content marketing

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Why Organizations Must Be Faster Than Real Time

“I’ll check with my supervisor and get back to you.”

Why doesn’t that remark cut it anymore? More often than not, it’s symptomatic of an organization that isn’t adaptive. One that hasn’t taken advantage of new technologies, or empowered (or trained, or created policies around) the tools and technologies available to their employees. Tools their employees are very likely already versed in and using in their personal lives.

The adaptive organization is one of the themes I’m working on this year as a research analyst. Its ramifications directly target corporate leadership: CEOs, COOs, etc. Next in line is the marketing organization (and who hasn’t heard the refrain that today’s CMO may well be tomorrow’s CTO?).

Marketing organizations are currently siloed. There’s advertising, social, and communications. Digital may be walled off from traditional, content from display and broadcast. All these divisions function as fiefdoms, competing internally for budget and prominence. Within digital alone, there may be display, search, social, email and a long line of sundry et ceteras competing for a piece of the pie

Incentives to work cooperatively are often minimal at best within organizations. Small wonder brands have difficulties getting external agencies, vendors and marketing service providers to work in concert. These constituencies have business and revenue models even less conducive to opening kimonos than do internal staff.

Having just done a deep dive on how paid, earned and owned media are converging (The Converged Media Imperative), it’s become abundantly clear that organizations need to adapt – now – to flow learnings, functions, processes, creative and analytics across all three media channels while eliminating redundancies. Moreover, it’s increasingly necessary to do so with extremely agility; ideally, in real time or something very close to it.

Flowing paid, earned and owned media together is a team effort. Each channel is, on its own, highly specialized. Yet commingling these channels not only results in demonstrably better results for digital marketing initiatives. Converged media is also rapidly flowing out into the “real world” of traditional media as well as offline inevitably becomes more digital. Already we’re seeing examples of converged paid, owned and earned media occur on digital billboards and on television.

Some forward-thinking marketers are already erasing hierarchies between media types. Just weeks ago, Intel’s Nancy Bhagat blended the company’s global and social media teams into a single marketing strategy operation.

“Why does this make sense?,” asks Bhagat on her blog, “ I found we were having similar conversations across teams. The role of communities is not exclusive to the social space. Our paid media partners are looking for ways to drive engagement and conversation in ways previously unheard of. Our social partners are open in an exciting way to new product ideas and testing. The idea of ‘test and learn’ has never been so real.”

So real, or so difficult for enterprise organizations. Take content marketing, for example – or ‘owned’ media. Content is absolutely essential and central to paid, owned and earned initiatives. Without solid content, brands cannot achieve earned media at scale. Earned media amplifies messaging, builds word of mouth and buzz, spreads awareness, and with increasing frequency surfaces those ideas that become the core of creative advertising strategy.

Yet most organizations have yet to develop a plan or an organizational model to create, disseminate, publish, share and govern content. There’s general awareness that content strategy and marketing reside in the marketing org chart, but where? Just today, I spoke with an organization trying to unknot who is creating content where in the enterprise. Are efforts being reduplicated? Resources shared? Best practices and guidelines adhered to?

Their best detective efforts have thus far surfaced over 25 individuals in six distinct divisions who “do” content. It’s assumed very few of these people have met in person, much less collaborated. It’s assumed each group uses its own ad hoc software solutions for managing creation, workflow, resources, etc. Clearly, findings and insights are shared between these disparate content creators, much less their colleagues across the marketing organization.

Real time insights and optimization, and shared learnings that inform other initiatives (not to mention that can inform their own work) are an impossibility in vertically organized, hierarchical organizations. Enterprises must be able to move as quickly as their customers do. This requires bold realignment as well as informed empowerment.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Where Does the Creative Idea Originate?

Those brands that are still ‘just’ advertising have it relatively easy.  They partner with advertising agencies that are tasked with coming up with the creative idea for advertising campaigns. In fact, they have a dedicated staff of “creatives” tasked with doing just that.

