February 04, 2013

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6 Ways to Solve the Content Conundrum Content is king. Content is media. Content is the new black. Social marketers are scrambling to produce content that will engage friends and followers and prompt viral sharing. There is a land rush mentality toward social content. Too many marketers are filling the content box with tired old crap or me-too materials. Before crafting, designing or curating content, consider 6 basic strategies. Be Original or Die. There is no dearth of tips, recipes or snappy motivational ideas in social media or on the Web. Nobody is looking for more. You can’t compete with publishers who are known for their expertise and have significant consumer franchises. Don’t start cranking out me-too copy or images, before you figure out what content feeds your brand image. The critical criterion is … what content will set you apart and be intimately and uniquely linked to your brand? If your content can’t deliver this. Don’t bother. Expose Yourself. Most brands have bits of information, under exposed ingredients, competitive nuances, surprising processes and/or quirky people behind them. Too many are reluctant to mine these rich veins for social content. But helping fans understand who’s behind the curtain and how they do what they do is extremely fertile ground to drive interaction and sharing. What you think is routine; fans find fascinating. Give consumers insight into the character and people of your brand. Calculate Context. Who takes advice or lifestyle tips from their peanut butter, their air conditioner or their snow boots? Understand the real dimensions of utility, value and entertainment between the brand and your fans. The texture and the expectations about customer-brand relationships vary. Consider the variables that influence the relationship (frequency of purchase, frequency of use, complexity of use, cost, level of ego involvement, key purchasers) to guide you in selecting subject matter, developing the appropriate voice and scheduling posts or tweets. If you make shoes can you comment on red carpet fashion? If you sell soap, do you have an opening to discuss family values? If you sell tires, is it credible to look ahead to the Indy 500? Can an insurance company wish fans, “Happy Easter?” Think long and hard about where you fit in customers’ mental maps and what topics you can credibly raise with your audience. Create Categories. In searching for the right context, develop content categories that will give your social communications texture and ultimately can yield a productive and interactive cadence. Typical content buckets include … brand attributes, subjects directly affected by the brand, pop culture or celebrities, promotions, charitable work or holidays and events. Direct Interaction. Social content is the substance of an on-going conversation. Many brands tell and sell too much. They don’t open up enough opportunities for interaction. Be sure you are asking questions, taking polls, soliciting consumer input and responding, referring to popular topics and memes and are being perceived as involved in the on-going social swirl. Be straightforward and be directive. If you don’t ask followers to act; they won’t. This will affect what you post, how you present it and when you post. Social media is high school. Everybody wants to be in on what the cool kids are doing. Offer the jocks, the nerds, the prom queens and the wallflowers opportunities to take part. Figure on stimulating some of the followers; some of the time rather than trying to get everyone fired up at once. Count Carefully. By posting and counting carefully, using embedded and 3rd party tools, you’ll quickly see which topics resonate with your fan base. Then test which sequences of posts or tweets generate the most likes, re-tweets or shares. The savvy social marketing crowd is making data-driven decisions about content. They are zeroing-in on information and entertainment that delights their followers and encourages them to share and re-post. Keen eyes on metrics help leading social brands develop predictable subject cadences to beat Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm, optimize free viral reach and deliver great social media experiences.
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6 Critical Community Management Skills Community managers are in great demand; even though the job description changes from brand to brand and agency-to-agency. Ideally a great community manager is a flexible, curious, literate people person with a minor case of OCD. Community managers are tasked with creating and maintaining a branded social experience that respects and engages customers and prospects. They must present the brand in a positive light plus encourage interaction, conversation and sharing in ways that ultimately satisfy the members of the community and lead to growth in followers, engagement and brand preference. Finding skilled community managers is as hard to do as is doing the job well. Maybe it’s because of the complexity of the skills, sensibilities and tasks required. Consider the 6 essential skills that are central to the job. Brand Sherpa. A community manager has to deeply understand a brand and its audience. He or she must intuitively get the brand voice, personality, tone and manner as well as the positioning of the brand both in customers’ minds and in a competitive arena. By knowing how a particular brand would speak react, respond and converse, in an array of situations the manager can develop a content strategy and an editorial calendar. Social Native. Managers have to inherently understand the always—on nature of social media, the nuances of each platform/channel and the emerging social norms that govern how people present themselves in community. They need to have the same feelings about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and others that their audiences have. They have to feel it naturally and they have to be facile at real-time communication with a finger on the pulse of trending topics and the kinds of content with viral potential. Customer Service Rep. Given the large number of brands interacting on social media, a manager must have a keen sense of urgency around customer service issues both in terms of solving individual problems and shaping the community’s perception of how the brand manages customer service. Part helpmate, part traffic cop and part apologist, the community manager must understand the business and emotional impact of problem solving both for the individual’s involved and for the impact on the larger community of fans or followers. He or she needs to help resolve issues and then merchandise the solution since customers who have had problems resolved tend to tell many more people about the experience. Hall Monitor. A community manager has to enforce norms of civility and good taste in social media. And while each platform has tools to filter racist, vulgar and other forms of unacceptable expression, the manager has to be on the look out for nastiness, sarcasm, and fair play. The objective is not censorship but respectful conversation, even-handed criticism and openness to many different perspectives. Social Director. The community manager has to connect the branded conversation to trending topics, larger cultural issues and the interests of the community. Cadence, frequency and forms of expression are the tools of the trade. Mixing direct one-to-one with one-to-many communication, a manager can direct or expand the conversation, prompt viral sharing and encourage different forms of participation. Being present and involved also means understanding who is at the party, why they are there and what they expect to see, hear and feel and then delivering on these expectations. Analyst. Successful community management is a function of playing close attention to what happens and leveraging those learnings to increase customer interest and satisfaction. Measuring the impact of topics, posts or images to create better conversational rhythms or to insure that more followers see or engage with content are key parts of the role. Developing best practices and tactics to use the idiosyncrasies of each social network to the benefit of a brand and its followers is the objective. Today’s community managers are the digital equivalent of famous hostesses like Pamela Harrison, Susan Mary Alsop or Pearl Mesta and/or legendary TV talk show hosts like Phil Donohue, Sally Jessy Raphael or even Oprah. If they have these six skills they can make all the difference.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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