Convince and Convert: Social Media Strategy and Content Marketing Strategy Fri, 19 Sep 2014 10:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Is Twitter About to Make a Huge Mistake? Fri, 19 Sep 2014 10:00:18 +0000
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An Twitter Algorithm for Twitter

Recently there have been rumors that Twitter is planning to implement an algorithm for the way it presents content: rather than a straight timeline that publishes every single update in reverse chronological order, Twitter would display a sorted newsfeed based on perceived relevance of the content.

Mark is the co-host of marketing podcast The Marketing Companion and author of The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time, so the changing pulse of Twitter is familiar to him.

As a public company, Twitter has to sustain growth every quarter. “What’s the number one obstacle?” Mark asks, “Twitter is difficult to use. It doesn’t have a great interface, it’s very perplexing for people, and I think that’s what’s driving this.” Perhaps if they can help weed through some of the noise with a good algorithm, they’ll be able to entice more users.

taooftwitter Is Twitter About to Make a Huge Mistake?Of course, the small outcry that has come in response to this announcement is from the social pros who know that Twitter will use this algorithm to “put the squeeze” on organic reach, just like Facebook has. In order to reach all of your followers, you’ll have to pay for a sponsored tweet.

But in social media, we know that we are building on the big guy’s land, and expecting that land to continue to be free seems like naivete now.

In some ways, this change could be good for businesses on Twitter. Today, “if you put something on Twitter, it’s pretty much like throwing a bottle into the ocean. You don’t really know who’s going to see it or if they’re going to see it.” Businesses may find that they have a more reliable reach when their tweets are sorted by relevance.

Social Media Number of the Week: 10

As of this year, the Cleveland Browns have gone a record-breaking number of seasons (10) without winning their opening game.

And yet the Browns still sell out, they still have fans and a strong social media presence. “It’s indicative,” Jeff says, “that you’ve really got to know your industry to understand how social applies to it, because you don’t necessarily need a great product on the field.”

See you next week!

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Does Content Marketing Fuel Our Worst Instincts? Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:00:00 +0000  

As individuals, we exist increasingly in a world that accommodates one person and one smartphone.

When is the last time you saw a smartphone owner more than arm’s reach from his device?

Day or night, the mobile obsession maintains a fever pitch. That loop between human and machine is ever tightening.

And this is just the beginning. In the next three years, global smartphone penetration is expected to exceed the 50 percent mark, and in five years, global smartphone subscribers should hit 3.4 billion, according to Forrester.

Things Are Looking Down

Go anywhere, especially a crowded place. Take note of how many people are locked into their smartphones. This small and self-referential cycle of consumer and device is the target of every performance marketer.

But is content marketing fueling an ever increasing downward spiral of self-absorption and entitlement? 

Forward-thinking marketing theories recommend meeting people where they are. But where are they? Traversing a busy corridor, smartphone in hand, oblivious to other humans. Or they’ve grounded a crowded airplane in order to use a laptop more comfortably.

The concept of service has expanded to include expecting others to tolerate increasingly self-involved behavior.

The Violet Beauregarde Problem (aka Me, Myself, and My Device)

Is the problem marketing personalization? Or is the nearly universal expectation of service due to smartphone adoption? Content and mobile devices, in combination, yield a potent social toxin.

This is the age of content, of inbound, of going out and being there for the consumer, rather than interrupting the consumer’s journey. Marketers are laser-focused on giving the customer an increasingly optimized personal experience. We feed the beast that yells, “Me! Me! Me!”

Recall the famous character Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. She chews gum all the time; obsessive and always demanding more. In Wonka’s Inventing Room, she snatches a not-ready-for-prime-time gum sample, soon punished for her overindulgence by turning purple and swelling to a massive spherical shape.

Violet is the epitome of self-absorption; she has no concerns other than getting what she wants, when she wants it. And she wants it now.

It is precisely the predicament humans find ourselves in these days.

We carry the world in our pockets. It’s digital gold, and indeed, more precious than gold. Is it any wonder that we are loathe to be more than a few feet from our devices at any moment? Yet an all-access pass to the universe of information breeds a new level of selfishness. We want what we want when we want it. We want it now. And we are going to get it.

Be The Bigger (Flesh Tone) Person

Our devices are not going away. The world of information is far too valuable to expect anyone to step away from a connection. With the advent of wearable computing, our devices will be woven into the very fabric of our lives.

Content marketing is not the problem; it’s actually the solution.

Content marketing is really about making life less difficult for people, removing impediments rather than adding them. Here’s the way out of this conundrum: Treat every content endeavor like you are communicating with your best friend. While you hope to market to an audience of thousands, the truth is that you are only ever speaking with one person at a time.

