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There’s no denying that video is the hottest form of content right now, especially with the emergence of live broadcasting that’s sweeping the internet through Facebook LIVE and Periscope.

It can be time consuming and expensive for companies to create video, but that’s only half the battle. The fact that you have a video is not as exciting to other people as it is to your internal team. So how do you make sure the right people actually see your video?

It comes down to two things – optimizing your video on YouTube so people can find it and distributing your video in the right way in the right places. Here are a few highlights for both of these areas.

Optimize video descriptions

Optimize Your Video

  • It’s important to identify your target audience for the specific video and what problem they are trying to solve by watching your video.
  • Research keywords for your video listing by using tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Google Web Master Tools and YouTube and Google suggest.
  • Structure your YouTube channel as a homepage for your video content, with your playlists as your category level pages and your videos as your product or keyword level pages.
  • Optimize your YouTube video summary using key words, with a strong title and robust summary. Link to your website using the full URL address and include a subscribe link.

Right length for video

Distribute Your Video

  • Create a dynamic end screen where people can click through to your other videos and subscribe.
  • Ask viewers to subscribe to your channel three times – in your video, on the end screen and in the summary copy. When recording videos, reference other videos you’ve made that your audience may be interested in.
  • Consider YouTube paid advertising to target your specific audience when they are watching. YouTube has a number of paid options including video pre-views, side bar listings, overlay in-video ads and display ads.
  • Share video on your web site, blog and other social channels, paying close attention to the optimal lengths per channel. Videos will have higher reach if uploaded directly to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. However, LinkedIn and Pinterest both allow you to share YouTube links and still feature them prominently.

To dig deeper into these areas, take a look at the slides we co-presented at the PR News digital conference last month, “Become a YouTube Distribution Star for Your Organization.”

By Missy Berggren and Sri Nagubandi

Social media is my quickest way to discover my world daily. I use it as an aggregator for work-related knowledge, client monitoring, traditional news, my personal interests for everything from tech to fashion, my boys’ schools and sports teams, networking, my close friends and more. There is a reason behind each like or follow.

I always tell people to consider the websites they visit each morning. Maybe you go to the New York Times, Amazon to see the deals of the day, your kids’ school page and ESPN. If you have all of those in your Facebook feed and/or a Twitter list, you would have one source to see all the things that interest you. Build out your interests in one place. It’s a huge time saver – think your news in real time.

As social media became popular, billions of people shifted their habits. For example, as Facebook became a go-to, brands wanted to be there telling stories just like the Wall Street Journal is. And brands can have a two-way conversation with people versus marketing via TV, for example, which is one-way. This was all fascinating to me and quite relatable. I see social media for brands as the modern newsroom to create stories – perfect as content consumption is still on the rise. And for one’s personal brand, brands have a unique opportunity to give the nine-percent sharable content.

For context, I initially hated that my major at Xavier University would be in “Electronic Media.” What’s electronic media? I was focusing on television and radio, but “electronic” seemed so odd. In the years to come, I would simply tell people that I majored in communications with a focus on television to avoid the confused look on their faces. Now electronic media makes total sense. So ironic.

Television news was perfect for me right out of school. I can remember the high of constantly scouring the newspaper and feeds for a story – thinking it through to make the content relevant to our audience. The news feed was never-ending and in real time. There was always something to read and learn. Who knew how this would prepare me for a life in digital marketing of the future? And I’m especially grateful for the skills that I honed using video and pictures to help tell my stories.

Like news, social media happens in real time. Brands can’t wait until tomorrow to react, because the trend will probably be old news or in modern terms “not trending” anymore. I help brands to plan out their posts in an editorial calendar, but leave room for agile, responsive content. Think of it in terms of how CBS has “60 Minutes” for stories that they have more time to develop versus the evening news each night. Both are important. Both are agile though.

A newsroom approach is a shift for brands who are often still chained to traditional marketing mindsets full of TV commercials, banner ads, etc., or working in silos within the organization. Telling stories with a newsroom approach partially means not just telling stories about yourself. Nobody “likes” that guy, brands; he gets defriended. It’s more about working the conversation at a cocktail party, or with your boss, asking the right questions and adding to a great topic with your point of view or related experience. If your story is good enough, others will want to go research it more and share it. Think water cooler conversations. Influencers talking about a brand is always better than the brand saying it themselves.

For activation of the influencer, there is not a day at work that goes by that I don’t utilize my television newsroom skills, which led me into PR, marketing and technology. I need the story or point of view to be sharable to live on. When social media was born, I felt like somebody rolled together all the things that I loved into one. Brands are still evolving with the change in mindset. I feel lucky to coach them on thinking social and digital first as the social assets can’t just be chopped from that multi-million-dollar TV commercial. For influencers and targeting of content, social also now requires the funding that traditional marketing has paid for years for influence. Yes, that means paid social that’s smart thanks to analytics for a laser-focused ROI. And shifting marketing dollars for social because you get what you pay for even in social. And what about employees as brand advocates – have you tapped them?

