How to Create Engaging Content

Is a blog post only as good as the number of comments it receives? If you post something on social media and no one likes or comments on it, did the post happen?

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Creating engaging content is one of the top challenges for marketers, according to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark report from the Content Marketing Institute. Sixty percent of B2B marketers stated that producing engaging content was their number one issue. (#2 and #3 were producing effective content and producing content regularly.)

If your blog’s comments are low or people seem to click away quickly, it may be time to give one or all of the following a try:

Be Topical (With Care)

“Newsjacking” is the process of using topical, timely content to get your brand’s message out to the world. There are good instances of newsjacking and some not-so-good ones.  A good instance might be to take a trending story and create an educational and informative blog post from it.  Similarly, you can write a piece that references a popular TV show or that connects to something that’s happening in the news, as long as it’s relevant to your business and positive.

On the other hand, using a recent tragedy or crisis to try to promote your brand is in bad form, even if your product might be relevant to readers’ lives at the moment.

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Listicles, or articles that are simply a list of things, tend to get a bad rap. But research shows that people actually do love listicles, and are more likely to share and comment on them than other content forms (one study by  Lumanu showed that listicles received 10 percent more social engagement per article.)

Why are they popular? It turns out that the human brain is wired to respond positively to lists. When a reader sees a list on your blog or social platform, he or she knows a few things right away – like what will be in the article, about how long it will be (if it’s a numbered list), and whether the article will be interesting to him or her. Ranked lists are particularly engaging for people, since they sort the information in a clear way.

Give Something Away

People are more likely to share their thoughts and opinions with you if you promise them something in return. You have a few options when it comes to running a giveaway. You can offer a small freebie to everyone who comments on a blog post or who shares a post (such as a free e-book).

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Another option is to have a contest for a bigger prize, such as a month’s worth of your product or services for free. Enter the names and emails of everyone who shares or comments on your post by a certain date into a drawing, then pick a winner at random.

If you mainly create social content or want people to engage with a special hashtag, create a social media giveaway.  Encourage people to post on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest (choose the network that is most relevant to your business), using the hashtag and mentioning your company. Give the person who creates the most likes or shares a prize. Your brand can end up with a lot of engaging content, courtesy of current or potential customers.

The bottom line:  Engaging content connects to people in some way, whether it’s giving them a reward, promising them useful information or helping them learn from a recent news story or pop culture phenomenon. If you’re not seeing results from your content, experimenting with a different form might be all you need to do.

 

4 PR and Marketing Trends to Pay Attention to in 2017

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As one year draws to a close and another one gets set to begin, it’s only natural to reflect on what has happened and to guess about what’s in store. While no one has a crystal ball when it comes to marketing and PR, a number of trends seems likely to continue, while others will become increasingly popular.

Knowing which of these trends to focus on in 2017 will help you better connect with your customers and put together a more effective marketing and PR strategy.

The Increasing Influence of Influencers

Using influencers to promote a product or service isn’t a new thing. But it’s expected that influencers will become even more influential in 2017. Influencer marketing is effective because when a well-liked or respected figure on Instagram, for example,  recommends using a product, people are more likely to be receptive to that recommendation than they would be to traditional advertising.

A survey conducted by eMarketer found that 48% of people who responded plan on raising their budget for influencer marketing in the New Year.  Another survey found that 86% of marketers used influencer marketing in 2016, spending between $25,000 and $50,000. Most marketers intend to double their influencer marketing budget in 2017.

Content Becomes More Immersive and Interactive

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The days of producing static content are over. In 2017, content will continue to become ever more interactive and immersive.

Interactive content can range from simple quizzes on a website to clickable infographics and from live streaming video feeds to fully immersive, augmented reality programs, such as Pokemon Go. The more engaging the content, the more likely it is to create tangible, real results with audiences and customers.

Native Ads Increase

Although many people dislike traditional ads and will go out of their way to avoid them by installing ad blockers or skipping TV commercials, native advertising is generally much more accepted.

