content marketing

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Content: Why Influence Matters

Do name-brand journalists still require the backing of name-brand media outlets?

Recent headlines strongly indicate that the byline is being rapidly decoupled from the masthead. Glenn Greenwald left The Guardian to start his own media venture, backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Technology veteran Walt Mossberg, together with the redoubtable Kara Swisher, are walking out of the Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal door, taking the AllThingsD team with them. David Pogue abandoned the venerable New York Times for (of all possible media properties) Yahoo. And, most recently, Rick Berke is to leave the New York Times for Politico.

The quality these journalists have in common is a degree of brand value so high that it can be decoupled from the media property that launched and/or fostered it (and leveraged to support other endeavors). These are journalists who have become true influencers.

Influencers are influential individuals with an above-average impact on (some niche within) society. An influencer can be anyone from an international pop celebrity like Justin Bieber to a niche industry celebrity like Danny Sullivan.

Leveraging Niche Industry Influencers

A prime example of a niche industry influencer is Duncan Epping, a VMware engineer and blogger who’s mobbed by autograph seekers whenever he appears at an event. You’ve likely never heard of Epping, and you’re not alone — I hadn’t either, until I learned about him from John Troyer, VMware’s social media evangelist.

Troyer heads up the company’s vExpert program, which he describes as such:

Basically, [it’s] our content army. The vExperts are not all bloggers, but we do pull their posts together here. My goal is to have the first two pages on Google filled with their content when you search for VMware. But it can’t be all about us — it’s also about what’s in it for them. We give them free licenses for our software. We just granted 35 free tickets for our conference in Barcelona. We hire them to work on a freelance basis for us and for our agencies.

VMware’s investment in the vExperts program has paid off handsomely in terms of content marketing. The company has built an invaluable resource — a respected community of experts producing excellent content — that keeps on growing. This year, VMware anointed 581 vExperts to the five-year-old program. (Each year, there’s a formal application process; applicants get in based on their knowledge and contributions to the community.)

Influencers: Turning Owned Media To Earned Media

Leveraging influencers — be they journalists, bloggers, or subject-matter experts – can be an essential cornerstone of content strategy. Content is owned media which, by my definition, does not entail a media buy (i.e., it’s not advertising). However, just because you build it doesn’t necessarily mean they will come — at least, not without some degree of traction. Influencers can, in this regard, be a solid replacement for a media buy.

Consider this case study from an enterprise technology company. Twenty-four influencers were commissioned to create content around themes related to the brand’s products and initiatives. In total, 128 blog posts, infographics, videos and images were produced and shared on the influencers’ channels and promoted (with disclosure) across their social networks.

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

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Rebecca Lieb's picture

Four Epic Native Advertising Fails

As a research analyst, I just completed a study of native advertising. The report, based on months of research and dozens of interviews, contains eight critical recommendations for successful native advertising campaigns.

We help our clients incorporate these recommendations in their native advertising strategies. What happens when best practices and tried-and-true practices are disregarded or ignored? That’s what iMedia’s editors asked me to share in this article. Not for the sake of schadenfreude really, but as a set of object lessons. So let’s take a look at a handful of native advertising fails and also map them to the whys of their shortcomings.

Best practices matter in native advertising a lot, and soon they’ll matter even more. Recently, 73 percent of Online Publishers Association members said they offer some form of digital advertising, a number that is swelling daily. Spending in the sector is expected to swell to $4.57 billion by 2017, though that’s a figure that bears some scrutiny, given “native advertising” does not yet bear the distinction of a formal, much less universally-agreed upon, definition.

Nonetheless, if we can agree that native advertising is a form of converged media (regardless of whether it appears on a publisher site or a social platform) that combines paid media (i.e., an ad) with owned media (i.e., content that isn’t “advertising-y” in nature), best practices and success elements do begin to emerge.

Trust and transparency

The Atlantic-Scientology debacle is the poster child of native advertising gone horribly — no, hideously — wrong. Under a small-ish “Sponsor Content” box, the site published a sunny and upbeat piece about the extremely controversial leader of the Church of Scientology: “David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year.” An uproar ensued, causing the piece to be taken down in short order, and an apology was issued. In short order The Onion followed up with “SPONSORED: The Taliban Is A Vibrant And Thriving Political Movement.”

In a further apology issued the following day, The Atlantic stated, “We now realize that as we explored new forms of digital advertising, we failed to update the policies that must govern the decisions we make along the way.”

