Tag Archives: Content marketing

2, Not 250

I was listening to one of the many podcasts to which I subscribe yesterday. The speaker was rambling on about the subject of content generation and he said something that made me rewind the podcast so I could be sure I heard him correctly. He was opining that the only reason that companies are spending money on content creation today is to generate data.

His statement made some sense. After all, brands today don’t think of themselves as sponsors of other people’s content. They’ve been sold on the idea that they need to have their own content creation hubs which can populate multiple channels such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. I encourage that in some ways with my clients since who knows the brand better than the brands themselves?  Who better to speak in the brand’s voice? Who ought to know the customer and the customer’s interests and to reflect those perspectives in their content? But in retrospect, I couldn’t disagree more and here is why.

I might be way naive about this, but I think audiences want to be educated and entertained. I don’t think they want to be tricked into being tracked and giving us data. I think when they are offered a list, that list ought not to be on 25 pages so as to squeeze out every last page view and ad exposure. I think they want to feel emotions – awe, wonder, joy, excitement, rage – and not just kill time. When I read articles about how I can create titles (People love lists! People love “epic”!) to lure people to my blog, I get sad.  I understand that many people are intellectually lazy.  I get that there is a reason for the use of TL;DR as a standard retort on the web but maybe that’s a commentary of what passes for most content these days rather than on the specific content.  People have become overwhelmed by crap and they’re weaning themselves off that crapacious diet by minimizing consumption.

I don’t think greatness is anything is measured by the volume of consumption or traffic numbers.  Thre are still fewer iPhones in the world than Android.  There are still fewer meals served at Per Se than at McDonald’s.  If we all do our best not to post 250 times a day but to post 2 great, enlightening things – however long that enlightenment takes – maybe we can stop the downward spiral of attention spans and intellectual curiosity.  If “stupid is as stupid does”, how about we upgrade what we do?


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Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?

How’s That Going?

Sometimes when I meet people and they describe their work lives to me, I’ll listen as they tell me what they’re doing and then follow up with a simple question: “how’s that going for you?” You’ve probably done something similar, and I bet that you rarely get “I don’t know” for an answer. I certainly don’t, and it concerns me when I do since how can you not have some feeling about so important a topic that occupies much of your waking day? 

What made me think of that was a report put out by the folks at Rundown. It took a look at how companies feel about their content creation process and the subsequent content marketing. It’s instructive to any business regardless if you’re doing content marketing or not. You can look at a summary of the report here.

Almost 80% of the surveyed content marketers agree or strongly agree that their team “makes awesome content that our audience loves.” That’s great, except for that pesky follow-up question – “how is it going?” You see, 52% of these same people disagreed that ” My team has a clear understanding of what works and why.” 55% disagreed that they knew how much each type of content costs to produce, and an astonishing 82% disagreed that they have a good understanding of the ROI on the content creation and marketing investment.

I’m not going to pontificate about in which activities a business should or should not engage.  I will say, however, that no matter which ones they are, it’s imperative that there is a handle on costs as well as some measure of ROI.  I am cringing as I think about answering any of the people for whom I worked with “I don’t know” when asked about what something cost or how it was impacting our goals (revenue, engagement, whatever).  Resources are precious.  So are measurable, actionable data about the results of activities we undertake using those resources.  Saying you make “awesome content” (or anything else) doesn’t resonate with me unless part of “awesome” is moving the business forward.  You?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media, Huh?

Quite Content With Content

I think I may have misspoken.  Well, not misspoken, exactly, but perhaps I’ve conveyed the wrong idea about my feelings on content marketing.  The fact that you’re reading the screed today should tell you that I’m a fan of real content marketing: it’s native advertising disguised as “content” that pisses me off.  If I haven’t made the differences between the two clear, let’s use the next minute or so to rectify the issue. 

I’ve railed more than once about advertising masquerading as content.  Frankly, now that the FTC is watching this carefully, my displeasure is the least of anyone who is engaged in the activity’s worries.  It’s not hard to distinguish when you should or shouldn’t notify your readers if it’s “native” content: if some entity paid you to put the story up, or of they wrote it and bought the space where it’s running, it needs to be labelled as advertising.  Let’s leave it there for now.

True content marketing is what you’re reading.  I don’t think I’m letting you in on a secret when I tell you that part of the reason I write this blog is to show potential clients that I have a decent grasp of marketing, media, and digital.  Hopefully, as you read this every day (you DO read every day, don’t you?), you’re learning something or seeing something that makes you pause and think. I try to keep it informative and entertaining.  It’s one form of content marketing.

