It is a confronting accusation posed in a powerful Medium Post over the weekend by Addvocate Founder and CEO Marcus (@marcusnelson) Nelson – The Next Social Imperative: “Failed promise. Failed mission. #Fail.”. It is one I felt I had to respond to as it does go right to the heart of what is wrong with the way Social Business has been embraced.
I worked with Marcus in the PR team at Salesforce.com in 2011-12 just as Marc Benioff’s vision of the “Social Enterprise” was being unveiled and I joined in when he – as he wrote in his post – “cheered as social media became integral to enterprise marketing”. It was an exciting time when the essence of the Social promise – as foreseen in The Cluetrain Manifesto – began to come to fruition. That promise is neatly summarised in The Next Social Imperative as:
“Social media’s true utility— its fundamental reason for existence—is for building genuine connections.”
Sadly, I also agree with Marcus that two years on, all that has happened is that ”the social-business industry has pushed crass commercialism to new levels”. Today, so much Social commentary - and I am often as guilty as everyone else – is focussed on the Content Marketing and SEO aspects of Social and almost nothing is invested in helping companies ENGAGE their customers online. Not just Likes and Retweets, but actual conversations.
Not nearly enough is being done to open up the channel to genuine discussion and connection. Instead the effort to automate and outsource as much as possible sucks every last ounce of authenticity out of the interaction. (In this sense, the Social channel is going the way of the telephone channel before it – automated, outsourced and ultimately a betrayal of its promise.) The most successful efforts of the Social Industry have been in providing expensive software suites from which to automate monitoring and the dissemination of digital marketing messages optimized for every channel and – also as Marcus says – “aimed at getting customers to LIKE us, LOVE us and, above all, BUY from us.” But not to TALK to us.
Of course – speaking as an experienced PR professional – it should be remembered that Corporate Communications and legal people alike FREAK OUT at the thought of hundreds or thousands of employees chatting with prospects, customers and partners “willy nilly“. The management challenges and risks are so frightening that the most conservative option is to prevent this kind of discourse happening at all – or certainly not to encourage it. The spectre of employees getting sucked into troll battles, or providing the wrong assistance to customers circumventing the support queue, or insulting customers-to-be with inappropriate comments out of hours are all nightmare scenarios amplified in their apparent likelihood by media scare stories. This is where the real failure is: a failure of courage, imagination and vision – in allowing fear to inhibit progress. All of these scenarios can be managed.
Working with Marcus at Salesforce.com I learned a lot about how Social employee interactions can be managed very easily and effectively; but another company I have already written about here who is a stand-out example in this area is Dell. During a chat with one of their Social champions, Richard (@ByJove) Margetic, earlier this year I learned that while various Dell corporate channels such as @dellcares have millions of followers, it was Dell employees that were responsible for most of Dell’s Social-generated inbound traffic to the website. Basically, recommendations and comments from genuine rank-and-file employees were far more influential in driving inbound web traffic than the well-managed but ultimately very faceless Corporate Social accounts. This is what Marcus means when he says:
“Consumers trust a company’s rank and file workers—especially people with technical expertise—more than they trust top executives.”
But Dell weren’t haphazard in enabling and unleashing this power, it was measured and deliberate. Those interested in becoming a Social Media Ambassador for the company were carefully trained not only in Social skills but also in the company message and in engagement protocols. They added “atDell” to their Twitter accounts, standardised their Profiles and became accountable for what they shared. Other aspects of getting this right include having a clear and well communicated Social Media Policy (which I talk about in more length here).
Also, in helping employees better understand what content they can share on behalf of the company (and in tracking and rewarding that), Marcus’ own technology – Addvocate – has to be the leader in this field.
Finally, clear procedures in the event of certain predictable situations (ideally established through a Issues-and-crisis document) should be well communicated across the company. For instance, in the event that Salesforce.com has a “service disruption” (a euphemism for an “outage”) guidance on what employees should and shouldn’t say on Social Media to complaining customers – and resources that they could point users to – was very transparently available to those that needed them.
So I do second Marcus’ rallying call:
“Isn’t it time we reclaimed social media’s true mission of building genuine connections?”
