Integrated Marketing – Online Marketing Blog – TopRank® http://www.toprankblog.com Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:30:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 A Non-Agency Guy Reflects on His First Year at TopRank Marketing http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/04/working-at-toprank-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/04/working-at-toprank-marketing/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 10:30:59 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=24131 TopRank Marketing Team

TopRank Marketing Team

Liking where you work is not an optional luxury. At least it sure shouldn't be.

Spending 40 hours of every week at a place you dread is a tough way to go through any stretch of life. I've been there and I'm sure many of you have as well — especially if you work in digital marketing, which can often be a fast-paced, demanding, and stressful field.

So last year, when I decided to pursue a new professional venture, finding the right culture fit was a huge priority for me. As I started exploring the possibility of joining the TopRank Marketing team, I had some reservations; not because of anything specific to the company, but because it’s an agency.

I hadn't work at agencies much in the past. I was familiar with the stereotypes, the paradigms, the lamentations. While confident in my skill set being very applicable in this world, I couldn't help but wonder if it was the right world for me.

Would the constant reality of client demands stifle my creativity? Would the permeating structure of workflow management systems prove suffocating? Would I be intimidated as a newbie working alongside people who've been in such a setting forever?

Well, as you can tell, I took the plunge. And I'm very glad I did. I'm coming up on my one-year anniversary here at TopRank Marketing and can happily say that up to this point, it has been an extremely rewarding experience, unhindered by those negative agency archetypes mentioned above.

If you're a talented writer, strategist, SEO or analyst considering a career move, I highly recommend checking out TopRank Marketing — even if you've never worked in an agency. Here are five reasons I've felt right at home.

#1 - Business Casual

I'm not just talking about dress code. The environment here here strikes the right balance between business and casual. In the years prior to coming aboard, I'd spent time working downtown at a big corporate bank as well as at an ultra-leisurely tech startup, so I've experienced both ends of the spectrum and didn't love either extreme.

I know from speaking to others that certain agencies can veer a little too far in the direction of informality, with flip-flops and Monday morning mimosas and lax attendance standards. From my view, these kinds of things can quickly become distractions, preventing people from being seriously focused on their work. At TopRank Marketing, the vibe is laid back enough that it's always comfortable and easygoing, but not so much that anyone is apt to lose sight of their duties or commitments.

#2 - Cool Clients

Working with big-league clients also helps us keep our eyes on the prize. One thing that has become quite clear to me in my time at TopRank Marketing is that we are very deliberate about the businesses we engage as an agency. There's a strong emphasis on finding the right fits and aiming high.

Partnering with recognizable and respected enterprise companies such as Dell, LinkedIn, and SAP keeps us on our toes and challenges us to raise the bar. I'm continually impressed by the innovation and big thinking on display in these organizations.

During client meetings, I get to interact with sharp people and I find there's a high degree of mutual respect. I haven't personally encountered exasperations with companies that just don't "get it," which I hear a lot about from friends and peers working at other agencies.

#3 - Awesome Team

Not only do our clients keep me on my toes — so do my coworkers. To me, this is probably the most invigorating aspect of working at TopRank Marketing. Each day I get the chance to absorb knowledge from tremendously adept and skilled pros in various disciplines. This is by design; attracting and retaining high-caliber talent is central to our operation.

The collaborative culture enables our team to collectively reach new heights. I'm fortunate to build out my own expertise by learning from our specialists in search, SEO, strategy, analytics, design, content and more. Hopefully I'm able to impart some of my own knowledge as well. 

#4 - Growth Opportunities

Just a few months after starting here at TopRank Marketing, I was able to attend Digital Summit Minneapolis and rub shoulders with some of the industry's biggest names as a representative of our agency. It was a cool opportunity right out of the gates, and speaks to the windows that are opened for anyone with such aspirations. I've also gotten to write several times for the renowned TopRank blog, providing me with a platform for visibility and brand-building in the marketing community.  

As employees we are adamantly encouraged to branch out, gain new competencies, take on speaking engagements, and become public faces for the agency if they show that initiative. There's a very legitimate and earnest focus on personal development that I believe to be rare.

#5 - Taking Pride

It's honestly cool to tell people where I work.

I've quickly learned that TopRank Marketing has a stellar rep, fueled in large part by our CEO Lee Odden, who regularly appears as a keynote speaker all around the world promoting our brand and extolling our talent. Being able to work with prestigious international clients gives me a daily feeling of impact and accomplishment. There's also a certain thrill inherent to being on the cutting edge with so many tactics and frontiers — most notably B2B influencer marketing at the moment.

I Guess I’m an Agency Guy Now

I'm not going to say it's easy, nor that every day is free of stress or struggle. But I’m not sure I would even want that. I will say that on those more difficult days, I always have the support and structure necessary to overcome.

I had no idea what to expect with my first real venture into the agency world, but what I’ve found at TopRank Marketing is an accommodating environment, meaningful work, amazing colleagues, clear avenues for growth, and a real sense of pride.

That pretty much covers the checklist I had coming in. If yours looks similar, and you think you’ve got a professional skill set befitting one of our openings, you should get in touch and see if TopRank Marketing might be a match for you. Even if the word “agency” makes you bristle a little bit.

I might be biased, but not without good reason.

The post A Non-Agency Guy Reflects on His First Year at TopRank Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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TopRank Marketing Team

TopRank Marketing Team Liking where you work is not an optional luxury. At least it sure shouldn't be. Spending 40 hours of every week at a place you dread is a tough way to go through any stretch of life. I've been there and I'm sure many of you have as well — especially if you work in digital marketing, which can often be a fast-paced, demanding, and stressful field. So last year, when I decided to pursue a new professional venture, finding the right culture fit was a huge priority for me. As I started exploring the possibility of joining the TopRank Marketing team, I had some reservations; not because of anything specific to the company, but because it’s an agency. I hadn't work at agencies much in the past. I was familiar with the stereotypes, the paradigms, the lamentations. While confident in my skill set being very applicable in this world, I couldn't help but wonder if it was the right world for me. Would the constant reality of client demands stifle my creativity? Would the permeating structure of workflow management systems prove suffocating? Would I be intimidated as a newbie working alongside people who've been in such a setting forever? Well, as you can tell, I took the plunge. And I'm very glad I did. I'm coming up on my one-year anniversary here at TopRank Marketing and can happily say that up to this point, it has been an extremely rewarding experience, unhindered by those negative agency archetypes mentioned above. If you're a talented writer, strategist, SEO or analyst considering a career move, I highly recommend checking out TopRank Marketing — even if you've never worked in an agency. Here are five reasons I've felt right at home.

#1 - Business Casual

I'm not just talking about dress code. The environment here here strikes the right balance between business and casual. In the years prior to coming aboard, I'd spent time working downtown at a big corporate bank as well as at an ultra-leisurely tech startup, so I've experienced both ends of the spectrum and didn't love either extreme. I know from speaking to others that certain agencies can veer a little too far in the direction of informality, with flip-flops and Monday morning mimosas and lax attendance standards. From my view, these kinds of things can quickly become distractions, preventing people from being seriously focused on their work. At TopRank Marketing, the vibe is laid back enough that it's always comfortable and easygoing, but not so much that anyone is apt to lose sight of their duties or commitments.

#2 - Cool Clients

Working with big-league clients also helps us keep our eyes on the prize. One thing that has become quite clear to me in my time at TopRank Marketing is that we are very deliberate about the businesses we engage as an agency. There's a strong emphasis on finding the right fits and aiming high. Partnering with recognizable and respected enterprise companies such as Dell, LinkedIn, and SAP keeps us on our toes and challenges us to raise the bar. I'm continually impressed by the innovation and big thinking on display in these organizations. During client meetings, I get to interact with sharp people and I find there's a high degree of mutual respect. I haven't personally encountered exasperations with companies that just don't "get it," which I hear a lot about from friends and peers working at other agencies.

#3 - Awesome Team

Not only do our clients keep me on my toes — so do my coworkers. To me, this is probably the most invigorating aspect of working at TopRank Marketing. Each day I get the chance to absorb knowledge from tremendously adept and skilled pros in various disciplines. This is by design; attracting and retaining high-caliber talent is central to our operation. The collaborative culture enables our team to collectively reach new heights. I'm fortunate to build out my own expertise by learning from our specialists in search, SEO, strategy, analytics, design, content and more. Hopefully I'm able to impart some of my own knowledge as well. 

#4 - Growth Opportunities

Just a few months after starting here at TopRank Marketing, I was able to attend Digital Summit Minneapolis and rub shoulders with some of the industry's biggest names as a representative of our agency. It was a cool opportunity right out of the gates, and speaks to the windows that are opened for anyone with such aspirations. I've also gotten to write several times for the renowned TopRank blog, providing me with a platform for visibility and brand-building in the marketing community.   As employees we are adamantly encouraged to branch out, gain new competencies, take on speaking engagements, and become public faces for the agency if they show that initiative. There's a very legitimate and earnest focus on personal development that I believe to be rare.

#5 - Taking Pride

It's honestly cool to tell people where I work. I've quickly learned that TopRank Marketing has a stellar rep, fueled in large part by our CEO Lee Odden, who regularly appears as a keynote speaker all around the world promoting our brand and extolling our talent. Being able to work with prestigious international clients gives me a daily feeling of impact and accomplishment. There's also a certain thrill inherent to being on the cutting edge with so many tactics and frontiers — most notably B2B influencer marketing at the moment.

I Guess I’m an Agency Guy Now

I'm not going to say it's easy, nor that every day is free of stress or struggle. But I’m not sure I would even want that. I will say that on those more difficult days, I always have the support and structure necessary to overcome. I had no idea what to expect with my first real venture into the agency world, but what I’ve found at TopRank Marketing is an accommodating environment, meaningful work, amazing colleagues, clear avenues for growth, and a real sense of pride. That pretty much covers the checklist I had coming in. If yours looks similar, and you think you’ve got a professional skill set befitting one of our openings, you should get in touch and see if TopRank Marketing might be a match for you. Even if the word “agency” makes you bristle a little bit. I might be biased, but not without good reason.

The post A Non-Agency Guy Reflects on His First Year at TopRank Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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4 Tips for an Out-Of-This-World B2B Marketing Agency Partnership http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/out-of-this-world-agency-partnership/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/out-of-this-world-agency-partnership/#respond Tue, 07 Nov 2017 11:30:56 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23214 Who was the first person to set foot on the moon? Of course the answer is Neil Armstrong — who else? But, actually, the question really is “who else?” In order for Armstrong to walk the moon, there were innumerable individuals who contributed something large or small to get him there. His mom and dad, [...]

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Who was the first person to set foot on the moon? Of course the answer is Neil Armstrong — who else?

But, actually, the question really is “who else?” In order for Armstrong to walk the moon, there were innumerable individuals who contributed something large or small to get him there. His mom and dad, Mission Control, fellow astronaut and crew member Buzz Aldrin, a nation of taxpayers — and the list goes on.

What’s the point? Simply put, there’s no doubt that Armstrong was an amazing pioneer, but he didn’t get to the moon — or back home — alone. It took a team.

Being a marketing pioneer in the B2B technology space is no different. You need to have skills and ambition of your own, but you also need an amazing team by your side.

“The technology industry is synonymous with rapid pace and constant change, and technology marketers are expected to lead that change,” trusted colleague and client Angela Schwecke, Senior Director of Global Audience Marketing at SAP SuccessFactors, said. “Success depends on many factors, but the most important is choosing the right team, not the least of which is your agency.”

So, how can you be sure you have the right team aboard your mission? Let’s blast off and explore the four critical characteristics of an outstanding partnership with a marketing agency, plus snag some pointers from marketers like you on how to make your client-agency partnership soar.

Always-On, “Snoopy Cap” Communication

It’s no secret that astronauts must wear protective, pressurized suits to keep them safe whenever they exit a spacecraft. And as you might expect, constant communication with their team is critical. So, their space suit comes equipped with a Communications Carrier Assembly, which is often called: the “Snoopy Cap.”

Just like astronauts must stay in direct, always-on communication during spacewalks for safety and effectiveness, so too must a client and agency to be successful.

In the B2B space, you’re likely fielding communications from a variety of stakeholders inside and outside of your Mission Control center. As a result, you need an agency partner who can cut to the chase — with good news and opportunities.

Expect your agency to regularly share what is happening with your results. In a perfect world, your results would always give you over-the-moon warm-fuzzies. But if the results aren’t where you’d like them, expect your agency to acknowledge that directly and bring you an action plan. A great partner should serve up solutions — not problems.

Flight Surgeon Trust

In the early days of space exploration, astronauts-in-training avoided their flight surgeons at all costs. Just one sneeze in front of their doc might get them grounded. Today, things are different. Flight surgeons have strong partnerships with astronauts. From riding along during training exercises to flying in T38s, flight surgeons do everything they can to ensure astronauts stay on flight status. Once in flight, astronauts can feel safe putting their health in their flight surgeon’s hands because they’ve become a trusted partner.

In our experience, top-performing marketing programs are rooted in a similar, strong, trusting client-agency partnership. To select an agency, listen to your gut during the sales process. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or pressured up front, it might not be a fit.

Then look for signals that instill confidence from Day 1 of your partnership:

  • Are they asking critical questions to completely understand your objectives, priority metrics, audience, industry, brand voice, key messages and more?
  • Do they understand your marketing mix and how their contribution fits in?
  • Are they genuinely interested in how your brand can solve problems for your customers?
  • Are they familiar with the intricacies of your industry?

Once you’re feeling comfortable with your agency, don’t be afraid to give them the joystick. You hired them for a reason. Let them push boundaries and you might be surprised how high you can soar.

Mission-Specialist Thought Leadership

A “mission specialist” is an astronaut with specific expertise who comes aboard a spaceflight to lead a particular research project. These individuals may not be able to fly a space shuttle, but they are the absolute best at what they do.

Expect your agency partner to be the mission specialist and a strategic thought leader on your team. Esteemed marketer and client, Katie Levinson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at LinkedIn Elevate, said partnering with a strategic thought leader is her top priority when solidifying a long-term partnership.

“I like agencies who bring fresh new ideas to the table, and the ideas are based on the goals of my business and their knowledge of my target audience,” she said.

Schwecke also added that your agency partner in the B2B tech space should be able to help you lead marketing change, have their pulse on modern marketing hallmarks and be able to create star-studded communications.

“Tech marketers must look for an agency that not only embraces, but embodies change,” she said. “Many agencies will claim to have B2B tech capabilities, but spend time drilling down on those details.”

“Look for a team that embraces modern marketing hallmarks like digital, social, and influencer marketing,” Schwecke added. “You’ll be able to find a few. But rarer still, will be the agency that understands the how those marketing elements can be combined to create new and disruptive communications. If they are passionate about that, you have a winner.”


