Should you write your blog or engineer it?

I think I figured out why nearly every social media blogger sounds exactly the same — commonly referred to as the “echo chamber.”  I’m learning that copying and pasting can be profitable.

To unpack my point, allow me a brief explanation of content marketing.**  One hot concept is using statistical methods to determine optimal “keywords” that, when used strategically in your content, result in “inbound leads.” In plain English this means embedding words about hot social media topics in your blog to snare sales prospects.  People are charging for webinars on this topic so I’ll save you a few dollars/euros/dinero by providing the theory in a nutshell:

  • Conduct research into the “keywords” that are leading people to your, or your competitor’s, website.
  • Seed these keywords liberally and systematically into strategic places like blog headlines to fool the search engines into thinking you are the premier destination for those search terms.
  • Employ “outposts” like Twitter and other social platforms to become vessels for your keywords and links.
  • Attract backlinks from places also laden with keywords.
  • Focus your content plan, headlines, tweetstream, etc., precisely on these key words.
  • Rinse.  Repeat as needed.

So within this theory, original content is secondary and it’s not really about marketing either.  You identify hot topics and then engineer your content to perform a precise and technical function. The ultimate goal in this new age of content engineering is not necessarily to engage, inform or entertain. It’s to pump up your search engine results.

Let’s get back to the echo chamber.  One of the master purveyors of content engineering (my term, not his) is a guy named Lee Odden. He’s pretty much the Elvis of SEO and has done some outstanding work in this field.  I don’t know Lee but I read most of his posts because I think it’s important to keep on top of the latest tactics in this arena. Here is his advice from last week:

Social conversations influence search behaviors and if you can identify relevant concepts that are emerging in popularity on the social web, why not create and optimize content around those topics so you’re easily found via search engines?

So the big idea here is to simply copy what everyone else is doing and ride the wave of sameness to SEO glory. This may explain why my blog reader sounds like there’s a scratch in the record.

I have mixed feelings about this. I can’t deny there is a certain ruthless beauty about using statistical analysis to turn your content into those tentacled robots that tunneled through the rock and chased everybody on the Matrix movies.  I’m a capitalist pig-dog and the idea of using data to annihilate your competition appeals to me.

But I also have a soul and I’m in love with the idea of building an audience through content that is profound, beautiful and entertaining.  I think it’s possible to fight through the clutter, engage a meaningful audience and realize business benefits without pre-determining my subject matter through a statistical analysis.

On the other hand, the whole keyword thing seems a lot easier! : )

I’m really interested in your ideas on this important and fascinating trend. Will content engineering kill the soul of blogging or finally drive the measurable results effective business people demand?

** It was correctly pointed out by community member Jeremy Victor that this sentence reads as if  I am fully describing the discipline of content marketing. I was not attempting to do that, I was only exploring this one “keyword engineering” aspect.  Jeremy provides a more thorough explanation of content marketing in his comment on this post. Rather than re-write the original article I decided to address my insufficient description with this annotation. Thanks for keeping me honest, Jeremy.

Why I blog (nearly live and in-person)

This is my first video blog.

I hate it.

But we all need to push ourselves and experiment, right?  This is WAY out of my comfort zone.

I intended to edit out the turning on and off parts (why doesn’t this camera have a remote?), add a title etc.  but the video editing software is too complicated and I just don’t have the time or patience to mess with it. If somebody wants to make a title with a scorching rock theme and teach me how to paste it on there, I will gladly pay you to do it.  Also show me where the “make it look like he lost 10 pounds” button is.

In the end I decided just to post it as-is — one-take, mistakes and all — because it was just turning into more excuses to not  do it. I’m trying to encourage you to stretch yourselves and {grow} so I’m taking my own medicine on this one.

I appreciate all of you who have encouraged (pestered) me to finally do this.  Sort of.

The clash of the social media know-nothings

The know-nothings.