But with a caveat: that such an environment – while very powerful – is a huge management and risk challenge. But this challenge should not be beyond those responsible for it - mainly PR, legal and senior management; and certainly the difficulty of it should no longer hold back progress in creating a business world more about genuine connections between companies and customers and less about cost-effective and efficient digital marketing.
Extensive research indicates that – like every other aspect of business – the recruitment industry is amid a period of radical change as a result of the impact of Social Media. Not only is Social Media already contributing a great deal to the recruitment process at present, but in time is likely to dominate, making the traditional tools of recruitment – the telephone and the job ad – redundant. Equally, for candidates, an extensive and transparent Social footprint is increasingly becoming mission critical to a successful career path.
According to a HR and Recruitment Trends Survey by the Novo Group (2012) , 73 per cent of HR leaders have successfully made an appointment using Social Media, 49 per cent have reported a greater pool of candidates from Social Recruiting and 20 per cent reported recruitment taking less time with Social. These trends will only amplify.
The biggest concern of course for the Professional Recruiter is that Social affords companies the ability to fully insource their recruitment, representing an existential threat to consultancies who have not embarked on their Social journey. The only way to remain relevant is to understand Social Recruitment better than the client. Furthermore, evidence suggests Generation Y candidates to be far heavier users of Social Media in their search for new opportunities. These candidates will in turn become clients as their careers develop. Therefore demonstration of Social Recruiting best practice is the most effective way to remain relevant to future candidates and clients alike.
A Survey by US Recruitment Technology firm Jobvite in 2012 discovered that in 2012 over 90% of employers used Social recruiting in 2012 . In terms of channels, the survey revealed that 2/3 of Companies now recruit via Facebook; over half use Twitter and almost all use LinkedIn. Furthermore, 43 per cent of respondents felt that the quality of applicants has improved thanks to Social Media.
Specifically, Social Media can deliver three key business advantages:
- Pre-qualification: Social Networking provides the opportunity to exploit a wide network at the click of a button. Most importantly it reverses the use of 1-2-1 meetings from being explorative, qualifying and speculative network maintenance to relevant and timely execution devices to advance opportunities that have already become apparent. This is an incredibly important productivity gain – how much of a recruiter’s time is wasted qualifying the not-qualified?
- Inbound Web Traffic: It is well-established that the job-filling process begins with a Google search – for both employer and candidate. A fundamental principle of Social Media leverage for the recruitment industry is Social SEO – the combination of Social Media and Search Engine Optimization. Increasingly, key search engines such as Google and Bing are seeing Social triggers as indicators of content and destination popularity. Therefore, the opportunity to “game” one’s search rankings with Social meta data via Twitter, LinkedIn and (in this case) most particularly Google+ is an important advantage to understand because of the increased traffic levels it can drive to both owned ads (i.e. those on your own website) and to ads on third party sites (such as SEEK.com.au).
- Thought leadership: Even without blogging (although it must be said this is the most powerful way to execute on Social SEO) using both third party content and thought leadership messages to attach your brand to a strategic keyword or phrase is a very effective way to increase search rankings – especially for niche sector specialists – and to influence those Socially clustered around those keywords strategic to your business. As well as the power of LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ to “game” your rankings; it is worth remembering that advanced Social users monitor permanent searches on certain keywords, providing digital real estate for you to gain prominence on.
Therefore small recruitment consultancies – or even lone operators – can use Social Media to ensure their survival and punch above their marketing dollar weight in terms of raising brand awareness or driving inbound web traffic. Ultimately, when executed systematically and as part of a routine, Social Media should have relatively minimal impact on either profits or time.
For more on this, it is worth reading this excellent guide for better Social recruiting: “4 Social Recruiting mistakes your company is making“.
Image credit: Staff.com
Further to my post last week about “3 top tools for content curation“, there is a more sophisticated level of a content curation system that is important to understand. It is worth taking the time to build out your content infrastructure toolset to really reap the rewards. It not only brings tremendous efficiency and productivity gains in your content curation efforts, but also provides you with branded online assets to compliment your Social footprint.
