Make Content Marketing Matter: Put Your Story to Work

bigbangWhat is content marketing? 

It’s a transaction ― fueled by the powerful intention to grow and expand your business.  It’s serving up delicious, enticing, seductive information to your prospects (and suspects) in exchange for their glorious attention and response. You give away something of value to build a relationship that will ultimately lead to something meaningful ― engagement, trust, loyalty, revenue and product/service evangelism.

The concept is not new, but the media models have morphed and changed over the years. Heck, maybe it’s the oldest profession. But today, managing the whole process is a bit trickier. We are our own networks. It’s a potent concept when you stop and think about it.

We can produce our own universes, but there are challenges. We’re concerned with integration, relevance, distribution management and analytics.  The secret sauce is in your story ― communicating your value effectively and persuasively. And it all starts with your website.

It’s all about the Blog

This is your publisher. I know it takes care and feeding, but it’s worth the effort. The blog is still the easiest way to connect with your audience and establish thought leadership in your space.  Actually, it’s less about “thought leadership” these days ― and more about delivering content worth consuming ― content that teaches something new, entertains, and provides a compelling reason to act.  The media may vary, but the blog gives you the framework. Experiment with video, infographics, whitepapers and e-books. Test, test and test some more.  Orchestrate the primary elements:

  • Video
  • Landing Pages/Email
  • Social Media

And You Gotta Have a Plan . . .

  1.  Define your Decision Makers and Brand Personas

Who makes the buying decisions? Who gets involved and when? Where do they live online? You don’t have to get too targeted in creating specific content for each stakeholder, but clearly identify “product champions” ― and then guide them step by step through the consensus-creation process.

  1. Articulate Your Key Objectives: Start with the basics, build and quantify.

Objectives might include:

  • Generating interest in your products ― and qualified leads.
  • Establishing yourself as an expert and preferred solution provider in a given vertical market.
  • Generating sales. (online or direct)
  1. Set Specific Goals: What are your key metrics and priorities ― long and short-term?
  • Organic traffic
  • Newsletter sign-ups
  • Leads
  • Qualified leads
  • Donations
  • Sales
  1. Create Your Content Strategy

Build a formal six-month, integrated content calendar creating relevant messaging that cultivates each one of your priority vertical segment.

  • Case Studies and Success Stories ― Highlight solutions and wins using video, blog articles and press releases that can extend your stories even further to third-party websites.
  • Guides and Tutorials — Guides do not have to be 100-page e-books. Give tips or easy how-tos.
  • Webinars ― Attract decision makers who are interested in learning from other industry leaders. Then, create a case studies or white papers from the webinar ― extending the life of your content and providing more opportunities for engagement.
  •  E-books and Whitepapers ― This is where we can get meaty ― really dig into topics and establish your firm as the expert or solution. This can drive lead capture from download requests and provide insight into particular areas of interest.
  • Infographics creatively visualize facts and figures and are highly shareable online.  http://piktochart.com/ https://infogr.am/ are sites that help facilitate creation.
  1. Promote 
  • Grow Your Opt-In Email List ― Add a sign-up widget to your website. http://optinagent.com/ Put a sign up form at the bottom of each blog post.
  • Enhance Social Media Engagement ― Optimize social media where appropriate – integrating Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram, particularly for events — to drive engagement and enhance brand affinity with specific content deliverables.

Finally, connect the dots on all marketing initiatives (print, web, and multimedia) across owned, earned, paid and shared media streams ― to optimize conversions and KPIs. And build necessary resources to execute. Build relationships, not links. Make it matter. Make it count ― with rich, relevant, timely, thoughtful content. Early and often.

Are you ready to tell your story?

Bedazzle Your Audience with the 5 Cs

“If you know your character’s thoughts, the proper vocal and bodily expressions will naturally follow.”  – Constantin Stanislavski

diamondSeveral years ago, I wrote about the 4 Cs of communication. Today, I am reposting the blog but adding a fifth important C― Consciousness. Remembering the 5 Cs can help us build a multi-dimensional clutter-cutting content communication plan.

Consciousness – Much has been written about the importance of staying present. This applies to your personal world and the message you are building.  In many cases, this involves hard work to find the clarity and sense of authenticity about who you are and what you really want to create ― without getting derailed by distraction and fear.  We are a culture of distractions.  From texting while driving to divorce, the evidence is irrefutable. Humans  have difficulty staying in the moment. Add to that the powerful concepts of quantum theory, and the challenge magnifies. Dr. Joe Dispenza states in his provocative book, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself,” “In the present, all potentials exist simultaneously in the field. When we stay present, when we are ‘in the moment,’ we can move beyond space and time, and we can make any one of those potentials a reality.” When we are mired in the past, however, none of those new potentials exist.”  Now, that is some high-octane content!

