to be willing to put in the time to learn how to post, discover what niche they can fill, to monitor what is being said, and to provide a new venue for customer service. 

When companies cannot commit to that kind of timely investment from someone who knows the entire company [not just a high school intern that doesn't have the maturity to respond to customer complaints], I actually believe the company is better off staying away from social media. 

Doing social media poorly reflects on your brand as much as a marker-written, typo-filled sign in your window does. Why tarnish your brand more?

Soft Results
When time is put in to make business' social media channels social [fun, personable, informative, etc. Insert best practices here that are better left for another post] though, there are a few things that grow: 
  1. Branding. Like billboards that often don't have a direct ROI correlation and are just for branding purposes, a lot of social media work is to build a good brand, positive reviews, and position the company as an "industry expert" in whatever market that company competes.
  2. Driving business to the company's website. Again, without expensive marketing software, it is hard to measure concrete ROI from the social media channel to the website to final sale. Setting up tracking cookies, and definitively tracking leads to sales can help, but it is an extensive task. If a company values their website, and upper management is behind the concept that the website traffic does influence sales, then it is a bit simpler to show how much of that traffic comes from social media. I can tell you a large portion of my main company's website views come directly from social media. So, if you look at the top of the sales funnel [leads coming in], you can grow the top of the lead funnel and land more business on your website from social media.
  3. Providing customer service. We are starting to see a TON of this at my current company. People are out on social sites all day. To them, it's easier to message/tweet/post a question than to pick up the phone and call. Being "out there" on these channels gives a lower barrier of entry for people to ask questions. This means customers will ask more, engage more, and you will give a better experience. 
    @Delta [Twitter] does a great job of this. Last year, I had a typo on a plane ticket that my company set up for me. I tweeted privately with @Delta and got it worked out in under 15 minutes, without having to sit on hold on the phone, or talking to someone that I had a hard time understanding. Their great customer service there has actually prompted me to personally start using them whenever I can [vs. my normal airline choice of the past]. 
These are the "softer" results of social media. I believe too many companies look for the direct ROI, and because that is an enormous task that isn't clear cut, they abandon their social media efforts in favor of other marketing tactics that measure easier. They forget that the "softer" results, in the long run, can provide stronger relationships, which do lead to more sales.

Enter ROI
You can get direct ROI from social media, but it has to be little more targeted/specific and within the greater campaign of above. Will posting on social channels with company BBQ pictures drive more business? Probably not. If you directly publish to sell, without a larger campaign, will it work? Maybe in the short term, but not as a long-term social media strategy.

As many successful social media campaigns have found, the bright side is with the right mix, there are opportunities for direct ROI and ROI tracking. 

For example, my current company builds and sells residential homes. We started running Facebook ads this year for open houses. It took us a few tries to dial in the perfect ad, but on the last open house we did, I spent $50 targeting ads to the right people in the right locations. We got 6 highly qualified/interested families through the door specifically from Facebook [there were others that said they found us "on the internet"...which I presume to be Facebook ads, but we can't say with certainty]. So, for about $8 a lead, we got some awesome traction. If just 1 of those 6 buys a home [which our statistics/odds are higher], we would be getting 900% return on our ad. Yes, that's nine hundred percent, calculated at pure profits divided by $50 for the total ad cost. That, to me, makes social media 100% worth our time!


Photo Credit: fcl1971 on freeimages

Thursday, May 15, 2014

There Is No Secret Sauce [Social Media Strategies]

Just like planning the perfect European vacation, there is no secret sauce to social media strategies. What works for the corner deli might not work for the local real estate office.

However, like planning a vacation there are certain aspects to your social media campaigns you can plan...and there are other things you need to learn along the way.

Image planning your first trip to a new country. You need to do your research and learn about the difference in cultures. If you are going to Italy, you need to learn how to order a meal, how much to tip, and what cities you are going to want to visit. But the nuances that are Italy [like the lack of forming any sort of line, or how to figure out switching trains when yours was cancelled in Italian, and you have a major language barrier with everyone around you], you can't learn in a book. You learn by experiencing them.

Much of the same is true for social media.

