Pick up a copy of a business magazine, webinar, SEO whitepaper, workshop agenda or open one of those hundreds of marketing tip e-mails [not all such e-mails are the same of course 🙂 ] and the chances are you’ll not go far before the word “content” is mentioned.
If you want your website to be a successful shop window for your company you need it to be well furnished with content, lots of it, all shapes and sizes, colours, creations and categories……or do you?
Call me an old cynic…but when I start to sense a trend forming and a bandwagon being jumped on I have a natural inclination to run in the opposite direction. Sure SEO is important but what if you produce masses of poor content? All that will prove is that you’ve created a big website full of “stuff” that nobody is going to read let alone share. Surely the idea with this facet of marketing is to produce quality, focused material that appeals to those who you have identified as your target audience. Badly written and presented content will have the adverse effect. I would argue that even if you did rank higher as a result of your prolific production once anyone clicked on it they would be more inclined to bounce straight out again. This would only create a negative impression.
Ok back to basics, what is “content”? Does anyone really know or is it just another “buzzword” that sounds good but has little thought behind it.
Content varies from the obvious written word, blog, news update, article to more visual and increasingly popular sources such as infographics, webinars and other video based productions such as YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, Meerkat and Periscope.
Just for starters WordPress report that there are 42.6 million blog posts per month. Now imagine how that number is going to escalate with the buzzword of the year “content” driving marketing activities. Add to the written word the growing trend of video posts and you’ve a very busy and somewhat cluttered space in which you’re trying to make a name for yourself.
A) You can just see the common scenario developing where a young marketing manager, having read all the latest guides, asks the MD to produce a blog for the company. The MD is very busy but she knows this buzz of blogging and “thought leadership” is the thing she really should be doing…so she writes one. It’s not great but it is her first effort. The marketer doesn’t feel that they can correct the boss so is left with no option but to post it. No one comments on it, it’s only read by staff internally who universally agree the MD should stick to running the business.
B) Or what about a situation where no one in the business has the time to write an article or blog so they look around for help. Now for the purpose of balance I must advise that yes, there are excellent copywriters, journalists, wordsmiths who have both the intelligence and skill to produce high quality “home grown looking” material that is both informative and easy to digest. Unfortunately given the “content” Goldrush we have no shortage of prospectors panning for nuggets but finding fool’s gold, those who look the real deal, talk a good game but simply don’t understand enough about the business and the best way to communicate with their target audience. In this example the business spends a large chunk of their annual marketing budget on an agency who simply fails to connect with the client and produces low grade results albeit in large quantities. The company sacks the agency when the MD asks a few pertinent questions at a board meeting such as “Do they own a dictionary” “Have they met our production team” “Why are the web visits up but the engagement down?” The result, the agency blames the client and the resultant lack of business demonstrates the importance of having a well thought through strategy that involves communications that connect with the target audience.
So what should you be doing?
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog please contact David Laud via twitter @davidlaud or call 08456 446624
Consultants, coaches, business advisers and circuit speakers can frequently fall into a trap when handing out advice as they touch on subjects that they’ve lost touch with. In the current cauldron of technological innovation and digital dependence that’s not all too surprising because they rarely have time to stop and revisit their thinking or more importantly put their theory into practice.
Just because advice sounds plausible, logical and possible doesn’t make it a cast iron sure bet to work. My view is that we must accept we can’t possibly stay at the sharp end, understanding latest trends, tips, wrinkles and methodologies, without being self-aware and putting those golden nuggets of advice to the test to establish their true value. Instead of sticking with ideas that are possibly past their “sell by date” or untested put yourself in the position of a client. Rather than act as an adviser seek to prove those ideas, strategies and actions by applying them to a real situation.
How to generate new business is one of the most regular questions posed by clients and for obvious reasons. Winning new customers is essential to growth and sustainability and over time owners, directors and managers can become complacent, lose focus and need a guiding hand to put the company back onto a positive footing.
Luckily for me I’ve recently had an ideal opportunity, which was literally very close to home, to test the theory of business generation in a very contemporary field of marketing, social media.
My wife decided last year that it was time, following years of looking after the family, to take up the challenge of running her own ballet school. Being the true professional that she is, my wife ensured that she was fully up to date with syllabi and best practice according to the Royal Academy of Dance. Whilst I had every confidence in my wife’s capability as a teacher I could see as a potential hurdle with her previous steadfast view that she did not “do social media”. No personal Facebook page, no twitter and certainly nothing as exotic as Instagram or Pinterest.
