Archives for category: Content Marketing

(Click on the image above to view the book on Amazon!)

With possibly the longest subtitle ever: “Move your business forward through the convergence of search, social & content marketing,” Accelerate! cannot be accused of false advertising.

Quiet simply, Accelerate is a blueprint for successfully using 21st century tools for small business online marketing. Written by Arnie Kuenn, the president of Vertical Measures in Phoenix, and a co-founder of the Arizona Interactive Marketing Association; Mr. Kuenn certainly knows his stuff. In fact, it is one of the few criticism of the book that I have, is that it gets a little dense at times, particularly early on. The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) section while being very detailed gets to be a little much and will require a couple of readings for all but the most experienced of readers. However, the style does settle down, and it would be a mistake to give up on the book as and what you are left with in the end is, a user friendly handbook for search, social media, and content marketing.

The book covers all the major players as you might expect; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google; but is also covers a lot of the less mainstream sites. Accelerate! plucks a number online tools out from the magic geek SEO toolbox to help with almost every aspect of the radical overhaul of your marketing strategy that will undoubtedly unfold once you have finished the book. I myself, am already looking carefully at how I put posts together for my site and have joined a number of social bookmarking sites directly because of this book.

A self published book, also available in a Kindle edition, I was initially concerned about the physical binding on Accelerate! I’ve had problems in the past with the spines of self published books cracking and then loosing pages after a single reading. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with Accelerate! I did take care not to be too absusive to the spine, but i needn’t have worried, the book is in great shape and looks the same as when it arrived.

I mention the self publishing issue, not just because of quality, but also because the text of the book directly references it as well. With a subject such as search and social media marketing, it is easy to get very out of date very quickly – Google+, for example, is not mentioned once. As the text explains, being a self published book, in addition to being an E-book, allows for easier updates than traditional publishing. I, for one, hope we do get new editions on a fairly regular basis, because this a great resource and one I know I will be referring to for quite some time. In fact, I found it quite odd to see URLs in the footnotes and be unable to click on them – should have got the Kindle version!

Mr. Kuenn’s book will not tell you how to brand and create a marketing strategy for your business – hopefully that is why you read my blog! What Accelerate! will do, however, is tell you how to navigate the waters of the increasingly complex world of search, social media, and content marketing. This still might not mean that you still don’t need to hire someone of Mr. Kuenn’s caliber, or the man himself, to work with you on these magic things. But if you do you’ll at least know what they are talking about and why.

If you want to get serious about search, social media and content marketing, you need to buy this book – it does what is says on the cover!

(Clicking on the cover above will take you to the book’s Amazon page and contribute to my book buying habit / problem.)

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(Click on the image above to download the book from Amazon!)

Being, essentially, 128 pages long (the appendix takes it up to 163 pages) and a free download it would be difficult to complain too much about the e-book: “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth.” Luckily you really don’t have to, as it makes for an engaging, and brief, read. It also has the potential to become an important work for those of us who care about marketing our businesses and the tools that we use to achieve that.

The Zero Moment of Truth is an attempt to update a model, first coined by Procter and Gamble in 2005, used to describe the marketing’s effect on the consumer. The model goes something like this: Stimulus; in the form of an advertisement, First Moment of Truth; when the consumer sees the product on the shelf in the store, and Second Moment of Truth; when the customer experiences the product they have bought. Although the terms were coined in the 21st century, the concept would be understood by a character on the TV show Mad Men. Zero Moment of Truth is an attempt to explain and define how search, and social media, has changed our buying and consuming habits as now there is now an additional step to this marketing model. This additional step is that advertising is now prodding us, the consumer, to research, ask our friends, and ask even complete strangers, about the product online before we get anywhere near the store or an e-commerce site.

Inter-spaced with video introductions to each chapter by marketers and search professionals, the book neatly dissects what the Zero Moment of Truth means for all of us – including consumers. It particularly, has no time for manufacturers who feel that their product does not generate the interest for social media – I wish my business had as many fans as “Bounce dryer sheets” to give you an example!