Not to denigrate agencies, or creatives, or the vast amount of strategy, research, iterations, testing and refinements that go into creating advertising campaigns, but that model is now radically changing, making the question of where creative comes from a legitimate one.

Sure, advertising agencies own advertising. However in an increasingly mobile world where user-generated content, social media and earned media are burgeoning, advertising is a somewhat diminishing channel and not at all the core creative idea it once was.  In digital (and soon, in traditional media as well), paid, earned and owned media are converging and commingling. Advertising is no longer a stand-alone. It works much, much more effectively in conjunction with broader strategic marketing initiatives that place as much (if not more) emphasis on owned and earned channels.

This raises a chicken-and-egg dilemma for marketers: who’s driving? If paid, earned and owned media all inform a campaign or marketing initiative, and learnings from one channel can be applied to the other for optimization and improvement, which channel leads, and which follow? It the channel that’s doing the driving isn’t advertising, it’s doubtful the creative core of a campaign comes from…creatives.

Together with my colleagues Jeremiah Owyang and Jessica Groopman, I’ve been working on research that looks at how paid, earned and owned media are converging. A growing trend is unquestionably that the creative germ originates in owned and earned media before it becomes paid (i.e. advertising).

Take Facebook ads that ‘pin’ a brand’s wall post in a display ad unit. Or Bazaarvoice’s new ads that retarget shoppers with ad units that feature a geo- and demographically targeted user review of the product they were just viewing.

Brands can even turn lemons into lemonade by taking negative consumer reviews and, by adding a twist of clever content marketing, turn them into positives, as did one local eatery and Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

When marketing creative flows in from multiple sources, the way marketing and advertising work must inevitably shift. How? We’re sifting through findings, but there are some clear initial insights.

Real time: There’s a constant flow of consumers providing insight, feedback, media, and other digital material in real time on the web. Monitoring all this is a given, but reacting to it in real time is increasingly important, and something too few marketing organizations are prioritizing. Small wonder; real time marketing is resource intensive, and it’s hard. Increasingly, it’s necessary and will prove a real advantage to those who do it.

Listening and analysis: If creative ideas flow from chatter on the web, it’s critical to intelligently listen to all that chatter, to monitor it, triage it, and leverage it into ads and other marketing collateral. The SMMS sector is a veritable explosion of M&A activity right now due to this trend.

Content strategy: Owned media matters. Consumers expect it, social media demands it (and all brands are social, whether they’re playing in that particular sandbox or not). The web in general, and social media in particular, demands a steady stream of content, something brands must prepare for strategically as well as tactically.

Shifting agency models: It’s not as if advertising agencies haven’t seen this coming. Many are shifting staffing (as should brands) to bolster core capabilities such as creative and media with more support for content, data, and social media capabilities.  PR shops are doing this a well, of course, and so are the more forward-looking brands.

Others will certainly follow.  Because agencies creatives now only sometimes lead the creative charge, and the media plan is hardly what determines where, and how, that creative message spreads.

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14 Ways To Turn On The Content Flow

IBM recently published research finding that about 80 percent of those who begin a corporate blog never post more than five entries. And that’s just blogging.

The Internet is littered with never-updated web sites, near-tweetless Twitter accounts, expressionless Facebook pages, and no-one-home YouTube channels. In the rush to adopt content marketing as a tactic, too many marketers forget that if you’re continually publishing, you have to think like…a publisher.

Increasingly, marketing is no longer about buying media (the advertising model). Media is cheap — often even free. But rolling your own media brings with it a new set of challenges: coming up with enough content to fill all those blank pages, blog posts, profiles and such….and doing so on a regular basis, not just in a one-off burst of Week One enthusiasm.

And hey — this is really nothing new. Coming up with New Stuff to Say has been an issue for content marketers since the days of the corporate newsletter. Only now, there are even more virtual pages to fill with even more information — and in more multimedia formats.

