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Content Marketing

Lesson 1: Telling a Story Isn't Enough

kelly-jude Lesson 1 in a series: What my infant has taught me about blogging/content marketing

My son was born exactly 6 months ago today. As any new parent can attest, my life has gone from a regular work, eat, sleep, [repeat] routine to a whirlwind of spit up, shit up, sporadic napping and a whole lot of ‘firsts’ for both of us. My love for my baby boy runs deep. Already, I can’t imagine a world without him. While it might seem that I am teaching and moulding this new being into the kind, compassionate and thoughtful human that I wish everyone could be, the truth is, he really is the one who has been teaching me about life’s deeper dimensions...and how to function on much less sleep.

And while learning these big lessons of life, my life as a content marketer has been influenced as well. I see what we do to build brand communities and grow businesses for niche clients in a different way as well and I have decided to collect a few of these lessons. Here are a few important lessons I have learned from being a new mom that apply to growing brand communities.

Lesson Number 1. Telling a story isn’t enough

Tell a long story to an infant and see how long his attention lasts. On a good day, you might hold his gaze for 30 seconds. Now tell a long story to your social business audience. On a good day, they might stop reading after 30 seconds.

In today’s content rich society, readers are getting slammed on all fronts with news, articles, blog content, and funnies. On a daily basis we spend several minutes a day fending off content that comes from a variety of channels. In fact, most days I feel like I am more of a content ninja - stealthily killing content and chopping bad subscriptions - than a consumer. The point is, the story you want to tell or the message you are trying to convey needs to lock and load the reader. Here are a few tips that are tried and tested on my 6 month old budding human:

Tell stories with pictures!

I remember a time in my own childhood that I wouldn't look twice at a piece of reading material if it didn't have some visual stimulus. I didn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I certainly did judge it by the volume of imagery. Visuals are an important element for drawing the audience in and keeping them engaged.

The evidence is in the platforms. Such consumption applications as Instagram and Pinterest hinge almost entirely on visual delights. Facebook and Google+ have adopted much more visually gratifying formats as well. Find a way to catch your reader’s eye with something aesthetic.

One, two, buckle my...?

Engage your audience. Giving them an opportunity to weigh in and keep the conversation going, or providing interactive points is a great way to achieve reader buy-in, and keep them checking back for more. It isn’t enough to just broadcast to your readers anymore, they don’t just want to listen. They want to participate, they want to be a part of the story you are telling.

A catchy title seals the deal.

If people aren't judging books by their covers and pictures, they will judge a story by its title. As 60s copywriting legend David Ogilvy says,

“on average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

If you don’t hook your reader with a compelling title, your story and message won't make it past the content ninja phase.

Go the f*ck to sleep.

(I didn't make that title up) Like a lullabye, once you've written and read and re-read and re-edited your content, it all begins to sound the same. If what you have to say isn't time sensitive, take a night and sleep on it. Revisit it in the morning with a fresh outlook. If time is a factor, pass it over to a trusted third-party editor because you're too tired of it to make a good judgement. You will be amazed at how your perspective will change, and the errors you will have missed.

Watch for LESSON NUMBER 2 next week: Why community matters and mean people suck...and, tell me about your experiences with engaging your audience, infants, adults, spouse, cats...what works? What doesn't?

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The Only Time When Social Busyness Makes Business Sense

It is not a new thing to spend money on marketing based on the number of people who will be exposed to the effort. It is a new thing to know how much money was earned as a result of money spent on a marketing effort.

While media outlets have always been able to tell advertisers the size of their audience through subscription numbers, average viewers and the like, they could never measure the outcomes that really matter to a business - they still can't. And even in the social business era, justifying a marketing effort has continued to be a measurement of buzz, chatter, and the general response created by what was shared. Is that enough?

For most brands, the goal is to make money and grow. So money spent on marketing or any other investment needs to measure how it makes money and moves the business toward its goals or it just doesn't make sense. Does it?

Measuring What Matters

If you can really measure the return on investment (ROI) made in the social space with real business measures then you can start optimizing your efforts based on what has worked or not worked in your past efforts.

