Becoming a Thought Leader – Would You Listen to You?

    Becoming a Thought Leader – Would You Listen to You?

    We rarely a great deal for business owners and marketers to embrace content marketing and social media marketing primarily for the effect it has on bringing a business and its audience close together.  It’s that content, right down to the posts in social media, that drive engagement.  It’s so important in fact that even veterans and major PR handlers for big business have asked themselves the question of whether or not they were “me too” marketing.
    Matthew Setter of Malt Blue recently did a guest spot over at ProBlogger that talked about finding your unique voice and it made me stop and consider the implication of trying too hard to be a thought leader;  It’s good to have goals for your marketing but what if your goal is sabotaging itself?
    Pushing Too Hard
    Becoming a thought leader through content marketing brings about a lot of benefits for your business and it’s certainly a goal to have.  Ultimately, you want potential customers to rely on you and see the value of what you share so they continue to return.  If they come back, you’re far more likely get that sale or that conversion.
    But should you be focusing on finding the perfect voice or becoming that awesome thought leader to dominate your market?  If that is your final goal and destination, you could wind up in a grand central station completely void of potential customers.
    The problem comes when you take your sights off of value and start focusing on yourself.  “I want to become a thought leader”, “I want to have a better voice to be unique in my market”, “I want to be different”.
    It’s important not to be a “me too” content publisher but in trying not to be a “me too” publisher you wind up being just that.
    Keeping Value in Sight
    If you turn off your nav system that you’ve programmed to guide you to “thought leader” or “unique” then you can focus on what’s more important – imparting value and sharing something valuable with your audience.
    The average Joe cares less about whether or not you sound like the other deli on 9th st.  They don’t necessarily care you claim to be the best source for sausage recipes east of Ohio.  Was is important is that the content provides them with information that is useful.  When you give them something useful, it’s the audience that will then decide if you’re worthy of being seen as a leader in your market.  It’s the audience that decides if you stand out beyond your competitors.
    Matthew Setter noted a series of questions you can ask yourself to get the maximum effect.  His applied to blogging but you can use this same check system on any type of content marketing:

    • Would I take this on board?
    • Would I listen to me?
    • Am I communicating worthwhile knowledge with passion and conviction?
    • Would I learn and grow from what I’m sharing?
    • Would I be left with questions or confusion after seeing/reading the content?

    Focus on the information and in providing value; worry less about your voice or pushing to become a leader.  If you strive to share quality information in a human way, things will begin to fall into place naturally.


    Content Rules Book Review

    Content Rules Book Review

    When I initially got a copy of Content Rules handed to me by an associate, with a brief explanation of the contents within, I admit I was a little skeptical at first.  Given the nature of my business and having been involved in online marketing and content marketing for years I expected a decent book on the subject (noting the powerful authors involved) but one that wouldn’t necessarily speak to me directly or teach me much.
    Needless to say I was really surprised when I started to dig into Content Rules.  This is a book that is written to speak to everyone regardless of their level of experience.  Even a seasoned dealer in content marketing such as myself.  Content Rules achieves this by providing detailed metrics we may already know around content creation, but have yet to articulate and Ann Handley & CC Chapman make amazing case after case as to how easy it is to achieve success – whether you need to launch your first campaign or up your level of current engagement.
    As I read deeper into this book, I realized it was more like a bible for the small business owner or marketer that needs a broader grasp of content marketing.  It’s a text book without being a text book and I know it’s something I can handle a client, a friend, an associate or anyone else that might be wondering why anyone would really need to devote time to content creation.
    We can talk until we’re blue in the face about why you need to create content but until you have something that shows measurable proof you’re just blowing wind.  The case studies as part of each subject do just that.
    One thing that really stood out to me as I ready through was the fact that this book tears down barriers in force – common barriers that stop every day people from creating compelling content.  The chapters within, broken into different types of content and the ways to develop it, reveal parameters on how to ensure that any content created is authentic and compelling.  The case studies, as mentioned above, provide life and Ann Handley and CC Chapman give a strong human voice that makes the subject simple to understand.
    Just a simple taste of what I plucked from this book:
    Embrace Being a Publisher – If you want to get into the media then you need to become the media.  The same truly applies to content marketing.  If you want engage your target audience with content and provide value then you to start thinking like a publisher.
    Insight Inspires Originality - A simple one way communication with the customer, lacking empathy, is ineffective.  When you take the time to understand the needs of your customers in various stages of the purchasing cycle then you can create appropriate content that fits the bill every time – the type of content that keeps them engaged and coming back as loyal customers.
    Create Your Own Momentum - When you create content with a purpose, regardless of the platform, you establish an objective and desired outcome.  Content marketing lets you move beyond just informing your readers.  You can give them a natural progression of what they should do next and you build real momentum in your sales funnel.
    Content Rules is timeless in its advice.  I recommend it as a staple on the shelf of anyone involved in marketing, whether it’s a business, an organization or you’re just branding yourself.


