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Infographic: How to laser-target journalists with Facebook ads to earn coverage
No, I don't think of journos as dartboards, but this image was too perfect to not use. CC photo credit: Flickr user raindog

No, I don’t think of journos as dartboards, but this image was too perfect to not use.
CC photo credit: Flickr user raindog

Reporters and other media pros are typically easy to reach, but much harder to influence. Their livelihoods depend on being accessible to people with tips, angles, and stories, so many of them even publish their email addresses and phone numbers in their Twitter bios, etc.

But! Repeat after me: reach does not equal influence. Here, in case you’re a visual learner like me:

reach does not equal influence

To journalists, the cost of accessibility is being constantly deluged with garbage like bad PR pitches, weird attention seekers, and anyone else trying to get their 15 minutes of fame. So, journalists develop selective attention. They become experts in quickly sorting signal from noise, trash from treasure. They also pay more attention to names they recognize. Chances are, unless you’re already a known quantity among reporters, they don’t recognize yours. Mine either! No matter how great our tips, angles, and stories are, we’re starting with a disadvantage. So, we need to stand out.

Let me pause here to emphasize that there is no substitution for longterm relationship building. That should always be the priority, and it will yield way more quality coverage than things like Facebook ads. But Facebook ads are one interesting tool in the outreach kit, and especially useful when you have a fresh, informed angle on a hot story the media already cares about. I worked with my publisher on the infographic you see below to promote my just-released book, The Social Media Side Door: How to Bypass the Gatekeepers to Gain Greater Access and Influence. It covers a lot more than Facebook ads, but that’s the thing people keep asking me about, so I figured it would make a great lede for this post. If you share it on Twitter or Facebook, please use the hashtag #tsmsd. Also, I’m doing a webinar with Vocus on October 16th on this very subject, and I’d love to see you there!

 

You Are a Source

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Four hard truths of exceptional marketing

Four Hard Truths of Exceptional Marketing

There’s money to be made in convincing people that exceptional marketing comes easy, but it doesn’t. I’ve been thinking about marketing’s “hard truths”—those essential but sobering realities that tend to reveal themselves through failure. Maybe the only way to learn these marketing truths is to experience what happens when you contradict their wisdom. Or maybe you’ll read this in time to avoid some particularly thorny terrain (that’s what I prefer to believe). Here we go:

Thought leadership is in the eye of the beholder. It’s always earned, and never bought.

Your audience decides your fate. You can’t produce thought leadership—it’s not a type of marketing. It’s an earned state, and a temporary one at that. You are a thought leader when your audience considers you a thought leader, and not one minute before. You can buy a lot of things that thought leaders tend to have—a six-digit Twitter following and a place on the best sellers list, for example. But these are typically the results of being a thought leader, not the things that get you there.

I was once paired with someone at a small speaking event whose name I wasn’t familiar with. Odd, I thought, because this person had over 100,000 Twitter followers, claimed to be a marketing expert, and also lived in Austin. How had our paths not crossed? After our Q&A session, I asked some friends of mine here in Austin—actual marketing thought leaders—if they knew him. None of them did. After a few minutes perusing his followers, it was clear most of them were fake. Gaming the social proof might have fooled event organizers, but the audience clearly wasn’t impressed with his portion of the session.  They decided he wasn’t a thought leader, so he wasn’t.

Utility is never ignored. Make yourself (and your marketing) useful.

People don’t shut you out when it’s clear that you’re helping them. Most marketing points to some help that the audience will get in the future…if they do X, Y, and Z they don’t really want to do. But the best marketing is itself useful. Every page on your site, every tweet, every email you send to prospects—every one of these is a chance to provide something useful.

And guess what? If you give away something useful, people will want to share it. They want to be useful, too. They’ll also come back for more. Jay Baer wrote a whole book about the concept of utility in marketing, and it looks really…useful!

Buzzwords, jargon and superlatives fool no one.

What’s the difference between the “ground truth” and the “truth”?

Would you rather be “enabled,” or simply “helped”?

