Imagine you attend an event covering a topic that is very important to you. Let's also imagine you chose to attend because you were seeking to get something meaningful from it.
Maybe you went because you want to learn something new.
Maybe you went because you want to learn how to take action.
Or maybe you went to get energized about something that means a lot to you
Perhaps you attended the event for all of these reasons.
Yet, while you're there, you have to sit through someone who is there to promote themselves and thinks everyone should be excited about him.
After all, this doesn't represent what you want or what you're seeking to find.
In the 1988 film Coming to America, there was a big crowd at a local Black Awareness Event, and you have to think they all wanted something of value from it (including some of the "good stuff" from McDowell's).
Yet, they had to sit through a musical performance from a local actor who played Joe the Policeman in an episode of That's My Momma. Despite everyone's (minus one big fan) lack of interest, Randy Watson thought everyone should be excited to hear him and his band perform.
Randy is an iconic character from the film, but he also presents us with a great analogy about a common mistake people make in their content strategy.
The Tease Wasn't Very Special
When Reverend Brown said he had a "special treat" for the audience, they probably expected better. When users are looking for value online, one of the most frustrating things they experience is clickbait.
In other words, they see a headline that makes them think they found something of interest.
So, they click on the link.
Then, they're disappointed to find that the content features a company talking about (or frequently linking) to itself or a brand promoting their product.
Randy Didn't Know His Audience
Randy didn't get the reception he likely thought he would get. So, he thought he could boost the reaction by telling the audience that they looked lovely.
However, it generated the same response.
That didn't stop him from promoting his band and telling people how great they sound:
"They play so fine. Don't you agree?"
He Never Changed His Act
While in front of his audience, all Randy managed to do was:
Then, despite lack of engagement, he stomped his feet and yelled out the name of his band:
At the beginning of his act, the lack of response should've sent a signal that his plan wasn't going to work with his audience. He could've adjusted and spoke to the them about something they care about or tried something different. Yet, he persisted in making it about him and his band.
A lot of brands will do something like this in their content, and you'll see it on everything from their websites and social media to their emails and blogs.
It's all about them, and they might as well be stomping their feet and screaming the name of their company at you.
Additionally, despite a lack of meaningful amount of clicks, shares and responses, they don't change their strategy.
If that's your strategy, you'll need all the prayers Reverend Brown can give you.
When I landed my first ad agency job, it was all about print. We were a team of three, and our main client was a big healthcare company. We were on the phone every day placing ads in newspapers and magazines while writing copy for flyers and brochures. Some of you may read this and ask:
How well did that work?
What's a newspaper?
It's true. Not only was is that some old school marketing, but the content was almost always company-centric. It was all about how great it was to work for them.
Times have changed. Now the messaging has to be audience-centric, and you have to reach them in multiple ways. However, a lot of companies haven't learned that yet.
Print may be old school, but a lot of companies still ask people to read a lot. While blogs, print collateral and other copy-driven content are still relevant, you can't put all of your eggs into the text basket.
In this video, I explain:
Watch now to learn more.
Other references in this video:
Watching and Listening Are the New Reading
Donald Miller: Weighing Your Audience Down
I am about halfway through earning my Master's Degree (Interdisciplinary Studies: Professional Communication) from Southern Utah University. One of my recent classes was Professional Social Media, and I wanted to share an assignment that was part of my Final.
I had to find a company, evaluate their social media and produce a presentation (as if I worked there or consulting) that gave suggestions for improvements. I decided to pick Podcast.Co because I love podcasting, and I liked what they were offering to the market.
This isn't about criticism, because at the end of the day, a lot of companies could make improvements to their social media. I wanted to share this to help you come up with ways to evaluate your social media and maybe help a podcast company in the process.
If you've been in content marketing for any length of time, you've likely heard a common term called repurposed content. If you're hearing it for the first time, or if you've always wondered what it is, know this - it's a necessary part of any content strategy. It also provides marketers with many benefits, especially those with limited time to create content.
Repurposed content is taking an existing piece of content and using it to create other types of content. For example, you could write a blog about ice cream recipes. After you post that blog:
1. You take a recipe and create graphic to share on social media
2. You then record a podcast episode and discuss the different recipes
3. You create an infographic showing the steps to creating one of the ice cream recopies
4. You produce a slide show featuring the different recipes
5. You produce a quick video showing how to make a recipe, a montage of ice cream creations mentioned in the blog, etc.
The 1-5 steps came from creating that one ice cream blog...
