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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.

For most of us, the idea of “big data” is either terrifying, utterly overwhelming, or both. What does big data even mean? How are we supposed to make sense of infinite amounts of information? Once we’ve made some sense of it all, how can we make cents from it all? Stop. Take a deep breath. Let go and let analytics.

Here at W2O, we have an extraordinarily talented analytics team working hard to answer the big questions. We’ve built an industry-leading team for a few very important reasons. We believe a creative brief is not enough. We believe building content strategies on foundations of analytical data is a more intelligent approach. We believe the evolution of digital data provides us an opportunity to develop programs that identify the right audience, understand their interest areas, and reach them with the right content, at the right time, in the right channel. Do you know what else? Big brands believe as well. In fact, the smartest brands are stepping their content marketing up a notch by finding needles in giant haystacks of data because they’re asking the right questions and making sense of the data first.

Analytics Information

 

At W2O’s event with Sprinklr on Monday in Santa Clara, executives from major companies in Silicon Valley will discuss how they’re using analytics to deliver more innovative content experiences to their current and potential customers. The panelists will explain their greatest challenges in reaching their audience with content that matters and what they’re doing to overcome these challenges with the power of data.

If you’d like to attend the event, register here. See below for our esteemed list of panelists – we hope you’ll join the discussion.

Greg Eden – Vice President, Brand & Communications, Autodesk

Judy Yee – Executive Vice President of Marketing, Crystal Geyser Water Company

Stacey Wu – Vice President, Marketing Operations, Analytics and Automation, Avaya

Niki Hall – Vice President of Marketing, Polycom

Jack Richard – Director of Marketing, Customer Experience & Storytelling, Hewlett Packard

Michael Brito – Head of Social Strategy, WCG, a W2O Company

 

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.

If one thing needs to happen in 2014, it’s that brands must get content right. Content is the lifeline into the digital ecosystem. It’s how we reach consumers, break through the clutter and change their behavior. It’s pretty obvious, I know.

What’s not so obvious though is that we need to elevate the conversation beyond just the content marketing insanity.

Content marketing by nature, is tactical. It can easily be done in a silo. If you work for a large brand, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from creating, aggregating, and curating content and then posting it up in social media channels without having a strategy.

You can hire consultants, agencies, and even third-party journalists and bloggers using platforms like Contently, Skyword or eByline to create content and campaigns on your behalf. And, it’s fairly easy to use valuable platforms like Newscred to help augment your content marketing initiatives.

And guess what? You can do all of this without actually talking to anyone else in your company.

Don’t get me wrong. These platforms are all valuable and very much needed as a part of your content initiatives. But without a vision or a holistic strategy, the content itself might not be as epic as planned or change any specific consumer behavior.

The reason why many of us struggle with content, storytelling, and being able to scale our content operations is because we tend to look at content from a very elementary point of view. Content isn’t a box you check, a bubble you fill in, or a bullet point in a new business capabilities presentation. It’s more than search, more than real-time content and so much more than spitting out buzzwords like “content marketing.” And you can only learn so much about content from clever-link-bait blog titles like “10 Proven Tips to Do This” or “5 Smart Tricks to Do That.”

Content must be considered a strategic imperative for your brand. You must become a content organization if you want to take your business to the next level.

Just as there is an art to storytelling; there also needs to be a strategic and operational plan that can help you create and distribute content; integrate it across paid, earned, shared and owned media; and measure it effectively. As a marketer, brand manager, or small business owner you must move beyond the content marketing buzzword and commit to building a content strategy that will allow you to execute your tactical content marketing initiatives flawlessly and at scale.

Here’s how I see this playing out; and let me introduce 4 pillars of content strategy.

Brand Goals: This is obvious but worth mentioning; and it’s critical. You must decide very early on what your specific content goals are? Are you trying to increase sales of a specific product or change perceptions about your brand? In either case, having documented goals that are aligned to your business/marketing goals and supported by your executive team is kind of an important thing to do.