Aside from the collection tools in sites I listed out in my last post, there are some other useful sites and services that can help you easily and quickly collect and keep reliable assets and sources of good content for future reference, or for keeping great resources to complement and validate your own content creation efforts.
- Delicious - I’ve been using this Social Bookmarking site for about 5 years now and while it did decline seriously as its own business model faltered, Yahoo has acquired it now and improved it tremendously and so I am very happy I persevered! This is a great tool for archiving – bookmarking – great pieces of content for future reference using a tag system. Each tag creates a unique URL you can share with clients or customers which is very useful for reinforcing your expertise and thought leadership with them. Also, it is possible to brand this page with your logo and tagline). You can install a great little widget on your browser toolbar to make site capture that much easier. (Stumbleupon is also very good at this, but I can’t speak to its usability.)
- RSS - this is a very old, nerdy and almost now forgotten technology for content management which I personally believe will enjoy a resurgence in the new world of content marketing. The original content syndication technology has been in many ways made obsolete by the Social Networking revolution that saw subscription to content made that much easier by Facebook Pages and Twitter feeds. However, when you are involved in serious commercial content management, it can be a great tool for subscribing to quality content sources. Just look for the distinctive orange-and-white icon. RSS’s demise was signified by the closure of the excellent Google Reader tool, and while there are no end of replacement services – I have found the Digg tool to be a cool substitute with a nice preview-browsing interface. You can use the favourite button to bookmark key posts and the tool also has useful share tools.
- Hootsuite – As well as using this Social Monitoring tool to harvest content from Twitter Lists and Search stacks, they have now built a very useful Syndication tool that you can embed in your browser and easily capture RSS feeds from sites where you find interesting content. The tool then creates useful Syndication Tabs in your Hootsuite instance to centralise your monitoring in one place.
- Evernote – this is a great note taking tool of course, particularly because of the seamless way it integrates across mobile devices of all platforms. However, they have augmented this product with a great capture tool – the Evernote Web Clipper – that works across phones, tablets and the web. This is pertinent because so much of your content consumption time is spent on the go.
- Pinterest – infographics are such a powerful mechanism for conveying complicated data sets or concepts, and Pinterest is a great tool for collecting them and operates like Delicious in the sense that your boards have their own URLs which can be branded and easily shared. (See for instance the Artechlate Social Board.) Of course in time you can fuse this collection with your own productions.
(Two other more common sites for content curation and capture are of course Digg and Reddit but it is worth remembering that everyone else in the known Social universe visits these sites and so your chances of finding unique content are slim.)
Effective content capture is not only a huge productivity gain for your Affinity Content output, but also can contribute to your owned content asset production. By collating a wealth of material in an easy-to-search library, it is easy to find references and validations of your own thought leadership content. (It is worth considering also the benefit this will give your Link-Building aspects of your SEO strategy.)
The important thing here is while it is important to do this quickly and efficiently, quality is key. Honing a system that discovers unique and valuable content will help you stand out from the rest. If you are only recycling the same content as everyone else how do you hope to be a thought leader? This amusing video emphasises the importance of Quality and Value in your content strategy.
Video: courtesy of Ogilvy Johnnesburg
We all know that all of a sudden, “Content marketing” is the new black. Marketers are – or certainly should be – busy crafting new skills, systems, processes and methodologies to re-craft what they do on the web from “here’s why we are so awesome” to “here’s some useful content to help you become more awesome”. The business of radically overhauling what marketers do – of revisiting marketing’s very raison d’etre – is a daunting professional challenge, but an exciting one too.
The reasons for this, for want of a better word, revolution are complex and beyond the scope of a short blog post like this. (I’ve written about one of the reasons for such a change here, but there are other dynamics at play which I will save for another post.)
But the effort of producing compelling and rich content on a daily basis is simply beyond the resources of most business – not only physically, but creatively. (For those looking for great content ideas, there are 95 here at The Content Authority Blog to get you started.)
So a common technique is the curation or collection of third party – or what I call “affinity content“. But how do you do this efficiently and systematically without soaking up lots of time, bandwidth or staff you don’t have?
