Tag Archives: twitter

Content marketing, technology and sustainability

Laptop on stump is charging with help of natureAfter spending many years writing about the role of technology in business, I’m expanding my horizons to explore technology’s role in sustainable development. I’ll keep writing here about content marketing and technology, but I’m also starting a parallel blog on technology and sustainability.

Creating a more sustainable world is the next big challenge of technology, industry, governments and cultures.  I’d love to be part this effort. And as a content marketing professional, I’ve learned a few tricks that can play a role.

Tell stories:  Governments, NGOs, individuals and businesses alike are all taking steps towards a more sustainable future. But their stories are often swamped in today’s news environment. I’d like to amplify some of the positive stories of change – particularly in the area of technology, where I operate every day.

Meet the audience where they are: This is a content marketing premise that can be applied equally well to “marketing”  sustainability. For example, Patagonia dedicated two pages in the middle of its winter catalog to an article by the company’s founder about the “responsible economy.”  The pull-quote for this story was, “I think the simple life really begins with owning less stuff.”  Sure, Patagonia shoppers already love nature, but it was refreshing to see this message happen right at the place where people are looking to buy.

Understand  human psychology: It’s easy to feel a sense of helplessness when confronting the problems of climate and sustainability.  Yikes, the ocean is warming?  What can I do?   Unfortunately, one common response is to turn away and focus on simpler or more pleasant things.

A study by C.J. Hutto and colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that on Twitter, people who posted positive messages gained the most followers. (Good writing was also a contributing factor, I’m happy to say.)

That’s not to say that we should hold off on the bad news – other studies show that people pay more attention to bad news than good. But if you want to encourage people to take action and to amplify your message, it’s best not to make the case too hopeless. Give people something to move towards, rather than run away from.

If you’re interested in following this journey, visit my new blog, Technology and Sustainability. I welcome comments and suggestions.

Social media in marketing: A work in progress

Are we getting any smarter about using social media in marketing?  Not according to Duke’s most recent CMO survey.

The Duke CMO Survey

Twice a year, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business conducts a survey of Chief Marketing Officers. What makes the CMO survey so interesting is the fact that you can track how things change over the course of the time between surveys.

According to the most recent survey, both B2B and B2C CMOs plan to increase spending on social media – more than doubling the percentage of the marketing budget spent on social media in the next five years.

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 2.33.23 PM

[Source: The CMO Survey, cmosurvey.org, February 2013, Highlights and Insights, Figure 5.1]

Social media is still isolated in many marketing strategies

When asked how well social media is integrated with the marketing strategy – on a scale of 1 to 7 – the average response is 3.8.  And that average has stayed the same over the last several surveys, since February 2011.

We’re increasing our social media spending, but not really integrating those efforts with overall marketing strategy.

Note that the respondents self-evaluate their own marketing organizations as being quite strong. In a Lake Woebegon way, everyone is above average.  The lack of integration is not seen as dysfunction so much as just a fact of doing business.

We’re not really measuring our marketing efforts

We’re also not making very good use of marketing analytics. Respondents report that only about 30% of the projects are influenced by marketing analytics.  It’s understandably difficult to get a good handle on what’s happening across all channels in today’s fast-moving marketing world.

Social media and content marketing

Like Mark Twain, I always tread with care around statistical claims. (“Lies, damn lies, and statistics.”)  But in this case, I think the study illustrates how marketing as a discipline has had to adopt to significant changes in recent years. In many ways we’re still catching up.

My personal sense is content marketing is one way that marketing organizations will integrate social media into the broader marketing strategy. Social media is one channel by which companies can engage in content marketing – both listening to what customers are saying and putting relevant information where customers gather.

A Facebook community or Twitter presence, for example, can go from isolated outpost to important listening post if you provide useful content based on requests and solicit feedback, covering the issues and questions that are most pressing to your prospects and customers.

You can peruse the results yourself at http://cmosurvey.org, or read the blog post on Forbes by Christine Moorman, Director of the CMO Survey.

Time-shifting tools

As a self-employed person, I really value having control over my time. That’s why I’m excited by time-shifting tools that let me do things when I want to do them.  I’m not alone in this; time-shifting is the reason we love our Tivos and DVRs.