Would you expect your best friend to put up with click bait tactics? You’re not out to trick the ones you love most. Now take that love and extend it to your audience at large. Be relentlessly authentic. Be genuine for days. Now you’re doing the world a favor.

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Burt’s Bees Turns To Social Media Community To Host Global Beeday Celebration Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:00:07 +0000 badge image of the week Burt’s Bees Turns To Social Media Community To Host Global Beeday CelebrationTo celebrate its 30th birthday, Burt’s Bees  took to Facebook and Twitter on September 17th to host a Global Beeday celebration with its community. Featuring happy birthday wishes from the Burt’s Bees community read by company founder Burt “live and in the beard,” the Beeday event offers a good example of how to celebrate milestones with your social media community.

Beeday1 1024x302 Burt’s Bees Turns To Social Media Community To Host Global Beeday Celebration

The Beeday celebration was launched on September 8th with a dedicated microsite, plus promoted Facebook posts and tweets encouraging fans to submit their “Happy Beeday” wishes for a chance to have Burt read them live on September 17th.

Beeday2 Burt’s Bees Turns To Social Media Community To Host Global Beeday Celebration

Scroll through the “Happy Beeday” wishes and the passion consumers have for Burt’s Bees is evident.

Beeday3 Burt’s Bees Turns To Social Media Community To Host Global Beeday Celebration

Beeday5 Burt’s Bees Turns To Social Media Community To Host Global Beeday Celebration

The company also cleverly enlisted bloggers and other influencers to drive buzz (pun intended!) and encourage their communities to join the company in the celebration with special giveaways, recipes, and more.

So what can you takeaway from this buzzworthy Beeday?

Involve your community in milestone celebrations.

Milestones are just as much about the people you celebrate them with as they are the occasion itself. By catering to the community and having the company’s founder read fan Beeday wishes, the company is showcasing that they wouldn’t be celebrating 30 years without passionate fans.

The key for other company is to understand the most appropriate way to bring their community into the celebration, so mining conversational insights and understanding consumer passion points for the brand is important.

Enlist bloggers and influencers to help spread the word.

The hidden gem of this campaign is how the blogger outreach and content connects the dots to tell the lifestyle story of the Burt’s Bees brand. From giveaways, to birthday wishes and even delicious cake recipes, this content – which is coming in from around the world – offers Burt’s Bees an opportunity to add different layers to the birthday celebration in a way that appeals to a broader fan base.

A little “pun” goes a long way.

The use of “Beeday” versus “Birthday” was genius. Totally on brand and set the done for a fun and jovial celebration in a way that was unique to the Burt’s Bees brand.

When using puns or lighthearted language, understand that less is more – pick a good pun that ties back to brand values and voice. Keep the use of the pun consistent during the campaign as a way to spice up copy and tone without going too overboard.

The official Burt’s Beeday celebration was hosted on September 17th and a full video of founder Burt reading fan beeday wishes “live and in the beard” will be posted on through the end of October.

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How Small Businesses Can Use Visual Content and Increase Conversions Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:00:00 +0000 2 How Small Businesses Can Use Visual Content and Increase Conversions

Displaying amazing visual content online isn’t reserved for top dogs – companies small or large can use the web to share beautiful visual content online and, as a result, increase their conversions.

Think about it – what do big companies have that small businesses don’t?

Maybe they have more resources or online followers, or maybe they have more budget to spend on advertising and site design. However, none of this should deter you. Using visual content effectively online is all about knowing how to do it right.

So, what’s the secret for small businesses?

Use Free Tools to Get Great Content

You don’t need to have a big budget to find visual content to integrate on your social media channels or online content campaigns. There are a plethora of tools on the web designed to help you find free, creative commons photos, videos, presentations, slideshows, and more.

Take advantage of these resources when including photos or infographics in blog or social media posts, and save your time and money to build visual content that communicates your brand message and services. In other words, don’t spend money on generic visual content – use your efforts to create unique content for your company that shines above the rest.

Share Your Competition’s Content

The big corporations you compete with are in the same playing field as you when it comes to online presence. Both of you have an equal chance to attract viewers and gain conversions. However, big corporations often have a larger audience and more social media followers. Use this to your advantage and share your competition’s content!

How will sharing your competition’s content help you? As long as you give credit where it’s due, retweeting or sharing a Facebook post of your competition can attract their followers to you and build links to boost your SEO.

Chances are, your competition has followers who will be interested in your services, especially if you communicate that you can offer them something valuable that your competition can’t. So, if you see an amazing infographic, slideshow, or presentation online, even if it’s from a competitor, consider sharing it to help your audience.