Tech marketers must look for an agency partner that embraces & embodies change. @aschwecke
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Your agency should continue to earn their seat in the cockpit by bringing forward new ideas and by iterating on tactics based on learnings. You don’t want an agency that is going to sit still.

“We Have Lift Off” Execution

Perhaps one of the most iconic quotes from the launch of the Apollo 11 mission — the mission that would land humans on the moon — is “We have lift off.” As it relates to choosing a trusted agency partner, the former characteristics discussed don’t mean much if your agency can’t execute.

Many agencies can show you a beautiful presentation, but if they are not driving results aligned with your objectives then what’s the point?

When it comes to selecting an agency that can execute the mission, Levinson said: “I look for attention to detail, creative thinking, and the ability to stick to a timeline (or beat it) as key for success long-term.”

She also noted it was important for an agency to drive optimization after tactics are implemented:

“Along with this, the ability to optimize content and other programs through performance metrics is key,” Levinson said. “It’s not enough to launch a program — an agency needs to help you understand if it’s successful and how to make the next project even better.”


The ability to optimize through performance metrics is key. - @kplevins on working with an agency
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Look for a partnership where your agency leads the charge with thoughtful execution, quickly followed by measurement and optimization.  

Astronaut Training Never Stops

No astronaut can be flight-ready without intensive, ongoing training. If you really want to fly, take some advice from stellar content marketer and longtime client, Emily Miller, Content Strategy Lead at Pantheon.io:

“Working with an agency is a two-way street,” she said. “It is important as a client to make sure you’re upholding your end of the agreement. You can’t expect the agency to be successful if you aren’t willing or able to put in the energy to make sure they understand your business. That includes sending timely and constructive feedback, as well as doing your homework before meetings to make sure you’re both getting the most out of the time.

“From the agency side, I always appreciate when account managers document meetings and follow up with what was discussed and who has ‘homework’ so that we aren’t re-hashing the same thing each meeting.”


It is important as a client to make sure you’re upholding your end of the agreement. Emily Miller
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You can help your agency become a trusted extension of your marketing team by:

  • Providing frequent, constructive feedback – even if the conversation isn’t easy
  • Setting clear expectations for what you are looking for and when
  • Extending your trust, allowing the agency space to think big

Need a New Support Team?

If this article left you wanting more from your agency partner, don’t be afraid to reach out. Our team of smart, creative and results-focused professionals are ready to take on your biggest challenges and bring new ideas to your content, SEO, social media, digital advertising and influencer marketing. Pop on your “Snoppy Cap” and send some radio waves our way today.


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2017. | 4 Tips for an Out-Of-This-World B2B Marketing Agency Partnership | http://www.toprankblog.com

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7 Tools to Uncover Customer Needs & Map the Customer Journey to Create Better Experiences http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/04/7-tools-customer-journey/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/04/7-tools-customer-journey/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:30:17 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=20210 Marketers have become increasingly focused on the importance of understanding the customer journey and using data to lead their marketing strategies. Salesforce recently reported that 86% of senior-level marketers say that creating a cohesive customer journey is absolutely critical. However, knowing where to start can be a daunting endeavour. But not taking action has the [...]

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map-the-customer-journey

Marketers have become increasingly focused on the importance of understanding the customer journey and using data to lead their marketing strategies. Salesforce recently reported that 86% of senior-level marketers say that creating a cohesive customer journey is absolutely critical.

However, knowing where to start can be a daunting endeavour. But not taking action has the potential to put companies at serious risk as Gartner estimated that nearly 90% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience starting this year.

Some marketers are starting from square one and need to take steps to begin collecting data to better understand the customer journey. Whereas other marketers have been collecting customer data for years and need a simple way of mapping and evolving how the customer journey is managed. The tools below have been separated into those two categories to help you find which tool will work the best for your organization as customers move through the awareness, consideration and purchase phases of their journey.

Customer Journey Discovery & Action Tools

Thunderhead

Thunder Head

Thunder Head’s One Communication Hub is a customer engagement tool that involves three main features which include:

  • Listen: This functionality “listens” to your customers interactions with your digital marketing and gathers insight on their behavior. It combines your data with the personal experience of customers to deliver real-time insight.
  • Engage: Recommendations are made in real-time based on the individual needs of customers that were uncovered in the listen phase.
  • Learn: Instead of guessing customer behavior, this platform helps fine tune your approach to match changing customer needs.

Clarabridge

Clarabridge

Clarabridge describes their solution as a customer intelligence platform that aims to help the customer’s voice lead the charge for company strategies and decisions. Their system offers survey, text and sentiment analytics to help marketers make more data-informed decisions. This tool takes an omni-channel approach and collects data from multiple sources and analyzes this information to uncover insights.

Their approach seems to focus on informing the entire organization on different data points so that all aspects of the business can improve the experience for prospects and current customers.

Sugar CRM

Sugar CRM

While many people make think of Sugar CRM as a way to manage contacts and sales inquiries, there is actually quite a bit more to this system. Some of the functionality includes:

  • Relationship Intelligence
  • Analytics
  • Social Sales
  • Content Enablement
  • Marketing Automation

From what I was able to uncover, not all of this functionality is native to Sugar CRM but they have worked hard to build integrations with reputable companies that are good at delivering specific functionality.

Customer Journey Mapping Tools

Smaply

Smaply

Smaply takes a somewhat different approach than some of these other tools. The tool is project based and heavily focused on the development of customer personas. Once these have been created, you are able to visualize the customer ecosystem and map different stakeholders and show the relationships between them.

Once that has been completed you use the stakeholder map to map personas and customer journeys and create touch points based on that information. There are 13 steps to completing mapping in this tool and you will walk away with a very detailed, and persona driven plan.

Touchpoint

Touchpoint

Touchpoint offers a collaborative way for teams to visualize the customer journey. Existing customer data can be imported into the tool to help you begin your journey to designing a comprehensive journey.

They also offer templates to help you get started and provide an easy way to edit and share information. Once you begin testing mapping, touchpoints can be scored to determine ROI, cost and most importantly, customer impact.

Canvanizer

Canvanizer

Canvanizer is a simple to use mapping software that can be used for many different areas of your business including the customer journey. While their tool does not integrate data, it can be a good solution for marketers just looking to visualize information and share it with internal teams.

Each template provides an explanation about how it should be used and  what is included. You can also share your canvas with the community to provide other companies access to what you have built.

Uxpressia

Uxpressa

Uxpressia boasts the ability to create professional customer journey maps in mere minutes. Users are able to tailor customer experiences by touchpoints and channel interactions.

Teams can also collaborate on these maps on an ongoing basis to continue improving the customer experience. There are templates included but users can also create their own custom maps.

How Are You Aligning Your Marketing with Customer Needs?

The amount of data available today while daunting, provides an incredible amount of insights into what customers want. But in order to make that data actionable, you need to begin breaking it down into small, more organized segments of information so that you can adapt your marketing strategy to better meet customer needs.

How have you used data about your customers to better align with their needs?

Header image via Shutterstock


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2016. | 7 Tools to Uncover Customer Needs & Map the Customer Journey to Create Better Experiences | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Where Social Media and SEO Fit in Today’s Content Marketing Mix http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/06/integrated-social-seo-content/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/06/integrated-social-seo-content/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 10:01:08 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=18632 Whether your role is in search, social media, marketing communications or PR, the importance of content marketing is unmistakable. Brand content budgets and participation are up with the vast majority of B2C and B2B marketers now using content marketing. The industry is coming together on best practices and organizations are evolving their structures to include [...]

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Search Social Content Marketing

Whether your role is in search, social media, marketing communications or PR, the importance of content marketing is unmistakable.

Brand content budgets and participation are up with the vast majority of B2C and B2B marketers now using content marketing. The industry is coming together on best practices and organizations are evolving their structures to include roles like Chief Content Officer and Brand Journalist.

While there is growing synergy between search, social media and content marketing, they don’t often function collaboratively in organizations. There are also some misconceptions about what content marketing really is.

This post will dig in to some of the realities of incorporating an integrated approach that leverages the best of search, social media and content marketing, while dispelling some of the myths that keep integrated efforts apart.

Be the Best Answer

Optimized, socialized, publicized and influencer activated content is essential for reaching information hungry, multi-tasking audiences who are bombarded with new messages every day. In order for brands to be credible and prominent on the search and social web for their customers, they’ll need to understand the best of each discipline and how to put them together. SEO can deliver content-rich answers to buyers at the moment of need, and social media can provide the means to connect and engage. Both publicity and influencer relations provide credibility and reach. All rely on content to achieve success.

While many marketers will debate what comes first, content, social media or SEO, the most practical approach is to use the tactics necessary for your target audience in order to “be the best answer” wherever customers are looking.

SEO is the Condiment, Not the Sandwich

More than keywords and links, search engine optimization is an important part of the success equation when it comes to content marketing. While SEO has traditionally been able to drive online marketing performance on its own, search engine updates to address content quality and the more conversational nature of search behavior have combined with the growing popularity of social networks to change the SEO landscape forever.

Think of SEO this way: If a customer-focused content marketing program is the sandwich, then SEO is the mayonnaise. It touches nearly everything and enhances the overall flavor of the sandwich. But on it’s own, not very appetizing.

SEO for Content or Content for SEO?

Many SEO-turned content marketers are focused on creating more content or creating content as a means to attract links. This is a similar approach as when social media became popular in the SEO world. Social networks and media use was focused on attracting attention to further attract links, not to create relationships, engagement or inspire transactions and referrals.

A simple comparison tells the tale: Having 500 optimized blog posts on every derivative of a 50 phrase keyword list that no one wants to read is no more useful than attracting 50,000 drive-by visitors to your site for 10 seconds each from Reddit. Being held accountable to superficial performance metrics drives superficial tactics. Do you really want your marketing characterized as superficial?

Understanding the difference between mechanical tactics and meaningful outcomes is an important distinction when hiring content marketing professionals or a content marketing agency. It can mean the difference between a keyword hell of thin content, or a content portfolio that serves real customer interests and proudly represents what your brand stands for.

Optimize Your Opportunities

Search marketers are, by their nature, opportunists. Each time a major trend in online marketing emerges, from blogging to social media, SEOs have adapted and engineered their way to discover every possible workaround or tactic to create a marketing advantage. This opportunism has extended to content marketing as well.

Operating within the guidelines of quality marketing, such adaptability is a highly valuable perspective to take. However, when opportunism bleeds into manipulations outside the scope of search engine guidelines, the risks can turn out to be painful and sometimes disastrous to a business.

But here’s the thing: Google is a battleground for SEOs and those with real, on the ground experience that have been able to adapt successfully can become some of the most valuable marketers you will ever find.

Being both creative and analytical as well as lateral thinkers, marketers with an optimized state of mind are particularly adept at finding solutions to complex marketing problems. But those SEOs that are still stuck on content marketing as “more fuel for keywords” and social media as “link building” should probably be avoided.

Social vs. SEO Focused Content Marketing

There are any number of benefits for engaging a SEO focused agency for content marketing compared to a social media agency. They each play essential roles for content amplification at all stages of the buying cycle. Here are a few common characteristics of each:

SEO Focused Content Marketing

  • Tactical approach: more content equals more search presence
  • Topics derived from actual search demand
  • Keyword managed content plans tied to performance
  • Continuous cycle of performance improvement using search analytics
  • Organic amplification is “built-in” to content creation
  • Content promotion, link building and social promotion
  • Good SEO is good user experience
  • Technical optimization
  • Performance is focused on search KPIs and conversions

Social Media Focused Content Marketing

  • Topics focused on brand and messaging
  • Shorter form content: status updates, blog posts, image tiles
  • Topics managed by social content calendar
  • Social monitoring surfaces new, real-time content opportunities
  • Amplification is often organic but increasingly paid
  • Influencers engaged to co-create and promote through social
  • Performance is based on views and engagement
  • Conversion and ROI are more difficult to measure with confidence

What should companies look for with search and social media when considering content marketing resources?

Goals and accountability are essential for an optimized and socialized content marketing program to succeed. For an integrated approach, here are three of your most important considerations to ensure content performs for customers and your brand.

  1. Attract –  How will the particular content object attract exposure? Will your content perform as part of an ongoing narrative? Will it be a part of a sequence? Will it be connected to other content objects through links, repurposing or curation? Where content is promoted on social networks will matter for attraction as much as what phrases and questions are used for search engine optimization.
  1. Engage – How will the content object be meaningful to the reader such that they interact, react and respond to it?  What context needs to exist in order for the content to be so relevant that it inspires action? Social Media and Search both play a role in developing the context for engagement. When they interact with what they find, does the customer think, “Yes, that’s exactly what I was looking for”, or something else?
  1. Convert – How will the optimized content object persuade the reader to take the next step? Each content object can play a role in guiding the reader from one stage to the next in a brand and customer relationship. From awareness to purchase to advocacy, conversions are happening at each stage whether it’s a social share, subscribing to a newsletter, downloading a white paper, signing up for a webinar, filling out an inquiry form or making a referral.

Within your content plan, think about how you can make these actions easy and intentional for the target customer.  An optimized content plan means being accountable to discovery, how it’s best consumed and what messages will inspire action.

Remember, content is the reason search began in the first place.  Take an optimized approach to incorporating search, social media, publicity and influencers with your content marketing programs. Make sure your content is accountable for attraction, engagement and conversion. With that focus on accountability, the investment you make in high quality, optimized and socialized content will pay returns over and over again.

If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out Optimize for a full plan on developing an integrated content marketing program.

Image: Shutterstock


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eBook: Winning with Authority Rainmaker – Integrated Content, Search & Social Media http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/04/winning-authority-ebook/ Mon, 20 Apr 2015 11:19:12 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=18347 When faced with the seemingly insurmountable odds of information overload, 63GB per person per day in the USA, how can brands, let alone enterprising individuals stand out? Be the best answer wherever customers are looking. And how do you do that? By creating authority across channels and media from search to social to wherever content [...]

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Henry Rollins Authority Rainmaker eBook

When faced with the seemingly insurmountable odds of information overload, 63GB per person per day in the USA, how can brands, let alone enterprising individuals stand out?

Be the best answer wherever customers are looking.

And how do you do that?

By creating authority across channels and media from search to social to wherever content can be discovered, consumed or acted on.

To provide you with a clear roadmap on creating authority through integrated marketing, our latest conference eBook project launches today for Copyblogger’s Authority Rainmaker conference.

Featuring top experts including: Dan Pink, Ann Handley, Danny Sullivan, Sally Hogshead, Joe Pulizzi, Sonia Simone and many more, this eBook is both inspirational and tactically insightful. Both the eBook and the conference are organized by 4 key areas necessary for integrated online marketing success: Design, Content, Traffic, Conversion.

