I’ve been in a funk. You’ve probably noticed it. My metronome-like publishing schedule has sputtered and all but ended. Other than The Marketing Huddle, I haven’t published much to get excited about. Why?
Let me be clear, I believe content marketing works. I believe that social media will continue to fascinate and enthrall its users. I’ve lost faith in the pundits and thought leaders that make their money from selling ideas and how-to manuals to folks…like you. After reading the hundredth version of “How to Use Pinterest for Business” I realized that I was sick of lowest common denominator social media drivel. I have a feeling you are too.
You deserve more. So I stopped writing until I had something worthwhile to say. This meant that I’ve been phoning it in for weeks now; waiting for the words to describe my new evolving view of the content marketing landscape. Today, I’m going to give it to you straight.
Blogging: Go Big. Go Deep or Go Home
The rich are getting richer. Everyone else will get ground into the dust unless they put significant assets behind blogging. You need top notch writers, inspired content, and a flair for promotion to make blogging work. Basic templates, headline formulas, and 10-step blueprints will work for a week until the rest of the world catches up.
Think of blogging as the dial-tone for the ongoing monologue you’re having with potential customers. Yes, it is a monologue. Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 comments on most blogs are written by bots, psychophants, marketing latecomers or trolls. Turn off your comments. Find the one person who wants to have a conversation and give them a call.
Take a hard look at your marketing budget, can you substantially boost the frequency and quality of your articles? If yes, do it. No? Create a content marketing strategy that can work without a blog. Don’t worry, it can be done.
I mentioned, “going deep.” Content marketing is evolving into a deep learning exercise. True experts with substantial experience and expertise are best positioned to win. Buzzword artists, jargon-flippers, curators and witty commentators are a dime a dozen online. The social media space if filled with these carnival barkers. The good news is that readers both professional and leisure can smell the funk of dime-store blog posts from the next room.
You can’t play in the blogging space unless you are a legitimate thought “doer”. You need new ideas and novel ways to deploy them. If you don’t have the something innovative to say, then re-examine your content strategy. Believe me, the how-to curation mega-blogs that can spit out two rookie-bait articles a day has the shallow-end of the pool covered.
Warning: I’m seeing a trend towards bailing on blogging for other mediums such as podcasting, video, or visual media like Infographics. I think this may make sense if you aren’t communicating in-depth topics, but few mediums can match the cost-efficiency of blog text when communicating concepts and methodologies.
Social Media is Optional
Social media is optional for most industries.
I know. Pure heresy for someone who makes their living from “pushing social.” But, I’ve got to call it like I see it.
For the rest, you are just fine listening and occasionally engaging with potential customers and readers on either Facebook or LinkedIn. Instagram and Pinterest are built for certain types of organizations. You already know if you fit into the Instagram/Pinterest bucket.
Is social media optional for you? Here’s a test.
Pull-up your Pinterest pins. Don’t have any? Call in your marketing chief. Do they have one? Nope? Then yank Pinterest off your fancy content marketing strategy. You will succeed with the social media platforms you regularly use. Believe me, there are many social media consultants who will sell you a “Pinterest Action Plan.” You’ll spend 6 months “investing” in their vision. Three months slowly pissing off your overworked staff. The last two months will be spent avoiding your consultant’s calls as you try to figure out how to not pay their retainer.
What if you need to be on a platform like LinkedIn but can’t find a proficient user in your organization. Hire someone. Tell them they have 6 months to convince you of the ROI. If they resist, show them the door. You are running a business, not a social club.
Invest in the Social Product
I just turned 43 and it looks like my most useful birthday present will be the pair of progressive lens bifocals. Save the old-folks-home jokes. I’m not taking this well.
I’ve told two people about the bifocals, and both people told me about Zenni. We all know that so-called “vision centers” have a license to steal. I’ve been mugged in broad daylight by these places for decades. Zenni is living dangerously by offering great looking frames at bargain basement prices. All you need to do is scan in your prescription. Genius.
Zenni has built a social product. It is so friggin irresistible that I can’t help but tell you about it. Zenni makes you look good, sound smart and be helpful at the same time. Their service works. Their customers use social media to tell others about their cheap but awesome frames. It really doesn’t matter what Zenni’s social strategy is since they’ve turned their customers into walking billboards.
Building a kick-butt product requires more than “10 Ways to Write a Headline That Gets Noticed”. It requires smart people asking honest questions that are committed to executing on the answers. Is that you? If not, social media will just drain your coffers of the money you should be using on making a great product.