Another, potentially even more important, concept in the book is the idea that customers do not talk about bad experiences online. Obviously, it is not always the case, but Mr. Lecinski puts forward a compelling case that in the majority of circumstances, clients want to give good reviews far more than they want to give bad ones – preferring to forget about bad experiences. This being the case, the book argues, that unless you have a serious problem in your business (and you’d probably want to know about it if you did) reviews and comments are a chance to engage your clients and should not be ignored.

Since Mr. Lecinski is managing director, U.S. Sales & Service, for Google a book that extolls the virtues of search and reviews (Google places anyone?) could be seen as a little self-serving. This is probably fair, but it does not make anything that is said in the book any more relevant and important. Although, it does have to be said that the lack of mentions of Facebook (mentioned five times) and Twitter (mentioned twice) can be a bit jarring when compared to Google (mentioned 72 times). This is a minor gripe, however, and a great book from a very clever marketer.

I do, however, have a major gripe about this book and others of its ilk.

I read a lot, and when I do I listen to music – like I imagine most people do. Adding video into the mix is a logical extension of the e-book medium and I think it has a place – particularly in a book such as this – is logical. The problem with video content in books, however, is when the producers decide that they have to add background music as they would if they were producing a spot for television. Some basic understanding of the way your product is being consumed please people! I don’t want to have to mute what I’m listening to at the start of each chapter just so I can listen to someone speak!

This is still a very good book and well worth your time even if you never watch the videos – which I suggest you do – just remember to keep the remote for the music handy.

So Facebook and Twitter, which we looked at last week, are now part of your lexicon, what now?

There are other social media tools out there which can be of significant benefit. For Business to Client (B2C) businesses such as veterinarians, Facebook and Twitter are the ones to be using. However, having a strategy for some of the other sites can set you apart from your competitors and provide some interesting opportunities.

Foursquare

A personal favorite of mine, Foursquare is a location based social media tool with game elements. What does all that mean? Well, Foursquare allows users to “Check-in” to businesses and other venues using their smart phone’s GPS functionality. By “Checking-in,” users of the service let friends, via the service itself or by sharing on Facebook and / or Twitter. know where they are and why they are there. The game element comes from trying to rack up the most check-ins, and there by points and “badges,” than your friends. Users of the service can also compete with strangers for the title of “Mayor” of businesses or locations. The Mayor title does not mean anything other than bragging rights and more points when checking in. Badges can sometimes be difficult to get and so the competition can drive behavior. An example of this is the “Gym Rat” badge, that can only be achieved by checking in at a gym 10 times in 30 days.

Foursquare Badges

A selection of Foursquare badges

 Businesses can offer specials to Foursquare users when they check-in. Chilli’s, for example, offers free chips and salsa to anyone checking in on Foursquare – customers just show their smart phone to their server. Businesses may also reward the mayor of their business, making the title more coveted and therefore create competition around their brand.

 The grand theory of Foursquare is that it creates loyalty. If users have a choice between two businesses, one of whom there trying to become mayor of, they will choose that business or one is running a special for Foursquare users. Users of Foursquare can also leave tips, good and bad, about locations helping other users to choose where they might want to eat – for example. Because it is location based, it only offers places that are nearby, and allows the user to filter the results by type. This solves the information overload that can occur if smart phone users just trying to use Google.

Foursquare definitely has the potential to create a community of loyal users, and it has personal benefits (I use it to help keep track of my expenses!) However, the user base is small compared to other social media sites – particularly outside of major metropolitan areas. There are a number of other competitors in the location based world, the largest of whom is Facebook Places. The advantage of Facebook places is that it is part of Facebook, but it lacks a lot of the game elements that makes Foursquare fun and does not have the same controls on sharing.