PLUS there’s a bonus from the closing keynote speaker: Henry Rollins. There are 15 expert contributors, all of whom are presenting at the Authority Rainmaker conference in Denver, May 13-15. Here’s a full list including tweetable tips from each:

Authority Rainmaker eBook contributors

authoritywins.com eBook contributors

Keynotes:

  • Daniel Pink – Today we’re in the era of ‘servant selling’ where it’s vital to serve before you even try to sell. @danielpink – tweet this
  • Chris Brogan – Earn the right to serve your community as a marketer with content, engagement & sales working in harmony. @chrisbrogan – tweet this
  • Sally Hogshead – You win by being seen & remembered. Stand out, or don’t bother. @SallyHogshead – tweet this
  • Henry Rollins – There are other innovative people that wake up early just like you, so you’d better be prepared. @HenryRollins – tweet this

Design:

  • Scott Brinker – You MUST have the courage to experiment, the confidence to fail & the determination to win. @chiefmartec – tweet this
  • Pamela Wilson – For a profound impact, design your marketing with the customer experience at the forefront. @pamelaiwilson – tweet this
  • Sonia Simone – Ask questions & be curious about everything. See something not awesome? Make it better. @soniasimone – tweet this

Content:

  • Ann Handley – We need better content, not mediocre. That just won’t cut it. @marketingprofs – tweet this
  • Bernadette Jiwa – Remember that you’re talking to humans. Spend time engaging with the people you hope to serve. @bernadettejiwa – tweet this
  • Jerod Morris – Text is not a real human voice inside of two ears and a head. A podcast is. @JerodMorris – tweet this

Traffic:

  • Joe Pulizzi – Document who your reader is, what you’re going to deliver and what you want them to get out of it. @JoePulizzi – tweet this
  • Danny Sullivan – Understand that mobile visitors have a different mindset and needs than desktop users. @dannysullivan – tweet this
  • Michael King – Looking for actionable data? Kickoff your content marketing program with the ultimate content audit. @ipullrank – tweet this

Conversion:

  • Brian Clark – A successful online marketing program requires that you understand the parts as a whole. @BrianClark – tweet this
  • Sean D’Souza – Keep customers happy & price services appropriately so that you can sell less and make more. @seandsouza – tweet this

An impressive lineup, don’t you agree?

Whether you attend Authority Rainmaker or not, this eBook is chock full of useful advice and perspectives. Here’s the full eBook for your viewing (and sharing) pleasure:

Of course, what this awesome eBook doesn’t include is the real-world experience of being inspired by international speakers Daniel Pink or Sally Hogshead, or learning about marketing design from Sonia Simone or about content marketing from Ann Handley, or about the future of search from Danny Sullivan or about psycho conversion tactics from Sean D’Souza. And certainly not the visceral inspiration about DIY media from Henry Rollins.

If you’d like to tap into this amazing experience, check out the Authority Rainmaker website for the agenda, the amazing venue (Opera House) and other essential details.

I’m bringing two of the TopRank Online Marketing team members that helped created the eBook (Evan Prokop and Alexis Hall) and we hope to see you there!

Authority Rainmaker
Denver, CO
Ellie Caulkins Opera House
May 13-15, 2015
Event website and registration


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Winning With Authority Rainmaker – 15 Marketing Influencers Define Authority for Marketing Success http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/03/winning-authority/ Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:04:45 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=18067 “I fight authority and authority always wins” So says the song by John Mellencamp. In the digital marketing world, why fight authority when you can become authoritative yourself? Today there are more tools and resources than ever for individuals, startups and even nimble divisions within large organizations to become an authority in their industry. In the context of [...]

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Winning Authority Rainmaker

“I fight authority and authority always wins”

So says the song by John Mellencamp.

In the digital marketing world, why fight authority when you can become authoritative yourself?

Today there are more tools and resources than ever for individuals, startups and even nimble divisions within large organizations to become an authority in their industry.

In the context of business and marketing, I like to think of authority as “being the best answer” wherever customers are looking. Ubiquitous in presence, contextually relevant, useful above all others and a focus on something specific – all of these traits combine in a meaningful way to create authority.

Authority that wins.

But how do you create authority? What are the practical integrated marketing steps needed when it comes to design, content, traffic and conversion?

The upcoming Authority Rainmaker conference in Denver May 13-15 includes an impressive mix of marketing smarties, so I tapped a few for their perspectives on what authority for marketing actually means. Check out these 15 definitions and see if they inspire you to think a little differently about how to accelerate your marketing game with authority. Not only can you learn to win with authority, but there’s a chance for you to “win” authority for yourself!

Brian Clark

“Online authority is about demonstrating expertise instead of merely claiming it. It’s about freely sharing what you know with people whether they buy from you or not, with the natural consequence that more people do buy from you, because they know, like, and trust you more than the competition.” @brianclark

Tweet Brian’s quote
Brian Clark
Founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media

Sally Hogshead

“Your authority as a professional will be measured according to your ability to get others to listen and take action.”@SallyHogshead

Tweet Sally’s quote
Sally Hogshead
Speaker, Author, Creative Director at Hogshead Media
(Read our interview with Sally Hogshead here)

Danny Sullivan

“Authority is providing original, thoughtful commentary or material on a subject that attracts attention and respect from others.”  @dannysullivan

Tweet Danny’s quote
Danny Sullivan
Founding editor of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. Chief Content Officer of Third Door Media

Ann Handley

“The etymology of ‘authority’ is the Latin ‘auctoritas,’ which also eventually gave us ‘author.'”

“That root makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Because the best authors give generously of their knowledge, with honest empathy for the needs and burdens of their audiences.”

“‘Authoritarian’ types might think that authority gives permission to strong-arm or bully. But true authorities know that you can only earn authority from generously helping others.” @annhandley

Tweet Ann’s quote
Ann Handley
Best-Selling Author and Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs

Daniel Pink

“Authority is the capacity to use one’s expertise and understanding to help others learn more, work smarter, and live better.” @DanielPink

Tweet Dan’s quote
Daniel Pink
Best-Selling Author, host & co-executive producer of Crowd Control on National Geographic Channel
(Read our interview with Dan Pink here)

Sonia Simone

“Authority for me is about how you can become more skillful and effective at helping people solve problems they care about. It’s about being very good at what you do, but it’s also about being very good at getting the word out — because you can’t help if no one knows you’re there.” @soniasimone

Tweet Sonia’s quote
Sonia Simone
Chief Content Officer at Copyblogger Media
(Read our interview with Sonia Simone here)

Chris Brogan

“Authority is about earning the right to add value and provide opportunities to a particular community.” @chrisbrogan

Tweet Chris’s quote
Chris Brogan
Best-Selling Author and CEO of Owner Media Group

Michael King

“Authority is the trustworthiness built by brands through a commitment to quality, consistency, and thought leadership.” @ipullrank

Tweet Michael’s quote
Michael King
Founder & Digital Marketing Consultant iPullRank & Global Associate at Moz.

Jerod Morris

“Authority is the privilege earned over time through effort, empathy, and efficacy, to influence the thoughts and actions others.” @JerodMorris

Tweet Jerod’s quote
Jerod Morris
Vice President of Marketing at Copyblogger Media

Joe Pulizzi

“I believe every business should have the goal of being the leading informational resource/expert for their market niche. You can’t just have the best product, but the best content today to be the leader. That’s authority.” @JoePulizzi

Tweet Joe’s quote
Joe Pulizzi
Author, Founder of Content Marketing Institute, Content Marketing World

Pamela Wison

“Authority isn’t bestowed, it’s earned. You earn it when you stand out, engage, and lead in new directions.” @pamelaiwilson

Tweet Pamela’s quote
Pamela Wilson
Director of Special Projects at Copyblogger Media

Sean D'Souza

“Authority is ‘responsibility’. If the client fails, you’ve been a bad teacher. It’s like being a pilot on a flight. You can’t get only half the passengers across. You have to get everyone across!” @seandsouza

Tweet Sean’s quote
Sean D’Souza
Author and Owner at PsychoTactics

Bernadette Jiwa

“Authority is a privilege we earn to share our values with people who believe in what we believe in.” @bernadettejiwa

Tweet Bernadette’s quote
Bernadette Jiwa
Best-Selling Author and Founder of The Story of Telling

Scott Brinker

“As marketers, we challenge authority yet also crave it. We strive mightily to earn it.” @chiefmartec

Tweet Scott’s quote
Scott Brinker
Co-founder & CTO ion interactive

Robert Bruce

“Authority is a state of influence enjoyed by those who’ve demonstrated their expertise in a certain craft, over a long period of time.”

“The playwright David Mamet has written about the manipulation of theatrical audiences, how a crowd can be “tricked” into laughter or tears, but a gasp is always real.”

“Similarly, many attempt to claim authority through plots, pretense, or plain old hubris … but that path only ever makes a shit sandwich. True authority — in the context of business and marketing — can only be given, and it can only be given by an audience that has been truly delighted by your work.” @robertbruce

Tweet Robert’s quote
Robert Bruce
Emcee of the Authority Rainmaker Conference

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in knowledge from these smart marketers and business leaders. You can learn from all of these marketing authorities in person at the Authority Rainmaker conference from Copyblogger Media coming up in Denver, May 13-15, 2015.

Henry Rollins
There’s literally a rock star line up of speakers that include the fine folks above as well as a closing keynote from musician, writer, journalist, publisher, actor, television and radio host, spoken word artist, comedian, and activist: Henry Rollins.

Matrix Brian Clark
On a personal note: I attended the inaugural Authority conference last year and I can’t wait to get there again. The content was amazing, the venue and food were great and of the best things of all was the networking.

If you want a conference where you can make real connections with other smart, creative people from a variety of industries and backgrounds that are actually making things happen, this is one of those events. Authority is not too big where you get lost in the chaos of 8 different tracks and it’s not too small that you don’t meet someone new every session.

Authority 2014

If you want to learn and network with a group like this, then be sure to check out the Authority Rainmaker website for more detailed information about the agenda, speakers, amazing venue and registration. Presentations are divided between Design, Content, Traffic and Conversion so you’ll get a complete framework to take back and implement. The early bird registration rate ends March 31st, so be sure to check it out soon.

Authority Rainmaker

Now I have a question for you:

How do YOU win at marketing with authority?

Even better, how would you like to win a free pass to Authority Rainmaker

As a marketer, and especially in a world where integrated marketing is more important, the value of creating authority for yourself and your brand is something I think every marketing, communications and business person can relate to and appreciate. I think there’s a lot of wisdom about the value of authority and marketing amongst our community and we’d love to tap into that knowledge.

That’s why TopRank Marketing is going to be giving away a FREE pass to Authority Rainmaker’s 2015 event.

What do you have to do to participate?

With the history of blogging and content creation at Copyblogger, participation in this free pass giveaway ($800 value) involves writing a blog post about what authority means to you for marketing.  The post can link to the Authority Rainmaker event site http://tprk.us/trar15 or this blog post – either is fine.

We’re looking for original, clever and insightful posts and of course, this is about promoting the Authority Rainmaker event as much as it is about giving away a free pass, so be sure to share why you would like to attend the conference and what you’d be looking forward to most.

Once you publish your blog post, email us: authority15 at toprankblog dot com

We’ll be watching for posts until April 8th, 2015 and will announce the winner of the free pass giveaway on April 13th, 2015.

Transportation, accommodations and all other costs for the event are up to the winner. Good luck!

Top photo: Shutterstock

Disclosure: Copyblogger Media is a TopRank Online Marketing Client


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Traditional Media for Content Marketing: Pros, Cons, Examples and Best Practices http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/01/traditional-media-content-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/01/traditional-media-content-marketing/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 12:32:42 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=17902 How many times has traditional media been pronounced dead in the past decade? We’ve lost count, right? While there is no denying that TV, newspapers and radio have lost a ton of ground to digital, the fact of the matter is traditional media still matters. Even to digital marketers. In fact, some marketers are finding that [...]

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Traditional-Media-content-marketing

How many times has traditional media been pronounced dead in the past decade? We’ve lost count, right? While there is no denying that TV, newspapers and radio have lost a ton of ground to digital, the fact of the matter is traditional media still matters. Even to digital marketers.

In fact, some marketers are finding that traditional media is a becoming a great platform for engaging buyers. Consider brands like Doritos, Coca-Cola and others that are asking for consumers to submit short video clips via their company websites and social media channels. Those clips are curated into commercials that are airing during major events like the SuperBowl and the Academy Awards. In fact, 20% of ads in Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 included some form of crowdsourcing from major brands like Coca-Cola, Audi, Doritos, Pizza Hut and others. The incentive to participate in these contests is big for consumers willing to give up names and multiple forms of contact information just to take part.

Could digital marketers completely do that without the “traditional media” of television? Absolutely not. While some have been quick to pronounce the death of traditional media, more savvy marketers have instead asked, “how can we use this media better?”

The same goes for native advertising and sponsored content that appears in newspapers and newspaper websites from New York Times to Washington Post to the LA Times.

Traditional Media Pros:

  • Traditional media is a trusted source. By including trusted media outlets in your media mix, you can help elevate your brand.
  • Traditional audiences come pre-segmented. Want to reach your B2B audience? Your local paper’s business section is where they’re likely reading.
  • It’s more affordable than ever. While the demise of traditional media has been greatly exaggerated, the fact is that there are ad revenue issues and deals to be made.
  • It is always there in some form. If billboard ads along a certain route have drawn the attention of your target market, chances are that billboard is still there and will still reach a lot of the same people.

Traditional Media Cons:

  • The numbers aren’t what they used to be. Daily newspaper readership continues to fall, according to The Pew Research Center. Around 6.5% of households nationwide have cut the cable cord.
  • There are problems with reach. Your media buyer may tell you that on average 2.5 people read every newspaper, but how likely is that?
  • As more marketers shift to roles with digital companies — software, agencies, online service providers — fewer customers are coming from traditional media ad buys.
  • Forms of traditional media has a hard time penetrating some demographics. When is the last time you heard a millennial talk about that awesome newspaper ad?

What Marketers are Saying:

“Most prognosticators say that by 2020 most printed media will be gone. I think anyone who makes those types of comments doesn’t understand history. Just type into Google “The Death of TV” and you’ll see hundreds of articles predicting the end of television.”

— Joe Pulizzi, 7 Reasons to Consider Print For Your ‘Non-Traditional’ Content Strategy

“Media consumption has changed. Traditional methods of getting in front of the consumer are becoming irrelevant. If you think acquisition is hard, customer retention has become much more difficult.”

— Hesse Jones, How the New Consumer Will Force Businesses to Change

“From cutting cable, to new streaming players beyond Netflix, to new content creators beyond traditional studios, the entertainment space is in full upheaval.”

— George Deeb, 20 Digital Trends for 2015

“Take one example: The banner campaign. I kind of gave up on that a few years ago to tell you the truth. In B2B, it’s like buying eyeballs. It just wasn’t successful, but now you can actually use it reverse IP and actually target your message to very specific companies.”

