Social Media best practices


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.

The new realities of marketing through YouTube

I recently spent a nice evening at a friend’s house as he showed me his favorite YouTube videos (including the Nike soccer video) on a giant high-definition TV.  The videos were being fed into the TV wirelessly through his iPhone. It was a lot of fun until we came to the older, grainy videos which were almost un-watchable on the large-screen format. I started thinking about how much YouTube has changed and the implications for marketing. I’m just weird that way. : )

Our beloved YouTube turned five years old last week and now hosts an incredible 2 billion page views per day (third largest website) and 24 hours of new content is uploaded every minute. It’s hard to ignore, isn’t it?

Some new things to consider:

High def, high expectations –  The little episode at my friend’s house illustrates four important trends:

  • The big brands are dominating the channel with blockbuster info-mercials. The bar for quality is being raised for all of us.
  • YouTube is becoming mainstream entertainment. Watching on large-format screens is becoming typical, again pointing to a need for quality.
  • Videos can now be pretty much accessed anywhere, any time with the advent of smart phones.
  • YouTube’s new “high-definition” option is helping to enable the quality revolution.

One of the charming characteristics of the original YouTube was that it actually lowered peoples expectations for quality.  The most popular, funniest videos were usually grainy home-made clips of the “Star Wars Boy” or “Keyboard Cat.” Unfortunately those days are coming to an end.

Small screen is king. The most popular iPhone app is You Tube.  And this presents quite a dilemma. How do you produce a video that will show up well on a large screen … and also a mobile phone (which can effectively present little more than a talking head)? This is a vital consideration, especially if your target market is most likely to be mobile.

Audio quality is also a bigger deal than it used to be, driven by the needs on the high end and the low end. That built-in camera mic might not cut-it any more!

Pay-per-click advertising and promoted videos can now be be part of the search results within YouTube. The promoted videos include a thumbnail of video and drives you to a video, not a website. Participating in the paid videos also allows you to enable text overlays on the video which can be a call-to-action or a simple web address.

Video annotations — Another trend is gimmicks like word balloons on videos. This might be a good promotional tool and an effective way to add depth to your video but it might have limited effectiveness on mobile phones.

What’s not new … but still relevant:

  • Blatant advertising doesn’t work.
  • If a video is truly interesting and useful, it will be watched. Educate, inform, entertain.
  • YouTube is still a high-potential, low-cost marketing opportunity
  • Be sure to optimize your video descriptions for keyword search.
  • Don’t overlook using YouTube as a way to connect and build community.  Explore the option of providing video comments.  Tagging comments on to more popular videos could drive traffic to your channel.
  • While there seems to be an emotional backlash against Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter, YouTube doesn’t seem to have the political and privacy baggage of the other guys. YouTube is the teddy bear of the social web.

Cutting through this deluge of content is challenging, especially for a small business. Everybody’s on YouTube now, so you just can’t  just be there. You have to be there and be great.

What are your observations on the new realities of marketing through YouTube? What did I miss?

Three new social media myths that MUST STOP NOW

A few months ago I wrote a post about  The Five Social Media Myths that called out some of the mis-guided “rules” of the social web:

  • To be effective in social media, you must give up control of the conversation
  • It’s all about engagement.
  • Never sell.
  • Emphasize quality over quantity.
  • Social media is all about authenticity.

Some time has gone by and three more myths have creeped into the dialogue.  Humbly, may I suggest we also need to stop them too!

1) You can, and must, measure the ROI of social media programs.

This cracks me up. We have come full circle!

A year ago many A-List bloggers were suggesting that it was a waste of time measuring social media marketing campaigns because it would be tantamount to measuring the ROI of email. Now, some of them suggest that not only is it desirable, it is possible and necessary to measure the ROI of every social media initiative.

For these folks, I have to ask: “Have you ever really worked in a company that has a BUDGET?”

Let me state emphatically that it is critical to measure the results of marketing initiatives in some manner and that you must tie your efforts to the creation of shareholder value.  But many times it’s not practical to drive measurement all the way down to ROI because it may be too time-consuming and expensive to do so.  Many times a leading indicator such as sales leads or downloads can be a reasonable and cost-effective proxy, especially for small companies.  Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Sometimes simple measurements will do just fine — spend most of your time on the actual doing!