A few weeks back I shared a blog on Time saving tools for business blogging. Today I want to share a time-shifting tool I’ve recently started using for the real-time social media universe. Using Buffer (bufferapp.com),  you put posts (Tweets) into a buffer and the app figures out the optimal time to post them.

This means that when I am  inspired during the day, evening or weekend, I can read blogs and Tweets, pick those I want to share, and then put together a few Tweets.  I see  that HootSuite has a similar capability for scheduling posts – I haven’t tried it yet. It looks like it’s delivered through a browser extension.

There are two things I particularly like about Buffer:

  • I can use it as a browser extension, mobile app or from the website. This is nice when I’m using devices other than my usual desktop.
  • The analytics let you see what happened to the posts you send through Buffer.

I know that if I studied this data, I would become smarter about what worked effectively.

The usual provisos about avoiding “overly automated” social media posts apply – pay attention to what’s in your buffer and if you need to change it to accommodate the changing world.  (See Social media failure stories revisited for an example of automation gone bad.)

Social media failure stories, revisited

Social media is the new marketing imperative for nearly every type of business.  Those of us in the marketing world read social media ‘success stories’ all the time and learn from them. But I think we learn as much, or more, from failures.  Last year I wrote a blog about the lack of failure stories (Where are the social media failure stories?)

Sure, everyone has heard about the few big flame-out failures — the inappropriate tweet or rigged contest. But the more common failures, useful from a learning perspective, are all around us.  Most are subtle and quiet – particularly in the B2B world.  Here are a few common categories of failures that I run into often:

Mysterious silence

Company ABC has a regular social media presence in Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook – until one day it suddenly stops. Months go by without a post.  Did they shut down? Fire everyone? Are they in trouble?  As a visitor, I go through their news to see what happened – it turns out they were acquired by investors who were continuing to run the company as an independent entity. My guess is that they gutted the marketing budget, which would make me worry, as a customer or prospect. Don’t leave people wondering what happened.  If you’ve decided to stop a significant social media effort, let people know the reason or they will assume the worst.

Obvious automation 

It’s always dangerous to run on cruise control – a story about LiveNation’s automated tweets after a tragic stage collapse in Ontario is a dramatic example. (Read about it in the Unmarketing blog:  The Worst-Scheduled Tweet Timing Ever.)  If you automate or buffer postings, make sure to keep on top of them! And don’t make it obvious that you’re automating things – social media is meant to be an authentic engagement.

Constant self-promotion

You’ve seen the Twitter accounts for which every tweet is the same promotional offer?  Some social media campaigns are still one directional, promotional and repetitive.  That’s a waste of effort and makes you look insensitive and greedy.

It’s hard to do social media right, which is why you should align your strategy with your resources and abilities in the first place.  And it’s easy to do it wrong – in fact, we’ve all made mistakes. Most of these lesser failures can be corrected.

Do you have a failure story you’d like to share?

Update: On the very same day that I posted this, Tracy Sestili posted this wonderful list of 7 Lessons from Bad Social Media Campaigns on the Social Strand Media site. Some of them are pretty funny, some simply appalling.

Budgeting your social media time

Last week I wrote about budget spending on social media in B2B marketing. But that discussion left out the question of time.

We all only have 24 hours in a day. Time is truly our most precious commodity. And we all feel pressed to keep up with the social media world – particularly in the technology industry, where being ‘on top’ of new technologies is essential.

So the question this week is: how do budget your time on social media? How much time should you spend on blogging? Twitter? Facebook and LinkedIn? – whether on a personal or organizational basis? Because if you’re not hiring some firm to take care of it for you (which can backfire), then you’re making hard choices about your limited time.

There isn’t one right answer
I know that for myself, social media has consumed a growing amount of my time over the past year: Twitter, blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn. And when time is tight, I have to figure out where I’m willing to put it. I’m re-assessing all of this now, which leads to this blog post.

For example, I’ve found a wonderful client on Twitter, so I am very grateful. But I’m not sure I can commit the time necessary to develop meaningful conversations on Twitter. I’m about to sacrifice my dwindling Klout score and forget about daily Twitter check-ins and updates.

The answer changes over time

The new changes on Facebook. The evolution of Google +. All of these things mean that you need to constantly reassess your time balance. And some times you have to spend time on the new sites to find out if it’s worth reallocating your time.