Foursquare and other location based services have come under fire for the potential safety implications of letting your social media “friends” know where you are. This has been way overblown and as long as users are sensible, not creating a venue called “home” and checking into it for example, location based services will be around for a long time to come.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, is often called the professional Facebook and with good reason. Like Facebook, LinkedIn revolves around a profile. The difference is that your LinkedIn profile is essentially your resume. You can find mine here. Users of LinkedIn can then make connections with current, and former, colleagues to create a network. It is then possible to reach out to colleagues of colleagues more easily because you know which of your network knows them. LinkedIn has an introduction feature specifically for this. It is also possible to recommend, and get recommend, which also then appears on your profile.

Mike's LinkedIn Profile

Part of my LinkedIn Profile

Groups on LinkedIn are pretty much just like other web forums, but by being directly in LinkedIn it is possible to be a member of large numbers of different groups, on different subjects, without having to login to multiple sites. The additional functionality of being able to make connections that can help you professionally in the real world is obvious.

 A questions section does pretty much what you’d expect – allows for users to post questions and then other users to answer them. The advantage that LinkedIn has over other sites with a similar model, such as Quora, is that you are able to research the person giving the answer to see whether they know what they are talking about. You also then have a mechanism for connecting with them.

 A recent, and extremely innovative feature from LinkedIn has been news. This allows users to browse and share news items with their connections based on popularity within professional categories. It also allows users to share these news stories via Twitter – expanding the reach of your network yet again.

 LinkedIn does allow companies to have their own profiles, a bit like pages on Facebook, and this is interesting from a recruitment perspective. Groups are also being used successfully for recruitment and many feature a jobs section. LinkedIn also recently launched an “apply via LinkedIn” button that can be used for online job postings outside of the main LinkedIn site.

LinkedIn is a business to business tool (B2B), rather than the B2C tool that Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter can be; however, don’t be surprised if LinkedIn does not become more and more a factor in recruitment of even minor posts in organizations. LinkedIn does have many issues (their mobile app is hopeless for anything other than news for example), but is a great professional tool for anyone interested in their career, or profession.

YouTube

YouTube is the video sharing site on the web and although being social it not at its core, it is still social media. Users uploaded material which they, and other users, can then share and comment on. Users can even create their own channels of material making it easier for other users to find similar videos. YouTube also has a number of great tools allowing you to embed a video directly into a website or blog. Video dramatically increases your website’s visibility to search engines, like Google and clients love it – a win all round!

Where YouTube really comes into its own, however, is that it is very easy for a video to go viral – spread around the internet like a virus. Of course, the video has to have some kind of merit; be funny, very dramatic, or even just be very bad, but if your brand is attached to this video it can be great publicity or almost zero cost. For example, it is not unusual for clips of TV shows on YouTube to have dramatically higher ratings that on the channels they were produced for!

Above is a great example of a viral pet video – 10 1/2 million views as of this writing and massive mainstream media attention for Denver’s owners. All from a video shot upon getting home and finding someone got into the cat treats!

 A great test of YouTube’s power is to pick any subject you like and search for a video on it at YouTube. Your are almost guaranteed that someone has shot and posted a video on that very subject. Thank you Corey for showing me this!

 Video production is really outside the realm of this already overly long post, but it is simple, very low cost and an extremely effective way to market your business.

Some of these social media tools may appeal to you, and other may not. There is definitely a take it or leave it feel to the services that we have talked about today but it is important to understand that to not be involved in social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and to an extent Foursquare does not mean that your brand and business are not affected by these mediums. Your clients are using these tools and so might your competitors you should at least have an awareness of what is being said and why. The genie is out of the bottle and without getting involved, it is possible for you to loose influence over your brand – the control probably went some time ago as it is now the customer who ultimately defines what your brand means.

Next week, a change of pace: Up to your neck in traditional media!

As I’ve discussed previously here, being online is an incredibly important part of any business marketing strategy and social media is key part of that. It should not be mistaken, however, as a marketing strategy itself. It is a powerful and extremely useful tool, but like any tool, if welded by the wrong hands it can be dangerous! Social media is about engagement – having a conversation not about shouting or making speeches.