Why do customer service reps always put that “do” in between “I” and “apologize,” like “I do apologize for that, Mr. Greenleigh.”

When was the last time you read a company boilerplate and believed they really are “the leading” company in whatever space they play in?

Marketing is like a yearbook where seniors write their own superlatives.

No one buys any of this nonsense. Buzzwords and superlatives can make us feel smart, relevant, part of the tribe, and in control, but they alienate just about everyone else.

Write and speak like the people you want to reach and influence. Even if they use buzzwords, resist the temptation (using buzzwords doesn’t mean one responds to buzzwords).

Show, don’t tell. Marketing should deliver—not promise—value.

“Show, don’t tell” is an old writer’s saying. It means don’t rely on exposition to carry your story forward. Rather, have the story telegraphed through things your characters do (or don’t do), say, their appearance, etc.

Marketers love to tell you about value. They focus a lot on offering things, but not enough on providing them. Here’s a concrete example. One of the transformations I led at Bazaarvoice was taking the blog from promotional to useful. When I arrived, we were still talking about how great our data was, about how much we knew about consumers—and here’s a blog post to promote a webinar where we’ll tell you some of what we know. That kind of thing. I wondered why we shouldn’t just share some of what we know on the blog, and use that content to generate leads. No one objected; it just wasn’t the model my colleagues were used to. Once we got the hang of it, and saw all the right indicators going up and to the right, it seemed so ridiculous that we had focused on offers at the expense of delivery. Take a look at your company blog right now and be honest with yourself: which are you focusing on?

Question: What other hard truths of exceptional marketing would you add to this list? 

 

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Why Facebook hashtags aren’t working–for users or brands

#meh

I celebrated the addition of Facebook hashtags, and even picked a fight or two with naysayers in some of the reactionary threads you see whenever Facebook does anything new. But Facebook hashtags just aren’t working.

To illustrate, let’s compare hashtags on Twitter and Facebook. Say a big story breaks having to do with Syria. Hop over to Twitter.com, and there’s a good chance it will be already featured in the Trends box. Or, just enter #syria into the search box , and you’ll get something like this:

Twitter #syria hashtag search #1 

Want all tweets in a purely chronological order? Just click All, and you get something like this:

Twitter hashtag #syria search #2

Here’s what happens on Facebook when you search for (or click on) a hashtag.

Facebook hashtag #syria

Famous names, popular posts, some posts from regular people with seemingly no logic as to why their content is featured. Not in chronological order. No ability to change anything to do with what or how content is displayed.

No wonder “hashtags aren’t driving additional engagement” for brands, even though 20% of branded posts include them.

Hashtags are one of the ways that Facebook is trying to strike more of a balance between the social graph and the interest graph. That makes sense, because we’re not only interested in what people we know are doing, what they think, etc. We want to follow things and people that interest us personally—regardless of whether our friends care about the same things and people. This is one reason that Twitter has been successful. It capitalized on the interest graph early on, and incorporated ways to connect people to what interests them, not just who they already know. Hashtags were one of the masterstrokes that made Twitter “the interest network.” When news breaks about Syria, like in the example above, do you really want to rely on people you knew in high school (Facebook) to relay it to you?  Facebook saw an opportunity to move into this territory, and started rolling out features like the ability to follow celebrities without actually knowing them (although you’re only getting their public posts). Hashtags were another move in this direction.

But they stripped hashtags of perhaps the most important factor in their popularity: real-time. Without displaying content in chronological order, without including more “unpopular” content from regular people, Facebook made hashtags into a static popularity contest.

One of the other big issues is privacy. Because most Facebook users post content privately (to their friends), you will only see hashtagged content from public posts and your existing Facebook friends. Twitter, however, is asymmetrical—you can see someone’s updates even if they don’t follow you back (unless they’re in the 11.84% of users that have protected accounts).

Facebook was late to the game with hashtags. They’re not used to being the underdog, and in at least this one way, they are. But to change that, they’ll need to quickly improve the experience, make it real-time and customizable, and educate users.

