Category Archives: Content Marketing

Why Companies Should Care About the New Twitter Profiles and 15 New Ads

Twitter has never necessarily stood out to me from a PR or content marketing standpoint; however, after the release of new Twitter profiles made headlines this week, a not-as-heavily-covered roll out of 15 new types of Twitter ads was brought to my attention. When you look at these two together, you can appreciate the significance of each of them individually, and realize that Twitter is maybe making some of its biggest moves since its IPO in order to start turning current revenue into actual profit.

New Twitter Profiles

flotusTwitter will begin to roll out new profiles featuring larger profile pictures and customized headers (those of you with profile pics that fit perfectly in the middle of the header will have to rethink that visual strategy) as well as ditching background images. The good news is that the new profiles look similar to Facebook profiles, and from a visual design and consistency standpoint, that can be a good thing.

Where content is concerned, the main Twitter stream on the new profiles will show popular content in a larger font, which should encourage users to create more compelling content but also definitely to advertise in order to boost the popularity of content that should stand out. Moreover, users can pin tweets to the top of their stream, which will have no impact on how often people blast out tweets because Twitter is primarily a mobile platform and the more you tweet about something, the more likelihood someone will actually see it on their phone.

When The New York Times covered the new profiles, they quoted Twitter’s Chief Executive, Dick Costolo saying that the service was too hard to use and vowing to make a better Twitter. The NYTImes went on to assume that “better” meant more visual cues about what’s important on a page, but I think they missed the point by thinking that Costolo was referring solely to the user experience and not Twitter’s business model.

When there are changes to a front-end, what’s always more important is whatever is going on in the back-end.

New Twitter Ads

twitter-money-bagA few days before announcing the new profiles, Twitter announced 15 new types of ads coming to users’ feeds that feature one-click actions to make it easier for users to download apps, purchase items, call a business, sign up for sweepstakes and others types of contests, and interact with ads and brands in simpler, more automated ways. For businesses exploring paid social strategies, this is massive, especially if the delivery of these ads to mobile devices is well executed.

For users, these ads will find their way into the new profiles in the near future – hopefully in a seamless way, for the sake of Twitter and its advertisers because, if this all works out, the cost of acquiring one new customer on Twitter could fall from the current $20 to be more competitive with Facebook’s $4.

Are paid social promotions part of your company’s social business communications program? If not, consider experimenting with ads on Twitter – Also LinkedIn and Facebook, which have a great ROI when it comes to reaching people (see below) – at the very least to become familiar with the platform’s ability to target exactly who you want to reach and, at most, to see how it’s possible to integrate your communications, marketing and sales efforts by levering social media to drive qualified leads into your funnel.

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A Lesson in Delivery Vehicles from the Affordable Care Act

1888610_645790608803511_469519588_nAt this point, at least 6 million people are aware of the Affordable Care Act. From a storytelling standpoint, healthcare reform has been covered from many points of view – From the initial website technical difficulties, to the ongoing enrollment numbers, to partisan disagreements and bureaucratic inefficiencies (redundant, I know), to the administration’s three-week PR blitz to encourage the public to enroll, to reports on how healthcare works in other nations, to interviews with individuals and demographic group leaders discussing how they would benefit or not from the new insurance plans… to the final website glitches that made for an ironic way to end open enrollment.

But as I tuned in for updates and new information leading up to the end of open enrollment, one thing in particular stood out in my one-track mind – the places people could find information about enrollment were countless. Promotional vehicles ranged from old-school telephone campaigns; to direct mail; brick-and-mortar locations offering assistance; pop-up retail shops in various states; the now infamously glitchy healthcare.gov website that featured a blog, infographics and personal stories; states’ individual online marketplaces;  TV commercials and other forms of advertisements; social media channels including Twitter (see #getcovered), YouTube and Facebook; news programs and talk shows; official presidential addresses… all the way to the President’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis, which on March 11, 2014 became the biggest traffic driver to healthcare.gov.

It was expected that a reform of this nature would call for a public relations campaign of massive proportions. However, something I have enjoyed about this administration – where PR is concerned – is that from the moment of Barack Obama’s election, his team has never been afraid to let their message travel via uncharted delivery vehicles. Or it could be that the administration was under significant pressure to deliver on enrollment numbers that they were willing to try new things. They say necessity is the mother of invention.

Saturday Night Life captured just this in their latest opening sketch.

I’m almost stubborn when it comes to trying new things. I firmly believe that having never done something is never a reason not to do it – in fact, I may even believe that having never done something is the perfect reason to go for it. This is not a battle between tradition and emerging approaches to PR, but rather the realization that audiences need information delivered to them in a variety of new ways in order to pay attention. The added challenge today is to deliver information at exactly the right time and place, and that is where digital content, social media, mobile and analytics/insights have come in to play.