Who’s good at solving that dilemma? Publishers. If you want to win at the content game, it’s time you started thinking like one.

In short, brands are media. Marketers are editors, or at least need to start thinking like editors and producers if they don’t want to come up short-handed. So herewith, steps toward publisher-think to help marketers get beyond that accusatory Blank White Page and start thinking like a true content professional.

Here are 14 steps to get you there: (read the rest of this post on MarketingLand.com)

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Facebook Advertising Can’t Succeed (without Marketing)

Perhaps GM’s ad unit needs more of a social life.

It’s hard to believe there wasn’t some sort of agenda in telling the Wall Street Journal, three days in advance of what’s slated to be the biggest IPO in U.S. history, that advertising on Facebook isn’t working for GM, but that’s what the automaker did. If the company was looking for attention, they certainly got it – the media were scrambling for new angles on the week’s biggest story.

Sure, it’s a big deal when one of the world’s largest advertiser pulls back $10M in spend (or makes such a public proclamation). Perspective is also warranted in this situation.

Facebook’s success as an advertising medium, or a public company for that matter, is far from guaranteed. Blazes of glory in this industry are often nasty, brutish and short (AOL, Yahoo, MySpace). But herewith, seven reasons to temper GM’s very public proclamation against Facebook’s advertising:

Facebook advertising isn’t even 1.0. It’s still beta Facebook is developing new advertising products, refining them, killing others, and tweaking some more.  The company’s IPO is a $100B bet that eventually, they’re going to get the model right, just as the search ad model was (and remains) very much in evolution when Google went public. For many advertisers advances can’t come fast enough, but the old term “new media” is very much in play in this contest.

Paid media can’t succeed without earned and owned integration Shortly after the GM story broke, rival Ford tweeted: “It’s all about the execution. Our Facebook ads are effective when strategically combined with engaging content & innovation.” Sounds simple, but integrating paid, owned and earned media into a viable, sustainable strategy in which each informs the other is hard. It requires silo-busting, new metrics, and an entirely new approach to media. Yet it’s a task marketers and advertisers must master – first in social media channels like Facebook, then across the rest of digital as well as traditional media.

Advertisers are only now testing the waters. “We believe that most advertisers are still learning and experimenting with the best ways to leverage Facebook to create more social and valuable ads,” Facebook says in its IPO filing. Best practices for advertising on social networks, or integrating that advertising with owned and earned media? Barely even embryonic. Like Facebook’s evolving ad platform, how to effectively advertise in social channels is still in the earliest stages of evolution

Facebook advertising is not about direct response Those ads on Facebook about tooth whitening and belly fat? Going, going gone says the company. Yet GM’s complaint was that its Facebook ads weren’t moving enough car sales, a pretty disingenuous argument.  GM is certainly sophisticated enough to know that advertising has many purposed other than direct sales: branding, consideration, and purchase intent for starters. It’s very hard to believe the company expected to sell X number of vehicles per Y Facebook ads.

Display is down across the board Why integrate paid, owned and earned media? Because fewer and fewer consumers engage with display advertising. It would be a lot simpler if that weren’t the case. Advertisers could plop creative into ad units and meet goals. But banner blindness and declining click trough rates call for more creative and integrated solutions – again, particularly in social environments.

Content Counts Even GM cedes to Facebook on this account. “We remain committed to an aggressive content strategy,” is one of several quotes GM made in the wake of its ‘no-advertising’ bombshell.

Facebook is biggest media company in history Ever. Of all time. Why doesn’t anyone ever state the obvious? No print or broadcast medium has ever even remotely approached a one billion user base. That old adage about advertising going where the eyeballs are? There are more eyeballs in the world focused on Facebook than anything else man-made. That’s a pretty compelling argument to get this advertising thing right – both internally at Facebook, as well as for advertisers and marketers.