What do you think of Facebook hashtags? Is there any hope?  Share your POV in the comments below.

 

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Does this linkbait make my content look good?

Flickr CC photo credit: user Johnragai

Here’s a simple question with a not-so-simple answer, courtesy of Quora:

Do headlines matter as much as they used to?

The poster clarifies: “I ask this because it seems people are becoming content aggregates, blindly sharing the content of their trusted brands. What do you think?”

My mind immediately went to the concept of signal versus noise and the increasing difficulty of separating the former from the latter. Hillary Read summed it up:

I would say they matter a lot more than they used to. You have roughly 10 words to hook people, period. Attentions spans and patience have dwindled, and your headline has to stand out in a LOT of volume/chaos to get noticed. No good headline, no readers.

I was about to leave the question alone because Hillary and others had already posted an answer I agreed with. Then I switched tabs to TweetDeck and saw a YouTube video floating down the page within a column, followed a few seconds later by a beautiful photo from another user. Content is reaching us whether or not we engage with it. So I penned my answer:

Yes and no. The only thing that prevents me from offering a solid “yes” is the increasing prevalence of “previewable” content. Take the way videos and images are being natively featured within Twitter and Facebook, for example. If these platforms forced users to click on links to view all media, headlines would be exponentially more important. But users don’t rely on the headlines alone, because they don’t have to. They get “content clues” like who has liked or shared something, the description, a representative image (if it’s a video), and other information. Or, as is the case with Twitter and many images, they see even more than a preview of the image, they see the full image in their stream. The other element of this is a kind of diminishing opportunity cost. If I need to leave the page or experience I’m currently enjoying to consume content that I might have interest in (based on a headline or tweet w/ link), I might decide it’s not worth disrupting the experience I’m enjoying. But now that more and more media is viewable within experiences, I don’t feel I’m risking anything (except time) by playing it or reading it.

Jesse posted a great follow-up question, excerpted here:

I believe the “content clues” you’ve mentioned have a growing weight in this “headline equation.” If a friend, person, or brand we highly value shares something and the headline is (literally) “A thing” – I feel like we’re still going to share it. Factoring in the content clues, we see “A thing” by [person or brand we like] and it has social proof (people sharing and commenting), why would we not click it?

…I was wondering, as you’ve mentioned the growing development of preview-able content, do you think a headline (such as “A thing”) will perform better since we can only rely on the surrounding clues (author and social proof)? Do you think we have more of an urge to click on something click this to put our uncertainty to ease?

Here’s me again:

That’s a good question. I think information overload dampens the urge we have to resolve mysteries. I also think hyperbolic “linkbait” / “clickbait” headlines are conditioning audiences to not expect payoffs once they click through. The cliffhanger headline format has been abused to the extent that its effectiveness is at risk. Bottom line is–and I think this is ultimately a good thing for readers and content creators–you have to deliver the goods, up your game, and constantly respond to marketplace needs.

Wikipedia defines linkbait as “any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website.” Lately, the term is also used in reference to bold headlines or posts that drive clicks, visits, and shares.

But I generally use the phrase pejoratively, as in “I can’t believe that linkbait headline tricked me into clicking on this trash.” You know the feeling, right? You expect something from a headline and the content falls far short of what was promised. This kind of linkbait borrows its tactics from tabloids, scare journalism, and other forms of sensationalism. Pick your poison:

Pandering!

Lazily formulaic!

Misleading!

Hyperbolic!

Sensational!

Grossly exaggerated!

Here’s an incredibly stupid (but all too typical) example:

The worst linkbait of all time

The article doesn’t deliver the goods. Half-Life 3 has not been confirmed. Period. But wait!

Here’s what users see if they click “View Summary” right under the tweet:

The worst linkbait of all time, expanded

That’s right: additional content clues, a meatier preview, and a look at the real headline, which, unlike the tweet itself, does not blatantly lie to users.

