• BeverlyMay
    Beverly May on August 13, 2014

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  • It may seem counterintuitive, but there is actually good reason for why the content your business’ social media audience wants, is not the content your organization should be creating and publishing.

    It may seem counterintuitive, but there is actually good reason for why the content your business’ social media audience wants, is not the content your organization should be creating and publishing.

    Increasingly, consumer-centric businesses and social media marketers are using a variety of social listening tools, data and analytics, and various types of research to determine themes and formats for content that will resonate most strongly with their audience.

    The trouble with this approach is that if there isn’t a strong correlation between the content your social media audience wants and how that content will positively impact business or marketing objectives, then giving them what they want will yield no real business results. So what’s the point?

    There are a few things to keep in mind that may influence whether you create and publish the content for which your audience is creating a pull:

    The content your audience wants is only relevant if your audience is relevant

    As I alluded to previously, if you are planning to create and publish content based on a pull from your audience, you should only entertain the idea if you are confident that your audience is relevant to your business.

    Historically, and continuing today, there is enormous emphasis to grow social media audiences as quickly and large as possible. Frequently, this results in fans, followers and subscribers being attained that aren’t within your targeted demographic, nor are they likely to ever be consumers or influencers of consumption for your business.

    Creating and publishing content for an off-target audience will be meaningless for your real current and prospective consumers.

    Business needs may require the creation of content that your audience doesn’t want… yet

    There are circumstances, even if your social media audience is highly relevant to your business, that it can make strategic sense to create and publish content that your audience doesn’t necessarily want.

    An example of this is if your business is expanding into a new product or service category, your new offerings may be designed to serve an entirely new consumer segment.

    In a case such as this, you may find yourself creating content that will appeal to an entirely new target audience in hopes of attracting them to your existing social media communities.

    Of course, an option here is to create new communities for these particular offerings, but this approach may not necessarily make sense or be feasible.

    Your audience may not know what they want

    In my experience, when you ask people what they want from your content, they’ll regurgitate something they already have access to. If social listening and historical data and analytics are your only method to determine what content to create, you’re not stetting your organization up to do anything truly unique, ownable or inspiring.

    To avoid the trap of creating essentially the same content as all of your competitors, or ripping-off what other organizations are creating, embrace a test and learn approach to content creation. Consider allocating a certain percentage of the content you create to experiment or test new content themes or formats, or more subtle variations on the tried and true.

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    Do you allow your audience to create a pull for content?

    How have you cultivated a social media audience that is hyper relevant to your business?

    Have you ever created and published content for an entirely new consumer segment?

    How do you measure the effectiveness of the content your organization creates?

    It would be great to chat with you more about this in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial

    We scraped up a little budget and experimented with several native content distribution channels. The experiment focused on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Outbrain. Here's what we discovered.

    We scraped up a little budget and experimented with several native content distribution channels. The experiment focused on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Outbrain.

    The primary goal was to drive new subscribers for the site, but the secondary goal was to drive top of the funnel leads for the premiere sponsor, DigitalRelevance, to nurture. To accomplish this we chose to drive qualified traffic to several individual articles on Relevance.

    With $4,500 we felt confident that we could drive subscribers, leads and boost the overall awareness of the site. Ultimately, we’d hope to prove the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of each individual channel and double-down on what worked.

    It ran for six weeks and the results were surprising. Let’s look at each individual channel to see what happened.

    Native Channel Analysis

    Facebook Newsfeed

    Confidence in Facebook as a content distribution channel was high. Its custom audiences feature allows marketers to upload a current email list. Afterwards, Facebook finds those individuals and looks at the attributes they have in common in order to target folks across its network with similar attributes. This type of algorithmically-powered targeting has many advantages over other types of targeting.

    Facebook Custom Audiences

    Over the course of the experiment we spent $613.04, driving 645 unique visitors to Relevance, one subscriber and three leads. Even though we had 645 unique visitors, we paid for 1103 clicks. Advertisers don't really pay per click. They pay per engagement for things things like comments, clicks, shares and likes. This explains the difference between the number of clicks and unique visitors. On average, the channel cost $0.56 per engagement, $1.10 per unique visitor, $613.04 per subscriber and $204.35 per lead.