Freescale Great InventorsMy plea to you, readers, is to dare to do something completely different to reach your audiences and achieve your business communications goals. Perhaps even more importantly – trust that, with careful planning, established objectives, strategic targeting and a strong storytelling framework, your PR and communications teams can execute on something that has never been done before. For example, check out the “Great Inventors” campaign my agency Lois Paul and Partners collaborated on with client Freescale Semiconductor, to get people thinking about technology innovation leading up to the 2014 Global Freescale Technology Forum (FTF).

The Content Marketing Institute, one of my favorite resources, has created an excellent playbook with ideas for content and accompanying delivery vehicles that is great for inspiration. Feel free to bring up any of these ideas during your next brainstorm session and see what ideas spark.

You Say B2C, They Say B2B, I Say B2X

In a recent conversation with a colleague, we agreed that most B2B companies don’t look to B2C companies for examples of out-of-the-box content marketing programs that can be translated to the B2B communications lifecycle and customer experience. I think  two primary reasons why this is the case are that:

  • Most B2B companies don’t think they products are “sexy” enough to merit the use of content marketing strategies that they still see as non-traditional and even unconventional.
  • B2B companies are under high pressure to send leads down the sales funnel and they don’t associate content marketing with strategies that directly impact the bottom line.

Perhaps we are too focused on the differences rather than on the similarities between B2B and B2C companies, as it pertains to business communications.

  • A top challenge for both B2C and B2B companies is the need to reach prospective customers and convert leads into sales.
  • Both B2C and B2B companies are concerned with engaging customers/buyers and influencers to create loyalty and turn them into advocates. It costs more to secure new customers than to nurture existing relationships.
  • Both B2C and B2C companies want to create brands that are memorable and to establish them as leaders in their product or industry category.
  • Both B2B and B2C should be capturing better analytics and leveraging insights to refine communications strategy.

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These are  things content marketing can do for companies – regardless of whether they sell to individuals or to other companies. And here is where I’d like to note that B2B also sells to individuals who turn to peers and others for recommendations around enterprise solutions. This is why I propose using the term B2X to refer to the type of company that implements content marketing strategy tailored to effectively reach a highly targeted audience – university professors, chocolate lovers, care providers, CIOs, community managers, orange juice drinkers…

I recently read this great post on why the “human” story behind  a company’s product can make for better products and content marketing experiences. I couldn’t agree more. The true power of content marketing  lies not  on how it can sell consumer or enterprise products, but on how it can tell the story behind them and, in so doing, help target audiences relate to the problem the products help address and – of course – to the solution, which are the products themselves.

How B2B Companies Can Use Instagram To Make an Impact in 15 Seconds

When Instagram first came out, and as soon as it introduced video, B2C brands hopped right on it. But B2B brands should also be using new platforms and features. In fact, some like Intel, Maersk Line, VMware, Cisco and General Electric are already experimenting with Instagram video and taking on the challenge of delivering their message more concisely and embracing the move toward brevity across all content formats. Check it out:

Screen shot 2014-01-26 at 4.27.19 PM

Several of my agency’s clients have asked questions about integrating Instagram into their overall social media strategies. I would like to address those, and then some. If you have additional feedback or follow-up questions, I’d love to hear them!

What are the benefits of video for B2B companies?

Rich multimedia in the form of images, video and audio are great ways to give your content strategy and overall social media program a boost. Video presents some unique storytelling opportunities for companies that struggle to tell their story, or that have been telling their story in the same old way. Video is your opportunity to:  

  • Take tech out of the weeds: One of the main reasons reporters, bloggers, influencers and customers turn down some B2B stories is that they are deep in the weeds. If you can explain (better yet, show) how a new technology or product works in 15 seconds, you’ve got their attention.
  • Show some personality: B2B companies and products have personalities too. Some of them make things smarter, some make things faster, and others are cleaning up the mess fuels have made. Wow them by showing how your products can make a difference.
  • Be helpful: B2B buyers and end-users live by user manuals, technical guides, handbooks, etc. Think about sharing 15-second how-tos with your audience or, better yet, build your Instagram community by challenging users to produce 15-second videos to help fellow users troubleshoot common problems. You can feature them in the first-ever user-generated manual on your company’s website.  
  • Be relatable: Give the people behind the technology their 15-seconds of fame, literally. Consider shooting videos with your engineers, developers, and IT teams to let reporters, analysts, bloggers and influencers in on what happens backstage.
  • Focus on your customers: Consider asking your customers to record 15-second testimonials. Embed these in your case studies or your next blog. A Q&A with a client can give an extra boost that will drive more engagement.
  • Geek out without boring everyone to death: B2B companies exist in unique verticals and industry niches – think storage, clean tech, embedded technology. There are enough data sheets and solution manuals to wrap the Earth 17.3 times (not an actual fact). Show me a microprocessor in action and make my day. 

Bonus Note: The beauty of Instagram video is that you can shoot it with your phone, use Instagram editing function to make cuts, and use Instagram filters to make it look awesome. Production cost here is literally ZERO DOLLARS and the level of difficulty is RIDICULOUSLY EASY.

Instagram or Vine? Is That the Right Question to Ask?