Content – Share only the highest quality content. Whether email, website, blog, whitepaper or app, make it sizzle. Consider experimenting with video on your website.  Use your Smartphone. You do not need to be Steven Spielberg. Try mobile apps, webinars, or even a luscious, visual feast on Pinterest. Feature video testimonials from customers, employees, partners, or even vendors. Fundamentally, social media is about telling stories—those tantalizing tidbits of truth that trigger action.  But the real challenge is this: “The medium is (still) the message,” as Marshall McLuhan said more than a half century ago.   How we interact with content can be just as (if not more) meaningful than the content itself.  That is why we need to me crystal clear about who we are, what we stand for, and what we are communicating to our audiences.

Community – Social media gives you the power to spread information quickly. But the irony here is that you have to let go. “Let it be,” as a wise dude once said. You don’t have to vet and control ever single word or comment.  Granted, issuing calls to action online on social media platforms can spark viral campaigns rapidly, economically, and effectively– but it’s often serendipity.  And, how cool is that? As NYU new media professor Clay Shirky observes, “Now, many can talk to many, as opposed to one talking to one — or one talking to many.” The chain reaction that results can be potent and powerful. We need to pay attention.

Culture – Just as everyone in a healthy organization is a salesperson, everyone in your enterprise should exercise a social media voice.  Weave the behavior into the communications fabric and expectation of your operation. It’s all part of outrageously good customer service, anyway. Make engaging on Facebook about your products the norm – rather than the exception. Make promotions and projecting personality a priority – in your store, via text, online and everywhere.  Make it part of your customer banter and all your in-person relationships. Work from the inside out. Hey, put the social in social media, and watch the referrals flow. Coach your staff to manage your business’ presence in an authentic and personal way online. Employees are built-in ambassadors. Give them guidelines. Train them–and deploy them first!

Character – Finally, social media is your opportunity to put a face on your organization and to humanize your brand.  Optimize your own, unique corporate back story. Transparency is a powerful differentiator, my friend—in addition to being highly seductive in our post-modern, reality-TV-obsessed world.   Think about ways to make the private public. This is the new “intimacy of commerce” that will effectively distract, attract and embrace your audience. As Constantin Stanislavski, the great acting coach once said, “If you know your character’s thoughts, the proper vocal and bodily expressions will naturally follow.”

Ready for your close-up?

 

Are You Content?

let goIt’s hard to believe I started writing this blog  five years ago. Seems like five months in many ways—and yet, so much has changed and at breakneck speed.  The trailblazers along the social-media super highway—accelerators such as Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, Beth Kanter and Clay Shirky—continue to inspire and challenge my thinking as they constantly reinvent, re-calibrate and re-conceptualize their own approaches to social media, their audiences, the web and their own livelihoods. It is, indeed, an ever-changing frontier out there . . .well, out here, as well.

Where are we five years later? Where am I? Good question.

I suspect I am inordinately philosophical as I review the past five years today. Such monumental milestones. Such enormous challenges. Such “opportunities for growth.” “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” Kelly Clarkson? Well, I believe Friedrich Nietzsche said it first.

Having just returned from another day of waiting in the hospital to hear news about a gravely ill parent, I am considering the past five years even more pensively.  Just moments ago, I was straightening the few sparse gray hairs dancing across my emaciated father’s damp, ashen forehead as I watched him fight for every shallow breath.

The weight of the past few years as a single mom has been palpable —encompassing my mother’s death a year a half ago after complications from a massive stroke—as well as other daunting challenges.  Let’s just say, life has been messy. However, thank goodness, the learning has been rich and the clarity gleaming beyond the fog. Fortunately, I have been open to it. Not just about the social media stuff, mind you—but most everything, really— life, love, the way I tick, and  my relationship to all of it—media, circumstances, feelings, places, people . . . That’s the good part.

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me

and 90% how I react to it.” 

― Charles R. Swindoll

This awareness is informing my writing, as well. Hence, I have arrived at this very blog post. In fact, I now think our relationship to our content is probably more important than the content itself.  In this new media, mega-sphere world, we have admittedly become obsessed with our gadgets—with the act of communicating. As Sherry Turkle says in Alone Together, we are too busy communicating to really connect.

Ironically, we began this social journey with rabid focus on the technology—the latest whiz-bang toy du jour. What will we do with Twitter? Instagram? Yada? Yada? Then, we moved to “content marketing.” We’re all about the content. The what. Serve it up in giant scoops of frothy, delicious digital goodness—early and often to satisfy Google’s ravenous, insatiable appetites. Businesses and thought leaders have been maniacal about producing “the right content” with the right words at the right time. SEO-yea!  Maximizing, masticating and matriculating . . .

But, now, I think it’s really and truly about relating.  Getting to the heart of the matter, right?  Who are we? What are we about?  Not another refill of the cloying Kool-Aid. After all, what does really matter?