Native ads blend into their surroundings a lot better than traditional ads and look as though they are meant to be there. Over the next five years, native ads are expected to increase from 56% of display ad revenue to 74%, according to a report from Business Insider.

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The format for native advertising is also evolving. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, new ad forms are continually being invented while certain types of formats, particularly visual or video-based native ads, are gaining in popularity.

As native ads become more common and popular, one of the challenges IAB anticipates is having those ads continue to focus on storytelling, rather than on simply selling a product or service.

The Shrinking Lifespan of Content

People’s attention spans have shrunk so much that a recent opinion piece argued that members of “Generation z” (those born after 1995) have an attention span of just 8 seconds.

Since no one’s going to pay attention to it anyway after a few seconds, it makes sense that the shelf life of content is going to continue to shrink in 2017. Snapchat, the social sharing site where content vanishes a few seconds after it’s viewed, is expected to grow in popularity this coming year.

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TechCrunch reports that the company expects its ad revenue to reach $1 billion in 2017. Although the site is thought to be a hit with younger users, its popularity with older people is growing. In 2016, the number of Snapchat users over the age of 35 grew by 86%, according to the LA Times, and the number of users between the ages of 25 and 34 grew by 103%.

Short-lived content is appealing to marketers for one big reason: There’s a sense of urgency to it. If a person doesn’t check out the image or story your company posted right away, they’ll miss it forever. That can spur customers or viewers to action much more effectively than a long-lived post on other social networks.

Of course, it’s difficult to predict the future with any real sense of certainty.  But, having a general idea of where marketing and PR are headed in 2017 can help your company better prepare for what’s to come.

 

How to Get People to Open and Read Your Emails

Although email marketing isn’t dead, it certainly isn’t the same thing it once was. It wasn’t that long ago that people actually looked forward to getting a new message in their inbox.

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Today, it’s a much different story.

As Source Digit reported, more than 182 billion emails were sent daily by the end of 2013. By the end of 2017, that number is expected to climb to more than 206 billion.

In this sea of marketing and other emails, here are a few ways to make your messages stand out from the rest:

Introduce the Subject

The subject line of an email is your one chance to get people to open your message — or not. Fortunately, a fair amount of research has been done to determine what length of subject line and what type of subject make people most likely to open an email.

Over at Inc.com, Jessica Stillman cites a study that found that emails with subject lines between six and 10 words had an open rate of 21 percent. That might not seem like a very high rate, but emails with subjects that contained five words or fewer had just a 16 percent open rate. Emails with longer subject lines, more than 11 words, were the most common, but the least likely to be opened.

The takeaway:  Using a subject line that’s between six and 10 words lets you clearly and succinctly introduce what the message is about. People will get bored trying to read a longer subject, and a shorter subject won’t be able to fully convey what the email is about.

Keep It Short

Once you’ve gotten someone open your email, don’t incent them to instantly click delete without reading what’s inside. Keeping the content of the message short and sweet will allow you to get your point across without turning off your reader.

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Get right to the point in the body of the email. Clearly tell the reader what the message is about and explain what the next steps are for your reader.

For example, if you’re introducing a new product, include a link to it and encourage the reader to check it out or to call you for more details.  Don’t leave the reader hanging, unsure of what to do next. That’s just as bad as having him or her not read your email in the first place.

Add a Personal Touch

A bit of personalization, such as using someone’s name in the introduction, can go a long way to getting people to engage with an email message.

But it helps to go beyond simply using a person’s name.  Consider targeting your message to specific groups of customers. Odds are that your customers have different goals and needs, and that a one-size-fits-all email marketing approach won’t appeal to everyone.

Get the Timing Right

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How often you send messages matters as much as when you send them.

Limit your messages to about two a week at most. One of the fastest ways to get your email relegated to the dreaded spam filter is to send one every day or even multiple times a day.

Think about when people are going to be the most receptive to a message. Many companies sent out emails in the early morning, so that people wake up to an inbox full of new messages – most of which get deleted.