Here are three spectacularly useful Content curation sites I use that offer a great suite of tools for doing this well:
- TrapIt – this is a little-known tool for quickly searching for fresh content on a range of different keywords you have identified in your Social Content strategy. One of the aspects I did find annoying about it though is that it frames the content in its own browser meaning to share it you would need to go off and search for the content at its source. However, I have recently discovered if you click on the title of the article on the top left of the frame, it takes you directly to that source page.
- ScoopIt – a rapidly evolving site, ScoopIt is becoming the “mother of all content curation tools” IMHO. As well as searches on keywords, this site allows you to also curate other “Scoopers” as well as “Scoop” content onto your own profile to become a “Scooper” yourself. But at its most basic it is a great search tool.
- Meddle - is new tool which has been in a fairly scruffy Beta for most of this year but has suddenly come into its own and working in conjunction with the other two I find it a great source for good content
These three sites are for the sophisticated content marketer and while useful for just popping in and searching, you get far more value by opening an account, tagging content and saving search terms so it can learn more about your habits and preferences. They are also great sites for networking with your subject peers. So whether for your personal or corporate brand, it is well worth bookmarking them for future reference, you’ll be surprised how often you find yourself visiting!
Finally, this is a useful infographic from the people at Digital C4 to show you to how to craft your content curation methodology:
First Picture Credit: SocialBites
Most people are familiar with the famous proposition that the Chinese word for Crisis – Weiji – also can mean Opportunity. It turns out this is a fallacy. Nevertheless, such esteemed speakers as JFK, Richard Nixon, Condoleezza Rice and Al Gore have all used this mechanism at some stage to make a valid point: that your reaction to a challenge can be seen as an opportunity to grow.
Recently, I’ve been working with a client listed on the ASX in developing a Social Media Strategy and it has led me to gain some insight into the sector’s use of Social Media and how a huge opportunity is potentially going begging for some.
A recent report by Board Room Radio into the use of Social Media by the ASX200 discovered the surprising fact that still 1 in 5 of those organisations listed on the Australian Stock Exchange are ignoring Social Media. While a full 22 per cent are not using any form of Social Media, less than 50 per cent are using Facebook or Twitter (LinkedIn, not surprisingly, has however gained slightly more penetration at 58 per cent). Furthermore, 32 per cent have not increased their use of Social Media since 2012 and 31 per cent do not plan to in the future.
Of course it isn’t unusual for a segment of any sector to be lagging in adoption of any new technology, least of all Social Media. However, in the area of Australian listed entities this direction seems particularly short-sighted in view of a recent change to the guidelines relating to “continuous disclosure”. While interpretation of ASX Listing Rule Guidance Note 8 relating to the prevention of “false markets” is apparently fluid, the most obvious conclusion you must draw is that the responsibility for how an entity’s stock is portrayed in the online information stream…belongs to the subject of that misinformation. As Caitlin (@niltiac) Fitzsimmons summarises in BRW:
“Listed companies are now legally obliged to monitor social media and disclose anything relevant to the market.”
More specifically, the responsibility is that should anything incorrect or factually misleading appear on Social Media, the listed entity must alert the market, seek to correct that information and if necessary – in extreme cases – halt trading until the matter is rectified. This seemingly onerous duty is all in the name of preventing “false markets” – which is a “market where prices are manipulated and impacted by erroneous information, preventing the efficient negotiation of prices.”
So the crisis for listed entities is that they must set up monitoring infrastructure to monitor Social Media as they now have a responsibility for managing misinformation in that space. Equally, they have additional responsibilities for employees – at once ensuring that they are not the source of such misinformation through their use of Social Media, as well as needing to enlist them into the monitoring effort (best done through a Social Media Policy).
However, the opportunity is to leverage off this compliance duty to attack the Social Media advantage with gusto – since the investment must be made anyway. Why not make this a strategy and not just a chore?
Opening up a sophisticated mechanism to monitor all Social Media relevant to your marketplace can be expensive but does provides the opportunity to seek value from that investment rather than merely meet a regulatory compliance:
- It provides insight into who is talking about you, how influential they are and – as a two-way medium – provides the opportunity to build relationship with them.