Social media is really pretty easy when it boils down to it. The problems arise when people do not understand the tool or try to apply 20th century marketing to what is very much a 21st century tool. Also please stay away from people calling themselves social medial gurus. There are very few people who actually qualify for the title, and the social media landscape keeps changing, that only the most general principles apply. For this reason I strongly advise everyone who asks about how to get started with social media to not use their business’s online reputation as an experimental playground. Get a feel for all the spaces we are going to talk about before launching on your grand social media adventure!

Facebook

For business to client businesses (b2c) such as veterinary practices or retail / service establishments Facebook is the social media site that you have to be part of if you are going to explore social media. A word about terminology: people on Facebook have profiles, businesses and famous people have pages. You cannot create a page without a profile. Profiles are friends of other profiles and are fans of pages. Confused yet?

The difference between profiles and pages is important because profiles exchange information between each other. With pages the flow of information is one way- from page to profile. There are businesses out there that have profiles. This is problem because it violates Facebook’s terms of service and because your clients might not want to open up their family photos to a buiness they frequent a couple of times a year!

If you have never been on Facebook, then sign yourself up and spend a significant amount of time getting used to the site. I’m not talking about a hour of two here, I’m talking about 10-30 minutes everyday for a couple of weeks. This is how people who use Facebook, use Facebook. Search for old and current friends, become fans of other businesses – even the odd movie star or TV program and see how others are using the site. But stay away from employees or bosses – too much to go wrong on all sides.

The biggest thing to understand about Facebook is that it is not a website in the traditional sense. Clients will rarely look at your business’s page or friends at your own profile for that matter. Facebook users look at their wall. The “wall” is like a notice board that constantly updates with information that is relevant to you – the pages you have “liked” and the profiles of your friends. As these profiles and pages are updated, those updates automatically appear on your wall. I take time explaining this because, as you will see, there plently of businesses who forget this and post 20 updates one after the other and then pat themselves on the back for all the information that is now on their Facebook page.

page

When you post to your page - you are looking at your page. But this is almost certainly not what your fans are going to see.

The problem is that this may as well be spam: who wants to read 20 posts all on the same buiness and on similar subjects all at the same time!? Also, Facebook users tend to respond to what is at the top of their wall, something that is a day or even a couple of hours old may get skipped over. Spreading those twenty posts over ten days will work far better for only slightly more effort.

Wall or News feed

Your fans are going to be looking at something like this. Note the small post at the bottom of the page - it is easy to get overlooked but becoming a spammer is worse!

We will talk more about content in future posts, but it is important to have something to say when starting a Facebook page. Remember, this is the voice of your business talking to your clients. Be friendly, but be professional. See what other businesses a doing and then do your own thing. Facebook is constantly evolving both as a website but also in how people use it.

Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging service. With only 140 characters with which to broadcast a message to your followers! Twitter is an excellent business to business (B2B) tool and can be used quite successfully as a B2C communication tool. Twitter, however, is not nearly as popular as Facebook and is demographically quite different. Twitter users tend to be younger and Twitter seems to be much more popular in major metropolitan areas than in smaller towns.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter does not have the same restriction on accounts having to be linked to a real person. Like Facebook, I strongly recommend getting a feel for Twitter by signing yourself up and seeing how other people and businesses are using it. Something to really keep in mind with Twitter is that everything, unless it is a direct message which you have to specifically select, is public.

Twitter page

Everything is public with Twitter - engagement is the name of the game.

There are few new conventions you’ll need to learn for Twitter: @ before someone’s name is how you specify that a message is for someone – it is still public, but allows you to flag the message for someone’s attention. A # before a term is a way of identifying that term as the subject of your message. It can also be used to provide context and helps with searching for messages on a subject. The message “I’ve been waiting for 2 hours” #thisvetsucks” would be a good example of context and providing a message that is easy to find by others – even if you might not want it to be! Retweeting the term used to describe the way twitter allows you to rebroadcast someone else’s message to your followers (similar to sharing on Facebook). Sometimes retweets are prefaced with RT for clarity.

