The Future of Content Marketing: Why Click Bait Won’t Cut It

This past month, I had the pleasure of appearing in Entrepreneur Magazine as their Expert of the Month answering questions about entrepreneurship, public relations, marketing and social media. One of the articles that did particularly well on the website is the following article on the future of content marketing. 

Q: What is the future of content marketing?

A: More often than not, when I’m in New York City, journalists complain about the overwhelming amount of content they need to produce each day. Whether it is to feed their social-media channels or website, it’s a burden to produce the volume needed to satisfy the click-throughs to get the biggest slice of the advertising dollars that propel that industry forward.

In business the need to create “cool” content, likewise, employs lots of expensive marketers who produce a huge amount of content in the hope of getting one piece that will “go viral.”

Content marketing is unsustainable and will require a cultural shift and a corporate structure change to make it sustainable. The future of content marketing is high quality content created by people who are not employed within companies. The future of content marketing, I write in my book and am adamant about, is influencer marketing.

Brands, in a study by LinkedIn, claimed they have five big content marketing challenges:

  • Lack of time and bandwidth (51%)
  • Producing enough variety in content (50%)
  • Producing engaging content (42%)
  • Measuring effectiveness (38%)
  • Developing consistent content (34%)

There’s only going to be one response: We need to make less click-bait content and more high quality content. We need to learn to tell fewer stories but to tell them better. Doing so will ensure they are impactful when they happen. Finally, we need to turn to content creators to generate these stories.

Right now there are hundreds of thousands of professional content creators online who are looking to make money. These social-media influencers have built followings out of their ability to create content. Businesses are paying them to post about the business in one-off transactional engagements. The one-off model isn’t working for anyone: Businesses are unsatisfied with the majority of the results and influencers are constantly having to hustle to manage their business and create compelling content.

The future of content marketing is going to require a change in these transactional relationships. Doing so will improve both business content performance success and social media influencers financial well-being and curatorial focus. Here’s how you can get ahead of the curve:
Acknowledge you are not the world’s greatest content maker.

Your company is likely producing bad or ineffective content on most of its channels. The people running your content development teams are not natural content creators. They are marketers and your brand is not interesting enough to have a 24/7 news cycle.

Realize there are great content creators out there.

There are millions of social-media influencers who are great content creators for your niche audience. Hire five to seven of them to sit on a virtual team for your brand. Look on Trackr or Klout to see who is considered influenctial in your market. Educate them on your brand consistently: invite them to meetings, share your latest products, allow them to meet your executives.
Pay them a base salary and ask for RFPs.

Pay them a base salary, so that they will be constantly thinking about how to improve your brand and tell your story online. Tell them that you want to see two request for proposal (RFP) from them a year on creative ideas to differentiate your brand on the web. Remember, they are the experts and constantly online.
Trust them to be your content creators.

Accept their RFPs and believe in their ability to execute on your businesses content needs. If you have trained them the right way and given them the right access, they will be experts on your brand but at half the cost of an in-house team and with twice the experience. Worried that they don’t know how to translate business goals to content creation? You can teach them that too.

This is the future model:

  • Brands create less content.
  • Brands trust natural and proven content creators to act on their behalf.
  • Brands pay them on retainer.
  • Influencers rep only a limited number of brands because they can now afford to do so.
  • Brands reduce their social media footprint and instead rely on ambassador/content creator influencers to push their stories.

If we don’t make this change, we will continue to inundate the world with dumbed down content that does not deliver in the way our businesses need. Instead, we need to create a new model of content marketing that demonstrates real ROI.

The article was first published here.

5 Easy Ideas for Your Social Media Strategy (AND WEBINAR!)

Do you ever feel like you are sitting around creating social media post after social media post but your audience size isn’t growing and you aren’t seeing results? You are not alone. The majority of small business owners who participate on social media don’t see the results they want. The number one culprit for this occurrence is that your social media strategy and your business strategy are not aligned.

Tonight, starting in two minutes, I’ll be hosting a live webinar on Facebook to talk about why your social media strategy and your business strategy need to be aligned and the simple way to do it. Join to ask questions in real time!

