Don’t build your house on rented land

CB-HouseRentedLand

Do you dream of building a big following on one or more of the major social media channels? Don’t bother – it’s a waste of your time and it’s important you understand why.

It wasn’t always that way. During the last decade, the bigger your social networks were, the more people you could reach. Many of your posts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social channels got a decent number of likes and shares. As the volume of messages on these networks has grown exponentially, that’s no longer the case.

The social networks are changing. In order to support these massive numbers of users, the major social media networks have turned their attention to growing their revenues. In many cases, they’re reducing the number of followers who can see your free updates. If you want to be seen by your target audience, you must now pay for that privilege.

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium and other channels now decide how much your content is visible to the world. Lately, those numbers have been going down:

  • Posts to your Facebook company page are now shown to only 2-3% of your followers. That’s abysmal!
  • Twitter and LinkedIn, have been modifying their search algorithms to de-emphasize organic (free) content so they can serve more paid advertising in your streams.

Don’t build your house on rented land

In today’s online world, there’s a real danger to “building your house on rented land.”

In other words, by publishing your content on platforms and channels you don’t own or control, you run the risk of them unexpectedly changing the rules and compromising your brand’s visibility. This is happening more frequently today. Imagine, for example, the Fortune 100 consumer products company that invested hundreds of thousands of dollars building a million-person audience on Facebook – only to discover that only a fraction of this massive audience can see its updates. That big investment is now practically worthless!

A common-sense approach to social media

In this constantly shifting environment, your best bet is to focus your content on platforms and channels that you DO own. Your website is the first and most obvious place to do that. What does this mean from a tactical standpoint?

  • Your website should serve as the hub of your online presence. Think of your social media accounts as spokes joined to it. Your posts on these channels should always lead visitors to your website – for example, to download a new report, read a blog post or learn more about a new product.
  • Because your free posts aren’t likely to reach as big of an audience as before, you should consider selectively using paid promotion to ensure that other potential customers can see your most important updates.
  • Your ultimate goal should be to provide these visitors with such great value that they will subscribe to your enewsletter. As you may have already guessed, a list of confirmed email subscribers is another asset you own and control. You can communicate with them whenever you want, within reason.

Subscribers versus sales leads

One final note: You may believe you already have a list of subscribers because your website is generating sales leads. But they are not the same. A sales lead is an inquiry about a specific product, service or need that a prospect has. It doesn’t explicitly give you permission to communicate with them on an ongoing basis – any more than meeting someone once at a cocktail party means you can call them every week. A subscription, on the other hand, gives you explicit permission to communicate with them over time.

Now that you better understand what’s at stake, it’s time to make some adjustments in your content distribution strategy. Focus on building your house on solid ground – the web properties and assets you own and control. Good luck!

 

Frustrated by a lack of social media engagement? Focus your efforts

social media strategy

Are you disappointed that your social media posts seem to just disappear into the vast ocean of the internet, leaving nary a ripple? If you’re like most marketers, there’s a very good reason why your updates are being ignored:

You’re spread too thin.

According to the B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report, published by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, the average corporate marketing department is using an average of six channels to promote its content. Clearly, that’s too many to manage adequately.

What happens when you’re not focused

  • If your target audience isn’t gathered on one or more of your favorite social media channels, then you’re wasting your time shouting at people who have little to no interest in your company and its services.
  • You’re scrambling to keep up, so your updates aren’t as frequent as they ought to be.
  • You rely on “spray and pray” to get the job done. You post your updates and move on. You don’t take time to engage with your audience. Thanks to your hectic pace, you miss opportunities to build relationships with and be helpful to them.
  • You use a one-size-fits-all approach, instead of optimizing your messages for each social channel. This limits their impact and effectiveness.

In other words, you may be wasting a significant amount of time on social media activity that may never have a measurable impact for your firm.

A better approach: laser-like focus

A growing number of brands are finding social media success by focusing on one channel where its target audience is already congregated and “owning” it. Yes, it requires you to put all of your eggs into a single proverbial basket. But it concentrates your power at one focal point where it can do the greatest good, while at the same time minimizing wasted effort.