It’s a very exciting time to work with brands. They are being reborn in a new space that changes quickly. Early adoption and being flexible to try new things has never been more prevalent and necessary.

The fruits of my efforts are literally at your fingertips for you to consume while second-screening during a movie on Netflix, while waiting to pick your child up from ball practice, picking a restaurant from a food blogger, while Googling brand info during that pre-commerce moment and so many other places. I love change. My job won’t be what it is today in five years, but it’s my duty to be ahead of wherever we go. Influencers will continue to influence more as people consume more content than ever. I’ll find new ways to serve creative whether that’s on SnapChat, Tinder, Vine, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or who knows what. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up each day and the last thing I do before I fall asleep. I’m watching and thinking about what we should do next.

On September 14th, during London’s Social Media Week, a global panel of social experts from across industries will converge in London for the #PreCommerce summit, hosted by W2O EMEA, with a special focus on how we work, live and create in the digital time. If you’re on that side of the pond, don’t miss it. Thanks for learning how social media has forever changed my world and your world through our clients. Keep evolving. You’ll always have a new story to tell.

headshotColleen Hartman, a 1993 “Electronic Media” graduate from Xavier University, can be found on Twitter at @Miss_Colleen and on various other social channels. Be sure to see her LinkedIn profile which documents her journey from newsroom to PR to marketing to sports to technology to the combination of all of those which she now calls social media. She is a director for W2O Group where she finds success helping brands use sharable, visual social media with a newsroom mindset.

I recently blogged about the concept of something I call the Content Hub. Check out the previous link if you missed it the first time around. Today, I wanted to spend a few minutes discussing the kinds of questions you or your teams can go through to figure out if a Content Hub is right for your brand.

  1.  Do we publish our own content in multiple blogs?
    This is the logical place to start. If you’re like other companies, your brand may have started with one blog years ago, but now you have multiple blogs. When I was Dell’s Chief Blogger, I lived through this. At one point in 2008 we had up to 19 different blogs. Not surprisingly, customers hated it. We were able to consolidate that number down to 9, but it was still too many. Assuming your content is helpful and worth reading, the fact is more customers will see your blog content if it’s centralized.
  2. Do you organize your blog content by business unit or some other way that mirrors your corporate structure?
    I know how this happens too. Since business units tend to lead the charge, it’s a logical way for brands to organize their corporate blogs that way. The problem with that strategy is customers don’t think in terms of business units or the way your company is organized. That means you’re most likely confusing customers. Not a good place to be, especially when they may be looking for specific information or need help.
  3. Does your company contribute to third party sites and blogs?
    Contributing blog content to third-party sites makes sense for a lot of reasons, especially as your subject matter experts (SMEs) are working to establish their social presence. The downside is it fragments content even further. These third-party posts can be pulled into a Content Hub.
  4. Do you have an editorial process for blogs?
    While many large brands tend to have some form of an editorial planning process, I bet far too many brands are still emailing updated spreadsheets around to contributors every week. I lived through that too. Besides efficiency, the real benefit of having a formal editorial process and a centralized content repository is it makes it much easier to keep track of how the content your teams produce is aligned to your companies’ strategic pillars.
  5. Is your blog content strategy connected to your broader social content strategy?
    If your brand segments social media content by either business unit or by publishing platform, chances are good that at least some employees are working in silos. If that’s the case, your content strategy will most likely be more successful if teams approach content holistically.
  6. Do you have a paid social strategy in other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)? What about your company’s blog?
    If you’re company is active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, I bet you’re already spending marketing dollars to promote social content. And it’s likely you aren’t spending a bit on promoting your company’s blog content. With a Content Hub, you will be driving customers to one place for the latest news and information. And you will inherently know which posts are resonating with customers (and thus, which posts to put paid dollars behind).

Answers to these questions hopefully help you understand the current state of your company’s blog content. If your posts are spread all over the place, not anchored by a solid ongoing editorial content plan, and not connected to any of your other social efforts, I can just about guarantee you could be doing better. Centralizing your posts in a tool like the Content Hub will help improve your operational efficiency. More importantly, it will make your content easier for customers to find, and it will also give you a data-driven way to understand what content is resonating best with customers.

These days, with so many brands focused on developing content for shared properties like official company pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and more, it’s easy to marginalize corporate blogs. In my view,  blogging still matters. While I think lots of companies still agree with that thinking, I see a bigger problem that decreases the effectiveness of corporate blogs: a lack of content organization.

