3 of the Weeks Best Stories – Jan. 19/14

A great week for content last week, seems everyone is really getting back into the swing of things. Here are our 3 of the weeks best stories ending Sunday January 19, 2014.

This weeks contributions come from some very recognizable names in the content marketing world and indeed some topics that generated a lot of conversation. One of the biggest topics was and is around the conversation on “Content Shock”. The term dubbed by Mark Schaefer in his post sparked a lot of conversation. It will be the subject of the next best of the week installment, as there were and are more opinions coming in.

This week, we’ll be looking at the continuing discussion on “gaming” the social proof measurements; some excellent tools to help you to understand your social media analytics and activities; and a compelling podcast PNRs This Old Marketing. All told you’ll need about an hour to go through all three pieces. In my opinion time well spent and an opportunity to gain additional tools to help your social efforts.

1. Can You Build a Career on Social Proof – [Blog] Mark Schaefer’s {Grow} Blog.

Fake Followers, Social Proof

Photo Credit:AlbumExchange

The on-going discussion of “fake it until you make it”, has been rampant the last week, with serious discussions about the social gaming platform Empire Avenue. In this post Schaefer explores the allure of building an impressive array of followers and likes so that others coming to your profile believe you must know what you’re talking about. Like the cover of Elvis’ compilation album “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t be Wrong”, the thought is that if all those people are following or like what you’re doing, you should be worth following.

Of course, as the post clearly demonstrates, this is “folly”. Once someone starts to pay attention to what you’re doing, then you will need to really deliver the goods. This is hard enough to do in today’s world of instant news, distractions and tons of content when you do have some knowledge of your topic, never mind how impossible it is when you really don’t. In Elvis’ case, he had the chops to keep those followers and it is evident when someone doesn’t. Most of these folks are banking on two things, 1. you won’t bother to unfollow or unlike them because it takes time and effort. Also, 2. you’ll stick around long enough to keep the pipes open and keep their numbers up for the next person to see.  Schaefer goes on to make the argument about why the numbers matter, to a certain extent. For a large portion of folks gravitating to and paying a little attention to the social space, those numbers are indicators (whether the followers or Klout score), whether we, that are a little further along and mature in the field, like it or not. We know this is a short term strategy, but it can work. The difficulty comes when the person gaming gets addicted to the easy way and doesn’t put in the hard work to effectively build their following, which unfortunately impacts us all negatively. One of my three words for the year is “courage” and it’s why this post resonated with me. Mark states that it takes courage to stick to the right path and I agree.  I do believe it takes courage to do the hard work, stick to your principals and build lasting and valuable relationships with the new tools we all have at our disposal. In the long-run, we all benefit.

2. Social Media Dashboard – 4 Dashboards to track your social media performance.[Blog] Ian Cleary – RazorSocial

Google Analytics Dashboard custom

Photo:razorsocial.com

From all appearances, Ian Cleary is not only someone that provides exceptional value with the information he shares on his blog, but easily could be the top contender for someone you’d want to share a Guinness with. Ian knows his stuff and is very generous with his time and knowledge. The Razor Social blog is definitely worth bookmarking and paying attention to when you’re in the market to find tech to help make your social media activities better and easier to understand.

So if we’re encouraging you to do the hard work and grow meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships on your social channels, how do you know what you are doing right or where you might need to improve. Maybe, your information is solid, but your posting at the wrong times. All of these integral pieces to social success can be learned, discovered, analysed and acted upon. In the Social Media Dashboard, Cleary shows you four tools that you can use to get a clearer picture of what is happening with your activities. Three of the suggestions, I’ve not looked at or used, so really can’t honestly comment on them. However, the clear synopsis’ provided for all of the dashboards’ demonstrates them to be powerful tools. I do however have a custom dashboard on my Google Analytics and coupled with my Hootsuite analytics,  I get great information to work with (also excited that Hootsuite has just purchased uberVU).

What is nice about this post is the detail and step by step guide to using the recommended tools, with an honest evaluation of any potential limitations. I’d encourage you to find the one that most appeals to you and start using it to get the most from your work.

3. Will Native Advertising Ultimately Become the Norm – [Blog and Podcast] – Content Marketing Institute Pulizzi and Rose.