Here are some other benefits of focusing on one social network:

  • Instead of high production, you can focus on quality – which is essential if you want your content to stand out. As you begin to get traction on one social network, you can gradually expand to include others.
  • You’ll benefit from consistency. If your content is exceptional and is published on a scheduled basis, your followers will come to expect and anticipate it. If you’re trying to do this on five or six social networks, it’s almost impossible to maintain such consistency.
  • You’ll learn more about your target audience, because you’ll have the time to listen to them and engage with them.
  • You can also be more responsive to questions, because you will no longer be distracted with running from one channel to another to drop your updates. That can pay big dividends by helping you build deeper relationships with prospective customers.

Key questions to ask yourself

  • Where do your customers congregate online? If they don’t gather on a channel you’re using, you’re wasting your time. Immediately eliminate it from your content distribution plans.
  • Look broadly at what’s best for the business and your content initiative, not who “owns” which channel on your marketing staff. You’re bound to get some pushback from your team members as you make adjustments. But you must tweak your approach as your audience and channels evolve. Don’t get locked into a single approach because of people issues.

It’s time to assess your social media efforts. Remember, less is more!

Social media algorithms and content marketing: What you need to do now

social media algorithms and content marketing

Content marketing is becoming more important than ever, thanks to the major social media channels moving from chronological to algorithm-based feeds.

This major change leaves you with two choices: Pay a premium so your content will be visible to your followers, or create experiences that are so valuable that your followers will share them for you.

In the past, when you published content and promoted it on the major social media channels, you could expect a decent amount of organic engagement. Maintaining a social presence was fairly easy, because you had a free pass to promote your brand as much as you wanted.

But all that has changed – and so must your content marketing strategy.

The move to algorithm-based social feeds

Since the advent of social media, most feeds have been chronological, displaying the newest posts at the top. Other than a few promoted tweets and posts appearing at the top of your feeds, not much has changed during the last decade.

But in recent months, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have announced that they are replacing their chronological feeds with algorithm-based timelines. In each case, the developers have claimed these moves are in response to the glut of content that is exceeding users’ ability to interact with it.

Their motives are not entirely altruistic, however, Moving to algorithm-based feeds enables them to present a greater number of ads and paid placements, based on each user’s preferences, demographics and past viewing habits.

What’s driving this sudden change?

All of the major social media channels are under pressure to increase revenues. That means they are experimenting with and tweaking new monetization models on a more frequent basis. Here are several examples:

Facebook pages: Organic reach of Facebook pages has steadily declined to the point where it is currently at a meager 2%. Unless you pay to promote your updates, they will be all but invisible to your followers. More recently, Facebook has announced two new paid promotion products: Instant Articles (promoted articles) and Canvas (rich media ads). Both appear in the news feeds of users.

Instagram: This Facebook-owned photo sharing channel just announced that it is moving to an algorithm-based feed. It’s also likely that Facebook will roll out Instant Articles and Canvas on Instagram in the near future.

Twitter started experimenting with “while you were away,” a set of curated tweets from people you follow and have interacted with in February, and has rolled it out as the default for all users as of mid-March.

Even Google is getting into the act. The search engine giant has recently done away with sidebar pay-per-click ads, and has added a fourth one to the top of the search results page. This reduction in advertising real estate means that you will be paying more for your pay-per-click ads with Google.

In addition, Google recently announced that it is going to start showing a Twitter-like selection of content at the top of search results pages. Presumably, these will include ads.

The bottom line is that the major social media channels are evolving into media companies, with all the attendant cost structures and pressure to generate revenue and profits. In a sense, they are turning into gatekeepers, controlling which messages get communicated via their platforms.

social media algorithms and content marketing

How should content marketers respond?

Many brands will choose to pay the premium so that their content will still appear in the news feeds of their followers. That’s the easy – albeit expensive – way.

But there is another way: By producing content that is so valued that your followers will feel compelled to share it. By doing so, they will help you bypass the social media gatekeepers, and will ensure that your messages get distributed to a wider audience.

It’s time to step up the quality of your content game – or toil away in obscurity. If you don’t have a documented strategy that includes audience personas, a detailed buyer’s journey for each audience segment and content mapped to each key step of those journeys, now is the time to do so. You’ll also need a “content tilt” – a unique point of view that differentiates your content so it gets the attention it deserves.

social media algorithms and content marketing

Finally, don’t overlook paid promotion. With a glut of content clogging up channels like Facebook and Twitter, it’s getting harder for your content to break through the noise. Some element of paid promotion is a must for your messages to achieve the reach they deserve.