    When eMarketing Becomes Excessive Marketing

    When eMarketing Becomes Excessive Marketing

    “Who Begins Too Much Accomplishes Little”
    It’s a German proverb that I think applies to just about everything in life, and it’s something I keep in the back of my mind every day when we work to launch new modules with SYNND, expand Social Media Science and work with others to improve their own businesses.  It’s especially true when it comes to marketing.
    There’s something about marketing that makes it a beast that can’t be tamed, broken or satisfied.  When you climb into the saddle with marketing, there are a lot of times where you’re along for the ride.  You can steer a little but control is only partial.  For the most part it seems like marketing departments aren’t doing enough… or they’re doing way too much.
    Too much is where we have to focus, because it’s becoming a major issue with many businesses lately.  With all the new and different channels for marketing outside of traditional media, marketing departments and business owners are starting to go overboard.
    Initiatives, trade shows, blogs, article marketing, videos, landing pages for every keyword, mail blast campaigns, direct marketing, social media profiles and communities – the list goes on.  And it’s not that doing all of these things is necessarily bad, and it’s not even bad to do all or most of them.  It’s the force applied that’s the problem.  Too many people are going at every marketing aspect full steam and then they abandon them or leave them unfinished as they pick up something else.
    Not only are they putting too much into each area but with all the pushing, there’s no room or time left to measure the analytics and determine how things should be modified.
    Bill Gates once stated:

    “…only through focus can you do world-class things, no matter how capable you are.”

    Think about how you’re currently marketing your personal brand or your business – where do you invest the bulk of your time and energy?  What about your money?  How much time is actually spent doing marketing because it’s either “what you’ve always done” or what the other guy is doing.
    Recognize the benefits of research, then focus your marketing efforts on those areas that will have the most payout in relation to your target audience.  You’d be amazed at how focus spread across a few great marketing practices brings more results than a hyper-broad campaign or hyper-focused campaign.