This is the direction social media is heading: experiencing content in uninterrupted experiences. Twitter’s summary feature is not just a preview of the content it references, but of the direction our media consumption is heading.

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Utility, inner thoughts, creating online conversation, and more
The final cover! Click for the full version.

The final cover! Click for the full version.

The best ideas in content marketing are connected by a simple imperative:  be helpful, or be ignored. Utility is hard to drown out. I touch on this imperative in my book in the section “How to make yourself indispensible with social media.”

It’s odd how difficult it can be to follow one’s own advice sometimes. It would be so easy to fill this blog with barely disguised appeals to buy the book. But that approach only serves my interests, and for you to subscribe, stay subscribed—and hopefully, buy the book—I need to serve your interests.

I’ve posted many useful sections of the book online already, so I’m thinking of other ways to serve the interests of my readers. Today I’m going to try one idea I picked up from David Armano, who turns Quora answers into blog posts. I think the approach is brilliant, frankly. By answering questions within my area of expertise on Quora, I’m building credibility on that platform. Then, by posting those answers to my blog, I’m exposing that helpfulness to a wider audience and repurposing the content for another use—one that’s ultimately closer to my goal of building up a readership interested in buying books. And hopefully, the answers are useful to you. If they are, please upvote them on Quora.

Want more personalized social media or content marketing guidance from me? Register for Quora if you haven’t already. Post a question, then use the Ask to Answer feature to request an answer from me. I’ll post some of the questions and answers here. Alternatively, just email me your question. So, here goes nothing.

Question: “What does the average work day look like for a Social Media Marketer?”

My answer:

There are so many variables, but here are some of the major elements:

  • Content creation (copywriting, image sourcing)
  • Planning (strategies, scheduling, content sourcing from internal and external groups)
  • Responding (addressing customer service issues, praise, other mentions)
  • Outreach (working with influencers, prospects, existing customers)
  • Reporting (monitoring your progress, justifying your efforts)
  • Optimization (using data to do things better)

Question: “Do you use twitter to express your inner thoughts? And why?”

My answer:

Yes, within reason. Actually, my handle (be3d) is shorthand for my Twitter philosophy, “be three-dimensional.” I think individuals like to meet and interact with other individuals on Twitter–they prefer the genuine article, the quirks, the entire package. There is a warmth to a genuine Twitter presence that invites conversation, and expressing one’s “inner thoughts,” provided that they aren’t vulgar or roundly objectionable, is a winning strategy.

Question: “How do you get your users engaged in an online conversation?”

My answer:

The first step is to make the conversation about your users, not about you. This is simple, but it’s probably the number one thing companies get wrong. What connects your users/fans/prospects is so much bigger than your brand. What do they love, and love to talk about? The second step is to connect them to each other. If you can go beyond starting and chiming into conversations, but play the role of a true connector and facilitator, conversations will naturally start between people that share interests, goals, proximity, etc.

Question: “Do you think it’s easier to engage with influencers using a personal social account or a company/brand specific account?”

Personal. In my experience, people like interacting with people. They don’t like ambiguity in communications. They value being able to address, say a response, to an individual, not a corporate entity. They prefer to help people, not the companies they work for. There’s also an important element of accountability: a claim or offer can be traced back to an individual.

 

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Social media bubbles
Flickr CC photo credit: user placbo

Flickr CC photo credit: user placbo

[This is an advance excerpt from The Social Media Side Door, now available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N]

Social media is a landscape that can only be navigated through relationships.

The fact that our access to people and information is now instant and global (or universal, taking into account Curiosity’s Foursquare check-in on Mars and tweets from the International Space Station) is a testament to the power of relationships.

News of the Arab Spring reached most people by way of the ripple effect across overlapping social circles: I follow Tyler, but I don’t follow Tariq. Tyler retweets Tariq, and now Tariq has entered my social circle. If I want to follow him and engage with him, I can make his place within that circle more permanent.

Even news organizations on Twitter are now in the habit of retweeting first-person sources, rather than providing their own content—this is a convenient way of getting to stories quickly while placing the responsibility for veracity on the original sources. Those original sources enter your stream, and thus your social circle, only because someone you choose to follow has chosen to relay them to you as part of her audience.