Brand Narrative: Too many of us jump right into social media channels without understanding the story we want to tell; and then we get frustrated when we run out of things to say. The narrative exercise should be done early on and consider several factors – brand positioning, audience interests and affinities, media/community perceptions of the brand, historical content performance and search. From there, a good narrative coupled with storytelling principles and an editorial framework will give birth to a highly successful “gives-you-wings” type of story.

Content Operations: Believe this when I say that successful storytelling requires a significant amount of operations in order to actually work. Newsrooms create thousands of pieces of content daily and it’s not a free for all. Establishing a content supply chain (workflows that facilitate content ideation, creation, approval and distribution) are needed to build consistencies in brand storytelling and controls to avoid inconsistencies. Identifying roles and responsibilities, internally, are also important especially if you are mobilizing employees to help tell the brand story. Also, building and operationalizing customer/employee brand advocacy programs is a smart thing to do and requires an investment into a technology platform (i.e.Branderati, Dynamic Signal, Influitive).

Media Integration/ Distribution: Consumers need to interact with your content 3 – 5 times before they actually believe it. The concept itself can be compared to the “learning by repetition” theory that was taught by ancient Egyptian and Chinese educators thousands of years ago. And, when you consider the fact that there is a content/media surplus and consumers have an attention deficit, you can understand how difficult it may be to reach them and then make even a sliver of an impact. This is why it’s important for you to tell a consistent story across every channel – paid, earned, shared and owned.

In order to do this, you must prioritize your storytelling principles and content and then map them specifically to various digital channels. It’s also a good idea to deploy converged media models (the integration of paid, earned, shared and owned media) simply by promoting relevant/resonant content on Facebook and Twitter or use platforms like Outbrain and OneSpot that can also deliver converged media models. You can then decide whether or not you want to launch a real-time command center operation in this post-Oreo era to capitalize on news and recent events.  Not critical but it’s an option.

Analytics and measurement will undoubtedly play a critical role in each pillar – determining a consistent measurement framework, KPIs, measuring real-time content performance, audience research and establishing benchmarks that will help you determine when to use paid media to amplify organic content.

Oh, and I am a huge fan of Public Enemy.

Image Credit

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.

Last week, I did a webinar with industry leading content marketing platform, Newscred. If you don’t use their platform for your content marketing efforts, you should consider doing so. Read this article about their capabilities from Fast Company to learn more.

The topic … Brand Storytelling.

Specifically, how brands (large and small) can and should mobilize their workforce and empower their employees to feed the content engine with relevant, game-changing and meaningful content.

In case you are too busy to register and listen to the webinar, here is a quick summary with the slides below.

I usually start off my presentations talking about the external market place. Slides 2 – 7 highlight 5 digital truths that brands must consider if they truly want to reach new audiences:

  1. There is a content and media surplus
  2. There is an attention deficit in the minds of consumers
  3. Consumer behavior is hard to predict. The way they consume content is dynamic
  4. Consumers have tunnel vision only have the capacity to consume highly relevant content
  5. All consumers are influential

And despite these external challenges, your core business objectives will always remain the same. They will never change, whatever they may be (customer acquisition, revenue, stock price, etc.)

I then discuss the four pillars of brand storytelling – brand goals, brand narrative, content operations and media distribution/integration. I spent some time on this slide explaining how employee advocacy (brand journalism) would fit strategically into the content operations pillar.

Slide 10 – 12 really dig into defining social business and how a strategic framework is needed to deploy brand storytelling programs. Slide 13 – 14 are industry data points from Edelman and the Society for New Communications Research that lay the foundation for employee empowerment and engagement. Slide 15 are six strategic reasons why employee brand advocacy is a smart thing to do because it can drive brand awareness, change brand perceptions, educate customers/prospects and influence their peers to buy, etc.