You know who I’m talking about right?  Social media “marketers” who have never practiced marketing.  Maybe have never even had a sales job or a college-level marketing class. But they’ve created a Facebook page and have 500 followers on Twitter so somehow that makes them a guru.

“You can’t walk out your house without bumping into a social-media expert today, said Forrester Analyst Sean Corcoran in a WSJ article. “The reality is the space is still very much a Wild West.”

I’m not going to dwell on the shake-and-bake “experts” and their webinar info-mercials promising to unleash profits through the magic of follower lists and multi-level marketing scams.  Enough has been written about that. The point of this post is that there is a clash in the marketplace because there aren’t enough true social media marketing experts — with the emphasis on MARKETING — to go around.

[SOCIALADS]

Look at what’s happening on the demand side.  Ad spending on social networks world-wide is expected to rise 14% this year to $2.5 billion. Every advertising, marketing and public relations firm in the world wants a piece of the action and is looking for talent.   Consider these news bites from the past week:

  • Universal McCann, is launching a social media practice this month called Rally.  “Social media is now part of all our clients’ plans; we can’t not be in this space,” says Matt Seiler, chief executive of Universal McCann.
  • Publicis Groupe‘s digital umbrella organization, VivaKi, says it also will open a social-media consulting practice this year.
  • Pepsi‘s Gatorade brand created a “Mission Control Center,” which is set up like a broadcast-television control room, to monitor the sports drink around the clock across social-media networks.
  • Kraft hired 360i, a digital ad agency owned by Japan’s largest ad company, Dentsu  to monitor brands like Oreo and Jell-O.
  • Microsoftis currently searching for a social-media firm to handle duties for its Xbox videogame system.

In other words, social media marketing is white freaking hot.

Now for the supply side of the clash.  Who is going to fill all these positions?   Unless you define success by the loosey-goosey standards of “engagement” and “conversations,”  there just aren’t many individuals out there who have actually demonstrated an ability to use social media to move the needle for a business.  And I don’t mean new “followers.”  I mean sales. Cash flow. New customers.

If you have the fire-power and mega-budgets of Microsoft, Pepsi and the other big brands, you can certainly buy your way into success on the social web.   But the vast majority of businesses out there are going to be stuck with the no-nothings instead of the exceptional marketing talent they really need to grow their business.

The dirty little secret the know-nothings are keeping from you is that, with the rare exceptions, nobody wants to be Facebook Friends with your company. You’re going to need much more than an intern tweeting earnestly about your latest coupons to impact your bottom line.  We live in a society that is absolutely sick of being advertised to, sold to, and marketed to, which is why most people turn to Farmville and the social networks to ESCAPE commercialism. So if a know-nothing is promising that they have this figured out and they’re going to help your car dealership or clothes boutique be the next Old Spice succcess story by “listening” to the Twitter stream … well, be afraid.

At the end of the day making money on the social web — or anywhere — still gets down to MARKETING FUNDAMENTALS.  Research, strategy, planning.  Creating points of differentiation. Finding a unique way to delight your customers and out-smart  your competitors.  And then, using the social web as a channel. Maybe.

For most businesses trying to figure out what to do with all this social media stuff, forget about finding a social media expert. That’s a hammer looking for a nail. Find the best, most experienced marketing pro you can afford and let them figure out where it fits for you, if at all.

Can I hear an “amen?”

An interesting interview with SAP’s social media director

I pleased to present today an interview with William Robb, Director, Social Media Marketing for SAP.

SAP is the world’s largest provider of business software and the social media role is extremely complex. In addition to being a true B2B company, the many software users within these client companies act as consumers of the software and are essentially a B2C audience.  Although a global powerhouse, more than two-thirds of SAP customers are classified as small businesses and midsize enterprises (fewer than 2,500 employees).

If you want to see the social web serving communities in a powerful way, I’d encourage you to visit their site.  In my recent corporate blogging webinar, I cited SAP as best practice and the company is also a pioneer in user-driven training and support videos and the establishment of diverse and vibrant  user communities. Here’s Bill:

Bill, you hold a premier social media marketing position with one of the world’s largest companies. What’s your background and how did it prepare you for this role?

