Creating a content marketing plan — without any content

When somebody talks about “content marketing,” they’re really talking about “content engineering” — scientifically optimizing documents such as blogs, case studies and white papers to create search engine results and sales leads.

This can be an extremely complicated, time-consuming and expensive proposition! So I started thinking about this in the context of my friends and small business customers who simply can’t afford that kind of effort.  It led to this idea:  micro-content, or marketing content when you don’t have time to produce content!

Let’s examine ideas about micro-content that even a time-starved business owner should be able to master in 15 minutes a day …

Preparation

Like any marketing initiative, you must have a firm idea of your strategy, selling points and target audience.  Spend time thinking through a set of keywords that represent your business and your customer needs. You’ll need to weave these keywords into your micro-content.

LinkedIn forums

If you’re like most people, you have a profile on LinkedIn and haven’t done much with it. This platform is a goldmine of opportunity to create micro-content!

There are about 600,000 groups on LinkedIn covering every imaginable business interest. You’re sure to find one with like-minded people who might be interested in you.   If you are in a very specialized field, consider starting your own special interest group.  Make sure you use relevant keywords in the title of the group so people can find you.

Look for some Q&A sessions within relevant groups and get involved. Simply answering questions is providing meaningful content that can attract attention to you and your website.  I’ve personally made some fantastic connections and acquired my two most profitable customers just by answering questions in LinkedIn Group Forums.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and helpful so people can learn about you.  In the “specialties” section of your profile, list your keywords!

Twitter

This is the ultimate site for making connections through micro-content. In this separate post, I’ve provided some helpful ideas on building a targeted audience through Twitter. It makes no sense to work on micro-content on Twitter if you have nobody listening!  Here is a suggested micro-content regimen if you’re just starting to tweet.

1) Create a habit of sharing — When you read something that interests you, share it on Twitter. It takes but a moment.

2) Leverage your network — If you’ve surrounded yourself with interesting people, they’re providing great content. When you find something great, re-tweet it! You don;t have to generate everything yourself.

3) Try following the “3 x 3 x 3 rule” — If you’re new and trying to figure what to do, tweet three times a day, at three different times of the day, on three different subjects:  a) interesting non-work-related information you saw, heard or read; b) news related to your business, market or industry (use keywords), and c) your opinion on an item in the news or something funny. Pass on links and snip your URL’s!

Remember that micro-content is still supposed to do the job of big content — drive people to action on your website. Of course you need to include your website in your profile and use your keywords in your bio.

Comments

Commenting on relevant blog posts, videos, and Facebook pages is a quick and easy way to deliver micro-content that links to your website.  Here are some examples:

  • A small business owner I know commented on a magazine’s Facebook site and was invited to send her product to the editor for coverage.
  • Adding your comment to relevant YouTube viral videos can create impressions with thousands of people who are interested in a related topic.
  • My comment on a popular blog post contained a link to my website which is still receiving hits nine months after I posted the comment. That’s not unusual since posts on popular topics can have a long “shelf life.”
  • Comments on my blog have resulted in new business partnerships, guest blogs, and freelance assignments for my readers.

I find that comments can carry even more impact when they’re “micro.”  People will read a few sentences, but probably scan a few paragraphs.

Re-purposing micro-content

There are so many great benefits to blogging but this is usually the place time-starved marketers stumble. Think about re-purposing your micro-content on your website as a blog, even if it only happens once a month:

  • Cut and paste answers you’ve already provided on LinkedIn and blog comments as new, unique posts.
  • Start a blog post with, “I found this interesting article on Twitter …” and share the great content on one of your tweets.
  • Share a relevant article, video or blog post from a trade publication and simply write a few sentences commenting on it.

In summary …

These are just a few of the ways you can effectively network on the social web with a “sprinkle” of content instead of a flood.  Obviously there are hundred of other ideas I’m sure you can share with the community but this is at least a start that a small business owner can work on 15 minutes a day.

Thoughts on firing my customer

I’ve had an emotional week.  For the first time in my 28-year business career, I had to fire a customer.

This has been unprecedented. I’ve fired employees before of course.  I’ve lost customers to competitors.  I’ve rationalized customers through strategic renewal efforts … but I have never, ever simply given up on a client.

