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.

The Greatest Interception Ever: How to Drive Your Competitors Crazy by Hijacking Their Super Bowl Commercials

Super Bowl commercials come at astronomical cost. Not only do they have to be the best commercial EVAR, the spot itself runs into the millions of dollars and it might not even pay off. (Remember the Pets.com disaster?) But once in a while, a company comes up with an idea that simply owns the competition.

Volvo Wins the Internet
Volvo has launched a social media effort to hijack every single car commercial playing during the Super Bowl. How? By giving away a car. Think about this for a minute… (It is SO cool!) Volvo has invited Super Bowl commercial viewers to each choose a special someone who deserves a brand new car. To participate, simply tweet who and why using the hashtag #VolvoContest every time you see ANY car commercial during the game.

(So while you’re watching that new Mercedes-Benz commercial? Yea, you’re thinkin’ Volvo!)

Let’s do the math. Last year, a 30-second Super Bowl commercial slot sold for nearly $4 million…and that doesn’t include production costs. Volvo could give away 100 XC60s, each with an MSRP of $37,125—and still come out ahead. But they’re not giving away 100. They’ll be giving away just 5.

So for a tiny fraction of the cost, they’ve hijacked their competition, practically stolen the attention of a powerful Super Bowl audience, and built a valuable follow-up list for their dealers. (After you tweet, you do have to submit an official entry form before you’re actually entered into the contest. You know, with your contact information alllll over it.) BAM. Well done, Volvo. Well done.

How to Drive Your Competitors Crazy by Hijacking Their Super Bowl Commercials

And speaking of hashtags…
How can YOU use this stealth marketing technique? Even if you’re not in a position to give away cars, you may be able to hijack a hashtag. Let’s say you’re a relatively small snack company, like PopChips. You may not be able to afford a spot during the Super Bowl, but Doritos can, and Doritos really loves Twitter. (Hint, hint—just sayin’.)

Sometimes you just have to use your imagination when you’re on a budget. Do it right and you’re sure to drive away with your competitors’ hottest leads.

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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6.1 Million Reasons Why Your Company Can’t Avoid Social Media Any Longer

To tweet, or not to tweet, that is the question. My answer, “I always thinketh thou shouldst Tweet!” *Great examples of WHY businesses should be using social marketingTo tweet, or not to tweet, that is the question.
My answer, “I always thinketh thou shouldst Tweet!”
{In fact, go ahead and Tweet that!}

Let’s face it, we are no longer in the Shakespearean era, or even in the 19th century — times are changing. Like it or not, your potential customers are no longer buying like they used to. A catchy radio ad or flashy billboard just won’t cut it anymore.

Today’s customers are doing their research. They look up companies online to see what they’re all about — who follows them, their company culture, what they share, and ultimately if they like them or not. It’s not just about your product anymore. Crazy isn’t it?

Companies are starting to become like rock bands and famous actors and actresses — they’re starting to gain a following and a fan base. These people literally invest their time and money into a company like they would their favorite pop star. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at Starbucks, for example.

Starbucks has 6.1 million Twitter followers. Let me repeat that: 6.1 MILLION followers.

Starbucks Twitter

Celine Dion, one of the most popular female singers of all time, only has 238k Twitter followers.

Celine Dion Twitter

Let’s take this all in for a second.

A coffee company has more than 25x the amount of followers as one of the most influential and popular singers of all time? Now that’s something that businesses should take note of.

Consumers — and your POTENTIAL customers — are falling in love with brands. Heck, people nowadays even have phone cases and t-shirts with the Starbucks logo on them!

Today’s customers want to know WHO you are, WHAT you do, and WHICH amazing thing you’re going to push out to them next.

Don’t ignore social media any longer — you and your company can’t afford to compete in today’s business world without it!

If you need some help getting started, check out these related articles: “Which Social Media Platform Is Right for YOUR Business?” or “The First 3 Steps to Social Marketing Success.”

And be sure to sign up for our FREE monthly eNewsletter for social media tips & trends delivered right to your in-box.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a way to reach out to me via social media: I invite you to connect with Cultivate on LinkedIn. And if you don’t have a LinkedIn account yet (you really should…get details for setting up your LinkedIn profile here), you can always email us, too. We’re here to help.

Now, let’s get SOCIAL!

heather