This problem tends to affect large companies that have been blogging for quite a while. Once a company has some level of success with a blog, there is a natural tendency to expand beyond a centralized single blog into additional blogs. In those cases, brands often segment those blogs by business unit, or some sort of structure that resembles how the company itself is organized. One problem with that strategy is that customers aren’t interested in a brand’s organizational structure. They tend to be interested in specific topics. The other problem is customers won’t waste time looking for content on your blog, especially if you make it a confusing mess. The end result is that companies spend time and resources producing content that not many customers never see.

So, what can brands do about this? Besides building an operational model for content marketing, I recommend a technical solution like a Content Hub. Our digital team can build a hub on a platform like WordPress or Drupal. Visually, the Content Hub can be made to look like your blog or you company’s website, or it can have a distinct look and feel. While I’m focusing mainly on blog posts, a Content Hub can also include other content items you would typically see in a news center section of a site, like press releases, white papers, reports or other articles. Think of Content Hub as a content front end or customized portal that pulls in content from a brand’s entire network of external blogs(or other sources) and displays that content based on which posts are getting the most engagement. In my mind, engagement is a mix of the following factors:

  1. The # of inbound links a piece of content gets
  2. The # of shares on social networks
  3. The # of comments
  4. The # of page views

Surfacing content on a landing page this way ensures that readers will see your brand’s most popular content regardless of how many different blogs are aggregated into it. This will eventually translate to a wider readership for blog authors who contribute to blogs with less visibility. The engagement factors I mention above can also be weighted more heavily to things like number of inbound links or number of shares as well. In the mockup below, we show content by most popular authors, but it could also be used to show content by topic (think of sites like GigaOM, The Verge or Buzzfeed.com). Here’s a wireframe of what a Content Hub could look like: LionelGeek Blog Hub wireframe

There’s additional benefits than broader visibility as well. From an editorial perspective, this data makes it easy to see what content resonates with your readers (and what doesn’t). Tracking inbound links gives you a way to see what external influencers your teams should be connecting with. Tracking the number of shares will give you solid insight into the kind of content your employees your customers and influencers like to share. All can be used to shape your subsequent content strategy.

There’s other work that would go into getting a Content Hub up and running (deciding which blogs or sites to pull content in from, defining the category taxonomy, deciding whether to display the full post or to redirect to the existing site where the content originated, determining a paid strategy to help get traction to the hub, etc). I’ll blog in more detail about those things in future posts.

Blogging does still matter, but these days it requires more than just producing solid content.

Like a Rolling Stone Music Video Wrap Up
Rolling Stone deemed Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” the greatest song of all-time

Last week [NOVEMBER 22 2013], Bob Dylan released an official music video for his 1965 hit, “Like a Rolling Stone.” It is the first-ever music video released for the song; it’s creation part of a recent promotional push for the upcoming commercial release of Bob Dylan’s 47-Disc Box Set.

Like a Rolling Stone is regarded as a timeless classic amongst music critics and it embodies the spirit of what is most iconic in contemporary American music. Rolling Stone Magazine recently deemed the Dylan tune, greatest song of all-time.

I can’t confirm or deny if RS’ editors are partial to Dylan’s song title, but I am certain that the music video is unlike any we have ever seen before.

It is a first-of-its-kind interactive music video – native to online – that allows web viewers to “flip channels.” Each of the several channels feature imagined stars and characters of faux television programs, lip-syncing Dylan’s lyrics in time with the song, even as viewers ‘flip’ through the lineup.

The video was launched via Dylan’s website, and was first shared externally with Mashable, garnering coverage from the online media titan. There is no functionality to embed the video, but watch it here.

Oh… And, yeah… Welcome your glimpse into the future of content development and distribution.

After watching the video just once, I knew that, inevitably, this would mark the initiation of a new standard in online engagement, coming soon to a content development strategy near you. We’re at the precipice of tectonic shifts in how brands and their agency partners innovate content paradigms and how audiences will (want to) experience media overall.

Content creators who are ill prepared to innovate and, or to disrupt present models will likely suffer, if not worse.

It’s worth noting that in this particular example, the director, Vania Heymann’s creative vision is the key developmental attribute. It’s not always easy to see the writing on the wall – to envision scalability – when dealing with intuition and creative genius. But… What can be read ‘between-the-lines’ here is that a new norm is on the horizon for content creators; we will be forced to intelligently align innovative technologies, creative design expertise and advanced analytics insights across content strategy and distribution models.

This, and all that it implies, fit squarely within the context of W2O’s models in content strategy and development. We believe that great content inherently resonates with audiences in multiple dimensions. Content that fits this mold captivates and galvanizes audiences by creating emotional and psychological connections, holistic in nature and that extend beyond the sum of its parts. Whether it comes down to unforeseen “wow-factor” technology (like in the Dylan video), a tactile experience, an emotionally affective message, etc., we can always identify multiple levers at play when observing content that makes a major impact.

The next step in this evolution will be marked by the rise of content creation models that innately create resonant touch-points in multiple dimensions and that establish a level of predictability with respect to measurable outcomes. W2O Group has already begun innovating content creation models in this way, primarily through the alignment of its content, media + engagement, creative design/UX and advanced analytics practices.