    Twitter – Stealing the Thunder of Breaking News

    Twitter has been able to once again celebrate a spot in history as it grabbed another foothold in thew news-reporting and incident-reporting area of the web.  There is a very true realization here that news no longer ‘breaks’ around the world.  It chirps, like a little bird.
    More appropriately would be to say that news tweets.
    Social media is laying the groundwork for a new way to do things when it comes to new, a new way to see breaking stories and critical news unfold around the world.  When Sohaib Athar (@reallyvirtual) sent out a live tweet of the raid on Osama Bin Laden he showed proof that once again it’s the people around the world that are able to break news – and do it much faster than traditional media.
    Should we call it one of the biggest events in social media that Keithurbahn, and not CNN, was the first to credibly report on the death of Osama?  It may not be one of the biggest but it’s certainly up at the top of the charts.  That’s not the relevant point of all this however.  The fact is, Twitter is shining through as a bridge (an architectural wonder if you will) that covers the gap between events and reporting.
    Keeping a Finger on the Pulse of the World
    I should clarify that at no point would I consider microblogging to be Journalism, including Twitter.  It is however one of the most ideal tools for committing random and unintentional acts of journalism.  I say this because long before the president was confirming the death of Osama Bin Laden on national television, there were people around the world learning about it through Twitter.
    Social media is without a doubt shrinking the world on a global scale and it’s tying the people of the world together despite continental divides and cultural boundaries.  Social media, especially Twitter, is profoundly merging reach and the velocity at which information travels.  We have seen the benefit of leveraging social media for businesses and marketers through SYNND, and this type of news shows just how massive the reach of social media can be when properly used.
    Business aside – consider the ability to bring news to the corners of the world in just minutes using a simple and free social platform.  It’s as amazing as it is surprising.  Understanding the power of analytics and statistics, Twitter released a report shortly after the storm of tweets surrounding the Osama event, and it shows off the breathtaking volume of the human ability to reach out and share the things that deeply touch us and affect us.

    In less than 12 hours since the tweets began to spread, there were more than 2.2 million tweets from around the world centered on discussing Osama Bin Laden.  Following those were an astonishing number of blog posts in the range of forty thousand.
    Of course this is about more than just  a few minutes of fame for those who can ‘break’ (tweet) news as it happens.  Where we once rallied for freedom of speech, we know have the remarkable freedom of tweet – and that applies beyond the reach of the U.S. Constitution and our borders to encompass the world.  That’s a beautiful thing.


    5 Reasons You Can’t Replace Your Website Using Social Media

    5 Reasons You Can’t Replace Your Website Using Social Media

    You would think after all these years of internet use being mainstream, business owners would understand the value of the website but that’s just not the case.  The Wall Street Journal has recently shared a piece profiling business owners that actually choose not to operate a website – but instead to put the emphasis on their social media presence and corporate profiles.
    It’s true that social media is a powerful tool for marketing – that’s one of the reasons SYNND is so successful.  Business owners and marketers are able to leverage social media through SYNND to improve their online reach, but social media comes nowhere close to filling corporate shoes.  Social media is something that helps business owners flesh out their inbound marketing strategy, but it’s not a means to an identity or a complete branding solution.
    If you’re using social media for more than its intended use, then here are 5 reasons why you need to stop and change your strategy today:
    1.  Loss of Credibility - All other things aside, you need to think about credibility.  In order to convert visitors and “browsers” into customers you need to build trust and establish credibility.  What does it say about your business when you have no website?  Anyone, scammers included, can make up a business and launch a social media presence including a Facebook page.  An actual website that shows a corporate or small business personality is another step toward a credible identity.
    2.  Lack of Direct Control - If you rent a home, how easy it to make updates and changes – like painting the living room a wild color.  In many cases you can’t change the home unless you own it.  This idea applies just as much to social media, where you’re limited to the confines of the established profile with very little room for creating a unique identity.  A website gives you the most control over your presence on the web.
    3.  Lack of Leadership - A website lets you build a real hub where you filter out valuable information that others share, contribute to and join.  Likewise, that hub gives you a central point where you can funnel all of your traffic to learn about you, your business and your product & services.  Your ability to lead your market and create a central hub is severely limited with social media.
    4. Limited Analytics - If you’re marketing online you need to know how your efforts are progressing, the results your getting and how you can use that data to modify your campaign.  Social media sites like Facebook offer analytics, but it’s watered down and even still it can be somewhat confusing.  A website with full control gives you far more statistical data that you can use to improve your marketing and online outreach.
    5. Communication Barriers - Social media is all about communication and engagement but even then it’s still limited.  Are you able to do a mass email to your Twitter followers?  Your website gives you the most customizable environment where you can gather and collect information from visitors and later market to them using that data.
    You can do a lot with social media but you can’t do it all.  Use social media as a way to boost your existing presence, as a tool to aid in your current marketing.  Remember social media is not a solution, it’s only one tool.
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    Why Digg Struggles Under The Power of Reddit