Here was an excellent opportunity for me to not only help my wife achieve her ambition of running a successful school but to also put those many theories to win business through digital channels to the test.
It’s often said that it can be a dangerous, potentially painful process working with your other half but in our experience it proved pretty much straightforward. I know nothing at all about dance let alone ballet and she knew very little of social media and marketing matters.
My first concern was to have a website and to ensure that it was given the right treatment to appear in search terms, to also provide the essential link to sites such as Netmums and Yell.com but also as its essential when creating social media accounts. The website also needed to be fully responsive, smartphone and tablet friendly.
The key target audience for the ballet school is mothers of children aged from two and a half to teenage so my first piece of advice was to establish a solid Facebook page. Starting from scratch it was also going to be important to get matters moving quickly and create a steady flow of enquiries. As with many businesses the primary customer activity when looking for this service/ activity was to go online. A google search for “ballet school” on google would automatically bring up schools that were registered and verified with the search site. To do this the school needed to have a Google account and for the best chance of high profile recognition an active Google+ account.
It was essential that the school became verified and that the map engine within Google had Mrs L’s business linked to the address. That way the school would show up listed with other verified schools and the closer to the target location the higher the ranking. Simple but so many businesses miss his very important step.
After Google+ and Facebook we created twitter, Instagram and Pinterest sites to add breadth and visual impact to the school’s brand.
I suggested that my wife needed to create a regular dialogue with our local community and that was through a localised, gender and age specific “like” campaign for Facebook and a daily news feed of curated stories relating to the art form on twitter simply called “Ballet News”. The latter news update has been a huge success. Why such a success? Mrs L’s attention to detail and regular posts have created an expectation of consistency, entertainment and information which her community greatly appreciate. In response to my prompt on the importance of engagement on Facebook Mrs L launched a regular ballet related picture post and specifically once a week “Tutu Tuesday” featuring a new outfit each week. I take only a very small piece of credit, the genius of the creative idea and execution was entirely down to the proprietor…not me. That signified a watershed moment, the owner of the business owned their media and understood it enough to capitalise on its power.
And what of the results of this test of social media guidance and marital relationship?
Well no divorce…quite the contrary. A thriving business that since launch in April has grown to over 40 regular students and 3 to 4 new enquiries each week 90% either via the website, fed by twitter and Instagram accounts or directly from the Facebook page.
Of course it helps that my wife is a talented teacher and has great rapport with students and parents alike but for me it proved the power of social media. Mrs L has commented that she doesn’t know how she could possibly have managed without Facebook or her website. Interestingly we experimented with more traditional marketing – the results were mixed. The local paper proved the most expensive investment and produced nothing whilst a magazine targeting primary schools more than covers its costs. By far and away the most successful medium for promoting the school is Facebook and the website, searched for on Google.
All of the above and the ongoing success of the school proves that there are advantages in having a strong, well-articulated digital presence aligned to a good product.
Key Social Media Steps for a Start Up
I’m not ready to don the tights and show you my arabesque but I’m very happy to help you grow your organisation be it in education, retail, manufacturing or the service sector if fact any business that thrives on generating new customers.
Drop me a line via the contact form below.
David Laud @davidlaud
The dust is starting to settle after the initial rather mixed response to the Face “book” lift applied to twitter accounts.
You get a rather gentle prod by the platform to decide if you really do want to give it a go but I suspect like many the temptation to see what the fuss is about mixed with the nagging fear of being left behind drives users toward the new look layout.
Personally I don’t mind it, I think it’s a natural evolution but it’s also strikingly similar to many other sites and for a great number of twitter fans it’s a step too far.
But what exactly is all the fuss about?
Is it progress?
My personal view is that it adds certain useful features, in particular the pinning of tweets to the top of your profile page. One problem I see with the changes is the proliferation of smartphone and smaller tablets and their use over PC and laptop. You can now take photos and post so easily from these devices that they are quickly taking the place of the traditional methods used for online interaction. As it stands the new changes have not migrated fully to mobile device formats but no doubt it’s just a matter of time before they do.
Working as I do with professional firms I’m often asked or challenged on the true effectiveness of twitter and other social media platforms. For the purpose of this blog I’ll focus on twitter as it is the most frequently quoted cause of confusion, frustration and anxiety.
