From Content Marketing

The Content War – Is your business poised for victory?

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by Jonathan Barrick

“Open war is upon you, whether you’d risk it or not.” – Aragorn to King Theoden, Lord of the Rings

I’m not going to tell you that a crucial shift is coming in business. I’m not going to tell you that, simply because it’s already happened. We’re already in the midst of the Content War, and if your business hasn’t taken steps to mobilize, you’re potentially losing ground to your competition already. Businesses of all kinds are producing content at an astonishing rate, and it’s making a difference for those who do it right. The good news? It’s not too late to take up arms.

I’m not going to get too in-depth on what qualifies as ‘content’, or more appropriately, ‘good content’. For the best resource on this, check out the awesome book “Content Rules” by C.C Chapman and Ann Handley. Suffice to say that whatever your content consists of, whether it be articles, images, videos, or a combination of all three, the overarching qualifier necessary to register as ‘good content’ is VALUE. Whatever you produce for your audience, it’s got to be valuable.

Nobody builds authority, expertise, or trust with garbage content. Delivering value to your audience is the only way to gain ground in the Content War.

Time to get deeper in to what factors impact the success of your team, and are necessary to actually deliver that value to your audience. How does one business gain an advantage over their competition in the Content War? By being superior across a variety of measures, none of which have anything to do with having the deepest pockets.

You’ll be the most effective in the Content War if you have:
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Superior Intel – Don’t confuse intelligence with data. Raw numbers are useless without context and interpretation. First, look where the action is happening and examine the types of content that are generating action and engagement. Understand what your audience craves for content, and then understand why they crave it. Ask yourself “What is it about that piece of content that delivers value for them?” Look, listen, and figure out what you can give that they want. This will give you a purpose for your content.
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Superior Supply Chain – How do you get the content from the idea stage to being in front of your audience in the best possible way? Who in your organization is the best person(s) to provide the raw materials you need to create your audience’s desired content? Who can take that raw material and turn it in to a usable product? Who is the best person to deliver the content in a timely manner in the right location? These all may be the same person, or all different people. Identify the best team to have in place to take content from concept to reality and deliver it.

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Superior Training – What tools will you use? What are the intricacies of navigating through the necessary networks to reach your audience? Squeezing the most from the tools you have available helps you maximize the impact of your content. Your team should be trained on the ins-and-outs of whatever platforms and tools you’re using to create, distribute, and monitor your content.

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Superior Tactics – You know what kinds of content to make. You know who the best people are to help make that content. And you know how and where to post it. The next question is WHEN to post it. The brilliant Gary Vaynerchuk once said that content is one thing, but CONTEXT is truly where the power comes from. Creating the greatest content the world has ever seen is all for naught if it has no context. This article might as well be called the “Relevance War”, because that’s really where we are headed. Posting the right stuff at the right time is how you become the most relevant. Be tactical about what you post, when you post it, and where.

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Superior Leadership – Leadership matters, not at just the level of the Generals and Admirals, but at the Squad Leader level. Bring everyone in the loop on what your objectives are in the Content War. Allow them to be flexible, to adapt to changing battle conditions. Never stop learning. Never stop pushing. Having superior leadership gives clarity of purpose across all levels.

Finally, be aware that involvement in the Content War is not optional. The magnificent quote at the beginning of this article sums it up quite nicely. “Open war is upon you, whether you’d risk it or not.” While a business may elect not to create, this does not exclude that business from being compared to all the others who do. In a world full of conquerors, as the world of business truly is, how long will a business last if they stand idly by? Good content is authority, expertise, trust, and visibility. Good content is value, not just for your customers, but for your business. Good content is relevance.

Time to take up arms, and join the battle.

Listen up! Here’s 10 top snippets from Social Slam!

by Jonathan Barrick

Social Slam 2013 has concluded, and that makes me sad. However, Social Slam 2013 was awesome, and that makes me happy. The content was brilliant, the speakers were tremendous, and the people were the best. Social Slam is without a doubt, a must-attend event for ANYONE working with digital tools, professionally or personally, to connect and communicate.

Scanning back through the countless tweets sent out during the event, there’s so much gold it’s clear that everyone walked away from the event energized and excited to get to work using new techniques and approaches to the digital space. Here is but a handful of the great content that was shared during Social Slam, but for those craving more, simply search for the #soslam hashtag on Twitter and immerse yourself!

“You’re not just competing with the guy down the street. You’re competing globally.” – @jeffbullas

My take: Jeff’s own presence at Social Slam after over 40hrs of exhaustive delay-ridden travel time reminds us all that there are no borders in social media. Forget about competing locally, and be awesome worldwide.

“Social levels the playing field for introverts and extroverts.” – @jeffbullas

My take: Your content isn’t judged based on how you act at cocktail parties. It’s judged based on its value. By creating great content, even the most meek and mild of us can become social superstars.