But if you wait until later in the day to email, either around lunchtime or near the end of the working day, around 3:30 pm or so, you are more likely to find a more receptive audience. By that point in the day, many people are bored and looking for something to entertain themselves. If you hit it right, your message might be what a person turns to when he or she needs a distraction.

Remember, your emails are only effective if people actually read them.  Keeping things short, personalizing your message and waiting for the right time to email will go a long way towards increasing the chance that customers will engage with your content.

A Social Media Checklist for Businesses

There’s a right way for businesses to use social media and there’s a wrong way. The right way actively engages with customers and users. It involves creating and sharing engaging content. The wrong way uses a purely promotional angle. It creates posts full of random hashtags and doesn’t respond to or interact with others.

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Using a checklist to monitor your company’s daily, weekly or monthly social media tasks will help you use social media in the right way. A checklist will also help you make adjustments or change course as needed.

The checklist should include the following:

  •  Respond to Comments and Messages (Daily)

One of the most important things you can do on social media is respond to comments and messages from your followers, fans or customers. When people reach out to a company over social media, they expect a response, fast.

A survey conducted by Convince and Convert found that 32% of respondents expected a business to respond to their message on social media within half an hour. Forty two percent expected a response within an hour. Customers want a quick reply anytime, whether it is the weekend or midnight on a weekday.

Responding to any messages should be a daily social media activity. In fact, you should have someone constantly monitoring your social media profiles for messages or mentions, so that you can reply quickly. Additionally, it helps to do a search every day for your business’ name on social media. People occasionally post about companies without using hashtags or usernames. It can be easy to miss those quiet mentions, but if you catch them, you’ll win your way into the hearts of customers.

  •  Find and Follow Others (Daily)

Along with replying to anyone who reaches out to you, it’s worth it to find new people to connect with through social media on a daily basis. You can search for leaders in your industry to follow or you can reach out to people who look as though they’d be interested in what you have to offer.

To do that, search for phrases or keywords that are relevant to your business on your various platforms. When you find a conversation or post about a topic that’s relevant to your company, find a way to jump in and add your input or some advice.

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One thing not to do when you’re looking to connect with others on social: follow then unfollow once that user has followed you back. If you’re going to follow a lot of people, commit to following them. It’s just bad manners to unfollow once you’ve gotten the follow back, even though it happens frequently.

  •  Create and Stick to a Social Media Content Calendar (Weekly)

You can’t post anything or share anything on social media if you don’t have an idea or plan for what to post. Creating a weekly social media content calendar gives you an idea what you need to post and when. It also helps you see how much you need to post on each site you use.

While maintaining and updating your content calendar should be a weekly (or even monthly) task, actually posting the content should happen daily. You’ll want to post at least once a day on most social accounts, but at least six times a day on Twitter, where people tend to be much more prolific.

  •  Pay Attention to What Your Competition Is Doing (Weekly)

It helps to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing on social media and on how they are using their social accounts. You don’t want to copy what other companies are doing, but you do want to check in from time to time.

Doing so lets you see what those competitors aren’t doing, so that you can fill in the gaps with your own social accounts. You can also see what’s working for them and what’s not and use that information to shape your company’s own social strategy.

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  •  Check Your Data (Monthly)

Every month, check out how your business’ various social profiles are performing. Analytics available from each social network make this pretty easy to do. For example, Twitter will tell you how each of your posts performed, how many people engaged with each post and how many people it post reached. Facebook does something similar. You can also see how many new people liked or followed your page each month and whether you’re social presence is growing or shrinking.

  •  Make Adjustments as Needed (Monthly)

The social media landscape is always changing. As social networks update or change their policies, your company will need to adjust its tactics. Keep up with the policies for each network you use and adjust your plan as needed.

You might also want to set monthly social media goals. For example, you might aim to get 100 new Twitter followers a month. If you reach that goal, increase it. If not, take a look at what you are doing and figure out what’s not helping you or what’s standing in the way of you reaching your goal.