Ever see a bubble split into two bubbles? It’s like that in reverse. That’s the real “social media bubble.”

Spending time with speakers on the social media conference circuit, one often sees a big difference between their social media and in-person interactions. Though this is an effect that is present in our society in general today, it’s especially apparent in this circle. The most digitally outgoing people can seem reserved at mixers; folks who are “all business” online will often show an edgier side at group dinners. This isn’t disingenuous; it’s a reflection of a new reality in which social media helps us to grow into the people we want to be. People who get tongue-tied or sheepish but want to change themselves for the better can start with their social media selves, where it’s much easier to begin. It makes you wonder what skills are transferring from the digital realm to other areas of life. Does tweeting to thousands of followers every day make a person more comfortable speaking to a crowd of a few hundred strangers? Do a person’s interactions in social media make that person’s everyday encounters a little easier?

In my life the answer has been yes, and I know I’m not alone. Social media, then, is aspirational. It can help you become a better version of yourself.

 

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When Big Social came to town

Big Social

Woe to those that underestimate the power of Big Social.

I’ve seen the expression “wake the beast” used a lot in reference to social media, but the expression never fit—you can’t “wake” something that never sleeps, or more accurately, has never slept.

Social media has been big, powerful, and constantly active for a long time. It’s a largely passive landscape, in which a tiny minority of users actively participates, while the vast majority of users “lurk.” But the concentrations of activity can spring up organically, as when something goes viral, or they can be predictable, like the spike in tweets on US Election Day and during the World Cup.

It’s much more difficult to manufacture such activity levels, and harder still to concentrate that activity and direct it into real progress against a shared goal. In their short history, social media “victories” have been more accident than alignment, more carpet bomb than precision strike.

One of these corporate apology excerpts is not like the others:

Gap:

At Gap brand, our customers have always come first. We’ve been listening to and watching all of the comments this past week. We heard them say over and over again they are passionate about our blue box logo, and they want it back. So we’ve made the decision to do just that – we will bring it back across all channels.

Netflix:

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. Let me explain what we are doing.

GoDaddy:

We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to GoDaddy’s prior support for SOPA. Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.

The first two apologies (Gap and Netflix, respectively) respond to the raw power of social media. Dissent gone viral, reaching a fever pitch. A familiar kind of outcry.

The third (GoDaddy) responds to something new. I call it Big Social.

Big Social is self-aware. It knows the extent of its access. It understands the influence it wields. It has learned how to carry itself with confidence, and how to direct fire with pinpoint precision.

It has a new set of expectations, and both corporations and political institutions are in its sights.

Political institutions, generally the enemies of access, are no longer able to ignore the role of social media in providing access to power and information. “I think we’ve seen really interesting early days here, but if we’re talking about networked democracy, you have to remember that it’s just in its infancy,” says Alex Howard, Washington correspondent with O’Reilly Radar.

Policy makers, particularly government officials and staffers, are overwhelmed by the incoming flood of messages as it is. That’s something that became quite apparent when email entered the picture in the nineties, and then the growth of other kinds of communications since then has only accelerated that. As some people have pointed out, notably Clay Johnson, what Congress actually needs is to grow bigger ears to be able to listen to all of that, and to know who in that huge amount of incoming requests, ideas, feedback, etc., are their constituents—the people that they are supposed to represent.

