There is an adage in business that you can have any two out of three deliverables when contracting for a product or service: Quality, Price or Speed—but you only get two. No matter how you parse what you need, you will most likely not be happy with the result. Want it fast and cheap? Ok, but quality suffers. Would you like it fast and top quality? Be prepared to pay for it. You get the idea; you’ll get what you pay for. You can make a similar analogy for engagement. Excellent content, stimulating conversation and a vibrant community are all required for success. Yet too often, brands seem to miss one of the pillars, thereby truncating their ability to optimize both mission and ROI.
We all bemoan the silos that can conspire to make achieving success elusive. The product areas or marketing control the content; the digital team runs the online community and the conversation. Who really can control that since it happens all across the cloud and both online and off? Well, there is a way to make all three perform in sync, and that requires new ways of utilizing your resources.
The first—and often most difficult—step is to create an organizational culture that embraces change and cross-sharing of responsibilities for digital and social communication. A word of advice: don’t try to change the world all at once. Phase it in. Pilot a program with others in the organization willing to collaborate, show some early results and leverage that ‘quick win’ to gain further buy-in. It may seem tough at times, but stick with it. By identifying areas throughout the organization that can create, share and vet content, you will see an increase in cooperation and idea-sharing.
The second step is to listen and understand the motivations of your target audience. What makes them tick? What are the topics and issues of greatest concern? Listen, listen, listen and invite their feedback—it will pay huge dividends to your program. There are many great tools available, but like any technology, they require the human touch and interpretation. Don’t rely solely on automated systems.
Third, make sure your online community complies with all best practices. Have a trained community manager in place that can access internal SMEs to participate in discussions, answer questions that other community members can’t and keep the lines of communication open. It is important to understand that not all community members act alike and will not respond equally to challenges, requests to share or create content or other engagement asks. Treating community members as they would like to be involved, not to simply further your goals, is a tightrope act, but it will pay huge dividends.
Just like the adage that you can have two out of three outcomes in the choice of Quality, Price or Speed, the success of your social/digital initiatives needs to balance all three elements of conversation, content and community. If you are just starting out on this process remember another adage—learn to crawl and walk before you run.
In my last blog post, “Effective Community Managers – Do You Have What It Takes,” I talked about traits that help make a community manager successful. In this blog, I want to address the technology side of the equation. Community managers not only need a specialized skill set, but also the right technology to support their engagement strategy and enable them do their job efficiently and effectively.
For example, ComBlu manages programs for several clients where we employ a community platform to communicate and interact with members, facilitate content creation and amplification, and track and measure the reach and ROI of the program.
To make the right platform decision for your community, start by looking at both the community mission and key functionality requirements. Create a scorecard to evaluate each solution against your requirements and budget. In our example, the platform we need would ideally provide:
With so many great community platforms and tools available today, it is still a challenging task.
We regularly review new tools and platforms along with the latest enhancements to more established solutions. To date, we have found some sophisticated new functionality and strong players on the community side OR on the social amplifications and tracking side. We also know that a number of items on our wish list are ‘on the roadmap’ for these providers. But no single platform offers the integrated end-to-end solution we need today. The report in Business-Software.com’s “The Top 10 Forum and Community Platform Report” seems to echo our findings.
In our clients’ cases, we chose for the last option. We decided to integrate two platforms to meet our community functionality, social amplification and measurement needs. This ‘best-of-breed’ hybrid enables us to go to market on time without compromising on functionality or adding budget dollars.
There are a lot of great platforms and the industry is making great strides in integration of social, content and community. I’m looking forward to the next gen platforms where this functionality is converged to provide the best of the new engagement platforms, analytics suites, gamification and community functionality.
What has your experience been when searching for a community platform? I’d love to hear!
