Tuesday Apr 15, 2014

5 Things That Should Be Keeping CMO’s Up at Night

CMO insomniaHey, don’t go assuming that being kept up all night is always a bad thing. When you think about what’s swirling around in a CMO’s head, it might be worry that keeps them tossing and turning, or it could be excitement about the cool changes we’re seeing.


To be on safe side though, let’s just assume it has to do with confusion.


And that’s understandable, because marketing has been turned on its head in a very short period of time. Here are 5 things the CMO-on-their-toes should be asking themselves. If they don’t know enough to even be asking the questions, well, there are bigger problems.


1. Seriously, Am I Going to Be in Charge of EVERYTHING Now?


The demands on today’s CMO have gone far beyond branding, PR and advertising. Since the disruption to business had its epicenter in Marketing, the CEO is looking to the CMO to “deal” with every ripple effect resulting from it, no matter how far out into the organization it reaches.


Suddenly, it’s not about getting leads for sales, it’s about conversions. Suddenly, the CMO must understand the tech that drives marketing execution or harvests the metrics by which they’ll be judged. Suddenly, with social a big part of recruiting, the CMO has a big hand in HR. Suddenly, with customer service via social, the CMO is invested in that customer interaction. Suddenly, the CMO is culling feedback that informs product development.


Today’s CMO might notice the c-suite doesn’t require as many offices as it used to.


2. What Do My Customers and Prospects Want From Us?


Nothing good will come from a CMO that lies awake at night thinking about the next campaign or corporate message. If you’re going to lose sleep, lose it thinking about how to find out exactly what your customers do and don’t want from you. It’s called customer-centricity. Lots of companies talk about it, but frighteningly few actually do it. If you care, and if you listen, you’ll be more than halfway to sleeping through the night.


3. How Am I Going to Cope with Being a Media Company?


No matter the platform, marketing is increasingly content marketing. With an all-out war on to capture attention from a mobile, over busy, short-attention-span public, only content that entertains, informs, or provides tangible value will score.


You’re probably not an entertainment or journalism brand. That doesn’t matter anymore. You have to be. Imagery and video are huge in terms of engagement. Your blog has to rock. 24% of digital marketers even plan to add podcasting this year to capitalize on the intimacy of in-car listening and car connectivity. The days of not resourcing content, not hiring people who know how to consistently make it, or trying to commoditize it, are OVER.


4. What Tech Am I Supposed to Invest In?


Many brands are trying to operate with disconnected, standalone solutions. That’s an untenable position as Marketing continues its expansion and social extends to nearly every function of the enterprise. Not having integrated components means you’ll be leaving big data advantages on the table. The right hand won’t know what the left hand is doing, and the feet will be completely clueless.


It’s unlikely most brands are ready to jump in to the largest social and marketing ecosystem for the enterprise available. Therefore, a technology partner that gets you the components you need today, but that also sets you up for the addition and quick integration of components like CRM, will help you rest easier.


5. What If I Pursue a Strategy and Then Everything Changes?


Good news: you don’t have to wonder about that, because you can already be 100% assured everything is going to change…probably often and quickly. Looking for a point at which you can say, “Okay, we’ve totally got this down,” or at which you can go on autopilot, will only lead to anxiety.


The social networks themselves will always change, the ad products they offer will come and go, mobile technology will change, abilities to measure will change, trends & tastes will change, and consumer behavior will change – as will their expectations. The fact that change is inevitable makes waiting for things to “settle down” before you act a dangerous endeavor.


Asking yourself the questions is the first step toward resolving these pressing issues in your mind, which is your key to sleeping like a baby.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net


Tuesday Apr 08, 2014

Is Social Marketing Over?

“Is social marketing over”?! It’s a question that might come as a bit of a shock seeing as how many brands are still in the “just getting started” phase of it.


So to get an answer to our question, and to lessen the shock, we should probably determine just what “social marketing” means. The method of marketing to people by building relationships with them and winning their trust is hardly anything new. Door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen figured that out long ago.