    Back in August of 2010 you may recall the update made to Digg – they announced a relaunch and revision into “version 4″.  As the update was put into effect, Digg was down for the better part of an entire day and those loyal users who loved Digg were locked out.  Unable to search it, submit to it or use the site in any form.  Once the new version went live, people had a strong dislike for the new interface and the feature changes drove regular users away.
    Why make the changes that would ruin the experience for loyal fans?  The higher-ups at Digg pointed that the modifications to the social platform were meant to increase revenue for the site while giving companies and business owners more direct control over content – specifically the exposure of their own content.
    This is the kind of thing that rubs regular users wrong – this goes against what many people feel is the point of a social site like Digg.  Taking away the ability of anyone to get on the front page meant people were going to search elsewhere for an alternative and they did; traffic began to bottom out and Digg has been trying to rebound since that fateful version upgrade.
    Embracing the Corporate Fat Cats
    Switching over to love on the corporate suite isn’t new for social sites;  every social media platform has made some kind of change (often more than one) to make money from business owners.  There has always been more focus on the corporate income and investment than on the user.
    Is that wrong?  Not necessarily.  Business is businesses and a business has to make money – but where did the Digg community run off to when they sought to maintain the community aspect?
    Reddit continues to be the primary competitor for Digg as they work within the same principle, that users are able to submit content whereby other users then vote that content up to increase buzz and exposure.
    Reddit works the way Digg is supposed to work – encouraging interaction, debate and general discussions surrounding posted topics.  The more you contribute within the community the more value you’re seen to add, which is tracked by “karma”.
    Why Reddit is Taking Over
    On April Fools’ Day of 2011, one of the community users that carried some clout on Reddit suggested that a great prank would be to select a video from the YouTube library and send it a ridiculous amount of traffic followed with positive comments.  The prank of course was the ultimate surprise at an explosive viral video hit on something rather normal.
    With the video selected, the ‘prank’ was pulled.  It was later discovered that the Reddit user with the clout had actually planned the marketing stunt with his friend, whom owned the video in questions.  Naturally the community was in an uproar and expressed widespread disappointment in the once-prominent Reddit user.
    So what’s the point here?
    The reason Reddit is so relevant is because it’s one of the few remaining social communities that actually puts the user above all other things.  The community is functional and whole, unbroken by corporate identity and sell-out structure.  In the changing social web – we wonder how long that type of model will last.


    Major News Breaks Again – Who Cares About Your Business?

    Muslim men are getting kicked off airlines, Japan is still under a nuclear crisis, Bin laden was killed and buried at sea, Google is beating the hell out of brands left and right to ensure that the little guy can still thrive in search and Apple won’t stop breeding brand zombies with new product releases.
    With all of this going on – who the hell cares about your products and services?
    That’s what a lot of business owners think;  that marketing during periods of hardship is difficult because you’re sharing the airwaves and the press, the online search and more with headline news that’s really drawing in the attention of consumers.  For some, it’s almost disrespectful to push a deal in the wake of the death of a half dozen soldiers in Iraq.  But you should.
    It’s not that you’re insensitive; it’s not that you don’t care… it’s that you have to.  For starters, we’ll address the obvious fact that marketing is not something that you should ever turn on and off like a light switch.  Once you start the machine you need to let it run and perform all the necessary maintenance to keep it running.  Think of it like the bilge pump on a ship with a big hole in it.  If you shut your marketing off (the pump) your business (the ship) takes a wet nap at the bottom of Lake Unemployed.
    It’s noble that you want to honor or give due respect to events that occur such as the tsunami and massive quakes in Japan, but you, your family and your employees are relying on you to push forward and maintain your marketing.
    The second point to remember is that when disaster occurs, not everyone shuts down and turns their attention only to the television to track the news non-stop.  While tourism and other areas saw big decreases in spending post 9/11 there are still many people who turn to “comforts” in order to make it through hard times.
    Like some people consume comfort foods in emotional states, there are plenty of people that may very well turn to you and your competitors and boost their spending as a way to compensate for the negativity that’s passing around in the media.  Likewise, some product or service you offer may be directly or indirectly related to a disaster, major event or some other news that’s taking place.  For this reason, it’s important to not only continue your marketing but to boost it.
    Building on Existing Marketing Strategy
    Examine the marketing you’ve been doing to see what works, what’s most effective, and what is least effective.  Consider those things that you haven’t tried yet and move for.  I encourage businesses, especially small business, to scale up their marketing efforts and branch out to improve their outreach.  If you haven’t tried paid marketing, then research the kind of results you can get with Facebook PPC.  If you’re not blogging, then consider the potential leads you could gain by informing your audience with articles that breed organic traffic.
    When major events occur, they can preoccupy our time and thoughts and steer us away from our businesses but when it comes down to the bottom line, your customers are still out there and despite the news and major events will continue to require your products and services.  Make sure they can find you, no matter what the media is squawking about.