Utilize Your Landing Page for Visual Content That Communicates

The most effective way to gain conversions is with a strategic landing page. For most companies, that means using high-quality rich media. Photos and videos quickly communicate your brand’s trustworthiness and credibility, but finding great visual content doesn’t have to raise your online marketing costs.

In fact, the best websites know it’s not what visual content you include, but why you include it.

Identify your target audience and create a landing page that speaks to them. For example, small businesses can display their unique services in a short informative video on landing pages to show visitors what sets them apart. Or, they can feature photos of happy customers with testimonials to demonstrate past successes.

Know How to Post With Tact

The most competitive companies know that it’s not enough to share visual content at random. Like all your other marketing campaigns, tact is key.

Focus your efforts so you get the most return for your efforts. Share photos, videos, and slideshows that will matter and appeal to your audience to increase the likelihood of engagement.

Remember the Importance of Design

Design is a powerful yet often forgotten aspect of visual content. How you display the content on your site or blog posts is just as important as what you display.

Think about where your viewer’s eyes will travel and use smart design to focus them where you want. For example, typography can attract visitors to your call to action to increase conversions. You can use pop-ups with stand-out colors to attract viewers eyes towards special offers or sign up opportunities so there is a better likelihood that they take advantage of the chance to buy or join.

Understand How Visual Content Leads to Increased Conversions

I’m going to let you in on a secret: You don’t just post a great photo or presentation and instantly see increased conversions. You need to know how visual content leads to conversions to be effective.

First of all, visual content engages visitors because it naturally conveys important information immediately and succinctly. When increasing conversions, show, don’t tell. Use your words when you need to elaborate, but show your target audience what you have to offer them and why they should choose you. This is where visual content comes in handy. It can grab your audiences’ attention as well as communicate key data in a natural way.

There you have it. There are no excuses for not using visual content to help increase your conversions. When it comes to the web, size doesn’t always matter. What does matter is knowing how to best utilize resources to fit your corporation.

Let us know if you’re a small corporation who has struggled to build a successful online content campaign and if these tips benefit you. We would love to hear your feedback.

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This free pine tree reminded me of 2 key marketing trends Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:00:00 +0000 Screenshot 7 17 14 3 19 PM e1405624843197 This free pine tree reminded me of 2 key marketing trends badge jay says This free pine tree reminded me of 2 key marketing trends

Today, I am holding this pine tree. Now that may seem like a curious thing and perhaps it is, but this pine tree is a terrific example of two marketing trends.

Give Value and Create Conversation

First, this pine tree is is a fantastic instance of marketing sideways. Marketing Sideways is where you don’t talk about your products and services per se, but talk about something else that your customers would value, using that as a way to create a relationship with those potential customers.

You see, this particular pine tree was given to a friend of mine in Colorado who subsequently sent it to me to feature on the blog, and this pine tree was actually left on his driveway, accompanied by this note. So pine tree + note.

marketing sideways e1410733875773 This free pine tree reminded me of 2 key marketing trendsThe note says, “This Austrian pine is one of 27 ways to make your home more valuable, make a one foot diameter hole, do not compact the dirt, do not fertilize and water daily, call me if you want more free trees delivered to you.” This note and the tree was left by Ed Tomlinson from Ed Tomlinson Real Estate Services.

Very, very smart. Because like most Realtors, Ed can say “Hey, I’m a great Realtor and I do all these great things and I would show your home and I’d blah, blah, blah,” but you know what, that’s not differentiated. Every single Realtor in the history of real estate does those things. Not every Realtor gives you a free tree.

But Ed doesn’t just let the tree sit there, he doesn’t just believe in marketing sideways at the exclusion of trying to drive behavior, because this tree actually has a call to action on it. “Gift Certificate, $1,000 off your next real estate transaction!” Great job by Ed, terrific example of marketing sideways. An example of using something else of value to create a relationship and spark a conversation.

Small Business Can Do Creative Marketing

I said this is an example of two marketing trends and the second one is small business. For so long we’ve celebrated big business and how they do marketing well, and of course there are tremendous examples of big business successes in marketing. But now with this type of marketing sideways, with digital, with Youtility, many, many, many, small businesses can use those same kind of plays and have real success like Ed Tomlinson.

Watch for My New E-Book for Realtors

I am also really intrigued by this example because I have a brand new e-Book coming up called “Youtility for Real Estate”. It’ll be out November 4th. All kinds of examples like this one, and you can get it right now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble for pre-order. It’s just $2.99.