My stance is always to try to minimize the number of platforms/tools. Choose the ones that will best reach your target audience, and focus on creating consistent content on a consistent basis. Having said that, I’m on #TeamInstagram for a few reasons including the fact that it surpassed Vine quite drastically shortly after it introduced video capabilities:

  • Its relationship with Facebook gives Instagram the benefit of Facebook’s already massive community. Vine is available only as a mobile app and via Twitter, limiting its user base and reach from the get-go.
  • Sharing via Instagram is not limited to Facebook, hence photos and videos benefit from significant social amplification.
  • The Instagram team has the flexibility to update the platform and add new features such as sharing and embedding, which enable the Holy Grail of social media and content marketing.
  • Its hashtag capabilities transcend the Instagram ecosystem.

What are some specific things my company can do with Instagram?

  • Encourage content creation: Use campaign or event hashtags on Instagram and encourage users to share their photos or videos that can increase the campaign or event’s visibility. They can also be leveraged in future social media and marketing collateral.
  • Host a contest: GE asked Instagram users to take photos of GE products to win a trip to be behind the scenes at their next Instagram shoot. Put a video twist on this sort of campaign and ask users to share videos of them using your product for a chance to win.
  • Build buzz: Hosting an event? Unveil your speaker lineup one-at-a-time in 15-second interviews where you share a bit of their bio and a link to see more.
  • Backstage access: Give your Instagram community a sneak peek into the manufacturing of your next microprocessor, or a 15-second tour of your data center with an option to learn more about your infrastructure by downloading an eBook online.
  • Product launch: Why not put together a 15-second video where you feature your new line of MCUs, the smallest in the world, next to common objects so that viewers can appreciate just how small it is?
  • New announcements: Making an announcement soon? Build momentum by sharing a 15-second preview of what’s in store.

A Recipe for Owned-Earned-Paid-Shared Content Strategy

This post was part of a holiday-themed campaign I developed for Lois Paul and Partners, which culminated in the publication of this free eBook containing 13 PR recipes with best ingredients and practices required to achieve great PR results. See it here >> http://bit.ly/LPPcookbook

Just as “foodies” have made us care more about what we eat, the increasing number of socially-savvy consumers – from bloggers to C-level decision-markets – have made us care more about what we say and do online. While the foodie culture has resulted in more sophisticated dining experiences, companies are implementing more sophisticated business communications programs via an owned-earned-paid-shared approach that focuses on delivering unique experiences through digital content that tells a consistent story,  inspires engagement, drives conversations, and reaches key audiences throughout the communications lifecycle and the customer journey.

dinner-party

The analogy for implementing an owned-earned-paid-shared strategy is not a recipe, but rather a hectic dinner party – Some items will be ready to serve while others are still in the oven. Some people may already be sitting down while others are still walking in and spending time greeting other guests. Or there may be more than one chef in the kitchen. But if your agency can be trusted to lead the orchestration of all the moving parts of your strategy, you are in good hands.

Ingredients:

  1. Channels
  2. Content
  3. Conversation
  4. Conversion

First, get your house in order. Refresh you social channels by scrubbing the “about” section, links and other information. Organize existing content into albums, playlists, etc. to make it accessible and searchable. Work with your design team to give your channels a makeover.

Owned Content

I consider Betty Crocker one of my best friends because she keeps me from starting from scratch. Likewise, you should assess and create an inventory of your existing content and determine what is “evergreen” and can be repurposed and leveraged via social channels around industry trends, future announcements and specific phases of the customer lifecycle. You should also meet with your PR and marketing teams to determine what original content can be created on a quarterly basis or around major news, events or milestones. Plan ahead to ensure the message behind the content truly tells a story.

Earned Content

You wouldn’t just invite anyone to your dinner party. The key to succeeding in an owned-earned-paid-shared ecosystem is to find the balance between producing new content and putting that content in the hands of the right people who will help amplify it to your key customers to drive conversations. Develop a list of top influencers to track regularly and target with your content to secure coverage. You should also explore other ways to earn content – empowering customers to become brand evangelists, turning your executives into contributors, speaking opps at industry events, etc.

Paid Content

There is a misconception that putting things online is free. But the reality is that it takes time and definitely money. More brands are using promoted tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts to target audiences who use social media to discuss topics associated with their brand’s products/services. Imagine that you are selling a new men’s razor and you pay to place a billboard on a highway where ONLY bearded men drive their cars. Social advertising works just like that. The challenge today is the number of options have broadened – from YouTube ads to entire sections within publications (WIRED Innovation Insights is sponsored by IBM, among others) – your choice of paid content vehicle, of course, should be determined by the goals of your program.

Shared Content

This is the fun part, but only if you have successfully managed to implement and orchestrate the other moving parts – created original owned content, leveraged that content to secure earned opportunities, and paid to amplify the reach of that content to key audiences. This last part is your guests sitting down and enjoying the dinner party so much that they ask you for the recipe, they stick around for drinks later, they call to invite you to their house, they friend you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter and – all along the way – meaningful relationships develop.