What Is The Most Effective Way To Improve Your Marketing That Most People Don’t Know About?.

By Posted in - Marketing Advice & Insight on August 30th, 2017

Getting the balance right between content marketing and social media, plus getting some clarity on what success (as a result of using these two disciplines) looks like, is an equation that can add up to huge improvements for B2B and B2C marketers.

If you get this right, then you’ll be way ahead of the current curve, on which many marketers are slipping and sliding, sometimes stalling, as the sheer volume of content and social media, overwhelms — it’s easy to lose your way and your focus in this maelstrom of digital marketing.

The starting point, in the process of getting a grip on your content marketing and social media activity, is to understand the difference between the two. Let’s face it, they are similar and they do overlap. Is this article marketing or social media?

It could be both, but, as far I am concerned, it is social media, pure and simple. Why? Because in my own mind, I am very clear about the purpose of this article, which is to get you, the reader, involved and to perform an action – in this case (at the end of the article) to visit my website to see if any of the services I offer could be of use to you or the business you work for.

That’s the big difference between the two disciplines. Social media is all about participation and behaviour, while content marketing is about consumption and behaviour. And if this sounds like a distinction without a difference, then you are missing the point.

We need to stop being so fluffy and vague about content and social strategy — they are not mixers in a marketing cocktail. One is the glass and the other is the cocktail. Social media is a delivery mechanism for content marketing.

Content is what is published (like this article) and the channel (social media) is how it is published (like I’m using LinkedIn right now). Social media is just a type of channel. That’s it, plain and simple.

It’s crazy, therefore, to hear marketers present content and social as the same thing. Little wonder the marketing waters are muddy and people don’t know where to put their efforts or go about deciding how to go about it. Understanding the difference between content and social is a good starting point.

When budget and/or time resource has to be divided between content and social, where should the split be?

Before we can hope to answer this, we need to understand the role of content in 2016 (and beyond into the next few years). What is content (to you)?

Actually the question is incomplete. We should be asking what is good content, and what does it look like? (for your business or your clients business).

Allow me to tell you a very short story, which should clear this up. About a month ago I was working with the board of directors of a mega rich, famous (tech) brand to help them get a grip on a content marketing strategy and social media campaign clearly out of control.

To cut a long story short, their marketing department was knocking out 500 word blog posts at the rate of one a day, while the contents of industry leading original research (with a price tag of tens of thousands of pounds) sat on the desk of the CSO, unused.

The blogs were adding no real value compared to the potential of the great value of the research paper — you see, there is content and there is great content. We need both, but in the right proportions.

We spend so much time and energy churning out blogs,posts, case studies, videos, infographics etc – in short, all the usual suspects in terms of marketing content – we rarely if ever consider all of the other types of content that we could be creating e.g. technical manuals, product data sheets, and customer service FAQs to cite a few examples, and how all of it could align with and support our content marketing efforts.

Most marketing teams never engage their peers in other departments about their content marketing activities and, as a result, it’s easy for silos to form and for other departments to create content without regard for brand reputation.

About 12 months ago, I wrote an article about this scenario – it’s called ‘Beyond The Content Tipping Point.’ In the article I argued that the greatest obstacle to progress in content marketing is not intolerance or stubbornness, but inherent failure. In science they call it the reality of paradigm paralysis: the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking. And content marketing is headed toward a paradigm shift around this very issue.

But back to the burning question – where should the split (between content and social) be? Bearing in mind what I’ve said about the content tipping point, content marketers should be focusing on quality not quantity i.e. producing the very, very best content you can and then promoting the hell out of it.

So I believe the split should be 80/20 (80% promoting and 20% creating). I actually advised that big tech brand to go for a 90/10 split because they had truly outstanding content and lots of it in the pipeline, so they could afford to turn the tap almost off. What happened was their high value content was so useful and (well valuable) to customers, that people waited by the tap, desperate to have their (content) thirst quenched by this company.

Of course, not every company has this kind of champagne content, but you’d be surprised at the quality of the potential content in your business. Again, I touched on this in a previous article “Heard The One About The Sales Director Who Tripped And Fell Into A Marketing Silo?”, in which I argued that “too many businesses still operate in silos, meaning the sales and marketing people don’t know what each other are capable of doing.” Or in this case, don’t know what each other are capable of producing, in terms of content.

Anyway, back to the point of this article, which is getting the balance right between content marketing and social media, plus getting some clarity on what success (as a result of using these two disciplines) looks like.

If we understand the difference between content and social and content and great content, we should be able to work out what are the best ways of promoting content — after all, if you go with the 80/20 split, you’ll be spending probably the majority of your time and money promoting content.

Promoting Content Through Social Media Advertising.

Unlike the on-site module-based (native) advertising widgets available through such services as Outbrain, Taboola, and Yahoo Gemini, I believe a company’s brand gets the most attention in social media advertising. On networks like Facebook Ads, Twitter ads, and Linked Ads, it is your own official social media account that is “promoting” or “sponsoring” your content. Your advertisements show up in users’ regular news feed, and users can interact with the ad units just like all other content being shared in their feed.

I’m not saying that promoting content through social ads is the silver bullet, but when compared to uncoordinated (do-a-bit-here-and-there and hope) organic social activity, then I see the former as having a major advantage for promoting content through social media advertising. Not only because of the positive effect it has on brand recall and exposure, but also because using advertising options like promoted posts on Facebook will help your Facebook page earn more likes, bolstering the organic reach you can get with regular unpaid posts. That turns social media advertising into a sort of investment strategy to build up your “social equity.” According to the B2B Content Marketing 2016 Study, “Promoted Posts” were the second most effective method of advertising.

