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Marketing Professional

Explaining Content Strategies & Tactics

In my last post, I set out to explain my approach to digital content strategy development, which ties everything back to specific business goals and objectives using the POSTT approach:

People, Objectives (as in Objectives for the Content Strategy), Strategies, Technologies and Tactics.

This post is the companion piece, where I want to further explain the Strategies, Technologies, and Tactics components.

What is a Strategy?

Strategy defines the parameters of the actions you will take to achieve your objectives.

In the simple analogy I used in the previous example, if the objective is to get to Atlanta from Birmingham for a job interview on Thursday, your strategy would be to drive to Atlanta early Wednesday morning and spend the night. That’s one strategy among several that are possible, and probably the best given normal circumstances.

The tactics would be the choices you make about departure time, which highways to follow, which hotel to stay in that’s most convenient to the interview location, etc.

Inbound Marketing Content Strategy

Inbound marketing is based on the creation and delivery of useful content to your prospects. This content is designed to help your prospects come to know, like and trust you and to move them through your sales funnel.

In this context, I prefer to craft an overall content strategic framework and then develop separate strategies for each technology channel in the mix. Hence, the extra T in my version of POSTT.

Let’s use a landscape design firm as a possible client. This hypothetical firm focuses on upscale residential landscape design.

An inbound marketing content strategy might be built around creating and publishing a series of articles on topics that address the why-and-how of various techniques for caring for turf, certain plants used in landscaping, how the investment in landscaping adds to the value of a home, how the homeowner can incorporate pollinator friendly species into the mix for eco-friendly reasons, and so on.

As I emphasized in the previous article, the bulk of the content would be created and published first on the website, for SEO benefits and to ensure that the content isn’t lost when prospects leave one digital network to join the next shiny community. Hosting and publishing the content on your own website also helps you with lead capture and tracking the prospect through your sales funnel.

I’m writing this on the premise that text (written) content will be the primary type of content you're using, but every content strategy must also include some visual elements. A client like a landscape design firm would also require lots of photos and, perhaps, even videos (even simple DIY videos shot on the fly with a smartphone are invaluable).

Some clients could benefit from an audio content strategy, either as stand-alone audio segments, longer on-demand white papers, or an ongoing series of profiles, interviews and company news updates. On-demand audio strategy and production is one way I differentiate the services I offer, but on-demand audio and podcasting isn’t right for every client. I’ll cover on-demand audio n a separate article.

Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar will be created to identify who is responsible for creating and approving each piece of content, along with when the content will be created, reviewed, approved and published on the website.

The editorial calendar is a key part of the content strategy at this level.

Social Media Strategies

Identification of social channels where you’ll also publish the content  is another aspect of the overall content strategy.

Continuing with the example of the residential landscape design client, we might choose to use Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram as the social channels to reach prospects.

Based on the likely demographics of this client’s prospects, I would probably focus on Facebook and Pinterest, primarily because the Instagram audience skews younger and this audience might not be at the socio-economic stage to be a great prospect for this particular client.

Then next step would be to develop specific strategies for repurposing and enhancing the articles, photos and videos for publication on Facebook and Pinterest and, perhaps, Instagram (mainly for aspirational brand awareness, if the client has someone who can take ownership of the Instagram publication schedule).

Each social network requires a separate strategy that is designed to maximize reach with the target audience on that network in a way that’s consistent with the cultural norms of that social network.

The biggest failure I see in business marketing on social media is an effort by many small and medium sized businesses is to use a one-size-fits-all approach to social media marketing. [Actually, that might be the second biggest failure. The first might be simply to follow the “let me throw some stuff out there and hope someone sees it” strategy.]

Example of Simple Facebook Strategy

Let’s use Facebook to briefly describe a strategy for this hypothetical residential landscape design client.

We have a Facebook business page and the strategy is to publish a mix of photos, articles and videos on the Facebook page that target a certain demographic with the objective of brand awareness and lead capture.

Tactics for the Facebook Strategy

Next we create the tactical plan for Facebook:

The plan includes publishing 2 pieces of content each day, excluding Sunday.

We create the Facebook-specific portion of the editorial calendar. This should that identify most of the content for a 7 or 14-day window, with some flexibility to respond to weather issues, current events, etc.

All content published on Facebook will be shared using link customizers or tracking pixels to identify the source.