2) Your number of friends/followers don’t matter.

I recently observed this ridiculous Twitter conversation – celebrity-grade tweeters arguing over which of them cared less about the number of followers they had.

Last week Mari Smith left this comment on my post: “I’m with Guy Kawasaki on the two types of people on Twitter:  Those who say they want more followers and liars.”  That sums it up for me, too.  Chris Brogan also had the guts to write a blog post about the practical advantages of large number of followers.

If you’ve built your meaningful and relevant audience carefully, why wouldn’t bigger be better?  Why not learn more, make more friends, build more connections?

And if you’re on here to sell, developmental sales and marketing is usually a numbers game.  You connect with lots of people.  A small number of those become business leads. An even smaller number result in real business.

It’s an honor that a lot of great people care enough to follow you. Why be cavalier about it?

3) Every business needs to be on the social web.

Here is the most pompous tweet I’ve seen in a while: “If you don’t use the social web for your business, it’s not that you don’t understand the social web. You don’t understand your business.”

Excuse me?  The successful business owners I know are very smart, highly in tune with their customers, and have an extraordinarily good sense of what it takes to succeed.  While many businesses may realize tremendous benefits from the social web, I think we have to respect the fact that it might not be the wisest place to focus precious time and resources in every case.

  • If you’re selling Depends adult diapers, you should probably spend most of your marketing dollars elsewhere.
  • If you’re selling coal to electric utilities, you’re probably not going to tweet your way to success.
  • If you’re in a down and dirty business like buying and re-selling scrap metal, neither suppliers nor customers typically even have computers.
  • In some nations and cultures, marketing through the social web may be less effective than in Western business models.

Let’s use common sense and resist the temptation to force-feed any communication channel on anybody.  And if we’re in a consultative role, we need to respect the inherent wisdom that resides in experienced business owners and listen more than preach.

So that’s a take on the latest mythologies on the social web. What’s your view?  Any I missed?

The key to social media mastery?

I’ve been teaching classes on social media marketing to business professionals for about a year now and I’ve found that there is definitely a group that “gets it” and a group that doesn’t.

The successful ones keep in touch with me long after the class is over and tell me how the social web has dramatically changed their lives through exciting new connections and business opportunities.  For others, I can usually tell by the end of the first class that it isn’t going to “take” no matter what I say or do.

I’ve thought a lot about what separates these two groups because I care about my students and I want them ALL to succeed.   Both groups start out motivated enough to plunk down their money and attend a class.  Everybody is attentive. They take notes and engage. They’re all successful business people receiving the same content with an equal opportunity to learn the strategies and channel tactics. So what’s the difference?

I’ve decided that it boils down to one important difference: MINDSET.

Meet Social Sue. She’s urgently trying to get on Facebook and Twitter because she’s heard all about social media and she’s afraid of falling behind.  Her marketing budget has been cut and she needs to find a way to sell more with less — fast!  She’s already overworked and sees the social web as just another source of pressure.  That makes her a bit skeptical — and even afraid — of opening up this Pandora’s box. Her customers have been complaining about her business on various sites and she wants to find a way to contain the damage and even eliminate the negative comments if possible. She thinks life will be so much easier if she can just find somebody to set up a Facebook fan page for her … like me : )

Sitting next to her is Social Sam. Sam is open-minded and excited about exploring the possibilities of an entirely new communication channel.  He realizes that he needs to focus on the bottom line, but he’s eager to immerse himself in this new platform and learn more about his customers and marketplace. He wants to meaningfully connect his business to customer wants and needs.   Sam knows it will take time to learn, listen, experiment and master the channel, but recognizes this is a wise and necessary investment if he is to be relevant in his marketplace — traditional advertising measures seem to be less and less effective. He’s heard a lot about Facebook of course, but is open to matching the appropriate marketing ideas with his business strategy.

There is a subtle difference between these two folks.  Both of them have an urgency to learn and an obvious business case for integrating the social web with traditional channels. But the difference in mindset seems to make all the difference in the world. At least that’s my experience but I’d like to hear from you of course.

A challenge for me — finding a way to work on this mindset with students upfront in the class.  Is that possible?  Some people seem to have a pretty strong bias toward “Sue” from the start. Maybe I’ll even use this post as a teaching tool!

What about you?   How would you convert a Sue to a Sam?

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