    The Google Panda – Inspiring New Content Marketing Strategy

    Google’s Panda Update The Alternatives to Off Site Content Marketing
    Google has made it pretty clear that they don’t want people dealing in content mills – it puts too much power in the hands of those article directories and too little power in the hands of those who are trying to get in front of their target audience with quality content on their site.  The last big fat panda update from Google showed us that less value was being placed on those article directories and content farms.
    So does this mean article marketing is coming to an end?  Is external content marketing a thing of the past?
    Fortunately no, there’s just less emphasis being placed on certain aspects of external content marketing and other forms of online marketing.  If you’ve put a great deal of weight on these forms of outreach though, the game is going to change for you.
    Online marketers that relied on article marketing as a way to generate traffic and build their link profile were some of the hardest hit.  If that was your strategy then you need to include some other forms of content marketing in order to make a dent post-panda.
    Google is looking to put your site on the frontlines, so give Google what it wants and start with fresh content:

    • Use your Blog – If you’re not blogging then now is the time to do so.  Google loves fresh content and daily or weekly deliver of content is the way to win the content war.  Your posts finally have the opportunity to rank much easier thanks to the latest update.
    • Optimize your Blog – Your content marketing is an important part of your SEO strategy, so optimize your blog content – including the titles – in order to improve your chances of gaining targeted traffic.
    • Revisit your Site Content – Your site content is the foundation of your content marketing strategy.  Optimized website content is the doorway to SEO and if you want to improve relevancy and rank you need to start there.  Don’t just write for SEO though, keep user engagement and conversion in mind.
    • Post a Media Section - If you’re using press releases as part of your content marketing strategy then kudos, but make sure you add a media section to your site in order for your site to benefit from optimized press releases.
    • Guest Post - Find leaders in your industry and offer a guest post, then invite them to do the same.  We’re all strapped for time, and guest posting will keep the content marketing train rolling.

    Bigger Content Marketing – Start Your Own Article Directory
    You can still use article directories for content marketing but don’t forget that the latest update from Google is putting more emphasis on sites with unique content that are not article directories.  Benefit from the update by starting your own article directory or resource section specific to your niche.  It could be a list of articles similar to those hosted on or you could create your own wiki and tie it into your site.  Your website isn’t just a static billboard to advertise your business – it should become a living thing that changes, grows and engages your target audience.  Join it with your content marketing strategy to gain powerful market share in your market online.