According to Ed Keller, CEO of Keller Fay Group, all media is social and offline word-of-mouth (WOM) is just as important as its online counterpart. This distinction is missed by many social/digital marketers, much to their detriment. How a product or service is presented means virtually nothing compared to the impact of those who share their experience with that product or service. It is the act of communication—whether an endorsement or gripe, rant or recommendation—from someone we trust that determines to great extent how we formulate our own opinion.
This is especially true in the movie industry. This past summer was an expensive lesson for major studios in that, despite very hefty marketing budgets, many films failed. Action movies in particular have their formulas, their heroes and most likely an earlier version—or two or even three. Yet, their target audiences stayed away from at least seven major films this summer by my count. There may be many reasons why these movies failed at the box office, but it certainly wasn’t from abandoning their formula or excluding box office stars. These films are focus-grouped to death to try to guarantee success. What largely contributed to their poor performance was that the expensive hype and buzz prior to the opening could not overcome the actual movie experience and resulting word-of-mouth. “Don’t bother seeing this movie” is the ultimate vote that thousands of consumers cast over and over again. Online or offline didn’t matter and their peers and friends took them at their word. Hollywood thought they had the formula down, the stars in place and the plotline and action scenes scripted just so. But it didn’t work.
So what is the lesson to learn here? Whether it is B2B or B2C, be sure your product or service delivers on its promise. If it does, you’ll get great WOM; if not—watch out. All the social media tools and platforms in the world will not be able to overcome the negative WOM that can stop a speeding mega-action movie in its tracks.
Thanks to Michael Brenner of SAP for allowing us to re-post my guest column on his blog, B2B Marketing Insider, which appeared on September 3, 2013
Why is Content so Painful?
Brands face multiple obstacles when organizing the content function. They must grapple with content proliferation; inconsistent and uncoordinated content creation; the lack of strategic direction in the content insights process; and the difficulty for consumers, customers and prospects to find content that is relevant and timely. Brands identify multiple pain points when dealing with content strategy and the execution of content marketing programs.
ComBlu published The Alchemy of Content: A Formula for Overcoming Four Major Content Pain Points, which focuses on challenges that brands have identified as continuing roadblocks to efficient and effective content. Following is a brief summary of common sense steps for overcoming each pain point. More detailed descriptions can be found in the book.
Pain Point One: Grappling with the best way to organize the content creation and distribution process.
The Problem in Brief: Organizations create content is a dispersed structure often resulting in multiple pieces of content being created by multiple areas of the company with little awareness that other content objects existed or were in production. In addition, often no master editorial calendar drives the content creation or amplification process. The lack of a chief content officer or well defined governance process results in no central authority to lead and direct the content creation process.
Here are five things that brands should do before beginning to create their content organization.
1. Map the current nodes of the content eco-system across the entire enterprise. This requires the authority to create a cross-functional view of how content gets produced.
2. Analyze the map to determine if there is a logical flow and uncover interdependencies between groups that can impact efficiencies and approvals.
3. Study the delta between current and future state and create a step strategy for breaking down siloes and working cross functionally.
4. Create a content governance structure that aligns with future state.
5. Adopt a center of Excellence approach that is both dynamic and inclusive.
Pain Point Two: Figuring out the best way to “feed the content beast.”
The Problem in Brief: Many brands overcompensate for their role as content publisher by generating a ton of content and indiscriminately amplifying it across as many channels as possible. The real goal is to create fewer pieces of “epic” content that kindles an “aha” moment when a person discovers it and realizes it is just what they need right now.
Here’s an approach for making your content resonate deeply at the point of discovery?
1. Start with an insights process that provides deep understanding, fresh perspective and a honed vision of what will resonate and fulfill a specific need. In our experience, there is no dearth of available background information to inform story ideation and road map development, but typically information is scattered throughout the organization with no systematic way to capture, analyze and apply it
2. Model the insights process for a specific need and use the results to create a COE methodology for content insights. This involves overlaying inputs from multiple points such as SEO reports, listening scans, CMS & CRM data, conference reports, sales insights, customer insights and research reports, etc. Overlay inputs and create a topic “Venn diagram” to determine topics best suited for brand differentiation and marketplace resonance.