It’s time to develop your plan

Growth Cycle MarketingDo you have a documented content strategy, customer personas defined and content mapped to it? If not, now’s the time to develop a comprehensive plan to take your content initiative to new levels of effectiveness.

To learn more, download our new content marketing eGuide, Making the Leap to Better Waters: Growth Cycle Marketing – a proven strategy for generating sales.

B2B Social Media Quotes: Celebrating #SMDay With 30 Creative Insights

Happy Social Media Day! The website Mashable launched Social Media Day in 2010 as a way to recognize and celebrate social media’s impact on global communication. It’s an annual global event on June 30 that recognizes the digital revolution happening right before our eyes.

In honor of this special day, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite social media quotes to inspire you to dive in and stay creative.

It’s kind of the oldest form of marketing — word of mouth — with the newest form of technology. ~ Pritchard

1. It’s kind of the oldest form of marketing — word of mouth — with the newest form of technology.
Marc S. Pritchard

2. Conversations among the members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not. Good marketing encourages the right sort of conversations.
Seth Godin

3. You can buy attention (advertising). You can beg for attention from the media (PR). You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales). Or you can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free.
David Meerman Scott

4. Social Media puts the “public” into PR and the “market” into marketing.
Chris Brogan

5. By not tweeting you’re tweeting. You’re sending a message.
Anonymous

6. Content sharing is a privilege, not a chore.
Robert Wendt

7. Your writing doesn’t have to be boring just because it’s for other businesses. Businesses have people who read stuff.
Valeria Maltoni

8. Social Media is about the people, not about your business. Provide for the people and the people will provide for you.
Matt Goulart

9. Engage rather than sell … Work as a co-creator, not a marketer.
Tom H. C. Anderson

10. Life doesn’t always allow for scheduled posts; there’s simply no way to foresee everything and anything…and frankly, life just gets weird sometimes.
Cultivate Communications, via 5 Epic Social Media Automation Fails: Bots Just Aren’t People

11. A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.
Scott Cook

12. In the digital space, attention is a currency. We earn it. We spend it.
Brian Solis

13. In the world of B2B, your professional network is everything. Because your business is about business, the potential of who you know and who they know is where powerful connections happen.
Amber Naslund

14. Content is fire, social media is gasoline.
Jay Baer

15. Be helpful — be remembered.
Johnathan Crawford

16. If you’re in business and want to keep it running smoothly, you need to start thinking about your LinkedIn profile (and company profile) like your “dream vehicle”: If you put in the right gas (the right connections), take care of it, and keep up with slight “maintenance” improvements — you’ll be able to go AMAZING places.
Wayne Breitbarth Analogy, via No Leads. No Sales. No Growth: Your LinkedIn Profile Might Be to Blame

17. Sharing compelling content via your blog and social not only establishes you as a teacher in your industry, but it’s also enormously beneficial to your page rank in search results.
Robert Wendt

18. The next evolution of content marketing is not more content; it’s better distribution.
Chris Penn

19. Why are we trying to measure social media like a traditional channel anyway? Social media touches every facet of business and is more an extension of good business ethics.
Erik Qualman

20. The secret to marketing — especially social marketing — is to treat it like a cocktail party. If all you do is talk about yourself, people will soon lose interest, go mingle with someone else, and be GONE. Keep your message focused on the people around you and what THEY want to know, and at the end of the party, everyone will remember you and just how knowledgeable and intriguing you really are. They may even talk about you to other people. (What a gift for you and your “brand.”)
Johnathan Crawford

21. You are competing with every piece of content ever made for every person’s attention. You need to be entertaining. Don’t outsmart. Out entertain.
Dolf van den Brink

22. To tweet, or not to tweet, that is the question. My answer, “I always thinketh thou shouldst Tweet!”
Heather Schwartz

23. New marketing is about the relationships, not the medium.
Ben Grossman

24. Never forget that social media is social…the whole point is to build relationships and keep your customers interested and in the loop. When you build audience, you keep your sales pipeline full.
Cultivate Communications, via 4 Specific Steps to Get Noticed on Social Media NOW

25. Social media isn’t cheap. It’s just a different kind of expensive.
Jay Baer

26. The beauty of social media is that it will point out your company’s flaws; the key questions is how quickly you address these flaws.
Erik Qualman

27. You are what you tweet.
Alex Tew

28. Innovation needs to be part of your culture. Consumers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don’t catch up, we’re in trouble.
Ian Schafer

29. Social media allows big companies to act small again.
Jay Baer

How can you not take advantage of the greatest marketing shift of our generation?

