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!

 

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.

Cultivate Celebrates Social Media Day — and Milwaukee!

Did you try a new app, join LinkedIn, or come up with a new digital marketing idea on Social Media Day?

Equipped with social mediathemed treats and giveaways, a decked-out photo-booth van, and a talented Cultivate crew, we hit the streets of Milwaukee’s Third Ward to celebrate Social Media Day 2014! Using the hashtag #SMDayMKE, we celebrated all that is Milwaukee and social.

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To find YOUR photo — or to look for anyone you may recognize — check out the rest of our photos from Social Media Day on our Facebook page!

Are you truly leveraging the power of social media for YOUR business? Check out these articles for tips from getting started to how industry giants are creating one-of-a-kind experiences for those who opt-in to their social media campaigns:

Did you try a new app, join LinkedIn, or come up with a new digital marketing idea on Social Media Day? Let us — and the WORLD — know about it.

Now, that’s using the power of social media!

Help Us Celebrate Social Media Day! #SMDayMKE

Monday, June 30, is Social Media Day!

Initiated by Mashable in 2010, Social Media Day is intended to “recognize the digital revolution happening right before our eyes.” Events are taking place all around the country — but how is our awesome city, Milwaukee, celebrating Social Media Day 2014?

Cultivate Communications, has BIG plans to celebrate Social Media Day.

Using the hashtag #SMDayMKE, we will rejoice in all that is Milwaukee and social. From personalized hashtag t-shirts to displaying #SMDayMKE on our van and driving around Milwaukee to take photos with locals, our staff is excited to take part in this national celebration. And did we mention social media themed food? Our mouths are watering already!

Social Media Day 2014 Milwaukee

Here are a few ways to celebrate Social Media Day in 2014:

  1. Tweet with the hashtags. The national hashtag for the day is #SMDay — and be sure to include #SMDayMKE.
  2. Find a local #SMDay event. There are a number of Mashable communities in the area; check them out and join an event!
  3. Take a photo with the Cultivate Van. If you’ll be in downtown Milwaukee, find the van to take a fun, social-themed photo, grab some free goodies, and enter to win an awesome prize.

You can find the Cultivate Communications Van in downtown Milwaukee at the following times:

11:30 am to 12:15 pm – Cathedral Square on Jefferson St., between Kilbourn Ave. and E. Wells St.

12:30 pm to 1:15 pm – The Third Ward on Broadway St., between St. Paul Ave. and Buffalo St

You can be our lucky winner! In additional to all the free swag and goodies we will be giving away this Monday, you can also enter to win this awesome prize pack!

Social Media Day 2014

Follow us on social media and don’t miss out on any of the Social Media Day celebrations!

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Instagram vs. Vine — Which Do YOU Choose?

Instagram vs. Vine by Cultivate CommunicationsAbout a month ago, I prepared a fresh blog post about the latest frenzy in mobile video called Vine (@VineApp). I began using Vine early on and thought about all the ways one could utilize it for business and how YouTube had better watch out. Little did I know that Instagram was about to release their own video tool built directly into their already monumentally popular photo-sharing service.

Boy, did I feel behind the wagon on that one. { forehead smack }

So I asked Zina, who manages our company blog, to pull my article. I didn’t want to see any snarky “We landed on the moon!” comments coming back at me on Twitter or LinkedIn for being “behind the times” on this issue.

Some days it’s hard to keep up when so much can change in an Internet minute. But now that we’ve moved ahead a few months into the reality of the situation in the video-sharing world . . .

Let’s talk about what’s happened since Instagram “peed in Vine’s Cheerios.” { Tweet This }

Instagram — already owning a massive piece of the mobile photo-sharing market — completely leveled the playing field on June 20, 2013, as you can see from this graph displaying link shares (orange = links to Instagram.com; blue = links to Vine.com).

Instagram vs. Vine by Cultivate Communications

I’ll admit that I, too, have since gone back to Instagram and don’t use Vine all that much anymore — primarily because Instagram’s audience is larger, and it has more options. However, in an effort to maintain a dynamic website, many businesses are still using both vehicles to:

  • Promote new products
  • Give consumers a behind-the-scenes look at their operations
  • Foster community and crowdsourcing engagement
  • …and more

The following infographic from TechCrunch.com displays a nice list of features from both Instagram and Vine, as well as what could be coming down the line from these two media-sharing giants. Check it out:

Instagram vs. Vine by Cultivate Communications

Even though I’ve been forced to revisit the topic of Instagram vs. Vine, I’m still of the mindset that YouTube had better watch out. The ease of use of both of these video-sharing channels makes it infinitely simpler and faster to share content.

Have you been using Vine or Instagram for your business? What do you think about the new and improved Instagram as it compares to Vine? Where do you see these apps heading in the future?

Contact me on LinkedIn and Google+ to discuss your predictions and your preferences. And, as Bob Wendt reminded us back in January, make sure you’re ready for the next big thing.

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See all articles by Nicholas Putz
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