Marketing is more complex than ever before
Without a crystal ball or a time machine, marketers are left clamoring to understand and keep up with the changing world around them. Audiences are fragmenting, attention spans are getting shorter, and articles about best practices that worked just a few months ago, may not even apply anymore. In the midst of all that, marketers are under more pressure than ever to provide measurable ROI, while also being expected to understand new technology, interface seamlessly with sales, and be the watchdog over every possible use of the brand and logo.
“Marketers need to relax and refocus on the big picture and the long game”
It’s no secret that social media and content marketing have become the primary focus of B2B Marketers, Digital Agencies and CMOs everywhere. A recent study from the Content Marketing Institute found that 88 percent of B2B marketers are using Content Marketing, and in the same study they found that 51 percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their Content Marketing budgets. Similar studies have shown the social media marketing budgets continue to rise, as do the expectations for results. However, the audience you engaged on Facebook yesterday may have moved to Snapchat today, and marketers can only wonder where they will be tomorrow. The way things are evolving, it could easily be a new app, or possibly a virtual reality environment.
All of that could sound daunting and overwhelming to you and it probably should be. But let’s step back and look at what’s happening right now, and make some reasonable suggestions about how to focus your efforts in the near term for maximum results and peace of mind.
For today, don’t worry about everything. Let’s just focus on how to win at Social Media and Content Marketing.
It Starts With Focus
Before thinking about individual strategies or tactics, and before any chance of success, we have to know where to focus our attention. Trying to keep up with the newest tool is not only a difficult task, but the truth is that it actually provides very little return. More important than keeping up with trends and the runaway hype train of today’s must-have app, is to understand the frameworks and functions that power this new marketing landscape. There are five related functions of the social media.
First there’s listening. If you don’t take the time to listen to your audience, and understand their problems, how can you possibly expect to solve it?
Next there’s content. Once you’ve listened to your audience, you can create content to meet their needs, solve their problems, and initiate a dialogue.
The interplay and dialogue that takes place between listening and content is called engagement. Liking, commenting, and sharing your audience’s content, or when they interact with your content is the basis of a relationship with your prospects, customers, partners, and even your competitors.
When there is not enough for you to listen to, and your content is not getting traction, there is understandably no engagement. As a result, you’ll need promotion, which is any method of driving attention to your content, or conversations which you intend to initiate.
Finally, there’s measurement. Each of the aforementioned functions can be measured and optimized for maximum efficiency and results.
Always Keep Your Eye on the Ball
The internet and new technologies have lowered the barrier to entry. So with a relatively qualified and a creative team, it has become very easy to produce content—maybe too easy. And like all good things, once something becomes popular enough, the quality suffers.
As a result, the popularity of content marketing means that, too many people have jumped into it, and without the proper guiding principles. This creates a lot of noise. To fix this and stand out, we need to discuss the guiding principle: audience centricity.
Content Marketing can be used to build brand awareness, generate leads, close sales, and so much more. The big problem is that many marketers mistakenly think that Content Marketing is about directly promoting the brand and forget about the customer. In reality, the most effective content marketers almost never mention the brand, but instead focus entirely around solving the problems of their audience.
Effective content marketing starts with deeply understanding the people you’re trying to influence and spending your time solving their problems in order to build awareness, affinity and trust, which are the foundations for a relationship.
It’s only then, once a relationship has been established that “the ask” should be made.
Make sure that your content marketing plan is structured to first solve problems and build the foundation of a relationship, before starting to sell.
If a Blog Falls in the Forest
You wouldn’t believe how many hours are wasted putting together a blog post that only goes out on Twitter once. It is a strange phenomenon, possibly left over from the early days of social when content reached people organically. This was prior to algorithmically driven newsfeeds, and when fewer people were busy filling our feeds with self promotional garbage.
While you obviously shouldn’t go overboard, you also don’t want to waste all that time and money you spent creating the content in the first place.
Here’s the General Rule
If you spend the time building something truly valuable for your audience, you owe it then to promote it heavily. If you can solve their problem, you need them to see it.
By contrast, if you spend the time creating a puff piece about how great your company is, don’t be surprised when people ignore it, no matter how much you spend on Facebook ads.
Where to Go from Here
Marketers need to relax and refocus on the big picture and the long game. No more bright shiny objects. No more incessant self promotion. We need to get back to basics and we need to be patient. If you know where to focus, keep the customer in mind, and make sure they see the good work you’ve done on their behalf, you should be just fine.