Contact W2O Group to find out more.

Hypothetically, imagine if what I’ve described became the basis of an integrated content distribution framework. In that context, might it be argued that brands dealing with segmented audiences (e.g. regional product/service models) would add value, at-scale, by gaining the capability to surface an interactive content engine with an analytical approach at the core of its design (e.g. Nextworks’ Content Capsule)?

Brands challenged by audience segmentation would benefit greatly if they were better equipped to efficiently create and distribute content, and if they could ensure relevant content effectively cut across audience segments without causing core messaging decay. Therefore, it seems safe to say that a viable solution to this problem could rest upon content development models that apply advanced analytics to identify resonant factors across audience segments, and that innovate distribution technologies allowing users to self-select relevant content  and, or that implement software intelligence for surfacing content based on user attribution.

This possibly represents a means by which brands could aggregate content and audiences – even segmented audiences – around centralized content hubs. How might something like this affect brand P&L? It looks to change the game if brands become empowered to consistently and predictively circumvent pitfalls inherent to communicating with segmented audiences.

What impact would it have if organizations were able to multiply the impact of distributed content, while simultaneously reducing the breadth of infrastructure needed for content development and distribution altogether? The implications go on.

If we mostly agree that the world is becoming more integrated, and not less integrated, then content models that innovate technologies for interactivity and that rely heavily on digital analytics insights to drive strategy and distribution seem central to a plausible vision of the future. We, inevitably, will have Bob Dylan to thank for starting us down the road of the former.

Last week, I blogged about the Connected Content Model where I explained the importance of linking to discussions outside the confines of your company blog. That’s extremely important, but there’s another aspect of Connected Content: connecting your own brand assets to help tell a more complete story. In this context, Connected Content is about connecting the social media dots of your company’s presence in other social networks.

I did this all the time when I blogged about new products at Direct2Dell. The product launch posts regularly drew lots of attention from our readers, which made sense because those posts were often the first time we officially discussed a new product. For me, it was important those product blog posts stood apart from information that already existed in a press release or on a Dell.com product page. That usually started with a detailed product post augmented with high-definition product shots and product overview videos that featured insight from some of the people who designed them. We used Dell’s official YouTube channel for all product videos. Early on, we used Dell’s official Flickr page to house our product photos; later we switched to albums on Dell’s official Google+ page for this (because Yahoo! eventually asked us to stop using our account for business purposes).

I’d embed YouTube videos right into the blog post so anyone could play videos inline. I’d usually include a least a couple of examples of product images. In those cases, I’d hyperlink the images themselves to the corresponding picture in our Flickr or Google+ albums for that product. In the body of the post itself, I’d mention that readers could see more images of the product by clicking on the album link. Here’s the XPS 27 AIO album as an example.

This is an example of using a blog post to tie in several content items—part of the Connected Content Model.
Click on the image to see a larger version.

So, why go to all this trouble? Because it resonated with customers. We drove millions of page views to our Flickr page over several years, primarily due to interest in our product photos. Embedding a YouTube product video in a detailed product launch post routinely drove about 10x the traffic to that video compared to just uploading that video to the Dell YouTube channel. It worked on consumer products like the XPS 18 AIO. That album attracted nearly 15K people to look at it. And it wasn’t  just consumer products that got people buzzing. The Dell Precision Tower Series workstations album got over 25K views from potential customers who wanted to see them in more detail.

One other related concept involves packaging posts in a meaningful way. This is especially important when you have several posts dedicated to a topic that’s driving interest. I’ll use Dell’s XPS 13 Ultrabook as an example here. Ahead of the product launch, we knew the XPS 13 was an important product for Dell. It was our first Ultrabook, and we had invested lots of engineering and design resources to make it a reality. And we also knew Dell planned to put more marketing dollars behind it. Rene put a lot of effort into getting the product launch post right. Just before launch, we asked the Dell Command Center to listen for specific customer conversations once we started shipping the product. That led to posts about how we addressed trackpad issues and about extending battery life.

All told, we had many posts related to the XPS 13. To connect them, I added a unique #xps13 tag for all posts, then I’d add the hyperlink to all other XPS 13 posts and provide the link… “if you want to see other XPS 13-related posts, click the previous link.” For the next several months, I monitored traffic. What I found was Rene’s initial post continued to drive traffic due to organic search results. That was a normal pattern we saw on other launch posts. But I also found that it was increasing traffic to subsequent related posts from the link where I aggregated all related posts to. In other words, traffic to all XPS 13-related posts grew over time. It’s kind of like the long tail of related blog posts in my view.

XPS 13 blogs aggregate page views
Click on the above image to see a larger version.