Sprout Social Shoutout to Adam Buchanan

 This free pine tree reminded me of 2 key marketing trendsToday’s Sprout Social shout out is for my friend Adam Buchanan. Adam is the head of social media for Cabela’s and actually sent me this pine tree. It was left on his driveway in Colorado. Thanks so much Adam for sending it, if you don’t follow him on social media you absolutely should.

This video is from Jay Today is my near-daily 3-minute video where I talk about social media, content marketing, business and life. JayToday is available on Youtube, iTunes (as a video podcast and now as an audio podcast too), and at

01 sprout social logo MAIN e1405436882411 This free pine tree reminded me of 2 key marketing trendsThe show is sponsored by Sprout Social (which I use for my social media), and Candidio (a great video editing service).

Get More Jay Today Videos

Other recent episodes:

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How to Create Content That Sells Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:00:00 +0000 bigstock Smiling salesman advertising a 34385393 How to Create Content That Sells

Image via

The rise of content marketing has created a kind of content apartheid in which overtly promotional content is the second class citizen and helpful, non-selling content is the privileged class.

I’m a huge fan of Jay’s ‘Youtility’ approach – it’s clearly the high road to revenue – but I also feel that all content is on the same spectrum and needs to be held to the same standards.

And if you’re marketing a disruptive product or service, hard-sell copy is a hugely important part of your content mix.

If you’re asking prospects to change what they’ve always done for a new way of doing things, you’re going to need to convince them before you can convert them.

With that in mind, Velocity created a Slideshare about content that sells. I’ll let you thumb through it before continuing:

Why Marketers Aren’t Doing This Enough

Because content marketing is fairly new (in its digital incarnation anyway), everyone is focusing on this new beast:

The top-of-funnel, issue-driven, journalist, ‘look ma, no selling’ kind of content.

That’s good. But too many marketers are foregoing the old-school, ‘look-‘em-in-the-eye’, objection-busting, inertia-fighting content that is often needed to move a prospect to action.

This selling content isn’t always a bottom-of-the-funnel piece, reserved for when the prospect is about to make a decision (though it’s vital here too).  It can also be a top-of-funnel piece designed to get a prospect into the funnel in the first place.

For disruptive products, getting a prospect to accept the need to change is job one. And that’s never an easy task.

Finding a Balance

The kind of content I’m advocating isn’t a return to the ‘me-me-me’ kind of promotion. It’s still prospect-centered, it still needs to tell a story well, and it’s still about the issues your audience cares most about.

But content that sells is happy to expose its agenda. To say, “I’m here to get you to change what you’re doing and think seriously about a new approach.”

Put this together with the helpful content that makes up the bulk of your content marketing program and you’ve got yourself a revenue machine.

Two Examples

Here’s a Slideshare we did for Data Sift, a company that’s disrupting social data analysis.

In some ways, it’s like an old-school brochure – it takes off the gloves and sells – but it’s also doing an important content marketing job: Evangelizing a new layer in the analytics stack.

And here’s a piece for Sprint Business evangelizing a new way to deploy IT in a business. Even the title says what change it’s asking the prospect to consider:

Have these pieces single-handedly made cold prospects pick up the phone and beg DataSift and Sprint to sell to them? Maybe not yet (and maybe I was exaggerating a tad in our Slideshare).

But they both do a vital job in the overall content mix: They identify the changes in the world that necessitate change in the prospect. And until you win this battle, your sales guys don’t have much of a chance.

Take a look: Does your content marketing program have this kind of content in it – or are you too shy to sell?

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5 New Email Marketing Terms You Should Know Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:00:00 +0000 2014 EMR kindle cover lg 642x1024 5 New Email Marketing Terms You Should Know

I start off the just-released 2nd Edition of Email Marketing Rules by quoting Publisher Mark Brownlow, who once said:

“Wondering if ‘best practices’ were called ‘profit practices’ whether we’d be more likely to follow them. Words have power.”

Since my book discusses 120 email marketing best practices, this quote is a great way to drive home the financial importance of these practices right off the bat. But I also love the final sentiment, because words are indeed powerful. 

In digital marketing, where the ground is constantly shifting beneath our feet, our vocabulary often can’t keep up. Giving names to practices, tactics, and tools is clarifying, gives us a label to have conversations around, and allows us to build programs under those signposts.

In years past, I was in the right place at the right time to coin the terms share with your network (SWYN) and video gif, among others. Now I have five new email marketing terms that you should know.

1. Granted Media

In the paid-owned-earned media model, email marketing has traditionally been in the owned bucket, since brands create the content and distribute it to an audience that they’ve developed in the form of an email list.

However, just like social media is better categorized as leased media than owned media because it resides on a closed platform that’s controlled by a third party, email marketing is better categorized as granted media because it is distributed via an open platform that’s regulated and controlled by multiple third parties in the form of ISPs.