So social is not a marketing method. It’s a medium, a type of media. Look…it’s even right there in the name, social media. It’s a utility, a stage, a delivery and measurement system. It's a way for brands to utilize new technologies to get messaging to customers and prospects, and to help those people receive it in a way that lines up with how they’ve adopted technology into their personal, day-to-day lives.


So if you aren’t social marketing on the medium of social, what are you doing? You’re content marketing and influencer marketing. You’re not “putting out a social.” You’re putting out content and using the medium of social to do it. Certainly it’s unlike any other medium we’ve had access to before. It’s empowered the consumer, upped the mandate of real-time, raised the value of providing real value, and demanded two-way interaction.


Because of that, the medium has also come to be used for functions that formerly were not, but that are increasingly coming under, marketing’s domain; eCommerce, Customer Service, A/B Testing & Research, Recruiting, even Sales & Fulfillment.


This, my friends, is the social-enabled enterprise. In it, CMO’s have more responsibilities and accountability than ever, and it’s the utility of social coursing through the organization like electricity, touching and integrating its multiple components, that has created this new business reorganization.


So the perception that you’re doing “social marketing” when you post on Facebook is technically true. But that’s like saying you’re doing print marketing when you publish a book. In both examples, what you’re actually doing is content marketing. You’re just employing two different types of media to do it.


Now, how does this mental delineation help you?


One, it should underline the degree of importance you should be putting on content creation. Two, it should shorten the debate over whether to “do” social. Marketers today are still driving social with the parking brake on, shocked that such an approach isn’t resulting in immediate, astonishing rewards. Are you prepared to attempt content, influence and event marketing while either eliminating or keeping a stranglehold on the entire medium of social? It’s akin to a CEO saying, “we’re serious about growing this business, but by golly we’re going to do it without phones.”


If you’re approaching social as a method and not embracing it for the medium that it is, then broadcast, print, and outdoor will no doubt still welcome you with open arms. Who knows, there might even be a nostalgic, anti-modern marketing charm to it.


@mikestiles
Photo: Mateusz Stachowski, stock.xchng

Sunday Mar 09, 2014

SXSW Sunday: Responsys and Orchestration Marketing

Content MarketingThe wall-to-wall socializing, networking and learning continues at SXSW Interactive.  And at the Oracle Discovery Lounge, attendees were treated to a presentation by Responsys Sr. Manager of Customer Success Jonathan Petrino on how marketing channels shouldn’t be isolated, but be orchestrated so each empowers the other. The main points for you to consider:


Marketing orchestration is email + mobile + social + display + preferences.


The big dilemma for today’s marketer ismarketing is dealing with massive growth of touch points and addressable media. Therefore, a new post-campaign era model is required.


The post-campaign era is about delivering the right portfolio of interactions across channels and time for relevant, personalized customer experiences.


The model needs to be flipped. Don't start with a campaign, which is then scheduled and sent to the masses. Start with the customers, build profiles, design experiences, and interact individually.


Flip the Model


Low orchestration, like broadcast campaigns, are low ROI. High orchestration, like cross channel campaigns, are high ROI.


Marketing orchestration lets you scale, but with the customer at the center. It takes the personalized service you’d get from a rep, and executes it to millions.


Content is delivered cross channel, depending on actions the recipient does or doesn’t take. That has proven to show significantly higher Digital Net Promoter scores.


Asking questions on first contact starts building profiles that help brands deliver highly relevant messaging.


This kind of relevant, persona messaging leads to 2.5x the average open rate and 16x the average click-through rate.


One brand has a social game where you get virtual items for giving desired info or doing things like signing up for the email list.


You can prevent "atomic opt-out" (unsubscribing from all communication) by providing clear communication preference interactions.


Display is the largest digital channel in media spend. But it's usually wasted by anonymous targeting.


Unique journeys for unique customers has led to 20-40% conversion rates.


Now mobile is being added into orchestrated marketing, not just SMS but push, passbook, location, and mobile ads.


Service brands can even use an email, SMS combo to deliver info on what kind of specific work will be done and what time service will begin.