and made us all hungry for ice cream!Other ideas for creating repurposed contentOne reason why repurposed content is so critical today is marketing departments need to evolve into publishing departments. You can't rely on just one form of content (like blogs or print). Your audience consists of people who:
1. Don't like to read
2. Have short attention spans
3. Are having ads, CTAs, content, photos and the kitchen sink thrown at them online
4. Consume content different from other people
Also keep in mind it doesn't have to start with a blog. You could create a video featuring a conversation or sharing some valuable insights. Then:
1. Take the audio from that video and turn it into a podcast episode
2. Cut the video up into smaller quick-hit insight videos and spread them out on social media
3. Take the highlights from the video and write a blog (and feature the video on the same post)
Repurposed content gives you a path to maximizing your reach. Here are some repurposed content strategies from experts:
Colin Gray explains How to Repurpose Content for Your Blog and Beyond
Hubspot shares 12 Great Examples of Repurposed Content
Syed Balkhi (Entrepreneur) explains How to Repurpose Marketing Content for Small Business
Ann Smarty shares ideas for Repurposing Videos Into Many Forms of Valuable Content
In 2017, I was asked to create a virtual session for Podcast Movement. I decided to center it around creating a podcast that stands out right after launch. As you'll see in the session, it's important to consider things like format, topic and audience.
You can also listen, download or share the audio version of this blog.
What makes a good relationship between marketer and their target audience has changed. This has been true for several years, but many marketers have been unable to adapt.
Two ways marketers can ruin a relationship with their target audience are:
1. They approach conversations with a "sell first" attitude
2. They cling to outdated marketing strategies
As Judy Ungar Franks, author and clinical assistant professor in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University, says - when you apply old-school media thinking to a new media world...nothing happens!
What changed in the relationship?
In simplest terms, the catalyst of change in the relationship between marketer and audience is the internet. Trends in social media posts, influencer blogs, customer reviews and instant communications gave the consumer more control in the relationship. Marketers had a lot more power when the relationship was more linear. Back then, they made sales pitches to captive audiences through TV, newspaper or radio.
Then, the world of media and communication began to change.
Suddenly, people could skip commercials and turn to the internet for entertainment. So, marketers followed them and tried to communicate the same way they would on traditional broadcast media.
They found out the results were not the same:
As Dr. Franks points out in her book, Media: From Chaos to Clarity: Five Global Truths That Make Sense of a Messy Media World:
Old school marketing was about four Ps: Product, place, price and promotion
There was certainty in every medium, limited selection and media was product
Now it's about the four Cs of social: Content, connecting, community and curating
Media are strikingly similar (it's all on screen)
Today, people flock to all kinds of media for a comprehensive, engaging experience, and consumers are the distributors and accelerants of the marketer's content.
What Do Consumers Want in a Realtionship?
If the "sell" or "pitch" is the end goal, you can't spend all your time focused on that part of the conversation.
Recognizing the change in the relationship is only half the problem. The second half deals with a crowded room of people trying to woo the same consumer. If everyone is talking the same way, it's harder for brands to make their case.
One of the best ways to optimize communication in a personal relationship is remembering to put yourself in the other person's shoes. This relationship is no different. You have to think like a marketer and a consumer.
When marketers are not thinking like marketers, they can find similarities in how both parties respond to online content.
Think about that. When you're not at work (or wherever you spend time on marketing strategy), how do you answer those questions?
Remembering your consumer habits can help you develop better marketer habits. At that point, your focus goes deeper than just selling to the other person and puts the relationship on a better path.
Do you find yourself struggling to develop topics for your company blog? You're not alone. Have you ever considered why it's so difficult to generate content? It could be any number of reasons:
The lack of time to write a blog
The product or industry doesn't "inspire" topics
The belief that blogs can't translate to sales
Well, the good news is there are solutions to all of these challenges. Here are some concepts to help you break these content creation barriers.
I have simple response to that blog.
Do you think I'll be fooled by that company again? Nope.
In today's content overloaded world, you should just assume you're audience won't fall for a clickbait-like tease. These days, people tend to already be cynical about what brands put in front of them. They already assume it's probably more self-serving than valuable. It's also why when they land on content filled with links that benefit the content creator, they're likely to bail out in a matter of seconds.
Ask yourself why someone would want to read your blog, and don't say it's because your content is awesome or your company is unique. As Joe Pulizzi says - “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves.”
Your customers can create blog topics
Focusing on customers and topics can address two common blog strategy barriers:
The time challenge
The company product/service topic issue
What if you just took the answers your customers ask and turn them into blog topics?
This is how Marcus Sheridan saved his swimming pool business - making the the question a blog title, and featuring the answer (even if it's short) is the body of the blog.
Now he makes a living teaching businesses how to create value by answering questions that customers are asking - often times via search. It's amazing that Marcus turned this into a content phenom, because on its surface it seems kind of an obvious idea.
This concept helps with the challenges of time, length and sales. It's a prime example of how blogs don't always have to be long, time-consuming epic reads.