Are Newswires Worth It?

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At first glance, newswires such as PRWeb and BusinessWire can seem like the golden ticket to getting your clients the coverage they deserve. The services claim to be able to put your press releases in front of tens of thousands of journalists, all of whom are eagerly waiting for a story to cover.

The reality of newswires is a little less exciting. While your client’s press releases will most likely make it to the email inboxes of many, many journalists and might show up on highly respected news websites (particularly if you are in the financial industry) the actual value of that coverage can be suspect. There are a few reasons why the effort involved in — not to mention the cost of — issuing a release via a newswire might not be worth it.

There’s No Sense of Exclusivity

Journalists, particularly freelance reporters, are often looking for a unique story to write and publish. If they need to pitch ideas to an editor or publisher before getting the go ahead to run with a story for either a print or online publication, they are going to want ideas that no other journalists will have.

When a reporter sees a press release on a newswire, the odds are high that many other reporters, covering the same beat, will have seen it too. Having everyone pursue the same story is pretty much the same as having no one pursue the story. Once an editor hears the second or third identical pitch, he or she is going to be less likely to want to assign it.

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The worst case scenario is that a journalist won’t even consider pitching a story based on a press release he or she saw on a newswire. That press release might come with the assumption that everyone is going to pick up it, so that no one ends up covering it.

There May Not Be Relevance

Another strike against newswires is that while they can lead to trade magazines, newspapers and other publications picking up your news, there might not be any “so what?” behind the coverage.

In a blog post on PR Daily, Katie Harrington, a blogger and PR professional, shares her experience of working for an agency that essentially only distributed press releases through newswires. The distribution did get her client coverage but mainly in “regions where my company’s product isn’t sold. Obscure, regional and small-town newspapers with no relevance to my company published the release.”

Although on paper, it looked as though Harrington’s client was getting a good deal of coverage and that using the PR newswire was worth it, that coverage didn’t actually translate to an increase in sales or interest in the company.

When Using Newswires Can Be Effective

While sending a press release to a newswire might not be the most effective way to get coverage, there are times when it can be a good option. Although it might seem like a budget-friendly way for start-ups and cash strapped companies to get some press, it’s often the bigger name companies that get results from newswires. Journalists are more likely to follow up on a story if they see a release from a company they recognize.

Other Techniques Worth Trying

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Often, the best way to get a journalist to cover your company’s or client’s news story is to put in the effort of developing a relationship with that journalist. Finding a relevant, engaging story by sifting through newswire press releases is the journalistic equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. Who has the time to put in that much effort for such a potentially small payoff?

Instead of sending a press release out to the masses, directly connect with a reporter, ideally one who writes for a publication that your target audience reads. Connecting directly with reporters does take a lot more effort than simply sending out a release to the masses, as you need to take steps to actually develop a relationship with them. But, once you’ve gotten those relationships established and regularly get coverage for your clients that results in increased awareness and sales, the initial effort will have been worth it.

Tips for Marketing to Millennials

When you hear the word “millennial,” what comes to mind? Often, the stereotype is a twenty something, somewhat self-obsessed person from a middle class background. But millennials are much more than that.

For one thing, there are about 80 million of them in US, according to research from Accenture. For another, not all of them are in their twenties. Since marketers typically classify anyone born between 1980 and 2000 as a millennial, plenty of them are in their thirties while a good number are still teenagers.

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Whether they are 34, 26, or 16, millennials have an immense buying power. Some reports estimate than they collectively spend more than $1 trillion a year. Accenture offers a more conservative figure, estimating that millennials spend around $600 billion annually in the US.

When targeting millennials, there are a few key things marketers need to do.

Get Personal

Admittedly, people of all ages like the personal touch when it comes to being marketed to. But getting personal tends to matter the most to millennials.  According to a 2015 survey, conducted by Elite Daily, just one percent of them admits to be influenced by traditional advertising. They skip commercials, use ad-blocking software or generally ignore ads.