Look at where your customers/prospects are.
“Duh, Anne,” you say to me. Yes, it’s obvious advice. But the fact is that B2B marketers are not aligning their social media efforts with the buyer behavior.

Forrester Research studied this, and CorporateInk summarized the research in their blog: Tech Buyers Are Social, But Not Where You Think They Are.

Even if your buyers are on Facebook for their personal lives, do they go there when evaluating a technical purchase? They probably go to specific forums and blogs, instead.

What are you doing with your social media time?
I’d love to hear from others – are you still trying to cover all of your social bases (or at least the big ones)? Or did you ever even try? Do you feel like you’re missing something, or think I’m missing something important?

On the Internet, no one knows you’re not there

Gone Fishing, Greenwood near Gerard by PinkMoose, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  PinkMoose 

With social media and smart phones, technology marketers can be online and connected all the time.  This is a two-edged sword. It’s easy to feel like should always be online and available, even when you’re home or on vacation.  It’s hard to disconnect, but important to get time off.

On the other hand, technology can help us seem to be present even when we’re out fishing or chilling on the beach with a good book.  For the self-employed or consultants like myself, this can be a blessing.

When I left for two weeks recently, I scheduled two blog postings in WordPress to be published while I was away.  (Here’s how to schedule a WordPress post.) Had I been so inclined and more involved in Twitter, I could have scheduled Tweets in advance. (See Business Insider’s 8 Twitter scheduling tools to change your life.) While I did track and answer a few emails while I was gone, I was mostly offline for two weeks.

And you know what? Social networks kept networking without me.  My Klout score took a dive but I think I can survive that.  And I spent two weeks not following all of the latest tech news and developments. It was lovely.

Do you have other strategies for disconnecting but staying visible? I’d love to hear them. Maybe I’ll even take another vacation, just to try them out.

5 lifelines for a lonely business blog

Business blogging is picking up steam. New research from HubSpot shows that 65% of the businesses surveyed published a business blog, up from 48% two years ago.

But many business blogs are fairly lonely places. I’ve already written about business blog neglect in this blog. But even companies that are publishing regularly aren’t always leveraging their blogs to the best effect. For maximum impact, you have to make link your blog to the rest of the world to gain traffic, links, and relevance. Here are five easy strategies.

1. Build in calls to action. I talked with someone recently who was surprised that people weren’t clicking through to his company’s website from his blog. But a quick look at the blog found no explicit calls to action – nothing to entice someone to click through. Make it easy for readers to take action.

It’s not enough to have your website menus across the top – people may not scroll back up and find them after reading a blog. Offer explicit links to product pages, customers stories, trial offers – whatever might be particularly relevant to the blog posting. A call to action including signing up for a newsletter, or even leaving a comment. Make it easy and convenient for the reader to take action if so inspired.

2. Link to your old blog postings. If you’ve been doing this for a while, chances are that there’s great content buried in your blog. Once it scrolls off the bottom, people don’t see it any more. If you haven’t surfaced that content already to other places in your website, then go ahead and link into it. (Notice how smoothly I did that in the second paragraph of this entry.)

3. Read other blogs and link to them as appropriate. Your blog should have links outside your own business. When you put a link to another blog in your own, it will often appear as a ‘trackback’ on the destination blog. But make sure the links are relevant, and from sources you trust – they reflect on your own brand, too.

4. Connect with partners and customers. Invite a partner to write a guest post. Link to a partner blog that’s relevant. Spotlight a customer, in a more informal way than the traditional customer story. (But make sure you get approval.) The larger the ecosystem of your blog, the more traffic and goodwill you generate with customers and partners.

5. Take it offline, too. Make sure your blog is integrated in your other efforts. Hosting a webinar? Post the Q and A on your blog. Going to a conference? Give people a link to the blog, and then write about the conference there. Put the blog in your email signature, and tweet about it.

I’m sure there are other great ideas – leave your own thoughts by clicking on the Comment link below, or typing in the “Leave a reply” box. (See how suavely I included the call to action?)

Thought leadership is overrated

Close up of The Thinkerphoto © 2007 Brian Hillegas | more info (via: Wylio)

“We want this to be a ‘thought leadership’ blog.” Have you heard that before?

“Thought leadership” can be a convenient reason for undertaking all kinds of marketing initiatives without clearly defined goals or objectives: Twitter, business blogging, PR initiatives, you name it.