@mikestiles

Tuesday Mar 04, 2014

The Secrets to Making People Care About Your Social Marketing Content

boring social media contentI write about social marketing…a lot. And I’ve found that the more tech innovation comes along, the more relentless expectations by brand leaders are that marketing be executed purely from automated, algorithm-driven machines.


The tech tools are stunning in their ability to gather, analyze, inform and direct customer interactions. I’m lucky enough to be with the only company with the depth and resources in business software across the enterprise to build a fully integrated marketing and customer experience environment. If I were a brand, I’d be nervous about messing with anything else.


But success unavoidably keeps boiling down to making content that attracts, holds, and inspires people. That is a human artistic endeavor. How do you make people care about the content you’re putting out? You don’t. You take what they already care about and craft your content from that foundation. Here’s what they care about.


1. Looking Good

Being associated with you is either going to be embarrassing or empowering. Your users want to look cool. If you give them content that makes them look cool if they share it, they’ll do it. If it makes them look like your salespeople, that’s embarrassing.


2. Not Being Played for a Chump

If you bait me with an awesome headline then fail to deliver value or generate interest in the first couple of graphs, I feel tricked. And I don’t like people who think so little of me they try to trick me. 38% of people who land on a page bounce almost instantly.


3. Feeling Like They Belong

Guess why people are on social to begin with. To connect. If they don’t feel they’re getting insider info or special deals from you, they don’t regard it as much of a connection. If they praise or reach out to you and get ignored, that’s full-on rejection, one of the deepest human fears there is. Heart+Mind Strategies found 72% of US users shifting back to using social primarily to stay in touch with family and friends. Brands are losing them.


4. Feeling Known

If you care enough to know what platforms they prefer, what kind of content they respond to, when they tend to be online, what kinds of images grab their attention, which of your products they use, etc., they’re far less likely to blow off or gloss over content that comes from you.


5. Not Having Their Time Wasted

That means your stuff better either entertain, inform, or both. Keep content fresh. If you can solve a problem they’re having, solve it. If you can make them smarter (overall, not just about you and what you offer), do it. If you can make them laugh, do it.


6. Being Able to Trust You

Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University writes about six “Weapons of Influence.”

Several revolve around authority and trust. Our default is to trust authority. Brands have a head start. You’re an authority…until you violate that trust. People also commit to and defend the choices they make. They’ll go to distance to support their choice to Like you, but can be pushed too far. And they trust groupthink. If your fans are happy and participating, there won’t be much dissent. But if the tide turns against you thanks to bad content, the dominos will fall quickly.

7. Things Being Fast and Easy

Resist your corporate urge to make things as complex as possible to prove to the people up the hall how hard you work. People move through social content lightning fast. Overthink what you’re doing and they’ll say “eh…” and move right past your stuff. Quick and easy to consume, quick and easy to share.


Some brands have started to question whether social users want content from them at all. eMarketer shows over half think brands should be creating timely digital content. So much for that excuse. They want content, they just want it to be good. And they’re working diligently to edit out the noise.


Don’t be noise. Test your content, make sure it touches on basic human emotional triggers, and you’re on your way to users looking forward to your content and turning into brand advocates.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Jan 14, 2014

Content Marketing & Social Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Content MarketingSocial Marketing used to be the buzz phrase. Now the buzz phrase is Content Marketing. But is it fair to call something a “buzz” that’s been around forever and is the foundation of human communication?


It’s kind of odd that it wasn’t until social media came along that marketers got serious about connecting socially with customers. Likewise, now we’re talking in a surge about content marketing. Really? We didn’t know until recently our customers would appreciate quality relevant content, or that it’d make them feel good about us?


We’ve been a social species since we were hassling wooly mammoth. We’ve been storytellers since we figured out we could make a mark on a cave wall. Yet marketers seem to just now be evolving into what we learned back in the Ice Age.


Here’s the difference between content marketing and social marketing.


Content marketing is the story you etch on the cave wall. You know viewers will relate to it, want it, and will like it.


Social marketing is the wall. It’s the distribution channel, the stage you put your story on. Your audience might already be sitting in the cave, or you might have to go tell people to come look at it.


Don’t Do This


The biggest mistake you can make on social is to have a blank wall. It might be the finest wall around, but if there are no stories on it, why would I look at it? I come to expect nothing from that wall.