In addition to blogs, you might have given a company your email in return for a white paper on a topic of interest to you. Maybe you listen to a company’s podcast because it teaches you and informs.  Maybe you downloaded an e-book.  As the Content Marketing Institute defines it:

Content marketing is a strategic marketingapproach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

I am a huge fan of this sort of marketing.  It is something of value given away, generally for nothing more than an email address.  It works, too.  Research has shown content marketing to be 62% less expensive per lead than traditional outbound marketing. Unlike native, it’s transparent too. Don’t have the resources to generate this sort of material?  Call me – we’ll make it happen.  So what are you waiting for?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media

Asking For Trouble

You might have read yesterday’s screed about how AT&T was selling “unlimited” data plans that really had limits and shaken your head. I mean, doing something as deceptive as that would never cross your mind, right? Well, let’s put that deception into another, more prevalent context and find out.

The Association of National Advertisers did a survey about native advertising. You know what that is – content created by or for a sponsor which looks very much like the environment in which it runs. Maybe it’s completely straightforward or maybe it contains subtile messaging about the sponsor’s product or service. As the ANA puts it:

Native advertising is an advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing messaging in the context of the user’s experience. Native ad formats match both the form and function of the user experience in which they are placed. The advertiser’s intent is to make the paid advertising feel less intrusive and increase the likelihood users will engage with it.

Many marketers (58%) are already engaged in this and many more intend to do so in the next year. I’m not going to go off (again) on publishers who do their damnedest to blur the line between ad and editorial. Instead, let’s just look at what the ANA found:

  • Two-thirds of respondents agree that native advertising needs clear disclosure that it is indeed advertising. Only 13 percent feel that such disclosure is not needed.
  • Both the publisher and the advertiser have a responsibility to ensure disclosure.
  • Three-fourths of respondents feel that there is an ethical boundary for the advertising industry when it comes to native advertising.

That’s all well and good except that when it comes to how that disclosure is made, we might just have an issue (and what the hell are the 13% thinking?). A company called TripleLift surveyed 209 U.S. consumers for their thoughts on how native ads are presented. They were shown a native ad on a website and different respondents saw the ad with different labels.  Seventy-one percent said they noticed the content in the ad, but fully 62 percent didn’t realize they were looking at an ad.  When asked which labels were the most clear, “advertisement” and “sponsored by” were the best in terms of letting consumers know they were looking at an ad.  The problem is that readers do NOT like feeling as if they’ve been deceived, as a study by Contently found:

  • Two-thirds of readers have felt deceived upon realizing that an article or video was sponsored by a brand.
  • 54 percent of readers don’t trust sponsored content.
  • 59 percent of readers believe a news site loses credibility if it runs articles sponsored by a brand.

So let’s go back to the AT&T question.  Would you knowingly try to deceive a consumer?  Before you answer, are you running native ads that just might be doing exactly that?  Are we – marketers and publishers – just asking for trouble in our quest for better engagement?  Let me know your thoughts.

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Filed under Consulting, Reality checks

How I Write

I was speaking with someone last week about this blog. They were kind enough to ask about using some of the content and in the course of the conversation they said something to the effect of “I don’t know how you are able to write five days a week” so I thought that maybe I’d attempt to answer that question. As I do so I’m hoping it provide a little insight into some business thinking you can use.

The hardest part for me is finding a topic each day. I mean it’s not just what pops into my head but also is what pops in aomething that might be of interest to anyone other than me and, more importantly, does it have a broad enough business application to be relevant to you, the reader, no matter what your business might be. As I’ve written many times, it’s about your customer, not you.

As part of my daily routine I scan over 1,000 articles each day. I do this to stay on top of tech, marketing, social media, and other business and media trends because these are the topics with which my clients need help. That content ranges from the sort of stuff you might also pick up in “mainstream” media down to granular topics such as web analytic and SEM. These articles will generally provide a starting point.  You’ve read screeds on research, on things happening in social media, and marketing trends.  Most of those posts came from reading something that sparked a thought.

Sometimes (yesterday for example) something going on in my own life prompts a post.  We forget sometimes that our own narrow perspective may have application to other folks’ lives and as we were taught in education class you work from the known (what happened to me might have happened to you) to the unknown (what happened related to a broader business theme).  There are also posts that are just fun for me – Foodie Friday tends to be that way as was the TunesDay stuff I wrote about music each Tuesday.  Which brings up another point.

