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Top 10 Reasons to Stop Writing Top-10 Posts

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number-ten

number-ten Lists: Bloggers love them. Readers love them. Pinterest loves them. So why not write lists all the time, right? Well, not so fast. Before you go churning out one more top-10 list on your site, consider the following reasons why you shouldn’t:

1. They’re Overdone. Everybody writes top-10 posts. You can find top-10 posts about everything from Ask Men’s Top 10 Websites to Use in 2014 to the FedEx Blog’s 10 Best Posts in 2013. Why be like everybody else? When you join the top-10 crowd, you can get lost in the sea of similar content.

2. They’re Gimmicky. In an oversaturated blog world, top-10 posts can be rather lacking. They’re gimmicky. They’re link bait. They promise something valuable but often leave readers disappointed, feeling like you’re just trying to get them to click through your site.

3. They Come Across Phony. Why are your top 10 reasons your top 10 reasons? What’s the significance? Why are they the best? Most lists won’t say this, creating a phony significance that your readers will know isn’t real.

4. You Might Annoy Your Readers. Curated content is OK, but too much curated content can annoy your readers. So when you merely repackage past posts into “top 10s,” your readers could wind up feeling cheated — and cheated readers don’t stick around.

5. They Make You Seem Stale. Everybody knows lists are a go-to tool for writers stumped for ideas, so when you post a lot of lists, you tell your audience you’re out of things to say.

6. They Take Time. Despite how they may seem to readers, lists take time to create, even if you’re just sifting through blog archives to find which posts to use. If this time isn’t yielding results, it’s wasted — why not focus on drafting original content instead?

7. They Don’t Go In-Depth. By their very nature, top-10 lists tend to be quick, shallow articles that don’t explore a topic in depth.

8. Write 10 Posts Instead. That quick top-10 list could turn into 10 informative posts if you would break it apart and explore each point further. This not only generates more content for you, but it also gives more value to your audience.

9. You Run Out of Ideas and Fill Your List with Fluff. When you’re writing a “top 10,” you may feel pressure to come up with more ideas than you have — and those fluff ideas aren’t actually helpful to your readers. Top-10 lists put you into a box.

10. Care about What You’re Saying. Here’s one of the biggest reasons not to write a top-10 list: You don’t care about it. When you’re only writing a list to write a list, everybody will know it. So rather than writing about what you think you should write about, write about what you care about instead.

Your Thoughts
Do any of the above reasons ring true to you? Do you write top-10 lists? Do you read them? Why or why not?

Five ways to tell a visually compelling story online (Sponsored Post)

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3d person holding a megaphone forming the word blog.

SNAG_Program-0665 In today’s digitally focused world, it can be hard to break through all of the clutter. This makes it increasingly important to stay on top of trends. As part of the Army Marketing and Research Group, we constantly think about how we can bring our target audience the information they seek, in the best possible way. As we look to where digital and social media will go in the next few years, one thing is for sure – visual storytelling is imperative for getting your message across online.

Below are five ways you can tell a visually compelling story online that will help you reach and engage with your audience:

1. Think Mobile First
For the first time in history, people are now using the internet more through their mobile devices than through their desktop computers (Business Insider). And with more than 61 percent of mobile phone users in the United States using smartphones (Nielsen), adapting your site(s) for mobile consumption ensures a seamless user experience regardless of device and allows for more interaction online.

2. Develop a Web Content Series
Web content series are a medium still growing in popularity and open to a broad array of multimedia. The Starting Strong program is an original content series that follows young men and women as they are immersed in the U.S. Army experience for three days, ultimately making the decision on whether or not to enlist. A fully integrated marketing approach is key to not only driving viewers to watch the content, but also to keep them engaged with your digital properties.

3. Multimedia Blogging
Now more than ever it is important to include video and photo elements in traditional text blog posts to keep your audience interested and engaged. More and more, photos, videos and GIFs are driving the bulk of online engagement as you look at sites that have achieved mass popularity. Consider embeddable videos, compelling photo visuals and other free tools to easily engage your audience online.

4. Infographics
Data is important. But most times, data can be hard to digest. Infographics can add valuable context to existing stories by using visuals to represent numbers, relationships and facts that might otherwise be overlooked. For example, our signature Soldier blog, ArmyStrongStories.com, houses an incredible amount of information such as how many Soldiers contribute to the site, which countries they’ve posted blogs from and how many comments their blog posts receive. An easy way for the Army to package this information is through a robust infographic that tells our blogging story in a visually appealing way.