Do This Instead


We seem to be in a place right now where we’re getting pieces right, but not the whole puzzle. The puzzle consists of:

  • Resourced, consistent quality content
  • Served up or promoted on social
  • Supported by paid efforts to expand reach and exposure
  • A way to listen for boos or applause
  • Using what you hear to tweak future content
  • Tapping into the loyal, trusting audience you’ve built to offer a solution from your brand that will make their life better.


There. You’ve just been given enough content and social strategy to hassle a mammoth.


Are Brands Serious About Content?


No.


A Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs study shows 23% of B2C marketers don’t even know how much of their budget is allocated to content. Of those that did know, 17% said it was getting 1-4% of it. The walls are blank.


Well, that’s not fair. They aren’t blank. They’re full of ads.


That might be because marketers are finding content creation intimidating. After decades of commoditizing creative skills, turns out finding people who are truly great at it isn’t easy. The long held belief of “geez, anybody can write” turns out to be far from true. You can’t fake it, because the content has to compete. You need entertainers.


Content & Social Need Each Other


Can there be social marketing without content marketing? And if so, what is that social marketing comprised of in the absence of content? The two are increasingly moving toward a healthy codependency.


@mikestiles
Photo: picaland, stock.xchng

Friday Nov 08, 2013

Say What? Podcasting As Part of Your Content Marketing

microphoneWhat do you usually do in your car on the way to work?  Sing along to radio? Stream Pandora or iHeartRadio? Talk on the phone? Sit in total silence? Whatever it is you do, you could be using that time to make yourself an expert in any range of topics…using podcasts.


We invite you to follow or subscribe to the daily Oracle Social Spotlight podcast, a quick roundup of the day’s top stories around social marketing and the social networks.


After podcasts arrived in 2004, growth was steady but slow. The concept was strong: anyone with a passion for any subject could make a show for anyone who cared to listen. Enter the smartphone, iTunes, new podcasting platforms, and social, and podcasting became easier than ever and made more sense for both podcasters and listeners. Stats show 1 in 5 smartphone owners are podcast consumers and 29% of Americans have listened to a podcast.


The potential audience is also larger than ever. “Baked in” podcast apps on over 200 million devices expose users to volumes of audio content with just a tap. 97 million Americans are driving to work every day by themselves. And 38% of Americans listen to audio on a digital device each week, a number that’s projected to double by 2015.


Does that mean your brand should be podcasting? That’s part of a larger discussion about your overall content strategy, provided you have one. But if you do and podcasting is a component of it, here are some things to keep in mind:


  • Don’t podcast just to do it. Podcast because you thought of a show customers and prospects will like that they can’t get anywhere else.
  • Sound quality matters. Good microphones are not expensive. Bad sound is annoying, makes your brand feel cheap, and will turn today’s sophisticated ears off.
  • The host matters. Many think they belong on the radio. Few actually do. Your brand’s host should be comfortable & likeable. A top advantage of a podcast is people can bond with a real person. It’s a trust opportunity, so don’t take it lightly.
  • The content matters. “All killer, no filler” means don’t allow babbling just to fill enough time for an episode. Value the listeners’ time, because that time is hard to get.
  • Put time, effort and creativity into it. Sure you’re a business, but you’re competing with content from professional media and showbiz producers. If you can include music, sound effects, and things that amuse the ears, do it.
  • If you start, be consistent. The #1 flaw in podcasting is when listeners can’t count on another episode or don’t know when it’s coming. Don’t skip doing shows just because you can. Get committed.
  • Get your cover art right. Podcasting is about audio, but people shop for podcasts by glancing through graphics. Yours has to be professional, cool, and informative to get listeners interested.
  • Cross-promote your podcast on all your channels. The competition for listeners is fierce, so if you have existing audiences you can leverage to launch your show, use them.
  • Optimize it for mobile. Assume that’s where most listening will take place. If you’re using one of the podcast platform apps, you should be in good shape.