Instead of being advertised to, millennials are looking to be engaged with. They prefer it if brands act like their friends, providing real, useful advice and guidance, rather than simply presenting a product to them.

Influencers, whether they are celebrities or bloggers, can be an effective tool for marketers who want to reach millennials. According to the Elite Daily survey, a third of millennials are likely to check out a blog about a product before they buy. More than 40 percent are looking for something that is authentic and something that they can trust.

Embrace Their Diversity

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The common stereotype of millennials — the 26-year-old, college-educated, middle class white person — focuses on just one small subset of the generation. Although many millennials have gone to college and some have earned masters degrees or doctorates, a fair number aren’t college educated. Some are still in high school. They also come from a variety of backgrounds and many speak multiple languages or do not speak English as their first language.

Some millennials have fully embraced adulthood. They own their homes, their cars and have kids of their own. Other might still live with mom and dad or in roommate situations and have a less stable grip on their finances. Some have decided to live a completely unconventional life, plan on never getting married and don’t anticipate owning property any time soon.

That means that one single message or marketing approach won’t work for this demographic. If you focus on them as a group of post-adolescents who rely on their parents, you’re ignoring the millennials who have begun living adult lives and who might resent being grouped with those who haven’t started adulthood yet. If you focus on them as people who are getting married and starting families, you turn off those who don’t want to live that lifestyle or who aren’t at that stage yet.

It’s more helpful to focus on who your millennial customer is, not where he or she is meant to be in life. For example, you  might decide to target millennials who are into a certain style of music or who believe in supporting a particular social cause. You can create different campaigns to target different social sets of millennials, instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach based on perceived cultural norms.

Use Social and Digital Methods Wisely

Many millennials are digital natives, meaning they can’t remember a time before the Internet. Some might be young enough that they can’t remember a world without social media. It’s great to jump on the social media bandwagon and create accounts for your company with the hip, millennial-focused networks, such as Instagram and Snapchat.

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But, millennials are going to see through that. You can’t just create social accounts and expect them to come to you.  You need to give them a reason to follow your brand. If your business is one that isn’t even on millennials’ radar or if yours is a company that they associate with the “olds,” they aren’t going to follow your accounts.

Use social media to connect with and engage with potential customers. You can use Snapchat, for example, to show people how to use your products or show people using your products in creative, unexpected ways. The thing to remember when using social media is to be subtle. Don’t push your product or service on millennials. Instead, try to be a helpful guide to them and they’ll be more likely to become loyal customers to you.

The secret to marketing to millennials is figuring out what they want. And really, that same trick holds true when marketing to people of any generation or age group. Baby Boomers and Generation X might not be crying out for authentic, personal stories. But once you start incorporating that into your marketing, don’t be surprised if you find that it helps you reach customers of all ages.

What Marketers Can Learn From Pokémon Go

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If there’s one thing the makers of Pokémon do well, it’s to create a craze. Back in the late 1990s, Pokémon trading cards caused a frenzy among children and adults, as people waited in line to get their hands on a pack of the latest release, which might or might not contain the cards they were after.

Now, Pokémon is back again. This time, it is taking the world by storm in the form of an augmented reality game for smartphones. Instead of catching Pokémon cards, people are chasing the monsters all over town, catching them using the cameras on their phones.

To say that the game is a hit would be an understatement. First released in the US in early July, it climbed to the top of the sales charts in just 13 hours. So far, more than 75 million people have installed it and Forbes reported that the average user spends 75 minutes per day playing it. Yahoo News called the app a cultural phenomenon and compared it to the Dutch Tulipmania of the 17th century, when demand for certain tulip bulbs caused the price to skyrocket.

What does Pokémon Go have to teach marketers? A lot, as it turns out.

Customize the Message

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One of the features of Pokémon Go is the ability to customize the avatar a person uses when playing. Initially, a player could only customize their avatar at the beginning of the game, picking the clothing, physical features, and gender. An update to the app now allows people to customize and change their avatar whenever they want.