And Marcus will tell you - his They Ask, You Answer strategy works for all businesses.
Beyond conducting internal research to find out what your customers and prospects are asking, there are online resources like AnswerThePublic, HubSpot’s blog topic generator and Buzzsumo that help generate blog topics.
Some People Don't Want to Read Blogs
When it comes to time, you shouldn't just consider how much time a blog will take to write. You should also consider how much your audience is willing to read.
Brand and digital content strategist Chris Brogan expanded his content strategies beyond the written word when he noticed trends pointing towards video and audio. In making his case for why watching and listening is the new reading, Chris pointed out that people only spend an average of 19 minutes a day reading - including their texts and emails.
How many minutes do you spend reading your emails or phone communications?
How much time is left to read a few articles and blogs?
Chris's point doesn't mean you should stop writing blogs. It's a reminder not to solely rely on content content that takes a lot of time to read. Limited time and skimming habits are reasons why more blogs offer a written and audio version to their audience.
If you choose to record a video, just share some insights. Make it fun and engaging. Talk to your audience and save them some time by recording something that can also be shared on your blog.
Simple Blog Ideas Can Still Provide Value
Once you realize you don't have to write an epically-long blog post, you may realize just how much content you can create. It's all about providing value, and there are a variety of ways to prove you have a lot to offer your customers and prospects.
When I first learned about this approach from a content marketing expert, they said something that has always stuck with me:
If you provide a lot of value through content, your audience starts to think, "If I get this kind of value for free - imagine what I'll get when I buy something from them."
So, take the time you might spend on an extremely long and complex blog and use these 60 ideas for bloggers, entrepreneurs, marketers and businesses to generate ideas.
Whether it's Terminator 2 or the AMC series Humans, people have always had that worry in the back of their mind about "the machines" taking over. My question is - why don't we have the same concern in marketing?
After all, you can do something about it before it can start to damage your business. Before you get visuals of your office computers growing legs and saying, "Must destroy the company - resistance is futile," let me explain what I mean.
We've seen this story before
Whether it's Humans or Westworld, the story always starts the same - we develop robots to make our lives easier, and then everything goes to crap. In the realm of social media or content marketing, we're seeing an overreliance on making things easier through automation and analytics while forgetting to be human.
Unlike the apocalyptical machine stories, I'm not suggesting it's something you shouldn't be doing in the first place. However, like a recent Forbes article pointed out - automation still has to have a human touch. This is especially true on social media, especially since it's called social media.
You'll find plenty of brands of all sizes that are doing nothing but automating the content on their feed. They'll post content all of the time, hoping that it will gain them the benefit of your engagement, and that's where the effort ends. You never see them start a conversation, or start one with wanting all the replies to come from you, but they don't feel they have to add anything more.
This is actually a pet peeve of mine. I've been known to unfollow social media feeds that feature easy automation but not human interaction. It tells me they don't care that much about my involvement in their online presence. On the brand side, lack of a human element can cost you engagements, shares, reputation and advocacy.
Unfortunately, I also see an overreliance on automation and a lack of human effort from many content marketing and social thought leaders. To me, promoting yourself as a thought leader in social media and then never engaging with people on a platform is like an ad agency touting their social media strategy tutelage while showcasing terrible following numbers on their platforms.
Robots make mistakes that hurt you more than them
If you've spent quality time on social media over the last few years, you've probably witnessed or experience an automated response fail. For example, there was the time Dominos apologized for a customer's great pizza. I've also seen automation offer a positive response to a post about a negative experience or situation. In this case, the "machine" isn't intelligent enough to respond, but people definitely know the difference.
Another example of an automation challenge that does more harm than good is utilizing a powerful social listening software that doesn't have the right data incorporated into its processes. For example, if Chevrolet told its social listening engine to track people talking about "Chevrolet," they would overlook the audience that refers to them online as "Chevy" or "bowtie."
View your humanity as an advantage
Bots and automation aren't the only things that provide a critical pros/cons dynamic to your marketing efforts. Humans are also capable of taking data, analytics and code and jumping to the wrong conclusions:
Andrew makes the same point - Could you pitch an idea featuring someone riding a skateboard on an actual highway with one hand guzzling a branded drink and lip-syncing? If your automatic response is no, you may have some good reasons why:
It doesn't directly sell the product (where's the CTA)?
It doesn't fit the brand (but what brand would this fit)?
Then again, you would've never tested it and seen the amazing results. In Ocean's Spray's case- skyrocketing sales and doublimg their stock. Some people think it's nothing more than one of those lucky viral video stories. Mark Schaefer says it's a prime example of the power of creating "human" commercials.
"The video is real, raw, human, and vulnerable. Generally speaking, everything ads are not," he said.
