Content Marketing: Protect your brand by asking 3 questions

There has been a lot written about the state of content marketing in 2014. And there is a fairly good chance you’re doing it wrong.

Before we get to 2014, let’s review a little history.

Ancient times (in social terms):

Circa 2006 to about 2010, forward-thinking brands would develop blogger relationships by sending a product for review or asking for posts on relevant themes. If the product or theme appealed to the bloggers, they would post for the brand. It was new territory for brands, and most bloggers hadn’t become a brand in their own right…yet.

The rise of the Influencer:

Starting in 2010, and continuing today, we see the rise of the Influencer – not just bloggers anymore, they often have massively bigger audiences on other social channels (Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.).

With that rise in influence came an expectation that the Influencer would be compensated for their time. They still write great content, and are very protective of their personal brand, as well as their audience. At its best, it is an honest exchange of interest, payment, relevancy, and mutual cooperation between brand and influencer.

Content Marketing goes wrong:

Fast forward to 2013 and the explosion (and impending implosion) of content marketing. Some agencies hit on the idea of creating massive quantities of branded content, then syndicating it everywhere (think “guest posts,” content farms, etc.) in order to generate back links for SEO. Questionable content, paid links, and a whole lot of spam. From my inbox today:

We create a profile for you on high Page Rank blogs, and add a link to your website in each profile.

These links are permanent and are never removed.

  • Submission to blogs with Page Rank 5-7
  • Permanent One-way Links
  • Ownership of all the accounts created
  • Complete in 10 business days
  • Detailed Submission Report

We offer different packages at different prices.

As a brand, you may not even be aware that this is being done for you. This tactic is a favorite of many SEO agencies as they try to generate back links to boost your organic search rankings.

The problem? Simple. You (or your agency) paid for the link (or post), so it isn’t organic and therefore is a violation of search engine Terms of Service. This wasn’t a big deal when all this was relatively under the radar, and the links being generated were a byproduct of a campaign to drive awareness, connect with an influencer’s  audience, and generate real traffic back to your site. But doing it for the PageRank authority? You can’t go there.

How bad is the problem? We highly recommend checking out this post on Matt Cutts’ blog (he heads Google’s Webspam team): http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/guest-blogging/

As we enter 2014, can we declare content farms and guest posting for links dead? We’ve never done it, and you (or your agency) shouldn’t either. Our advice: if you are doing any type of content marketing, you should ask these 3 questions:

  1. Does the program, and all content, meet the latest FTC guidelines? For example, disclosures must be clear and conspicuous, sponsorship relationship is clearly explained, and disclosure language is understandable, etc.
  2. Is the post (or content) consistent with the site’s overall content theme, relevant to the audience, and a high-quality addition to the site?
  3. Does the program track all legitimate organic amplification to accurately measure the impact of the paid strategy on earned content?

Done right, content marketing is an awesome way to reach your audience. Just make sure you (and your agency partners) are doing it the right way. And yes, there is a way to use content marketing to generate legitimate links to your content.

Why You Need a Social Data Strategy

Our last post talked about the forces of change as marketers adapt to the ready availability of Big Data.  We loved this post by Cory Treffiletti over at Mediapost: “Changing Business Behavior In The Face Of Data

A key point of the post is the idea that Big Data is an essential game changer for marketers.  It empowers and enriches our work in ways we are just beginning to understand.

Social Big Data is an important and largely untapped subset of the available data.  As we covered in our brief “Social Data Implementation”:

“There is a growing focus among marketers to leverage customer transaction and demographic data in a market basket analysis that identifies cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. However, the biggest limitation with this approach is that we have not factored in why the customers purchased or who their influencers were. Integrating social behavioral and attitudinal data into your loyalty segmentation analysis allows you to develop a truly 360° view of your customers.”

The reason you need a strategy to deal with social Big Data is because it behaves differently from many other types of organizational data.

What’s different about social Big Data?  It is a mass of unstructured data.  When you compare it to the defined structure of, say, your customer transaction data, it really is the Wild West.  Did you know that every single tweet has almost 400 pieces of metadata associated with it?  Some will be useful to your brand, but many will be irrelevant.  A cohesive strategy helps you decide what is useful, from which social platforms, as well as what data points have relevant context and how to integrate that data to fully unlock its power.

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Adjusting Your Sails in the Big Data Hurricane

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward.