Screenshot 2013-05-28 at 07.58.15

Last week our friends at Measurely shared a story we told to the crew at Hemmings House of how we measure the outcomes of our social media efforts using their incredible tools (see video at top of page). To make our story clear, here's what matters to us:

  1. Who are the people that are sharing our stuff and causing sales to happen for us? While we might get excited about people sharing our content, what our business really needs to care about is identifying which of those people has enough influence in their networks to influence our sales. Measurely shows us exactly who those influencers are so our people can get to know those people and learn how to serve them better.
  2. Who are our advocates, the influencers who regularly and consistently share our stuff and help us grow our company? They are as much a part of our team as contractors and employees and those relationships matter to us as much.
  3. What content are we sharing that is leading to sales for us? We put in a lot of effort to curate great content and to create some of our own. We're a small business and that takes a lot of time and effort and we don't want to waste our time creating and sharing things that aren't causing sales to happen.
  4. What online communities are influencing sales of our stuff? If we know that we can put more effort into getting to know those communities better. It's a big, open, online world and we can spend time getting know almost any group of lovely people out there. But our business goals lead us to look for the communities that need and want what we sell so we can spend more time participating in those communities.

For Example

If Kelly shares 30 of our online assets (reshares something we posted, likes us on Facebook etc.) in a month and Bob shares 3, the buzz game tells us we should really get to know Kelly better. But if Measurely shows us that Kelly led to only one signup for our courses and Bob led to 20, business logic tells me Bob is our guy. He's the advocate who is sharing and influencing our brand and buzz alone would have put him low on our priority list.

Get it? Buzz is good. Measured growth is better.

What About People?

Yes, social business is about people connecting to people, building relationships, getting to know how to help, and adjusting products or services for the people who support the brand.

But people socialize with people, not brands. A brand can't socialize any more than it can eat a sandwich. Brands can't talk and walk so brand content needs to be as focused on the things that will cause growth as possible so the brand community will have something to talk about that is relevant and useful.

Measurely has become an essential partner to help us support our client's growth goals and to help us grow our own business. We are more than happy to be advocates for them. So important has their product becomes to Sociallogical that we even created a central business service around it.

As we have said before, social activity is not busywork, it's business intelligence. With Measurely's insight we can report strategic intelligence to our clients that can make them smart in the social space and act toward growth of their companies. Without Measurely, true social optimization can't happen and we are back to guess work. That's something that was not possible before or since the emergence of social media.

How much time or money would your company spend on an activity whose effect didn't help the business grow? Probably not a lot. But without measuring the bottom line effect of the effort, how would you know?

Like Running Naked Through the City Streets

Catherine Doucette ~ Training Consultant / Speaker My business is teaching, talking, and sharing. In fact, blogging  about training or leadership is one of my favourite parts of owning a business. So why was that upload button on YouTube this time so scary? Why did I feel the urge to inhale an entire chocolate bar or phone a friend?

It was March 1, 2013. With the help of the ever-talented Elaine Shannon, I had recorded a 7-minute keynote talk  to show people are inspired by the message of my second book Be you. Everything else is optional. I am one of about 60 people in North America competing for a publishing contract with Hay House, the largest publisher of self-help books on the planet. The video was required for the competition.

But this was more difficult than uploading my video blog about yoga at home or walking through Rockwood Park. It was scarier. Who the h-e-double-hockey-sticks did I think I was? Here I was about to share with the world that I am a keynote speaker and trainer –ironically, something I’ve done for 20 years. But this was new. I was publishing a piece with my original thoughts and story for the entire world to see. And judge.

Steven Pressfield’s words from the book War of Art came back to me:

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

A deep breath, and I pressed that big bad upload button. You know what happened? Not much. Nobody knew it was there. I had to have courage once more.

Using my social media relationships on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter, I began sharing the link and asking people to watch.

Publishing this video and spreading the word felt an awful lot like walking naked through the city streets. I really wanted to vomit.

What happened next?

To quote Sally Field, “They like me! They really like me!”

More than 1,300 people watched the video in two months with 100-plus positive comments and likes. That means more than 1,300 people now know about my training consulting and speaking business and my second book. I was offered a keynote because of it, plus a gig doing public speaking workshops at a large corporation. I have walked into networking events, and strangers have recognized my name because they saw my video.

When you do something well and share it online, it gives you instant credibility. Clients are convinced before you ever walk in the door.

Much courage is needed. But as long as the video is not actually of you running naked through the streets, I highly recommend that you upload a sample of your expertise on YouTube and share it with your networks.

What is one way you can share your work professionally on social media?

Catherine Doucette BPR, MEd is a Member of Learn by Sociallogical™ and teaches businesses how to create and facilitate training with a measurable impact on productivity and the bottom line.