I know it was the right thing to do, because this client was sucking the lifeblood out of me to the point that it was dramatically affecting my work with OTHER customers.  And after a year of realizing a negative financial return — yes, you read that right, NEGATIVE return — it was time to cut my losses and walk away.

Although I worked hard and acted honorably throughout this debacle, I still feel like a bit of a failure.  Perhaps it’s similar to the remorse some folks feel when they look back at a divorce — was there anything I could have done differently?  And how will it affect the kids (my projects)?

My career has been dedicated to delighting customers, not kicking them out the door, so this is new territory for me.  Although I should feel energized now that the shackles are finally off, it seems like there’s a dent in a flawless track record.  I guess any time you experience a new feeling like this it’s an opportunity to grow.

And that’s what this blog is all about, right?

Re-thinking the value of social media consumers

I saw this fascinating chart on Silicon Valley Insider and wanted to share it with you because it represents a very different way to think about social media marketing.

Kim-Mai Cutler at VentureBeat looked at Facebook’s suggested advertiser bid price on per category basis. What she found is pretty interesting.

These “suggested bids” reflect what advertisers have most recently paid to reach a demographic group based on CPMs (cost per 1,000 impressions) or CPCs (cost for every time a user clicks on an ad).

Some trends make sense — older (and richer) users are more expensive to reach than younger ones, for example.

But there are some counter-intuitive trends, too.  Japanese users are less expensive to advertise to than Russian users, even though the Asian country’s GDP per capita is more than three times as large.

And while in the “real world” you might think it would cost more to advertise to a millionaire Wall Street banker compared to a Wal-Mart employee making an average salary of $20,000, on Facebook, the opposite is true. In the eyes of a social media advertiser, a Wal-Mart employee is worth nearly twice as much as a Goldman Sachs employee, according to Facebook’s suggested advertising bid prices!

The reason this resonated for me was because I’m constantly reminding my clients that what they thought about their target customers may no longer be true. In less than two years, there has been a cataclysmic shift in who is spending time on the social web, what they’re doing there and how they’re spending money.

If you haven’t re-visited your customer profiles in the last six months, a chart like this should make you think about it!

Did Mashable cross a line?

Yesterday, something happened on Mashable which illustrates one of the biggest threats to the social web, to business, and maybe even democracy.  I’m really interested to see what you have to say about this incident.  Let’s start with the lead paragraph from their post:

The Italian Windows website “Windowsette” somehow managed to get a hold of a super-secret, highly confidential PowerPoint presentation outlining many of Microsoft’s goals and plans for Windows 8. Apparently this sensitive data (complete with UNDER NDA watermarks) was just found sitting around the Internet.

If you haven’t been around the corporate world, NDA stands for “non-disclosure agreement.”  This means that whoever had these slides had signed a legal document to keep them secret.

The Windowsette site said it learned of this leak from “Andrea Martinelli.” I have no idea who that is but it seems unlikely she just found secret internal Microsoft documents “sitting around the Internet.”

So here are the questions I have for you:

  • Mashable has become the journal of record for the social web. Maybe they’ve been trained as journalists, maybe they’re not.  Does that make a difference?
  • Is it ethical for them to publish a “super-secret, highly confidential” internal document that could be extremely damaging to Microsoft?
  • Is it responsible to report on a document whose source was a single associate of an obscure website in Italy?  How can we even know these slides are real? Isn’t it easy to create official-looking PowerPoint slides?
  • The Mashable post was tweeted almost 1,000 times and included in about 500 Facebook sites.  For many people, this article has become “the news.” What are the implications when non-journalists create the news?

I’ll tip my hand here and say that my undergrad was in journalism and I believe this institution is essential to democracy.  What’s going on in most blogs today is not journalism.  Usually that’s OK.  But with the dramatic decline of the traditional press, whatever we have left on blogs is going to become our de facto news of record. Like Mashable.

In the end, this incident will have a shelf life of about one day and it’s easy to let a big company like Microsoft be our target. But what if this unsubstantiated piece of news was about your secret new product development?  Your company? Your congressman? A terrorist threat in your community?

What if it was about you?

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