One single trend for content marketing in 2013

It’s December and that means that there are a lot of predictions for the coming year. Seems there is nothing like a fresh shower of trends to announce the festivities!

In this post I’ll share the most obvious trend I can spot. If you’ve missed it you’re probably not in content marketing 🙂 However, if you’ve read my earlier posts you’ll know I’m unlikely to stop there – I’m interested in what that trend looks like in reality.

One single trend for content marketing in 2013

Content Marketing Trend: more content marketing

The one trend I can see for content marketing in 2013 is that there is going to be more of it.

Not exactly a chrystal-ball moment is it 😉

Next I’ll explore what the rise of content marketing looks like inside companies. And also, how marketing is moving towards content marketing.

Marketers and content

Marketers will combine their skills in traditional marketing methods with a growing awareness that well-written content is worth gold – and that they need to be active on social media in some acceptable way.

They’ll try any or all of the following:

  1. use things like market segmentation to describe their audience like they always did.
  2. roll in “Big data” if the budget allows.
  3. find out what (social) media their audience uses. Nothing new there: go where your customers are. But where they are tends to change.
  4. get a content ‘desk’ going to collect, create and provide relevant content for every subgroup identified by digging through their (big) data.
  5. give every potential customer only the stuff that is interesting and relevant for them to make the ‘right’ choice.

Example: the presidential elections. Or if you leave out big data, you might recognize parts of the view of some marketing-minded bloggers like Jeff Bullas who treat social media as ‘out-posts’ to their blogs.

In this case businesses will edge their way into our consciousness to:

  • Convince us they’re trustworthy
  • Convince us they’ve something good to offer us
  • Convince us it’s a good idea to part with our money.

Which is basically old school marketing but ‘powered by’ (big) data, social media and every other promising-looking new kid on the block.

Marketing on the move towards content marketing

At the same time, putting in a firm basis for their ‘push marketing’ methods by setting up some kind of structure to ensure there’s always content to share will mean (the start of) a content strategy.

Once that basic content strategy in place, we’re likely to see a convergence of market approaches and marketing methods in the coming years. I’m talking hybrid forms of marketing.

Right now marketers are getting to grips with the concept of content marketing. As in: apply old-school marketing to content. Once they’ve done that they’ll realize there’s more to be had just around the content marketing corner.

What marketers – and their CMO – need to get used to

Content marketing means you’re investing time and effort in the customers of ‘tomorrow’. Much later than that actually, because your aim is for them to turn to you for advice as easily as shop at their regular supermarket or favorite webstore.

+ Who would you go to for tips on how to use Twitter?

+ Who’s your number one for anything to do with new legislation?

Whatever your expertise is, you want potential customers to get your name and picture rather than anyone else’s. But there’s more than that:

  1. you want them to be familiar with your knowledge, your way of approaching topics, and your opinions. They’ll come to know what to expect from you and knowing that, come to you for help. At least that’s the idea 😉
  2. To this end, you show your expertise and your willingness to share what you know.
  3. Once you know they need your help you’ll be able to show them how you solved relevant issues for others.

How well you do all of the above helps determine your ROI.

I really hope marketers are going to get serious about content marketing. If they don’t, here are the reasons in Joe Pulizzi’s article.

I hope you enjoyed this post – if so, please share it! Or add your thoughts in a comment about content, marketing, or content marketing – I promise to reply to anything non-spammy 🙂

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Life as we know it: the big deal about change

Every new generation in the past 50 years has been called, or has claimed, to be fundamentally different from the oldies. This tends to cause a bit of friction with parents (unless they’ve given up ‘parenting’ at an earlier stage) but notably not so much with grandparents because, and I’m guessing here, they’ve seen it all before in their own children.

The big deal about change

Change is the only permanent force in our lives. So what? Change is a constant, and yet we will draw people’s attention to it again and again saying: “look, this is different!” or “I’m unique!” The millenial generation is no different in its uniqueness 😉

One example of what is different for today’s students is, by the time they graduate, they’re all over Facebook already. If you’ve spent years on Facebook it seems a bit of a waste to start from scratch on LinkedIn.

Some months ago, Brian Solis interviewed the Co-founder/CEO of a platform called Identified.com. Viewing the information on the Identified blog I recognized a lot of stuff from my own career path (involving change). Perhaps you recognize any of the following?

Learn to change: learning curve ahead

Warning: Learning Curve Ahead

  1. Study, no job.
  2. Another study.
  3. Job doesn’t match expectations or strong points.
  4. Switch to different kind of job.
  5. Part-time study and job.
  6. New job, research or internship required by study.
  7. Keep job, build resume and ‘rest’ after graduating.
  8. New job, tasks shift.