When Being Social Doesn't Come Naturally

Sarah Tapley Not everyone is social in the offline world and I meet so many people who are afraid to be social in the online world. If I can't find something to say in person, what do I say online?

That's an excellent point and troublesome now that social is how we reach an audience for our business. But while being social is powerful and builds the connective tissue that results in loyalty and reach for a social business, conversation isn't the only side of it.

Sharing is Social

Sharing great content is social. That might seem obvious but by segmenting out the acts of sharing content from engaging in conversation, those who don't like to converse so much can find a place in this space.

Most of us live a portion of our lives online and we all find great content every day that is relevant to our business and what we do. Share it! Your target audience wants to see what engages you and it will help to shape your brand. Articles, resources, instructional videos, infographics, photos - anything that can be helpful to your clients and imply what is important to you in what you do.

So there is a place for the quieter people amoung us. If you can't speak, just share.

Who do you know that has a lot to share but is reluctant to? How might you encourage them?

Note about the photo above: Sarah Tapley is a new Member of Learn by Sociallogical™ and is a design guru with Tuck Studio and Punch Inside. She spends each day with her nose in countless amazing design websites, her hands on the creation, assembly and display of super interesting design products, and listening to what inspires clients the most about the spaces they live and work in. Of course Sarah has a ton of great things to share! In fact, much of what Sarah has to share doesn't even need words. (Photo credit: Kelly Lawson)

Define Your Brand By What You Share

obama-fist-bump Getting someone who is not you to "be you" online is strange to me. It's like asking someone else to go on a date for you. Not only do you miss out on the engagement and enjoyment of the date, but it is also fake and downright creepy.

But what you say and what you share are two different things. I can get an associate to speak on my behalf and share my interests and positions, as in the case of a lawyer or a press agent, but I would never ask either one of them to actually pretend they are me and imitate my voice when talking to people. It's kind of funny when you think of it.

That's why I have resisted potential clients who have sought to just pay someone to do their social media for them. Instead, I offer them an understanding of the phenomenon so they can take the reins on their online engagement.

The content you base your conversations on

But some aspects of social media marketing need special skills and reap special benefits. For example,

  • creative agencies can come up with brilliant ways to tell your brand's stories that are compelling, entertaining, and sharable.
  • researchers can collect fantastic data that you can turn into consumable, memorable, and sharable infographics that your clients will love.
  • curators who know your brand and what interests your clientele can find great, sharable content that others have made for you to share on your social channels.

That last point, curated sharing, is the one that most businesses jump into, with varying degrees of success. Most people understand, from as far back as high school, that who and what they are associated with impacts how others see them. So finding great stuff to associate themselves with and share online is something most of us naturally start doing when we plug our businesses into social.

Although it can be time-consuming and a major distraction, you do know (or should) what content is most interesting and helpful to your clients. And the content you find (vs. content you create) is the most readily available source for your social channels.

Curate great content for a few great reasons

  1. Define your company's brand by what you associate it with. It looks good when you demonstrate you know what your customers care about.
  2. Expand the 'scope of interest' for your brand by sharing a diverse selection of topics, giving you a wider potential audience for your content.
  3. Add layers of sophistication to your brand by finding content that compliments your own content.

Of course, you need to come alongside the content you are curating with content you are creating and conversations you are sharing based on all of it. That's where the social, human element comes in and without it you're going to have a hard time gaining or keeping your target client's attention.

The point of selecting great content to share, above all, is to be helpful and interesting to the people you want to attract to your brand community. It is a discipline every company should be exercising as a basic, foundational social media investment.

Why Journalists Will Be In Demand in 2013

Journalist We're in the content marketing era, which is more show and less tell. Clients don't want you to tell them how great you are through advertising, they want you to show them value at the start of the relationship.

Every business has stories to tell and needs to inform, educate and be useful to clients through great storytelling. We tell stories across social media channels, blogs, and through opinion pieces, research, comments and even through our products and services themselves.

"Journalism is the art of storytelling."

If you look at what a journalist learns it's easy to see that having their skill set in-house is a huge asset for any company that knows how important content/inbound marketing is.