Twitter is a lot of fun and although can take a bit more getting used to that Facebook, and it’s B2C benefits are less easy to see that Facebook, it is ultimately the tool which many find themselves turning for everything from advice to the latest news (Twitter regularly beats the major networks on breaking stories).

Google+

Very much the new kid on the block, Google+ is an interesting mix of Facebook and Twitter. The problem is that it is so new that no one has any idea how it is going to be used and It does not even cater to business at the moment. People who have Google+ accounts (it is still in closed tryouts at the moment) do seem to like it, but like everyone else, are not quite sure how it fits into the mix. I for one don’t even know if I want another social media network and find Google+ pretty limited due to how few of my friends and colleagues are on it.

I’ll cover a few other social media sites, briefly, next week but the bottom line is that social media is a significant part of today’s marketing landscape. If you a marketing, you need to be using Facebook and you need to be thinking about Twitter. Social Media really is a lot of fun. Discover the fun part first and then then work will not seem like quite such a chore.

Still confused? Social media not for you? Post a comment and I’ll see if I can help.

Next week: Waist High in Social Media Marketing

You might have heard, but getting your business online is kind of a big deal. It is not everything when it comes to marketing, but it is a significant component of any, and all, marketing strategies in the 21st century.

An online presence, more than any other area, is the one piece of marketing you must have. You must have a website, period. No ifs, no ands, no buts.

An online presence, more than ever, has always been about content. Even in the days when there was no term “content marketing” you could have someone build a website for you, but someone who knows your business inside out (that means you) still would have had to write the content. These days content, and particularly, new content, is king. The return on investment of a website is directly related to the effort, not necessarily money, that is poured into it. Your clients will be much more impressed by the effort, and the creation of a useful tool, than by flashy graphics. There was a time when a website could be a “set it and forget it” proposition (however the good websites were never this) and today that is almost impossible to do unless you want to be thought of as irrelevant. Your website will need to included the tools, and you will have to devote the time and energy, to keep it updated on a regular basis.

A lot the content of your website will be informed by your marketing strategybranding,  and your ability to market to your strengths. But it is also worth talking with your staff, and clients, about what they want to see and what they would find useful to have access to. Make a plan of action consisting of what you must have, what you would like to have, and things you might want to experiment with at some point. This will allow you to have a real idea of what you will be buying from your website designer. It will also give you some stages to work with so you can get started, see how it all works, and then make any tweaks before moving on.

Notice I said “what you will be buying from your website designer,” not: “what you will be buying from your website designer- if you use one.” If you are thinking of breaking out the books and learning to code your own website to save a few bucks, please stop. If you are bored with your current job, and web designer is your new passion, then please go for it. If not, please spare the internet, your customers, and yourself, the pain – do not go there. I’ve made quite a number of websites in the past, and today I just do not do it enough to be remotely good enough to satisfy myself – let alone anyone else. There are just too many browsers, platforms, search engine optimization tools, social media plug-ins, user interface issues, and a host of other magic things, to make it worth your while. Hire a professional and get something that you might actually want to use.

Spend your time actually writing the website content and thinking about how that tool, that you can direct customers too, is going to be best used. If you really know what you want, and have the content ready to go, your designer will quite probably cut you a deal on the price of the site. The content of a new website is always the killer, from a designers point of view, when creating a website – particularly when it is not your business.

How much is your new website going to cost? Well that is a good question, and one to which I do not have a good answer. The bottom line is that you can spend as much money as you have building the world’s greatest website or you could spend very little indeed. I’ve always used as a rule when it would just be cheaper to employ someone, with then all the added benefits of having them around, it probably means it is too expensive (or i should just hire someone). That is, of course, unless you want something really special, in which case you’re paying a premium because of what that designer can offer you. Another good barometer is to look at what you are paying, or have been paying, for a yellow pages ad. Take all that money you have been paying to the yellow pages and make it your website budget. The only issue you’ll have is that your yellow pages rep(s) will be mad, and you’ll have a website – which will serve you a lot better in both the short and long term (we will address the yellow pages in a future post; but I don’t thing I’m spoiling any surprises by saying it will not end well for the yellow pages.)