What’s a best practice in this area? Disclosure, transparency, and trust are non-negotiable. Period. And come on, we’ve danced this dance more than once: With search engine advertising, paid blogging, and word-of-mouth marketing. Do we really even need to have this conversation? Disclose to readers that it’s a paid placement. Link to the relevant editorial policy. Create a channel for inquiry.

There. That wasn’t so bad now, was it?

Strange bedfellows

The Economist teamed up with Buzzfeed to create a promotional listicle entitled “Dare2GoDeep,” the stories behind the venerable publications’ serious hard news and policy coverage. The piece, and indeed, the pairing, was widely mocked as “inane” and “cringeworthy.” It is kind of hard to draw the line between one of the world’s most respected news magazines and a website known for its lists of all things LOL and feline.

Sales-y

At the heart of native advertising is content marketing, which is soft, not hard, sell. Last holiday season, “A Gift Guide for Surviving Your Family at Home This Holiday” on Gawker Media read more shill than article. The body copy doesn’t really deliver on the headline’s promise, which feels bait-and-switch.

Collaboration and earned media

I hate to single out Buzzfeed again (the publication does so much native advertising so very well), but last August the site was involved in an imbroglio that should have been nipped in the bud rather than allowed to spiral into scandal. A conservative anti-abortion group published its own listicle bashing Planned Parenthood in Buzzfeed’s then-new community section. The post violated Buzzfeed’s community guidelines, yet it wasn’t immediately taken down, causing a media, as well as social media, fallout. The Guardian followed up: “BuzzFeed is taking trolling to a new level by pandering to right-wing nuts.”

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

A Big Deal for Content Marketing: Oracle Buys Compendium

Today Oracle announced that it’s buying Compendium, a company that offers cloud-based content marketing workflow solutions.  Compendium will be integrated into the Oracle Eloqua Marketing Cloud.

 
At Altimeter Group, I’m just now embarking on a research project to map the content vendor landscape (slated for publication in Q1 of 2014). There are literally dozens and dozens of companies on the scene, all offering solutions that address small niches of the very broad content workflow requirements. The first and most immediately apparent finding is that there will be many such mergers and acquisitions in the sector.
 
Oracle’s acquisition of Compendium is indeed a watershed moment for content. It’s acknowledgement that content is the foundational element of marketing. Without content (and all that it necessitates: governance, workflow and strategy being paramount), there is no advertising, there is no social media, PR, or other forms of marketing. All are fed and nurtured by content,  the demands for which are increasing exponentially.
 
There’s also a need to integrate the existing tools on the market that facilitate content marketing: workflow, process, measurement, production, distribution, aggregation and curation, etc. Expect not only more acquisitions by enterprise players, but also M&A activity among the smaller companies as content “stacks” begin to form that address marketers’ end-to-end content requirements.
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Content: The Right Tools For The Job

Digital content doesn’t just happen. Marketers require tools to get it done.

The range of software and tools serving content marketers has mushroomed in the past couple of years. As researchers and analysts at the Altimeter Group, we started looking at the space informally back in April, building a list of software vendors.

Currently, we’ve compiled a list of 75 vendors offering a range of content marketing software solutions. (It’s a list I plan to share officially in the fall, once it’s been through some winnowing.)

Content Software Landscape Research

In fact, we plan to go one better and conduct deep research into the content software marketplace, beginning next month.

Before we can begin that project in earnest, however, it’s critical to evaluate the actual content use cases marketers face in their day-to-day lives. There’s no realistic way we can evaluate the vendors in a very disparate landscape without knowing what marketers actually want and need out of content marketing solutions.

Let’s assume (and hope and pray!) the marketers in question are beginning with a content strategy. Let’s discount/disqualify related solutions such as social media management software, CMS, DAM and basic Web analytics packages.

The qualities we’re seeing across the content-specific software vendors that remain are (in no particular order) the following:

  • Targeting/Audience Identification (Segmentation/Personas): Tools to help you identify who the target audience(s) is/are, where they are online, and the types of content that would attract them.
  • Curation: Gathering, organizing and presenting existing content in a meaningful, attractive manner.
  • Aggregation: Compiling and publishing syndicated Web content — generally more automated and less specific than curation (above).
  • Workflow/Editorial Management: Tools that aid in processes associated with content strategy including creating governance documentation (style, editing and brand guidelines), content audits, production, review, approval and publishing processes, etc.
  • Editorial Calendar: Sometimes included in workflow tools, sometimes a standalone feature.
  • Discovery: Algorithmic suggestions for content readers might appreciate based on usage or social patterns.
  • Syndication/Distribution: Tools that help content publishers find audiences via, for example, suggested headlines or stories across publisher sites or social networks.
  • Recommendation: Services that use data such as usage patterns, social connections and browsing history to recommend content to users.
  • Branded Content Creation: Generally offered by agencies and publishers, custom content for brands, products and/or services.
  • Production: A wide range of increasingly complex services. As content moves into increasingly multimedia formats, as well as into new channels such as mobile, content production has moved far beyond “just blogging.”
  • Content Generation: A small but growing set of tools are being developed to help marketers generate creative ideas for content by feeding them multimedia material that is on-brand and relevant to campaign goals.
  • Collaboration Tools: Related to workflow and editorial management, these toolsets help disparate teams collaborate on different aspects of content creation, production and publishing, often from remote locations and with cloud-based assets.
  • Tracking (Content Across Web): A handful of companies have developed tools that help marketers track both images and text across the Web no matter where they appear, and to dynamically update them.
  • Analytics (Content-Specific): Independent of basic Web analytics packages, content tools often contain their own specific analytics and dashboards. These can be wide-ranging and are, of course, closely aligned with tool functionality.
  • Real-Time Capabilities: An increasingly news and social media driven world drives demand for real- and near real-time information, a capabilities being built into an increasing number of tools in varying capacities.
  • Push Notifications: You’ve got… content. Beyond email, some tools do enable alerts when new content is available.
  • Talent Sourcing & Management: Writers, designers, photographers, videographers – tools exist to find them, have them submit their work and manage their billings.
  • Templates/Layout/Design: From websites to infographics, design doesn’t just happen. There are, of course, plenty of standalone templates available. So, too, do content tool sets incorporate templates and design solutions.
  • SEO: Written word content tools, in particular, sometimes incorporate search optimization features around keywords and phrases, metadata, headline optimization, etc.
  • Predictive Analytics: Distinct from performance analytics, these tools predict how content will perform in specific channels or with certain audience segments. Currently aimed more at publishers than marketers, it will be interesting to see if this market shifts with broader adoption of content marketing.
  • Influencer Identification: Brands such as Intel have proven owned content can achieve paid media reach when spread by the right influencers in a given field. Tools that identify influencers who can help spread messages in social channels are, therefore, growing in popularity with content marketers as well as with PR practitioners.

You can help get this first research project on the content software landscape off the ground by helping us to define what real use cases really exist. Are these accurate? What’s missing? What’s not necessary, redundant, or superfluous? What would your dream content solution do — or not do? Do you prefer working with a suite of à la carte solutions, or with a “stack” of seamlessly integrated software?

Please read the rest of this post on Marketingland, where it originally published.

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Paid, Owned, Earned…Shared?

The convergence of paid, owned, and earned media has been an important discussion

for some time now. It was a topic of this column  on more than one occasion. The nagging question since the coinage of the POE acronym has been “What about shared media?”

When Jeremiah Owyang and I published research  on the convergence of paid, owned, and earned media, we noted that our colleague Brian Solis advocated adding “shared” to the mix. Lately, I’ve been having similar discussions with Ketchum’s partner and global director, Nicholas Scibetta, (disclosure: Ketchum is a client of my employer) about that same topic.

Ketchum has adopted not a POE model, but rather PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned media), for the work it does for its clients.

Where does shared media sit in the paid, owned, and earned equation? What is sharedmedia, anyway? If shared is a goal, how is it achieved? Is all shared media of equal value? To know, you would need a system for measuring it. What would that be?

None of these questions are easy to answer, but here are some top line musings.

What is shared media and where does it sit in the paid/owned/earned equation?

Shared media is a subset of earned media and a form of amplification. Earned media generally tends have a point of view or an editorial bend. Examples might be a blog post or an article around a topic, a video of a product unboxing, or commentary (“I just saw this new movie and it’s really great/totally sucks,” or “This is what the Travon Martin verdict means for race relations in America”). Shared media, on the other hand, tends to be overwhelmingly duplicative. It’s a forward, a retweet, a pin, or (on Facebook) a literal “share.” Perhaps a word or comment is injected, but essentially it’s a pass-along of an essentially unaltered element of content.

It’s worth noting that you can even share shared media, which in a sense, is earning shared. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is!

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia Connection, where it originally published.