If you can’t make it, here are the 5 Easy Ways to Connect Your Business Strategy with Your Social Media Strategy.  First off, get two pieces of paper. On one, write your business vision, business goals and business audience down. Repeat this on a second piece of paper.

  1.  Visualization: Take one of those two pieces of paper and put it in front of wherever you sit when you are creating your social media posts. This will help you to constantly check that what you are posting on social, aligns with your business goals.
  2. On the second piece of paper, look at your business goals and ask yourself which of this will be improved by social media? Often, not all your goals have a social media component. This is important direction to have as you are building your social media platforms.
  3. Then ask yourself: who is your audience? What social media platform would they be using? Re-position your social media time to invest in those platforms over others.
  4. Now, write down next to your business vision, goals and audience, your social media vision, your social media goals and your social media audience. This will help you to understand what you are trying to accomplish on social media and why.
  5. Finally, spend time understanding how your social media goals can benefit your business goals i.e. what would have to happen on social to see you have a successful business result. Make sure there is a way to track and measure this.

Social Media Strategy for Small Businesses

Confused about what it means to set a business goal or vision? The below taken from my upcoming book on social media titled “You Don’t Need Social Media, Unless You Are Doing It Right: A Small Business Guide to Social Media” coming out in July, explains:

You want to understand the goals and vision of your business because it should directly translate to the goals and vision of your social media plan i.e. your social media plan should help reinforce and be reflective of your company goals. This may sound like common sense to some but it is often surprising to realize that small businesses with two or more owners don’t have common understandings of the business’s vision and goals.

When I was teaching a class in Nairobi a few years back, I was asked to consult on the creation of a social media plan for a start-up incubator hub. The five partners sat with me in a room and explained why they needed a social media plan. When I asked them to step back and tell me what their business plan was, I received five very different and somewhat conflicting answers. I explained that until they knew and were aligned on what their business should do, I wouldn’t be able to craft a social media plan that achieved results. If I didn’t know what the business wanted to do, the social media would only reflect that and they would see the slow, listless growth that had been the impetuous for the original meeting.

Similarly, last year, I was working with a professional leadership development coach who shared that while her business was growing rapidly, she was struggling to see any growth in her social media channels and she couldn’t figure out why. She routinely spent an hour a day on social media and yet, she only saw one or two followers increase per week. When I asked her why she was on social media, she looked at me like I wasn’t listening.

“I have to be on social media,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because everyone is,” she said.

“But, why are you on it?” I asked again.

Then she stopped talking and looked at me and really listened. Eventually, we determined that she wanted to use social media to build her brand personality so that she could get speaking gigs and eventually launch and publish a book. Now, she has a laser focused vision for how to engage on social media and a plan that is tuned to getting her in front of the TED community, interacting with leaders in her sphere and sharing her thoughts online, so that she has the material to write a book in the next few years. Her goals of speaking and book publishing align with her business goals to increase her passive income (i.e. ways to make money without requiring service) and to enhance her credibility with top tier corporate leaders.

A social media plan to be successful needs to have a central thematic topic and vision in order to allow customers to understand why the channel exists and how to relate to the channel. A business vision does this for your social plan.

To determine your business vision, look five to ten years in the future and ask yourself, if I was wildly successful, what would my business do? Examples of business vision statements include Microsoft’s previous vision “to put a PC in every home in the world;” Starbuck’s vision statement ss “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time;” and Tesla’s vision statement is “to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”

If you are having trouble creating a vision statement, check out Five: Where Will You Be Five Years from Today by Dan Zadra. It’s a useful book for figuring out your personal or professional vision statement and simpler to use than a lot of the MBA books on the topic.

I believe that setting a big business vision is the single most important thing that you can do for your business. As Lafley and Martin say “A too modest aspiration is far more dangerous than a too-lofty one.”  The reason being that a modest vision mostly achieves modest results. Modest results are boring for your employees, for your investors and for your customers. You could be a run of the mill car manufacturer or you could be Tesla. Which do you think gets people more excited and interested in being associated with your brand? Tesla wins every time.