This new term is needed because unlike the mail carrier who faithfully, passively, and transparently delivers everything you give them, ISPs do not. ISPs are active players in the channel, junking and blocking email globally on behalf of all their users or specifically on behalf of individual users.

Marketers are granted access to inboxes by securing permission and maintain it by sending relevant emails. (TWEET THIS)

2. Super-Engagement

We’ve talked about reengagement programs for years. These target disengaged and inactive subscribers and try to get them opening and clicking again so they don’t hurt marketers’ sender reputation.

But what about our most engaged subscribers, the ones that generate the majority of our email marketing revenue?

Every market should be targeting these subscribers as well, and using segmented emails, personalization, triggered emails, loyalty programs, and progressive profiling to do so. Because these tactics increase the engagement of already highly engaged subscribers, I call these super-engagement programs.

While reengagement reduces the risks posed by inactives, super-engagement fosters more opportunities with active subscribers. (TWEET THIS)

3. Opt Up

Opting out ends an email relationship. Opting over converts an email subscriber into a subscriber of another channel like social or catalog. Opting down lowers the frequency at which a subscriber gets emails. And opting up into other mailstreams means the subscriber will now get additional emails on a new topic, as part of a loyalty program, or from a sister brand.

Giving subscribers opportunities to opt up gives marketers more chances to serve those subscribers and create additional engagement and conversions.

4. Real List Growth

The way list growth is often talked about, you might think that it is synonymous with acquisition—that is, adding more email addresses to your list. However, that’s only one of three factors that create meaningful list growth.

List growth is composed of new subscribers added, subscribers lost, and the productivity of your subscribers. (TWEET THIS)

Factoring in subscribers lost to list churn allows marketers to measure their absolute list growth. But to get to list growth figures that really mean something, you have to look at real list growth, which factors in subscriber productivity. This is essential because replacing high-value subscribers with low-value ones degrades the power of your list, whereas the inverse builds it.

One way to measure real list growth is to factor in subscriber lifetime value (SLV) when looking at your subscriber gains and losses. For instance, if in a month you lost 1,000 subscribers that had an average SLV of $100 and you gained 1,000 subscribers through an acquisition channel that tends to attract subscribers with a SLV of $10, then your real list growth fell significantly even though your absolute list growth was zero.

5. Confirmed Opt-In Lite (COIL)

Confirmed opt-in (COI)—sometimes referred to as double opt-in—requires new subscribers to activate their subscription by clicking on a link in an opt-in confirmation email. While COI is the gold standard in email permissioning, confirmed opt-in lite (COIL) is the silver standard and adds a layer of protection to single opt-in permissioning.

All opt-ins should be confirmed actively via opt-in confirmation emails or passively through near-term engagement. (TWEET THIS)

COIL requires that new subscribers engage with the emails sent to them early in the relationship as proof that they want to continue receiving emails. For example, for most brands, if a subscriber doesn’t open or click any of the welcome emails or other emails during, say, the first 30 days following the opt-in—a time when subscribers are usually the most engaged—then that should be seen as a major red flag and the brand should cease mailing them.

COIL provides protection against spam complaints from subscribers who never intended to opt in or regretted doing so, and limits the effects of reaching inactive accounts intentionally or accidentally provided by people.

Although COIL doesn’t eliminate the risks posed by typo spamtraps and malicious signups, it does lower the risks posed by them by reducing the number of times they’re emailed.

I hope you find these new terms helpful and that they give you new ways of discussing permission, list growth, engagement, and other key email marketing concepts. 

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Is Writing Still the Most Important Social Skill? Mon, 15 Sep 2014 10:00:33 +0000
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Done is better than perfect.

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Storytelling in a Visual Age

Visual storytelling has been getting a lot of chatter over the past few years: the rise of visual social media outlets like Pinterest and Instagram, the proliferation of tools for creating excellent visual content, etc. But Ann Handley’s new book Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content tells us that in this content-driven world, writing actually matters more, not less.

“The thing that connects all of those things – that connects video and infographics, and even the best Instagram feeds that I follow – they all have some story behind them.”

Ann’s new book is about empowering the communicator in all of us, regardless of the level of writer we are. Everyone is a writer, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is Hemingway. Some of us write content for blogs on a regular basis or write books, while others write emails and notes to their kids. Regardless, everybody writes. And that means that everybody could write better.

For MarketingProfs, Ann creates and oversees a lot of content, both B2B and B2C. Her biggest lesson for all the content writers out there is to let go of perfectionism. Sometimes she looks back at a blog post in a year or even just an hour and finds something wrong with it, but ultimately, “Done is better than perfect,” in the world of content writing. And agonizing all of those little details doesn’t get her any closer to hitting “publish.”