    Verdict

    If your primary goal is to drive awareness and traffic to articles, Facebook is a good network to distribute content on. It’s relatively cheap compared to the others. However, if your primary goal is leads or subscribers, promoting individual owned media articles is not recommended. The campaign would be better served if the promoted post sent people directly to a landing page for conversion.

    LinkedIn Newsfeed

    We’ve experienced success promoting offers in the past using LinkedIn, but this time was different. This was the first time we exclusively promoted individual articles for content distribution. One of the targeting advantages it has is the ability to focus campaigns on Groups. LinkedIn has robust communities full of people with similar interests that congregate around certain Groups that would find Relevance content useful. We chose to promote three separate articles and A/B test one of them.

    LinkedIn Native Advertising

    In total, we spent $1,457.90 on LinkedIn. It drove 249 click-throughs, 212 unique visitors, no subscribers and one lead. That equates to $5.90 per click, $7.94 per unique visitor and $1,457.90 per lead.

    Verdict

    At almost eight dollars a unique visitor, LinkedIn is an expensive network to natively promote owned articles. While the targeting of roles and interests are valuable, the cost makes it difficult to scale article distribution in a meaningful way. LinkedIn is best suited for promoting offers like ebooks, guides, studies and webinars.

    Twitter Advertising

    This was the wildcard channel of the bunch. We knew about Twitter’s power to distribute content organically. What we didn’t know was how effective it would be with paid distribution. We started off targeting specific lists filled with our target audience. Later, we shifted the targeting and focused on keywords. After shifting the targeting we noticed an improvement in engagement.

    Twitter Advertising

    By the end of the campaign we spent $1,582.00 and drove 1508 engagements, only 108 unique visitors, no subscribers and no leads. Per engagement we spent $1.11, but each unique visitor cost $16.80.

    Verdict

    One of the disadvantages of using Twitter for content distribution at scale is that instead of paying per click, marketers actually have to pay per engagement. That means retweets, replies, favorites, profile views and clicks on hashtags and links are all considered engagement. In our case, we were trying to drive users away from Twitter and back to Relevance. Unfortunately, that was only one of six engagement opportunities users were faced with.

    As a result, we were unable to get a single subscriber or lead from Twitter and spent the largest portion of our budget for mostly channel engagement. The costs associated with Twitter advertising makes it the least ideal channel for distributing content at scale. Advertising as a means of driving traffic to, and conversions on, another website is not recommended because it’s not cost effective. This could change in the future only if they can develop a cost per lead or cost per action model.

    We also noticed that there’s a large and loud community of Twitter advertising trolls that harassed all of the tweets we promoted. It was annoying at best and bordered on threatening at worst. This is something Twitter is going to have to work on if they want to significantly grow its ad revenue.

    Twitter advertising is best suited for driving brand awareness, social engagement and share of voice on its platform. Grabbing hashtag space for events and trends is also an effective way to use the paid side of the network. However, for our stated goals, this proved to be a big disappointment.

    Outbrain

    Content discovery networks are really picking up in popularity. As a result, we decided to throw Outbrain in the mix with the native social campaigns. For targeting, we chose audiences in the U.S., Canada and the UK. In total, we promoted 15 articles on this network over the course of six weeks.

    Outbrain Content Discovery

    Our total campaign expenditure on Outbrain was $449.95 and it delivered 728 click-throughs, 704 unique visitors, one subscriber and eight leads at an average cost of $0.62 per click, $0.64 per unique visitor, $449.95 per subscriber and $56.24 per lead.

    Verdict

    Content discovery platforms like Outbrain were built to distribute content at scale to very large audiences. It’s no surprise that it was the most effective of any channel at delivering cost effective traffic and leads. This channel is particularly suited for brands that produce blog content on a regular basis and wish to get it seen and read by more people.

    Final Verdict

    Overall, the campaign turned out to be a disappointment by only delivering 3,588 clicks, 1,669 unique visitors, two subscribers and 12 leads to nurture. This breaks down to $1.14 per click, $2.46 per unique visitor, $2,051.45 per subscriber and $341.91 per lead.