Six months later, I checked all the XPS 13-related posts (that’s where the above image came from). As expected, the product launch post itself was the biggest traffic spike (almost 80K page views by itself), but that all other posts were seeing a bump in readership as well. All 10 posts collectively were viewed over 173K times by potential customers.

Packaging posts in this way makes it easier for customers to find related information. The Verge does an excellent job with this in their Story Stream functionality.  It’s important because whether they find the first post, or the fifth or sixth one, many times they are in research mode, comparing one or more products to each other. Making that information easy to access when customers are looking for it is what really makes the difference.

I’ve blogged about following the right people, that’s step 1. Then, I discussed a bit about how to engage the people you’re listening to (step 2).  Now you’re ready to blog.

This process is something I refer to as the Connected Content Model. It’s really that simple: 1) Listen 2) Engage and 3) Blog. Notice that blogging comes last, and the process is repeatable by design. Once you get through the process, do it again, and keep doing it. Ultimately, this model will result in ongoing conversations you can link to, or at least third party blog posts or articles you can react to.

Connected Content is an inherent component of this model. To me, it’s about engaging an audience, whether we’re talking customers or external influencers on a given topic. Put simply, Connected Content is content that is connected to external conversations.

Connected Content Model

Why does being connected matter? In today’s world, there’s a lot of noise. As examples, over 72 million WordPress blogs exist. There’s 140 million tweets per day. 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. The good news is there’s a ton of good insight companies can derive from the barrage of daily online activity. The downside means it’s a lot harder to cut through the clutter to get noticed. Gone are the days when being a smart person and writing an insightful blog post were enough to get you noticed. If you don’t rise above the noise, chances are good hardly anyone will see the blog post you wrote.  Writing blog posts with connected content is one of the most effective ways I know to change that.

Connected content is about bringing external conversations in. Go where those conversations are occurring and add value to them. Blog comments are a great place to start because they can almost always be linked to, plis comment systems like Disqus and Livefyre make conversations much easier to keep track of .Twitter is also now a great way to link to a conversation because they show the original tweet and replies (like this example of a PlayStation 4/ Xbox One conversation). LinkedIn discussion threads can be linked to, but specific comments inside them cannot. Facebook conversations are the most private (unless the status update is public). Google+ is in the same boat, but many more people make their updates public.

Connected Content

The Value of Connected Content:

  • It builds relationships – This is the most important reason. Whether you make a connection with an influential blogger, or his or her readers, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is every new connection drives more visibility to your content, and provides you more opportunity for engagement.
  • It makes your content less about you – As much as brands want to believe it, people don’t wake up wanting to read a company blog or a company’s status updates in Twitter  or Facebook or elsewhere. Linking and reacting to others inherently focuses things externally, about things that matter to others. That potentially makes you and your company blog much more interesting.
  • It expands your reach outside the walls of your owned and shared properties – This increases the likelihood that more potential customers will see the content you and your company produces.

Don’t get caught up in numbers. Your content doesn’t have to reach a huge audience. It just has to reach some of the right people. And don’t get discouraged—building relationships takes time. Sticking with it will pay dividends. As an example going back to my Dell days, Richard Binhammer became more recognizable than me in the social media world without writing a single blog post on Dell’s blog, Direct2Dell. While that’s a testament to Richard’s rare networking skillset, I think much of it can be attributed to the fact that he posted anywhere and everywhere around the web.

In this video, I talk a bit about connected content, the importance of establishing a dedicated place to publish and brand as publisher:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m9R_gZB0eA[/youtube]

I’ll be talking more about content in future posts. I’m hardly the only person here with thoughts on content. Our own Michael Brito wrote a book on the subject. If you missed his post on mobilizing employees in relation to content,  it’s definitely worth a read. Brian Reid and Ryan Flinn are two ex-journalists who have tons of perspective. If you’re interested in content strategy and content marketing, you’re in the right place.

If you have questions, insight you want to share, or you want to agree or disagree with me on this, please drop me a line in the comments below or reach out to @LionelGeek on Twitter.

The evolution of social media from something “your teenagers did” to something that brands use to connect with key stakeholders has been nothing short of amazing. As evidence of that evolution, take a look at the audience figures for the last couple of months for some of the most popular social networks

It is those latter two statistics that have brands buzzing these days. Regardless of what conference room we are in, or what client we are talking to, the conversation inevitably leads back to content marketing and the importance of visual content therein. Why do brands care? Sites like Instagram and YouTube are still seeing tremendous growth, while Facebook and Twitter have stagnated. Millenials, a key target for many brands are flocking to these sites in droves instead of Facebook or Twitter. Most importantly, sites like Pinterest are proving successful in driving people to websites where customers can ultimately make a purchase. ROI…ROI…ROI.  Bob Pearson, W2O Group President is fond of asking, “If we were to take away all of the written text about your brand online would the visual content still tell the story you want told?” In case you were wondering, the answer to this question is most often ‘no.’