- It provides the opportunity to learn more about who your investor community are listening to, what they are talking about and gives you the intelligence you need to craft new content to inform that community
- It provides the wherewithal to monitor your competition more closely, efficiently and effectively giving you the heads-up on new products, new appointments or any context around any sudden stock movements
- It provides the opportunity to review how employees use Social media, potentially educate them on more responsible use of Social media and even mobilise the company in a Social Media marketing campaign
For more on this topic, Kinship Digital (with whom Artechulate partners on monitoring services) blogger Walter (@Adamson) wrote some very useful guidance when the new rules came into force in May 2013.
Artechulate can help companies listed on the ASX create strategies around turning this challenge into an opportunity with services that include Strategy Blueprint Development, Social Content planning and Social Media Policy drafting.
Without being explicit about the specific candidate, I did offer my services during the recent election campaign and was able to leverage some of the Social lessons I learned from the Barack Obama campaigns to good effect.
As I have already written about here, analysis from Todd Wheatland and Blue State Digital’s Joe Rospars were very useful in helping me to better understand how to use Social Media in a local political ground campaign.
Social has increasingly become a very visible campaigning tool, but where the 2010 election was very experimental, there seems to be more rigour and formula now. Parties have embedded it much more into the fabric of what they do. Both parties at the central level employed Social very effectively during the 2013 campaign – both Facebook and Twitter, as well as You Tube – to get the message out. This article sums up the Social story during this campaign.
A Social political campaign needs to first of all better Engage supporters in a discussion about policy and political philosophy; and then secondly to Inspire, Empower and Mobilise “the base” to help them in turn engage their own communities on behalf of the campaign.
“It’s about having the two-way conversation and the back and forth with a whole lot of people at once, at scale, and then also being able to develop the relationships so that you can facilitate conversations between them and their friends, neighbours and colleagues so that they can really be the owner and the messenger themselves in their community.”
Joe Rospar, Digital Strategic for the Obama Campaign
A Tactical Framework that emerges is as follows:
- Seek engagement by fostering discussion. Ask questions, solicit opinion and try to provoke a response. Social can be a very powerful two-way medium. Currently much Social content is one-way – a statement rather than a discussion.
- Identify passionate supporters and seek to formally recruit them into the Social and even ground Campaign as volunteers. Consider creating an “inner-circle” for uber-supporters where they can get early access to forthcoming content
- Develop rich content to provide supporters with the tools for them to inspire their communities. In particular, Infographics, videos, powerful images, pithy 140-character soundbites captured live from the hustings, impressive factoids supporting policy positions and illustrating party differences
Moreover, Social can be used to empower supporters to mobilise their communities with tactical instructions:
- In the run up to Election Day sharing voter enrolment and absentee voting resources from the Electoral Commission
- On Election Day itself – using Twitter and Facebook to direct voters on tactical voting, preferences etc (study Obama’s #stayinline Campaign) and to #getoutthevote or #vote1yourparty
Effective employment of Social Media beyond its use as a dissemination tool, can make all the difference in a tight race. Specifically, in the last week I designed and implemented a campaign to drive out hard, solid factoids about party achievements in government which served to provide “the base” with useful collateral to share with their networks. We found people were far more confident in sharing what seemed to be proven and indisputable (ideally supported by numbers) facts, rather than debatable opinions.
A sustained drip-feed of statistics and milestones – intensified on election day – generated more than 600 Retweets, as well as other public messages of support, in the final five days of the campaign and created more momentum going into the final poll. Moreover, How To Vote tweets were helpful in supporting the how to vote collateral handed out at polling booth.
Social will not work on its own, and must work hand-in-hand with traditional ground campaign essentials such as door-knocking and letter-boxing, but is rapidly establishing itself as mission critical to a grass-roots campaign success.