— Nick Panayi, Is Paid Advertising worth It? B2B Content Marketers Share Their Insights

 Traditional Media Examples:

Both B2B and B2C marketers continue to utilize traditional media to some effect to build awareness and generate leads. Here are a few examples:

Pizza Hut solicited submissions of video clips of customers using “Hut, Hut!” football calls to incorporate into their 2013 Super Bowl commercial.

 

This print ad is part of a multimillion dollar integrated B2B campaign. The ads were distributed in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Sprint also ran digital and TV ads during the campaign.

sprint-print-advertising

Sponsored content from Shell appears in the pages of Washington Post’s print version below. The content, supplied by the advertiser, is labeled as sponsored and receives a color treatment that helps to set it aside from editorial content.

Washington-Post-Native-Ad

Best Practices

Traditional media best practices have been around as long as traditional media itself. However, as traditional media outlets go through their own transformations incorporating digital and social media, here are some topics to consider:

  • Ask for demographics. It’s not enough anymore to live by a media outlet’s rate sheet definition of their audience. Just as marketers dig into audience demographics, so do publishers. The information on their audience is available, so don’t be afraid to as for it.
  • Be on-brand. Advertising and content placement in traditional media can reach a somewhat more conservative audience than its digital counterparts. Consider the right messaging for the right audience and stick to it.
  • Be integrated. When you’re running print, TV, radio or even billboard campaigns it’s also a good idea integrate those campaigns into your editorial calendar for your owned property and social channels.
  • Track on your own, too. Any link you give a newspaper, radio or TV station for a digital ad is also a link you can customize and track on your own. Use a service like Google URL Builder to add custom URL tags to any links you use.

Have you been successful using traditional media  in your marketing mix? What are your tips and tricks?

For more content marketing best practices, see our full list of content marketing tactics with links to in-depth articles on each tactic just like this one.

Top image: Shutterstock


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Where Brand Journalism and Native Advertising Can Fit Within Content Marketing http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/11/brand-journalism-native-ads-content/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/11/brand-journalism-native-ads-content/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:30:19 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=17651 Over the past year the discussions about what content marketing is and isn’t as well as the role of content within marketing and PR functions of a business have been interesting to watch. Especially the discussions around whether brand journalism and native advertising fit in the content marketing mix. Here’s my take: Content Marketing is [...]

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integrated content marketing

Over the past year the discussions about what content marketing is and isn’t as well as the role of content within marketing and PR functions of a business have been interesting to watch. Especially the discussions around whether brand journalism and native advertising fit in the content marketing mix. Here’s my take:

Content Marketing is all about customers and providing them the information they need to inspire action. The themes that align buyer interests and brand goals as part of a content marketing strategy can inspire the focus of any content or media whether it’s part of a brand journalism effort, native advertising or content marketing program –  just in different ways.

Storytelling is content-type agnostic. To me as a marketer, brand journalism and native advertising within content marketing can work because storytelling is relevant for both brand and consumer focused messaging. Understanding how your buyers discover and consume information will often reveal the value of multiple touch points that can be satisfied with a mix of owned, earned and paid media. These efforts can run concurrently and integrate.

Native ads and brand journalism are pieces of the content marketing puzzle. It’s expected that a brand will communicate about itself and particular expertise. When 3rd party media (earned or sponsored) run stories that support that expertise, they provide additional support to the brand narrative as the best answer solution. Brand journalism can accentuate the “back story” of why the company has particular expertise.

As an example, let’s say we have an initiative to attract new business by differentiating the company (or marketing agency) according to new and trending capabilities that will be needed to help clients succeed. These skills and domain expertise are the secret sauce to help companies achieve marketing goals in the coming year.

Brand Journalism – In such a situation, I might publish stories on and off site about our agency education programs around certain skills and highlight how certain staff have applied them to be more successful marketers. No direct “selling” would be involved. Profiles of staff  that possess these skills as well as examples of their innovative application by early adopter clients could be posted to the company newsroom or blog.

Native Ads and Earned Media – Concurrently, I might run sponsored editorial in digital publications with readership that align best with our target audience talking about the upward trend of these skills and the differentiated value they bring to client marketing programs. Both earned media through contributed articles or story pitching as well as native ads would be appropriate, depending on the publication.

Content Marketing program – Then at the same time, as part of a directed content effort to reach a particular target audience of potential clients, we’d also publish an eBook, blog posts and crowdsource community content around the importance of those skills for successful marketing. In our case, there would almost certainly be an influencer component to this as well.

Interactions with these types of information (brand journalism, native ads, earned media and content marketing) provide brand and buyer focused messaging that support different stages of the funnel. They also provide additional signals to support credibility and authority that complement content marketing efforts.

The issue with most companies in the content marketing game is that all of their content is directed towards a linear buyer journey and conversion. The addition of earned media, sponsored editorial and brand journalism can provide a force multiplier effect or booster rocket thrust to content marketing efforts.

It comes down to empathizing with customer expectations about different types of content and how they work together.

Understand customer expectations – I think it’s safe to say that with native advertising and earned media, readers expect fair and balanced – unbiased information. With owned media in a content marketing program, it’s acceptable for a brand to communicate the value of their products and services, albeit, not in a sales way, but more helpful). With brand journalism, it’s like earned media except the subject matter is the brand – what would a journalist (who isn’t a dissenter) write about your company?

My point (finally!) is not to discount brand journalism or native advertising as exclusive of content marketing programs. Think about the mental state of buyers and how they discover, consume and act on information. Create a competitive advantage by creating content beyond normal distribution channels to add credible signals and authority to support brand messaging.

Of course, this really only works if the messaging across earned, owned and paid media are coordinated and integrated – yet customized to the context in which buyers will interact with them.

What do you think? On target? Off base?

Image: Shutterstock


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For Better Integrated Marketing, Look Inside for Insights http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/10/integrated-marketing-inside/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/10/integrated-marketing-inside/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:15:16 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=17507 Integrated Marketing often means a combination of marketing tactics as part of a specific campaign tied together with a common goal and audience. As consumers become more diverse and sophisticated in how they discover, consume and interact with digital content, it only follows that marketers correspond their efforts to provide a common (yet relevant to the channel) [...]

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Integrated Marketing

Integrated Marketing often means a combination of marketing tactics as part of a specific campaign tied together with a common goal and audience. As consumers become more diverse and sophisticated in how they discover, consume and interact with digital content, it only follows that marketers correspond their efforts to provide a common (yet relevant to the channel) experience for customers.

To elevate their ability to provide such an experience, many marketers are challenged to find new platforms, best practices and strategies. In many cases, the answer to improving customer experience across marketing channels is sitting right in front of them within customer service, sales, public relations and product management.

By tapping managers for trends and front line staff for specific examples of what prospects, customers and the media are thinking relevant to the brands products and services, marketers can gain insights into what buyers care about, the triggers that move them to action and most importantly, the questions being asked.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Marketing Goals – Let’s say your company is focused on increasing sales of a premium product. The logical hypothesis would be that the brand needs to connect with higher end customers with the desire and discretionary income to purchase the premium product.

Customer Insights – Analysis of customer data can reveal key demographic and behavioral indicators of what characterizes the target customer. Along with customer surveys and 3rd party data for segmentation, a profile can be developed for this customer group. Insights about what she cares about relevant to the premium product, preferences for content discovery, consumption and engagement can inspire the content plan.

Marketing, Customer Service, Sales Insights – Along with customer insights, conversations with front line customer service and sales can reveal the triggers and the key questions the target customer group often has. After an initial survey, efforts to continue to receive these insights can prove invaluable. BCCing answers to questions posed via email is probably the easiest.

Tactical Marketing & PR Mix – With knowledge about the key interests, desires, behaviors and most important questions being posed by the target audience for the premium product, marketing can architect a plan that integrates owned, earned, paid and shared media to represent the brand as the best answer for what the buyer cares about most. In other words, part of the premium product content plan will answer customer questions through:

  • Blog posts on the brand website
  • Social content on networks
  • 3rd party media online and offline
  • Industry blogs
  • Paid search ads
  • Social media ads

Think about the confidence you would build in your premium product of the key questions customers have are being answered in industry press, on the brand’s blog and through social networks. The combination of such an integrated marketing and PR effort is very powerful.

Any opportunity to engage the target audience in social content creation would be leveraged as well. If the customer segment uses Facebook and Instagram in a meaningful way, then a contest that inspires customers to take selfies with the product might engage more organic content interactions, increasing reach and providing content to run social ads from.

Key Performance Indicators – KPIs show progress towards program goals (or not). Metrics in a program like this example might include benchmarks and then continued tracking of:

  • Exposure in the media
  • Social network mentions
  • Search visibility
  • Conversations online
  • Placements in specific media
  • Mentions on relevant blogs
  • Mentions in offline media
  • Social shares
  • Context and sentiment of social shares
  • Social content created by customers
  • Network growth
  • Visits to relevant blog and website content
  • Referring traffic to hub content
  • Contest participation
  • Inbound and social links

Business Outcomes – Ultimately, the goal for the program is to sell more premium product, so sales and overall revenue are the measures to focus on. As the program matures and insights from KPIs are used to optimize the program messaging, tactics and effectiveness, additional measures such as shortened sales cycle, profitability and referrals could be considered as well.

The idea with this example is that marketing that functions as a silo in an organization is at a distinct disadvantage over a scenario where customer insights and internal staff that interact with customers are tapped to help formulate a more targeted and meaningful experience for buyers. The most straightforward ay to start is to connect with customer service and sales staff to identify key conversations they’re having with prospects and customers to reveal what buyers care about and what questions they have.

Overlay those insights with actual customer data that the brand already has a relationship with and you may have some pretty compelling content to work with for a much better integrated marketing effort.

What data sources are you using for customer insights? What information sources are you using as a base for integrated marketing?

Photo: Shutterstock


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Integrating Search, Social Media and Email Marketing – @Shoutlet Webinar Recap http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/08/shoutlet-webinar-recap/ Tue, 26 Aug 2014 15:58:58 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=17266 It’s a good thing we had a team of marketing “silo busters” present for a recent webinar hosted by Shoutlet.  Not only did this triple threat of marketers help break down the barriers between SEO, social media marketing, content marketing and email marketing, but we shined a spotlight on how to integrate. Why is integration between search, [...]

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Silos Are For Farms, Not Marketing

It’s a good thing we had a team of marketing “silo busters” present for a recent webinar hosted by Shoutlet.  Not only did this triple threat of marketers help break down the barriers between SEO, social media marketing, content marketing and email marketing, but we shined a spotlight on how to integrate.

Why is integration between search, social and email important?

Simple, it works.

It works for customers and what works for customers, works for reaching your marketing goals.

The most basic of marketers have some understanding of how their customers discover information on the web. They know their buyers’ preferences for content types and topics. Most marketers also have an idea of what offers will compel those customers to take action.  When you map that customer journey out, it is inevitable in nearly ALL cases that search, social and email play a role in bringing the customer through the buying cycle.

However, when the customer experience is disconnected between search, social and email – then you’re simply throwing money away.

Enter the three amigos of search, social and email:

Lee Odden, Teresa Caro, DJ Waldow

Shoutlet reached out to me about doing a webinar with DJ Waldow on this topic and of course I said yes. DJ is a high energy, creative and very knowledgable marketer, especially when it comes to social and email marketing. This post will recap some of that webinar, which you can listen to in full here, on the Shoutlet website. I’ve also added a lot more context and tips we didn’t have time for.

What are some of the key ways social impacts search visibility and performance today?

Overall, it’s important to understand that viewing the relationship between search and social media tactically can be a very misleading thing. Often times, marketers at companies and especially consultants, tend to recommend what they know best or can most readily be implemented, even if it isn’t the best thing to do. This is to check a box “complete” to show progress.

Strategically, there are many ways social media impacts search and I think the most effective perspective is to view the relationship in terms of the customer journey vs. which tactic is better or which social media trick will get you a higher ranking. As if that’s even possible anymore.

Google has flip flopped on this starting in 2010. Matt Cutts stated social signals are not factored in May 2010, then in December of the same year he said they did. Then in January 2014 he stated they do not use social signals for ranking.

The only constant in search engine marketing is change. 

It’s interesting to note that Google also added and then removed Author avatars from validated Google+ profiles. Authorship was a hot topic for many in the SEO community as a way to optimize the SERPs (search engine results pages) experience for users. Now that so many people implemented it, Google has taken the feature away.

Here’s the thing about social media and SEO: Google treats public web content that can be crawled pretty much the same – whether it’s a blog post, a magazine article, a Twitter update or a public Facebook post. If it can be crawled by Google, it’s a factor that can have an impact on search inclusion, search visibility and search result experience.

Cycle of Social Media & SEO

Social has a more of an indirect impact on search. Outside of public social content that can be crawled and indexed, the way to think about social media impact on search visibility is through the indirect impact.  As you create more content that is useful to customers and is topically in-line with what they are looking for, more people will find and share. This cycle of find, consume and interact will grow your networks.

Consistently producing and promoting optimized, useful content to your networks increases exposure and network size at the same time. As the network grows, so does link attraction and 3rd party signals pointing in your direction.

Optimize for social search. Also, keep in mind social channels have search functions too. SEO keyword use applies to content within social content for use by their internal search engines. If any of that content is public and can be crawled by search engines like Google or Bing, it can be a factor for public ranking on Google.com as well.

Content is a huge part of marketing now, and it goes hand-in-hand with social. What role do you see content playing in affecting search?

Content is the reason search exists and it’s what people create and share on the social web.  The content companies and organizations produce is how Google makes it’s money – by running ads next to our content.  Making our content easy for search engines to find, copy, organize and sort benefits Google (better contextual ad matching), it benefits companies (brand content is easy to find when consumers need it most) and it benefits users (useful information is just a Google search away).

From a marketing perspective, content marketing is about the customer information journey. Discover, Consume, Act. Creating content just for better search engine visibility completely ignores the most important audience for our content: humans. And last time I checked, it’s people that pay companies for product and services, not Google.com.

To be effective, content needs to be accountable to how it will Attract, Engage and Convert customers. The SEO impact is relevant to making a brand’s content become the best answer wherever buyers are looking, especially in search. The mistake many content marketers make is to develop amazing content without any consideration for how the target audience will search to find that kind of content. Alternatively, SEOs often over-prioritize the value of optimization compared to content utility and user experience.

The only thing worse than no SEO is all SEO. 

A good example of the kind of content that’s accountable to Attract, Engage, Convert relevant to SEO and social media are the conference eBooks we create.

Content Marketing Rocks

For Content Marketing World last year, we created an eBook about content marketers “who rock” with major brands and thought leaders as contributors.

content marketing keywords

The impact on search visibility was that the content attracted significant keywords references and organic links. All links were attracted through great content and a small amount of outreach.

content marketing social media

The impact on social media visibility and engagement was through the participating thought leaders and influencers relevant to the topic of content marketing, talking about and sharing links to the content marketing eBook with their communities.