Marketers also need to learn to customize and update the messages they send to customers, who grow and change as they move through life. Your customers also aren’t  all the same person, and want you to recognize what makes them unique. Customization is particularly important to millennials, as this article in Entrepreneur points out.

How can you customize the message to certain customers? Offer appreciation and recognition events, personalize any emails or other communications you send to them and give them a choice when it comes to how they communicate with you or you with them.

What’s Old is New

Nostalgia is one of the things driving the success of Pokémon Go. Many of the 20 and 30 somethings playing the game now remember collecting the cards or playing the Gameboy games in the 1990s.

Nostalgia can also be a useful tool for marketers. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2014 suggested that people are more willing to open their wallets when they feel nostalgic. If a product or service triggers a memory of a bygone time, people will spend so that they feel as if they are reliving that time.

Right now, the 1990s are a ripe for the picking when it comes to nostalgia marketing. Just as Pokémon is having its 15 minutes of fame, so, too, are Calvin Klein’s iconic jeans, Crispy M&M’s, and brown lipstick.

Keep it Simple

Here’s another reason Pokémon Go is doing so well: It’s easy to learn and play. You don’t need to have played the video games or card games that preceded the app, or spent hours reading a list of instructions. You simply download the app and start playing. It’s simple enough that you can figure it out as you go along.

Keeping it simple is one of the most important things for marketers to remember. If people can’t clearly spot your message or get what your brand’s story is at a glance, they aren’t going to stick around long enough to figure out if what you’re offering is worth their while.

Establish a Sense of Community

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One of the features that makes Pokémon Go more unique than other app-based games is that it, for the most part, has players go out and about to capture the monsters. Players also have a chance to work together to find and catch the Pokémon, at Pokéstops and Poké gyms. Large group Pokémon hunts have taken place in Spain, Australia, and other locations.

The game has proven to be a conversation starter, even among people who aren’t playing it. For example, players at a local coffee shop or bar have been known to strike up conversations with other customers about how the game works or about how many Pokémon they’ve caught.

A marketing strategy that has community at its center not only helps people connect over a shared interest, but also helps increase word-of-mouth shares. Much of Pokémon’s success is due to people who fondly remember the game or who never stopped playing other versions of Pokémon. When the app was released, those people got it, told their friends and shared their experiences on social media and the web until a significant buzz was established.

Who knows how long the Pokémon Go bubble will last? But, its wild success over the past few weeks has been enough to show marketers that some techniques never go out of style.

 

Using Social Media to Build Influence

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Unlike traditional marketing, you don’t need to have a huge budget or a household name to establish yourself or your company as an influencer on social media.

In fact, larger companies are struggling to build and maintain any level of influence on social media, as an article in the March 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review points out. Smaller companies and individuals tend to have a greater reach on social media compared to national brands.  That’s because it can be easier for a smaller company to produce organic social media content that is perceived as being authentic than it is for a big brand.

Focus on Quality

Posting more content on social media isn’t always better than posting fewer items. You’ll be able to make a name for yourself or your business in the online realm if you post one thing per day that really resonates with your audience or that helps them solve a particular problem.

Although it’s important to pay attention to what topics are trending, pick and choose what you post about with care. There have been numerous cases of brands or companies jumping on a hashtag bandwagon and putting their foot in their mouths. Often, the brands saw that a particular hashtag was trending, but didn’t understand the meaning behind it and ended up posting something that embarrassed them or created an uproar.

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The “quality over quantity” rule applies  to the number of social networks you are on, as well. When you are first dipping your toes into the social media waters, it can help to focus on one platform at a time. If you prefer to make videos, focus on building your influence and subscriber list on YouTube. If concise, witty phrases are more your style, Twitter can be perfect for you. As you gain followers and traction on social media, you can think about expanding the number of networks you use.