Things You Can Learn from a Book [or Blog]
  1. Culture. Just like every country has its own culture, every social media channel has its own culture. Learning and understanding the differences between Facebook [hashtags are laughed at], Twitter [hashtags are a must], and LinkedIn [no funny cat pictures please] can make or break your chances at successful social media marketing.
  2. Rules to Posting. If you start a Tweet with @SomeonesName, it isn't going to show up in everyone's feed - just the person you mentioned. On Facebook, you can edit the preview of a link, including the short description, to your benefit. There are basic rules to every venue. Learning these from the help sections within each site, and from experts in the field, like Social Media Examiner, you will have a better chance of reaching your audience.
  3. Profile Basics. Understanding how your profile looks to outside followers, how to edit images to fit into each area of the profile, what parts of your profile are searchable, and how to make certain elements private or a limited audience are all things you can learn from a book, or a basic Google search.
  4. Advertising. If you plan to spend some cash and advertise on social media, there is quite a bit out there on rules, restrictions, and limits to the advertising. How to write great copy is not part of the book, but the basics to run and analyze your ads are.

Things You Must Experience to Learn
  1. What Works in Your Posts. Images may skyrocket your virility on Facebook, but not get great interactions on Twitter. Posting your ice cream flavors of the day may be the most important thing for your followers. It all depends on your business, your audience and your goals. The only way to learn what works for your company in your posts is to try different things - and more than once. Try, and study the results. It is the trial-by-error process, that when studied, tweaked, tried again, and studied more that will hone your strategy for social media.
  2. Who Your Audience Is. You may want to target certain demographics with your social media. However, you will likely be surprised by who does and doesn't follow/interact with you. When you start to build an audience, it may be with your targeted demographics. But as you grow, others will follow. Paying attention to the buckets of people that most interact with you will help you develop your content. And you may find surprising audiences there. For example, my day job is marketing for a residential home builder. Our "target" audiences have always been prospects, current homeowners, and Realtors. An audience I didn't see coming though was our trade partners (construction workers, electricians, etc.). But by paying attention, we can now add valuable content for a new audience as well.
  3. Timing of Posts. Like the content within your posts, learning how to time your posts is a trial and learn process. Yes, there are tons of articles out there about the "best times to post to...". But, if you are a night club targeting a college crowd, I'm going to guess your best times to post are not the same as a commercial insurance company trying to target medium sized business owners. Study your audiences, use the analytic tools, and simply test different posting times. 
  4. Where "Being Social" and "Being Professional" Collide. Social media is exactly that, social. As a company posting, every post is a part of your brand. So, how do you balance the social, human voice with the professional industry expert? It is up to each individual company to determine how much human voice is necessary, and where the breaking point is where it starts to ruin your brand. Down with Detroit is a cheeky t-shirt company based in Detroit. They tend to swing to the extremely social side of things, posting everything from Detroit sports team updates, to hilarious region-specific jokes. But, the company's shirts are just as cheeky and regional, so their "buddy at the bar" voice only enhances their brand. American Express deals with your money everyday. So although their voice can be human, you would probably start to lose trust in the brand if they had a "buddy at the bar" voice. Finding the balance is unique to each company's brand.
  5. How to Make Your Social Media Successful. There is a science to studying the analytics of your social media and improving results, but finding what works for your company exactly is more art form and time. No "How To Become Successful on Social Media" book is ever going to hold all of the answers for your specific business and audience.

Social media is a powerful tool for many businesses, but unfortunately, there is no secret sauce to success. Ultimately, the most successful companies on social media spend the time learning, analyzing and testing what works for their unique company.

What have you learned about social media that doesn't fit into a book?

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing via photopin cc

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Life Altering Views [from a Decade in Marketing]

As kids, I don't think most of us think, "I want to go into marketing when I grow up!" The go-to jobs are doctors and lawyers, ballerinas, teachers and police. The list could go on. 

But at some point, each person whom has fought his or her way into the marketing sphere - and stuck it out for a decade or more - fell in love with the career. I honestly believe to truly excel in marketing, you have to love marketing for marketing's sake. Whether you are marketing to raise funds for children in a non-profit, or selling software to accountants, you have to love what you do. 