With each attraction and engagement of a potential customer, there’s an opportunity to “convert” them to the next step, whatever that might be. Offering the option to get more in-depth information via email is an ideal way for interested visitors to get introduced to your company’s products and services through useful content.

Getting social, SEO and Email to work together is a matter of how you view the business and marketing goals you’re after. By understanding the customer journey as they use social media to discover, search engines to validate, and email to commit to learning more, companies can be far more effective at planning an integrated content marketing program. Creating a great customer experience across channels from Google to Twitter to the email communications will help achieve multiple business goals including customer acquisition, revenue and retention.

Integrated marketing in action is to be the best answer, wherever your customers are looking. 

It’s really difficult to create a consistent customer experience across channels if content, search optimization, social media and email marketing efforts are not integrated. Leave the silos to the farmers and focus on optimizing your content and networks to become the best answer, wherever your customers are looking.

There’s far more to this topic than what I’ve discussed here and both DJ and Teresa provided highly valuable insights into business objectives based marketing and the roles of social listening, email and social media alignment, They also had great examples of brands using social and email and further insights into breaking down silos between these marketing disciplines.


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Disruption in Digital Marketing and Communications – Insights from 19 Major B2C and B2B Brands http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/06/disruption-digital-media-brands/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/06/disruption-digital-media-brands/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 18:29:41 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16902 I recently had the pleasure of presenting at an Integrated Marketing Communications conference called INTEGRATE with an audience of Master’s Degree students and faculty at West Virginia University. It was an impressive conference because of the passionate and talented faculty presenting but especially the students – most of whom work full time jobs as they earn their Master’s [...]

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Digital Convergence Marketing PR

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at an Integrated Marketing Communications conference called INTEGRATE with an audience of Master’s Degree students and faculty at West Virginia University.

It was an impressive conference because of the passionate and talented faculty presenting but especially the students – most of whom work full time jobs as they earn their Master’s Degree in IMC.

Here is the presentation I gave: Digital Convergence: The Integrated Marketing and Public Relations Imperative – Disruption in the digital media world has reached every aspect of marketing and communications. Brands compete with publishers and consumers are empowered to publish and influence like never before. The convergence of marketing and PR creates all new opportunities for brands to build authority and grow business while competitors continue to work in silos.

For topics like this I like to bring in outside voices of authority and in the process of that research, I was able to tap into some serious brand marketing firepower through digital marketing and communications executives from: General Motors, SunTrust Bank, Salesforce.com, LexusNexus, Inova Health System, Intel, PTC, US Bank, Dell, Century 21 Real Estate, Intel Corporation, Marriott, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, Cisco Systems, Motorola Solutions, an eco-beauty company, a Fortune 20 corporation and Rutgers University.

The goal of this inquiry was to surface the major disruptive forces companies and organizations are facing with today’s modern digital media – especially amongst major B2B and consumer brands. I asked:

“What would you say is the most significant disruptive force in the digital media world affecting marketing and communications?”

From changing news media business models to the sheer volume of content, options for publishing, pressure to engage customers on their terms and rate of speed, there are multiple dimensions to this topic. There were a number of distinct themes in the replies. First: social and media platforms are both a challenge and opportunity. Second, consumers are empowered more than ever and brands need to organize, communicate and engage on their terms to succeed.

Below are excerpts from their responses. Full responses are being compiled into an eBook.

Mary Henige GM
“The decline of media, and consequently positions for journalists, has changed true news consumption, but conversely has posed an opportunity for multimedia journalists who can tell visual stories – at media companies and organizations.”
Mary Henige (@maryhenige) Director, Social Media & Digital Communications at General Motors

Heather Lockwood Aveda
“The fragmentation of storytelling across multiple touch points is disruptive to ensuring a common thread and a consistent brand presence, voice and tone across all digital (and non-digital) efforts that connect the work and grow the brand.”
Heather Lockwood (@hlockwoo) Director, Global Digital Marketing at a major Ec0-Beauty Company

Matt Gentile Century 21
“The explosion of mobility and connectivity is the most disruptive force in marketing communications today. Today’s consumers are interacting on screens of all types and sizes and they are ready to connect with your business at any moment. That’s a huge opportunity, but only if you are prepared to interact.”
Matt Gentile (@MattGentile) Global Director, Social Media at Century 21 Real Estate

Jennifer Lashua Intel
“The biggest disruptive force I’m seeing is how data is enabling more granular content targeting which in turn drives a need for more customized content. With today’s customized targeting and re-marketing capabilities, combined with consumers having more control, content marketers have an opportunity to serve customers content that feels more customized to their individual needs.”
Jennifer Lashua (@runningjen) Editor in Chief at Intel Corporation

Frank Strong LexisNexis
“Shiny object syndrome distracts communicators from creating core content.  New channels are useless without something useful to contribute. Content marketing forces the integration of the marketing and PR silos to hit two top objectives that previously required divergent tactics: awareness and leads.”
Frank Strong (@Frank_Strong) Communications Director at LexusNexus

Barbara Soifer Rutgers
“The need to keep things short and very to the point eliminates the ability to tell a story in one medium.  It’s more about having a compelling lead and engaging the target in 140 characters or less and then leading that target to the full story in another channel/medium. The ability to convert a target to a lead to a customer has become a multi-media process.”
Barbara Soifer (@soifer428) Senior Director, Campaign & Development Communications & Creative Services at Rutgers University

Rob Birgfeld Inova Health System
“The dirty secret of the internet / social web is no one reads any more. You’re lucky if they skim. This is why imagery and pictures have become everything and sometimes the only thing.”
Rob Birgfeld (@robbirgfeld) Senior Director, Digital Marketing & Communications at Inova Health System

Stephanie Losee Dell
“Everything we’re seeing now is a product of the disruption of the distribution model for marketing and comms. If brands are going to speak to their audiences directly, they need professionals to help them do that. Brands must offer their audiences content as a service rather than using their platform to crow about themselves. Quality will have to rise drastically, which means that the people who do it best–traditional publishers–have an opportunity to shift their distribution model accordingly.”
Stephanie Losee (@slosee) Managing Editor at Dell

Gary Spangler DuPont
“The huge numbers of retiring baby boomers in the USA will be disruptive in multiple ways from the influx of technical-savvy employees over a short time, accelerating how companies communicate though social and mobile to new roles in Integrated Marketing, Digital Marketing and Communications, Brand Protection, and Legal Compliance.”
Gary Spangler (@garyfspangler) Corporate Digtial Marketing Manager and Leader Social Media CoE at DuPont

Ken Kaplan Intel
“The challenge in a faster paced, mobile connected world is to move faster and create quality stories more quickly that hit people’s interest. You have to pay for people’s attention or have robust, growing distribution channels/discovery points.”
Ken Kaplan (@kenekaplan) Editor at Large at iQ by Intel

Fortune 50 Brand
“The ability for everyone from companies to consumers to “publish” content on the fly makes it difficult for a large B2B company that has legal processes to go through to be fast and first with a unique message.”
Anonymous Product Marketing Manager at a Fortune 50 Corporation

Nancy Pardo PTC
“Text format in digital media is becoming obsolete. Consumers hunger for “human” connection and meaning in a sterile digital world and visual storytelling through video and image hits the spot. In the future more corporations will be collaborating with, buying up, or creating their own media production houses as a way to hone and amplify their storytelling to rise above the blah.”
Nancy Pardo (@PTCPardo) Content Marketing Director at PTC

Julie Horns US Bank
”There is an expectation that brands will meet consumers when and where they have interest in them.”
Julie Horns (@lachicajulia) Marketing and Social Media Strategist at US Bank

Heather Meza Cisco
“Technology and cool shit like the Internet of Everything (IoE) will help us marketers keep up with new tools and resources that will enable us to truly market person-to-person (P2P). Brands will start focussing more on culture and employee engagement because doing P2P well requires that your employees ARE your brand.”
Heather Meza (@heathermeza) Conversion Content Marketing Coach at Cisco Systems

Jennifer Mesenbrink Motorola
“Social networks have completely changed the digital media equation where power now lies in the hands of consumers and customers. Hashtags in particular can shine a light on one specific topic and tie together whole streams of conversation uniting many users in sharing one view.”
Jennifer Mesenbrink (@EditorThink) Senior Manager, Digital and Social Content Strategy at Motorola Solutions

Michelle Lapierre Marriott
“Social platforms can change their policies whenever it suits them which can be disruptive when you’re integrating across platforms, channels and devices.”
Michelle Lapierre (@mmlap) Senior Director, Customer Experience & Social Media at Marriott

Corinne Kovalsky Raytheon
“The ability to develop social profiles for small, niche audiences means you don’t have to “hope” you’ve reached your audience anymore.”
Corinne Kovalsky (@kovalskyc) Director of Integrated Communications & Public Affairs at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems

Darlene Ford  SunTrust Bank
“Email marketing is the most disruptive force in digital media affecting marketing and communications, because people are overwhelmed with the volumes of emails they receive each day. Over time it’s become a very ineffective way to each our audience.”
Darlene Ford (@dford28) Digital Marketing Strategist at SunTrust Bank

David B Thomas Salesforce
“The most disruptive force is the hype surrounding click bait tactics used in content marketing and the inevitable backlash that will hurt brands, destroy credibility, and destroy upper management’s faith in content marketing.”
David B. Thomas (@DavidBThomas) Senior Director, Content and Engagement at Salesforce.com

As you can see there are quite a few perspectives on what constitutes “disruption” in the digital media space, especially as it relates to digital marketing and communications. I think it comes down to the rate of change in technology, consumer behaviors and the ability for corporations to adapt and innovate.

What do you think are the most significant digital media disruptions affecting modern marketing and communications?

Top image: Shutterstock


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Integrate Social Media Marketing With All of Your Online Marketing Efforts http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/05/integrate-social-media-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/05/integrate-social-media-marketing/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 14:34:34 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16866 Integrating content across channels of discovery and engagement like social networks is an important part of optimizing for the customer experience. In fact, according to the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 83% of marketers stated they have integrated their social media and traditional marketing activities. Social Media contributes to all aspects of the customer journey, [...]

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integrated marketing social media

Integrating content across channels of discovery and engagement like social networks is an important part of optimizing for the customer experience. In fact, according to the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 83% of marketers stated they have integrated their social media and traditional marketing activities.

Social Media contributes to all aspects of the customer journey, so integrating social media marketing with overall online marketing efforts just makes sense if you want to connect the dots for customers from education to action. But how?

I recently did an interview on this topic with Roza Tsvetkova of Komfo in Denmark and thought I’d share it here:

What is new when we talk about social integration? What is key to the integration of social media with the other online marketing efforts?

From a marketing perspective, social media is often treated as a distinct channel. Organizationally, the responsibility of social media has also been a focused responsibility within companies. What’s emerging within marketing and organizational structures is that social media is becoming more of a horizontal skill rather than a dedicated silo. Social is everyone’s responsibility.

Marketers are getting more sophisticated about incorporating social elements within their content marketing, public relations, search, email and advertising efforts to extend reach and engagement. As businesses learn more about how their target audiences discover and engage with digital content, they begin to integrate social media elements in the places were customers seek answers and interact.

The key to integration of social media with other online marketing efforts is to draw insights from the customer journey. Rather than publishing the same content across social channels, there would be an effort to understand the topics and content formats most appealing to the target audience for each social channel. With customer insight, marketers can do a better job of using integrated social media to optimize the buyer experience.

Can you tell us more on the concept of consistent customer experience/journey across social channels?

When brands do not coordinate content and media across social channels, the experience can be sub-optimial for customers. Reading a post on Twitter or LinkedIn with a link back to the company blog where there is very little additional information on the topic can be frustrating.

In many cases, different people create content for the same brand on different social channels with different voices and creative. A lack of coordination can result in information that does not connect the dots for readers.

When a brand and it’s products or services stand for something as a solution for their customers, the consistent communication or representation of those values across social channels creates a congruent and optimized experience for buyers. Where ever customers look for information about the problem they’re trying to solve, your brand should be “the best answer” – consistently.

This is not to say content and media cannot be different amongst channels. But if the brand voice and customer experience are consistent, it will create clarity, trust and inspire action more quickly.

Can you give us some practical tips on architecting the customer journey on social networks?

The model we use documents the relationship between the buyer and information in the form of Discovery, Consumption and Action. Use social media monitoring, web analytics, platform analytics and the tracking possible through Google Custom URLs to identify the behaviors and interests of your target audience on the social web. You can also ask them – through customer surveys.

Through that ongoing effort to understand the customer journey from awareness to consideration to purchase, the networks where your customers engage can be discovered. The types of content and media they prefer to consume can be identified and through testing, the offers that inspire them to act can be refined and optimized.

With that information, social content and engagement can be planned to make useful information known and available to buyers that ask their networks. That is how to architect social content across the customer journey. It is an ongoing effort and should be continuously tested and optimized.

You mentioned in your presentation that “optimizing for search is not dead, just different and more social”. Can you please elaborate on that?

The old practices of identifying a set list of target keywords, adding them to title tags and links from other sites has been mitigated by Google’s recent changes. SEO is different in that the focus should be on understanding the topics that customers care about most related to the buying cycle. Then distill those questions into related keywords to be used to flavor content to ensure it’s optimized for relevancy to the topic, not just for positioning in search results.

Rather than focusing on securing controlled links using the exact same keywords a business wants to rank for, modern SEO involves creating content worth linking to, promoting it through publicity and social channels to facilitate a natural variety of text references used to link to the site. Along with technical tasks related to markup and structured data, site architecture and page speed, aligning many people to a specific concept though content and inspiring social shares, engagement and links is modern SEO.

Social channels and links shared are important for network visibility of your brand’s content. Links within social shares could also be a factor for inclusion or even ranking with search engines. SEO is more social because social is so important for amplification of content others might link to.

How different is the customer journey for B2B and B2C companies on social media?

Only certain kinds of business purchases involve research and a decision by one person.. While that is the case for the vast majority of consumer purchases, most B2B buyers are committees or involve multiple people in the research and decision process. That means social network content and engagement should consider that there may be more than one person involved in the process. With B2C products and services, the tone and flavor of content can be more specifically directed at individual customers.

What do you think is the role of tools in the social integration? How do they affect the processes in a company and do they minimize silos?

Tools are essential to automate redundant processes, enable scale and maintain a certain level of quality. Social Media Marketing Management platforms that provide a dashboard with features like content scheduling, amplification and measurement across social channels can be instrumental to the success of an integrated social media marketing effort.

Content Marketing Conference Europe

To all our European Marketing readers, I’ll be giving a keynote presentation (How To Be the Best Answer Wherever Customers Are Looking) on a flavor of this topic in just a few weeks at the Content Marketing Conference run by J-P De Clerck of Fusion Marketing Experience – Antwerp, Belgium on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014.