5. Include Paid Social to Support Your Content Syndication Program
This year, widely used social networks, namely Facebook and Twitter, made design and layout changes based on imagery. In addition, the fast adoption of Instagram, Pinterest and Vine shows just how important visual storytelling is in social media marketing strategies. Using quality visual content, as well as allocating spend to paid social, are growing in importance to reach your core audience.

 

For more information on the social/online strategic media outreach programs at Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG), check out www.goarmy.com, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Why Your Twitter Disclaimer Does More Harm Than Good

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bigstock-Disclaimer-the-Dictionary-Pro-18198233 If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a thousand times:

My tweets do not represent the opinion of my employer.

Is it just me, or is this the most ridiculous statement ever? Every time I see it, I get twitchy. Because it anything, you’re making things worse.

People think that this disclaimer justifies bad behavior on Twitter. Or rather, not bad per se, but behavior not in line with their employer’s brand. They curse, make lewd comments, start drama, or otherwise act in controversial ways, then they point to their disclaimer and say, “But it’s okay, because this is me and I’m not representing a brand right now.”

Why is this ridiculous?

Let’s say you see someone out at the bar, getting wasted, hitting on everything with a pulse, and yelling racial slurs in a drunken stupor. Then, the next day, you see that same person working at Disney World. You’d probably be pretty disgusted that a company like Disney would work with someone like that.

Would it make a difference if, the night before at the bar, the person was wearing a shirt with “Anything I’m doing right now doesn’t represent my employer, Disney!” printed on it? Absolutely not. If anything, it draws attention to the juxtaposition between the idiot behavior and the family-friendly employee.

Here’s the thing: anything you do or say online represents your employer, whether you post a disclaimer or not.

If you want to publicly post pictures of you doing shots at the bar, make sure that it isn’t going to hurt your employer’s brand. Some companies are more family-friendly than others. If your personality doesn’t fit well with your company’s brand, it is probably time to start looking for a new job.

It makes me wrinkle my nose when I hear about companies trying to control their employees’ social accounts, but remember: How you represent yourself online can affect whether or not you get a raise, whether or not you survive a round of layoffs, and whether or not you are promoted into a leadership position. It’s not about your employer controlling your social accounts. It’s about respect, and realizing that your actions online are as real as your actions in a face-to-face situation.

So stop it with the disclaimers. They don’t mean anything. Just act responsibly online, and don’t write anything on Twitter that you wouldn’t send to your boss directly.

Image Credit: Bigstock

How to Build Your Brand Using Quora

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SNAG_Program-0662

SNAG_Program-0662 Quora is a digital space for users to exchange knowledge. Unlike its competitors, Yahoo! Answers and ChaCha, Quora’s user base attracts experts. From the beginning, business CEOs, Hollywood producers, and notable journalists have been answering questions.

Quora’s top answers are ones that were voted on by the users. Thus the answers that gain the most exposure are the answers that are the most useful or interesting.

How do you craft a strong answer that will get promoted?

The following Quora response made me want to buy a political book despite a minimum interest in politics.

The original question was: “What is the single most illuminating question I can ask someone?” There were plenty of interesting answers like ‘If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?’ and ‘When you die, what do you want to be remembered for?’

But the most popular answer came from New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor. It was so popular that it was ‘upvoted’ by 2,166 Quora users. As a comparison, the next highest answer had only 291 votes.

In Jodi Kantor’s response she recommends avoiding overly general and philosophical questions if you really want to get to know someone. To get honest answers you have to do your homework. She illustrates her point with an example from her interviews with the First Family:

“The most illuminating questions are simple and specific. In the fall of 2009, I interviewed [the] President and First Lady … about their marriage. My goal was to get them to avoid sound bites, to give honest, unrehearsed answers. . . . So I summoned up my nerve and asked them, “How do you have an equal marriage when one person is president?”

Her full response captivated me. And then I was hooked with this final sentence:
“Oh, and if you’re interested in the Obamas’ behind the scenes adjustment to the White House, my book has much more on the topic.”

What Makes a Good Answer?

Credibility: Kantor’s answer was started with a statement about her professional interviewing experience with the NY Times. With credentials right up front, I knew the answer came from a reliable source.

