Category Archives: Content PR & Marketing

Content PR and content marketing are redefining how brands communicate with audiences. Inbound tactics featuring content that answers audience needs attract attention and create gravitational pull for a brand.

Hashtags are #lame … on Facebook

 

On Twitter, the hashtag #rocks.  On Facebook, not so much.   In fact,   using hashtags is having a negative effect on the visibility of posts on Facebook according to a new study from EdgeRank Checker  (“Hashtags on Facebook Do Nothing to Help Additional Exposure.”)

The function of the hashtag on each social network is broadly similar – one can click on a hashtag to pull up other tweets and posts carrying the same marker.  However, the application of the hashtag differs between the two, which starts to explain why denizens of social networks embrace hashtags on Twitter, but deride them on Facebook.

Same hashtag, different results

On Twitter, generally speaking, hashtags are used as a way to categorize content, functioning almost as an old-school tag.  They provide taxonomy for tweets.  Example:  A search of #cloud pulls up tweets that (for the most part) are about cloud computing.

cloud tweets

Tweets carrying the #cloud hashtag are about cloud computing.

On Facebook – a much larger social network, where posts can be considerably longer than 140 characters, use of hashtags is much more freewheeling.  This probably has to do with the fact that Twitter users are used to using hashtags in a more disciplined way, for the purpose of organizing content, and is aware of the collective ‘whole’ a hashtag creates.  On Facebook, where hashtags are new, many use a hashtag to simply denote emotion or deliver an aside. Searching the same hashtag #cloud on Facebook generates entirely different results.

The #cloud hashtag on Facebook yields a mix of results.

The #cloud hashtag on Facebook yields a mix of results.

Understanding & respecting the differences between social networks

The networks are different, and people use them differently.    Communicators should respect those differences and plan their content accordingly.  Lumping them together is a recipe for wasting time, energy and resource – and diminishing your organizations’ stature in the eyes of your audience.    A savvy move on one network can open your brand to ridicule on another.

A response the EdgerankChecker study elicited from Facebook shed a little more light on hashtags in posts, and the fact that they don’t appear to be helping visibility, insinuating that the use of the hashtags hadn’t been terribly rigorous.

“Pages should not expect to get increased distribution simply by sticking irrelevant hashtags in their posts. The best thing for Pages (that want increased distribution) to do is focus on posting relevant, high quality-content – hashtags or not. Quality, not hashtags, is what our News Feed algorithms look for so that Pages can increase their reach. “(Via The Next Web)

3 ways to guard against being lame on social media 

First, understand nuances between Facebook, Twitter and any other social network your brand uses.  Look to your own behavior. For example – chances are pretty good that you’re active on both Facebook and Twitter.  Do you use the two networks interchangeably?  Probably not.  You’re probably connected to different people, and you use the two networks to share and consume different kinds of information.   In your professional PR or marketing capacity, it’s wise to let some of your personal experiences guide your approach to using social media.

In addition to developing your own savvy on different social networks, there are several other tactics you can employ to help ensure your brand against lameness  in social media, and even more importantly, glean real benefit for your organization across the social sphere, including:

  • Observe conversations.  What topics generate the most interaction?   What topics are being ignored?  As you study the top(ic)ography of your audiences’ online conversations, take note of which topics could be used as a context for brand messaging.
  • Observe content formats.  What kind of content gains the most traction on each network?  Pictures, video? Infographics?   Multimedia content draws and holds audience attention.  Understanding what kinds of content your audience most appreciates will help you create a more effective content strategy.
  • Study popular messages. What kinds of messages are most widely shared?  Tips? Humor? Advice?  This is particularly important, since amplification of messages is a primary benefit social media offers brands.

In retrospect, the advice offered by Facebook is really good guidance.  Don’t use hashtags (or any other mechanism) as an artificial means to garner attention for a message.  Relevance and utility are the foundations of successful digital and social messaging.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

7 Keys to Creating B2B Content that Converts

The results of Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends shows that while marketers are expanding their efforts  to generate leads and increase conversions, many face the uncertainty of creating content that truly engages target audiences. Additionally, marketers agree that producing a sufficient volume of content is one of the greatest challenges they face. Content marketing experts Rachel Foster, CEO and B2B copywriter at Fresh Perspective Copywriting and Scott Armstrong, partner at BrainRider Inc. discussed their upcoming webinar “7 Keys for Creating Awesome B2B Content that Converts” with PR Newswire. b2c webcast

Utilizing their respective strengths in written B2B content and strategy development, the co-hosts will tackle how to discover what types of content appeal to target audiences and the secrets to engaging high-quality leads at any stage of the buying process.