The lineup for this must-attend event is incredible with Jay Baer and Mike Corak from the U.S., Doug Kessler from Velocity Partners in the UK, AJ Huisman of Dutch Law firm Kennedy Van der Laan, Kelly Hungerford from Paper.li in Switzerland, Danny Devriendt from Universal Media in Brussels, Tristan Lavender from Deloitte Netherlands and many more. If your company in Europe works with content marketing in any way, this event is a can’t miss: Register Now


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Essential Digital Marketing Skills for Content Marketers http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/02/digital-marketing-skills/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/02/digital-marketing-skills/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 15:00:10 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16455 Like many other digital marketing agencies, we’ve been on the hunt for digital and content marketing talent on a continuous basis over the past few years. Increased demand and competition are driving the need to find people with skills that can actually create impact, vs. fuzzy “potential”. Companies looking for agencies are in the same [...]

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digital marketing skillsLike many other digital marketing agencies, we’ve been on the hunt for digital and content marketing talent on a continuous basis over the past few years. Increased demand and competition are driving the need to find people with skills that can actually create impact, vs. fuzzy “potential”.

Companies looking for agencies are in the same boat, challenged to find partners that can actually affect business goals. Sadly, there are few knights in shining content marketing armor, like our friend to the right.

In both cases, the ease of publishing online makes it easy for individuals and agencies to present expertise – whether they really have it or not.  There are a few ways to sift through the fluff and puff and one of them is knowing what skills, capabilities and experience your business actually needs.

Since a lot of companies are maturing in their content marketing abilities, I think there are a few key skills that stand out in 2014 and beyond. Some of these skills are for individuals, some are spread across an organization. To be truly competitive, I think they need to be present along with creativity and analytical skills.

Customer Segmentation – The ability to identify customer segments through available resources is pretty important for any kind of customer targeting. That means using anything from interviews and surveys with existing customers, sifting through web analytics and conversion data, social media monitoring and other demographic, psychographic and behavioral data sources. Few individuals have most, let alone all of these skills, but the simple task of identifying best/worst customers with data to support profiles is essential.  While building customer profiles and personas from segmentation data is an important skill, so is the maintenance of those profiles over time. Direct Marketers, Email Marketers, Advertising Pros and experienced Content Marketers in particular seem to have these skills.

Buy Cycle Stories – Understanding customer segments also means knowing their journey across the sales cycle. The ability and experience of mapping what questions buyers have as they move from awareness to consideration to purchase are essential for creating a content plan. Beyond answering the questions, “What is it?, How will it help me? “How much does it cost and where can I buy it?”, is the use of storytelling to communicate both practical answers and a narrative for how your brand delivers the solution in a unique and meaningful way. Stories help make an emotional connection with customers and the ability to both anticipate the customer journey and creative ways to communicate your brand value are highly valuable for content marketing.

Multi-Channel Content Planning – When you see how customer segments move across the sales cycle, it becomes clear that single channel marketing like email, SEO, PPC, mobile, etc is a disadvantage. Customers get information from multiple sources and a multi-channel approach helps brands become “the best answer” wherever buyers are looking. Being able to take customer segmentation and buying cycle insight to create a multi-channel content plan is key for delivering the best answer experience for target audiences. That doesn’t mean “expert” at PPC, SEO, Social, Email, PR, etc – but it does mean experience with the planning, integration and coordination with others that do have specialized expertise. Not everything that can be integrated should, so the ability to prioritize according to resources, timeframe and goals are just as important as the planning skills.

Editorial, Creation & Curation – A big part of content planning is the mix of content and media types. How much content should be evergreen? How should it be repurposed? Which content can be co-created with influencers, customers or with internal resources? What role will curated content play in this mix? Answering those questions are an ongoing part of any content planner’s experience and are essential for successful content marketing programs. Beyond planning of content types is familiarity with the tools to help manage their function from content marketing software like Kapost to curation software like Curata.

Community Building – The intersection of content with social media cannot be ignored. No social media marketer can succeed without content and the same is true with community and content marketing. Empathy with the target audience as well as the communities they are influenced by is an essential consideration for content marketing. Being able to plan and promote content that engages and grows a community is very valuable skill.

Amplification & Promotion – Content unread is content that is dead. OK, I just made that up, but it speaks to the importance of content promotion for awareness and exposure. Noise levels are high and it’s a shame (as well as a waste of money) when great content goes unnoticed. Identifying, engaging and managing promotion resources is an important skill in order for the investment in content creation and curation to pay off. Whether it’s integration with email, social networks, social ads, SEO, paid per click, sponsorships, influencers, retargeting, blogger outreach, public relations or any other type of amplification method, the ability to promote content is a skill that is as important as any other or more for a digital marketer.

Nurturing & Marketing Automation – For longer sales cycles common to B2B companies, content is sustenance that draws buyers through an educational and engaging journey from wherever they start to become a lead and a customer. The ability to plan, implement and optimize content performance in conjunction with marketing automation software like Marketo, Eloqua or Infusionsoft is a distinct competitive advantage.

Monitoring, Measurement & Optimization – No marketing program can optimize performance or scale without a feedback mechanism. Monitoring social media, news media, web analytics and conversion data are absolutely essential skills for any kind of digital marketer and especially for a content marketer. Optimizing content performance is a process of initial hypothesis, plan, implementation and then analysis of KPIs (key performance indicators) to adjust messaging, creative and calls to action. While many of these skills are important to an intentionally successful content marketing effort, the measurement and performance optimization piece is in the top 3.

I think any organization that can develop these skill sets amongst their digital marketing teams will bring a distinct advantage to the company. It’s also important for business marketing managers to develop these abilities and to inspire and nurture these skills within their organization.

I don’t believe any single individual or organization has mastery in this mix of skills. Most marketing organizations seem to emphasize one area over others and can still be successful. As my business partner, Susan Misukanis likes to say, “You don’t have to boil the ocean to start a successful program”.  However, I am suggesting in this post that it’s important to aspire to a mix of skills like these in order to achieve a competitive advantage, positive ROI, and market leadership.

At a minimum, an individual or a company that is new to content marketing should have the planning, creation, amplification and measurement skills (with a strong emphasis in 2 or 3). Otherwise, they’ll simply be stuck at Production phase and never really be distinguished from the competition and suffer the harsh realities of Mark Schaefer’s “Content Shock”.

Beyond these more technical skills are character and personality traits as well as other skills like strategy, creativity and the ability to draw insight from data. Of course those skills are important for any role in an organization.

What would you add to this list? What would you say are the bare minimum for an individual (according to their role) or a content marketing agency?


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Print Newsletters as Content Marketing Tactic: Pros, Cons, Examples and Best Practices http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/02/print-newsletters-content-marketing-tactic/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/02/print-newsletters-content-marketing-tactic/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 12:00:03 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16470 One of the oldest forms of content marketing are printed newsletters that arrive by snail mail, providing valuable, information-rich content that your customers and prospects want. They can be an effective compliment to online promotions or serve niche markets where print is a preferred format. Given the overall decrease in postal mail, a print newsletter [...]

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Print Newsletters Mail DeliveryOne of the oldest forms of content marketing are printed newsletters that arrive by snail mail, providing valuable, information-rich content that your customers and prospects want. They can be an effective compliment to online promotions or serve niche markets where print is a preferred format.

Given the overall decrease in postal mail, a print newsletter can stand out to the recipient, unlike an online newsletter that can get lost in an already too full in-box. Conversely, due to the continuing rise of postal costs, newsletters are more likely to be concise and targeted, providing special appeal.

According to the 2014 B2C & B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report for North America, B2C marketers use print newsletters with greater frequency at 29% compared to their B2B counterparts at 22%. In addition, customer retention/loyalty is cited as a top marketing goal for B2C compared to lead generation for B2B.

But, both types consider brand awareness to be a crucial content marketing goal, which could explain why print newsletters continue to hold value as a content marketing tactic.

Consumers still love getting mail.

Direct mail, which includes print newsletters, also resonates with consumers in a way that email simply does not. According to marketing firm Epsilon Targeting’s Consumer Channel Preference Study, direct mail continues to deliver as consumers’ preferred means of receiving marketing messages from brands. Here are some of their key findings:

  • Six out of 10 U.S. consumers surveyed say they “enjoy getting postal mail from brands about new products.”
  • Across all key verticals – from financial and insurance to retail and personal care – direct mail is preferred over email by all respondents.
  • The propensity for direct mail also extends to the 18-34 year old demographic
  • Consumers report getting an emotional boost from receiving direct mail; 60% agree they “enjoy checking their postal mail boxes.”
  • Half of all respondents concur with the statement, “I pay more attention to information I receive by postal mail than if it was received by email.”

As with any print medium, a brand has an opportunity to develop a relationship based on a mutually beneficial value proposition. Print newsletters represent an open invitation to communicate your company story as well as its products and services and to optimize beyond the sales life cycle.

Demonstrate value to cut through the clutter.

As digital marketers, we sometimes forget that good old-fashioned print meets the conditions of content marketing: demonstrate your value proposition while providing value.

Print newsletters, just like print magazines, are a mainstay for many companies wanting a credible way to cut through the clutter. Typically, your newsletter periodical will include articles around one specific subject or topic related to your brand or company and written for a group of people with a common interest — namely your products, services or cause.

Like any marketing communication, it’s important to establish a consistent distribution cycle to be the most effective. Whether it’s weekly, monthly or quarterly, determine a regular schedule and stick to it.

Although the recipients of your newsletter gave you implicit permission to enter your home or office, remember, newsletters are not ads. If you are sending out a promotional newsletter, your goal, of course, is to turn prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers. You just want to steer clear of any overt sales pitch. But calls to action are more than acceptable.

A print newsletter allows you to give more in-depth information to readers, which is especially important when trying to educate buyers about complex products or services. Once they understand fully the benefits of what your company has to offer, they will be more likely to buy.

Pros of Print Newsletters for Content Marketing:

  • It grabs attention.
  • It’s a proven way to nurture customers, members and leads.
  • There are no costs for distribution because you already own your customer list.
  • Print is enjoying resurgence because it feels new when compared to digital marketing.
  • The printed word is perceived to be more substantive and therefore more credible.
  • Print allows people to unplug from the online chatter. Its noise to signal ratio is zero, compared to the Internet.
  • Print is tactile, providing a deeper visceral connection to the brand. (Read Using neuroscience to understand the role of direct mail.)
  • For niche demographics, like seniors, print is perceived as more legitimate.
  • Print newsletters enjoy a longer shelf life, leading to more active engagement.

Cons of Print Newsletters for Content Marketing:

  • Lacks the immediacy and accessibility of other digital communication channels
  • Budget and timeline may strain marketing resources
  • With people moving with greater frequency, keeping your list clean may be difficult
  • Cost prohibitive to publish in more than one language for most companies

Print Newsletter Examples:

George Dickel® – The Cascade Hollow Courier

This Tennessee Whiskey distiller since 1870 celebrates its sipping heritage with apparel, glassware, accessories and tours and publishes a print newsletter to promote it all.

George Dickel - Consumer Goods Print Newsletter

  • Quality publication that enhances its overall brand message with consistent design and century-old feel
  • Celebrates the outdoor lifestyle so prevalent in the south with content and promotional items, like collectible decoy replicas, to match
  • Promoting a Huntin’ and Fishin’ story contest further engages their readers adding to their enjoyment value

Valent Bioscience Corp.

This company was the Gold Winner in the 42nd annual Creativity International Awards for B2B newsletter design, proving that science doesn’t have to be boring.

Valent Bioscience Print Newsletter

  • Great use of white space, typography, color and visuals
  • 4-pages packed with relevant content, including application notes and new product innovation, for its target audience
  • Establishes their thought leadership with a strategic article under the heading, Vector Vision, discussing the benefits of controlling the mosquito population, i.e. vector control

Antalis

This leading European distributor of papers and packaging products took home the gold at the 42nd annual Creativity International Awards.

Antalis Award Winning Print Newsletter

 

  • Bold use of color, design and typography
  • Content promotes products relevant to the print and visual communications industries
  • Effective use of non-traditional format, fitting for the creative visual arts
  • Employs storytelling in a way that makes sense to its target audience looking to learn more about curious metallic®, a specialty paper

Guidelines for Content Marketing with a Print Newsletter:

First impressions: Even though your newsletter is most likely free to subscribers, will a new reader perceive value in it? The layout and openness of the design, color and weight of the paper and the balance of text and graphics are being scrutinized in a nanosecond. Does it say, read me now or shelve for later? All elements of your newsletter design should enhance your overall brand message and meet readers’ expectations.

Format: Newsletters don’t have to be letter size portrait booklets to be called a newsletter. Other formats may work better, depending on your industry. Explore different sizes, orientations and folds based on the purpose and content length of the publication.

Content: Carefully choose your articles so that each one generates results. Avoid using generic filler, such as recipes or quotes. Focus content on industry trends, new product innovations, a top customer spotlight, or company milestones. The goal is to include focused content that meets the informational needs of your target audience. Including testimonials of satisfied customers can add a persuasive element to your content and lets your customers do the selling.

Sales tool: You can attract more readers and more potential customers by featuring your company’s area of expertise. This should be tips or best practices that are useful to readers regardless of whether they do business with you. A utility company might offer “energy efficiency tips” or a hotel conference center could offer a meeting and planning guide for corporate clients.

Offline promotion: Promote free subscriptions to your newsletter. A simple way to generate leads is to include a call to action in all your company’s marketing communications, such as ads, brochures, catalog, trade show signage, etc. that encourages customers to call or email for a subscription.

Online promotion: Include a sign-up box on your website for your free print newsletter and include an archive of sample newsletters to show exactly what the subscriber can expect. Promote it through all your social media channels to drive people back to your website to sign up. You may even want to run a contest using social channels, enticing people to sign up for the printed material.

Maximize exposure: Having gone to the time and expense of publishing a newsletter, you want to cast your net wide. Here are a few additional tactics you can employ:

  1. Mail your newsletter to all former customers or potential customers who have requested information on your product or service in the past but never ordered from you. Just be sure you make it easy for them to opt out.
  2. Give your salespeople copies of the newsletter to hand out on sales calls, at trade shows and exhibition booths.
  3. Send the newsletter to all potential clients who may have a strong interest in a solution-oriented article you published that may appeal to them. For example, if your technology solution helped a local hospital save thousands of dollars on staffing costs, send a copy of the newsletter to all the hospitals in your service area.

When people actually want to receive information about your company, doesn’t it make sense to include a print newsletter in your marketing mix?

If you like in-depth articles like this about content marketing, be sure to visit our index of content marketing tactics.

Photo credit: Shutterstock


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Is Driving Traffic to Your Website Driving Customers Away? http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/01/website-drive-customers-away/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/01/website-drive-customers-away/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 15:29:44 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16422 The vast majority of digital marketing seems to be focused on creating content and experiences for customers with the ultimate measure of success being increased traffic to the company website, leading to leads and sales. It’s a reasonable approach, since company websites typically provide the kinds of information that explain what a company does, the [...]