Unique perspective: Instead of giving another predictable answer, she rejected the premise of the question altogether and offered a unique perspective.

Support with storytelling: To support her point, Kantor told an insider story about Mr. and Mrs. Obama that had famous intrigue but at the same time was relatable as she discussed the interworking of marriage.

The Elements of Good Storytelling

In Kantor’s answer, she uses some basic storytelling elements to prove her point:

1. The back story/setting: Kantor explains how she came up with the question.

“I had come to understand that equality was a serious issue in the Obama marriage, and that in the White House, the president and first lady are not treated in the same way… So I … asked them, ‘How do you have an equal marriage when one person is president?’”

2. The obstacle: Kantor shows how receiving an answer to an unorthodox interview question was difficult with step-by-step action and dialogue.

3. Step-by-step action: The action keeps us reading.
“Barack Obama is normally so eloquent, but he botched his reply three times, stopping and starting over . . .”

4. Dialogue: The dialogue makes this story more relatable and personal.
“Finally on the fourth try, he half-joked that his staff was more concerned with satisfying the first lady than satisfying him.”

5. Details: The details help us feel like we’re in the room witnessing the interview.

Make Your Point Stick with Point Evidence Point (PEP)

An extremely effective way of getting your point across is the “Point, Evidence, Point” technique or PEP. To get your point to stick with your target audience you must make your point, and then give evidence to support, and then summarize your point at the end. For more on PEP, check out my previous podcast How to Make Your Point Stick.

Persuade with the “But You Are Free” Technique

The introduction must be earnest. Despite intentions, if products and services are discussed too directly, too often, or too early, your answer will feel like a sales pitch. However, if you don’t mention your products and services at all, it can be a lost opportunity. I saw a great Quora answer by a producer and blogger but because their products and services weren’t mentioned I had to Google the information.

Depending on users to go to Google is unreliable. Conclude answers with a brief line of products and services.

One effective technique for introducing your products or services is the “but you are free” method. With this technique the listener is told they are free to refuse the request being made. The idea is that you make it clear that the listener has a choice in the matter.

Jodi Kantor uses this technique in the last line of her response:

“Oh, and if you’re interested in the Obamas’ behind the scenes adjustment to the White House, my book has much more on the topic.”

Quora is different than other social media platforms because brands are built not with memorable images or one-liners but with thoughtful answers (and questions) that resonate with readers. By using the techniques in this article, you can develop Quora content that rises to the top!

Content Marketing in 2014: Trends You Need to Understand to be Successful

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bigstock-new-year---next-and-previou-48446960 Last year around this time, I deemed 2013 the “year of content marketing” and I think I was right. Content marketing has existed for a lot longer than a year, but in 2013, this form of connecting with customers and promoting your business exploded. Today, it seems like every small business, large corporation, and even solo entrepreneur is talking about content strategy.

But the internet stands about as still as a troupe of river dancers. Let’s take a look at major trends in content marketing and what you need to know to succeed in 2014.

Trend #1: Mobile is where it’s at.

According to reports, 22% of the world’s population now owns a smartphone, up from just 5% in 2009. Of course, in many countries those rates are even higher; some companies even have an over 100% subscription rate, meaning that many people have more than one smart phone.

Admit it: you would break out in a cold sweat if you lost your phone. Actually, most of us would feel sick if we just forgot our phones at home. We live and die by our phones, sad as that may be.

So, if your content isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on a huge market. A huge, geeky, obsessed market. Do you have a responsive blog theme or a mobile website? What about an app? How do your readers interact with your content via their mobile devices?

Get ahead of the curve. Don’t just make your content mobile friendly. Customize it for the mobile audience to make the experience as good as possible for your mobile users. If you go above and beyond to provide a great user experience, you’ll outpace your competitors. The sad fact is, most content creators are still doing the bare minimum when it comes to creating mobile content.

Trend #2: Content curation is as important as content creation.

Over the past few months, one phrase has popped up on my radar more and more: Miley Cyrus

Just kidding. The phrase I’m really talking about is content curation.

No matter how big your content creation team, you can’t keep up with consumption. That’s where content curation comes in. Your audience doesn’t want to know you as just the person (or company) creating great content. They also want to know you as the person (or company) recommending great content.