Possible Types of Content for Facebook

  • Content might include photos of work performed.
  • Short excerpts from the text resources created for the website with links back to the website
  • One 30-60 second video each week from a job site (without revealing the home, unless the homeowner gives written consent)
  • Three items of promoted content that lead directly to lead-capture tools on a landing page.

 

We can get a lot more advanced in the tactical stage and talk about tracking pixels, using dark posts for promoted content on Facebook, the benefits of uploading video directly to Facebook, issues with organic reach of content published on your Facebook business page, but all of that is beyond the scope of this article.

Wrapping it Up

I hope this 2-part overview of the content marketing strategic planning process helps to explain the difference between objectives, strategies and tactics.

Perhaps more importantly, I hope this 2-part series convinces you of the the necessity of crafting specific audience profiles and a plan-of-action to reach those audiences in an engaging and meaningful way to build awareness, familiarity and trust to grow your business.

The terminology is less important, in the end, than the results.

If you speak with your clients, customers and prospects as people, not demographic segments, you’re more likely to find success than if you throw out one-size-fits-all content, as a traditional media ad or on your social media channel.

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Marketing Professional Professional Portfolio

How to Create a Social Media Content Strategy

 

Social media offers new channels of communication to serve existing customers and clients and reach new prospects. The challenge is this: Unless you have a meaningful plan to use social media to achieve some outcome, you're probably spending time and money in the least effective way possible.

So that's why I focused on the strategy side of social media marketing each time I taught Social Media Practices, a course I developed when I was a faculty member at Samford University.

Strategy is the same approach I take when consulting with clients or preparing a conference presentation on social media marketing and content development. I find that most people (students and business owners) like to focus on tactics–what's where the fun is.

But if you don't know where you're going or why you're doing something, you have no way of knowing if you're accomplishing anything or just spending time and money churning out noise.

This post is a part 1 of an article I published over on LinkedIn and I'm offering here to widen the distribution.

Here's the thing about social content for small businesses:

The value of social content comes when it serves a business purpose and is based on a strategy that's carefully designed to support business objectives.

How Does Social Serve One or More Business Objectives?

The first questions I ask prospective clients are aimed at helping me understand what they are trying to gain through social media. What business objective will your social media presence relate to? If they don't know, we talk through some possibilities.

Meaningful social presence and good social content can help business objectives related to sales, customer support, product/service development and enhancement, and broader market research.

The obvious (ultimate) answer is, of course, to grow your business through sales, retain and support existing customers, and find new clients who need the services your business provides. But you need to spend some time thinking specifically how social media content and engagement can serve specific business functional areas.

Quick Aside: I believe your social content must tie back to your website presence. That's a topic for another post, but everything I'm saying about social content presupposes that it is, in some way (directly or contextually) leading prospects to your website and lead capture tools. This is something Chris Brogan is known for advocating, along with most other small business marketing consultants.

Today, the digital and social sphere is usually the front lines of customer service and social content may be the first touch point for a prospect who is exploring the types of products or services you provide.

Takeaway: Before you start to develop a content strategy for social media it's imperative to identify the ways this social content will serve the ultimate business objectives.

social media marketing digital content strategy: If you don't know where you're going, how will you know if you're on the right path? Sheree Martin

POSTT Approach

Once you know where social fits into the larger business picture, you can start to consider social media on a more strategic level.

People – Objectives – Strategies – Tactics

My version: People – Objectives – Strategies – Technologies – Tactics. (POSTT)

I'm not the originator of the P-O-S-T approach, although I added a second T (for Technology, as in channels), as a wrinkle to help students in a class on social media strategy that I developed at taught at Samford University.

People: Who Are You Trying to Reach?

Before you launch into sharing content across a multitude of social channels, you MUST first identify the audience(s) you need to connect with.

It's not enough to say “new customers,” “existing customers,” or even demographically: Small business owners with more than 5 employees, or plumbing service providers, or parents of kids age 8 and up who need orthodontics.

Your customers and clients are not demographic segments or socio-economic data points.

Your people are real humans who have interests, needs and values. You may serve multiple audience segments, so you need to carefully craft the biographies of your ideal customers. These are sometimes called avatars, sometimes simply customer personae, sometimes bios.

Develop one of these avatar bios for each category you serve or want to serve. And write it like you're describing a character in a book or movie. Give each person a name, think about what they want (or might want) from you in relation to how this relates to their overall life. What are their hobbies or values or goals? Again, think of each as a real person.

If you know your customers well, you can use a few real people to develop these audience biographies.