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Gourmet Cupcakes by Melanie

Melanie Odden Cupcakes – Optimized for Delicious

The vast majority of digital marketing seems to be focused on creating content and experiences for customers with the ultimate measure of success being increased traffic to the company website, leading to leads and sales.

It’s a reasonable approach, since company websites typically provide the kinds of information that explain what a company does, the products or services they sell and some means for collecting inquiries or conducting transactions.

But here’s the problem with that in 2014 and beyond:  Consumer trends towards content discovery, engagement and interaction have evolved way beyond the common corporate website or online store.

Buyers can get the information they need to decide on a vendor or make a transaction from any combination of devices; smartphone, tablet, computer or web destination; social network, blog, microsite, industry publication, document hosting service.

While marketers are elevating their multi-channel marketing and integrating across owned, earned, paid and shared media channels, the focus is almost always to drive traffic back to the company website to transact.

Driving website traffic is an approach most marketers have taken for years. It’s what’s comfortable according to our processes and skills. It’s easiest to measure too, since we control what’s measured on our own websites.

Driving to or driving away?

It’s worth asking: Do customers really want to go to the corporate website to get more information after watching a cool video about a product? Do they really want to leave their favorite social network after getting a recommendation from friends in order to make an inquiry with a business?  Does it really matter whether a customer becomes aware, interested and inclined to transact because of experiences on or off the company website?

As a consumer or B2B buyer yourself, I’m sure you’ve experienced a situation where you’re watching a video, reading content or interacting on a social network and you had to go through a few hoops to get to a corporate website or online store to transact. Or more commonly, you see something interesting from a company posted to a social network and you have to visit the company website to see any detail.

Maybe you’ve experienced the alternative – you came to the conclusion to dig deeper into a service or company and were able to do it right there where it was discovered – not on the corporate site?

I think the demand by customers for off-site engagement is only going to increase. If digital marketers stick to the “drive website traffic” as the only means to move customers along the sales cycle, then those who do optimize for customer experience wherever the customers are, will win. An integrated marketing approach is necessary to optimize for customer experience.

That’s what optimization is all about: making it easy for customers to do what you want them to do. That means empathy with their journey and refining the experience across the customer journey – wherever it may take palce.

This doesn’t mean the end of the corporate website or blog. But I do think it means a few things worth considering:

  • Companies need to step up the content and engagement value created on company websites. If there is substantial social network and community engagement already, then integrate off-site content through social hubs and curation
  • Marketers need to account for prospect and customer engagement off site just they do with on-site engagement
  • Investments in content, engagement and transactions in off-site environments need to be tested and ramped up where appropriate
  • Marketers need to evaluate tools, services, widgets and platforms that support content publishing, promotion, transaction and measurement off-site

What do you think?

Do your marketing activities focus exclusively on driving traffic to the company website or online store? Are you testing or implementing off-site content, engagement and transaction functionality?  What embeddable ecommerce tools have you seen or used within social networks, content artifacts or videos?


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5 Most Popular Digital Marketing and Public Relations Presentations of 2013 http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/popular-online-marketing-presentations-2013/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/popular-online-marketing-presentations-2013/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 14:13:20 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16197 In 2013, I had the good fortune to share insights on the integration of digital marketing and PR at over 25 events online and off. From San Francisco to New York to London, Madrid and Moscow, marketers all over the world are in search of answers on how to plan, integrate, implement and measure coordinated [...]

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Lee Odden

Photo Credit: Adamson Studios Photography

In 2013, I had the good fortune to share insights on the integration of digital marketing and PR at over 25 events online and off.

From San Francisco to New York to London, Madrid and Moscow, marketers all over the world are in search of answers on how to plan, integrate, implement and measure coordinated marketing messaging across multiple channels. I’d like to think TopRank Online Marketing helped move some people in the right direction.

Growing tactical expertise is essential, but understanding the customer universe and their buying experience is even more important in today’s always on, always connected, digital world. The power of influence no longer belongs to the few as social technologies and networks have begun to democratize the ability to publish, engage and inspire.

Looking over the year’s presentations on integrated digital marketing and public relations on our Slideshare account, I’ve picked out the top 5 according to our 12,000+ followers there to share with you as a review and also what to look forward to in 2014.

This presentation from SES New York speaks to the evolution of content marketing from quantity to quality to experience. Creativity storytelling in content marketing is essential to stand out and create engagement with buyers in a way that they can feel, not just understand intellectually. Customer empathy is important, but so is brand leadership. So far this presentation has had just under 20,000 views on Slideshare.

One of the most enjoyable and well received keynotes I’ve done was for the PDX Communicators Conference in Portland, Oregon on integrating digital marketing and public relations. Yes, Voodoo Donuts were involved as well as insights into how PR pros can leverage digital marketing for customer targeting, which marketing skills to grow, how to find common ground between PR and marketing and measurement. Just over 18,000 views on Slideshare and growing.

Another keynote presentation I had some fun with is this presentation on the Future of SEO in a Social Content World given at the OMWeek SearchDay event in Madrid, Spain. The main points in this deck support the transition from SEO-only marketing to SEO as an integrated marketing approach that optimizes for customers first. Find out customers’ questions along the buying cycle and then answer them with content that’s easy to find and share. For a niche audience, this presentation attracted views from all over the world and is just over 17,000 views on Slideshare.

My presentation at NMX Blogworld earlier this year was named one of the top 5 and is part of the reason I’ll be giving part of the opening keynote at NMX in 2014. The title of the presentation, War of Words: Myth-Busting Social Media, SEO & Content Marketing, was crowdsourced with you, our community. By understanding the customer journey and how people discover, consume and act on information, marketers can make better choices about content, optimization, engagement and offers. Social Media effectiveness is best measured for what it delivers: an assist, not just a direct response mechanism. Slideshare has this presentation at a solid 13,500 views and counting.

I was fortunate to travel all the way to Moscow, Russia to deliver a social media marketing workshop and this presentation that focused specifically on B2B social media: B2B Social Media Success: 10 Tips and Trends for 2014.

When optimizing for the buyer’s journey in B2B, each content object must be accountable to attract, engage and convert at some level. All content does not need to convert to a lead, but at least contribute to the next step in the buying cycle. Creating value for buyers on both a personal and professional level through social media (B’s are people too) helps B2B marketers better engage with target audiences. B2B social media also requires patience – it’s a much longer sales cycle. With over 11,000 views on Slideshare so far, this presentation intended for a small group in Moscow has reached interested marketers from many other parts of the world.

BONUS!

On the TopRank Slideshare account, we publish ebooks as well as presentations and this eBook created in partnership with the awesome folks at Content Marketing World on Content Marketing was our most popular ebook of the year, attracting over 61,000 views.

I hope you find this collection of presentations on integrating digital markeing tactcs and the convergence of marketing and public relations useful. These topics will only continue to grow in 2014, especially as marketing evolves as an integrated discipline from multi-channel to omni-channel. Being the best answer or solution for customers wherever they may be influenced requires and integrated effort and continuous testing, learning and optimization.


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Where Search Optimization Fits in The Future of Digital Marketing http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/search-fits-future-digital-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/search-fits-future-digital-marketing/#comments Thu, 26 Dec 2013 16:55:07 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16188 As long as useful answers can be found on search engines, optimizing content for search discovery will remain a key to online success. The degree to which marketers must align creative, technical and customer centric resources for content may vary, but optimized content is vital for reaching and engaging customers that are actively looking for [...]

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future of digital marketing

Clever lighting at Google

As long as useful answers can be found on search engines, optimizing content for search discovery will remain a key to online success.

The degree to which marketers must align creative, technical and customer centric resources for content may vary, but optimized content is vital for reaching and engaging customers that are actively looking for solutions.

Buyers are continuously seeking answers from the web, whether it’s via PC, mobile, or tablet, at every stage in the buying cycle. So it’s important that brands ask themselves: Are your digital assets and media properly optimized to capture these visitors at every phase—from discovery to purchase?

Of course, the days of optimizing a web site as a single source of interaction with customers are long gone. Buyers are becoming far more sophisticated in how they access information, often consuming media of different formats on multiple devices at the same time.

While a company may do well with web pages on Google search from a lap top computer, their competitors might be dominating with images on mobile search and using video within relevant social networks.

If your business isn’t “the best answer” where and when customers need you, then the competition will be.

Integrated digital marketing across earned, owned, paid and shared media is the answer, but can be complicated for marketers that are structured for single channel efforts. As a starting point (and a solid reminder for pros) here are three simple tips on how to use search optimization as part of a more sophisticated digital marketing program.

1. Know Your Customer

How well do you know your customers? What characterizes your best customers? Your worst customers? Have you quantified and qualified these observations?

One way to anticipate the demand for topics that can drive your content creation and performance optimization is to research keywords with tools like Ubersuggest and Google AdWords Keyword Planner (AdWords account required).

Use that research to create a keyword glossary and then map topics that are most relevant and in demand to the corresponding categories and pages on your website, blog and other web content. While Google has masked organic keyword referrers from web analytics, this mapping tactic will help you connect traffic performance to the topics and keywords that you’ve been optimizing for. Knowing what your buyer wants is the first step to delivering and then optimizing valuable content that will prove meaningful to new and returning customers alike.

Use what you already know about your best customers to create, promote and optimize content that helps them answer key questions during all phases of the buying cycle. Don’t just focus on transactions. Once you have engagement with that content, you can use social media monitoring and web analytics data to further refine messaging, creative and calls to action.

The future of optimization with digital marketing is a never ending effort to improve the ability for search engines and buyers to find understand and act on your content.

2. Align Sales with Search

Businesses should analyze KPIs (key performance indicators) that lead consumers to conversion. What pages are driving conversion? What pages serve as stepping stones to conversion? Take inventory of these pages and ensure that they are optimized for discovery, engagement and action appropriately.

For each customer segment, there may be a unique sequence of steps along the buying journey from awareness to interest to consideration and purchase. With each step there are different questions to be answered and different calls to action. Make sure you anticipate what KPIs make the most sense at each stage and that they align with the business outcome you desire.

Trying to instigate transactions on a page that is optimized for customers that are just learning about your category of solution for the first time is a disconnect. Optimizing a page with a case study, pricing or competitive comparison is a better match for inspiring educated buyers to transact.

Align appropriate sales messaging with optimized content across the buying cycle and you’ll deliver a better customer experience that will lead to more sales whether the pages are discovered from search or links from other sources like social media, industry publications or the company blog.

3. Track Performance & Facilitate Change

Once you’ve implemented an SEO strategy into your digital marketing mix, the job of optimization for search is far from finished. Track the organic search visibility of your optimized content and digital assets to see if there are correlations between keyword ranking and the performance of pages that have been optimized for specific phrases.

Moving forward, tailor your content and topic optimization strategy to reflect buyer preferences, and refine messaging on destination content like landing pages as well as feeder content like blog posts, earned media and social networks based on performance indicators. The process of optimization is continuous.

The future of optimization within a digital marketing strategy means creating a search strategy that encompasses all devices, channels and media that customers are using. Modern business buyers and consumer shoppers are discovering and interacting with content on multiple channels. What does that mean for marketers? The days of single channel are dead. The days of multichannel are maturing and the world of omnichannel is where marketers need to gain proficiency in order to truly deliver on “the best answer” experience for buyers.

According to Google Think Insights, “90% of people use multiple screens sequentially.” Today, and in the coming year, your search optimization strategy must span all channels, reach your customers on all screens and be integrated with your overall online marketing strategy. Know your customer and revisit the data that supports your hypothesis about what drives each of your most important customer segments.  Optimize across the sales cycle, not just for transactions and make sure you’ve committed to optimizing for content performance in search on an ongoing basis.

Have you tackled these three basic steps? Are your SEO efforts still focused on keywords and rankings or are you optimizing for customer experiences?

This post was adapted from an edited interview I did with LivePerson for their eBook: The Future of Digital Engagement: 10 Thought Leaders Share Predictions for 2014


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Optimizing Convergence: How to Break Down Silos Between Marketing & PR http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/break-silos-marketing-pr/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/break-silos-marketing-pr/#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 15:07:32 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16137 One of the hot topics amongst the public relations world this year will gain even more momentum into 2014: convergence of digital marketing and PR.  More PR organizations are being held accountable beyond media placements including leads, sales and customer acquisition. At the same time, marketing organizations are starved for creative messaging and amplification with [...]

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Marketing Public Relations Silos

One of the hot topics amongst the public relations world this year will gain even more momentum into 2014: convergence of digital marketing and PR.  More PR organizations are being held accountable beyond media placements including leads, sales and customer acquisition. At the same time, marketing organizations are starved for creative messaging and amplification with their content.

For some PR agencies and departments within companies, the drive towards marketing and PR integration is a substantial and uncomfortable shift. Marketers often think of PR simply as the people who you call only once you want to promote something to the media. For PR, marketing can seem like a content machine generating a spew of information, often of nominal value or newsworthiness.

Conversely, organizations that can integrate the story and messaging value of PR at the start – from strategy to content and social media tactical planning, along with the customer targeting and drive towards measurable outcomes of marketing, can achieve a substantial advantages in their effectiveness. But the important shift is that consumers are not only demanding more information, they expect more compelling experiences and opportunities to interact. I can think of few better partnerships that marketing and PR to create a 360 degree brand presence that attracts, influences, engages and converts.

To help readers either in the PR or Marketing world, here are some fundamental steps towards breaking down silos between marketing and public relations within an organization:

  • Identify goals that can be met for cooperation partners through collaboration
  • Recruit volunteers to participate
  • Create a test, build a business case for integration
  • “Sell” the results to gain more support and budget

There may be status quo driven skeptics, but nothing tells the truth better than proof of data. That’s why creating a business case from a test project or campaign can be so compelling. To make that work, PR needs to be involved from the startL from content planning to identify with marketing what’s “really” promotable to execution for message continuity across channels and amplification through earned, owned, paid and shared media.

A lot of the debate between Marketing and PR is about tactics – Who owns social media? Who owns content marketing?  Legacy responsibilities and comfort levels maintain the status quo.

To make progress towards breaking down those silos and realize the true value of marketing and PR convergence, it’s important to shift attention for a moment, away from tactics and focus first on organizational goals.

Common PR Goals:

  • Awareness
  • Influence
  • Thought Leadership
  • Reputation
  • Media Coverage
  • Social Reach
  • Social Engagement
  • Influencer Relationships

Common Marketing Goals:

  • Traffic
  • Leads
  • Sales
  • Customer Aquisition
  • Order Volume
  • Order Frequency
  • Retention
  • Referrals

Digital PR Marketing Pod

By understanding the distinct objectives for digital marketing and public relations, an organization can identify where to find common ground. They can find opportunities for both strategic and tactical insight from marketing and PR to be applied:

Messaging & Story – Based on an understanding of both the target audience and those who influence buyers, PR can contribute insights during the marketing program planning stages to develop a brand narrative that extends across channels.