I combed through the course lists for a few journalism schools online and collected a sample of course titles that I believe make my point well:

  • Journalistic Writing: the Language of Storytelling
  • Editing, Publishing and Producing
  • News They Can Use
  • Reaching the Public: Fundamental Skills in Strategic Communications
  • Magazine Production
  • The Business of Communications
  • Copy Editing
  • Critical and Opinion Writing
  • Advanced Research Methods
  • Advanced Feature Writing
  • Advanced Photojournalism
  • Understanding Multimedia Journalism
  • Video and TV Journalism

As traditional media fades away, the content that will create awareness and demand for what we sell, more and more, will need to be created, not bought. We need to share more and advertise less. Our clients need to find media-rich and useful content specific to their needs when they find us.

Content Marketing is Storytelling

Journalists are trained storytellers. They are researchers, writers, listeners, and able to think from a variety of perspectives. That skill set is perfect for creating content that online communities would find interesting, useful, or even entertaining.

Here's what the most awesome journalists do really well:

  1. Their work makes you want to keep reading Writers who enjoy telling stories write things you don't want to put down. Does their work just report the facts or do they tie key points together nicely and in an entertaining way that makes you want to keep reading?
  2. They like playing with new technology New communication and productivity tools emerge all the time and each evolution offers new advantages and new ways to tell stories. The journalist you want needs to keep your company engaging and, as journalists know well, the medium is often the message.
  3. Their work compels you to share it with others A great storyteller will compel you to share their stories with others. Your content needs to be shareable if it is going to generate awareness and demand for your brand's offering.

The Need For a Bias

The culture of non-bias that many journalism schools have ingrained in students can be a bit tricky for marketing.

Your company should have a bias. Your bias and your approach to what your clients need and the unique way that you meet that need differentiates you from your competitors and brings choice to the marketplace. The people you hire for any role in your company need to understand your unique approach well, support it, and speak from that biased perspective every time they speak for you. Non-bias does not lead to engagement that sticks and stickiness is what you're after.

I have worked with amazing journalists who have turned out to be the best storytellers any business could hire. They have the skill set I know our company needs for our content marketing and we plan to hire more of them in the coming years.

A business needs to show their value with great content instead of just telling people how amazing they are through advertising and contrived efforts. People will come to your party but if the vibe isn't good, they'll sneak out the back door.

As traditional media loses its punch, I hope more and more journalists will look to marketing departments to find a new home. Our businesses need you whether they know it yet or not.

Do you plan to hire a journalist to join your marketing team?

The Shared Story Experience

Have you ever noticed the unique bonds that are forged between you and the people who have shared an experience with you?  Some experiences are traumatic, some adventurous, some beautiful, and some are downright awful. But if you experience something with another person, whether you are strangers or old friends, that experience will create a strengthened relationship between you that is incredibly unique. I call this the Shared Story Experience.

The Postpartum Party Ward

On November 21st and 22nd my wife and I were in our hospital’s Postpartum ward with our new baby Willow. As it turns out, two really good friend couples of ours were enjoying their new babies in the same ward: Sociallogical’s founder Jeff Roach and his wife Kelly Lawson welcomed baby Jude to the world and Potter/Artist Darren Emenau and Nora Kennedy welcomed baby Lucy.

We popped the Champagne, turned on the music and turned the unit into the postpartum PARTY ward! What are the odds that three groups of friends would share such a powerful experience in tandem? From this point forward the parents of these three little bambinos will have a special bond created by the shared experience of delivering babies within hours of each other. This is the shared story that we experienced together.

Businesses Share Stories With Partners

Businesses work with other companies that are in line with their own value sets, interests, and experiences and should seek opportunities to pass on these shared story experiences. They will align your brands and boost all of you as you expose your humanity and what is important to both of you.

  • Maybe you decide to purchase a book from the bookstore that is in your building instead of ordering it online – your shared story is that you reside in the same physical space.
  • Maybe three years ago you went on a trade mission to China with the CEO of a company you really want to work for. That shared experience of travelling overseas should be more than enough to open dialogue about working together.
  • Maybe you partnered with another company before to serve a shared client and maybe the experience was brutal but you got through it as a team. Use that experience to open the door to do more work together and get great referrals (and maybe don’t share that story publicly).

Whatever the shared story is or was, use it as your connecting point to strengthen your business relationships. If you don’t have shared story experience, go out and create them! At the core, the best partnerships are based on positive relationships that are strengthened by shared experiences.