 

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America’s next top influencer
The measurement standard that just won't die. Flickr CC credit: adoephoto

The measurement standard that just won’t die. Flickr CC credit: adoephoto

The democratization of influence, and the falling costs of audience acquisition, can actually work in companies’ favor. Social media has created an army of citizen influencers—otherwise normal individuals that wield huge social footprints and outsized influence. They discuss and review films, music, products, and everything under the sun. They have earned the uncompensated attention of thousands of subscribers, fans, and followers who tune in by choice—not because they have no other choice. Advertisers have traditionally measured their ads’ effectiveness, in part, by how many sets of eyeballs they reached (for many companies, this is also the primary means by which they attempt to evaluate social media efforts). But eyeballs that are there because they want to be there—interested eyeballs—are much more valuable. Consumers don’t need any prodding to tell each other what they’re buying, using, and wanting to buy. Brands are a big part of how people view themselves, and how people want others to view them. All consumers, to some degree, see the brands they purchase as a reflection of who they are, but Millennials take this association to another level entirely. Edelman Digital found that Millennials are likelier to share brand preference online than any other personal identifier—including religion and race. This generation feels empowered, too. The same study reveals a strong sense of self-importance unique to the Millennials:

We also found that 76 percent of Millennials think they are highly depended on for their opinions.

Put this in your pipe and smoke it

During one my more colorful phases, I took to smoking an old-fashioned tobacco pipe (maybe it made me feel more like a writer?). Problem was, packing a pipe that stays lit for more than a few minutes is more difficult than it looks to the novice. I could have driven the mile and a half back to the tobacconist and sheepishly asked him how to actually make use of the tobacco he sold me, but stubborn pride prevented me. Naturally, I took my query to the web. On YouTube I found hundreds of videos, giving me exactly what I was after. I sorted by popularity and went through the top three at my own pace (all were in the hundreds of thousands of views), positively over the moon that I was able to learn this way, instead of having to request the tutelage of the grizzled tobacconist in front of all the good ol’ boys that hung around the shop. The guys in the videos used different brands of tobacco, and they either talked about why they favored their brand, or the tin labels were clearly in the shot. After combining some of the finer points of all three pipe-packing methods, I visited the tobacconist again, and bought several of the brands featured in the videos that helped me most. These video stars weren’t compensated by the brands they featured, and it’s doubtful that they even received the products for free. They were just sharing what they knew, and what they liked, in a way that helped hundreds of thousands of people who were just starting to develop habits and brand loyalties that may stick for life. I still wonder, how many tins of tobacco were sold as a direct result of these homemade videos? And do these brands have any idea about the videos, and what they’ve done for their brands?

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When reality shines through, consumers discover their superpowers

Reality shines through. CC photo credit: Flickr user Kathrin & Stefan

Hi, readers. Before you dig into this excerpt, I wanted to let you know about a few things I’ve done recently. I wrote a guest post for Brian Solis called “The diffusion of brand, ownership, and experience.”  It’s pretty high-level, but I think you’ll dig it. Also, I interviewed Don Tapscott, author of Macrowikinomics, Grown Up Digital, and Wikinomics. Lastly, I was featured in a short video about consumers realizing the value of their own data, which I embedded at the end of this post, since it’s very much related. That’s all for now. Enjoy the excerpt!

Consumers have escaped the channels that marketers built for them. Before the internet and social media, if we wanted information about a product before purchasing it, or about a company before doing business with it (or working for it), our options were severely limited. If our friends and family had no experience with what we were considering, and journalists weren’t covering it, print, TV, in-store and radio ads filled in the rest. In other words, marketers accessed consumers while consumers accessed content. Businesses were able to minimize the extent to which off-brand and unflattering messages reached consumers. They owned or rented almost all of the real estate in the media landscape, and they perfected the art of wooing a captive consumer audience. The internet, social media, and smart mobile devices gave consumers new avenues of access to information.

Reality began to intrude on the space previously occupied by squeaky-clean marketing facades—consumers were talking to each other, finding alternatives to overpriced or ineffective products, pouring sunlight on business practices that were previously hidden. They began to trust the opinions of total strangers more than the words of advertisers. Some consumer cohorts, like the Millennials (Generation Y), began to trust total strangers more than their own friends and family.

Consumers today can choose where and how to access information and communicate. One’s immediate circle rarely holds all the answers, and for the first time ever, it’s easy to find answers outside of that circle. Not all of the information is accurate; much of the content shared and created lacks substance or is plainly offensive; many consumer complaints are unfounded. But as a whole, we see consumers exercising options that are themselves new—as if all around the world, we’re discovering new superpowers and we’re excitedly learning to use them.