    Using and scaling paid social distribution for owned articles is not recommended on LinkedIn or Twitter. LinkedIn is just too expensive and Twitter isn’t necessarily built for distribution at scale. On the other hand, Facebook, if properly targeted and optimized, can be a cost effective channel for content distribution at scale. Just don't expect it to produce many conversions.

    However, content discovery networks are the most cost effective solution for scaling distribution. In hindsight, collecting subscribers from all channels could have been much more effective if we would have deployed a subscribe pop-up call to action on Relevance.

    This test ended at the end of last month and we’ve already implemented another one on new channels. Early results are showing $0.065 per visitor and each visitor’s bounce rate is no greater than normal organic traffic. They’re subscribing and converting, too. This might just be the most cost effective and scalable content distribution solution available for the web today. We hope to have the results available in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

    For additional help getting your content promotion and distribution off the ground download this cheat sheet and read, “How to Promote Your Content Better, Faster and More Effectively.”

    Image credit: Flickr

    Social media on its own is unlikely to build our business – unless it is the place all our customers hang out. For most businesses, that is not the case.

    With all the talk of social media, in particular Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, we can easily forget the other forms of marketing that play an important role in building our business, whether we are a profit or non-profit organization.

    In fact, social media on its own is unlikely to build our business – unless it is the place all our customers hang out. For most businesses, that is not the case.

    I’m not suggesting you abandon or slack off on your social media efforts. Not at all! It is the new frontier of marketing and almost all businesses can benefit by including it in their marketing strategy. And that’s the point: INCLUDING it. Not ignoring all other forms of marketing that can build your business but rather integrating social media into the mix.

    Social media introduces us to new ways of communicating with our customers and potential customers. It allows us to not only share with them information that can be helpful, valuable and interesting to them but, as important, it provides a way for them to easily engage with us, if they so choose. But it alone won’t do the whole ‘marketing’ job for most of us.

    Without social media we’re missing out on a huge opportunity to reach potential new customers and existing customers. At the same time, ignoring other forms of marketing, particularly where we have invested significant thought, time and resources in them, can result in lost momentum. We can lose some of the brand recognition ground we’ve gained through neglecting other tried and true marketing strategies. Momentum lost is difficult and costly to regain.

    So by all means, include social media in your strategy. But in the process don’t neglect other traditional forms of marketing that may still be an important part of the marketing mix for your business. Other options may include permission based email marketing, newsletters, e-newsletters, advertising in local newspapers and/or magazines, mass mail, Google AdWords, local radio advertising, etc. In fact, some of these traditional forms of marketing can be significantly more powerful when combined with social media.

    The key is not to do it all but to identify the types of marketing strategies that fit your business and target audience, your goals and budget and your time frame. Then invest the resources needed, including time, to make it happen.

    Facebook turned a lot of heads last month with the announcement it was testing a “Buy” button on sponsored ads and Pages updates. Positioned as a way for brands to sell their wares while keeping customers inside Facebook’s social embrace, it’s pretty much a win-win for retailers and Facebook combined.

    Facebook turned a lot of heads last month with the announcement it was testing a “Buy” button on sponsored ads and Pages updates. Positioned as a way for brands to sell their wares while keeping customers inside Facebook’s social embrace, it’s pretty much a win-win for retailers and Facebook combined.

    That wasn’t the first time Facebook added a feature designed to help marketers reach customers. Earlier this year, the social media platform added options to its Custom Audience tool that allows brands to choose a call to action (CTA) from a list of five: Shop Now, Sign Up, Learn More, Download, and Book Now. By opening up the range of CTA options businesses can offer, the feature becomes more useful to companies that don’t sell tangible products.

    Now some brands on Facebook are seeing a new type of call to action feature on video posts that may help expand the reach of just Facebook updates. InsideFacebook.com reports “As discovered by Memorado and Inside Facebook reader Matteo Gamba, some pages have the option to add a call to action when they upload a video.Facebook has made the call to action button a powerful option for direct response through ads, but now it looks like page admins could get the ability to add such a button on non-advertised posts.”