Tips For Creating Shared Stories

  • Go on a trade mission adventure with other CEOs that you want to work with,
  • Invite other key players in your community to go see a hockey game or a concert together,
  • Join clubs, sit on a board of directors, get involved with organizations that also attract the people you want to do business with,
  • Hire the services of the company that you want to be hired by,

Or, arrange to have babies at the same time as social media experts that will help grow your community, as pottery masters who will create the very best client gifts, or as a filmmaker who could help you tell your story to the world :)

Do you have a shared story experience you could share with me? I’m a collector - I’d love to hear it!

The Importance of Online First Impressions

Virtual First Impressions In the business world, we aren’t meeting in office spaces and conference rooms as much as we once used to. Instead, we meet online – a place where we are also making a lot of first impressions.

While you carefully select your business wardrobe, keep yourself manicured and fresh looking, and are mindful of where and how you are seen professionally, how much care do you give to how you represent yourself online, where most people will meet you for the first time?

Most people will meet you for the first time online

Our virtual images have become increasingly important. Leather chairs and mahogany desks are being replaced with social media avatars, YouTube clips, twitter pics, LinkedIn, Google+, Blogs, Facebook, and websites. Our online appearance is how we are presenting ourselves to potential clients and customers every day of the week, almost exclusively.

How does your online first impression measure up?

Below is a sample of headshots and links to the profiles of the people they belong to. I commend the recognition by their companies of the importance of a fresh, clean, professional virtual image for the company and especially, for their people. Click through to their profiles and take a look at a few of their before and afters - look at what they used to have versus their new ones...

Do your online avatars represent the real people that you want your clients to get to know? Follow Kelly Lawson's board Headshots (Avatars) on Pinterest.

What Telling Authentic Stories Really Means

Whether you tell stories that are fictional or fact, it is critical to tell your stories with authenticity. Authentic storytelling does not necessarily mean it has to be factually accurate, or even real. It just means that it needs to be told with honesty, and in a unique way.

I was speaking to Sociallogical’s Jeff Roach this evening, and he mentioned a quote that a photographer once told him. The photographer was actually my brother Mark, and he told Jeff,

“…a great photographer (or in this case, storyteller) is not one that necessarily knows the technology of image capture inside and out, or perfect framing…a great photographer is someone who sees the world in a different way.”

When I think of great stories to tell for my documentary film projects, I always keep that philosophy in mind. There are a million different ways that you can tell the same story. The ones that resonate with audiences are ones that are told from an authentic perspective that are unique and interesting.

Many stories that are successful in attracting and engaging audiences are ones that are inspired by everyday experiences, which are meditated on, and told in a fresh way.

Andrew's Authentic Story of Culture Shock

Andrew MacCormack is a Hemmings House filmmaker. I have seen his storytelling skills evolve over the years to the point where he is producing award-winning content that attracts attention and builds audiences. After a trip to China to visit his girlfriend (at the time. Now his wife, Julie), Andrew came back with a new perspective on culture, travel and self awareness.

Andrew was born and bred on Prince Edward Island in a rural area where many young people leave as soon as they are able. I chatted with Andrew on the phone tonight to get a perspective on his experience in China, and how it inspired a beautiful film that he later produced.

“Growing up on a small rural island, I dreamt about getting out and seeing the world. I traveled to at least two dozen countries in my twenties, and always felt comfortable experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. I felt like I was a very adaptable traveler - until I experienced China. China, urban and rural, gave me a massive sense of culture shock and realized I was in the midst of experiencing a place that was vastly different from the place I grew up.

“After spending 6 weeks traveling there I returned home to rural Atlantic Canada and remember reading a story of a man who never left Prince Edward Island, my home province. This was fascinating. Tragic but yet very admirable. I then thought of the millions and billions of people who live in big cities throughout China and the world, many of whom don't have the means or ability to travel like I do. There is a lot of value and wisdom that can be gained by knowing one place really well."

Andrew returned to China earlier this year armed with a stronger understanding of Chinese culture - and a camera! He produced a film that was inspired by his authentic experience of culture shock, and the questions that he had about the differences (and similarities) of people from two completely different cultures.

Please take 7 minutes to watch his beautiful film Here & Away

Andrew is a brilliant storyteller. He reflects on experiences that he has in life, asks questions, and builds stories based on his authentic experiences. His films are engaging and interesting because he tells these stories from a perspective that no one else could.

Even the most ordinary experience, people or place can be the focus of incredibly engaging stories.

What experiences in everyday life do you have that could be told in a unique and creative way?