This podcast is a great addition to the content marketing environment. Full of great information, a splash or two of humor and a look at great integrated marketing programs from the past (you’ll enjoy the G.I. Joe story), this podcast is worth paying attention to. In each episode Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose take the pulse of current events in the realm of content marketing, including a fun “Rant or Rave” segment.  This episode was of interest for me because of the conversation around native advertising and what is called native, but is really “sponsored” content. Though as the authors/announcers clearly demonstrate, not a new field for advertisers; it’s just that we have much more powerful tools to take advantage of native advertising.  If you’re not sure what native advertising is, a great description from an earlier post should help:

“According to digital advertising firm Solve Media, native advertising refers to a specific mode of monetization that aims to augment user experience through relevant content that is delivered in-stream” (link to this post in the podcast post).

In addition to the ongoing discussions on native advertising, the podcast also looks at evolving areas like “the internet of things” and is digital marketing too complex?  I really enjoy listening to this podcast while taking a break and find I revisit the topics on a regular basis.

Hope you find the information on our top 3 best stories of the week of value for you.

One last thing (yes, I watched a Steve Jobs documentary this week); the discussion around native and sponsored advertising got me thinking about the work of Brett Heard and Fresh Baked Entertainment. If you’re a marketer or a producer of content and you’re not familiar with their work, you’ll definitely want to check them out, especially the new avenue that they are exploring to connect content producers and marketers together to mutually benefit their audiences. Full disclosure, Brett is a high school mate and I’ve really enjoyed watching the growth and excellent products, that he and the talented folks at Fresh Baked have created over the last few years, including web-based video series for notable brands. Their new venture though I believe holds great value for all. I’d encourage you to take a look at what they are doing – your clients will be glad you did – Fresh Baked Online Services [Video 1.42].

Website for Fresh Baked Entertainment

http://www.freshbakedent.com/

What was your favorite story from last week?

 

Why You’ll Want a Content Calendar

Content Calendar SampleThe most common objectives that I experience when I discuss integrating blogging and social into a small business’ marketing and communication programs are 1. I don’t have the time and 2. I have no idea what I’d talk about. Both of those are blog posts onto themselves, in fact on my personal blog, I covered time management and ways to overcome that hurdle. Of the second, the issue is likely that you have much more content than you believe and just don’t know where to start. If these common issues sound familiar, then you are ready for a content calendar.  Not only will you benefit from easily finding the time to create a weekly blog, but you’ll easily know what to share on your social channels. It will also provide you with a laser focus on the themes and issues that matter most to your audiences.

Maybe in the past, you’ve considered them, but every time you’ve looked at one of those online content calendar templates, they look like they require a PHd in mathematics and mad excel skills, so you haven’t pursued it. Truth is, with a little bit of thought and some serious R&D (rob and duplicate) you can create your own version that will work for you. There are certain aspects of course that are fundamental to having a successful calendar and you’ll be able to easily incorporate them into whatever system works for you. In the resources below you’ll find links to deeply developed templates and easy to use online calendars (using your Google Calendar to schedule your posts). Using a content calendar will also help you to visually see what you are planning by month, quarter and year, to ensure you capture key dates; such as that must attend industry conference. Just seeing that date can provide three or more posts for you, the lead up to the event, what’s happening while you’re there and what you took away and applied to your business. It will immediately help you to identify parts of your plan that you don’t have content ready for, giving you plenty of opportunity to crowd-source topics, write a follow up on an earlier issue or find a guest post to include.

Your goal in adopting and using a content calendar is to be prepared, to know what you are talking about and to ensure that it meets the needs of your audience, remember your content is looking to provide information that is useful to your audience in their professional or personal lives. The fundamental steps that are essential to an effective content calendar are: to know who your audience is and what topics they are interested in, to know what content you already have that you can use to answer their common questions and the build your calendar and put it to good use.