If you’re afraid of promoting your “competitors,” you’re thinking about the situation incorrectly. When you share someone’s great content, you get some of the credit, even though you weren’t the creator. You build your brand as the expert in your niche/industry. You do have to be careful with what you promote (you don’t want to send customers away), but don’t be so scared that you only promote your own content. A true leader in content marketing curates as well as creates.

Trend #3: Having a Director of Content on your team is increasingly important.

As your business continues to create more and more content, it will become important to have someone on your team who will manage it all. Your Director of Content should have a diverse set of skills, in order to be able to both create content and come up with a strategy for your content that makes sense for your business goals. This person should also work closely with (if not oversee) your social media team and email marketing team, and they should have open lines of communication with all departments in your business. I recommend hiring someone with the ability to time travel if you can, but content marketing is a big, time-consuming job.

In 2014, I believe it will also become increasingly important to boost your Director of Content’s budget so they can pay for contributors and designers. I know a lot of businesses who aren’t spending much on content beyond their Director of Content’s salary. While there are sources of free content out there, the right Director of Content can stretch even a small budget to give you an amazing return.

Is your business too small for a Director of Content? Then you Director of Marketing better have a strong, strong grasp on content marketing.

Trend #4: Guest posting is bouncing back in new ways.

Over the last three years, guest posting went through some weird transitions. Three years ago, as a freelancer, I had clients knocking down my doors to pay me to publish guest posts on others’ sites on their behalf. Then, things changed. Too many low-quality writers inundated the blogosphere, and most bloggers couldn’t keep up with requests, most of which were for crap posts that didn’t add anything of value to the blog. On top of that, readers began to cry foul as some bloggers published more guest posts than posts of their own.

Many blogs locked down like Fort Knox, no longer accepting unsolicited guest posts. Some blogs decided not to accept guest posts at all. But in the last few months, I’ve seen a bit of a shift. Bloggers are not on guest post lock down like they have been in the past, but what they’re looking for is changing. It isn’t just about quality content anymore. It’s about filling a gap.

No blogger can be an expert on every topic in their niche. So, many bloggers are extremely receptive (and in some cases actively looking for) people who can write about topics where their own knowledge is weak. In my experiences, bloggers are even looking for monthly contributors, not just one-time guest posters.  If you want to make guest posting part of your content marketing strategy for 2014, start looking for those gaps and pitch bloggers on filling them.

Trend #5: The best content is entertaining, not just educational.

In past, we’ve drawn lines in the sand. This content was entertaining. That content was educational. Increasingly, though, I think readers are demanding both.

Entertaining doesn’t mean your blog has to be ha-ha, laugh-out-loud funny, but it does mean that you have to have a little special sauce spread on your posts. Maybe you add some personal stories to help people understand a point. Maybe you improve your writing to add some clever phrases. Maybe it means that you aren’t afraid to be a little goofy sometimes.

I used to say “it depends on your niche” but I don’t think that’s the case any longer. I think your educational posts have to have a little pizazz. Boring content just isn’t cutting it anymore.

So there you have it, my top five trends for content marketing in 2014. What trends do you see for content marketing this year?

Image Credit: Bigstock

Six New Years Resolutions for Small Businesses (That You Can Do Right Now)

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Is it too soon to be sick of 2014 predictions, resolutions, and assorted New Year’s fodder? Wait, don’t answer that until you read this post. Here are the top six things you can do right now and be done with your list (until 2015 anyway):

1. Get Mobile

Obvious? Yes. Have you done it? Maybe not. Whatever your business model—from consultant to small business—it’s easier than ever to adopt a responsive design to ensure viewers experience an optimized view of your website. In fact, the majority of templates these days have these capabilities already built in, just make sure yours is or can be adjusted it on-the-fly (WordPress makes it easy). Remember, mobile viewers no longer tolerate sites that are difficult to navigate, slow-loading, or result in irksome moments. You can’t afford to lose them in 2014, so don’t.

Shortcut: If you’re not familiar with responsive design, or want to learn how to trick out your site to accommodate mobile viewers, check out an everything responsive design site.

2. Refresh Your Social Media Presence

If you’re like me, your social networks are live, well, and blasting out content on a regular basis. But how often do you check your business description, followers (and those you are following), and general housekeeping of your social media? Strangely, these are the items that get put on the back burner, even though they’re the first impression people get of your brand. Why not check, edit, and improve for a coordinated effort?