3. Use results to create a content roadmap. Audit existing content to identify holes and get new content needs into the content production cycle.
Pain Point Three: Finding the optimum content cadence or publishing cycles.
The Problem in Brief: Many brands still fall into the trap of thinking they need to produce content because they have a publishing cycle that dictates “x” pieces of content per week or month. They use traditional time-stamped publishing models to schedule content. However, if the nature and quality of your content is optimized, you may be able to publish less frequently with better effect.
One of the key outcomes of the insights process is data that informs both content cadence and publication timing. It requires the brand to view the output from the insights process through a different lens.
1. Start by looking at events that can impact the timing of content publication. Cyclical events, seasonal dynamics or conferences are good examples.
2. Create a timeline that maps pertinent “timing” events. Include conference topics aligned with hot topics, upcoming publications of books or white papers, release of blockbuster entertainment events, issuance of government regulations or dates of special hearings, seasonal or cyclical events, marketing campaigns, etc
3. Look for clusters of events around each hot topic to identify content sprints for each topic. Adjust the content road map to accommodate for these points of topic interest.
Pain Point Four: Determining if content is working hard enough for the investment made.
The Problem in Brief: Content ROI is subjective and driven by the business mission or objectives of the content marketing program. An integrated approach to measurement yields a value story as opposed to simply tracking activity metrics
Defining your value story requires a methodical approach.
1. Clearly identify KPIs aligned with business mission.
2. Identify the metrics that will work as a unit to tell a value story.
3. Identify the sources of those metrics and pull into a dashboard using connectors.
4. Create an algorithm that weights each metric in relation to their importance to the “story.”
5. Analyze performing and non-performing metrics for each KPI on a periodic basis and use to calibrate approach.
In 2011 ComBlu published Content Supply Chain, an eBook that laid out a strategic framework for forecasting content needs, managing production and publication and measuring its impact on business goals. ComBlu’s new eBook delves into content pain points and presents a method for attacking and taming each one. If you’re interested in reading about these topics in greater detail, you can download it here.
About Kathy Baughman
Kathy Baughman is president and co-founder of ComBlu, an organization specializing in influencer marketing and customer advocacy, content strategy and analytics. Kathy’s forte is content, social engagement and social business strategy. Her passions include bringing a fresh point of view to everything she does and helping organizations take their programs to the next level.
Kathy recently authored two eBooks, Content Supply Chain, and The Alchemy of Content. She also writes the firm’s annual research report, "State of Online Branded Communities".
From MySpace is the main place to “what’s MySpace?” illustrates how rapidly social media has evolved. Not only do network sites come and go, but the technology to share information and connections has also grown exponentially. As brands and individuals engage in social media conversations, it often seems that they are talking at each other rather than to one another. One explanation for that is the level of maturity or experience of the participants. By maturity, I don’t mean simply “age-appropriate,” but rather a sense of community, of sharing, of not just being all about me. The recent stunt at the MLB All-Star Game, where a spectator vowed to run onto the field if he received 1,000 tweets or retweets, is the epitome of selfishness. He got his “ask” and then he got arrested, but one wonders if he got any “sense” at all.
Brands have to be cognizant of their own online behavior and “asks” so that they do not appear to be immature. There is big difference between playful humor and rude arrogance—and brands need to be aware of the distinction. Always drawing attention may seem natural to a brand marketing manager, but it is not in the best long-term interest of their product or service. Showing how the product or service relates to the consumer, whether B2B or B2C, is the first step in mature behavior. That relationship is what others want to learn about. The how and why a product matters to others is the real currency of online conversation.