Stick to What You Know

One way to establish yourself as an expert in your field and to earn “influencer” status is to focus on posting about the things you know. For example, if you are an accountant who primarily works with small businesses, you can write a post about often overlooked small business deductions at tax time.

It’s also important to anticipate what your audience wants to read or see from you. They might not value a post about recent events in international politics, for example, if your company sells kitchen supplies to bakeries and restaurants. But, if you run an import-export business or deal with a number of customers whose lives or businesses will be affected by the issue, a post from you on what the current events mean for business and for your audience might be appreciated.

Although providing information can position you as an expert or authority on a topic or industry, starting a conversation on social media can also help you build your influence. Solicit questions from your followers about your niche and take the time to answer them.

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You can also jump in and answer questions people might post in online forums or on websites such as Quora. Doing so will put you and your company on the original poster’s radar, as well as on the radar of anyone who ends up reading the Q&A.

Pay Attention to What Works

One of the great things about social media is that it is easy to see what is working and what isn’t. When you post an article or video, you can see how many people have looked at it, how many have reacted to it, and how many have shared it.

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You might start to notice patterns across your posts. Perhaps videos do better with your followers than written posts, for example. Perhaps people respond to posts with pictures more than they do to posts that are just text. You can build your brand and establish influence more easily if you give people want they want to see on social media.

Whether they are on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, people are looking for companies to step forward and take the lead. Use social media to your advantage and you’ll end up gaining a considerable amount of influence.

4 Reasons Why No One is Reading Your Content

The world is full of content — according to data from Uberflip, more than 27 million pieces of content are shared daily. With so much out there, naturally people are only going to read the content that stands out from the rest and that makes an impression.

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If no one is reading the blog posts, white papers, or other content your team is creating, it is easy to blame it on the sheer volume of words available these days. But, the issue could go deeper than that. Your content might be getting lost in the shuffle, or it could be suffering from a number of other issues that make it easy for people to ignore.

It Doesn’t Have the Right Focus

When people go online to find information, they are often looking for a solution to a problem. Blog posts and white papers that get the most traction with an audience tend to be very useful or tend to help people or companies solve a problem.

Content that’s not focused on usefulness isn’t going to attract readers. One way to solve an issue of focus is to reconsider who you are creating content for. Your current customer base or potential customer base should always be who you are directing your content towards. When you are developing ideas for blog posts and other materials, think of issues your audience might have, then produce content that helps them solve those issues.

It Doesn’t Sound Authoritative

Content that appeals to people is authoritative and unique. It’s fairly common to see companies producing blog posts or articles in an attempt to cash in on a current trend. If the subject of the article isn’t really in the company’s wheelhouse, the author of it ends up sounding uninformed or inexperienced. That not only turns off readers, it can also turn off also potential customers.

It’s fine to write something about an issue or news story that is trending at the moment. But, the important thing to do is to put your own slant on it. Let readers see your business’ unique perspective on a problem or how you company can solve a trending issue in a way that no one else can.

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Your content might also be suffering because it’s just not well written. Poorly written content can make you sound less authoritative, as it’s difficult to make a strong argument when there are a lot of grammatical errors or overly flowery language. Not everyone is a gifted communicator, or has an eye or ear for good content. If you’re not sure if the posts and articles your company is putting out are any good, it’s worth it to hire someone to handle making sure your content team has what it takes to put together expertly written, engaging content.

It’s Not Visually Appealing

In some cases, the actual meat of your company’s content is perfectly fine. You’ve been writing knowledgeable, informative posts and papers. But, the way the content is presented to readers is the issue.

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More people use their mobile device over a desktop or laptop when reading digital content. The 2015 Internet Trends report from KPCB shows that more than half of the time people spend online, about 2.8 hours a day, is using a mobile device. (note: it’s slide 14 on the report)

If your company’s content isn’t easy to read on a smaller screen or if you’re using a web design that is not responsive and doesn’t adjust based on the size of the screen, you could be turning away readers.