Frankly, the percentage of brands that are podcasting is quite low, and that’s okay. Once you move beyond blogging and start connecting with real voices, poor execution can do damage. But more (32%) marketers want to learn how to use podcasting, and more (23%) were increasing their podcasting throughout this year.


Bottom line, you want to share your brand’s message and stories wherever your audience might be and in whatever way they prefer to take in content. Many prefer to do that while driving or working out, using the eyes and hands-free medium of audio.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng



Friday Oct 18, 2013

Oracle and Eloqua Welcome Compendium’s Content Marketing

Compendium LogoYesterday, Oracle announced its acquisition of Compendium, a cloud-based content marketing provider that helps companies plan, produce and deliver engaging content across multiple channels throughout their customers' lifecycle.


Why? Because every part of the above paragraph speaks to where modern marketing is and where it’s headed.


Customers have now been empowered, thanks to the Internet and particularly social, with access to almost limitless amounts of information about companies and products. This includes the especially influential voices of friends and objective acquaintances that have experience with the product or brand. With mobile, this info is available instantly in the palm of their hand. All of this research and influence mind you, is taking place long before a prospect will ever engage with the brand itself or one of its sales reps.

Marketing Sales Funnel

So how does a brand effectively insert itself into these conversations and this flow of the customer journey?


Now, more than ever, marketers must deliver relevant and engaging content across multiple channels and throughout the entire customer journey to be useful, helpful, and influential. Compendium has a
data-driven content marketing platform that lines up relevant content with customer data and personas so brands can accelerate the conversion of prospects.


Now think about combining that with the Oracle Eloqua Marketing Cloud, part of Oracle's comprehensive CX solution. Marketers will be able to automate content delivery across channels by aligning persona-based content with customers' digital body language. Better customer engagement, improved sales lead quality, better return on marketing investment, and higher customer loyalty. Now we’re talking.

Eloqua Compendium

Does data-driven content marketing have an impact? Compendium customer CVENT is a SaaS company specializing in meetings management tech. They wanted to increase leads & ad performance on their blog and dramatically increase their content. They also wanted to manage the creation, workflow, promotion and distribution of that content. With Compendium, CVENT created over 9,000 content elements, and sales-ready leads grew 325%.


So Oracle Eloqua helps you target audiences, know buyers, and automate multi-channel marketing campaigns. Compendium lets you plan, publish, manage and measure content across content types and channels. Now kick it up yet another notch with Oracle’s Analytics, Big Data and Social solutions, and you’re using your marketing dollars to reach the right people in the right place at the right time with the right content.


And as if that weren’t enough, your customers will love you for it.


@mikestiles

Friday Oct 04, 2013

The Leaves are Changing, and So Is Marketing

fall leavesDepending on where you live, you might be seeing the changes fall brings as nature begins to alter its color palette.  The leaves are changing, and so is marketing, driven by social marketing and social data.


It’s often said the only sure thing is change. So how do so many of us get caught flat-footed when it comes? Why have we put ourselves in a position where we can’t adapt? Just as the leaves change, so too will technology, the consumers who use it, and the marketing that must appeal to them.


Marketing Used to be About:

“Slickness.” Polished ads delivering deception with blinding speed and beauty so the consumer won’t know what hit ‘em.

Now It’s About:

Transparency. Have you gauged the jadedness of Millenials lately? They regard slick marketers as a parody. You don’t have to be perfect, just helpful.


Marketing Used to be About:

Desperately pounding your message, broadcast with intense repetition so the prospect will be worn down.

Now It’s About:

Giving prospects usable info, when it’s wanted, where it’s wanted. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research found consumers, on average, needed 10.4 sources of info before making a buy in 2011. Raving fans that don’t regret doing business with you will do your repetition for you.


Marketing Used to be About:

Manipulating and leading. The mission is on pushing the prospect to do what you want.

Now It’s About:

Customers taking the lead. If the product is legitimate and the information about it is useful, customers will move willingly to the sale.


Marketing Used to be About:

Selling & hiding. All that matters is the sale. After that, walls and barriers are put up to shield the brand from the customer.

Now It’s About:

Gold-standard customer service, customer experience, and retention. Corporate marketing cultures are evolving around customer-centricity.