When you love marketing and make it your life's work, it changes you. Maybe it's the new quantity of grey hairs sprouting from my head, but recently I started to reflect on how a life of marketing has altered my views and actions. Here are my top marketing-induced life altering views:
  1. I publish more positive reviews for companies in my personal life. We all know it is easy to post a review when you are scathing mad, but takes more work to post a shining review when something makes you happy. Great reviews help brand management, and can make my day. Seeing a new review come in raving about our team sets my day a glow with rose tinted shades. Understanding what it does for me, I now have sympathy for fellow marketers and have grown to post as many positive reviews as I can to hopefully help make some other marketer's day. 
  2. When something does go wrong, I have poor customer service, or a product fails, I know how to push the right buttons. Okay, internally in my company, people joke about this with me. When we talk about our customer service and how we handle issues, the executive team always likes to point out, "If this had happened to Lindsey, you know she'd be all over our Facebook page and telling all of her friends." We can debate the morals of this later, but truth be told, every good marketer understands how and where to approach any company to get the best outcome. You learn from the haters of your own work what motivates a company to change your outcome, and what gets tossed in the circular file. 
  3. I take a LOT more surveys. Before I started my career in marketing, I thought all of those customer-satisfaction surveys were a farce; no one actually read them and no one cared, so why take them? Being on the flip side of the coin, I now appreciate every survey request I get. I'm naturally inclined to pause, decide if I have time, and try to give honest feedback to each survey I can. 
  4. I love technology, and I have to love it. Okay, so maybe I have always been a closet techie geek, but learning HTML, staying on top of the latest in mobile, understanding the nuances between Apple, PC and Android are vital to the success of my career. And really, who learns and retains anything they don't love or find interesting? 
  5. I'm good at crisis-mode. Now, I know a lot of other careers would like to jump in here. Marketing is not a high-pressure-life-or-death job. It isn't even a high-pressure-commission-only-sell-or-starve career. The beauty of a career in marketing is it changes everyday, and every minute of everyday. It isn't mundane. But the catch-22 there is that it isn't mundane. Everyone comes at you in a "top-urgency-you-must-put-out-this-fire" way. Technology, trends and strategies are constantly changing and need to be changed on the fly. Marketers have to wear a lot of hat and be able to change quickly, while putting out fifteen other fires. 
  6. Even the most obscure jobs can fall to marketing, and that is a good thing. We need new uniforms? Oh, that's marketing's job. The server crashed and website imploded? Call marketing first. President of the company needs a presentation for his kid's career day at school? Marketing can help. When I first started into marketing, I was bitter and cynical about the odd jobs requested of marketing that I thought were below the position. Now, I wear it as a badge of honor that so many people within a company think the marketing department is so talented, we can do everything. 
  7. I read as many billboards as I can. Okay, so maybe this is to dissect what works and what doesn't, and to help with new creative ideas, but what I used to view as obnoxious clutter on the highways, I now study like a college lit class. 
  8. I take notes on the commercials in the Superbowl. That's right. I actually take notes now on every commercial that airs during the Superbowl. I'm a soccer/hockey fan and could care less about football. Many years I'm not even sure who is going to be in the Superbowl. But I drudge through the game [I never used to watch] to get to the commercials. 
  9. What you don't know can hurt you. We may not be in the service department, but marketers touch every aspect of a company. We are on the front lines of customer service, maintaining our brand reputation. We have to know what changes are coming within the company to plan, campaign and broadcast. We have to know employee sentiments, what departments are succeeding and which are failing. We have to understand the customer experience from first meeting until final purchase. To do this, I have learned you have to make friends in every department, you have to actually know your customers, and you have to have a "pulse" on your company which goes beyond public knowledge. Without that deeper understanding and reading between the lines, you can get blindsided quickly. 
  10. Much of marketing is more art than science, but I have to embrace the science. There is no golden rule to the correct way to market. Success often comes from intuitive moves and being an "artist" of the field. But, most people don't really get marketing. They don't understand what I do everyday or why certain projects take so long. Skeptics abound. Budgets and costs are misunderstood. My work is questioned. And, that simple fact is why I learned to embrace the science. Statistical data, case studies, focus groups, reporting and tracking are the ways you prove your worth and your marketing budget. I may love the intuitive, on-the-fly approach, but if I don't embrace the reports that track my success, no one else will embrace my marketing. 
Marketing, to me, is so much more than a job. It's a passion and a lifestyle; one I did not expect when I was a child, but can't imagine any other way now. 

 What life altering views do you have from years in marketing? 


 photo credit: anissat on morgueFile