ABC Radio’s Law Report (@LawReportRN) with Damien (@damien_carrick) Carrick this week was a fascinating examination of the implications of Social Media on the already delicate relationship between employer and employee. With expert guests from law firms Herbert Smith Freehills and Slater Gordon, the 25 minute show examines the legal and HR ramifications of four cases where employees had been terminated after alleged Social Media indiscretions. It is well worth listening to, but above all it strongly emphasises the need for employers to protect themselves with a Social Media Policy. (You can Listen to the Podcast of the show here)
- An employee of the Australian Department of Immigration who anonymously tweeted her criticism of government policy because she saw herself as ”free as a private citizen in my own time” to do so. But lost an appeal against her dismissal, which she regarded as unfair, because the court ruled that her contract AND the Department’s Social Media Policy made it very clear what was expected of her. While many issues about personal and public political views and freedoms of political expression; the existence of clear guidelines – in this case – protected the Department.
- There were two other cases to do with a LinFox employee who made offensive comments on his Facebook page but his termination was overruled; and conversely a Good Guys employee who lost his appeal against termination for a similarly offensive Facebook rant about a pay dispute.
- Finally there was a high profile case of an employee of a interior design firm who was dismissed for promoting his moonlighting consultancy to his employer’s clients via LinkedIn, effectively exploiting his company’s “Imprimatur” for his own profit.
“Employees don’t know where the distinctions are. It needs to be clearly explained to employees where the boundaries are and what the expectations are.”
- By way of example, The Victorian Department of Justice’s Social Media Policy is designed to be best practice – as you would expect from a such a Legally responsible entity. the video at the top is quite inspired I think
- This is a Social Media Policy generator tool for production of quick and simple policies. I have used this, its a good start but it is only a start and I would urge an employer to have a lawyer run their eyes over any document before finalising it. Every firm will have circumstances specific to them that generic tools won’t serve, but it is a start
- This is a very useful post on the various areas a Social Media Policy should cover including legal, HR, IT and Marketing
- Finally, this short two-minute video is a useful guides as to some areas you will want to cover
Lately I have been doing some network development work for a client and so as a result have spent a lot of time searching for a targeted list of senior executives. It has jumped out at me how many senior business people simply aren’t attending to their online and Social brand. For those at the insanely busy end of the spectrum, it is easy to understand how sustained and systematic Social networking is a significant challenge (although not impossible as someone like Andy @kiwilark Lark has proved). However, at least taking the time to nail down and own your online personal brand is far less of a task, so I thought I’d gather some resources and tips on that.
Anyone who has looked up someone on Google, or Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook will know that on a global scale there’s almost no such thing as a unique name. There’s often hundreds of people with the same name as you – if you are lucky. Sometimes, if you’re “Jim Smith”, there’s thousands. Getting found on Social Networking sites or on Google itself will become increasingly key to getting found by recruiters, potential business partners, customers or prospects.
It is important to take a few simple steps to secure your own identity before someone else does so there’s no confusion and opportunities don’t go begging.
This isn’t the business of just securing the right username, but goes well beyond that. You need to separate yourself from all the other “Jim Smiths” – you are the only one that counts. When a recruiter or customer searches for you, they want you to jump off the page at them. It can get very time consuming investigating a bunch of people to check you have the right guy or girl. Often people don’t have the time to bother, the moment passes and the connection doesn’t happen. Here are some steps to ensure you have the beginnings of a consistent brand:
- Ensure you have the same or similar profile images across all your online properties. People who find you interesting on Twitter will want to easily connect with you on LinkedIn (and visa versa) and a consistent profile image makes this quick and easy. (Ideally make this a clear photo of yourself rather than an abstract or brand image.)
- Ensure you have a consistent biography across all your channels. Take care to keep the keywords the same at least. Not only does this assist your search rankings but makes sure that people have the confidence that you are the expert you appear. Make sure also your geography is consistently stated (this makes it very easy to be distinguished from the other 350 Jim Smiths in the US!)
- Try and bring all your properties back to the same URL. About.Me is a very good service for this, serving well to collate all your various manifestations on one big page that makes it easy for people to find your web site/s, your LinkedIn or Twitter Profile, your You Tube or Slideshare presence, your blog/s etc.
Beyond these three basic steps, I have written here before about how “Affinity Content” is a simple strategy for building your profile, advancing your search rankings and creating serendipitous opportunities by activating your network. Furthermore, you can measure your influence and effectively KPI your Social activity using Klout, which I have written about recently in the post “Klout: what is it and how does it work?“.