Marketing Used to be About:

Casting a huge net for a few fish.

Now It’s About:

Relevancy. Resources are targeted to qualified prospects based on listening to them, knowing them, and acting on that knowledge.


Marketing Used to be About:

Clumping humans into demographic blobs. You’re not a person, you’re a type.

Now It’s About:

Personalization. Customers give astonishing amounts of info about themselves and their behaviors, willingly. They expect that to be used to interact with them as individuals.


Marketing Used to be About:

Disregarding unhappy customers. “Bad experience? What are you going to do about it?”

Now It’s About:

Living in fear of unhappy good customers. “You got no response from us and started a movement that spread to 250,000 people and got covered in the media? Guess we should have been more attentive.”


Marketing Used to be About:

Ads.

Now It’s About:

Content. Of all the ads you see in a given day, how many can you actually use or bring any value to you?


Marketing Used to be About:

Silos. “That’s not my department.”

Now It’s About:

The socially enabled enterprise. A Forrester/BMA survey of B2B marketing execs had 54% saying their relationship with IT increased dramatically in the past 2 years. It’s about marketing connected to and sharing invaluable big data with every customer touch point for integrated, informed, seamless customer interactions.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Sep 03, 2013

Content for the Masses…Fails

empty seatsI know, you want all your content to please everybody and make them all want to buy your stuff that instant.  That would be cool. But once we come back from daydream land, we should grasp that all content is not the same. All content is not made for the same purpose. And all content is not made for the same audience.

Have you ever shopped for a car and within 10 minutes of being on the lot were asked by the pushy salesperson, “Hey, what do I have to do to get you in this car today?” Maybe you’re just researching. Maybe you’d like some info or a test drive first. The salesman hit you with the wrong message at the wrong time. His content was not crafted for or aimed at the target.

Annoying, yet as brands, we’re doing this every day, sometimes multiple times a day. We’re making whatever content we can, then throwing it out there to see if anything sticks. Content should be aimed at a specific audience with specific problems, goals, emotions and motivations.

Just as there’s a sales funnel (which has actually shifted into a sales cycle or buying journey), there should be a corresponding content funnel that respects and acts on where the intended consumer of that content is in the buying journey. Do that and you’ll wind up with something you might not have at the moment…a content strategy.

Most organizations do this by developing personas. Note that “personas” is plural. There are a lot of different stages, motivations and variables in the buying cycle. Creating content customized and accurately targeted to each is a huge task…one that comes at a time when most brands are struggling just to create quality content at all.

Which is all the more reason to make sure the content you are going to resource and make will be as effective for you as possible. That means intimately knowing whom you’re talking to via data and social listening tools, learning how likely a prospect they are, predicting through analytics what questions they have, and serving up content that will move them into the next stage of the cycle where further targeted content awaits.

Remember, a significant amount of the decision-making process is already done by the time actual contact is made with the vendor. Customers at the top of the funnel are information gathering, staying in the shadows as much as they can. Their openness to your product and message is quite different here than it would be closer to the sale. Even the wording of your messaging must take into account that prospects have a different relationship with you at each stage, just as in real life.


Six Revisions has a really nice snapshot of
what the content funnel looks like at each stage.


*Awareness: the customer is becoming aware of your company, so content answers very general questions about your space or industry.
*Interest: their curiosity about you is piqued, so content answers questions about the product.
*Desire: they want your product, now content should move it from their wish list to their to-do list.
*Action: they’re doing what it takes to buy it, so content should answers purchase and service logistics.

A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” is the
biggest unscripted show in cable history and close to becoming the biggest cable show in history period. If your content can be mass appeal and that successful, knock your lights out. But for marketers, success means conversion of unaware all the way to purchase, and that takes a lot more personalization.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Jul 02, 2013

Seriously, It’s Time to Get Your Content Act Together

spectrumBranded content, content marketing, social content, brand journalism, we’re seeing those terms more and more. Why?

The technology tools are coming together. We should know. We can gather big data, crunch it, listen to the public, moderate, respond, get to know the customer intimately, know what they like, know what they want, we can target, distribute, amplify, measure engagement and reaction, modify strategy and even automate a great deal of all that.