I conclude the presentation with an action plan on how to deploy an employee brand storytelling program; and it’s actually an intuitive process:

  1. Define the program: This is the most critical and it will take into consideration most of the operational elements to get the program launched and include the goals/objectives, program logistics (what do you call it?), the selection criteria, measurement, program management, etc.
  2. Identifying the right employees: My advice here is to start small. Choose a handful of employees (those who want to be involved or who are already socially proficient), establish some best practices/wins and then scale the program. Oh, and it’d be good to partner with Human Resources and/or Employee Communications too.
  3. Activate storytelling initiatives: Brand storytelling is so much more than employees retweeting, liking and commenting on branded updates. It requires strategic “calls to action” that fall within the brand’s overall content strategy. Many times, this will also require technology applications like Dynamic Signal, Branderati or Influitive that can help facilitate the content supply chain between employees.
  4. Amplify employee stories: Amplifying stories can be as simple as sharing employee content on branded channels or as complex as building out a portal of media that features content from employees, customers and branded content as well.
  5. Measure & Optimize: This is pretty straightforward. You first need to establish a set of KPIs when defining the program and then measure your success once the program launches.

Enjoy the slides.

Learn more about participation marketing or download the latest guide on Employee Brand Storytelling.

The Consumer Team is introducing “Socialize,” the latest and greatest social updates you can find. We want our clients to be up-to-date with the latest in social media and we want them to hear it from us so each month, we’ll be sharing the new stuff, the next big thing and what’s hot. In September, we have taken a dive into Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube to socialize what’s different across all channels and why it matters.  If you would like to be featured in the October updates, we would love to hear what you have to say.

What you need to know in September:

  • Pinterest Announces Promoted Pins
    • Pinterest will begin rolling out paid advertising in the form of “Promoted Pin’s” in users’ top results and search categories. Ads will be clearly labeled and no money will be collected from advertisers during the testing phase. http://mashable.com/2013/09/19/pinterest-promoted-pins/
    • Why it matters: Another way for paid and earned to work side-by-side in helping to increase the search results of branded Pinterest pages.
    • What you have to say about it: “Recently we have seen a number of brands seeking out Pinterest as a key channel for connecting with their audiences, so it was no surprise that the platform has decided to make the move to incorporating paid advertising. As an analyst, I hear time and time again that brands are starting to see higher site referral traffic through Pinterest so it’s a natural fit for the site to embrace e-commerce and advertising opportunities.” Natalie DeNike, Analytics, Austin, TX
  • Video Auto-Play Within Facebook
    • Facebook launched a test through mobile that will auto-play any user-uploaded videos when scrolling over. The video will stop playing once it slips off the screen. http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/12/facebook-tests-silent-auto-play-for-user-videos-in-mobile-feed-foreshadowing-video-ads/
    • Why it matters: Moving in the direction of automatic playing of paid content (ads). Content being uploaded to Facebook with auto-play may increase interaction & views. The more views / interactions, the more likely that videos will be seen in other’s news feeds.
    • What you have to say about it: “That’s just more interruption. At least Vine is muted initially when scrolling through. This might as well be another disruptive ad.” Spike Jones, Group Director, Austin, TX
  • Facebook Makes Conversations More Accessible
    • Select users will be allowed to search all public Facebook posts by using keywords and data strings. Rollout will begin with a small group of media outlets such as BuzzFeed, CNN, Slate, etc. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/facebook-offers-new-windows-into-social-conversation/?_r=0
    • Why it matters: Future focus on targeted advertising, based on public and private information. This introduces another layer of analytics to understand what people are saying about brands and the content, and/or demographic information in private networks.
    • What you have to say about it: “Facebook’s new search features will provide much more depth to our analytics work with Verizon—particularly for unanticipated events like the NSA. We’ll be able to draw real-time insights into what users are talking about and the ways in which they’re communicating (e.g. Hashtags, video, images, etc.), as well as overall demographic information. Not only will our reporting become more robust, but our recommendations into Facebook engagement and best practices will benefit also.” Sarah Masel, Analytics Manager, New York, NY
  • Twitter’s New “Verified” Filter
    • Twitter introduced two new filter tabs to users with verified profiles; filtered (shows mentions based on algorithm to cut out spam) and verified (shows interactions with other verified profiles). http://marketingland.com/twitter-gives-verified-users-new-spam-verified-only-filters-for-mentions-58876
    • Why it matters: For users of verified accounts, you can filter conversations from other verified accounts – meaning you can/should have more meaningful interactions, faster (less spam).
    • What you have to say about it: “From a brand standpoint, I think the introduction is very helpful. As more brands continue to build an online presence, the ability to filter and organize relevant conversations allows for greater and speedier responses from the brand as they can hone in on the important interactions most impactful to their community.” Melanie Weiss, Account Manager, Los Angeles, CA
  • Offline Viewing Coming to YouTube
    • YouTube announced their new feature that will allow users to watch videos while offline. Content will refresh when internet connection is available. http://www.engadget.com/2013/09/19/youtube-offline-video-for-mobile-explained/
    • Why it matters: Pretty big deal – no internet connection required to watch videos. Think of this like DVR-ing your content for offline use.
    • What you have to say about it: “I think this development speaks to the ‘consumer is boss’ mentality.  The ability to download videos and view them at a time that’s convenient for you – where you may not have wifi, internet or phone service – makes it that much easier to consume content.  It also will be good service for emerging markets where internet access may not be readily available or mobile communications are lagging behind” Pete Collins, Group Director, New York, NY