It was about time someone figured out that people might like to re-use parts of their ‘personal’ network in their new career, and that they might find the contacts in their mailbox less useful than their contacts on social media 😉

What happens if I do this?

Young people living their lives ‘inside’ social media is just an example of what has changed – but the underlying issue of ending up in a place that doesn’t match your talents or ambitions (interests) is not exactly new. In fact, part of ‘growing up’ has been finding out more about yourself by trying stuff out.

Marketing trend or change?

Marketers’ strong point is spotting trends and giving them ‘big’ names. The actual change taking place may be less exciting (too slow or insignificant). One marketing action is giving generations different names and trying to find out what matters most to each generation in order to sell them more stuff.

Sometimes marketing seems a bit like calling your two-month-old kid “Godzilla” because he/she’s got a big voice. It doesn’t make your kid bigger but it sure sounds awesome. I checked Twitter recently, which never fails if you’re looking for Godzilla marketing trends. Here’s a couple of ‘trends’ I found (Godzilla doesn’t hide):

  • “going real time to right time” Rachel Happe Tweets #defragcon
  • “moving from transactions to engagement” @alanlepo
  • “After B2B and B2C the future is P2P” (can this get any worse?? I hope I made this one up…)*

My main conclusion is that there’s only one underlying change: companies are getting more interested in customers and trying the personal “customer-centric” approach.

Why?

  1. Because they can. They have the tools: social media.
  2. Because they’re afraid to miss out. Their competitors are doing it too.
  3. Because we, their customers are changing – we’re getting used to relevant content, and to replies within a day or so (preferably faster).

Change is the only permanent force in our lives. Treating every day as being identical to the last just because it looks identical on the surface is downright dangerous. One day there will be a stalled car just behind that bend in the road.

The big deal about change is that it is life as we know it.

* B2B Business to Business, B2C Business to Consumer, P2P Person to Person… they didn’t manage to squeeze F2F in – maybe I ought to thank Twitter for their 140-character limit 🙂

That’s it for this post. If you want to add your insights please add them in a comment. I’ll respond to any non-spammy comment about ‘the big deal about change’ or my writing skills 😉

Social business people: a grass-roots movement

In the past few years social media have become so commonplace you could say they’re boring if we didn’t find something of value in them: our networks. Our access to heaps of information and more friends, acquaintances and complete strangers on another continent than we ever had contact with before has had, and will continue to have, a profound effect on the way we view our lives and our jobs.*

A grassroots movement

This new perception is trickling into the fabric of every organization – through us – through all the individuals who show up for work every day. We’re oozing global networks from every pore. One side-effect may be that employees who’re not allowed to be on social media check their Facebook updates when they visit the bathroom, and get notably upset if they drop their smartphone into the toilet.

You don’t want that sort of thing. It’s bad for productivity, and it doesn’t smell pleasant either. By now, most businesses have a social media policy. The level of strictness varies widely.

How do people turn into social business people?

Social Business People
Social (Business) People [OCAL image]

Our present-day collective experiences don’t translate directly into employees being ambassadors for their own company. Not even the ones who are actually proud of working for or with you.

It didn’t work that way offline, and it doesn’t do so online.

So how can you help people adjust to a social business role that comes more or less naturally to them?

How to make social media ‘work’ for you

This may either sound completely silly, or so obvious you can’t believe I’m bothering to say it. I’ll risk it anyway. Have you considered:

  • taking inventory to see what types of people work for your organization;
  • thinking up ways to ‘market’ the uses of social media for business to each group? How would you approach someone from accounting, or in HR?

I’m talking classical market research and segmentation here. My next paragraph is for you if you lack time, resources, knowledge, or interest to get involved in ‘real’ market research.

Your people in the picture: cutting a few corners

Sit down with a few colleagues. List all your teams or departments. Then jot down every conceivable prejudice you could have about each team. I’ll help you get started with two unresearched examples 🙂

Accounting:

  1. maniacs for details. Never challenge them on details, unless you value emails longer than this post 😉
  2. cautious types: will always come up with rules we might be breaking. Share half a profile on social media – if they’re there.
  3. allergic to marketing talk which seems all promise and no accountability, unless they actually know responsible-sounding marketing people (what are the odds?)

Human Resources:

  1. will talk all day just for the sake of communicating.
  2. tech dummies. If a printer breaks down in HR the mechanic will find half a dozen people discussing how they have no idea what to do about it.
  3. allergic to technical explanations.