Image credit: TheAbundantArtist.com

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Consider Attending Our Content Marketing Workshop (Sept. 9, Milbrae CA)

Content marketing has gone from nearly zero on marketers’ radar to about a billion mph in just a few short years.  Organizations are realizing that content is effective – and cost-effective – for marketing as quickly as it becomes abundantly clear that content doesn’t just happen by itself.

We’re here to help. On September 9 in Milbrae, CA, Altimeter Group will host our first half-day content marketing workshop (as well as other Academy offerings).  Drawn from our research reports, books and other publications on the topic of content marketing, the course is designed to equip marketers with the fundamentals of content marketing and content strategy.

Why the relatively recent emphasis on content marketing?

Content marketing is nothing new. Marketers have been creating content for customers and prospects since the days of the newsletter and the filmstrip. However, digital has revolutionized both content creation and dissemination. Web sites. Twitter. Facebook. Blogs. YouTube. eBooks. White papers. Search engines. All of these channels (and many more) remove many of the hard cost barriers that were once a deterrent to creating and disseminating great content.  Yet as brands become publishers (some so successfully that they’re able to actually monetize the content they create), they face challenges.

Content may cost less to produce than advertising, but it’s heavily resource-intensive and only getting more so. Unlike campaign-based programs, content initiatives tend to be ongoing. Content is fundamental to social media, owned media channels and advertising – integrating brand, messaging and measurement between screens, workflow streams and channels is challenging. For many marketers, shifting from “push” to “pull” marketing requires learning entirely new skill sets. Finally, creating a functional content strategy — a foundation to govern and systematize content creation, dissemination, approval, measurement and maintenance —  is only just emerging as a discipline in digital marketing.

What are the two or three big ideas marketers should focus on?

Brands are media companies. Almost without exception, they’re creating content. We believe they should do so strategically and with a view toward integrating messaging across channels. Recent research we’ve published indicates content is now the primary driver of all marketing creative, including advertising. This demand changes workflow, agency and vendor relationships, and the way marketing initiatives are measured and monitored. Content is at the center of nearly all digital initiatives, and as the world becomes increasing digital, content will be the primary driver of all marketing in the very near future.

Who should attend this content marketing workshop? What should they expect, and what will they leave with?

Digital marketers, digital and social strategists, brand and product managers, as well as marketing/communications professionals should attend this workshop to learn the fundamentals of content marketing and content strategy, as well as how to apply those learnings to how their jobs and roles will change in the very near future. Participants will learn the five stages of content marketing maturity based on Altimeter Group research; the three primary types of content; the elements required to build a content strategy; as well as organizational and workflow requirements as they relate to enterprises large and small. It will be a fast-moving morning full of case studies and lean-forward participatory exercises.

Learn more and register for the content marketing workshop

Or consider workshops on Social Strategy and Social Analytics.

Image credit: Wikimedia

Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog

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Build an Audience for Content Marketing

If you build it, will they come?

If you’re super lucky, they will. Most marketers, however, are faced with a challenge that is familiar to publishers and broadcasters: audience development. This means connecting eyeballs with content.

One thing that publishers and broadcasters have going for them is that enterprises engaged in content marketing are only beginning to realize that audience development is an integral part of content strategy.

There are six essential components of audience development. The first four are internal and research-focused, based on figuring out who the intended audience is, what types of content serve the audience members’ needs, and where (and in what formats) content ought to be produced. When it comes to audience development, keep the classic four “w”s in mind: who, what, when, and where.

The second tier of audience development is amplification. Content marketing, by definition, lives on owned media channels (i.e., in places owned and/or controlled by the brand). Often, content needs a bit of a bump to attract attention.

Research and development

Definition Defining an audience is the first and most critical step. Rarely, if ever, is the intended audience “everyone,” even if you’re selling toothpaste and nearly everyone has teeth. Who’s the buyer? The influencer? The decider? Campaigns may be focused to one or more of these identified groups. Rule No. 1 of audience development: Know who you’re addressing with the content.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published. 

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When Content Goes Rogue

Is your content going rogue?

Do you know all the sites and social media accounts controlled by your brand or company? Who can access and update them? Who knows the passwords? How frequently is the content on each property being updated, and how do those updates conform to larger communications and brand strategies?

Or has this whole content thing mushroomed out of control, quite possibly behind your back?

A current project was supposed to have been delivered last week. It’s late (I hate late!) but it can’t be helped. Scope creep doesn’t begin to describe the situation when you thought you’d be auditing a small handful of web sites and social media properties, only to find one more. And one more.  Hang on, here’s another. The tally is up to 25 web sites, a plethora of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, and one YouTube channel (the only number the client was right about). All for one non-profit organization.