“Use your social media to tell your whole story: employees, community, environment.” @xanpearson

My take: Your story is not contained within your logo, your mission statement, or your brochure. It’s contained within the actions of every single one of your employees, customers, and partners. Use the power of social to share the entirety of your brand.

“Blog comments come from emotional reactions to your content. They need to WANT to share their take on your content.” – @dinodogan

My take: Dino reminds us that comments don’t appear simply because you wrote something. They appear because something ‘sparked’ inside the reader. An emotional impact triggers the desire to comment. Want comments? Write something that creates that ‘spark’.

“Community is at the heart of everything we do.” – @gabriellenyc

My take: Wow! What an INCREDIBLE talk this was. Gabrielle captivated the entire audience with her amazing stories and reminds us all that everything we do connects us to other people. Everyone we meet, shake hands with, share a laugh with, share a moment of sadness or of joy with, inevitably becomes part of our personal community. Social media amplifies this and makes our communities grow stronger, larger, and faster, stretching across the globe.

“You can’t teach how to blog unless you blog. You can’t teach Twitter if you don’t use Twitter.” – @markwschaefer

My take: In other words, if you want to be a great communicator, then you need to COMMUNICATE. Invest the time in learning the tools, honing your voice, and appreciating your audience. Becoming great in social takes time, and takes practise.

“Common sense is strangely uncommon most of the time.” @JeffBullas

My take: Think before you do. Read before you post. Choose your words wisely. Jeff’s statement is deceptively simple, yet speaks volumes. Many of those using social do so with very little forethought. Be smart about how you use social media, use care and caution, and pay attention to the perceptions of your audience. It matters.

“Automation isn’t evil. Use it right & save time. You can’t automate & then bail on your audience.” – @ChrisQueso

My take: Social media is not a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of media. It’s real-time, and is fuelled by interactivity and engagement. Using automation for certain repetitive tasks can be a huge time saver for many of us, but it does not mean that your social networks are now self-sustaining. It needs to have your personal interaction and attention, otherwise you’re just advertising.

“If all you’re doing is sharing mediocre content, you’re amplifying the suck.” – @jenkaneco

My take: ‘Meh’ content does not get retweeted. It does not get liked. It certainly doesn’t get commented on. Don’t just post for the sake of posting. Post because you’ve got something that is bursting at the seams with awesome. Deliver value, all the time, or your brand will be one big ‘meh’.

“It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story. – Mr. Rogers” – @ducttape

My take: Your story is your brand. Who you are, what you’re all about, what you do and why you do it. This is why people like you, this is why people like your company. Don’t seal up your story away from your community. Share it & be proud of it. Your community isn’t just listening to your story, it is an integral part of it.

In addition to being an event overflowing with great content, it was also one of the greatest networking events I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Speakers did not run back to their hotel rooms or to the airport after their time on stage had concluded. They became part of the crowd, attending other sessions, and talking with everyone they could find. I was absolutely honoured to personally meet many of the brilliant headliners, had some truly brilliant conversations, and lots of fun hanging out at the pubs!

(So glad I got a chance to hang out with so many brilliant people, like Jeff Bullas & Gabrielle Laine Peters!)

My most profound thanks to Mark Schaefer for making this an incredibly valuable event that will undoubtedly influence attendees to go out to their various corners of the world and utilize the awesome lessons that were learned, and share these lessons with their own communities. I know that I’m already looking forward to Social Slam 2014!

http://soslam.com>

Knowledge Hoarders – Does your business have a problem finding the ‘awesome’?

by Jonathan Barrickimage

Businesses reluctant to pursue activities in social media inevitably blame their lack of action on factors like ‘We don’t have time’, ‘Our customers aren’t there’ or the always popular ‘We don’t have anything interesting to say’.

I take issue with all of these, as they’ve all been proven wrong by the countless social media successes of businesses of all types. However, the one that makes me shake my head in frustration most is why so many businesses in all kinds of different industries firmly believe that they’ve got NOTHING to say in social media.

Really? In your entire organization there’s nothing going on that’s worth talking about with your customers? If this is true, then I fear for the future of your company because you’re stagnating.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the good stuff coming through in your business because you’re so accustomed to the day-in day-out operations that you become numb to what makes your company exceptional. But rest assured, there’s always SOMETHING there that’s timely and relevant to your community. There’s always SOMETHING that’s awesome.

Too many businesses treat knowledge the way those troubled people on “Hoarders” treat the objects that occupy every square inch of their homes. It accumulates gradually, a little bit at a time, nothing is ever actually done with it, and very seldom is it ever realized just how much there actually is. Well, the time has come to unleash the power of your knowledge hoard and share the piles of ‘awesome’ that your company has spent so much time accumulating over the years.