Social media is a revolution that your business must be part of…

79% of B2B Marketers believe social media is an effective marketing channel. (Source)

We end our collection of social media quotes with a bit of a kick in the pants from Seth Godin:

30. How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shift of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?

Want to kick-start your businesses’ content and social marketing? We’re here to help.

P.S. For ongoing creative inspiration be sure to follow Cultivate on LinkedIn and Pinterest.

4 Specific Steps to Get Noticed on Social Media NOW

Social media may seem overwhelming. You can’t be everywhere at once, so how can you choose the social media channels where your web presence will have the most impact? It’s a question a lot of businesses struggle with, and it’s especially daunting for B2B.

Below are four steps to get noticed on social media now:

1. Find Your Audience


Who is your customer? Your first step is to flesh out an accurate customer persona. Is your buyer male? Female? How old? Do they have a college degree? What are their likes and dislikes? What do they read? What do they want or need?

  • Your Assignment: Once you fill in the basic demographics, take a look at this Pew Research Center report. Match your buyer demographics to the social media market where they have the most presence.

2. Pick Your Social Media Channels

 4 Specific Steps for B2B Businesses to Get Noticed NOW on Social MediaNext, check out your biggest competitors. They’ll have the same potential customer base, so it makes sense to find out who is engaging with your competition and on what channels.

  • Your Assignment: Running a competitor analysis can give you a clear picture of where your competitors are seeing success and what content their audience (and yours) most responds to.

Yes, there are a lot of social media options these days. Here’s the basics about the biggest social media platforms and what to expect.

Google+: Social media studies often overlook Google+, even though it’s a channel growing in both functionality and popularity. Google’s search algorithm favors Google products (surprise, surprise), so that means Google+ is a great social media option for many businesses. Google+ also offers additional SEO value. You can optimize your posts with keywords and hashtags, and each email you send to a Gmail user will include a button to follow your page.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is populated with business folk, so it’s typically a great platform for B2B communications. Keep your posts professional and to the point. Add links that drive traffic back to your website. Keep your private messaging personal and never spammy. More than 80% of B2B social media leads originate on LinkedIn, so make your content count.

Twitter: Engage your audience and make new contacts on Twitter. Twitter is a great place to connect with industry leaders, influential bloggers, brand advocates, and publishing platforms who will help you spread your message. Regular, active participation in industry hashtag chats is a valuable way to develop relationships with the right people.

Facebook: The big daddy of the social media sphere, Facebook offers an ability to hold lengthy conversations with customers and ask for input. However, sometimes it’s not the best place for B2B, so do your homework before committing.

Pinterest and Instagram: If you can create great visual content, consider Pinterest or Instagram. Users are engaged and love to share—just be sure you’re connecting with the right people by narrowing down your target audience.

For a more in-depth explanation of each of these social media platforms and more, check out our post: Which Social Media Platform Is Right for YOUR Business?

3. Determine Your Content Types

Content comes in all forms: video, graphics and photos, tweets, longer blog posts, surveys, and links. No matter what social medium you choose, longer posts and rich content that includes graphics and videos is most widely shared and will help you sell your brand. Share photos of your products, your business in action, your staff, and your customers, if possible. Involve your customers by asking them to share photos of how they use your products. Ask them for input directly or post fun quizzes.

  • Your Assignment: Study the results of your buyer persona exercises, social media platform matches, and competitor analysis. What types of content are most popular on that particular outlet? Use content from others as a template and starting point. (…but don’t copy!)

4. Craft Your Social Media Strategy

The information you’ve gathered thus far gives you the basis for your social media plan. When you know who your customers are, where they hang out, what kind of content they engage with, and what social media channels are most advantageous—then you’re ready to get rollin’.

A word to the wise: One way to manage several social media channels is with automated posts, but be wary of automating too much. While some programs seem chatty and human, recipients almost always know they’re being addressed by a bot and not a person. You’ll also want to be careful about cross-posting. Longer posts crafted for Facebook will be truncated when posted to Twitter.