Am I conscious? Am I present?  Am I paying attention? No more facade, thank you.

What does this mean to our marketing plans? Not sure. And more important, what does this mean to our relationships—whether they are with friends, romantic partners, business partners, parents, children, subordinates, siblings, superiors, colleagues, employees, customers, shareholders, vendors, service technicians, teachers, neighbors, customers, students, etc.  . . . or the person behind us in line at Target? Anyone.  You? It means being fully present, in the present—in the relationship.  (And I don’t mean with your phone, but that’s another post.) In fact, the truth is there will come time when . . .

The words don’t matter, because we cannot hear them.

The affectations, witty banter and posh color choices don’t matter, because we cannot see them.

And what matters is simply spirit—being there.

Life coach Martha Beck says, “Little miracles begin happening to you whenever you turn toward your right life – even if it’s in the middle of the muck and mire. Small miracles turn into big ones.” We just need to pay attention.

So, once again, I ask the question, are you content?

Time for Social Media Therapy in 2014?

enough time for social mediaBrian Solis, one of the pioneering voices in social media and one of my fave raconteurs, wrote a provocative year-end post called My So-Called Digital Life. In it, he turns a harsh light on social media behavior and questioned its value in our lives. As we look to the year ahead and prepare to orchestrate our communication plans—either for personal or business impact, I believe Solis’ thoughts resonate.

Whether it’s selfies, the sandwich on your plate, life events, new profile pictures, a vacation spot, your updated relationship status, a provocative quote, a random icebreaker, or humble brag,  we are wired for instant response and reaction. He observes, “With every action, we expect an equal or greater reaction.” It seems we are learning to measure our intrinsic worth as human beings in likes, comments, shares, retweets, and the coveted “favorite-d” tweet.  Solis contends, “We invite attention because we’re learning to lean on it and the reactions that pour through our screens warm us.  It reminds us that we’re appreciated, that we’re loved, that we’re alive.”

But, this is hollow praise, isn’t it? Superficial, temporal, and oh so fleeting—plus, it’s dependent on the whims and approval of others.  It is only a flimsy substitution for a core sense of self-worth and soul substance. Most any therapist would tell you this is not a solid plan for long-term mental health. Perhaps Solis is right. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate “the system”—to move on to a more psychologically healthy phase of social media– giving us the opportunity to invest differently and get more substance out of our digital lifestyle—and  perhaps more meaning out of our lives as a whole. Here are some initial musings for 2014:

mindfulness1. Engage in mindfulness. I think one way to transcend the shallow cycle of self-involvement is to approach social media with a sense of mindfulness—that is, try experiencing the moment fully for yourself first before commenting or feeling compelled to share or garner feedback.  Stay present and conscious – with yourself and for yourself first and foremost. Stay in the moment. Observe, yes, but participate fully and mindfully  in your own life.

2. Make it valuable.  The second is also pretty practical, too. If you are in business, focus on your customer’s needs and therefore and serving up relevant, engaging content that is worth their time and attention. Make it about value—early and often.

3. Put it in context. For the most part, we’ve begun to embrace content marketing, but in 2014, we’ll become more sophisticated about its deployment. We’ll discover that context is essential—especially with respect to the specific social channels used, media, target audiences, times of day . . . the many variables that define and design its relevance.   Brands should start asking themselves, “How are people using a particular social channel?” and “What makes a channel unique?” Then they will create contextually relevant content based on those insights. More and more, marketers will discover content may be king, but the power is in the context.

4.   Communicate from the inside out. This has been my mantra for a couple of years—particularly for small businesses, but it’s expanding into the enterprise social media realm.  This may seem painfully obvious, but social media synergy happens, well, socially.  Collaboration is the best way to ignite engagement. It’s that simple, and it starts with your internal team. They know your business best, anyway. You pay them to make it their business, right?  Empower them instead of thwarting them on social profiles. Give them guidelines and messaging to carry forward, around, and through.  We are talking about cultivating the social employee. We cannot communicate externally until we communicate internally. Good to remember in just about any context.

Snack, nibble, taste5. Snack, nibble and taste. Content need not be a bitter pill or a long dreary blog post. Make it tasty, fun and delicious. Make a quick 60-second video. Share a serious of fun photos or a really cool infographic.  Video. Video. Video.  Short-form video—Twitter’s Vine app and Instagram’s 15-second video make it incredibly easy to create and share this short-form content, so take the time to not only understand how to use these platforms but also how users consume content on them.