Once you have those biographies in place, then you can start to understand more about how to reach them. More on that in a moment.

Objectives for Social Media (Digital) Presence

Before we get to strategies and tactics you need to consider social objectives that relate back to the business objectives.

Perhaps if you're a B2C retailer or provide a service like home repairs you may want to offer a social presence to help with customer service (support function) and respond to prospects who have questions (a sales function).

If you're a B2B provider or offer services that are confusing, complicated or new, you may want to emphasize thought leadership (sales) or helpful resources that educate prospects and explain what you do (business development).

Once you've defined your objectives for digital, then you can move on to developing the content strategies to lead you closer to achieving these objectives.

Strategy is Your Road Map

In my teaching days, I often had students who were confused about the difference between a strategy and a tactic, so I used this analogy:

Let's say your objective is to travel to Atlanta from Birmingham to attend a job interview.

You need to develop a strategy to get to Atlanta. Issues to consider in developing your strategy are whether to drive, fly, walk or ride a bicycle.  What's your budget? How much lead time to you have? When do you leave? If you drive, will you drive your own car or rent one? Will you take the interstate or backroads?

Let's say the strategy is to drive to Atlanta to achieve the objective of attending a job interview on Thursday. Then we define specific tactics: Leave Wednesday midday and stay overnight so you're rested for the morning interview, travel Interstate 20, etc.

The same approach can be used to understand strategies vs. tactics in developing plans for social content and social engagement.

This post is getting a bit long, so I will divided this up into a second installment, where I focus on a hypothetical social strategy and offer some tips for identifying the technologies and tactics to implement the strategy.

If you're looking for help, I'm available for consulting work on digital content strategy development and can also help you on the digital content production side.

My production specialties are writing and on-demand audio. I can help you find the right partners for comprehensive branding services and videography, if that's necessary.

Find out more about Sheree Martin here on LinkedIn and elsewhere on the internet, including:

http://birminghamshines.com

http://alabamaignite.com

http://shinecast.tv

http://teachsocialbusiness.com

Sheree Martin I solve problems. Innovative, creative, curious, adventurous

I developed my version of the POST approach based on the ideas in Groundswell, a book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research Group. [The link is to the book on Amazon, and is an affiliate link.]

Groundswell was first published in 2007 and I used the 2011 revised/expanded version as a recommended textbook in the first semester I taught Social Media Practices. Even though the statistics and other data, along with discussions of social media practices and platforms, are of only historical relevance today, I still think the book provides a great backstory for anyone who doesn't fully understand the underlying foundation of social media marketing.

You can find better sources for tactics and best practices in 2016, but Groundwell is still a great resource for anyone who feels that they don't really understand this whole social media thing and how it relates to business. [Amazon affiliate link.]

Categories
Inspire Marketing

Impact or Reach: What Are You Seeking?

Water is a powerful force. Over time, a stream of water can carve a canyon through solid rock. A single drip from a leaky faucet can cost a homeowner hundreds of dollars in water bills.

Water will make an impact.

Words and Stories Can Impact

Whether you're a marketer, a social change agent, a rock band or a parent, you have a message you want to get in front of an audience.

Most of us want our audience to do something in response to the message.

We really want impact, more than reach.

In my own experience, though, most decision-makers start by focusing on reach.

They ask questions like what's the audience size, how many fans and followers on each social media channel, how many downloads…..as if the answers to those questions actually matter.

Few of us have both the reach AND impact of leaders like Richard Branson.

Anyone with enough money can buy reach.

Even in today's fractured media environment, if you have the financial resources you can buy reach in the form of traditional and “native” advertising. You can hire a major agency to develop and execute a promotional juggernaut to get media placements on television talk shows and cable news.

A savvy and well-financed promotional campaign can also help you conquer the blogosphere and social media channels. You can even buy social media followers.

But none of that chatter and noise has staying power.

Just because your message hits a channel with your large audience doesn't mean the audience hears it or pays attention. And that's not all…..

Even if your message momentarily resonates with the purchased audience, the effect will be ephemeral. When is the last time you intentionally set out to listen to a song by Nickleback or Creed?

We’re constantly bombarded with noise. We understand how hard it is to get attention.

In the marketing space, the communication objective is to find a way to get the attention of a desired audience. For most organizations, the objective is to get a message in front of the largest possible audience, as if the law of averages would somehow boost relevancy and attention.

I think that’s the wrong approach. I think the better way is to focus on impact and identify a small number of influencers who can help to share the message.