    For anyone watching the evolution of brand engagement on Facebook, the pervasive call to action feature comes as no surprise. The social platform is happy to create a welcoming environment for companies to market and sell but, as with their approach to individual users, Facebook keeps a fairly tight grasp on what it considers acceptable behavior.

    Earlier this year, Facebook announced that brands are no longer allowed to ask for shares or “likes” on Facebook Page posts or risk a penalty for noncompliance. Facebook said the goal was to reduce the amount of spam and disingenuous posts people got in their news feeds. Of course, companies are still welcome to buy advertising on Facebook to be sure their message of choice is seen by as many people as possible.

    The emergence of call to action buttons on business-run Facebook pages, posts, ads, and videos may finally bridge the gap between keeping content relevant to its user base and giving brands a way to market themselves effectively. The five CTA options ensure that consumers will receive something of value in exchange for clicking the button. Whether it’s an option to make a purchase, receive specific information, or simply sign up to receive future marketing content, the feature compels brands to offer something in return for a customer action.

    It’s likely that’s been Facebook’s goal all along -- to find the sweet spot between spamming users and inviting them to make informed decisions on how to interact with brands over social media. It will probably take Facebook some trial and error to figure out the best way to integrate CTA buttons into company pages but it’s a step in the right direction. Smart brands can use the emerging feature as a way to encourage engagement from fans and followers without worrying about being too spammy or aggressive. Now that’s a win-win for everyone.

    Images: Sean MacEntee / christiankonline / facebook-designers.com

    Since the dawn of consumerism, filters have been influencing buyers’ purchasing decisions by narrowing buyer options to simplify the process of choosing a product or a service from a pool of choices. Who's telling your customers what they need, or when they need it?

    Since the dawn of consumerism, filters have been influencing buyers’ purchasing decisions by narrowing buyer options to simplify the process of choosing a product or a service from a pool of choices. 

    Because choices were limited back in the day, filters occurred rather naturally. For instance, if you wanted a candy bar, you simply had to walk to the corner store and pay a nickel for a Mars or a Hershey bar because those were the only options available. Sufficed to say, industries were novel, competition was scarce, and consumer preferences were defined by sparse variety, technological and geographic boundaries.

    The Rise of Filters

    As the market gradually evolved, filters became necessary because too many choices saturated the consumer radar, making it difficult for decision-makers to make a selection and brands to stand out in the market. Take the radio, for example, which became a filter for the infinite number of artists, bands, and songs available to listeners. In the process of managing which songs audiences were exposed to listen to, radio shaped the music industry and continues to do so by influencing audience preference. 

    Today, consumers thrive in the world’s largest global economy, fueled by an endless variety of products and services, international trade, and eCommerce via the World Wide Web. Choices are infinite and unrestricted; product manufacturers and service providers are ubiquitous, and buyers have grown dependent on filters to make timely, and sensible acquisitions of products and services.

    The Future of Filters 

    As the market gets more and more saturated, and consumers are constantly bombarded by a multitude of choices, it is safe to assume that you can only expect more filtering to come soon. The steady rise of demand for filters can be attributed to a cascade of trends, like mobile technology -- adopted by the vast majority of Americans, and has entirely altered the pace action, reaction, and correspondence of consumers worldwide. From checking emails to calling cabs, accessing weather reports or locating the nearest five-star restaurant; today’s consumer expects fast and reliable answers to narrow selections and simplify decision-making.

    Likewise, eCommerce has completely eradicated the geographical boundaries that once limited choice. Now, purchases can be made from anywhere in the world. Consumers require some type of organization for limitless availability of options and as a direct reaction, industry filters continue to climb.

    Search engines act as the ultimate filter, providing online consumers with a ranking system for the products and services they seek. But as a neutral party to all industries, there still exists a demand for more hyper-specific filters. With this in mind I encourage you to ask yourself:

    Who's telling your customers what they need, or when they need it?

    If the answer is unclear, perhaps your industry does not yet have an effective filter. Maybe the filters don’t exist yet. This is your opportunity to be at the forefront and create it.

    Simply put: He who controls the filter, controls the future of their industry.

    Image Credit: riekhavoc