    Marketing Strategy – Why People Hate Cilantro… and You

    This might be a bit of a surprise but did you know that some folks out there are genetically predisposed to hate cilantro?  Who would have thought – but that puts a bit of a spotlight on leafy greens and lets us know why some people just can’t stand the stuff.
    It stands to reason then that people would have some genetic predisposition to dislike or hate on other things, like your product.  Mind you their body probably didn’t adjust itself in utero to hate your tires, or your clothing line, or your car decal business – but there are factors of each that they can hate.
    Color variants, angles and design, smells, texture – the parts that make up those products essentially.  So what does this have to do with your business?
    The hippocampus is a powerful part of the brain and it controls those knee-jerk reactions to stimuli.  You can realize you hate something when you’ve only been exposed to it for a few seconds because that tiny little part of your brain tells you to feel that way… or your customers.
    The Noodle of your Buyer Persona
    This is why market research is so important.  There are a lot of questions that go into studying your target audience so that you understand how to market to them but while a great of your research will be focused on understanding the likes and interests of your buyer persona it is equally important to know what your buyer persona doesn’t like.
    Genetic testing won’t be necessary by the way – most people are acutely aware of their strong dislikes and this includes the things they don’t want to hear when they’re ready to start shopping.  Through careful research you can pick up on the verbal triggers that set off certain people within your target audience.
    For example – if you’re dealing with weight loss in your marketing for a gym or fitness club, you may not want to use words like “fat” or “obese” because these words are sharply offensive to some.  By taking the time to examine your target audience you can discover the things they are predisposed to hate.
    Adjusting your Marketing Strategy
    So common sense tells us that if you find topics like this, avoid them – don’t go near them.  This isn’t always the case.  It’s quite possible to run a negative campaign ad for a competing business and refer to that business using the negative terminology that your audience dislikes.
    Note that negative phrases and terminology have polar opposites and when you find those things that your target audience strongly dislikes you can often reason out what really hits home for them.  With that information you can craft an extremely compelling marketing campaign that’s certain to win over a greater portion of your target audience – even if they hate cilantro.


    The Real Secret to Acquiring Top Search Engine Rank

    The title might suggest that this is the end all be all of getting your site or content ranked in #1 on Google.  This is the kind of stuff that is spread far and wide online with a great deal of emphasis surround on-site optimization.
    Curiously enough the truth is that on-page optimization will not always rank a page over others in the search engine result pages.  While on-page optimization is important, because you want your content delivering a uniform message to establish relevancy, other sites that leverage several different factors could easily clean your clock.
    If you were to compile a list of areas that are considered based on importance over on-page optimization it might look something like this:
    Accessibility – This is pretty simple and straight forward.  Think about; if a search engine cannot see or access your content then your content cannot be indexed.  Crawl-ability for your site should be of the utmost importance.
    Content – The content you put up can’t just be a pile of keywords that resembles a jumbled tag cloud.  That’s not how you establish relevancy.  It’s important to have compelling, quality material on your site that will not attract the interest of visitors but it should compel them to share.  When content is shared you establish natural links to your content that weigh in on your overall rank within the search engines.
    On-page elements – Beyond the content it’s important to have the on-page elements working together without over doing it.  That means keeping your titles, tags, subheaders and links in line with the best practices.  These provide a large boost in the potential of your site to climb  the search engine result pages.
    User experience – We mentioned accessibility of the search engines but the experience of the user plays an important role as well.  Their overall experience on the site will play a part in your own rank as well.  How people view your site will influence the number of links you gain, the conversion rate, the browse traffic and the bounce rate of your domain.
    Marketing – Sometimes it simply boils down to the fact that great content is no substitute for great marketing.  You can put all the great content you like on your website but if the people searching for what you offer cannot find you then you don’t really exist on the net.  You’re just one more page.  With increased marketing there is increased exposure.  It’s important to manually spread the word about your content.  Creating your own traffic and links will lead to more organic traffic within the SERPs and an improved rank.
    When you apply all of the things listed here you’ll make headway in improving the presence of your site online.  The result of course is increased exposure and an improved rank for your targeted keywords.  Remember, it’s not just about the content on your page or the number of keywords you’re using.  It goes deeper than that.  It always has, and as the algorithm is improved the web will only expand on the factors that are used to rank a site.