Addendum: I’ve done quite a bit of talking to the media about this issue. Here’s a particularly insightful article from Venture Beat’s Jolie O’Dell: Why Facebook’s GM ad drama won’t impact this IPO.

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Webinar Replay - Content: The New Marketing Equation

If you missed Jeremiah and I presenting our webinar Content: Thee New Marketing Equation, based on our recently published research report, you can watch it here or on SlideShare. Please share the video, as it’s freely available as open research.

How to Rebalance for Content as Part of the New Marketing Equation with Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owyang

View more videos from Altimeter Group Network on SlideShare

For those of you who were waiting for this post (several of you were kind enough to ask when it would appear), thanks for your patience. Our own technology was particularly disruptive the day of the actual webinar – the laptop recording the presentation went poof, then faded to black. The video above is, therefore, Altimeter Group’s first video “reenactment,” which is why the Q&A is missing at the end.

Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog

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Whose Job is Content?

Content marketing has been embraced by businesses large and small. They know there’s far less of a need to buy media when you can create it yourself. They’re aware that if you have a website, a blog, a YouTube channel, a Twitter presence, a Facebook page, or a host of other online offerings, then you’re as much (if not more) a publisher than you are an advertiser.

But strategizing, creating, assessing, disseminating, evaluating, and monetizing content doesn’t just happen by itself. Someone’s got to actually do it.

How do organizations determine who that someone is? There are certainly plenty of possible roles and responsibilities that can oversee, or play a role in, content marketing. Here are just a few of the most obvious examples:

  • Chief content officer or VP of content
  • Chief marketing officer
  • Everyone (or very nearly everyone)
  • Content or editorial director
  • Conversation or community director
  • Blogger
  • Social media guru
  • Copywriter
  • Copy editor
  • Outside consultant(s)
  • PR professional

Companies that really buy in to content marketing are increasingly taking the “everyone” approach. Or at least, they’re hiring a whole lot of people to be responsible for creating digital content because its worth has been solidly demonstrated.

Zappos is one such organization. It started testing video product demonstrations in late 2008. A year later it was producing 60-100 videos per day, with a goal of 50,000 by the end of this year. To that end, the company is upping its full time video production staff of 40, not to mention the scores of employees who appear in the vast majority of the demonstration spots.

Zappos’ content team senior manager Rico Nasol has said that the company sees conversion increase up to 30 percent on products that are accompanied by video.

Think this commitment to content is relevant only to B2C companies? Think again. Recently I spoke with Rick Short, who heads marketing for Indium. His team publishes a staggering 73 blogs on the topic, which in turn is translated into seven languages.

Seventy-three blogs on soldering supplies?

“A lot of people have same reaction you have,” Rick assured me. “They’re surprised a topic like soldering would be worthy of this kind of social media attention. Bottom line is that’s all I do. That’s my job. This isn’t arcane and weird. I’m surrounded by 600 colleagues who are really into it. We’ve dedicated our careers to it. These topics that we in our industry are consumed with are very rich, complex, and rewarding. The team is bona fide, qualified engineers. What a great marketing tool! Why would I hire anyone to rep me when the ‘me’ is better than anything out there?”

Short then said, “If I’d put someone between me and my readers it would read like another press release. We went right to authentic and real. We’ve got to get rid of the Mad Men, take them out of the equation, and go to the market one engineer to another. These guys are smart. They’re PhDs. We can’t think we’re impressing them in this old school, go-to-market style. I want you to be the one who speaks, who takes the picture, whose work is expressed in your own voice. They started seeing that I was sincere, and the customers sincerely appreciate it.”

How did Short arrive at 73 blogs? That’s the number of keywords he identified that the company’s clients searched on when looking for Indium’s products and services.

Clearly, when the job is creating lots of content, it helps to have lots of contributors. Yet putting someone at the helm of those initiatives is critical — as critical as putting an editor-in-chief in charge of everything published by a newspaper or magazine. Consistency, style, voice, adherence to mission, editorial judgment, and ethics are just a part of the role.