Focus on customer needs

According to Foster, engaging content is defined by the needs of target audiences; finding out what they want and delivering that type of content. Armstrong adds that marketing companies need to focus on effectively communicating buyer needs and pains through customer language. “We need less Shakespearian content with cool titles and exciting introductions, and more practical, useful content described in terms that the customer would use,” he says. Focusing on audience needs and using buyer language ultimately builds a community around content marketing efforts and fosters loyal relationships among potential customers.

As The Huffington Post declared, “Content Marketing is the New Black.” Marketers are realizing that a content marketing strategy is necessary to be considered a strong competitor. Foster and Armstrong offer several helpful guidelines for creating compelling content that attracts and retains target audiences:

“Stop selling, start helping!”

Lengthy content focused primarily on selling the product is one of the most common errors that drive customers away. “Stop selling, start helping!” says Foster.  The content you produce should be used as an educational resource. Make the moment that you’re selling relevant to when your prospect wants to buy and inform the buying decision before it even takes place.

Be helpful in your subject area or level of expertise

Armstrong adds that some businesses “strategically have not connected what their customer wants to know with what they know as the brand with their value proposition.”  It is important to be helpful in a way that connects to how you are selling. A good example of a helpful business model is discussed in a recent webcast hosted by Jay Baer (@JayBaer) entitled, “Can Large Brands Be Genuinely Helpful (And Still Profitable?)”  Baer highlights a Twitter strategy implemented by Hilton Hotels which suggests local travel tips to Twitter users exploring new cities. The Twitter handle (@HiltonSuggests) is run by Hilton Hotel employees around the world who volunteer their time to monitor relevant social conversations and provide locally-informed advice.

Focus on relevance and findability

Armstrong believes that businesses which focus on length and quality rather than relevance and findability “invest too much in content development and not enough in effective content promotion.” If the objective of your content is to drive traffic, make sure it is written in an SEO friendly way using customer language, as well as promoted through channels that your customers are already engaged in such as press releases and social media. Using the “Content Pillar Approach,” marketers can curate their content in over 200 different ways that reach target viewers through a number of relevant channels and maximize findability.

Share and curate relevant content from outside sources

Foster emphasizes the unrecognized benefits of curating not only your own content, but content from other sources as well. “Curating other peoples content can not only help you build relationships with those people but can also help your own marketing efforts,” she explains. She adds that one of the best examples can be seen in the recent webinar “Curating High Conversion Content Without a Single Original Thought” which was produced entirely out of curating content from outside sources.

Content marketing is a field that continues to grow with the rapid adoption of marketing automation platforms. “B2B marketers now have better access to more useful performance measurement on content in their pipeline. They can ask questions like is my content attracting qualified prospects? Is my content valuable enough to get qualified prospects to opt in?” says Armstrong. The ability to measure the performance of content marketing efforts is a major advantage in an increasingly competitive atmosphere, which further emphasizes the importance of creating better content.

To learn more about generating leads and increasing conversions through effective content marketing, join Rachel Foster, Scott Armstrong, and PR Newswire on September 18th for the webinar “7 Keys for Creating Awesome B2B Content That Converts.” Register here: http://webcasts.business2community.com/events/7-keys-for-creating-awesome-b2b-content-that-converts

3 Ways to Drive Content Discovery (#CMWorld recap + eBook)

In his keynote at Content Marketing World last week, Jay Baer, author of the popular Convince & Convert blog as well as the new book Youtility, made a salient point:  communicators are competing (via social media) with our audiences’ friends and family (not to mention cat videos!) for their attention. Attention is finite, but the amount of content available to our audiences is almost unlimited.

Free Download:  my new ebook, “Driving Content Discovery

In addition to the competition for attention, today’s buyers present communicators with another challenge.

“They’re secret-shopping your brand, all the time,” Baer noted in his keynote, noting that at the point B2B buyers contact vendors, 70% of the decision has been made.  Put another way, buyers eliminate numerous brands from contention without contacting them.  Online content is your brand’s sole representative for much of the buying process. lil tweet

For communicators seeking to connect with target audiences, context and timing are crucial.   But how do you get your message show up at the right place, and at the right time?  This is where content discovery comes into play.  