6.  Divide and conquer. It’s time to reel in the scatter-shot approach. Cultivate a solid presence in one or two channels rather than dominate every single platform.  Re-purpose your content as webinars, blog posts, ebooks, videos and social media content. Go for frequency and volume.  Stop whipping yourself into a social media frenzy– unless you enjoy that sort of thing! And for heaven’s sake, go for LinkedIn—especially if you are not maximizing it already. Develop a comprehensive LI strategy that leverages leadership profiles, group participation and your company profile.  LinkedIn is poised for major growth and impact in 2014—and if you’re in business and not on there, you’ll be missing the boat. Watch for some big feature announcements.

Your content awaits  . . . What are your thoughts for social media mindfulness?

CONTACT ME ANY TIME!

It’s an inside job

lemons“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

Often, the universe dishes up not just one or two pesky, little hurdles – but a veritable tsunami of desolation. The real challenge is  processing it all productively and assessing our authentic truth — not anyone else’s version, mind you, but our very own.  In the aftermath, we do some serious onion peeling — but that’s easier said than done. Life is messy.

I believe these times of vertigo-inducing, tummy-tickling turmoil consume us for a reason — to shake us up and down, over and around — to help us see a new perspective and another side. The trick is identifying the nuggets of wisdom in the swirling vortex and harnessing their positive power to make us stronger, clearer, and wiser — like making lemons into lemonade. (Or sautéing those onion layers into a scrumptious caramelized concoction.) These analogies may seem a little hackneyed, but the truth is that I seem to have harvested a bumper crop of lemons lately — in love, work, family, etc. Sweet turned to sour and fresh to foul.

I read somewhere that this is all a simple law of physics — or metaphysics, as the case may be. “It’s like patterned disorder,” says life coach Martha Beck. “And in nature, it creates beautiful things.” She contends that instead of being tortured, perhaps we are being steered—“dressed as chaos.” It’s all about reversing our assumptions.  Love that!

“Little miracles begin happening to you whenever you turn toward your right life,” says Beck — even if it’s in the middle of the muck and mire. Small miracles turn into big ones. And she’s oh, so correct. The tiny miracles ARE all around me— if I just pay attention.

In fact, here’s one—looking forward to delivering a webinar on Jan. 30, 2013, for NALA, the National Association of Local Advertisers and Jeff Velis, vice president of operations and esteemed former colleague.  It’s called Social Media is an Inside Job. Thank you, Jeff.  Can’t wait!

UntitledWhat are your questions about building a crackerjack content strategy for your business or enterprise? Join us!

And let the new journey begin!

Dazzle Your Audience with the 4 Cs

Remembering the  4Cs  can help you frame a content marketing strategy that helps you cut through the communications clutter.  Consider:

Content – Share only the highest quality content. Whether email, website, blog, whitepaper or app, make it sizzle. Consider experimenting with video on your website.  Use your iPhone. You do not need to be Steven Spielberg. Try mobile apps, webinars, or even a luscious, visual feast on Pinterest. Feature video testimonials from customers, employees, partners, or even vendors. Fundamentally, social media is about telling stories—those tantalizing tidbits of truth that trigger action.  But the real challenge is this: “The medium is (still) the message,” as Marshall McLuhan said more than a half century ago.   How we interact with content can be just as (if not more) meaningful than the content itself.  That is why we need to me crystal clear about who we are, what we stand for, and what we are communicating to our audiences.

Community – Social media gives you the power to spread information quickly. But the irony here is that you have to let go. “Let it be,” as a wise dude once said. You don’t have to vet and control ever single word or comment.  Granted, issuing calls to action online on social media platforms can spark viral campaigns rapidly, economically, and effectively– but it’s often serendipity.  And, how cool is that? As NYU new media professor Clay Shirky observes, “Now, many can talk to many, as opposed to one talking to one — or one talking to many.” The chain reaction that results can be potent and powerful. We need only pay attention.

Culture – Just as everyone in a healthy organization is a salesperson, everyone in your enterprise should exercise a social media voice.  Weave the behavior into the communications fabric and expectation of your operation. It’s all part of outrageously good customer service, anyway. Make engaging on Facebook about your products the norm –rather than the exception. Make promotions and projecting personality a priority – in your store, via text, online and everywhere.  Make it part of your customer banter and all your in-person relationships. Work from the inside out. Hey, put the social in social media, and watch the referrals flow. Coach your staff to manage your business’ presence in an authentic and personal way online. Employees are built-in ambassadors. Give them guidelines. Train them–and deploy them first!

Character – Finally, social media is your opportunity to put a face on your organization and to humanize your brand.  Optimize your own, unique corporate back story. Transparency is a powerful differentiator, my friend—in addition to being highly seductive in our post-modern, reality-TV-obsessed world.   Think about ways to make the private public. This is the new “intimacy of commerce” that will effectively distract, attract and embrace your audience. As Constantin Stanislavski, the great acting coach once said, “If you know your character’s thoughts, the proper vocal and bodily expressions will naturally follow.”

Ready for your close-up?