When I host classes, I challenge students to expand their business vision using a simple exercise that I have outlined below. I’d encourage you to try this as well before you read any further:

  • Take a few minutes to write down your vision statement.
  • Then ask: how could I expand what this statement accomplishes? Can I make it bigger?
  • Then ask yourself again: how do I make that more interesting to me?
  • Then ask: would I be happy doing this and if not, what would make me more satisfied?
  • Then ask yourself, one more time: how can I expand this?

Having a vision for your business is about having a vision for yourself, for each person who works for you and for every person that will come in contact with your brand. It’s also about understanding why you are doing what you are doing and creating alignment on the why is what directs your social media execution i.e. the story you tell across those platforms.

Noted speaker and author Michael Hyatt’s recent book discusses the concept of drift. Drift is what happens when you are living a life without intention and strategic goals. Drift happens when you’re just floating through your life taking what comes to you. Drift happens all the time in social media when we do not align with our business visions and instead waste time tweeting, liking, friending and following rather than strategically acting to ensure the biggest results. Fight the drift, by engaging in a big business vision.

…………….

A business goal is a one to two-year goal that you want to accomplish because it helps your business get that much closer to achieving your vision. These are measurable, and actionable goals. In general, these goals will be focused on the bottom line i.e. these goals should in some fashion help you to increase your ability to SELL your products and services or fundraise to be able to accomplish your mission.

There is a business acronym for setting goals called S.M.A.R.T. This stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and timely and is a tool to make sure that the goals you are setting you can achieve. First created by G.T. Doran in the early nineteen eighties, this framework has been widely embraced by the business community. In his book, he writes “Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, and section objective should be:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Notice that these criteria don’t say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management… (it) is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore, serious management should focus on these twins and not just the objective.”

Examples of business goals can include:

  1. Selling X number of products in 2016
  2. Raising X amount of dollars in 2017

As you think about your business goals, make sure they are achievable in the short term, easy to understand, and something that is measureable. You generally do not want to have more than three goals and one of those goals should be a definitively focused sales goal. Well this may seem like a lot of work to do just in order to make your social media plans more effective, I can tell you it is worthwhile.

If you, your social media team or any other member of your business does not know your goals then they will not be able to effectively implement them. If they don’t know how to implement against them, time and energy are being wasted caught in the drift of social media.

Automate Blog Posts to Publish To All Social Media Feeds

Have you ever said: I just want to automate my blog posts to my social feeds? I did.

At the Social Works Co, we’re all about reducing the time you need to spend on social media. Remember, its a tactic of your business, not your business. If you wanted to get into the social media game, you should start your own company, get a social media management job, or go teach somewhere (thanks University of Florida – I appreciate it!). However, if you’re here likely you want to automate your blog to publish to all your social media feeds without having to do too much work. I don’t blame you. I wanted to do that too and now I’m sharing here what I do and what I’ve learned from others with my three (sort of four) favorite social media tools for automating content.

Automate Blog Posts

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Sign up to use Edgar. Edgar republishes old content from your RSS feed, and a content library that you house onsite. This content library includes categories like “funny posts,” “tips” and “promotional.” If you wanted to, you could reallocate those categories against the Social Works(out) System and be able to simplify your content management into a very hands-off approach.
  • Sign up to use Board Booster: Board Booster helps you to loop Pinterest content. Remember Pinterest isn’t a social media tool — its really a search engine and one that drives massive amounts of traffic. You want to ensure you always have content posting there that will drive people back to your site.
  • Sign up for Rich Pins: Like the above point, Rich Pins make your content more pin-able. It looks more professional, smarter and has a better call to action for people to click through. It helps to keep your content at the top of searched categories. You can find a great post on enabling this here.
  • The last automation tip for WordPress.org users is to ensure you having the publicize setting connected with your social media accounts. The content will then automatically push to the selected pages when it goes live.

These tips should save you tens of hours a month and hundreds of hours a year reducing the hassle of posting, reposting and keeping content fresh. Phew – now more time to sit back, have a cup of wine and catch up on my favorite books.