Shortcut: It’s unnecessary to create separate versions of social network descriptions based on differing word counts (always tempting to reach the word count, isn’t it?). Instead use a crisp, concise summary for all networks (Bonus: You’ll never have to worry about one being outdated from another. Consistency is underrated).  

3. Set Up Meetings With Prime Customers and Prospects

You might think the beginning of the year is the worst time to get in touch with customers who are just coming back to work. In reality, this is the best time to reach out. With most people still on a “holiday high”, you can snap up their attention for a quick chat, formal meeting, or lunch date. Once 2014 gets underway, they’ll be too busy with other priorities.

Shortcut: Take a cue from the sales playbook. Offer a specific date and time rather than asking the other party to supply one. People are much more likely to accept or counter with another date. Open-ended offers, on the other hand, are more likely to be put off or ignored.

4. Slot in Conferences, Vacations, and Time Off

Anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I’m not a big vacation planner. The reason is simple: When you’re a consultant, you never know when client projects will get you in a pinch (not to mention the ever-present desire to keep the revenue stream flowing). Whether you have an online business, brick-and-mortar store, or consulting service, your busy times likely fluctuate by seasons, holidays, or by client activities. Mine this information at the beginning of the year and allot your time off. It may seem like a risky move, but planned events are 99% more likely to happen if you…plan them. It will ultimately save time, money, and headaches. Remember why you made the choice to go into business for yourself. You don’t work for “The Man”; you work for YOU. Go ahead and take that vacay or staycay!

Shortcut: Take another cue from the sales playbook. Ping your clients about their plans for next year (it also makes you look proactive and an excuse to get in touch). For retail businesses, study the purchasing schedules of seasonal, big-ticket, and regular customers, or conduct a quick online survey to find out buying patterns.

5. Be Ahead of The Curve

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made recommendations to clients based on an understanding of what’s coming next in their industry, a new marketing tactic, or other valuable information I’ve discovered. Sure, they may be familiar with some of these ideas already, but the fact that I can confirm this also validates their choice to hire me in the first place. Not surprisingly, I often get my best info by setting up an organized curating system. Whether it’s making recommendations to retail customers or  clients, they will thank you for it.

Shortcut: Google Alerts is not the only game in town. Check out these newer, customizable site and article curation services, or do a test run to see which ones you like.

6. Consolidate Your Marketing Resources

Say you’re doing email campaigns four times a year, pushing out social media content twice a week, and managing a monthly blog. That’s a lot to maintain, organize, and publish; plus you need to review analytics to determine the best performers. Though I’ve always valued  articles and resources from Hubspot, it took client access for me to discover the power of their marketing dashboard. Still, they can be quite expensive for a small business. For those who view HubSpot as the equivalent of the Microsoft Evil Empire, there are many alternatives, some free (but don’t expect the bells and whistles).

Shortcut: Truth be told, making a move like this is time-consuming. Consider adding capabilities to your marketing operations web site or software once a month. You don’t have to do the whole enchilada at one time, but at least make that first step.

Bonus: Add a Resolution Wild Card: We all have something to do for our business, but often we don’t have the time, resources, or budget to pull it off. We tend to get overwhelmed with the anticipation, or we get busy with other things, or both. But think of your own wish that you want to do…and do it!

What’s your first New Year’s resolution for your business?

Why Blogs Are the Future for 2014 and How to Prepare Your Blog for the New Year

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blogs are the future

As the calendar inches ever closer toward the new year, there’s never been a better time to talk about blogging. Everywhere you go these days, someone’s saying something about how many blogs there are and how the blog world is over-saturated. Could these ideas actually be true? Are blogs over, or is 2014 a good time to start your own? What will 2014 hold for blogs—how will things change, and how will they stay the same? If you already blog, how can you prepare your blog for the next season?

To help answer those questions, let’s look at what the experts are saying about why blogs do matter—along with strategies for making the most of your blogging efforts.