So how do brands start to answer ‘yes’ to the question that Bob is posing, aside from using channels like Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube? One of the ways brands can leverage multiple visual assets within unit is a Content Capsule. The Content Capsule is the brain child of Tim Bahr, CEO of NextWorks, a strategic partner of W2O Group. The content capsule is a unique platform for content delivery across the PESO model of media (paid, earned, shared and owned). Tim and I sat down to talk about the content capsule, and how it fits into broader content marketing program.

Why do you think marketers are showing such strong interest in Content Marketing?

Smart marketers realize that consumers are not interested in ads and promotional material; especially when they are online or on mobile devices.  A .01% click through rate on display ads pretty much tells that story. Online and mobile consumers, who are in a buying mode, are most often seeking information to help them make a buying decision.  Marketers now recognize this as a huge opportunity to provide valuable and relevant information on their products and services that can help people buy their products.  That’s exactly why content marketing is the top priority for most marketers today, and why many believe it will be the most important area of marketing in the future.

What do you think of the trend toward content marketing?

I think the move toward content marketing is a very significant advance in marketing and the entire business/customer relationship.   We are finally starting to recognize the intelligence of our audiences.  We can’t just talk at them anymore with promotional messages that they have not requested and have no interest in.  They can just simply turn those messages off.

To successfully deliver a message to an audience in the digital world, where the user controls the receipt of messages, the message must be informative, relevant and provide value.  That outcome of this new means of communicating will be greater engagement and stronger customer relationships.

What do you think is key to successfully delivering content to an audience?

First you should know what the audience wants.  Today’s social media analytics can give you those insights.  Then you need a distribution platform that can deliver content to the audience wherever and whenever that want to receive it in an engaging and interactive manner.  Finally, you must be able to monitor all interactions with the content so you have metrics that can help you continually update and alter content to meet the specific needs of your audience and ensure you remain timely and relevant.

How does the Content Capsule platform deliver this type of audience engagement and measurement?

The capsule platform is an interactive canvas that allows marketers to tell complete stories with videos, images, presentations, links and transactions in one self-contained, branded and highly sharable unit.  An audience can be taken on a journey from assessment through engagement to conversion without ever leaving a company’s content.  Capsules allow marketers to easily launch content campaigns across owned, earned, shared and paid media on all devices.  And, because every piece of content within a capsule is monitored and measured, a marketer can respond in real time to audience interactions and update content while a capsule is in distribution.  When content is updated, capsules embedded and shared across the digital ecosystem all update.  This creates an opportunity for ongoing programming of relevant content to multiple audiences across all platforms. Here are some examples of content capsule platforms we have built for other clients.

BMC

P&G

During this week’s Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio Tim and the NextWorks team will be demonstrating the capsule platform for attendees. Make sure you stop by and check it out.

Last week at SXSWi I had the opportunity to listen in on two different panels talking about social television and transmedia – the art of telling stories across multiple devices, often known as the “second screen”. The first panel featured representatives from Nielsen, ESPN, Oxygen Media and MTV with the subject “integrating brands into social television.”

During this discussion, the broadcasters unilaterally agreed that social opened up new revenue streams giving brands additional avenues for sponsorship and advertising. They also agreed that broadcasters are leading the way in social television. This point is hard to argue – broadcasters are finding clever ways to maximize fan engagement during live broadcasts; ESPN greatly benefits from live event programming, while MTV succinctly said “we know what happens next” and therefore match online content to fulfill the needs of their fan base.

And, where broadcasters are treating their shows as brands themselves, they’re winning – reaping the benefits financially, and creating fan advocacy/loyalty too. Take, for example, Bravo TV where also at SXSW, Lisa Hsia, EVP of Digital Media of Bravo gave impressive stats surrounding “Last Chance Kitchen” (the online competition allowed fans to vote back eliminated contestants). Hsia proclaimed that 26% of the audience who watched “Top Chef: Texas” were actively involved in “Last Chance Kitchen,” and the reveal episode (where Bev won) was the season’s highest rated episode. Further, she said that social engagement shattered all kinds of records for NBC Universal, and left me with one of the more memorable quotes of the day regarding content: “if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.”

Two terrific panels, overall. In fact, a great Time Magazine article was written last week about the Bravo case study, saying that broadcasters stand to reap the most rewards if they continue to drive fan engagement, increased ratings…and lucrative sponsorships.

So, this keeps me wondering: why aren’t brands rising to this level too? Today’s consumer brand has every opportunity to become broadcasters themselves – creating relevant content and [ultimately] driving social commerce to reap the rewards. Through clever content and fan engagement, brands can become their own media channels. In fact, one brand that’s clearly risen to this challenge is Red Bull, as illustrated by a recent Fast Company article. They’ve completely immersed themselves in content its customers crave – and they’re reaping the benefits, financially.