Another indicator of mature behavior is the willingness to let others in on the conversation and to be part of the dialogue. Don’t let your desire to be all-marketer-all-the-time define your online community. Ask for and listen to the opinions of others. Share those comments and observations and see how well that behavior can improve results. Even though a branded community needs to have business goals and meet certain KPIs, it needs to do so in a mature fashion to really make the grade.
Have you noticed any outrageous behavior by brands? Feel free to share.
Recently, I attended a content marketing conference with a colleague and was surprised when the opening keynote speaker used the “f-word” in her presentation. I was even more surprised when no one in the audience seemed to care – and a few people even applauded. Throughout the multi-day event, profanity kept creeping into remarks. And, in one breakout session, a speaker had “WTF” in bold print on one of the slides, and used the full term in her verbal remarks.
I asked a few people at the meeting, and since returning to Chicago, if they had seen this at other conferences or in other industries. Surprisingly, several folks had said they had noticed an increase in mild to obvious profanity references in content over the last six months. When I asked people why, I got pretty much the same response: people are looking for a way to grab attention and profanity is disruptive. But is using profanity really creating disruptive content?
In the era of content marketing, what you create or curate needs to stand out from the vast amount of content your target audience will encounter online. Content needs to be compelling and interesting. To grab audience attention, you need to disrupt their existing stream of content and get them to focus on what you are sharing. At ComBlu, we define disruptive content as high value, unique branded content that challenges a way of thinking or practice, and cuts through the noise to which your audience is exposed. We also think disruptive content must include a call to action. Otherwise, you are just contributing to the noise. When it comes to content creation this means instead of creating what your audience expects you should spend time on a completely different angle to deliver a novel solution or idea that challenges the way they currently think or do business.
Disruptive content is not easy to create. It takes a great deal of time and thought to create content that:
- Take a different and unique look at a topic of critical importance to your audience;
- Align with your audiences’ understanding of the issue and their ability to effect or contribute to a solution;
- Relates to what you do. It does not make sense to position yourself as a thought leader in an area in which you provide no products or services.
By its very nature, disruptive content is eminently shareable. Make sure you encourage that result. What’s it is not is the one time use of a shock tactic, like profanity, to gain attention. And, if you don’t agree with me then (insert the profane statement of your choice)!
Titled The Alchemy of Content: A Formula for Overcoming 4 Major Content Pain Points, the new eBook focuses on four key content marketing pain points that brands encounter when implementing a content strategy and executing content marketing programs.
The book was written as a companion piece to the firm’s 2011 Content Supply Chain eBook that laid out a strategic framework for forecasting content needs, managing production and publication and measuring its impact on business goals.
The Alchemy of Content takes the content marketing conversation to a new level and presents a method for attacking and taming each of the four major pain points. If you’re interested in reading about these topics in greater detail, you can download the book for free here.
Last week I was talking with a client about a new community they will be rolling out and their need for a community manager. The conversation went like so many do: “Does this really need to be a full-time person? Can’t someone already on our team take this over?” And, as usual I answered “yes!” because saying “duh!” is really unprofessional.
It got me thinking that we talk a lot about the role of the community manager. It might be time to stop thinking about them as another FTE and start thinking about them as investments. The world of finance tells us that a good investment is one that results in a yield greater than the initial investment and continues to do so over time. Using this standard, community managers really are a good investment. Their “yield” can be seen when you take a strategic approach to community management.
Your community management strategy should take into consideration your strategic business goals and how the community can advance them. Two of the many areas where community managers make a measurable difference are service and sales.
Your community manager can focus on reducing the number of service or support calls by monitoring common questions and developing content to address these. Also, the community manager can develop and support members within the community to provide peer counsel and resolution of issues. No matter the size of your organization, the ability to reduce the time and personnel spent on support is a great yield. In addition, a fast response from the community is a great boost to customer/member satisfaction.