At the same time, many marketers still have not mastered the art/science combination of creating content. “There are a lot of people who are just still trying to make this as easy as possible,” Ann says. “How many boxes can we check, versus really reinventing the way that we market.”

Creating compelling visuals is great, but carefully honing your writing and storytelling abilities are essential for creating ridiculously good content.

Holy Social!

The #WhyIStayed hashtag has been popular recently in reaction to the Ray Rice saga. Men and women who have been victims of domestic violence are sharing their stories on social media, explaining why they stayed.

In the latest case of a real-time marketing, tone-deaf post, the active and irreverent DiGiorno Twitter handle tweeted, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.”

The tweet was deleted “seconds later,” according to a press release, but not before people took screenshots to forever memorialize the accidental post.

But the interesting part about this Holy Social! was that DiGiorno not only posted a general apology and released a statement; they also responded to every tweet they received in response to the incident.

“Brands,” Jeff says, “have to start thinking about the cost/benefit analysis of trying to be real-time marketers on other people’s hashtags. Because inevitably these mistakes are going to happen.” While hopping on a hashtag will occasionally have massive rewards – like Oreo’s famous Dunk in the Dark tweet – for the most part, it’s a waste of time in terms of risk versus reward.

The lesson here is that hashtags are not an automatic route to social media success.

See you next week!

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Here Comes the Content Marketing Shakeout Fri, 12 Sep 2014 10:00:39 +0000 Copy of Add text 3 5 Here Comes the Content Marketing Shakeout

Start the countdown.

The tick tock until the big content marketing software shakeup is under way.

At last year’s Content Marketing World event, I met with multiple venture capitalists hungry to get a piece of the seemingly explosive market for content marketing software, a bucket into which I place all curation, production, governance, promotion and efficiency wares. And in the intervening 12 months, they certainly got their piece.

The most striking feature of Content Marketing World 2014, beyond how well-run the event continues to be, was the massively expanded vendor and expo area. Dozens upon dozens of content marketing software companies were cheerily giving demos and handing out freebies alongside enterprise software stacks SAP and Oracle (a Convince & Convert client), and many other firms that are trying to enter the content marketing orbit, such as influencer marketplace TapInfluence (a sponsor of this blog), and competitive metrics analyzer Track Maven.

Many more software companies and agencies attended without exhibiting, trolling the hallway and parties for leads and potential partnerships.

While the content marketing industry is perhaps still fully in the throes of the awkward teenager phase of its lifecycle, this year’s CMW felt like a teenager with a drivers’ license and a sudden interest in cosmetics.

I don’t know what the collective spend was among the various content marketing software companies to be a part of the event, but it was no doubt considerable. And in the vast majority of cases, being able to put on a big show was possible not due to the accumulation of monthly recurring revenue (MRR) that is the lifeblood of software-as-a-service (SAAS) businesses, but due to venture capital funding. Angels and VCs paid for the Content Marketing World vendor expo, not the customers of the exhibiting companies.

Of course, this isn’t 100% true, as there were a small handful of companies in attendance that have bootstrapped all the way, and the big, big guys like SAP can pay for a small trade show presence (comparatively, for them) with the money out of the soda machine at headquarters.

And there’s nothing inherently wrong with using venture capital financing to do a show like that one. It doesn’t take a piercing insight into customer segmentation to discern that being part of a 2,500-person conference called Content Marketing World might be a viable tactic for a content marketing software concern.

But I will be highly intrigued to see what the vendor area looks like in 2015 and 2016, because the VCs funding the content marketing software boom are chasing a bubble that may not actually exist. I haven’t run the analysis, and I probably should when I get some time, but I would be willing to wager that most of the VCs that are backing content marketing software did not back the most recent comparable SAAS run up (a.k.a. social media marketing software).

They missed out on the prior frenzy, and are going to make damn sure they don’t get left at the dock again.

As an active VC myself, I fully understand that emotion. When you see the high dollar exits from Radian6, Buddy Media, Wildfire and many more, it drives your desire to catch the next wave rolling toward the sands. But here’s the problem:

Content marketing may be a bigger industry than social media marketing, but the software portion of the industry may always be smaller. (click to tweet)

There was a lot of talk at this event about content being the umbrella marketing initiative, with social media being just one form of content marketing. (It’s fascinating to see how that narrative flips at social media conferences, or word-of-mouth events for that matter. Everyone wants to be the parent, nobody wants to be the child).