Blogs Still Matter

Despite what you may have heard, blogs are not done yet. “The need for an online presence has never been stronger,” says Jayson DeMers at Search Engine Watch. “[But] the landscape has never been more competitive.” Whether you’re thinking about improving your business’s search results or looking to become an authority in a specific niche, blogs are powerful, especially when you know how to use them. Below, consider what experts are saying:

  • “Extremely Relevant.” In February 2013, Clayton Lainsbury wrote at the content marketing site Crowd Content Resources that “intelligent marketers still know that blogging is extremely relevant if you apply it properly in a social and mobile driven world.” His point is that the world is online—and blogging gives you a way to reach it.
  • “There’s No Better Way.” In an April 2013 blog post at Social Media Today entitled “Blogging is More Important Today than Ever Before,” author Nicole Beachum said, “There is not a better way to add relevant content to your website on a regular basis than to utilize a blog.” Citing reasons like search engine optimization and keeping up with the competition, Beachum goes so far as to say hiring a professional is a savvy step.
  • “Effective Marketing Strategy.” According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2014 Report for B2B content marketers, 62% of marketers still see blogging as an effective content strategy.
  • “A Public Record.” There are intangible benefits to blogging, which is something personal bloggers like Lisa Endlich understand well. For individuals as well as businesses, blogging offers a place to chronicle your story and connect with like minds.

How to Blog Strategically in 2014

Based on a Google Talk given in October at PubCon 2013, staying ahead in the blog world is simply a matter of knowing what to expect. With that in mind, here are some tips for making the most of your blogging efforts, at least in terms of search results, next year:

  • Focus on Quality: Search engine algorithms are always changing, but one bottom-line principle stays the same: High quality content works. Rather than worrying about how to trick the search giants, focus on publishing the highest quality content you can.
  • Benefit Your Reader: If you aren’t answering the #1 reader question of “Why should I care?” you’re sabotaging your own blogging efforts. Look at your blog right now—what does it offer? What do your readers gain? Why should they come back? Make those answers crystal clear in order to prepare your blog for the new year.
  • Blog Like You Talk: As voice searching grows in popularity, blogs that are written the way people talk may rank higher.
  • Niche = Authority: The more specific and focused your blog topic, the better your chances of becoming an authority in your field. Rather than blogging about food, for example, blog about gluten-free, dairy-free recipes. Rather than blogging about lifestyle, blog about being a stay-at-home dad of twins in New York City. Look for ways to specialize, and you become more valuable.
  • Make the Most of Social Media: Social profiles are not only good for building relationships, but also they help you increase online authority. Search engines look at social activity—how often your blog is mentioned, linked to, etc.—to determine ranks.
  • Know Your Goals: Gone are the days when all you hope for with a blog is a reader. Moving forward, bloggers will need to determine their exact goals (Conversions? Subscribers? New leads?) to quantify success.

Your Thoughts

Will you or your business be blogging in 2014? What changes are you making to prepare for the new year? What changes do you think are important?

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Setting Goals, Objectives and Metrics for Achieving Your Desired Outcomes with Social Media Marketing (Sponsored Post)

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Does this story sound familiar to you?

Your boss calls you in.  She wants to know if all this social media marketing is accomplishing anything; if it is impacting your bottom line. Is it?

You know social media is very important in today’s world. You, or an entire team in your organization, have been investing your time and effort to make sure you’re regularly posting and sharing great content, following relevant people, tweeting and retweeting, pinning, liking, writing thoughtful blog posts and sharing your knowledge. On top of that, all of the constant changes on the various social platforms and new marketing tactics that you must learn to employ keep you incredibly busy.  It’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing it, and if it’s making a difference.

It’s very often the case that your social media activities are not closely tied to the larger purpose, vision, and overall goals and objectives of the organization. If we dive into social media without clear goals, we might not be prepared for that boss’s question.

Goal Setting Aligned with the Larger Purpose and Vision

How do you justify the investment and prove that yes, social media marketing is helping to contribute to your success? How do you plan your campaigns and goals so that they are in line with the larger purpose of your organization? How will you measure and prove your social media marketing efforts are valuable? You do this by creating a social media plan.

DragonSearch’s presentation at NMX in Las Vegas in January, 2014 will follow the same format as our workshop on how to create your social media strategy. In this post I will talk about the first steps in the process:

1.     Understand Your Purpose and Vision

In his book, Social Marketology, Ric Dragon focuses on outlining a framework for creating a social media marketing strategy and process. As he describes the first step of the process, Ric dives into the importance of focusing on desired outcomes and how every social media activity needs to be tied back to the organization’s purpose, vision and goals. The purpose and vision are principles that guide and inspire your goals and objectives.