For more detailed information, please view our deck.

Samantha Hershman & Erin Weinert, Consumer Team

 

Time has published its longest article by a single writer in the magazine’s history: a whopping 36 pages and 24,105 words.

And I’ve just read it on my iPhone.

Every. Single. Word. And so will thousands of others. In fact, before my print subscription even hit my stoop, I’d read the entire article online.

In October last year, Time broke new ground by synchronizing its content across platforms, utilizing the latest in responsive design methodology to create a seamless user experience whether you’re looking at your desktop, tablet or phone.

It’s time (excuse the pun) to change the way we, as writers and communicators, approach our work. That press release you’re working on is no longer a press release, it’s an asset: a piece of news that can be shared across the net on multiple platforms and devices.

Responsive Content Is Easy

Creating truly responsive, adaptive content isn’t hard: media outlets have been doing it for some time to ration production across platforms: the secret is “chunking.” When you submit any content, whether it is a pamphlet, brochure, white paper, speech or press release, a responsive submission requires you to break its structure down, regardless of length. In fact, as the Time article shows, length is not an obstacle with a responsive approach—check out Time.com or NYDailyNews.com to see how scrolling long pages is actually easier than linking to new pages and waiting for them to load.

How Should I Chunk Content?

  • Use headings that your readers relate to; overhauling headings can make a huge difference and help to narrate old, un-optimized content and links
  • Submit multi-purpose headlines that serve as titles, teasers and links. This saves online editors time, (which they’ll love you for). Plus, crafting them yourself gives you control over your message. You should submit:
    • Short SEO headline
    • Long SEO headline
    • Short user-friendly headline
    • Long user-friendly headline
  • Let readers know how long the article is: rather than pagination, using titles like  “Eight New Products in Development” really helps a reader follow the article
  • Include in-text subheadings; these have become essential and super search engine friendly
  • Use bullets and put your keywords at the start of the sentence to aid reading
  • Insert lots of images to break up walls of text that tire our eyes
  • Create captions for images and all multimedia—users love captions as they summarize articles and provide overview, and they help sell your story
  • Submit two variations for suggested social media posts: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Make it easy to share!

 

If you’re interested in learning more about responsive content, drop me a line, tweet me or talk to W2O’s dynamic content engagement team.