Content Planning – Facts tell and stories sell – so here PR can contribute their expertise in finding the overall “story” as well as stories associated with specific content tactics. This is along the lines of, “We’re not selling hammers, we’re selling homes. We’re selling security, peace of mind and family.”  Content utility is essential, but content experiences create distinct competitive advantages and PR can contribute to the storytelling and messaging within content marketing plans.

Coordinated Social & Media Relations with Amplification – In line with strategic messaging and specific stories to articulate unique selling proposition, PR can align media relations efforts with the creation of owned media. At the same time marketing is deploying online advertising and email campaigns, PR can coordinate sponsored content (native ads), influencer engagement and social media promotions.

Creating a congruent, compelling experience across channels helps the brand become the clear, “best answer” for the things the target customer cares about. The brand and best answer affinity pulls buyers towards transactions and referrals.

Social Listening for Buying Signals – Most PR groups engage in social media listening to connect with influencers, monitor for advocacy and dissent. Those same social media listing skills can be applied to identifying buying signals from prospects looking for information.

Content Placement – Publishing content on brand owned channels like the corporate website, newsroom, blog and social media channels right along with contributed articles, guest blog posts, sponsored content and publicity all fall in the realm of PR content specialists.

Optimize Messaging – Drawing on social media listening, web analytics, digital clipping reports and marketing performance data, PR can consult with marketing on optimizing high level messaging as well as topics and keywords used at the content object level. The dynamic of hypothesis, implementation, data collection and optimization is near and dear for digital marketers. It should become the new model for digital PR pros too.

You can see an example of this sort of integration in the simplified integrated marketing model I shared here.

For 2014, I think there will be a lot more attention on the evolution of Public Relations to extend the ability to influence a public towards brand storytelling and narrative driven content marketing programs that extend across media channels. The power of influence combined with audience targeting and direct impact on business ROI make integrated marketing and communications a very attractive option for companies that need to take that next step in their digital marketing.

If you work in Public Relations, is your group or company performing more marketing accountable functions? What are some of your biggest challenges towards greater integration between PR and marketing?


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Integrated Marketing Simplified: Be the Best Answer http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/be-the-best-answer/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/be-the-best-answer/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 14:36:36 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16130 Most marketers “get” that services like Facebook, Google and media are where customers can be attracted and engaged. They use email marketing and advertising to promote offers to convert and life is good. At least that’s how it used to be. The reality is that customers are becoming more complex, requiring more points of contact [...]

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Integrated marketingMost marketers “get” that services like Facebook, Google and media are where customers can be attracted and engaged. They use email marketing and advertising to promote offers to convert and life is good.

At least that’s how it used to be.

The reality is that customers are becoming more complex, requiring more points of contact and information as they move through the sales cycle. Companies offering up single, direct channel promotions are finding it increasingly difficult to compete.

This is why I’m such a big advocate of taking a customer-centric view and then integrating tactics so brands can become the most logical solution when and where it matters most to buyers.

One of the most important things about having been involved in the search marketing world for a long time is the idea of identifying what’s in demand and being that thing at the moment of customer need (ZMOT).  When a customer needs to solve a problem, they search Google or Bing and there you are; leading the pack in the search results – just waiting to be clicked so you can deliver your offer to a qualified customer.

Search isn’t the singular home run channel it used to be

My SEO background is where the idea of “being the best answer” comes from. But today, search isn’t the singular home run channel it used to be.  Customers have other prominent influences and means for discovering information and numerous device types to consume and interact with media. Considering all those factors, planning for the best answer strategy can seem a bit tricky.

The answer is an integrated marketing approach. One of the slides I used on this topic at a recent social media workshop earned a bit more attention than the others. Maybe it was because the slide is so awesome it captured their focused attention? Or maybe it was because the slide is overloaded with text and arrows and the audience was simply perplexed?

I’m inclined to lean toward the latter, so to provide an example of how a marketer might connect the dots between goals and conversions with an integrated approach, I’ll use this post to explain my Frankengraphic:

integrated marketing plan

The Scenario  – We have done our homework to understand a specific customer segment. We know their common demographic, psychographic and behavioral characteristics. Or at least simple data points like reasons for buying, preferred information discovery channels, content consumption preferences (media type, device, topic) and the kinds of offers and CTAs that work.

Through understanding our target customer goals, pain points and preferences, we can develop an integrated content marketing plan that is optimized for findability, engagement and action.

Business Goals – Marketing is accountable for creating demand for increasing revenue and many other variations that add to the business bottom line. Some of those are increased brand awareness, increase in sales volume, frequency and a decrease in duration of sales cycle, lowered marketing costs.

In the graphic above, we’re focused on selling more of a premium product to a target audience that represents a higher end buyer characterized as “Jane”.

Customer Insights – To be meaningful with a premium product or service offer to Jane, we need to understand her situation as a buyer on the high end of the spectrum. What causes her to need this kind of product? What situations often exist around the purchase? What factual and emotional triggers are involved with Jane’s buying experience? What questions does Jane have through the sales cycle?

Collecting buyer information from existing customers, web analytics, social media monitoring and your front line staff (Customer Service, Sales) that interact with customers on a daily basis can help inform which of your customers are “Jane”.  From that data we can create a buyer persona that will inform our marketing approach, tactics and measurement.

In this highly abbreviated example, Jane cares most (buying triggers) about saving time and great service. She uses a regional social network, Twitter and she also blogs. Our task is to become “the best answer” where it matters and on topics that are most relevant to Jane’s reason for buying premium “widgets”.

Marketing, PR, Customer Service Strategy – The way companies are structured, (and agencies too), marketing operates in a silo with few interactions across other departments. Convergence is happening, but it’s going to take some time.

In the case of Jane, our integrated approach would be designed to create a brand narrative across channels that support the interests of premium customers with particular focus on topics around saving time and providing stellar service. Being present in a meaningful way on multiple media: owned, earned, paid and shared provides a congruent experience across channels.

Tactical Mix and Implementation – Our tactical mix might start by drawing on existing customer surveys and data as well as drawing insights from Customer Service to identify those key topics and concerns premium customers like the Janes have. We’d make sure we create information in the places where Jane discovers, consumes and acts on information online.

Along with posting to our own blog, and social network channels, our content plan would call for working with Public Relations to secure media placements in industry publications and blogs with the kind of information that will connect Jane to our offer. Awareness, Interest, Consideration and ultimately, Purchase.

Coordination with social media channels like Twitter and other relevant social networks in support of media coverage, blogging and ads provide a congruent set of messages about how our premium widgets save time like no other and come with first class service – the things Jane cares about most.

Key Performance Indicators – Our integrated strategy calls for themed content published across owned, earned, paid and shared media, so KPIs that track our content’s reach and engagement would be the focus. Any measurement effort needs to start with benchmarks of course. Social network size, current engagement on the target topics, search visibility, owned media content consumption of target topics – essentially both on and off site indications.

If we want to be known as a premium brand that saves time and provides first class service, then we’d need to establish the current share of voice and search for our brand and those topics. Then continue to monitor our marketing efforts to increase positive mentions and affinity of our brand in connection with how we want to be known to the Jane customer segment.

Web analytics, SEO tracking and social media monitoring services will provide KPI reporting. Brought into a dashboard, these KPIs will be the pulse of our progress towards reaching and engaging with Jane.

Business Outcomes – By increasing the number of credible mentions of our brand as “the best answer” in the context of a premium solution across multiple channels and media types, our hypothesis is that the Jane customer segment will discover, consume and act our information, pulling themselves through most of the sales cycle.

Growth in overall premium brand affinity on social and industry media as well as leads, sales, revenue and customer acquisition through premium widget sales would all be viable business outcomes as a result of a successful “best answer” marketing program.

Optimize Performance – Using KPI and business outcome data, we can refine our messaging, channel participation, media outreach and offers to continuously improve the performance of our program. Whether it’s to improve reach, engagement or conversions – optimization is the core of any ongoing marketing program, especially one that is integrated across multiple channels and media types.

When you look beyond the standard sales cycle of Awareness, Interest, Consideration and Purchase you can find that your content marketing, SEO and social media efforts will bear even more productive fruit in the form of referrals and brand advocacy. A big part of effective optimization is about making it easy for your target audience to do what you want them to do.  So make it easy for customers, prospects, the media and network influencers to find, consume and act on your content.

Be present where it matters. Be the best answer for whatever it is that your customers care about most, relevant to your brand’s solutions.

Hopefully this simplified view of an integrated effort across media types to “be the best answer” is helpful to you and will inspire you to create more meaningful customer experiences that increase revenue and grow your brand.

Are you implementing multichannel, integrated marketing programs? What obstacles or successes have you experienced?

Top image: Shutterstock


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12 Killer Social Media & Content Marketing Blog Posts from 2013 http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/killer-social-media-content-marketing-posts-2013/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/12/killer-social-media-content-marketing-posts-2013/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 16:30:18 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16110 This post marks number 3,401 on Online Marketing Blog. Did you know? December is our 10 year blog birthday month! We’ve covered a variety of topics in depth over those thousands of posts, especially the integration of search, social media and content with marketing and public relations. TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog has been a top ranked [...]

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top content marketing social media posts

Metro statue from a recent trip to Moscow

This post marks number 3,401 on Online Marketing Blog. Did you know? December is our 10 year blog birthday month!

We’ve covered a variety of topics in depth over those thousands of posts, especially the integration of search, social media and content with marketing and public relations.

TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog has been a top ranked marketing blog on AdAge 150 from day one and is the only blog to have been named the #1 content marketing blog 3 times by Junta42 (Content Marketing Institute).

Reflecting back over the past year there have been more changes in the digital marketing industry than seems reasonable to track best practices on. To help with that, I thought it would be handy to have a list of our top social media and content marketing posts based on traffic, shares and engagement.

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Predictions 2013

Social Media Predictions for 2013 – Everyone wants to know what’s next and this post offers my answers that were part of an eBook we developed for our client Dell, who is in the business of providing social media command center services and hardware. Top social media experts in the industry including Ann Handley, Michael Brito, Rohit Bhargava, Toby Bloomberg and more contributed to the eBook. Were the predictions right? You’ll have to check out the post and the eBook to find out.

social media strategy start

Social Media Strategy: Where to Start & Why – Nicolette Beard tackled this topic which appears to be high in demand since there were so many page view of this post. Ironically, it didn’t come close on the top social shares posts. But then again, many business professionals who are social savvy aren’t looking to start, they’re looking to advance to the next level. Still, this post outlines essential considerations for starting a social media program – something a lot of those social savvy types wish they’d done to save time and resources.

2013 Social Media Marketing Report

Top 5 Social Media Questions Marketers Want Answered – Michael Stelzner at Social Media Examiner has been publishing a yearly report on social media marketing and in this year’s report, he outlined 5 core questions that survey respondents wanted answers to. I obliged and answered those questions in this post (including which social media tactics are most effective and how to measure social media ROI) The post had well over 1,000 social shares and many times that in page views.

social media and the law

Social Media & The Law – 11 Things You Need to Know Now – I was very happy this TopRank team-created post put together by Eliza Steely with contributions from Amie, Katie and Emily.  This post was coverage of a Minneapolis/St. Paul Social Media Breakfast event that offered quite a few important insights about legal issues and social media that I don’t think a lot of companies are considering.

Brand Social Media Hub

Social Media Hubs for Brands – Best Practices & 9 Examples – A trend I’ve noticed amongst brands that are maturing in the social media and content marketing is that they have so much social activity and content and no single place to find it all. Hence, the brand social media hub.  These hubs take many forms from content curated amongst a brand’s own social media activities to that of their community. This post offers useful examples so you can see what other successful companies are doing to pull together their social streams in one hub.

Mari Smith

Successful Facebook Marketing Examples, Tips & A Secret from Mari Smith – The name Mari Smith and Facebook Marketing are synonymous so it was without hesitation that I reached out to Mari to for her advice to be included in a series of social media thought leader interviews for our client Dell and their Tech Page One website. Mari delivers in this interview with several examples and best practices.

Content Marketing

What is Content

What is Content? Learn from 40+ Definitions – When researching a keynote presentation on the future of content marketing, I tapped our social network for insights and noticed the fundamental question about defining content itself was one that needed to be considered. This post is the result of an informal poll I took on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ asking: What is content? Answers fell into three groups: “Too ambiguous to define”, “Information and media things/objects you make”, and “Content are experiences and outcomes”. Check out the post for specific definitions from our community.

b2b content marketing

11 Examples of Killer B2B Content Marketing Campaigns Including ROI – Seriously, who doesn’t love a great case study? Luckily, the folks at the Content 2 Conversion B2B Marketing conference provided a great collection of examples showing strategy, tactics and ROI for each of 11 different content marketing programs. From SunGard attracting over 20 leads to Xerox being able to attribute $1.3 billion on pipeline revenue to their content marketing effort, there’s no question companies are doing this right and we can all learn from them.

B2B Case Studies

B2B Content Marketing Tactics: Pros, Cons & Best Practices of Case Studies – Speaking for case studies, they are an excellent content marketing tactic themselves. As part of an ongoing series covering each of 30 different content marketing tactics, this post offers a structured format shared by each of the series including a definition, pros, cons, examples, industry thought leader quotes and best practices. If you’re doing great work, case studies are an excellent format to communicate how effective you are. This is true internally at companies, not just for agencies.

Content Curation

3 Essential Content Curation Best Practices to Boost Content Marketing Performance – Content curation is an essential part of any digital marketing mix. In fact, this post is an example of curated content (with original annotations of course). There’s a lot of buzz about content curation and this post outlines some of the most important best practices including: sources of news, types of content to curate and where to publish curated content. If curation isn’t part of your online marketing efforts, I’d highly recommend drilling down into it.

Social Content Tools

11 Blog & Social Content Marketing Tools I Use (Almost) Every Day – Miranda Miller (who is now an editor at ClickZ) gave us all a peek at some of the social media and content marketing tools she uses to plan, ideate, manage, promote and measure her social media content efforts. This post had over 1,300 social shares and multiples of that in page views.

10 Content Marketing Tools

10 Content Marketing Tools for Creation, Distribution and Analytics – I had the pleasure of introducing my pal Joe Chernov, who now works at HubSpot, as “content marketer of the world” oops, I mean “Content Marketer of the Year” at this year’s Content Marketing World conference. Joe shared a collection of tools he evaluated with the help of our mutual friend, Rebecca Lieb at Altimeter Group.  I really liked the deck and turned it into a blog post for our readers to learn more about content marketing tools that y0u might not otherwise be exposed to.

There you go: 12 posts about social media and content marketing to wrap up your 2013. We’ll undoubtedly continue to cover changes and new best practices in the areas of social media and content marketing, but you’ll also see a lot more mobile, email and digital advertising coverage in the coming year as well.

Which topics would you like to see more of in 2014?


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