To many marketers, the volume, variety and velocity of big data is blowing like a vicious category 5 hurricane. Some are like deer caught in the headlights, while some are sidelining themselves as if they were waiting for some abracadabra to magically change the situation.

Those who appreciate the value of the abundance and availability of social data are already out looking for ways to capitalize on this tremendous opportunity. And for those that understand the urgency of activating and harnessing the power of social data, they are all set to re-tune their tools and begin the journey to use and integrate social data across marketing channels.

The tools for Social Data Implementation are a hybrid of art and science. It is a process for gathering, understanding, and using that data to do a more effective job of marketing across all applicable channels.

Enabled by the most forward thinking technology, the process has four steps:

  1. Know your content (and whether people care about it)
  2. Understand your audience
  3. Re-define your marketing communications strategy
  4. Integrate your social data

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Taken together, the first three steps constitute Social Data Activation – the ability to take the social data and make it immediately actionable and useful for teams and partners. The final step in the journey is integrating social data into your customer lifecycle loyalty and marketing strategies for a true 360° view of your customers.

Activating any corporate data strategy is not for the faint of heart. Harnessing social data as a corporate asset requires the “soft” skills to develop sustainable strategies and manage the changes. At the same time, you’ll also need the “hard” platform to apply the technologies and algorithms to ensure the delivery and integration of high quality data that aligns with business strategies and objectives.

Reading Minds with Social Segmentation

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How often do relationship experts coach people to better express themselves? After all, people can’t “read your mind.”

Au contraire. By analyzing the right social media signals, marketers actually can.

Jeriad Zoghby, managing director of Accenture Interactive, wrote an insightful blog post yesterday about how marketers can better leverage social media data to strengthen relationships with consumers. Every day on Facebook, millions of people leave millions of signals for brands to use in defining what’s important to them.

Social segmentation is something more brands are embracing, for several key reasons:

1. It’s a purely consumer-led, not analyst-defined, approach.

Analyzing data based on exhibited social media behaviors – brands they ‘Like’, content they engage with, movies they attend, sweeps they enter, trips they plan – gives marketers a true read into what’s most important to their potential consumers.

As Zoghby explains, traditional segmentation approaches burden the analysts with defining the attributes to observe. By leveraging social data, marketers can observe thousands of attributes about individuals, allowing them to cluster naturally. It reduces the risk of overlooking something that could be very important.

2. It’s fast and economical.

With the volume of data available today on Facebook, marketers can gain enough insights to inform a study in weeks – not months. Insights about their segments can be updated as trends emerge, seasonality sets in, and new products are introduced.

3. It’s aligned with broader business goals.

Social Segmentation doesn’t replace traditional approaches. It enhances them. Marketers can identify new sub-segments of their target groups based on social behaviors to make communications even more relevant. Marketers can match their social segments to existing CRM segments to know how their most loyal buyers behave in social media.

4. It’s actionable.

Segmentation is most valuable when the insights can be applied for growing a brand. When segments are identified through Social Segmentation, marketers can measure how well their owned content generates engagement from their most valuable customers.

Every day, millions of people ask marketers (and husbands) to read their minds. With deep social data, marketers actually can.

Now Required: Understanding Who Your Facebook Fans Are

For marketers using social media, Facebook is often the biggest and most important platform. The key goals on Facebook for most marketers are driving both scale and engagement. In the beginning, it was simply a race for Fan count, but to drive engagement that moves brand metrics, you need to know a lot more. Understanding your Facebook audience is a requirement, both to engage them with the right content and to grow your audience the right way.

Within your Fan base (as with your customer base), there are segments. Most traditional marketing segmentation projects are driven by demographic and geographic characteristics: age, income, sex, zip code. On Facebook, we can gain access to much deeper profile data. Using your Fan’s Interest Graph, Social Graph, Activity Graph, and demographics, we can create segments based on observed behavior (brands likes, media likes, influence, engagement, life events, etc.) rather than demographics. We call this Social Segmentation.

Social segmentation based on deep profile data enables us to target, communicate, and engage with specific Fan segments in ways that we know will be of interest to them. Relevant, interesting, and targeted content will drive engagement, sharing, and Fan growth.

Creating Page Post Ads? The one metric you must track in real-time

We recently published a guide to the “4 Key Facebook Metrics You Should be Using Right Now.”   We wanted to highlight one that is critical to track in real-time, especially for post content that has paid spend behind it.