Floods begin with raindrops, avalanches start with snowflakes

That’s how Billy Ivey of BIG Communications made a splash through his #NapkinNotes. He shared humorous lunch bag notes to his kids that resonated with an audience of parents and soon-to-be-parents who then responded and shared with his own community.

Then Jon Acuff expanded the reach. Acuff is someone you might describe as an influencer among Christian parents with a sense of humor.

#NapkinNotes now has reach, but the initial focus was on impact. A dad writing notes to his kids.

I suspect Ivey’s kids will remember those notes long after Ivey’s career in marketing is history.

For brands, the lesson is clear:

Focus on impact and you’ll probably get the reach you desire.

Focus on reach and you’ll be chasing something that lies at the end of the ephemeral rainbow.

Impact, not reach.

 

Categories
Marketing

#YallConnect Highlights

About 8-9 days ago I spent a couple of hours putting together this Storify account of the tweeted highlights of 2015 #YallConnect.

At some point I hope to add my notes but since I haven't had time to do that yet, I decided to just publish the highlights from Twitter. Here it is and I hope it's helpful!

 

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Inspire Marketing

Who Is Telling Your Story?

I’ve never been one to “toot my own horn,” as the saying goes.

For most of my life I believed that my work would speak for itself and that self-promotion is, to be quite frank about it, a bit gauche.

But the reality is that hard work, effort, ethical behavior and successful results are not enough. Talent, effort, ethical behavior, and results are necessary, but not sufficient.

In today’s noisy world, your work doesn’t stand out on its own. Your work will not, by itself, rise above the din. Equally importantly, if you allow others to put their spin on your work first then you are always playing defense.

Politicians and their spin-doctors know this better than anyone.

You must be proactive in telling your story.

Silence leaves the door open for someone else to tell your story. In the realm of history, there’s an admonishment that history is written by the victorious.

That adage also applies to career and business success, where history is written not necessarily by the victor but by whomever chooses to tell the story. Nature abhors a vacuum and nowhere is that more evident than in the political gamesmanship on display in many work environments, especially in those organizations where change is feared.

In the business arena, customers are telling your story every day. If you want to stay in business, you must be a participant in shaping and telling the story of your brand. That’s why leading businesses who realize and accept the new reality are embracing brand journalism and adopting it as the foundation for their marketing efforts.

You Are Your Own Brand Journalist

As Tom Peters famously told us some years ago, you have a personal brand–The Brand Called You.

Reid Hoffman followed up more recently with his twist: The Start-up Of You.

Like it or not, you have a personal brand and, if you want to have any chance at success in the current economy, you must work to tell the story of your personal brand. You must be your personal brand journalist and advocate.

At work, your savvy colleagues and managers are telling their stories to other colleagues and to their supervisors. Like it or not, the stories told by your colleagues and managers stories include stories about you, whether explicit or implicit. Sometimes your contributions are simply left out of their stories.

Not everyone perceives events the same way. Perceptions matter and the inclusion or exclusion of facts certainly influence perceptions. The weight given to isolated incidences can also move a trivial matter from a minor, one-off aside to a defining moment.

If you aren’t actively telling your story you don't have a shot at influencing perceptions.

Let me repeat: You must be proactive (and truthful) in telling your own story.

[Tweet “Someone is telling your brand's story. It might as well be you. “]

Thinking About My Own Story

As a professional, the main theme of my professional life might be summed up as helping other people successfully tell their stories through:

  • Legal negotiations and legal strategies
  • Corporate copywriting
  • News reporting and feature writing (links coming)
  • Student success (links coming)

On a more personal level, in the realm of personal growth and charting my own path, my story features these themes:

  • Committed to excellence
  • Openness to change and growth
  • Desire and willingness to seek new opportunities where I can grow personally and professionally in ways where I can combine my talents, strengths and interests to make the world a better place.

I'm not interested in stagnation or being satisfied with the status quo. I refuse to settle for someone else's plans for me.

 See my Shine Values and Vision statement here.

But despite my success-oriented mindset and commitment to constant improvement, I never put much effort into publicly telling my own story.

I assumed my successes would speak for me, even as I was actively involved in creating and promoting the successes of other people. I knew better. But, like I said, self-promotion just left me feeling uncomfortable.

Interestingly enough,  I was a subscriber to  Fast Company when The Brand Called You appeared in the magazine. I read the article, and filed it away in my mind. I took action to create and enhance my personal brand, but I never made an effort to tell the story of my successes.