You Win With The Boring Stuff
I remember early in my career being called into conference rooms and being told that the client needed a “Wow Idea.” It sucked because “wow” Ideas are rare. Most of the best ideas are incremental improvements on the stuff that already works. I find that my C-Suite friends often find incremental tactical wins as small-time tinkering. They feel that the splashy high-dollar initiative will be the homerun they need to win. This may be true – but I’m not a gambler.
I prefer the small bets.
Good strategists know that you win with the boring stuff. The boring stuff includes:
- Creating a good offer to get email sign-ups
- Writing an email sequence that onboards new customers turning them into repeat customers
- Scouring your social audience and email list for influencers and crafting win-win partnerships to share content and leads
- Analyzing competitor content looking for positioning opportunities and untapped needs
- Automating your marketing tasks and interfacing marketing automation with marketing team processes
This stuff will bore you to tears but it and hundreds of other little tasks add up to a steadily growing audience of ready to buy customers. Tomorrow, you’ll open your email and be greeted with dozens of posts promising “Wow” ideas. Pay them no mind. Focus on the boring stuff.
Data and Insights
I hope like heck that my client’s competitors ignore their numbers. I pray that Google Analytics intimidates that tar out of my competition. I smirk when I hear some marketing big-wig wax eloquent about intuition, nuance, and other nonsense. 21st century marketing relies on data and smart folks to analyze it.
Next year, I’m working with my clients and students to double-down on data. We are modeling, analyzing, experimenting, and optimizing. The next few percentage points of growth are in the numbers. Is isn’t sexy, but it works.
Do you hate numbers? Get over it.
Hire someone who loves them and give them what they need. Your business depends on it.
It’s A Play to Pay World (and free stuff sucks)
I stopped reading social media marketing posts about 2 years ago. Most of the stuff sucks. I’ve found that the best insights come from bona-fide experts who charge outrageous amounts of cash for their time. Pushing Social became profitable when I stopped running my business using free ebook junk. Sure you can find some good nuggets in some ebooks, but you don’t need nuggets you need the whole picture. You can only get a customized perspective when you pay for it.
The same goes for finding and attracting customers on social media. Facebook has made it clear that you’ll get the best results if you pay for access to its billion plus users. Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram aren’t far behind. The days of the social business free-for-all are over. Revisit your budget, put down a number, add 10%, then get good at social advertising.
Oh, one disclaimer, there are people who say they are getting tons of sales for free with Facebook. I saw a four-leaf clover once too.
Advertising is Gone
While finishing this article I noticed an article on Wired in one of my open tabs.
“Google Star Wars Easter Egg is a Doozy.”
I clicked to the article and read about Google hiding one of their famous easter eggs in the search results for
“A long time ago in a galaxy far far away.” I won’t spoil it for you but Google’s contribution to the star wars juggernaut is epic.
Get this. Google’s easter egg was hinted at in a tweet on a rival platform.
Google didn’t call in a Madison Ave ad agency to create a multi-million dollar campaign with A-list actors and film-quality commercials. Just a tweet and some clever coding from its inhouse team of wunderkinds.
This is not an aberration.
The most effective way to advertise is not to advertise. Instead, find your audience, understand what they love, connect their passion with yours, create content that makes them smile, and trust they will buy. Simply dialing up a commercials TRPs is yielding less than it once did.
Advertising for smart marketers is gone – relegated to the hall of fame.
Thoughts Leadership Isn’t Worth As Much As You Think (or hope)
A quick word of advice for my fellow social media, content engagement thought leadership, experience architect, [add buzzword here] professionals.
It’s time to contribute practical, road-tested, ready-to-implement tactics. Please stop repackaging “what they said” news with the latest headline template. Your audience isn’t buying it. Sure they will visit your blog out of habit for a few more months, but those stagnant “session” numbers reflect a deeper reality. Your thoughts are a commodity. People want results. Thought leaders can’t deliver results. Thought Doers can.
Warning: I’m not suggesting that you load your editorial calendar with Cool Whip light “how to” posts. Crap like “How to Get More Visitors with Pinterest” are useful for all of 10 minutes. You can’t offer one-off tactics as bona-fide best practices. We have to dig deeper and understand why a strategy works not just report the momentary uptick in the numbers.
A New Direction
I plan to practice what I preach. In 2016, I will be writing more but publishing less. Posts on Pushing Social will be in-depth, data-driven, field reports based on real results. Content Toolbox members will get ready-to-use templates, checklists, and self-assessment scorecards with each article. We’re going to get real serious, real deep, real quick. I can’t wait for the new year to start.