If you need help crafting a complete social media strategy, contact Cultivate Communications or download the free resource below.

Never forget that social media is social…the whole point is to build relationships and keep your customers interested and in the loop. When you build audience, you keep your sales pipeline full. Want to know more? Download this free guide to content marketing, Side Door Thinking.

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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how you can use storytelling as part of an effective marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource

5 Epic Social Media Automation Fails: Bots Just Aren’t People

5 Epic Social Media Automation Fails: Bots Just Aren’t PeopleSo you’ve set up your social media automation bot and it’s plugging along automatically updating your favorite social media outlets and even responding to tweets and posts—now you can just sit back and let your social bot do its thing, right? Not quite. While social media automation can be a godsend for any busy marketer, it can also hurt your brand if you aren’t paying attention.

Here are 5 examples illustrating why relying too heavily on social media automation can be disastrous.

1. Life doesn’t always allow for scheduled posts; there’s simply no way to foresee everything and anything…and frankly, life just gets weird sometimes. Let’s say you’re a B2B company located in a city with an MLB team and you regularly send out enthusiastic GO TEAM posts. It works out great because sometimes the team and players respond or retweet and it’s really helped you build your social reach.

But let’s say you schedule all your GO TEAM posts in advance, and one of your messages on game day is, “John Jones is gonna hit one out of the park today!” with a photo of the player in mid-swing. However, a few hours before your post goes live, something bad happens. Maybe John Jones is in a horrific car accident or arrested for beating his child. You forgot to take down your scheduled post and it goes live. Now your innocuous message is suddenly stunningly insensitive.

2. Trolls are everywhere and bots are fodder, as Coca-Cola recently learned when they had to suspend their Super Bowl automated #makeithappy campaign after Gawker pulled a scandalous prank. The intent of the campaign was to turn negative messages to positive by turning tweets into ASCII art. Unfortunately, the bot was unable to filter intent, so Gawker made its own bot called @MeinCoke which tweeted lines from Mein Kampf with the #makeithappy hashtag…and the Cokebot responded in the only way it knew how, by turning Hitler’s words into happy cartoons.
5 Epic Social Media Automation Fails: Bots Just Aren’t People3. Bots don’t get sarcasm…or any other human emotion. Some social auto-responder programs are pretty great; they can run out a whole string of automated responses based on simple keywords and commands. Welcome to the future of social. BUT, be aware those bots can’t interpret emotions or create an emotional connection with your target audience. In fact, their attempts to do so can get pretty ugly, and fast.

For example, a bot response to something like, “Oceanic is such a great airline. You never know where you’ll end up.” might be, “Hey, thanks! We’re glad you enjoyed your flight.” …and it could go on from there. It’s not hard to imagine your Twitter feed flooded with sarcastic trolls baiting the bot, followed immediately by industry blog posts pointing out your gaffe. Ouch. Credibility blown.

4. Bots can go completely nuts. AT&T hired an agency to publicize a Ticket Chasers’ campaign. The intent was to identify and tweet to people who met the following criteria:

  • Bloggers (who would help spread the news about Ticket Chasers)
  • People who live in the cities where the promotion is running
  • People who mention basketball or March Madness

The ideal recipient might be a popular Boston blogger who writes about March Madness. The bot, unfortunately, was set up improperly, and the result was spamtastic. It sent a flood of tweets to anyone who met any one of the conditions. AT&T wound up apologizing for social media gone wild. Repeating the same mistake can get your business banned from Twitter search results.

5 Epic Social Media Automation Fails: Bots Just Aren’t People5. Autoreplies can get you in trouble and draw unwanted attention. Without a human to screen posts, your bot may misinterpret, reply to, or repost an inappropriate or brand-damaging (or worse, obscene) message. Take, for example, when Bank of America’s help bot (@BofA_Help) tried too hard to “help” members of the Occupy movement by responding to their tweets. Yikes.

The lesson here is that automation can save you time and money, but careful monitoring is a must. Schedule posts that simply can’t backfire, watch ALL responses to ensure your replies are in line with their purpose, and check in often to respond to anything unexpected. You might also want to set aside time to go over replies in person. A bot might miss a warm lead by misinterpreting a reply—and that’s just plain bad for business.