Don’t forget your own team, if only for the fun of it – or to avoid being unfair to others. Establish a rule of no rules and you should have an amusing and productive session 😉

Next up would be to find out what’s true of all the stuff you’ve collected, or you skip that step and work out an approach for every group. What characteristics and natural affinities in each group can you use? What issues do you need to address?**

Use your people’s strengths

Anyone who wants to turn a company into a social business by influencing the employees should assess people’s strengths and ambitions and build on those:

  • Support people who want to help others by making room for peer2peer support;
  • Train people who want to represent your company to guide online conversations.
  • Help people with a passion for reading and writing find subjects to write about, and train their writing skills.***

I’d like to conclude with a few tips for conversations in an advisory role:

  1. Make sure you know what you want from the conversation: are you checking your assumptions (or prejudices), or finding out what skills and ambitions people have that you could use in a future ‘social business’?
  2. Clarify what you want to achieve by asking questions, and why. Especially if you’re in a company that has prohibited social media use in the past, you had better come up with a good and honest reason.
  3. Practice serious listening.
  4. Don’t offer to fix anything – this tip is aimed at tool-selling specimens 🙂

Good luck, and let me know what else you’d like me to talk about!

Further reading:

* In case you missed the introduction to my ‘social business’ writing project, here’s my post from last Friday.

** There is any number of books about personality types and communication styles. One I’m familiar with is Management Drives (scroll down for the English text). Knowing a little about the subject may help you in conversations.

***Lou Hoffman wrote about writing skills, Experimentation in Content Marketing Offers Promise of Competitive Advantage, November 4, Business2community.

Please share this post if you found it interesting, or leave your thoughts about social business people and must-read articles in a comment below – I will reply to any (non-spammy) comment!

Business dynamics: big data and social media are changing us

A few days ago I found an article titled: “Being Agile Is the New Paradigm for Marketing”. It could have been a quote from Dilbert’s manager, but (alas) no.

I’d run into the term ‘agile marketing’ before. Since it sounded like a possible trend I decided to dig just a little bit. In this post you’ll find the results of my amateur archaeology.

Dig into the subject of agile business

Trend: BYOS

A few points from the ‘agile marketing’ article:

  • “Agile” is a method from software development which basically means you’re more flexible than in traditional project management. (I’d say that shouldn’t be too hard, especially in IT projects.)
  • Recent changes in social media make it necessary for us to develop an agile business model. I mentioned a few of those changes in an earlier post.
  • We should become more flexible since rapid changes in technology can impact business to the extent that it, too needs to change – if it’s to survive.
  • This calls for changes to the business model. Everything seems to hinge on technology here.

Marketers are supposed to be able to spot trends and write about them, so it’s no surprise to find oodles of articles about marketing trends.

Is it just marketing going all hoity-toity about discovering what will turn out to be the next management fad? Just a silly question maybe 🙂 but let’s see if there’s a glimmering of an answer out there.

A glance at Twitter shows talk about the #hrtecheurope event (October 25th): Josh Bersin gives his audience a tour of, yes, #agilebusiness – and what it means for HR.

A few disruptive changes seen in technology and society are:

  1. Social media
  2. Big data
  3. My personal favorite: people have changed (as a result of access to social media and huge amounts of information)

Organizations need to adapt by becoming highly flexible, which means quick decisions supported by technology to deal with ‘big data’.

What it also means is yet another force pushing the organization towards more transparency and employees acting more independently.

Why is it important to involve HR when you follow up on this trend?

Consider these aspects:

  • Recruiters notice people coming in with different mindsets and assumptions.
  • The technological changes affect employers’ careers.
  • You need HR for talent development.
  • HR is reportedly at the bottom of present-day contributors to ‘agile business’.

There are plenty of reasons to take a good look at different parts of the organization to get an idea of what it would mean (and take) to turn them around.

I recently wrote a post on the case for turning a company into a social business starting at the ‘back’ rather than in the marketing department. If you want things to change it’s worth noting the people who are not immediately eager to get in on every new trend, but who are experts in their own line of activity and who will understand what you’re talking about because they see it happening every day.

In the case of ‘social’ that may be the people who answer the phone for your company. Regarding ‘agile’… introducing an extreme measure of flexibility influences (organization) psychology as well as the actual structure of the organization.

It’s worth noting at this point that Beverly Macy has recently written an article about [social enterprise] trends for 2013 saying:

The true social enterprise is so far beyond marketing, it isn’t even funny.

If marketing is the only department buying into the changes affecting your business, you’re going to be in big *pause* trouble (head down ;)) sooner than you think.

How can you find out if ‘agile’ is a viable option for (parts of) your company?

  1. Read up using the reading list at the bottom of this post. I’ve included two blogs about Josh’ presentation.
  2. Look around you and talk to a few people, and I can’t stress this enough, in different parts of your organization. Leave the tool and tech talk out. Instead, ask about changes in behavior. What have people noticed about others, about themselves, about customers? Have preferences shifted lately? How do they respond to what they see is happening? What major issues are lurking beneath the surface of ‘business as usual’?
  3. While you do all this, focus on being a good advisor. Ask, shut up, listen, watch, think, ask again. I’m serious about the shutting up bit 😉

I hope I’ve given you food for thought. Please leave your thoughts in the comments. If you know of more ‘must-reads’ please add those too!