Context, credibility & timing are crucial 

Delivering content in context –  and with an additional layer of social credibility – tees up your brand in the buyer’s decision process.   Ensuring your content is surfaced continually among a specific constituency is another element of success, and there are a number of tactics communicators can use to achieve consistent, contextual visibility of content.

  • Capitalize on attention opportunities created by industry news trends, by tying messages to trending developments or synching your contnet calendar with the editorial calendars of key publications.
  • Atomize content and repackage it, emphasizing different angles or message elements, to increase audience attraction.
  • Distribute focused and specific content using a variety of platforms and channels.  As Baer noted, you have to put some effort behind the content you publish. Commercial newswires and free PR sites can provide important visibility for key messages.  (Here’s a free content distribution buyers guide you can use to arm yourself with questions to help you find the right vendor.)

The embedded slide deck and ebook download offer many more tactics for driving the discovery of your content, as well as numerous real-life examples.  And if I’ve overlooked your favorite tactic for ensuring your audience sees your message, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-books Unlocking Social Media for PR and the newly-published  New School Press Release Tactics.  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Content is …. many things [Infographic]

We invited attendees at Content Marketing World to complete this sentence: “Content is ____ .”  Here are some of the answers we received.

PRN_ContentIs

The 4 Archetypes Your Content Needs to Reflect to be Successful

In his session at Content Marketing World this week, Robert Rose (@robert_rose) noted that marketers aren’t in the business of creating content – they’re in the business of creating belief.

Our audiences, he noted, want to believe the best of the best.  Rose shared the quote (paraphrased) from the Street Car Named Desire character Blanche DeBois: “I want magic.  I tell what ought to be the truth.”  It is our jobs as marketers to move into that realm of belief.

In order to create belief, it’s useful to keep the four archetypes of content creation in mind, as well as their corresponding roles in the communications cycle.

  • Promoter – Focus on audience needs and wants.
  • Preacher – Focus on discovery and answers.
  • Professor – Focus on interest and passion.
  • Poet – Focus on feelings and beliefs.

The most successful campaigns mix the archetypes, enabling the brand to not just grab attention, but to keep it as well.   The content we create needs to perform different functions, from generating broad awareness to cultivating interest, then to inspiring action and finally encouraging evangelism.   In many cases, brands develop voices that take the form of one or two archetypes, ignoring the others, creating gaps in the content that doesn’t support the complete buying journey.  Assessing one’s own content objectively, using the four archtypes as a framework for doing so, is a great way to find the weak spots in the content strategy while also providing a guide for their repair.

Author Michael Isopi is a senior member of PR Newswire’s account management team.  Based in Detroit, he specializes in the automotive marketplace.

Content Creation Strategies for eCommerce Success

cmw rei

Paolo Mottola, Jr. at Content Marketing World

Outdoor retailer REI knows how to be creative when it comes to visuals. The retailer’s Zombie Survival Gear Infographic offers up the 13 essentials to prepare you for the next zombie outbreak.

From the Moleskin/First Aid (one blister is more dangerous to you than 10 zombies) to a Signal Mirror (be ready to flash one when the rescue chopper flies overhead), there’s a complete kit. The campaign became such a hit in 2012, REI started offering Zombie Apocalypse classes to teach the basics of surviving in the wild.

It’s okay to be a little disruptive according to Paolo Mottola, Jr. (REI’s Digital Engagement Program Manager), speaking on “Content Creation Strategies for eCommerce Success” at Content Marketing World. Offering up unique and inspiring classes is just one way REI serves the needs of outdoor adventurers.

Search drives commerce for REI in a big way and they are open to spontaneity. In April, REI announced that it would be selling Adventure Kitten Gear including “Rugged Kitten Boots” and a “Wild Cat” backpack to hold 100 cubic inches of kibble and catnip.

“We got 25,000 shares on Facebook with no paid media in 24 hours,” Mottola said. And REI was included in top tech April Fools’ Day roundup stories – an unexpected perk.

REI’s content streams include lots of video and Mottola says they see a significant lift when putting video on product pages.

“Member stories are not just customer stories ,” said Mottola. “We hired a freelancer to go across the country — we wanted our stories to be told in a bigger way.”

Stories like A Cool Mother’s Day Story: Climbin’ Mamas Remind Us Why We Love Our Moms or this Junior Ranger story which will melt your heart.