It is easy to see the number of ‘Likes,’ Comments, and Shares on posts, and just as easy to think everything is going well when the numbers look on par with your other content.

The flip side of positive engagement is “Negative Response.” This happens when users don’t like your content and hide posts, report them as spam, or unlike your Page.  All of these actions can be taken directly from the user’s timeline:

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Negative actions also have a big negative impact on organic post performance, so it is important to benchmark and manage negative response rates.

This is critical if you are putting paid spend behind posts.  Paid spend can drive the engagement (‘Likes,’ etc.) you see on your Timeline, making everything look okay.  However, if you see higher-than-benchmarked negative response rates, you should quickly adjust your media spend or targeting.

This screen cap from AudienceArc’s benchmark shows what can happen when media targeting is off:

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The almost 19% Negative Response was due to non-Fan media targeting that missed the mark.

If you are going to look at one metric to make sure your media dollars are being spent wisely, keep a real-time eye on negative response.  It is a key leading indicator on how content and media planning are working.

4 Key Facebook Metrics You Should Be Using Right Now

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Thanks for the data, Facebook. We appreciate it, but what we really need to know is what to do.

As a Page owner, you have the full export of Page and Post-level data to work with – a spreadsheet with 65 tabs at the Page level and 8 tabs at the Post level.

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Numerous reporting tools, including many social media management platforms, repackage all this data, which is great if you want a lot of charts and graphs, but not so helpful if you’re just looking for the right metrics to measure the performance of your content.

Break Out and Reach Out to Non-Fans

It’s challenging to consistently engage with your Fans on Facebook. It’s even more difficult to reach out to non-Fans without throwing your paid media dollars away.

So how do you break out, reach out, and grow your Fan base?

Like anything else, the answer can be found in data, data, and even more data.

  1. Fan Profile Data – With 665 million daily active users* and 2.7 billion average daily ‘Likes’*, Facebook has become a gigantic vault of consumer profile information. Not only are savvy brand marketers able to count the number of Fans and ‘Likes’ per post, but with the right intelligence tools, they can also gather, analyze, and better understand almost everything about their Fans. It’s even possible to define a detailed profile description of the most engaged Fan segment(s) of a brand Page.
  2. Post Performance Data – Now that marketers are armed with the knowledge about their most valuable Fans, they can go about creating content to amplify with Sponsored Stories or Page Post Ads. Best-performing posts serve to inform the paid media plan.
  3. Paid Media Audience Data – To expand their reach to non-Fans, the final step is to target those who closely resemble the brand’s most engaged fan segment(s).

Once marketers have established the ‘right’ audience and message, they can begin to test and learn for the most efficient paid media campaigns. This not only drives scale on the Page, but ensures that new Fans are quality ones.

*Facebook 2013 Q1 Financials

Helpful, Human, Humble

One of the great challenges in social media is for marketers to understand that they are neither broadcasting nor (directly) trying to sell something, but instead trying to become a valued member of a community. Whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, or LinkedIn, your success will depend on understanding the underlying interests, motivations, and behaviors of your audience. How your fans/readers/followers/friends are using this knowledge can help inform your content and engagement strategy.

In addition to understanding your community, you need tools to analyze the effectiveness of different kinds of content/posts, and the relationships between them. For example, images work well, but so do “this or that” polls and open ended questions. At the same time, you can only post so often, and they can’t all be coupon offers or product pitches. Furthermore, when should you post certain types of posts, and how does this affect the rest of your content? By understanding these patterns of engagement, you can begin to optimize your posts by type, cadence, and distribution.

Finally, in social media (and in life), the 3H rule is critical. Be Helpful, Human, and Humble. (Also great if you can be relevant and humorous!)

I think this quote from Wendy Clark – SVP, Integrated Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company – captures it well:

“Be Flawesome = awesome w/ your flaws. Consumers aren’t interested in [your] corporate veneer. Brands must be real, authentic, human.”

Guide to the Facebook News Feed Ecosystem + 7 tips to help you gain reach

The Facebook ecosystem is complex, which makes it challenging for marketers to make sure their content reaches the widest possible audience.

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Facebook’s EdgeRank is the key mechanism that determines how many people will see your content, typically publishing your content to 5% to 15% of your Fans. EdgeRank goes to work again when your Fans engage with your brand content, determining how many of their friends will see their actions. Understanding the entire Facebook News Feed ecosystem is the key to making sure your content gains the widest possible exposure.