B2B social media advertising certainly yields much higher engagement rates than standard display advertising, and also offers an excellent content distribution format that makes it easy for an audience to interact with and share brands’ posts. Ultimately, this provides a powerful amount of word of mouth for the companies that get it right.

However, it’s not as simple as throwing up a few promoted posts or scheduling a few promoted tweets. If you want to execute campaigns that drive serious ROI, you need to focus on a strategic setup and constant optimisation.

Achieving social success.

Many brands fail to implement conversion tracking for their social advertising initiatives. Elements such as lead form completion and on-site video views enable campaign managers to optimise for the best results, so it’s important to build these into your strategies.

B2B marketers also make the mistake of defaulting to LinkedIn exclusively for social strategies, isolating themselves from more lucrative opportunities. Thanks to its targeting capabilities and use of third-party data, Facebook offers greater reach to almost every B2B audience. In fact, B2B campaigns that focus on Facebook often outperform similar ones on other channels.

Reaching the right people is one thing,but resonating with them is another. Marketers must creating content that match customers interests, values, and needs. If you’re targeting a diverse group of personalities, segment them and develop campaigns for each cluster. Custom messaging will yield higher engagement and more conversions than generic mass-appeal posts.

The truth is, however, many of us (marketers and clients) don’t really understand the customer and we don’t know how to measure success on the rare occasions when we get genuine engagement. We are also not exactly sure how the marketing funnel works in this age of online and digital marketing.

Before the Internet, marketing failure was much easier to measure. People (customers) still liked to be interrupted (by adverts) and if they didn’t like what they were being interrupted with, sales of products and services went down and someone got fired, usually the ad agency. Now we don’t know whom to blame – SEO, Social, Digital, PR – and we don’t know what went wrong and where. We are pissing in the wind and doing so looking through a glass darkly. Social Media has become a mirror of distortion for many marketers and that’s a shame because, done correctly, it can generate a level of amplification that traditional marketing methods cannot hope to match.

I was chatting with the marketing manager of a famous car brand last year and he said something about ‘the blind vanity’ of social media. “We are dazzled by self-importance,” he said. “We value quantity over quality and we mistake (brand) acquaintance with (brand) friendship. The ratio of direct (customer) relationships to total people in your (business) social network must be frighteningly low.”

The truth is likes, retweets, follower counts and other similar vanity metrics do not translate into sales. They just don’t. In addition, brands only reach a very small percentage of their customers on social media, which renders the efforts (and investments) on social media a waste of time. Evaluating social media in terms of brand awareness creates a metric without tangible market outcomes. The problem with a lot of businesses is that they have not adapted their thinking to the new digital age. The marketing landscape has changed dramatically. It used to be that marketers could produce a piece of content, put money behind it and get people to see it. This doesn’t work today. Millions of pieces of content compete for people’s attention and viewers have absolute control over what they want to watch.

So a brand’s content has to connect with them emotionally and with relevance and those two factors are fluid. People change, wants and needs never stay the same. Customers don’t always use logic to buy. There is intangibility about decisions. That is why the most adaptive and innovative marketing is the one that will survive. Consumers no longer welcome untimely interruptions from brands, but now have the control to “pull” them into their lives as and when they wish. As Unilever’s global senior vice president of marketing, Marc Mathieu, says, it’s about recognising that people don’t want to be interrupted, yet choose to interrupt themselves. By this, Mathieu means that consumers increasingly choose to visit a brand’s properties when it is relevant to their lives, rather than wait passively for an ad.

Social media strategy should be about building direct relationships with people, but we need to do it across all platforms and here lies the greatest challenge, which is being able to measure the impact of the sum of them all. Stitching together and understanding the bigger data picture is one of the biggest opportunities for marketers. It’s the ability to understand how useful we are in people’s lives, said Mathieu. This has a level of authenticity and relevance through the times and places and ways in which we (a brand) show up. It is complex, but we need to understand how it works if we are to understand how to use social media effectively.

For example, according to Adweek, Millennials tend to prefer 10-second video ads while older generations favor 30-second commercials. That’s an important distinction to make when developing content. Establishing goals at the outset will dictate which platforms and types of content will earn the best results.

We also need be to more strategic in our scheduling i.e. selecting an attribution window for conversions, and sharing content consistently across social channels to see where you’re getting the highest ROI. If your business runs on a long sales cycle, you may want to use a 28-day window. Analysing the entire purchase cycle will help you nurture leads and improve your social funnel.

How do you know whether what you’re doing is working?

That’s an important question, but you can answer it only if you know what success looks like. Are you looking for online purchases? Signups? Content downloads? Time spent on your website or landing page? Once you’ve selected which conversions you want to focus on, assign them a monetary value to track ROI.

At the heart of your ROI tracking efforts will be analytics tools. There’s usually some analytics functionality built into the channels you’re using to promote your content: Twitter has internal analytics and Facebook has some excellent internal analytics. Google Analytics will track website traffic. It will even track social acquisitions, so if that fits your choice of key conversion metric, you’re covered.

There are tools and apps out there designed to help you track the reach of your posts and your content, alerting you to conversations that involve your brand, your content and your space across the Web, and also pick up and examine engagement data for individual posts. It’s not a stretch for most marketers to combine these insights into visual charts that help in decision-making.

I guess what I’m saying is that although the ROI of both content marketing and social media is tough to gauge, it can be done. And the weight of your efforts clearly belongs with promotion, allowing you to deliver your content to more people and get more mileage out of your content.

If you want to find out more about the content marketing and social media services I offer, please visit www.philshirley.co.uk or give me a call on 07795 037628.

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