What the heck is thought leadership anyway – and how can you measure it? How do you know when you have it? Do you find it in:

  • Invitations to speak at conferences?
  • Mentions by the press?
  • Ratings by the analysts?
  • Traffic to your blog?
  • Your Klout score?

Certainly impact is part of it – if a ‘thought leader’ blogs and no one reads it, then whose thoughts are they leading, anyway?

But external measurements of influence like Klout can be gamed: see The Problem with Klout: An Infographic by Mark Schaefer.

Is ‘thought leadership’ obscuring your true objectives?
Each of the symptoms of thought leadership listed above (traffic, analyst/press mentions) is specific and measurable. But are they really your objectives?

  • Do you care more about raw number of hits to your blog, or about the actual prospects visiting your blog that  convert to customers or enter the lead nurturing cycle?
  • Do you care about the attention of analysts and other bloggers, or the attention of your prospective customers and the specific publications or blogs that they read?
  • Do you care about your raw number of Twitter followers, or whether your partners, customers, prospects and others are following you?

Blog traffic is great – but it’s just traffic, not customers. It’s more important to focus on the specific people you want to reach, even if their numbers are small. Mack Collier wrote a great post about a how the actual value of a blog posting had little to do with how many people visited and read it: The 3 Critical Content Creation Questions.

Instead of aiming for leadership, try identifying meaningful objectives for your blog and working to fulfill them. One day you may even find yourself with a loyal following.

Social media marketing spending: the time vs. money equation

dollar-signphoto © 2010 Oldmaison | more info (via: Wylio)
I just found some hard data on the costs of social media efforts, and had to post a follow-up to my post last week on social media costs (5 signs that you’re burning money on social media).

To make social media marketing work, you either have to do it in-house or hire outside help.  Most businesses use a combination of the models.

In-house efforts incur an opportunity cost—that time could be spent on other work. In technology start-ups, that time is a rare and valued commodity. You also need the right expertise – as a friend just pointed out, social media needs the same care and attention to quality as your other collateral efforts.

So many businesses turn to consultants and agencies to fill the gap. Mack Collier has posted some great research on his blog (MackCollier.com) about range of costs and typical costs for various social media efforts using consultants or agencies.  For example, a consultant or agency might charge between $2000-$4000 per month to manage your Twitter presence, and $3000-$5000 per month to manage your blog.

These numbers can help you create a ballpark as you determine where and how social media fits in your overall marketing plans.

5 signs you’re burning money on social media

Buring Moneyphoto © 2008 Purple Slog | more info (via: Wylio)

At a Christmas party the other day, a friend complained that his company was misdirecting marketing budget to ineffective social media efforts. Having a good sense of where and how his prospects researched, he felt he could better use that budget in traditional lead generation and nurturing efforts.

He’s not alone.  As a freelancer, I’ve been on the spot more than once when a client insisted they needed Facebook page or a Twitter presence—without having any strategy for what that page or presence would do or whether prospects would ever engage there.

According to eMarketer blog, most companies are increasing their social media spending, but it’s not always for the right reasons.

Here are a few signs that you may be ‘burning up’ budget in social media:

  1. You have no defined strategy other than ‘Let’s have a Facebook page!”
  2. You build pages, blogs, or groups but have no plan for populating them with content regularly.
  3. You hire someone to do a video series that gains only 5 views on YouTube.
  4. Your employees are the only ‘fans’ of your Facebook page – and they never post anything.
  5. You give one person the responsibility for maintaining Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the blog in your company – and blame them if it doesn’t pay off.

I admit, these may be exaggerated scenarios, but you know exactly what I mean if you’ve seen something similar.

Don’t have that extra budget to burn?  Then make sure you get the most bang for your buck from your social media efforts. That starts, of course, with understanding where your customers and prospects are actually participating online.  Once you know that:

  1. Integrate social media in your marketing strategy, so that campaigns build on and reinforce each other across channels.
  2. Have clear objectives for your social media efforts – and recognize that in some cases it can be better for nurturing and supporting existing clients than generating new leads.
  3. Test and measure your results, to see if the spending is worthwhile or if you should refine your strategy.
  4. Reevaluate your efforts regularly. Just because your prospects aren’t active on Facebook today doesn’t mean that they won’t be in six months. There’s no standing still.