Your community manager can also monitor community dialogue and activity to generate sales leads via online touch points like blog posts, eBooks and webinars. This strategic approach involves asking questions, listening effectively to needs and concerns and helping to position products and services as a solution. They can also feed this intelligence to other parts of your organization and engage them in responsive action. While you want the sales support aspects of your community manager to be subtle, the ability to monitor community activity and dialogue from a sales perspective and act on the resulting insights is a great community management yield.
When you consider other areas where your community manager and community management strategy can deliver results, like product creation, brand advocacy and customer recruitment, then the ROI is clear. And, if you have a community manager but are not getting the ROI you need, perhaps they just need some training. Check out the great on-demand education that WOMMA offers on community management. I may be biased because our team helped create this with the great folks at The Community Roundtable, but these community management training sessions cover both contextual topics like market trends, strategy, metrics, measurement and culture, as well as specific business use cases like social customer support, internal community building, community in government and more.
I believe that a great community strategy and a well-trained community manager can deliver measurable and lasting results for an organization. But like any investment, you have to nurture your community manager and have a responsive and scalable strategy in order to get the “yield” you need.
If you were to sit down in any one of these seats in the below picture, could you decipher what was going on in a reasonable period of time while at 38,000 feet? What if your life depended on it? Without some serious help, probably not.
What would you do? Nothing? Start pushing any button that blinked red? You’d be taking action without a clear understanding of the implications of your decisions. You’d find out soon enough if you guessed right though.
This picture accurately depicts the amount of data that marketers have coming at them today. Like the above picture, the data sources are almost overwhelming and more often than not, it can put the untrained or uninitiated into data overload. Unlike the trained pilot who has a standards-based plan that goes along with anything the gauges tell him, most marketers are blind to the implications and root causes that are driving the information they receive. Instead, they look for red blinking lights.
Unfortunately, when any light starts to blink, most respond with the same urgency as another and miss many tell tale metrics because those metrics are buried in with a host of less important ones…if it isn’t blinking, it isn’t important. The the airplane’s cockpit jammed with all the gauges, dials, knobs, buttons and displays, finding what you need to optimize your social efforts either requires a team of highly trained professionals, or a more intelligent interface.
Having an intelligent dashboard that knows how to properly display what’s important to you rather than just showing everything can mean the difference between success and failure. With respect to this, here are a few things that I regularly hear:
1. Most activities look the same in terms of their level of importance. I don’t have any way to normalize this.
2. Information is grouped by originating source (i.e. Radian 6, Adobe, Google Analytics, Jive, etc.). It isn’t integrated by topic or area of importance (i.e. ‘Hydraulic Systems’ if you are a pilot).
3. I have no way of directly linking my information to key strategic imperatives (i.e. ‘Collision warning, pull up!)
4. I have very few ways to show the direct benefit to my stakeholders of our social initiatives to the overall business enterprise (i.e. ‘This morning’s flight from Chicago to Dallas has taken 1.4 hours and we will be arriving 18 minutes early. For those of you with tight connections, you will have plenty of time to get to your gates without sprinting’).
For several years now, we have been tracking these issues carefully, as well as, being able to effectively measure them. We have come to learn that knowing what you are measuring and its relative importance is as important to tracking it in the first place. We built SPI to solve these problems.
We know that being able to make the information easy to understand and actionable is critical. So we invented SPI (Social Performance Index). For the first time, brands can effectively track important interdependent value metrics such as:
We think that like the evolution to a digital, smart cockpit that makes pilots more effective and efficient, SPI will provide the same value to marketers and those throughout the enterprise who rely on them for critical insights and effective action.
If you are a marketer and rely on multiple data and information streams, SPI will most assuredly increase your effectiveness.
To learn more about SPI, take a test drive or hear what other brands using SPI are saying, drop us a note at email@example.com
In 2011, we published Content Supply Chain, an eBook that laid out a strategic framework for forecasting content needs, managing production and publication and measuring its impact on business goals. ComBlu has created a companion, Epic Content Strategy: A Formula for Overcoming 4 Major Content Pain Points, which deals with four key pain points of content marketing. Following is a preview of the new eBook, which will be published mid-May.