People being born today are digital and social natives, but perhaps more importantly, they are the first fully-empowered generation of consumers. What will they do with their new superpowers, with their new-found access and influence? We’re just beginning to find out, and luckily for those of us who study this kind of thing and businesses that are looking for new avenues to growth, the results are constantly coming in, billions of data points at a time.

Charles Angoff said, “History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard.” The present and future are symphonies of data.

 

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Companies have egos, too.
Story of the Week: Being real is making a comeback online, thanks to trusted networks of friends and family. http://ow.ly/4zMxr
@facebook
Facebook
Note
This is an advance excerpt from The Social Media Side Door, my book about the ways social media has rewritten the rules of access and influence. Subscribe to receive more excerpts, tips, and side door strategies.

In my job as a B2B marketer, access is the name of the game. It’s what everyone’s after, at first. Our job is to create great content that gets people to engage with us, or to create that “positive familiarity” that warms up the call from the salesperson. We’re going for that moment of recognition: “Oh yeah, I know you guys. You put out that video about the future of the Facebook-enabled toaster oven. Sure, let’s talk.” Or something like that. The same forces are at work with business-to-consumer companies, too, except it’s the familiarity is geared to influence the moment of a consumer’s decision, whether online or in the aisles. One of the best ways to gain access to prospects is to write about their industry and challenges, and to mention their companies in the content.  It’s a strange thing to say, but companies have egos, too. This angle shouldn’t be used wantonly, or in every piece of content you put out, but it does work when the tactic is used in a way that doesn’t alienate the rest of your audience for the sake of that single prospect. It also works well with existing clients.

A few years ago, I attended a conference in Las Vegas. It was the first conference I attended while working for Bazaarvoice, and I was going, in part, to prove to my then boss that conferences could help generate great content that would have an impact on the business. Normally, we’d only send salespeople or product marketers with deep knowledge of the technical side of our products (not a content guy like me).  In retrospect, I’m a little embarrassed about how little I knew about what Bazaarvoice actually did at that point, but for some reason I didn’t think I would be put on the spot about it. When I arrived, I saw that one of our clients was presenting. This was a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 company, and yet our relationship with them wasn’t very mature yet—that’s marketing-speak for they weren’t using many of our products, and we weren’t getting paid very much (relative to their market cap).  Fortunately, the topic was interesting to me, and I thought it would be interesting to our blog’s readers as well. I sat anonymously in the audience and took notes. I didn’t know the presenters, and I didn’t have time to introduce myself before the next session.

Later that week, back in Austin, I posted a recap of that session to our blog. I had a few back-to-back meetings, and when I got back to my desk, I saw that Bazaarvoice had been mentioned a few hundred times on Twitter in the space of two hours (this doesn’t happen often). The tweets were from employees and divisions of the company whose session I wrote about. That alone may have been enough to secure me a ticket to the next conference of my choice in the eyes of my then boss. Then I checked the traffic to the post. Through the roof—more traffic that day than any I could recall seeing, ever. A new email notification popped up on my screen, from the salesperson assigned to the account. He had forwarded me a thread that was sent to me by his internal champion at the company. It showed the extent to which the post I had written had wound its way through some of the highest levels of this organization. People there were proud that their colleagues had done so well in their presentation, and it made the company look really progressive. The last message in the thread was a note from our internal champion to our salesperson, thanking us for the coverage, asking if they could set up a meeting soon to talk about expanding the relationship.

This event recap model worked wonders for us again, a few times. After a Facebook executive spoke at our annual conference, I wrote a post about the ideas within his talk. I never directly sent him the link, but within a few hours of publication, our site’s servers were on the brink. Facebook, which (humorously) has a Twitter account with over 5 Million followers, tweeted the piece and posted it to its own Facebook wall. It was one of the highest traffic days in Bazaarvoice history. Companies have egos, and that’s great news for marketers.

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