So, at this point, I’m determined to remedy my past quiescence and to tell my story and, I hope, demonstrate some of the ways I’ve used my strengths and talents to help others.

I'll be writing and sharing those on this blog over the next few weeks. I hope you'll read and share your thoughts on how my story comes across.

Are YOU Telling YOUR Own Story?

Yes or no? If no, why not?

I'd love to hear from you and learn more about YOUR story. Please leave a comment, share your experiences about personal branding, or just share one of your successes!

Categories
Marketing

Branding & The Ben Franklin Follies: Your Path to Health, Wealth & Wisdom

Health, wealth and wisdom. I see these three words as the triad that signifies both the philosophy for, and evidence of, a successful, happy and integrated life.

For some people—starting with me—the words “health, wealth and wisdom” conjure up the image of Benjamin Franklin publishing proverbs of common-sense wisdom in Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a [wo]man healthy, wealthy and wise.

Some folks (many?) probably don’t make the connection between Ben Franklin and health, wealth and wisdom.

The Ben Franklin Follies: Does this work as a brand concept?

I’ve spent way too much time over the past year trying to decide whether to scrap “The Ben Franklin Follies” as a way to help brand my holistic, integrative philosophy about what makes a life a good life. But I’m such a fan of Ben’s common-sense pragmatic wisdom that I can’t give it up yet.

A part of me wonders whether it does more harm than good to use Ben Franklin to help brand a website devoted to an integrated life philosophy. What do you think?

Your opinion matters a lot to me right now, as I prepare to relaunch The Ben Franklin Follies with a mission to help others along the path to health, wealth and wisdom.

Why even consider Ben Franklin as relevant?

It’s not just Ben Franklin’s wisdom that attracts me, but his commitment to curiosity, exploration, discovery and ideas. He was a foodie, a journalist and writer, a thinker, a reader, a networker and a conversationalist. A multipotentialite. A Renaissance person.

Ben Franklin was also a strategic branding genius.

Two examples, among many:

When he started his printing business, Franklin made it a point to walk to work early and go home late, as a way to signify industriousness to others.

When he first visited France,  Franklin wore the fur cap with which he’s famously associated as a way to endear himself to the French people. His branding strategy worked.

When I first started a blog using the name The Ben Franklin Follies, I approached it as my playground to explore whatever I found interesting, in the same way that Ben Franklin chose not to be limited to a single profession or hobby or pursuit. But when I decided a few years ago to start thinking of my blog as business, I realized I needed to find a way to narrow the scope of topics.

Niching Down

Ultimately, because I can’t limit myself to the serial pursuit of singular ideas, I decided to set up separate and distinctive websites for my various interests.

Separate websites means I can be more helpful, focused, and useful in service to specific communities.  I’ve been slowly creating the spokes that connect back to me–my personal “brand”–which is this website.

Health Wealth & Wisdom As  One Niche

Although some people would these are three disparate topics, I don’t think so. In my philosophy they are integrated. I think Ben Franklin would agree.

Although a person can have a lot of money and a “high net worth” in an accounting sense without being physically healthy, that person won’t truly be wealthy without meaningful relationships and a well-rounded life in service to others.

What is health? Does it mean simply the absence of disease? Is it about physical fitness? If a person has a physical disability does that mean he or she doesn’t have health?

I think health is bigger and broader than physical fitness. Consider the professional athlete who may be at the pinnacle of “fitness” as defined by his or her sport and yet suffer from the consequences of traumatic brain injury or depression when the career ends.

Wisdom comes from experience coupled with learning and growth. We aren’t born wise. More than a few fully-grown adults lack wisdom. Yet some young adults display wisdom far beyond their years.

As I see it, when we’re fully integrated, health wealth and wisdom can be represented by concentric circles. Take a look at the logo icon I had designed for The Ben Franklin Follies. Three concentric circles that signify a happy and integrated life.

Logo for The Ben Franklin Follies

In reality, we usually don’t have 100% overlap, it’s more like a Venn diagram. But that’s OK. Because where health, wealth and wisdom exist simultaneously we find happiness.

So The Ben Franklin Follies  mission is to help you on your path to health, wealth and wisdom and happiness.

But I can only do that if there’s a connection.

Does this make sense?

Does the Ben Franklin association work for you? Does it trigger something else in your mind? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this in the comments below.

 

A variation of this post can be found at The Ben Franklin Follies.