If you must do it yourself, please use one of the blog creators, such as WordPress or Hubspot . They will give you a good looking website (this is a wordpress site) will hold your hand through the process, and do allow for a certain amount of customization if your really want to go there. If you can’t do what you want to do with these tools, then you need a designer.

Finally, I’ve started seeing a habit of businesses having only a Facebook page and not having a website. This is a disgusting, lazy habit and your clients will see it as such. Search engines will have a hard time finding you, and many people do not think of searching Facebook when looking for a business – maybe your existing clients might but they are already your clients. Facebook is also quite limited as a platform, unless you a going to go to the same level of trouble that you would encounter building a website.

Have fun and if you have questions please leave a comment!

Next week: Up to your Ankles in Social Media.

This great little (free) e-book is a collection of quotes from some if the great marketers of recent times. Coupled with some beautiful images, this PDF makes excellent use of the tablet format, but is also suitable for viewing at your PC or even printing our your favorite quotes.

Short, elegant and easy, this e-book is not so much about delivering information as it is about inspiring you to go do something or to help you inspire others.

Perfect for any marketers tool box!

The book can be downloaded from Hubspot, for free, here: http://www.hubspot.com/101-marketing-quotes/

Books on social media, and there are plenty, face a significant problem – the world of social media and content marketing is changing so fast that they are in danger of becoming obsolete before they are even published.

“The Yellow Pages Are Dead,” has the potential to address this issue in two ways; by being only available in electronic format which one assumes can be easily updated, and dealing with the concepts and issues related to content marketing / social media in general terms. It will be interesting to see whether this happens – I would be very surprised if it did not.

A very easy, and reasonably short read, the book tackles most of the ideas and issues that the veterinary profession faces when dealing with the digital age. Certainly opinionated, and passionate about his subject, Dr. Nicol walks the reader through each step of transferring an analog marketing plan into a digital and social one based around content creation.

If I have to pick fault – and I do because it is my nature – it is that the book makes several assumptions that veterinary practices have a marketing plan of some kind, or at least know what one looks like. This, in my experience is not always the case. This, however, is a minor quibble. New trends and potential fads in the social media world are pretty much ignored in the book (QR codes, geolocation, electronic coupons, etc. etc.) however the concepts and ideas that the book explains can easily be adapted should you want to follow any of these technologies.

The great thing about this book is that it does walk the reader, whether experienced or not, through each step of creating a coherent strategy for digital marketing. Which is pretty much what it says it will do on the “cover.”

Of course, the thing that really makes this book stand out is its author. Not just a veterinarian, but also a business man, manager, and a digital marketer who has walked the walk. Dave Nicol shows that digital marketing can be a part of the working veterinarian’s life.

No veterinarians were harmed in the writing of this book, but a lot of businesses might be saved from painful, or useless, forays in the the social media world by reading it and taking its advice to heart.

(Clicking on the cover above will take you to the book’s Amazon page and contribute to my book buying habit / problem.)

So why, when there are thousands of other things to be doing, have I (and you should too) have a blog?

Well, there are a number of reasons – but for the most part it is because I believe in content marketing and I need to practice what I preach.

Content marketing, the generation of content (articles, tweets, etc.) that create a following amongst potential clients, is currently considered the future of marketing. It is also, quite probably, the most honest form of marketing as it is an exchange of information. A blog is hopefully a dialog between writer and reader, meaning that the writer’s position can be challenged or supported.

So in addition to my Twitter feed, my rants on LinkedIn groups, and my book reviews on LinkedIn, I’ll be posting here about every week – thousands of other things permitting…

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