I stopped writing those posts because they were the least read.  I also have cut back on some of the research-related posts since they too tend to drive less readership.  Again, it’s about what interests you, not just me.  I don’t write about politics other than when something in the political sphere has non-political takeaways for us.  Why not?  Because inevitably one side or the other gets angry, justifiably or not, and might stop reading.

Finally, I keep an ongoing list of topics.  Links to articles, random thoughts, and even photos which prompt a thought are posted in a drafts folder as I go throughout my day.  When I’m ready to write that folder is my first stop. The hard part is making the point that came to me while telling a compelling story of some sort.  Then it becomes a matter of presenting it to you in a concise, clear manner.  Mechanically, I write in WordPress, I add an image, I proof twice, I check spelling, and I edit.

Since this is now about 100 words longer than my usual rant, I’ll stop here.  Hopefully you can apply that methodology to your business.  Look for things that might prompt a thought – new products, new platforms, new practices.  Consider them for a moment, hold them if they resonate, act on them when you can.  Any questions?

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Filed under Thinking Aloud

To Whom Are You Speaking?

Everywhere one turns these days there is content. In the old days that content was sourced from entertainment or news organizations which had the consumer’s tastes in mind. After all, the program distributor paid the content creator based on how many eyeballs that content could attract.
Lately, of course, everyone is creating content. You, me (that’s what this is!), and brands. I don’t really have an issue with that. The digisphere is a bully pulpit with room for lots of us. There is something with which I do have an issue, however.

Content assembled by brands comes in two forms. One is the advertising many of you have been trained since birth to avoid. The other is that “branded content” that shows up via “content marketing.” No, not another rant on that subject – I’ve bored you to tears with them already I’m sure. This rant is different.

Here is a tidbit from the folks at Corporate Visions:

More than 70% of respondents do not follow a clearly defined message development process within their organization, while a 10% reported they aren’t sure what their company does at all.

In other words, chaos. Into that vacuum usually steps some well-meaning sales-type who pushes the messaging toward “sell.” This is company-centric messaging. I can’t imagine anything more boring to most people. “We’re better because blah blah blah”. Boring.

Smart companies that have their message creation together do customer-centric messaging. They focus on identifying customers’ and prospects’ unconsidered needs.  They’re there to inform, to entertain, to listen, to help; not to sell.  They’re speaking to the consumer, not at them.  They’er certainly not speaking to their own needs or to make themselves feel as if they’re got the message out there.

So to whom are you speaking?

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints

Mistakes You’re Making With Content

Now that the summer is over (I’ll wait while you boo), many marketing teams are getting back to work.

Collection of Marteting books

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One area that is on many of their minds is content marketing.  I’m a fan when it’s done right and unfortunately it’s increasingly rare that brands are going down that path in a way I admire.  Let me explain.

As the folks as the Content Marketing Institute say:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Putting aside how and why there is already an “institute” for something so relatively new, I like that definition because it emphasizes what’s missing in much of what’s being produced – value.  As an aside, the fact that it only implies a customer-centric view is a shortcoming but I guess that if you’re focusing on “valuable” you must focus on the recipient’s view and not your own.

That’s the first mistake many companies make.   This isn’t advertising, folks.  Yes, potential customers are after information but they are trying to make intelligent, informed decisions.  Done properly, good content marketing fills that needs and helps them to do so.  Done badly, it’s another ad they toss and ignore.

We all know people on social media who overshare.  I don’t mean that in the Too Much Information sense (no, I don’t care what you had for breakfast) but in the 100 posts a day sense.  They share or retweet damn near everything that crosses into their stream.  Bad content marketers make the same mistake.  Sure, you’re just trying to be helpful but you need to strike a balance between helpful and annoying.  When you have something useful to say, by all means say it.  When you’re just publishing to make noise, think again.

Finally, one tenet of creating any kind of content is to write what you know.  Companies who make cars shouldn’t be giving out recipes unless they’re hiring noted chefs to write them and publishing them is a way that makes sense:  here is how to use your new Model X for tailgating and here is some great recipes to help you to do so.  You can’t be all things to all people.  Be a resource in your areas of expertise and avoid all the others.  Your audience will thank you.

Oh – one last thing.  Do NOT hide an ad as a piece of research or a white paper.  I’ve written about that elsewhere so I won’t belabor the point.  Be transparent.  Be real.  Add value.  Don’t be sneaky.  Your thoughts?

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Filed under Consulting