(At a more advanced level, if you are creating content (blogging etc) then secure your “Google Authorship” to massively “game” your personal search rankings. Learn more about this here.)
Finally here are three other useful blog posts about managing your profile online:
- “Build your personal brand for business success” at BT Insights
- “How to build your personal brand” at WikiHow
- “Can you tweet your way to a new job?” at Fortune Magazine
For senior executives, it is worth looking at this Infographic on how the Social CEO will evolve in coming years. For more on the role of the CEO on Social, you can read this blog post I wrote last year: “CEOs should Tweet from the top.”
Ultimately, you’ve invested your entire career building up your reputation and real-life profile; it is madness to not take an hour or two out to own it online.
“Blogging gives small business global reach at extremely low cost.” So said the Godfathers of the Blog, Shel @shelisrael Israel and Robert @scobleizer Scoble, in their 2006 Blogging Bible, Naked Conversations (pictured). Although seemingly an ancient text now in the fast moving world of Social Media, the plethora of truisms throughout this book (still in print) continue to ring true despite the emergence of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al since then.
Blogging is a great way for Small or Niche Businesses to level the playing field with their larger, big-budgeted rivals. The key to this magic is the fact that blogging requires not money but thought. Thought in theory is free. What a business spends to achieve effective blogging power is not money but IP (intellectual property). Most public blogging platforms are free, and the cost of attaching a WordPress Plug-in for your own website is very minimal, for instance. Production of a blog is practically nil – unless you outsource the writing. If done correctly, blogging shouldn’t even take much time. Here are five ways a small business can change the game by blogging:
- Inbound Website Traffic: For me, there’s enough ROI (return on investment) in using Blogging to “game” your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) alone, let alone what it can achieve for awareness amongst actual people. By figuring out what your Keyword is and hitting it regularly in your blogs – particularly in the title – a small business can radically influence how it ranks in searches. When you consider that a Google query is now the very first move in a procurement process of any kind, improving your chances of ranking highly in those search results has to be worth investing something in?
- Demonstrate your Expertise: Instead of old-style proud boasts peppering your website, a prospective client or customer can learn so much more about you through your thought leadership, commentary and advice than from your awards and customer successes. Providing regular examples of the strength of your expertise, depth of your knowledge and validity of your advice is a very powerful way to market yourself to those who do arrive at your website. It also gives your supporters something to share on their social networks when they want to promote your good work. It may seem like “giving it away for free” but people pay for execution, not knowledge.
- Enhancing a Meeting: I have worked with many people in helping them see that while Blogging is a one-to-many medium, it can also be used for one-to-one. If you have a difficult meeting approaching and you want to set the agenda, you can frame it by writing a seemingly-public blog post and sending it to those you’re meeting in advance. Or it can be used to supplement a meeting after the fact, continue a discussion or reinforce a point – or generally keep the conversation going. (I’m actually doing this right now!)
- Increase your Media Profile: Trade journalists are forever inundated with “media spokespeople” from large companies with large PR agency retainers. They know that the same people are touted all around town – the same ambitious, media-trained, jargon-spouting executives are offered to all the writers to comment on industry news and trends. Generally they are very frustrating to interview, usually they are minded by a PR representative and it is very hard to get something unique or insightful from them (besides their own product messages!). Social Media not only provides small business experts the chance to have their voice heard, but also offers journalists the chance to discover for themselves new and interesting talking heads for their articles. Generally one good experience like this and they will come back again and again.
- Become an industry go-to source: If you are in a particular niche, a huge opportunity exists to become an actual news source. Task someone within the business to monitor and curate industry news for sharing on Social Channels like Twitter and the company LinkedIn Page. Once a week or so the company blogger/s should round up interesting trends and themes in short 300-400 blog posts sharing insight and commentary with links to the original news. With the media suffering from ever decreasing bandwidth and with larger companies increasingly restrained from saying anything of interest in respect of industry developments – at least not anything quickly or timely – small business can fill that space of industry information source. Do this and soon people will want to give you their business!