Pain Point One: Brands recognize their role as a content publisher, but still grapple with the best way to organize the content creation and distribution process. Most of the information about organizing the marketing function as a content publisher follows the media or newsroom model. While instructive, the larger point is missed. Most brands today publish a massive amount of content. The real pain point is not having a central view of who is producing content and how to create better points of collaboration. In the typical organization, many pieces of content are being created about the same topic by multiple areas in the company with little or no awareness that the other content objects already existed or were in process. The lack of a well-defined governance process leads to inefficiencies, wasted time and resources and a suboptimal content experience both internally and externally. Many brands try to build a content organization without first understanding their full, existing content ecosystem. Failure to do this will create new, more complex pain points. Ouch!
Pain Point Two: Brands still wonder if they can continue to effectively “feed the content beast.” In fact, according to a Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs study, 64 percent of marketers say their biggest challenge is creating sufficient content. Marketers fret that they will never have enough content to reach people and stay top-of-mind at every point of the buyer’s journey. In reality, the brand will never maintain the post position in the day-to-day lives of customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Content whizzes past people’s consciousness so quickly that they barely have time to bookmark, download or save it. And even if they do, they may not remember they did so when they need it.
Many brands overcompensate for these dynamics by generating a ton of content and indiscriminately amplifying it across as many channels as possible. The real goal is to worry less about content volume and instead create fewer pieces of “epic” content that kindle an “aha” moment when a person discovers it and realizes it is just what they need right now. That is how most people consume content. They go find it when they need it.
Finding the right mix will help eliminate the “feeding the beast” syndrome as less of the content creation burden falls on the internal content team. This requires an insights process that forecasts the right content and topics along the decision journey.
Once the roadmap is complete, creating the right content becomes a more focused effort. One outcome of the insights process is the creation of filters that can be incorporated into a checklist or scorecard to gauge the overall effectiveness of each content asset. These filters would include segment relevance, message attractiveness, appropriate voice for genre or format, contribution to KPI, ability to differentiate and pertinence to the marketplace. This tool will focus authors and give editors or strategists a process to optimize the value of content. And, if the content is both emergent and engaging, it will have a longer shelf life, which can result in the need for fewer pieces of content.
Pain Point Three: Content cadence is another big conundrum. Many brands still fall into the trap of thinking they need to produce content because they have a publishing cycle that dictates “x” pieces of content per week or month. They use traditional time-stamped publishing models to schedule content. An emerging best practice is to monitor the content amplification process to uncover the natural rhythms and life cycle of your content. This will probably vary for each distribution channel and can be impacted if you publish content that regularly goes viral. However, if the nature and quality of your content is optimized, you may be able to publish less frequently with better effect.
One of the key outcomes of the insights process, referred to in Pain Point Two, is data that informs both content cadence and publication timing. It requires the brand to view the output from the insights process through a different lens; one that is time-based and will uncover natural points when content topics will have better resonance and opportunity for content breakthroughs.
Pain Point Four: Brands want to know if their content is working hard enough for the investment made. Content ROI is subjective and driven by the business mission or objectives of the content marketing program. An integrated approach to measurement yields a value story as opposed to simply tracking activity metrics. The important thing is to know which content is performing and which distribution channels provide the best positioning and consumption. The resulting data becomes another source for the insights process so that efficiencies and effectiveness evolve exponentially. Brands run into difficulty when they believe that placing multiple activity metrics next to each other on a dashboard will actually tell them a value story. The trick here is to pull metrics from multiple sources into a single dashboard for each KPI. This allows analysis that gleans insights and creates a path for appropriate action.
ComBlu’s new eBook delves into these pain points and presents a method for attacking and taming each one. If you’re interested in reading about these topics in greater detail, you can pre-register for a copy of the eBook by filling in the form below. We’ll send you a copy immediately upon publication.