Content married to category equals success for REI.  The company’s collaboration with Merrill shoes led to videos on how-to outdoor exercises – an idea they actually borrowed from the Marines.

“We invest in these stories to tell,” says Mottola. “We’re authentic to our brand.”  In October, Mottola revealed they plan to feature videos in a major REI-member event.

Some questions from Mottola to ponder though when developing your content creation strategy:

  • Does your content marketing objective align with customer expectations?
  • Do you have resources to develop, moderate the content and scale?
  • What are legal considerations?

Mottola admits they haven’t been afraid to kill campaigns early on when they saw fast results that customers did not like what they were doing.

Vlogger Diane Harrigan (@dianeharrigan) authors the Postcards from SF blog, and is also an account manager with PR Newswire.

Your Content Needs a Downstream Strategy

Brian Clark of Copyblogger at #CMWorld

Brian Clark of Copyblogger at #CMWorld

I’m up early, noodling on the input from day one of Content Marketing World, and just realized the great advice I heard yesterday all has a common theme, and it’s this:  content needs a downstream strategy.

Over the years we’ve heard a lot about planning editorial calendars, developing buyer personas, doing keyword research and plumbing social conversations for insights that together will help you create and publish amazing content your audience will love. However, almost all the speakers yesterday talked in some form about what happens post-publication.  Or, more specifically, what needs to happen.

Promote your content.  Both Jay Baer and Todd Wheatland emphasized the importance of supporting your own content, and they weren’t talking about just posting a few tweets.   Wheatland noted that most viral videos were boosted at some point with paid promotion.  And Baer went further, noting that advertising isn’t the content marketer’s competition – it’s an enabler that drives qualified views.  Advertising campaigns and PR can fuel significant visibility for the content your brand produces, and in addition to exposure to the audience, they can generate media along the way, which will launch your content into a different stratosphere.

Own the authorship. Copyblogger’s Brian Clark made no bones about the fact that authorship is becoming increasingly important, both in Google’s eyes and  in affecting individual decisions about consuming content.  Rel=author and rel=publisher tags, which essentially authenticate the source of the content by creating a linkage between the content and either a person’s or a brand’s Google+ page, will play an increasingly important role in surfacing content, as Google de-emphasizes anonymous content.   And according to Clark, authorship is something we need to be paying attention to when writing articles or guest posts.  “Who gets the canonical link is a negotiating point,” he noted in his session.

What’s the driver behind this new focus on content post-publication? Without a doubt it’s the finite amount of audience attention, and the spectacular amount of content every marketer is competing with today.  As Baer noted in his presentation, we’re competing for that attention with our audiences spouses, friends and family — not to mention cute baby animal videos — within Facebook news feeds, on Twitter and in almost every other social network.  The simple act of publishing great content is no guarantee of success.  To win qualified attention, content needs support, promotion and a badge of authenticity. In short, we need to build downstream strategies into our content planning.

Driving Content Discovery: TODAY at Content Marketing World – 10:45 a.m., Ballroom C 

We heard Jay Baer say “Market your marketing.” Today at Content Marketing World I’ll be talking about  exactly that,  in a session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.”   It’s scheduled for 10:45 and will be in Ballroom C.   I’ll be offering 19 (instead of the previously advertised 10) ways to build an element of discovery into your content strategy, and to promote the discovery of the information your brand publishes.  Hope to see you there! 

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-books Unlocking Social Media for PR and the newly-published  New School Press Release Tactics.  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

The Future of Content in Search & on the Social Web

Content is more than information – it’s storytelling that provides meaningful experiences and inspires action.  Lee Odden (@leeodden) of TopRank Online Marketing drove home the importance of emotion as he delved into the “Future of Content on Search and Social Web” at Content Marketing World (#CMWorld) earlier today.

The future of content is visual, real-time, mobile, human and cross-platform, he says. Simply put, it’s about creating things that make us go “mmmmm” — the art of inspiring feeling.  Find that “moment in the experience” that contributes to a moment of inquiry becoming a lead, he says.

One important piece of research is to find out which channels your customers respond to best and then work to create content that causes reaction. “Communities and customers are dynamic and insatiable – we have to feed them.”

Statistics reveal that viewers are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video.  Odden says the cycle is to attract, engage, convert and to continue the flow.