Here’s a few examples of how you might find treasure troves of knowledge you could unleash as great content:

  • Local/Regional Reps – These reps know the ins and outs of their territories. They’ve spent the time learning the intricacies of local markets, and what you need to get things done in specific regions, and as such are a perfect source for targeted blog posts, tweets, or even YouTube videos. For example, does climate affect your product or service? Do you sell in northern Canada as well as the southern US? Well these are the guys you can get insight from on how climate plays a role in their area.
  • Engineers – This group is overflowing with knowledge. Is your product engineered to comply with a certain set of standards or regulations? These tend to be overly complex and hard to understand, so why not use blog posts or short YouTube videos to explain them in terms that matter to your customers? Explaining why things are designed the way that they are goes a long way to building value in your products and trust in your company.
  • Customer Service – FAQ’s are incredibly valuable, and no group is better at compiling a list of this type than your customer service team. These can make great tweets, Facebook posts, and can become an ongoing series of blog posts. One additional thing I’d suggest is adding a bit of personal touch to the list by quoting and attributing the answers to individual reps. They’ll appreciate being presented as an expert, and the readers place more faith in the answer if it comes from an identifiable human. Creating great content should boost your brand not just outside your company, but inside it as well.

Finding the sources of knowledge in your business isn’t a chore. It’s FUN, and inevitably what you’ll find is that your company has a lot more to offer a social audience than you think it does. Great content isn’t your product specs, it’s not your latest pricing special, or your corporate tagline; it’s the awesome that is contained in the brains of your team. Find the awesome, and you’ll find great content that your customers will care about.

Happy hunting!

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

The Big, Bold Benefits of Blogging for Business

by Jonathan Barrick

A recent eMarketer article told an interesting tale on what marketers are planning for social activity in 2012. Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents marked Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as the top 3 places where they are currently active. After all, these are easily the most talked-about social networks right now, and are poised to continue to be tremendously effective in connecting with customers for the foreseeable future.
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Blogs came in at #4 on the list. This shouldn’t be too much of a shock, since blogs are one of the oldest forms of ‘social’ on the list, according to how we define it today. We should take note that every item on this list (with the exception of ‘blogs’ and ‘forums’) are specific ‘sites’, like Twitter and Flickr for example. ‘Blogs’ however is a pretty broad term, and includes innumerable variations across such platforms as Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous, and more.

What might surprise you, however, is that of all the social options available to marketers, blogs are indicated as the one area that will see the greatest increase in activity in 2012. Why would this be? Shouldn’t blogs be the one area that would see the LEAST amount of growth, since there are other newer shinier social sites popping up all the time? You’d think so, but you’d be wrong.

Businesses must recognize the extensive list of benefits that come as a result of maintaining a relevant and up-to-date blog. Blogs are one of the most effective ways to convey what your brand is REALLY all about. What you talk about, and how you talk about it, gives your readers a very personal insight in to what the culture of your business is. It sheds light on what the core values and beliefs are in your organization by addressing what you stand for, how you view issues facing your customers, and how open your business is to talking about what’s going on behind the logo.

In addition to the obvious ‘branding’ benefits that come with maintaining a blog, there are many other benefits that might not be apparent at first glance. Not the least of which is the boost you can achieve in organic search traffic. You see, it’s most likely that your main website is optimized for a certain collection of keywords. These are typically your brand name, specific product names, and product or service types. However, when writing blog posts you create an entirely new batch of content that answers completely different types of search queries.

While your public website might be optimized for terms or things like ‘computer repair’, or ‘flower arrangements’, your blog posts will start to appear in search results because of specific questions that they answer. For example, if we use the ‘flower arrangements’ product/business type, you might write a blog post about ‘Most Popular Spring Flowers for Weddings’. Now, this blog post would appear in the search results for much more specific questions about that particular topic, like “what kind of flowers should i choose for a spring wedding?”. You’re not just showing up to sell ‘flowers’, you’re showing up to answer a particular call for help.

My experience  has shown that searchers who find helpful content as a result of a more specific question, rather than just a product page appearing from a short keyword, are more likely to spend more time on the site READING the material that answers their questions. Through blog posts, you’re not just trying to sell them something; you’re trying to help them learn more about the topics that interest them. The goodwill that occurs through being genuinely helpful goes a long way to building relationships with your readers, so that when they do need to buy, you’re much more likely to be their first choice.

The big bold benefits of blogging for business will come in varying degrees, based on the approach you take. The more you do, the benefits grow exponentially. If you’re simply using it as a press release newsfeed, don’t expect much in terms of results. If you’re using it to reach out, to answer questions, to offer help, and to provide added value for your readers then your hard work will pay off. Let’s just hope that for the sake of readers everywhere that the increase in efforts of businesses in 2012 will be of the more ‘helpful’ variety.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com