Most companies will say they don’t have time for blogging or they don’t have enough content for blogging, and yet many of them send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter. They should flip this around, and post the content they are already developing throughout the month and then use the newsletter as a digest of that. Many people still do like their email newsletters and this is still an avenue to reach them; but it seems such a waste to put all that content generation energy into just one channel.
There are many other more obvious uses of a blog – company news framing (editorialising press releases etc), as a media statement medium, brand awareness, new product announcements etc but generally speaking small businesses will have far more success by providing genuine value for the reader. Ask yourself “what does the customer need help with?” rather than “what does the customer need to know about us?” If the customer finds your helpful advice useful, they will search the rest of the website for more information about you (so make sure it is there!).
If your blog is “all about you” you will only come up in a searches for you.
Artechulate can offer blog strategy development services, blog writing training and ghost-writing services.For more information on this, contact us here.
Five very useful resources around Social media strategy and measurement have come across my desk this last week that I thought they were worth collecting. But perhaps at the pointiest end was the comment in an article by Brian (@brianSolis) Solis: “Social media has a problem and it needs to be addressed now.” I found that confronting because it probably hits at the heart of where many organisations are going wrong at the moment. Social might not be seen to be delivering because no one knows the answers to the following questions:
- what is Social Media supposed to be delivering?
- how would we know anyway?
“The truth is that a majority of social media strategies employed by some of the best brands out there aren’t linking activity to business goals and results. “
Mr Solis has hit the nail on the head I think. I see a lot of Social Media begun the exact opposite way to how most organisations do almost anything else. It begins very tactically and in the more junior ends of the marketing department – for the most part. Sometimes it reminds me of how corporate use of the web took off in the mid-1990s: Chief Executives would play golf, exchange business cards and one would have “www” on their’s but the other did not. Invariably, corporate use of the web was being driven by arbitrary one-upmanship on the 18th hole – with the deadline being their next golf game. In Social media, activity is usually driven by the off-the-hand question at a senior level, “what are we doing with Social Media?” Very quickly a Facebook page is started merely so the answer “something” can be used to answer that question.
Social Media is terrific for generating no end of data to track – Likes, Followers, Pins, Retweets, Comments – but the question should always be, what should we track? Whatever this is it needs to be inexorably tied to the business goals identified in the strategy development. Too often it is easy to get drawn off track by the Social Media monster. Activity can end up following the crowd or being driven by the conversation or just what is fun and easy to do, instead of being focussed on the overall outcome. Too many organisations are chasing vanity statistics like “Likes” on their Facebook page for the sense of validation it gives, instead of determining if they are the right “Like”s, or even if the activity producing the “Like” is even delivering any return. If you determine what the desired outcome is, then measure activity against it, a much more defensible argument can be made to justify the campaign back to senior management. Senior leadership will resist more budget if a seemingly very successful Social Media campaign in the wrong channel delivers nothing measurable of any worth. (I wrote more on this challenge earlier this month in “Making Social Count“.)
So many companies – particularly in the B2B space have been begun Social activity with not enough thought as to why, what it might achieve and how would it be measured. A strategy that aligns very closely with business goals and delivers measurable return against those goals is key. In any other part of the business this 101-type statement would be filed in the “bleedin’ obvious” draw; but when it comes to Social Media it too often appears a revelation.
Anyway, here are some very valuable, bookmark-worthy resources to help attack this problem:
- A Social Media Monitoring Maturity Assessment (see below) from Mike (@Michae1Green) Green at Kinship Digital
- The “Five Steps to Effective Social Media Measurement” eBook from the Salesforce Marketing Cloud team
- “Six Digital Metrics You Should Be Watching” from the team at Clickz
- “Five steps to a successful Blog Content Audit” from Endurence Marketing
- Finally, the new Brian Solis book that started it all: “The Seven Success Factors of Social Strategy“
Artechulate develops Social Strategy Blueprints for clients that align Social Strategy with the overall business and marketing strategies, and align overall corporate value proposition and messaging with the Social content strategy – and identifies measurement criteria in order to track success. If you are interested in assistance with Strategy development, please get in touch here.
Picture Credit: Greenway’s Reflective Model