I’m not entirely certain where my current beliefs lie on that continuum, nor am I convinced that it’s a particularly productive or worthwhile debate. But I do believe that even if content is the parent of social media, there is a lot less money to collectively be made in content marketing software than there is in social media software.

In hallway discussions with some very smart content marketers and businesspeople this week, conversations often turned to the exhibit hall and the fact that so many companies were going big when in truth their actual revenue remains quite small. In face-to-face conversations I always ask content marketing software companies (and pretty much any SAAS outfit) how many paying customers they have at that moment, and replies of “25” “42” “17” “125” and similar were almost universal at this event. In a vacuum, that is troubling.

Of course, most of these companies are quite young, the market itself is only beginning to coalesce, customers don’t really even know what’s out there or what they might need by way of software, and so forth. All of that is true. Growth will come. But how much, and from whom? The overwhelming majority of these content marketing outfits are trying to target the same FORTUNE 1000 customer base. The good news about that market segment is that they have a lot of money, but the bad news is that there are only 1,000 potential customers in that cohort.

As a category, content marketing software is manifestly suitable for its target audience. Despite being too young to shave, these companies have built elegant, stable, thoughtful packages that solve the pain points of big companies looking to create or curate more and more and more content, much of it hyper-targeted and/or real-time. Being great at content marketing isn’t easy, but this generation of software makes it look doable, and that’s no small feat. But is there enough of a market to support all of that software, especially with many providers offering strikingly similar features? Yes, it’s a question that has impacted the social media software business as well, but there are key differences between the two sectors.

Social media is rooted in customers talking to companies, and enabling companies to talk back. That puts social media squarely at the cross-section of marketing and customer service. It also means that social media impacts EVERY business, even very small ones whose fortunes can be impacted by a bad string of Yelp reviews and similar. Businesses of all types and sizes and descriptions needs social media software to interact with customers, the same way they once had to purchase telephones to accomplish a similar objective. And to meet that need, there is an entire armada of social media marketing, and social media management, and social listening solutions available at all price points. From Sprinklr at the enterprise level, to Sprout Social (a sponsor of my JayToday videos) at the mid-to-enterprise level, to Buffer (I’m an investor) at the small-to-mid level, you can somewhat easily find the right flavor of social media software for your business.

But with content marketing software, I don’t believe the same dynamics are at work. I can absolutely see how and why large companies need SAAS solutions to help them create and govern software. Our consulting team at Convince & Convert does a ton of content marketing strategy consulting, and routinely recommends software solutions to large companies. But is there a SMB customer base for content marketing software? I don’t think so today, or if there is, the content marketing industry hasn’t successfully made the case for it yet.

As mentioned, today’s content marketing software is good. Better than it should be at this stage, really. But does a medium-sized business or small business need a software license to help them curate, create, manage, and measure content marketing? Multiple vendors at Content Marketing World 2014 take the “our solution is way better than Excel” approach to pitching their calendaring solution, or similar. And while it may be accurate that Excel is an unlikely candidate for the Beloved Software Hall of Fame, it is also true that every business already has it, has already paid for it, and already knows how to use it.

Content marketing software also share a challenge with social media software, CRM software, marketing automation software, and every related thing in that it is only half the solution….

Content marketing success is about the wizard, not the wand.

You can buy the best software in the world, but if you don’t have smart, dedicated marketers to operate it, the outcome will be middling, at best. All modern marketing software (of any stripe) requires labor to make the magic happen. That makes the true cost of software ownership not just licensing and training costs, but salaries and benefits, too. It’s another reason why I’m not sure SMB will embrace content marketing with the same fervor as they have social media. Many of those companies have only recently finished swallowing the new software and personnel expenses needed to “get good” at social, and now they are expected to do it again with content marketing?

A more likely scenario for those companies may be that they task their social teams with doing content as well.

Are some content marketing software firms going to make it, and return capital to investors? I suspect so, especially the handful of enterprise-class providers that have strong enough sales teams to get big deals pushed across the finish line. But for the others, I believe this market will consolidate faster and fly lower overall than many may be hoping.

I could be totally wrong, and predicting a consolidation and a shake out in a fast growth sector of the software business isn’t exactly soothsaying on the level of that World Cup Octopus, but that’s how I saw this year’s Content Marketing World.

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How Content Partners Can Boost Your Content Marketing Strategy Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:00:00 +0000 bigstock Win Win Check Marks 54396530 How Content Partners Can Boost Your Content Marketing Strategy

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badge guest post FLATTER How Content Partners Can Boost Your Content Marketing StrategyIn my previous Convince & Convert post, I explained how to research potential partners and expand your target audience by getting your content in front of their readers.