Through advanced analytics, brands have more insightful knowledge about their customers than ever before, but even better – direct access to their fans is only a few keystrokes away. What an enormous opportunity. So while it may be true that broadcasters are leading the charge right now, it seems to me it’s only a matter of time before brands rise up and move from looking at social as another sponsorship/integration opportunity and shift their attention to creating or co-creating transmedia content that builds real advocacy and brand loyalty which will turn into real commerce, too.

Aside from Red Bull, what other brands do you think are doing a great job of rising to the challenge? Would love to know your thoughts on other examples.

Joining Twitter, Facebook/Gowalla, Foursquare and others in a flurry of social media announcements this December, StumbleUpon revealed new features and a sleek redesign of its website and logo. But the biggest news on the marketing front was StumbleUpon’s announcement of “channels.”

Similar to how users can follow brands and celebrities on Facebook and Twitter, StumbleUpon channels will help stumblers discover content from the brands they know and love, or want to learn more about. I have already seen this dubbed: “more controlled stumbling” – an interesting concept.

In other words, it’s a way for brands to get desired content in front of their followers. And investigating the features (built upon an already impressive platform), StumbleUpon channels appear to offer a significant new content syndication tool.

Having played around with some of the beta channels, here are a few noteworthy features:

  • Sleek Design: Featured content is displayed with images carrying the corresponding StumbleUpon interest category.
  • Followers: The follower count is displayed for social proof, as well as the number of featured content pieces.
  • Stumble Channel: If I don’t feel like selecting a particular piece of content, I can opt to stumble the channel and land where the algorithm takes me.
  • Custom URLs: Such as su.pr/TheAtlantic (for The Atlantic) or su.pr/ESPNCFB (for ESPN College Football)

To help make sense of the new offering and its potential, a colleague at StumbleUpon had a few takeaways for brands to keep in mind when considering a StumbleUpon channel:

  1. White Label: Channels are currently white labeled with a few brands/individuals. As such, they’re not widely available for other brands to create at the moment.
  2. It’s Not A Destination: The initial purpose of a brand channel will be to integrate new content into StumbleUpon for users to discover, not necessarily to create a destination site, like brand pages on Facebook or Google.*
  3. It’s Free (for now): As it stands, brand channels on StumbleUpon will be free to set up.
  4. Potential Integration with Paid Discovery: Brand channels may provide a way to further enhance StumbleUpon Paid Discovery campaigns by combining promotional efforts for greater pageviews.
  5. No Guarantee on Pageviews: While StumbleUpon Paid Discovery can deliver the pageviews a brand requests, the followers of a StumbleUpon channel will determine its success.

With more than 20 million registered users, and growing at more than 1 million each month, StumbleUpon represents a massive opportunity for brands to syndicate content, and to discover and engage new customers. It’s certainly a channel we will be paying close attention to.

* In order for users to find content (any content) through StumbleUpon, another user will have had to “discover” it and tag it appropriately. This action indexes the web page, video, slideshow, etc. in StumbleUpon. Channels will be a new way for brands to enter their content into StumbleUpon, and syndicate it for discovery by other users.

New Storytelling
At the heart of every exchange online is a piece of content, and within the DNA of that content is a theme that tells a story.  With social platforms and new tools to capture and tell a story, there’s no excuse for a brand to rely merely on the tried-and-true mediums of old media.  Each new iPhone update alone pushes the evolution of brand as publisher forward.  Add to that more powerful devices connecting more people at greater speeds, and the content evolution becomes more clear.  With more people who have more access to your story, it’s critical to understand the role of content in the context of the needs of the individual who will consume it.

Content Strategy
Content can support several business and marketing goals, including:

  • Establish and grow community
  • Inform prospects throughout the sales funnel
  • Introduce a new product or service
  • Establish thought leadership
  • Strengthen or establish a search presence

It’s finding the right purpose and focus for your content efforts that help a brand realize the benefits of a deliberate content strategy.  Over time, your content strategy can help align disparate programs and ground them around a single purpose.  And, for each program, it can help create a market for your message/content over time.

Addressing the Content Burden
Brands have a lot to think about when they establish a presence in social media.  How long will it take to grow a community?  What kind of conversations will they need to anticipate and be able to address?  How do they grow their presence from a one-way monologue into a two-way dialogue with the people who influence the success of their brand?

All of these are important questions to ask and answer.  But, few are more important and have greater impact across all of them more than addressing the content burden.

Rethinking Content
Addressing the burden of content requires a new approach.  Thinking strategically about content requires the ability to rethinking the content supply chain – the role, format and context of content  – from creative concept through measurement.  When we start to think multi-purpose, multi-medium and multi-format, we can begin to align content resources against the content burden.  And, we ensue we can create a compelling story for the brand in the shareable, searchable formats of the social web.  But, brands are trained and condition to think of content in traditional terms – defined by insertion orders, date lines, traditional news cycles and white space.  When we begin to think beyond traditional limits, we can start to put content in other formats.  Here are a few of the formats of the new storytelling model.