+If you found this post of interest, please share it.

Reading list

HR tech’s blog about Josh Bersin’s presentatio: Building an agile workforce;

Lumesse’s blog about Josh’ presentation;

And Janice Diner’s blog: Being Agile Is the New Paradigm for Marketing

Also worth thinking about: Beverly Macy, The Top Four Trends Shaping Social Enterprise in 2013 on Huffington Post.

Background: the classic by Jeremy Rifkin, The Age Of Access.

Online engagement: the future of Favorites

In the past few weeks, every single social network I’m on (and possibly a few I’m not using) changed in some way.

Just a few examples of recent or announced changes:

    • The ‘like’ is getting even more important – the Facebook search engine (Entrepreneur.com)
    • Profile photographs are getting more important on Facebook and on Twitter (larger photographs on Facebook & the added Twitter headers)
    • StumbleUpon changed its favorites to likes – this completely escaped my attention (thanks Andy Nathan for mentioning it)
    • Twitter is closing down any sharing option which allows Twitter content to be shared without showing its origins (LinkedIn, IFTTT)
    • Facebook is adding a Twitter-like follow option (“subscribe”). LinkedIn has done the same.

What is the future of the favorite - how will we mark items?At least two of these developments affect the future use of Favorites.

Time to look at how Favorites are currently being used – and what the future holds for them.

How to interpret a favorited item

In itself, marking an item is not an action which you would use to ‘engage with others’, it is a way to ‘engage with content’.

However, if someone favorites an item published by you on Twitter then you will receive a message about what they did – depending on whether you have decided to read that type of message. In other apps and social networks, different actions are triggered.

I’ve come up with 9 reasons anyone could have to mark an item:

  1. For later reading
  2. To thank the sharer for sharing (if you’re aware of the message being sent to the sharer)
  3. For later sharing (if you’ve sent too many messages out already)
  4. For later use in their own content
  5. To trigger an action (for example by IFTTT – until next week anyway) which will publish the favorited item onto another social network.
  6. On Zite, a ‘thumbs up’ will help determine what kind of content you are shown in future visits. Zite also has a ‘thumbs down’ option – this app is for your personal convenience.
  7. In StumbleUpon, a ‘like’ (or previously favorite) will help determine what kind of content you get to see in future visits to their websites. In case you’re not familiar with StumbleUpon: use a large screen for interests like Nature or Landscape and prepare to go “Wow!”
  8. To show the item to your followers – others with similar preferences, when they visit the StumbleUpon community to browse or ‘stumble’ their interests
  9. To give you more relevant search results (in Google Search). Google Plus has probably got a bigger over all impact than other forms of marking items: your pluses (as well as your other online activities) are tracked in order to personalize search results.

Note that this list does not include social motives I mentioned for Facebook-type likes in my previous post.

What to do if your tweets are favorited?

If someone adds one of your tweets to their favorites you have several options:

  • Ignore them. It is up to the reader to decide if they like your tweets.
  • Thank them. Most people are now on several social networks, and that means the use of favorites changes. However you may still surprise Twitter newbies if you respond to their actions – especially if they’re not active on other social networks.
  • Send a diplomatically worded message when you have another piece of content which might interest them (unless they’re following you of course).
  • Follow them.

A quick look at someone’s previous likes or favorites, or their presence on other networks, will give you the necessary insight into how that person values his or her actions.

Favorites and the future: social search

In some ways, networks are looking more and more like each other. They check what people like about each of them and implement whatever is lacking, or in need of improvement in their own network. A few trends:

  1. Social networks are drifting closer together. Certain aspects are viewed as normal, and any network lacking them does not meet the criteria of the mainstream users. ‘Social’ has become a commodity.
  2. Judging from recent news on social networks, the future contains more social search. Facebook’s search engine will apparently allow you to check things like: what nearby restaurant have your friends visited recently – and liked? By the way, there is a whole section “Facebook marketing” on Entrepreneur.com if you’re interested.
  3. Favorites will go pretty much in the same direction. Favorites on nearly every social network may turn into likes, if only to blend in with the rest. The way in which favorites are used will converge as well.

Social media convergence, social search – so what?

My main concerns with social search are: I want to know when I’m doing ‘social’ search – personalized search – and I want to be able to turn it off (I’m not kidding).

We need to be able to know what the (online) world looks like when we’re not influencing it.

How do you feel about the current tweaks, chops and prunings social networks and apps are getting? Are you looking forward to enhanced marketing opportunities? Or are you really not liking the way things are going? Love to hear from you!