It’s Not Reaching People

One last reason why people might  not read your content: they never get a chance to see it. Make it as easy as possible for people to find and read what you’ve written. Sharing your content on social media is one way to do that.

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Making your content easy to share is another way. For example, put share buttons that link to the more popular social media sites next to every post on your blog. That way, if someone stumbles upon your post from a search engine, and likes what he or she sees, it’s easy to share the article or post with his or her followers.

You can also send your content directly to the people you think would benefit from it the most. An email newsletter lets you connect with current or potential customers, and puts your content directly in their inbox. People can always click “delete,” but if you’re reaching out directly to them, it’s more likely they’ll take the time to at least look at what you have to say.

 

Marketing is Dead, Long Live Marketing

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Every industry needs to evolve and grow to survive. Look at the auto industry, for example.  Without innovation, everyone would still be driving Model Ts, instead of the higher-powered, more fuel efficient vehicles many of us drive today.

The same is true in the marketing and communications industry. People have been heralding the death of marketing, as it was once known, for years now. William Lee, author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers:  Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset, was writing about the death of marketing in Harvard Business Review back in 2012. While traditional marketing techniques might be dead and should be buried, that doesn’t mean the entire industry needs to pull up stakes and move on.

Instead, we need to find what works in today’s climate and focus efforts on that. Traditional ads and paper press releases might be the Model T’s of the marketing world, but social media and customer-focused efforts can be the marketing industry’s equivalent of the Tesla Model S.

Communicate First, Market Second

One of the traditional methods of marketing was to figure out an audience, such as middle-aged, married women who stay at home or 14 to 18-year-old boys who like sports and pizza, then to tailor an ad to target that audience. The focus was on marketing first, communicating second.

In the next phase of marketing’s life cycle, communications should come first. A marketer might not be trying to push or promote a product to a specific demographic. Instead, the goal is to share information or provide something valuable to a consumer. Blog posts or sponsored articles on a website are an example of communications-focused marketing.

This approach is subtle but still effective. For example, many blog posts that are created to market a company don’t even specifically mention the company’s name or that it offers a service discussed in the post. But, by seeing the post on a company’s website or shared on a  social media profile, a customer begins to associate that company with that service or product.

A company has given a customer something useful or valuable. If it comes to a point in the future when the customer needs the product or service a company offers, he or she will be likely to think of that company first. Communications-focused marketing is about giving, not selling, to customers.

Turn to the Customer

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Speaking of customers, they are a valuable resource for marketing 2.0. A 2013 report from Forrester Research showed that 70 percent of consumers trust a recommendation from a friend, and only 10 percent put their trust in ads.

That means that in the new marketing world, the customer needs to become the advertisement. In his Harvard Business Review article, Bill Lee recommends looking at the big picture when it comes to a customer’s potential lifetime value. A company doesn’t have to only look at the potential revenue a customer can bring in.

It can also look at the influence that a customer has over others. For example, a highly respected customer, who others are likely to listen to and follow, can be incredibly valuable, even if he or she doesn’t purchase vast amounts from your company. Instead, that customer can direct others to your products. If someone who has a lot of followers or a large network is enthused about what your business offers, tap into that enthusiasm and let it work for the good of your company.

Blending Old and New

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If traditional marketing is dead, why do you still see ads in magazines or on TV and why do you still send out press releases or try to engage with traditional media? While it’s true that ads might no longer be effective on their own and that a  newspaper or print magazine story might not have the reach it once did, those techniques can still be valuable.

The trick is to combine them with newer marketing techniques. Your company might produce an ad that features one of your customer influencers, or the ad might specifically encourage people to engage with or share their opinion with your company on social media. The ad isn’t specifically marketing your product or service; instead, it’s marketing your company’s social presence.

You have many options for reaching customers today. While it might seem like the best idea to toss away all the old marketing techniques in favor of the new, some older methods can still be valuable, especially when combined with the newer ones.  No one drives a Model T anymore, after all, but today’s cars all still have four wheels and an engine.