Creating a Content Culture
Unlocking the benefits of the new content reality is creating a content culture within the business.  What may have been the responsibility of the communications team or marketing group now extends to every part of the brand with a story to tell.  The magic comes in finding the relevant and compelling content across the business that can be used to tell a cohesive brand story to each of its audiences.  But, in order to address the content burden, more groups within the brand should understand the role they play in telling the brand’s story.

Generally, education about the changing role of content includes elements of:

  • Getting the brand to think beyond single-purpose content
  • Educating the brand on shareability and why to put content in the shareable formats of the social web
  • Helping the brand understand that it’s not just a consumer of content but also a publisher
  • Introduce the concept of curation and the value of looking at the brand in the context of its industry and being a convener and promoter of the discussion
  • Knowing what to measure and looking at content strategically and using likes, shares and views as an indication of the interest in that particular piece of content, but not as an immediate indication of the value of content marketing as a whole (low views should help direct content refinement, not to condemn the strategy)

Being able to tell the entire brand story in multiple places and formats is becoming the new norm.  Adapting your brand to capture the benefits of that connected conversation through content will help define the brand in its business context.

It’s for these reasons and others that as we lead our clients, partners, brands from insights through engagement, we focus much of our approach on putting good, relevant — and frequent — content into social media. The challenge for most brands isn’t understanding the role of content in their online strategy. Instead, it’s realizing the burden, having to produce content with the frequency necessary to feed the social machine. Without a consistent stream of good, relevant content, a brand’s social presence becomes stale and ineffective, and the brand becomes irrelevant to both people and the search engines that seek their content.

Originally posted on Pre-Commerce.com

Background

One of the things I’ve learned from years of working with companies that sell products and services to other companies (B2B)  is that they benefit just as much from engaging in social media as any consumer brand. However, many B2B marketers tend to think too narrowly when it comes to developing a social media strategy and action plan. Many subscribe to the conventional wisdom of creating an obligatory LinkedIn presence and probably a corporate blog. If they are a little more forward thinking they may even be on Twitter or Slideshare. But many don’t feel like they have any business on Facebook, Youtube, Flickr or iTunes which is a shame because social networks, online video, pictures and podcasts drive a lot of engagement along with a lot of search engine activity.

Equally important is a recent stat from eMarketer that points out that 86% of all technology buyers at B2B companies use social media over the course of their day at work. It should be obvious that this doesn’t mean these B2B folks are just using social media FOR work but like many of us, they are allowing their personal and professional lives to intermingle as they tweet in between meetings, watch Youtube videos on their phones and update Facebook during lunch. To that end, with this increased time spent on the social web comes an increase in opportunity for discovering new content, companies and connections.

Content (not Sex) Sells

With this new phenomena comes an opportunity for companies to gently insert themselves into relevant conversations — mainly through good content. To give an example, if I’m a marketer and I’m looking for a new e-mail service provider (ESP) and I see that one of my professional friends has just “liked” a Constant Contact video on “10 Things You Should Know When Evaluating an ESP,” I’m heading over to check it out. If the video provides useful information how which ESP criteria I should be using, there is a good chance that Constant Contact is going into my consideration set. The graphic below from MarketingSherpa (via eMarketer) reinforces this point… good content creates good interactions and ultimately leads to leads and sales.

For better or for worse, the content that most B2B marketers create today looks like white papers, webinars and product demos. Fortunately, these foundational pieces of content can all be cross-purposed into other pieces of content like infographics, podcasts, slides, tweet chats and web videos. Because humans digest content differently, putting similar pieces of content into different formats across different channels ensures that more people will see your content. Take it one step further and link these cross-channel pieces of content together and you will exponentially increase your search engine optimization (SEO) juice.

How Can Companies Unearth More Good Conent

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on creating, capturing, curating and cross-purposing content. If you missed it, I pointed out some easy ways that companies (B2B or B2C) can use to maximize their content creation. For example:

  • Creating content with short videos – Arm someone in your marketing/PR department with a flip camera. Have them schedule weekly video or audio interviews with your product or customer service team. Create and post them on a company Youtube channel.
  • Capturing content at conferences – If you or one of your employees is speaking at the event, consider posting their Powerpoint slides to SlideShare.com. You can also pick a favorite Slideshare deck and feature it on your website, LinkedIn or Facebook accounts.
  • Cross-purposing content – Take the FAQs from your website and post 1-2/day on your Twitter account. Hashtag the content with #usefultips so that people can search and find all of your tips and even add their own.
  • Curating client or partner content – Ask your customers, partners and industry influencers/analysts to guest blog for you. Better yet, create a series and line up one a week for the entire quarter.

Do you work at a B2B company? If so, what are some of your best tips for engaging prospects and customers in social media?