“… [vision, values, and mission] bring cohesiveness to business actions, provide teams with focus, and act as a heuristic or innate set of rules guiding bigger actions.”

“Values provide us with what I call passion points – things that our organization’s leadership and culture get behind passionately and that allow us to connect with people.

The importance of values becomes even more pronounced in social media marketing, where great agility is needed. The individuals working for a brand need a framework.”

“By having clearly articulated passion points, marketers can focus on communications that people will want to be a part of. In the process, the brand’s association with those values will be stronger, and the sense of brand personality will flourish.”

– Excerpt from Ric Dragon’s “Social Marketology” book.

Landscape of desired outcomes from Ric Dragon’s Social Marketology book.

Landscape of desired outcomes from Ric Dragon’s Social Marketology book.

2.     Set Goals and Objectives

For anything you do in marketing, your first step should be to set your desired outcomes. Desired outcomes are your goals and objectives outlining the benefits or changes you aspire to achieve with your work. Setting goals and objectives for your social media activities should be based on the purpose and vision you identified in the first step in the process.

“We all know social media is changing marketing. We know it’s changing customer relations, product development, human resources, and other key areas. We know we need to be doing it. But we’re often unsure of the bigger picture, or how we’re going to create real sustaining value. In marketing in general, we need a clear understanding of what we want to accomplish. If we jump in and start activities without first tying them to organizational goals, we won’t even know when and if we’re succeeding.”

– Excerpt from Ric Dragon’s “Social Marketology” book.

Why Set Goals?

You could go ahead and start tweeting, Facebooking, and posting on all the social media platforms right now – and many organizations and individuals do just that. But how will you know what you achieved and if you were successful? How will you make decisions when situations arise if you don’t have that guiding light in front of you showing you the way? The only way to know is if we understand where we want to head and what results and benefits we want to achieve.

What Should be Your Social Media Marketing Goals?

At the end of the day we all have the same ultimate goal; to make money. But we also have a larger sense of purpose behind why we do what we do. It’s not only about the money.

This is especially true for social media. Why are you doing social media marketing? It should not be just about driving sales. If you approach it like that you will fail. People don’t care about what you want to sell to them. Your social media marketing should be about adding value for your customers.

Examples of Setting Goals & Objectives

Take inspiration from Ritz Carlton. Their purpose and passion is to “create indelible memories that last a lifetime” for their guests. Their social media goal is to deepen the engagement with current and potential customers and be central to storytelling in social media. In line with this, they can plan their micro-goals and objectives and then map metrics to measure their progress and success.

Example of mapping out your purpose, goals, objectives and metrics for social media

Example of mapping out your purpose, goals, objectives and metrics for social media

As a blogger your goal might be to establish yourself as an authority in your subject matter. Based on this you may set objectives, like writing well-researched blog posts and building up your following and engagement on social media.

As a next step you’ll want to focus on defining some metrics you will use to measure your success.

Use SMART Objectives

Setting SMART objectives will help you create realistic, measurable plans for achieving your goals.

I like the way the Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence Against Women and Girls uses the SMART criteria for setting campaign objectives and how closely it can apply to social media marketing:

 “Specific” doesn’t imply “unchangeable”: As the campaign is unfolding, its different elements and the internal and external actors and factors influencing success need to be constantly monitored. Substantive positive or negative changes may make it necessary to adjust the objectives.

“Measurable” does not necessarily mean “quantifiable”: For example, in social campaigns aiming for behavior change, qualitative observation tends to provide a more accurate picture of the complex processes campaigns may contribute than numerical data.

Being “realistic” doesn’t mean being pessimistic: If a campaign is grounded in robust research, a clear idea should emerge as to what can and what cannot be achieved within the context and the resources available.

“Time-bound” is for planning purposes only: Time limits need to be adjusted as the campaign unfolds (see also above, “‘specific’ doesn’t imply ‘unchangeable’”).

3.     Map Out Your Metrics

Map 3 to 5 metrics with milestones to each goal and objective. Measuring is very important so you can track your progress and know what is working and what is not.

Depending on your goals and objectives, metrics may be similar to the examples in the illustration above, i.e. number of comments on your blog, number of shares on Twitter, etc.

Excerpt from the Desired Outcomes Worksheet used in DragonSearch’s social media strategy workshops.