Yes, I did mention anxiety. Managing partners, Managing Directors, VP’s & CEO’s are more than aware of the phenomenon that is twitter but few can put their finger on what it is doing for their business.
In the beginning it seemed simple. Create an account, charge the marketing team with tweeting about the wonderful services on offer and sit back and wait for the results. And wait they did, the wind whistling through the trees whilst tweeters tweeted in an increasingly desperate fashion hoping upon hope that someone would tweet back.
Aware of competitor firms growing large follower networks and seemingly becoming the popular point of contact the business owners call the marketing team to account. “Where’s our ROI?” “Show me a spreadsheet of time and cost vs return.” “Why do Bloggs & Co. have five times the followers of our account?”
In a panic and under pressure the marketers fail to deliver the key financial justification for continuation and are forced to concede defeat.
Ok, perhaps an extreme example but the story will have a ring of truth for many. The demand for results, analysis and business owner frustration that the firm is failing to match others or capitalise on this new medium is a very common experience.
What is the answer? It’s not as simplistic as suggesting that having an account and sending the occasional tweet will eventually deliver results but time is a factor and it takes more than you might think to build a truly effective twitter channel.
Here are a few suggestions for those grappling with twitter and losing the fight;
Managing the expectations of the management team and business owners is all important. It can be hard trying to convince an analytical driven leader that they need to invest resource in something that can be quite so hard to quantify. As a marketer I fall into the camp of wanting to measure marketing activity and in all circumstances you should strive to analyse the impact of your efforts. Twitter apps are available to measure any number of actions but don’t get lost in analysis. Keep the focus on the big picture of building the business brand and connecting with your network.
Traffic visiting your website through tweeted links will be one clear indication of reach as will comments or feedback from network members.
As I’ve referred to before by way of analogy, twitter is very much like a broadcast channel. Decide on your audience the type of output you want to produce and the viewing figures you’d like to generate. Remember very few of us would want to tune in to a channel that is 100% or even 50% advertising so keep the balance fresh and entertaining.
If you would like more specific help with developing your social media strategy or simply making your existing activities more effective please drop me a line.
David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
As Barack Obama appeared through the huge curtains at the Chicago Convention Centre his smile said it all, the crowd nevertheless said it for him, over and over again, a little like a re-tweet, “four more years, four more years….”.
With the economy far from recovery and very tough times forecast the US electorate have remained faithful to the Democratic Presidential incumbent.
Obama’s feisty Republican opponent, Mitt Romney had but one task, admit defeat gracefully and in a very public address he did just that.
No doubt the networks will be poring over the multitude of statistical data that such events spew out but for me there is one clear set of statistics that left me in no doubt of the outcome.
The evidence was part of our modern history.
In the Spring of 2011 a political wave started, initially overlooked by those in power. All too soon their underestimate of the strength of this wave became apparent due in no small part to the turbo charge push of social media platforms.
But four years before the Arab Spring, back in early 2007, a relatively unknown senator was running for president against Democratic nominee and household name, Hilary Clinton. But on November 4, 2008, Obama then 47 became the first African American President winning an election against Republican candidate, John McCain.
Mr Obama turned to social media platforms to gather support, raise funds and engage with volunteers the essential foot soldiers of any successful campaign.
Fast forward to the US election of 2012. Presidential wannabe Romney was trying hard to compete on twitter, facebook and Linkedin but unfortunately for the Republicans he was up against an opponent who is a natural social media communicator with a team of dedicated experts supporting his social media broadcasts.
Enough of this blogging rhetoric what about the facts?
On Twitter Mitt Romney has a respectable 1.7 million followers and has made 1,350 tweets. But just compare that to Barack Obama’s 22.7 million followers and 8,000 tweets.
As if those figures weren’t bad enough Michelle Obama has more followers than Mitt at a very healthy 2.2 million.
On Facebook Mitt has worked hard to match Barack but even his 12.1 million page likes pale compared to the re-elected presidents 32.8 million page likes with over 3.5 million actively talking about the content.
Google Plus – smaller numbers, but we’d guess at that. Obama 2.3 million +1’s with Romney less than half at 1 million +1’s.
Of course it’s not all about the numbers but if your message is being broadcast at those levels through these channels you have a major advantage, especially if your demographic fits the profile of the more active social media users.