An amazing machine, a sleek, smooth-running engine has been built such that all the parts can interact and work together to deliver peak performance and maximum output. But that engine isn’t going anywhere without any gas. Content is the gas.

Yes, we curate other people’s content. We can siphon their gas. There’s tech to help with that too. But as for the creation of original, worthwhile content made for a specific audience, our audience, machines can’t do that…at least not yet. Curated content is great. But somebody has to originate the content for it to be curated and shared. And since the need for good, curated content is obviously large and the desire to share is there, it’s a winning proposition for a brand to be a consistent producer of original content.

And yet, it feels like content is an issue we’re avoiding. There’s a reluctance to build a massive pipeline if you have no idea what you’re going to run through it. The C-suite often doesn’t know what content is, that it’s different from ads, where to get it, who makes it, how long it should be, what the point of it is if there’s no hard sell of the product, what it costs, how to use it, how to measure it, how to make sure it’s good, or how to make sure it will keep flowing. It could be the reason many brands aren’t pulling the trigger on socially enabling the enterprise.

And that’s a shame, because there are a lot of creative, daring, experimental, uniquely talented entertainers and journalists chomping at the bit to execute content for brands. But for many corporate executives, content is “weird,” and the people who make it are even weirder. The content side of the equation is human. It’s art, but art that can be informed by data.

The natural inclination is for brands to turn to their agencies for such creative endeavors. But agencies are falling into one of two categories. They’re failing to transition from ads to content. In “Content Era, What’s the Role of Agencies?” Alexander Jutkowitz says agencies were made for one-hit campaigns, not ongoing content. Or, they’re ready and capable but can’t get clients to do the right things. Agencies have to make money, even if it means continuing to do the wrong things because that’s all the client will agree to.

So what we wind up with in the pipeline is advertising, marketing-heavy content, content that was obviously created or spearheaded by non-creative executives, random & inconsistent content, copy written for SEO bots, and other completely uninteresting nightmares. Frank Rose, author of “The Art of Immersion,” writes, “Content without story and excitement is noise pollution.”

In the old days, you made an ad and inserted it into shows made by people who knew what they were doing. You could bask in that show’s success and leverage their audience. Now, you are tasked with attracting, amassing and holding your own audience. You may just want to make, advertise and sell your widgets. But now there’s a war on for a precious commodity, attention. People are busy. They have filters to keep uninteresting and irrelevant things out. They value their time and expect value back when they give it up. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, says, "Your customers don't care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs."

Is it worth getting serious about content and doing it right? 61% of consumers feel better about a company that delivers custom content (Custom Content Council). Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons people follow brands on social (Content+). 78% of consumers think organizations that provide custom content want to build good relationships with them (TMG Custom Media). On the B2B side, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company info in a series of articles vs. an ad.

So what’s the hang-up? Cited barriers to content marketing are lack of human resources (42%) and lack of budget (35%). 54% of brands don’t have a single on-site, dedicated content creator. And only 38% of brands have a content marketing strategy.

Tech has built the biggest, most incredible stage for brands that’s ever been built. Putting something on that stage is your responsibility. Do a bad show, or no show at all, and you’ll be the beautiful, talented actress that never got discovered.

@mikestiles
Photo: Gabriella Fabbri, stock.xchng

Tuesday Apr 09, 2013

Do You Have a Clue What to Do Other Than Advertise?

Warning: before entering the social tech/marketing world, my background was about content creation. On radio, TV, stage, digital, or print, very little enthused me more than making “stuff” that informed and entertained the public, putting it out there and seeing what they thought of it. So I tend to get a little impassioned when I see what’s going on with marketers and content.

Here’s what’s going on. Very little.

stageNew research from Forrester recently re-emphasized (and I’m not sure how many different times and in how many different ways the public can emphasize this for us) faith in digital ads continues to drop.

9% of Americans and 8% of Europeans trust texts from brands. 10% and 8% trust web site banner ads. Mobile apps are trusted by 12% of Americans and 10% of Europeans. 18% of Americans trust emails compared to 11% of Europeans.