Excerpt from the Desired Outcomes Worksheet used in DragonSearch’s social media strategy workshops.

Quantity or Quality? How About Both?

Keep in mind that quality is just as important as quantity. As Patrick Lencioni quotes Jim Collins in his book: “qualitative field research is just as reliable as the quantitative kind, as long as clients and readers attest to its validity.”

How Do You Measure…

Not everything can be measured and some things are hard to measure. Social media allows us to have a direct relationship with our customers. But how do you measure those relationships in terms of ROI? How does owning your brand and messaging affect customer perceptions? What is the value in having an engaged audience? What can consumer loyalty and trust do for your brand? Brand awareness, loyalty, engagement all have tremendous value and are difficult to measure. However, with a well-planned and executed social media strategy, there are ways to map these metrics to your goals.

In his SMX Milan presentation about measuring social media ROI, Ric Dragon talked about a landscape of social media values.

Why Measure?

Measuring will help you:

  • See if you are on the right track to achieving your goals
  • See if what you are doing is working
  • Know when to adjust your strategy and how
  • Know when you achieved your goal
  • Justify your budget or position. Or even get you a raise
  • Justify your investment into doing the great things that are hard to measure

Follow these 3 basic steps for setting your social media marketing goals, objectives and metrics and you will have the structure in place that will guide you through everyday tasks and help you make important decisions on next steps. Whether you work for a large company or are a blogger working for yourself, this approach will help you make the most of your social media efforts. Most importantly it will help tie your efforts into your big picture vision and purpose so you can achieve your desired outcomes.

What are Your Experiences and Approach?

Are you ready for that conversation with the boss now? What are some of your goals and how are you tying them into your larger purpose and vision? What metrics do you use to measure your progress?

Please share your experiences or ask any questions and I’ll do my best to help you get started.

Hope to see you at our presentation about creating a social media marketing strategy at NMX in Las Vegas.

A Day in the Life of a Social Media Marketer [Infographic]

Author:

We love this infographic from our friends at RazorSocial (especially Ian, who will be speaking at NMX 2014), which outlines what a productive day looks like for a social media manager. We love all of the great tools mentioned (see below for links to all of them). What are you favorite tools to help you stay productive during the day? Leave a comment below!

ADayInTheLife_Infographic_2_600_MED

Here are the resources and tools mentioned in this infographic:

Don’t forget to leave a comment mentioning your favorite tools to help you be more productive during the day.

Pinspiration Saturday: Representing Your Brand with Scott Stratten

Author:

We’re back for another Pinspiration Saturday, our weekly series where we highlight a quote from one of our amazing speakers every week. If that quote resonates with you, we hope you’ll take a minute to share the “pinspiration” with your followers on Pinterest by pinning it! And as always, you can also share via Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or any of your favorite social networks.

Your brand is what you do after two drinks

There is a now-infamous picture of Scott Stratten pole-dancing in Las Vegas. It was during an event after-party to celebrate his latest book, and after a few drinks, he hopped on stage for some silliness. Luckily, being a little silly fits in well with Scott’s personal brand, because in about a millisecond, everyone at the party had pulled out a camera phone to take pictures. Those pictures were on the Internet before Scott even got off stage.

Now imaging if Scott worked for a brand like Disney. Pictures of him on a stripper pole at a company after-party wouldn’t be funny anymore. It would be face-palm-inducing.

In this episode of TheVegas30 Podcast (embedded above or click to watch), Scott talks about how important it is to realize that you’re always representing your employer. Says Scott, “Your brand is what you do after two drinks.” And he’s right. If you can’t control yourself and act professionally at conferences and other work-sponsored events, don’t have that second drink.

That’s not to say you can’t have fun! At NMX, we have a ton of fun, and there’s always plenty of alcohol to go around at our networking parties. If you’re there to make connections and grow your business, though, keep in mind that a first impression is lasting. Have a good time, but make sure you keep your professional goals in mind when you’re tempted to do shots at the bar or jump on stage to dance.

Scott also give a shout-out to NMX CEO Rick Calvert and talks about what it takes to put together a conference, in this episode, so this is definitely a podcast you don’t want to miss. Check it out, and don’t forget to follow Scott on Twitter at @unmarketing and give a listen to his other podcast, the UnPodcast. He’s going to be keynoting in January, so if you don’t have your ticket to NMX yet, get it now!

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