Audience and Topics:

The odds are really good that you have more than one type of audience that you need to communicate with. Therefore, you’ll need to create a few segments of your audience that have different interests or issues that need to be addressed. To identify these groups, it is best to get in touch with everyone that is client facing in your organization. Have a meeting and with their help, identify potential topics from the issue, concerns and praise that your clients, prospects, vendors, staff and partners identify about your service, products and interactions with them (whether in person or on line). From this conversation you’ll be able to identify topics to talk about, what you’re looking to add, questions about service improvement, different ways to extend the life and value of your product, new product initiatives, old product revitalization opportunities,  new strategic partnerships and more, all leading to improved communications and relationships.  Another great suggestion that I’ve come across is to use this time to help establish what weight do you want to give each of these different audience segments and then allocate what percent of time you’ll invest accordingly. One area to not overlook is to talk about what makes you and your working environment a great place to be. By creating content to demonstrate that your a fun, fair, exciting place to work that is creating great value for your customers can only help you identify the best and brightest to add to your team.

Podio Workflow Management Content CalendarContent Inventory.

Most organizations that I’ve worked with or have presented to, feel that they don’t have anything to talk about and don’t know where they would begin. It doesn’t take long to turn those thoughts upside down when, as an outsider to their organization and a potential customer of their product or service, I start asking questions or suggest things that I’d like to see covered in their communications. For example, I recently did a workshop for senior staff in the early childhood education community locally that are facing some difficult times as businesses.  With our Province adopting all day junior kindergarten, a stream of revenue is vanishing before their very eyes. When we came to the subject of blogging and social as part of their marketing mix, a quick 10 minute chat identified a 4 month calendar of blog ideas. I was outside of their industry and it was easy for me as a parent of a child that recently got to the age that he could take care of himself to talk about information that they readily have, that I could have benefited from as a parent.  No matter your industry, you have them too; presentations for industry trade shows, customer stories, customers questions that can all be turned into blog posts. Industry data from your finance department for infographics, quick and easy how to videos (for example having one of the daycare centers do a quick craft demonstration for parents to use over the holidays). Re-purposing content from previous blog or newsletter posts with updated information or sharing the best ideas of others with your own experiences woven in (like this post, with a grateful hat tip to the resources below, Lee Odden and his book Optimize and the first content calendar I used from HubSpot). Create a place where you can take stock of the content you already have, the most frequently asked questions your staff get, ideas from an industry wiki. Make it available to all so everyone can add to it as they come across additional resources or information. I use a workflow management system called Podio and keep all of my blog ideas there, where I can track them from the idea stage to publish. I can tag them for future reference and so much more. A couple of other great suggestions I’ve heard of is using a content catalog (simply an excel spreadsheet) and using Evernote (Mark Schaefer on the Grow Blog).

The next step is to publish your content, track what becomes of it and then modify what you are doing (a completely different post). The key is to do more of what is generating your desired results and less of what is not.

How to use your Content Calendar

If your using an excel spreadsheet (recommended) for your content calendar here are some suggestions on how you may want to use it, by columns.

The first column is for the date range going (weekly activities).

The second column is where you can insert any upcoming calendar events, like Christmas or a tax deadline.

The next 3 or so columns are for your topic/industry events like your industry conference, local chamber tradeshow, etc.

The next column would be for any specific company events, such as a product launch, anniversary, price change, etc.

The next set of columns are for scheduling the pieces of content such as your blog, podcast, video, etc. You might consider color-coding these pieces for your various audiences.

The next set will be for the social channels and distribution channels you’ll use to share your content (Facebook, G+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Stumble Upon, etc.). Each with an appropriate message for it’s defined audience.

The number of columns will vary depending on the amount of content you are producing and the number of audiences you are producing for.

Content marketing is key to your overall business success. It can help you find new prospects (or more accurately, let them find you), create better relationships with your current stakeholders and provide additional support to your current customers. Having an effective content calendar will keep you on track and illustrate what you have to share to make the lives of your customers, staff and business partners better.

Are you currently using a content calendar? If so, what does yours look like and what successes can you attribute to it.

Recommended resources: 

Search in your favorite browser for an editorial or content calendar and you’ll find tons of helpful information to help you get started. Some of my favorites sources are (in addition to the links above):

Essential Content Calendar – [Blog] Social Media Today – includes free template

Why you should create a detailed Editorial Calendar – [Blog] Sprout Social

Build your Content Calendar, in three easy steps – [Blog] Content Marketing Institute

15 Most Life-changing Editorial Calendar Tools – [Blog] Writtent

Create a Content Calendar using Google Calendar – [Video] John Haydon YouTube