When I wrote and produced fundraising content at the North Texas NPR affiliate, one key messaging point was that listener support helped the station produce radio with less advertising - leaving more time for interviews and shows each hour. The more content/fewer commercials component of podcasts have a similar appeal, and you don't have to follow an hourly clock.
So, what should you do with all of that time flexibility?
There is no "perfect" length for a podcast episode, but, some guidelines can help determine what's best for your show.
In the book Content Chemistry, Andy Crestodina points out that:
1. The Top 10 business podcasts average 42 minutes.
2. Stitcher research says the typical listener stays connected for 22 minutes.
3. Ted talks are 18 minutes for a reason - Attention rates drop after 20 minutes.
Consider what successful podcasts are doing
One of the most shocking things I heard someone say about their podcast episode length was that you can't go in-depth on a topic in under 30 minutes.
Really? What if your listener thinks you've said enough about something after 18 minutes, and they feel like you dragged it out for another 22?
When I launched Comic Book Noob a few years ago, people said they wanted a simple comic book show that shared simple insights and recommendations. One person told me they would listen to other shows discuss comics, but they would get so into the weeds the content felt overwhelming or confusing.
Our episodes are under 30 minutes - some are under 20 minutes.
Insider tip: People are okay with that length.
Here are some other examples of short podcasts to check out.
Consider your audience
When determining your show length, think about optimizing your audience's time by developing a format that you can consistently follow. Examples:
Put yourself in your listener's shoes and ask:
If it helps, ask your friends or people you know who listen to podcasts about their content preferences. What keeps them engaged? When do they tune out?
More importantly - What makes them subscribe, unsubscribe or stop listening?
With Apple crossing over 2 million podcasts recently and popularity continuing to grow, many content decisions can be driven by the opinions of people who listen to them.
If I was new to the planet and asked you how humans feel about the car buying experience, what would you tell them? I assume you wouldn't describe it the same way you would a Caribbean cruise. However, there are too many people that don't mind infusing the annoyances of car buying to their LinkedIn marketing strategy.
When you walk onto a car lot, you know you're going to have someone approach you and talk to you about buying a car, but why is that so bad? Marcus Sheridan points out:
"Imagine you walk onto a car dealership lot and a salesman comes striding out. Do you expect that salesman to have your best interests at heart, or are you anticipating the whole 'Have I got the perfect car for you' routine?"
In other words, you feel like the conversation is going to be driven (no pun intended) by what benefits them - not you.
How are people getting a similar experience on LinkedIn? You can find plenty of promotion-filled sales lots filled with robotic salespeople communicating through canned and repeatable rhetoric.
There are Lots of Waving Tube Men
Many LinkedIn profiles are full of brands talking about themselves and their perfect things for the audience. Their pages are the equivalent of having a bunch of wacky waving inflatable arm men in a used car lot, and both are about equally as effective in inspiring someone to buy.
You'll notice that when LinkedIn announces their best page announcement winners, it's all about the ways brands are providing value and building trust. For example:
The Staff Follows a Script
Poor Bert Healy. He just wanted his script to sound like a natural conversation, but it's more than evident that Mr. Warbucks is reading a prepared set of sentences. It didn't help matters when Warbucks closed with, "Did I just do a commercial?"
However, Bert had a good excuse. It was the 1930s, radio was big, and he had a captive audience. Yet today, people are willing to follow a similar formula using LinkedIn messages, and it's not as funny as this scene. In fact, it's annoying, lazy, unprofessional and sad.
Like a stereotypical used car salesman, they may greet you in a way that seems like it's an attempt to get to know you, but once you respond, it's all about their benefit.
It starts with a disingenuous connection request
Disingenuous reasons for wanting to connect generally include an interest in "expanding a personal network and wanting to connect with like-minded people." Or the more amusing invitations to connect are the ones where they tell you upfront that they think you're stupid.
For example, they tell you your recent "great blog or post" that "showed up on their feed," drew them to you. Granted, they aren't going to tell you specifically which post it is because this is a cut and paste script that goes to several people. It's the car lot greeting before things go into sales mode. Once you connect, you'll get more cut and paste messages that signal no real interest in connection, conversation, value or trust.
Because it's not about you. If it was, things would sound a lot less scripted and the conversation could be very different. As Marcus said in his blog, your content (or communication) could say:
“Why HubSpot is right for you.”
“Is HubSpot the right fit for you?”
One shows bias, one does not.
Creating value, starting a conversation or building trust means avoiding what Chris Brogan would call treating people like purses and wallets. One of the simplest pieces of advice I've ever gotten about social media marketing is - You have to give to get.
Prove them wrong. It will benefit you both.
Talking about conceptual creativity, engaging content and pop culture.