Joe Chernov, VP of content marketing at Eloqua, defines his responsibilities as being able to “identify content that will be share-worthy to the company’s audience, and to figure out how to procure that.”

Chernov challenges companies to ask themselves if they have “resources in-house, the skill set to collaborate with demand team, [and the ability] to distribute content through channels that make the most sense.”

“The aperture is set kind of wide regarding what content marketing is,” Chernov said. “In some ways, I wonder if companies that have a blog could check that ‘content marketing blog’ box and move on. They’ll never do the real content marketing labor, which isn’t just tweeting out headlines that are related to your industry, but instead creating substantive, share-worthy content that gets people to talk about you and spend time on their website and gets them to engage in the things you want them to engage in.”

OK, but Eloqua is a B2B technology company, not an e-commerce player like Zappos. So how does Chernov measure the impact the content he’s creating and overseeing has on the bottom line? He admits it’s not a clear equation, but counters with a question: “How many shipwrecks did a lighthouse prevent?”

In order to assess the skill sets required in a chief content officer, Joe Pullizzi recently published a highly detailed job description template. Take a look, and adapt it to your organization’s content marketing needs.

Note: This post was adapted from a chapter in my book, Content Marketing, as well as a column in iMediaConnection.

Image: http://best-conductor.conductorss.com

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Content Strategy, Influencers, and Leftover Turkey

At ad:tech San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, I caught up with Marketo’s marketing team. Jason Miller and I sat down to talk content marketing. He very flatteringly turned our conversation into a blog post.

Here’s an excerpt of our talk – but you have to click if you want to get to the bit about the turkey!

What are your best tips for businesses that are struggling to find content?

Rebecca Lieb: For one thing, businesses have to start thinking like publishers in order to not only define content, but also to effectively use content. It’s very daunting to wake up every day and find a blank page to fill, blank air time or blank podcast time, which is why “real” publications have editorial calendars. And while the New York Times doesn’t know what breaking news will be on page one on Friday, they do know it’s Friday so they’re going to have a weekend arts preview and a movie section and a theater section and perhaps an interview with somebody opening a new play on Broadway.

There’s a degree of predictability in content that’s not only very helpful to the business or the publisher who’s publishing that content, but also to the audience. The regularity of these types of features keeps people coming back. This is why newspapers have evergreen content like horoscopes and comics, they know that readers will develop habits and pick up content for that reason. So in order to constantly create new sources of content you need a plan, you need an editorial calendar.

The second phase of this is for brands to think of how to recycle and repurpose content. Not everybody likes the same content in the same channels. Somebody might be very happy to listen to this interview as a podcast while other people just want to read the text. So why not make it available in both formats on two different channels? Or if you have a live event, you can chop that event up into content that will take you down the road for weeks or months in the form of videos, infographics, or blog entries.

Next: Why content is like leftover turkey. You’ll have to read that part over on Marketo’s blog.

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Email's Critical (But Overlooked) Role in Content Marketing

In our recent research report on content marketing, we asked 56 marketers what content channels matter now, and will in the future. Not a single one of them – not one – named email as a content channel, though we know that virtually every company we spoke with has invested significantly in email marketing initiatives.

We call this the “bright, shiny object syndrome.” It’s an obsession with hot new marketing technologies (video! mobile!) at the expense of digital marketing fundamentals (email, search). Not that there’s anything wrong with new. We love new. But you have to learn to walk before you can run and all that.

So it’s great to see the DMA’s Email Experience Council (eec) has just announced its relaunch of the YouTube education channel.

Below, some footage of me nattering on about the very important role email plays in content marketing (in another video I discuss how to find email content). I suggest you tune in for more email wisdom from experts including Bill McCloskey, Chad White, Tami Forman and other undisputed email marketing experts.

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How to Influence the Influencers

How do you influence the digital influencers? What is influence, anyway? And if you can rally influencers to your side, cause, brand or point of view, what’s the best way to approach the task? What can realistically be achieved? And how do you measure results.