Managing Editor, Jess Ostroff, added an awesome comment at the end of that article:

“I think some people are afraid to ask for help from other content creators. They see it as invasive, pushy, or they’re not confident enough in their own content to be willing to share it.”

I completely agree with her. She went on to say:

“Maybe a follow up to this would be how to tactfully engage with content partners, write something that’s really of value to your partner, and turning those cold leads into warm ones as you mentioned.”

That’s what I’m here today to help you with. After all, what’s a blog named “Convince & Convert” without some useful tips on how to convince and convert potential guest blogging partners?

The guest blogging process is very similar to both the sales and support process. Even if you’re not the best salesperson or great at supporting people, you can still close these content marketing partnership requests at a high rate and keep them alive and thriving.

Now that you’ve found your potential content marketing partners, follow these 10 tips to make sure you all get the most out of the relationships:

1. Be Studious

Read, read, and read some more. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour to read your partners’ posts every day for at least a week. You’ll get an idea of who they’re talking to, what they’re talking about, the problems their readers have, and how they help them. Get a feel for their voice and the buyer persona. You want to mimic that with your articles.

Read the comment sections of articles to find out if you can have intelligent, relevant conversations with these readers. If you find yourself getting confused, you may want to consider looking somewhere else.

2. Be Attractive

Like the male bird of paradise, you can’t attracting new partners without shaking your tail feather a little.

Make sure that you’ve got some credibility in your respective the community. Make sure your blog is professional looking and stocked with quality content. Be active on social media and build your networks so you have a decent amount of followers and engagement. Bring something to the table that you can pitch to the potential partners instead of just making a one-way ask.

3. Be Creative

Have a unique proposition that sets you apart from the rest. Do something different or unexpected that gets their attention.

Maybe a quote from the great Hunter S. Thompson will do the trick:

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.”

Try sending a well-thought-out, creative video message using Vine or Instagram. That’s sure to get their attention!

Remember: Do your best to stand out from the clutter and be creative.

4. Be Helpful

Prepare to do as much of the legwork as possible while minimizing the amount of time and effort your partners need to commit to the relationship. This also refers to the content you provide.

The articles should be helpful in nature and should address a topic that you’re an expert in. The more authority you have on the matter, the larger the audience you’ll receive.

5. Be Brief

When it comes to guest blogging and content marketing as a whole, time is money.

Professional content marketers spend a lot of time reading and writing. It’s a very time-consuming job. The last thing you want to do is send them a novel of an email explaining why you should be a guest blogger.

Efficiency is key.

Prepare your email. Neil Patel has created some wonderful templates for you to use when reaching out to potential co-marketing partners.

Now that you’ve seized the opportunity, make sure you hold up your end of the bargain by following these tips:

6. Be Diligent

Work hard. Don’t give anything less than your best with your content. You want this relationship to last, so don’t end it before it even starts. No one likes working with a slacker.

7. Be Punctual

Perpetual tardiness is a pet peeve of mine. It’s immature. Don’t be late, and don’t rush your work. Write every guest post as if it’s your best one (and maybe last one) ever, because it could be. Correspond in a timely manner.

Don’t get caught procrastinating. Set a plan and stick to it so you’re not struggling to finish up.

8. Be Accountable

Proof everything. Keep your promises.

You’re not being micromanaged here. This is all on you. If you can’t deliver on something, expect to deal with the consequences. If word spreads that you’re unprofessional and/or unaccountable, you might have to kiss your guest blogging days goodbye.

On the other hand, once you prove your accountability, more doors will open for you and your authority will continue to grow.

9. Be Valuable

Explain the value your partners will get from you and explain what their audience is going to get by reading your content.

Don’t create extra work or chores for your partners. They should be as minimally involved as possible. End the guest blogging process with your new partners feeling as though you’re an extremely valuable asset to their business. Don’t make them feel like they’ve wasted their time.

Follow up a couple weeks after your post goes live to see how it’s doing and discuss how you can improve next time (if you’ve followed these tips, there will be a next time).

Start brainstorming new article topics and ways you can help them out. Don’t fall off the face of the Earth. This isn’t a one-and-done situation. It’s an ongoing relationship that can continually bear fruit if nurtured properly.

10. Be Promotional

Make sure you promote the heck out of all your guest posts via social media and email. If your audience doesn’t know about your guest content, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t leave it up to your partners to promote your posts alone.

If you can follow these tips, you’ll be able to build your audience and authority while maintaining your relationships with your content marketing partners. You can also use BoostSuite to find and engage with partners who will promote your business.

Do you have any other pointers on how to tactfully engage with content marketing partners? Or have a content-partnership-gone-wrong horror story you’d like to share? Let’s hear your comments!

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