And there’s no question — today’s marketing teams have their work cut out for them when assigning functions. Marketing is a bigger job today than it has ever been. Strategy, creation, production, search, social and analytics are all critical roles today, and all overlap in content.

Vlogger Diane Harrigan (@dianeharrigan) authors the Postcards from SF blog, and is also an account manager with PR Newswire.

6 Visual Content Trends from Content Marketing World

tw chant

If anyone in the Content Marketing World session featuring Todd Wheatland titled “Visual Content Marketing Strategies You Probably Aren’t Using and Should,” had any doubts about the importance of visuals in a content strategy, it’s very safe to say that their doubts were allayed.  Incorporating visuals into campaigns is no longer an option for marketers, it’s an imperative. 

However, as is the case in social media, search engine optimization and pretty much any other marketing discipline, the best practices for using visual content are constantly changing, because the tools, channels and networks we use to consume that content is always evolving.  Here are the top trends and tips Todd shared today.

  1. Short form video.  The biggest news about Twitter this year is Vine. Instagram is going all in on video, and they’re using the 15 second format that is already a standard broadcast TV medium.   Bonus: it’s mobile friendly.
  2. Paid promotion.  Did you know that most viral videos have been given a big leg up through paid promotion?  If you want your video to go viral, first be certain that it is fantastic.  Then get out the wallet and buy some promo.  Wednesday at Content Marketing World – learn to drive discovery of YOUR content  
  3. Explainer videos.  Explainers are 60-90 second calling cards for your brand that cut to the chase, explaining what the company does and why you should work with them. (Here’s an explainer we created for Multivu.  
  4. Using visuals to repurpose (and refresh) old content.  Create a video or graphic to illustrate an old blog post or paper, to reinvigorate the message and trigger social sharing.  
  5. Multichannel communications.  One important benefit of visual content is that it works well across platforms (computers, tablets, phones) and networks (social media, web, on demand.) Visuals are very good for reaching audiences where they live.   
  6. Animated GIFs. 

Tomorrow at Content Marketing World I’ll be presenting on driving content discovery,  in a session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.

I’ll be offering 19 (instead of the previously advertised 10) ways to build an element of discovery into your content strategy, and to promote the discovery of the information your brand publishes.  Here’s a sneak peek:

CMW session snippet

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-books Unlocking Social Media for PR and the newly-published  New School Press Release Tactics.  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

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Market Your Marketing

cmscribblesContent Marketing World kicked off this  morning with Jay Baer (@jaybaer), author of Youtility.  The top-rated speaker of CMW last year, Jay didn’t disappoint today.

Echoing the themes of his book, Jay insisted that the best marketing content is that which is so good people would pay for it.  However, the conversation took an intersting turn when Jay started to talk about promoting the content your brand publishes.

Content is crucial to buying decisions – the number of sources buyers rely upon has almost doubled over the last year. And according to Google, B2B buyers routinely complete 70% of their research before talking to a vendor rep.

Everyone is talking about content promotion at #CMWorld 13

Everyone is talking about content promotion at #CMWorld 13

Publishing isn’t enough

But publishing content isn’t enough.   Jay noted that the convergence of our personal and commercial lives means that marketers are competing against friends, family and cat videos for audience attention.

Wednesday at Content Marketing World – learn to drive discovery of YOUR content 

One way Jay suggests that brands create visibility for their content is to “make the story bigger” than just your products or services. Solve problems in your customers’ lives, not just around what you sell.

However, being dead useful to your audience is just part of the equation.  Driving discovery of your content is crucial too.

Marketing your messaging 

“Market your marketing, ” Jay encouraged the assembled faithul. “Put some effort behind it.  Advertising isn’t the competition – it’s an enabler.”

Both paid and social media should be part of the plan.

Social media:  Content is fire, says Jay.  And social media is gasoline. However, don’t make the mistake of treating tweets like the world’s shortest press releases.  Social posts still need to be useful.

Paid media: Advertising campaigns and PR can fuel significant visibility for the content your brand produces.  You may even earn some media along the way, which will launch your content into a different stratosphere.

Tomorrow at Content Marketing World I’ll be presenting on driving content discovery,  in a session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.

I’ll be offering 19 (instead of the previously advertised 10) ways to build an element of discovery into your content strategy, and to promote the discovery of the information your brand publishes.  Here’s a sneak peek:

CMW session snippet

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-books Unlocking Social Media for PR and the newly-published  New School Press Release Tactics.  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.