There’s no dearth of talk about online influence, but until now there’s been precious little actionable advice. With the publication of my colleague Brian Solis‘ new research report, “The Rise of Digital Influence,” (it’s subtitled “A ‘how-to’ guide for businesses to spark desirable effects and outcomes through social media influence), marketers are provided with frameworks and action plans to get both strategic and tactical in their approach to effectively harnessing the elusive, but oh, so desirable impact a community of influencers. Brian helpfully defines digital influences as, “the ability to cause effect, change behavior, and drive measurable outcomes online.”

A feature of this research of particular interest is a long, hard look at the tools that purportedly measure influence, e.g. Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex. Based on game mechanics (and people all to ready to game the system), I’ve looked on these tools with suspicion, particularly after Klout listed me as influential on the topic of the Calgary Flames (maybe you’re aware they’re a hockey team, but I had to google it). Do these new services that capture social media scores equate to influence? No, says Brian – but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. “The measure here…is not influence or the capacity to influence, but instead visibility with the possibility of causing effect.”

The report contains an Influence Framework as well as an Influence Action Plan to help brands and their agencies identify connected consumers and to define and measure digital influence initiatives via an included step-by-step process. Vendors in the influence metrics space are also compared, feature-by-feature, in a helpful grid.

“The Rise of Digital Influence” is a watershed in digital influence. It’s going to stop airy-fairy conversation about “influencing influencers” dead in its tracks and instead supplant vague and aspirational jargon-laced talk with substantive, strategic processes.

And, like all Altimeter Group research, the report is available to read and to share under Creative Commons. Thanks for passing it along if you find it helpful.

Cartoon credit: NewYorkComputerHelp.com

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Why Enterprise Social Networks Require a Content Strategy Foundation

If you build it they will come, but too often they’ll just sort of awkwardly stand around.

Most companies approach enterprise social networks (ESNs) as technology deployments. They fail to understand that the new relationships created by enterprise social networks are where real value is created. With no strategies for the content that will reside, and hopefully flourish and spread, on enterprise social networks, these platforms can be akin to really bad office parties: mandatory attendance, minimal engagement.

In the first of two reports on the topic, my colleague Charlene Li looks at four ways enterprise social networks create value for organizations:

Fig. 9 Four Ways Enterprise Social Networks Drive Business Value

 

One of the very first advantages of ESNs is also a sticking point. “Makes business personal” can be a minefield for many organizations. Some organizations Charlene and researcher Jon Cifuentes spoke with for this report take pains to avoid any whiff of the personal on their networks.

Others find it essential. “If anything,” the report recommends, “the organization should encourage ‘personal’ postings because social networks are a representation of who you already are. If you are an unproductive, time-wasting team member, your activities (which are tied to your real identity) will be plainly visible to everyone.

A social leader from Deloitte Australia shared that about 20 percent of the company’s ESN content is personal, something the company considers, “was really important as it connects the fabric of culture for people to come together and allows people to enjoy what they’re doing.”

This underscores a critical aspect of ESNs: they’re a form of content marketing. Inward-facing, yes, but the larger the enterprise, the more essential it is to unify teams, project, individual employees and departments around a unified vision. As the report outlines, ESNs encourage knowledge sharing, enables action and insights, and can go far to empower teams and individuals.

Without a strategic groundwork in communications, content strategy, as well as training and guidelines for employees using these tools, they’re bound to fail. Training staff to use these tools and providing them with guidelines regarding what types of content and forms of expression are appropriate to these forums can result in benefits beyond even the successful deployment of an ESN. Employees who develop communications skills “in private,” that is in closed networks speaking only to colleagues, can also be vetted and groomed to “go public,” that is to contribute to their organization’s content marketing and social media initiatives in public-facing forums.

The entire report is available at no cost as Open Research under Creative Commons:

Rebecca Lieb

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

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