The Mobile Imperative

iPhones, iPad, tablets and readers – it’s easy to define mobile by the devices we use in the places we go.  But, the real revolution in mobile is happening semantically.  For a culture on the go, mobile is silently moving from noun to verb.  From what we use to how, where, when and why we use it.  Fueled by expanding mobile networks, carrier hand-offs, faster processors and more features and form factors, we’re no longer confined by the wall sockets that tether us, but are unbound to move around our world and through the lives we live – mobily.  It’s because of the places we go, the people we see and the lives that we live wherever we live them that defining a long-term mobile strategy must first acknowledge the semantic shift from noun to verb. Having a dedicated roadmap to reach mobile consumers is no longer a feature or addendum to an effective program, but central to it and integrated within it.

An Integration Approach

Watch behavior of people in public, and you’ll see a common thread – the dim glow of a blue light on their face posting to Facebook, sending or receiving a text  or checking email.  Ninety-one percent of American cell phone customers have their phones within arm’s reach 24 hours a day. During that day, depending on their age group, they check email between six and 20 times.  They text between 5 and 110 times.  Understanding how people navigate their lives through their phone provides insight to a sustainable mobile strategy. For any brand, this considers how a Facebook post can be received on a desktop computer, commented on with a mobile phone and shared through a tablet or within an offline conversation. With consumption and behavior habits blurring across platforms, mobile features and devices, it’s important to find integration points that connect or at least span technologies, geographies and programs.  Organizations that can find a cohesive way to align purpose, platform and audience while delivering the experiences that enhance consumers’ daily travels.

Context is King

When assessing the mobile opportunities for your organization, it’s important to understand the mobile context of your customers, constituent, users.

1)     Behaviors: Create an archetype for the personalities of your customer base.  Where does this person go during the day – the dry cleaner, school, drive-in, restaurant, hiking?  Think about how the use of devices (noun) impacts the use habits (verb) of the demographics that make up your customer base.  And, don’t fall into the traps of assumption and stereotypes.  Seek out knowledge – both anecdotal and concrete – about how your target moves around, through and into the experiences that connect their world.

2)     Content: It’s important to assess not only what type of content is most compelling and consumed within the context of the customer’s daily excursion. It’s equally important to understand how your specific content/experience will be accessed and consumed. Assume much of your content will increasingly be consumed on a mobile device of some kind – whether on a cell phone or a tablet.  This impacts form, format and other characteristics of your content.  Make content consumable for mobile devices to maximize the experience for the consumer.  Shorter videos, visually compelling photos, succinct audio clips.

3)     Experiences: Understanding the pathways your consumer follows throughout the day can provide insight into how to enhance their experience.  Much like how marketers need to understand that it’s not about them in social channels, this concept becomes more relevant when connecting in a mobile context.  Are you just repurposing content to be available on mobile devices, or are you looking for ways to enhance the mobile experience?  I receive brief text messages from Redbox for a free rental each month.  It’s short, plain text and in a format that makes it easy for me to take action at the kiosk.  No need for html codes or flash widgets.  Just me, my phone and my Redbox text.

4)     Measurement: Do you know how often your site, channel, content is accessed through a mobile device?  What is the termination rate?  Bounce rate? Can you tell which information is accessed the longest through mobile?  All of these are indications of when, how and why your information is accessed.  And, it’s valuable to know these baseline metrics to understand what content and experiences are more compelling.  It also reveals some of the situational context (time of day, length of time on content, etc) that can be used to dial up or modify content pathways.

5)     Evolution: There are any number of reports that show estimates on mobile penetration and adoption – from operating systems to devices to downloads.  Some marketers make decisions based on those metrics, which are sometimes months old.  One of my favorite stories is from a time I was working with a major mobile chip manufacturer.  I was in a room with smart marketers and engineers who had helped revolutionize the mobile technology of the time.  They were debating whether or not to account for a new feature that some consumers were starting to ask for on their mobile phone.  The new feature was music.  All of the data pointed to the fact that consumers would never really want to do anything more than talk on their phones. If they wanted music, they could use their Walkman for that.  We know how the rest of the story ends.  With few exceptions, most would agree that this mobile thing is going to be big.  Basing program decisions and mobile investments on the degree of adoption today doesn’t account for the speed of overall adoption.  Chances are it takes longer for your company to agree on and launch programs than it does for mobile use patterns to evolve.  Look at where your audience will be in six to twelve months, rather than were they’ve been for the previous six or are today.  This will help ensure you’re meeting the evolutionary needs of your constituents and customers.