Think this is unusual? Think again. In research conducted last year, my colleague Jeremiah Owyang found the average enterprise  class corporation (those with 1,000 or more employees) have an average 178 social media accounts (he didn’t look at web sites or microsite for the study).

Heck, it’s so easy to open accounts nowadays, anyone can do it. And do it they certainly do. Frequently, it’s with the best of intentions, not to mention a high degree of frustration with existing policies and procedures (“we launched it on WordPress so we wouldn’t have to wait in the IT queue for 18 months” was a refrain we heard multiple times when interviewing companies about how they organize for content marketing.

We heard this so frequently, in fact, we dubbed the trend “going rogue.” While anyone who’s ever been stuck in that IT queue can sympathize, going rogue does come with major downsides.

Inconsistency We’re all for creative license to a degree, but carefully crafted voice, tone, brand and other content governance guidelines tend to go out the window when content channels spill into unknown and unsupervised terrain. Inconsistency may, in fact, be a best-case scenario. Rogue content channels can easily result in full-on sanitation or crisis control initiatives if left unchecked.

Tactics Over Strategy Let’s launch a Facebook page! Why don’t we try using Pinterest? Enthusiasm for the latest and greatest social media channel, tempered with a healthy dose of bright shiny object syndrome leads to abrupt launches with not strategic foundation from a marketing perspective, no associated business goals, no measurement plan, editorial calendar. In short, nothing whatsoever that make a very pubic launch something that should be, at best, a sandbox experiment. New shouldn’t happen unless there’s a sound reason for it.

Digital Detritus A common result of shoot-from-the-hip tactics over strategy launch is digital detritus, the auto graveyard of the information superhighway. The Twitter account that’s been tweet-less for two years now. The site promoting the event that happens last July. The photo account with three shots on it. The Facebook page that was frequently updated the week it launched, then abandoned. Digital detritus makes organizations appear unplanned, unfocused, undedicated and uncaring. They should never, ever be your public face.

Lost Keys Julie from marketing quit last month, and now no one can get into that account she maintained. Worse, it’s prominently displaying content that’s outdated/inappropriate/inaccurate and no one can get in to fix it.

Please read the rest of this post on Marketing Land, where it originally published.

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Why Repetition is Integral to Content Strategy

One of content marketing’s biggest challenges is coming up with new material.

One of content marketing’s other biggest challenges is overcoming something you’ve been told not to do since you were small: repeating yourself.

By “repeating” I’m not referring to verbatim repetition.  You don’t want duplicate content issues on blogs or web pages (and the subsequent SEO penalties). You don’t want to tweet the same tweet, or post the same update multiple times to a Facebook news feed.

But a degree of repetition can be invaluable, sometimes imperative, to successful content marketing initiatives for four primary reasons.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia Connection, where it originally published.

Image Credit: Skulls in the Stars

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Is the Banner Ad Dying?

Online ad revenues remain on a hockey stick trajectory, clocking in at a record $9.6 billion in the first quarter of this year (yes, a bunch of this is search and video, but still). Yet the demise of the banner ad has long been predicted, and some say the deathwatch is imminent — possibly before the end of the year.

That banners aren’t working very well is common knowledge. You’ve seen the stories: You’re more likely to survive a plane crash/become a Navy Seal/summit Everest/be the next Beatle or Elvis than to click on a banner ad.

That consumers don’t interact with banners is no secret. In fact, it’s entirely possible that most clicks are robot and/or click farm generated. Then there’s the banner experiment the ARF‘s Ted McConnell cooked up, a totally blank ad (no copy, no image, no nothing) that saw interaction rates that in many cases exceed those of “real” campaigns.

The result of all this inefficiency, unsurprisingly, is severe downward price pressure on banners, much to the chagrin of online publishers. As one publisher put it in a recent conversation, “It’s more expensive to get readers, and then when we do we can sell them for less.”

Yet at the same time, publishers speak of a “voracious appetite” for display ads and banners. “As publishers we’d tell advertisers that we’re unique and special, but really we’re not,” one publisher confided just this morning, “When demand for banners was too high, we’d just rent an audience. We’d rent from Google, from telemarketers, or rent email lists. The performance isn’t that different, and the advertisers don’t really care.”

So let’s get this straight: Display advertising doesn’t work, it yields ever-diminishing revenues, and advertisers can’t get enough of it?

Houston, we’ve got a problem.

Read the rest of this post on iMediaConnection, where it originally published.

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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