As if to prove the point Obama’s victory tweet showing his embrace with wife Michelle and the quote “four more years” is now the most re-tweeted tweet of all time, so far RT’d over 650,000 times beating someone called Justin Bieber (you know who he is you just don’t want to admit it – ed) who’d held the record at 223,000.
Whether it proves to be the right decision for America only time will tell but one thing’s for sure, if a politician has any serious ambition they need to understand and harness the true strength of social media.
David Laud – Marketing Consultant
i2i Business Solutions LLP
e-mail me at email@example.com follow me on twitter @davidlaud
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Smartphone sales indicate that we’re now far more likely to have one of these technological marvels than not. Be it an iphone, HTC, Samsung, Google or other wannabe market leader they all offer a range of tools that take us way beyond “making a call”.
Recent research by Samsung indicated that making a call ranks 5th or lower in the list of things we do with our devices taking only 12 minutes a day on the task that was the original purpose of the mobile.
These days we would far rather browse the net, check our social media feeds, play games or listen to music but what else can these treasures of technology do for us?
If you’re on the go, often out of the office and need to stay in touch then it’s likely you’ve synched your work e-mail to the Smartphone.
Perhaps you’re responsible for making an impact with social media for your business. Couldn’t be easier to download the LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter apps and post on the move. They don’t all offer the same functionality as the PC based version but the convenience and immediacy of of posting and reading feeds whilst out of the office can be invaluable, especially if you’re using twitter or Facebook to monitor customer feedback.
Being mobile can create problems when trying to find venues for events, meetings etc.. No need to worry if you’ve a good map app connected and your location broadcast function is enabled on the phone. You can trace your progress on foot, in the car (if safely cradled and not in your hand) or on the train and even ask for a route to determine the time it will take.
Sharing information with colleagues and clients might be important to you but a problem if the all important project document sits on your office network. Fear not, cloud based services such as Dropbox can allow sharing of folders or links to specific documents with a few well placed taps.
If your life is so hectic you feel you’re not keeping up with the business world and areas that may affect you and your company I’d suggest revisiting the good old podcast. Finding the time to read trade journals, newspapers and magazines can be hard. These days there are a multiude of very informative and professionally produced podcasts. From wake up to money to the bottom line, most BBC business related radio broadcasts ara available to download and easy to subscribe to. Using the Smartphone as an aural digital box can be very handy. Listen to the podcast while commuting and get back in the know.
Perhaps like me you have the odd idea, recall of something that must be done or just want to put it in writing. You can use your Smartphone as a digital notebook recorder. Voice memos, notes and also software such as Dragon can allow you to talk to the device and have your words appear in document form which can then be saved, e-mailed or linked to social media. It can take a bit of practice.
On the subject of voice recognition a word of warning – you can look very silly having an argument with Apple’s “Siri” when it refuses to understand your command for the 6th time. Especially if you’re sitting in traffic apparently shouting at your dashboard. On a serious note Apple’s Siri – IOS.6 introduced a new array of functions and it’s expected to become the lead in voice recognition instruction leading to users asking for and relying upon responses directly from their phone. Google beware!
Our Smartphone’s have become almost indispensable items and as we learn to use more of their functionality and apps improve it’s very likely that the humble PC will take an even bigger step into the dark corner of the office.
Of course the beauty of these devices is that hey go beyond the pure work tool, they’re part of our every day. Hear a piece of music in an advert and want to know what it is? Just rewind and use your Shazam app. Miss the latest BBC drama just click on the BBC iPlayer app and you can catch up. Want to watch the match but you’re stuck on the train? Apps like SkyGo allow for immediate real time access to your subscribed channels.
On holiday you can get the Smartphone to translate menus and of course take high definition pictures or video which can be instantly uploaded and shared via social media apps. Looking for a coffee shop or cafe for lunch, the geo-location platforms such as FourSquare can help pinpoint the nearest offer and top tip.
Can they become addictive?….Oh yes, which is why it’s a good idea to have a schedule where you ensure its put to rest. Over use of the Smartphone can lead to sleepless nights, sore eyes and headaches let alone the ergonomic issues of thumb and finger use and a less gadget obsessed partner feeling jealous of the attention given to it and not them. I guess we’re not too far away from a gadget being cited as the other party in a divorce petition.
On balance they are proving to be far more help than hindrance but they shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of a good old fashioned conversation, with eye contact and your mobile on “silent”.
If you’ve got an app suggestion that others might find useful let me know and we’ll share.