I worked at a full-service interactive agency for many years. We excelled in online direct marketing especially in B2B tech (Oracle & Sun were my main clients). I took a position at Cisco in 2005 in Global Demand Generation but while my colleagues were building traditional direct marketing programs, I was tasked with building the case that we could get greater return if our direct marketing was more customer-centric.

One of the guiding principles was to put our customers in control of our marketing. I built Relationship Email Marketing program that was more personalized, targeted, and often 20 times more effective than our traditional efforts.

With that guiding principle in mind, it’s not difficult to figure out how I ended up in social media marketing when a small team was assembled in 2007. Brand listening, crowdsourcing, etc. are all manifestations of that same idea. It didn’t hurt that personally I was a (relatively) early adopter and active participant in the social web. It’s much easier to understand your customers’ experiences when you’re familiar with the environment yourself.

You could connect to so many possible constituents through the social web. Customers, obviously, but also developers, partners, suppliers. How do you focus your efforts?

I sit in Marketing so end customers are the priority but “customers” at a company like SAP can comprise a variety of audiences (from CxO’s to developers). Depending on the product, audience, and objectives, we might focus efforts in technical forums for developers or build a thought leadership blog for a business audience.

The lame but honest answer is: it depends. Partners are also hugely important in B2B tech. Marketing’s role is typically in partner enablement, but at Cisco I developed a partner influencer program for a product group as a way to help amplify their launches.

Measurement is always a hot topic when it comes to social media. How are you held accountable for results at SAP?

We’re in Corporate so we’re responsible for the SAP brand in social. Our team is ultimately accountable for risk management so we’re doing our job well when there are 0 crises (i.e. detecting problems early and making sure they are addressed).

Otherwise, our objectives tend to be at the top of the funnel so we look at a variety of brand metrics such as competitive share of conversation in key solution areas and brand sentiment as a proxy for customer satisfaction.

At a more tactical level, our team manages the SAP brand social sites (e.g. www.facebook.com/SAPSoftware) where we track the typical interaction levels and drive-to-SAP metrics. On that front, we’re launching a pilot with a social media management tool (Sprinklr) that allows us to aggregate metrics for all SAP social sites and social media interactions. I envision this opening the door for some new measures that we’ll track.

Our bigger task is to measure more of the business impact of social and we are working on a unified view of measurement across three of the major groups engaged in SAP social strategy internally (Marketing, PR, and Communities). Stay tuned.

What has you most excited about your job right now?

Social CRM has some fascinating implications for marketing, sales, and service. As a social marketer, I enjoy thinking about how we need to organize and build processes to support it especially across departments. It’s a challenging but very rewarding part of my job. Working for a company that’s a player in the SCRM space adds yet another dimension to my interest.

You told me you really liked my recent post on busting social media myths. What myth would YOU like to bust?

It’s very popular for Social Media Directors at various companies to say this: “If we do this right, I won’t have a job in a year or so.”

OK, I can appreciate the idealism—social media is so important in so many areas of the business (internal and external) that it’s just going to be part of everyone’s job and having a social media “silo” is counter-productive to that end.  My career in marketing has shadowed the rise of the web and its offspring (email, search, social, mobile). These have fragmented the marketing mix to a level that requires deep specialization. And they evolve at such speed that it’s hard even for specialized practitioners to keep up.

Many marcoms still struggle with the complexity of online & email yet we’re expecting them to be social media strategists in 12-18 months too. I just don’t see it. You can build social DNA into every employee (and the business itself) yet still require a team of social media specialists who have deep expertise in the discipline — not to mention a more critical eye for bad behavior. I think roles like mine are going to be necessary for the foreseeable future.

Bill can be found on Twitter at @BillRobbSAP and on LinkedIn.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...