The mobile revolution began years ago.  The evolution will continue as networks expand, the tools and toys we use get smarter and there’s more of us connecting in more ways in more places.  Viewing mobile as a verb, instead of noun puts our head in a place that our actions can follow.

Photo: ACL Fest Bike Rack Photo by AdamJ1555

 

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.

In the last post, I talked about the importance of being able to have the entire brand discussion in social channels and how that builds a credible and authentic presence for the brand over time.  Integral to sustaining a presence online is ensuring you have something to say or share. And, at the center of any exchange online is a piece of content.  That content can take many forms:

  • A Facebook post asking the community a question
  • A Tweet that links to an infographic
  • A poll included within a blog post, and the blog post itself
  • A video posted to YouTube
  • A Facebook ad
  • A gallery of photos on Flickr
  • And others

Social media, blogs and content platforms like YouTube, SlideShare and Flickr have not only given consumers a voice and publishing platform, those same tools are available to brands to tell their story. Each piece of content, strung together, begin to form a brand’s presence online, in social media and in search.

Activity is no substitute for good strategy, however. In the end, each piece of content should add to the brand’s relevance and credibility.  While volume of content is important, that volume should be grounded in a strategy and informed by an understanding of the community and the context in which the brand and its content exist.  Here are a few principles to help guide content production to align with the greater purpose of advancing the brand.

Most content (whatever form or format it takes) should serve one or more of these goals:

  • Introduce – a new theme or concept
  • Inform – people about something new and exciting, or to be helpful
  • Inspire – others to think or act differently or to harness their creative passions
  • Incite – action, emotion or some forward-looking experience

Content with a purpose has a better chance of contributing to a brand’s goals online.  When telling the brand’s story, be interesting enough to grab attention and compelling enough to share – and, above all, have a strategic reason for the content to exist.

A year ago, WCG’s Neville Hobson and Bob Pearson highlighted 10 trends that will matter to every company in 2010. In this edition of the WCG ThoughLeaders podcast, Bob gives a retrospective look at 2010 and how things worked out for some of those trends, which serves as a backdrop to his predictive view of six top trends for businesses in 2011, focusing discussion on:

  1. The dawn of the Content Highway
  2. Blogs now equal websites
  3. The real tipping point for e-commerce is just around the corner
  4. Business-to-business apps are the untapped frontier
  5. Gaming will become mainstream for business
  6. Within two years, smartphones will out-ship PCs

The discussion concludes on pre-commerce, a concept Bob has embraced in his book Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together to be published in March 2011. Bob explains what pre-commerce is and argues that companies need to be very good at it if they are to become leaders in e-commerce. (Follow or join in online discussion with the #precommerce hashtag.)

About Our Guest

bobpearson-smChief Technology and Media Officer at WCG, Bob Pearson has a unique combination of social media, marketing and communications skills acquired during nearly 25 years at three Fortune 500 companies and a major consultancy.

Prior to WCG, he was Vice President of Communities and Conversations at Dell Inc, where he was responsible for developing an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in Groundswell. Before joining Dell, Bob worked for Novartis Pharmaceuticals as Head of Global Corporate Communications and as Head of Global Pharma Communications, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. Prior to Novartis, Bob was President of The Americas for GCI and was responsible for creating and building the firm’s global healthcare practice. He was previously Vice President of Global Public Affairs & Media Relations at Rhone-Poulenc Rorer (now Sanofi Aventis) and worked at CIBA-Geigy in both communications and field sales.

Bob is based at WCG’s office in Austin, Texas.