So there you go. The best you’re going to do when it comes to the public believing your digital ad is 18%. And that’s if they read it or watch it. But ads are what we know, so ads are what we keep doing, thinking the world is wrong…not us. As with many things, the consumer is showing us what they want from us, and we’re not listening. We want what we want, and we want full-on sales pitches. We feel like we’re not doing our jobs if we’re not pounding the product.

It’s a new day. You win with the quality of your product. You win by knocking customer and prospect socks off with CX and service. That’s the new marketing. But to get the public close enough so you can wow them with your goods and service, you’ve got to give them something else they value. Welcome to branded content.

The study showed many marketers still aren’t even quite sure what branded content is. Forrester defines it as “content developed or curated by a brand to provide added consumer value such as entertainment or education. It’s designed to build brand consideration and affinity, not sell a product or service. It is not a paid ad, sponsorship, or product placement.” That’s a good definition.

It’s noisy out there, and branded content is the window to something that’s harder to get than ever, awareness. That’s especially true on social. You have a stage, you have an audience sitting there staring at it, what are you putting on it? Or here’s another question. Have you even hired a producer to put on your show?

Forrester points out that even though almost 80% of marketers say they’re spending on branded content, few CMO’s have actually staffed for it. Some agencies get it, and are creatively capable. But their clients inevitably double-clutch and end up pushing the end product as close to a traditional digital ad as they can get it. And then they scream, “Why didn’t my ad go viral?!” Money wasted.

Get your in-house entertainer/journalist sooner rather than later. Their prices are about to leap. Loosen the grip on your content calendar so you can capitalize on trends and breaking news (think Oreo). Believe that as the presenting brand, viewers will give you full credit for giving them content they liked. And if you show people how awesome you are with your products and customer experience vs. trying to talk them into something with ads, you won’t be able to keep the raving fans away or stop them from spreading the word about you.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Dec 07, 2012

The Social Content Conundrum

stageHere’s the social content conundrum: people who are not entertainers are being asked to entertain.

Despite a world of skilled MBAs, marketing savants, technological innovators, analysts, social strategists and consultants, every development in social for brands keeps boomeranging right back to the same unavoidable truth. Success hinges on having content creators who know how to entertain the target audience.

You can’t make this all about business-processes. You can’t make this all about technology, though data is critical and helps inform content. This is about having human beings who know the audience, know what they’d love to see, and can create the magic that will draw and hold them.

Since showing up in the News Feed is critical for exposition and engagement, and since social ads primarily serve to amplify content that’s performing well, I’m comfortable saying content creators are becoming exponentially recruited and valued. They will no longer be commodities. They’ll be your stars.

Social has fundamentally changed the relationship between brand and consumer. No longer can the customer be told to sit down, shut up, and listen to our ads. It’s now all about what consumers are willing to watch or read. Their patience for subjecting themselves to material they aren’t interested in is waning.

Therefore, brands must now be producers of entertainment and information content, not merely placers of ads within someone else’s content. Social has given you a huge stage, with an audience sitting out there waiting to see what you’re going to do. What are you putting on that stage?

For most corporate environments, entertaining is alien. It’s risky and subjective. Most operate around two foundational principles: control and fear. To entertain and inform with branded content, some control has to go. You control the product. Past that, control is being transferred into the hands of the consumer. The “fear first” culture also has to yield. If you strive to never make waves, you will move absolutely nothing.

Because most corporations don’t house entertainers, they must be found then trusted. They’re usually a little weird. The ideas they’ll bring may seem “out there.” But like any business professional, they’ve gone through the training and experiences that make them uniquely good at what they do, even if you don’t quite understand them. It’s okay. It’s what the audience thinks that matters. Get it right, and you’ll be generating one ambassador after another who’s proud to be identified with the brand and will regularly consume and share your content.

Entertainment entities are able to shape our culture and succeed beyond their wildest dreams by being beholden to one thing…what the public likes and wants. When brands put the same emphasis on crowd-pleasing content, they too will enjoy brand fame the likes of which they’ve never seen. The stage is yours. Now get out there and go for that applause.

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