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What Happens to Your Traffic when You Stop Writing at Your Blog?

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I taught a Marketing with Social Media MBA course at a fully accredited university in Silicon Valley earlier this year. The class ran from Feb 9 – April 28. There were 73 students enrolled. Just over 50 survived to the end.

During the last day of class I asked my students, “How many of you have been angry at me some time during the past 11 weeks?”

They all raised their hands. Some raised both hands and waved them violently. Thank goodness there were no single digit waves … I think. But it was clear the students had had enough of blogging no matter what I called it – marketing with social media, content marketing, inbound marketing, whatever. They were done.

Indeed I was curious to know what would happen to the traffic to their sites when they stopped writing.

Now I know.

Take a look.

Aggregate After

This screen shot reflects the aggregate traffic to all the students’ sites.

It is clearly visible that the traffic is increasing overall.

Increasing?! When most of them had stopped writing?! And all of them are writing less!

Indeed. The traffic continues to grow.

And be sure to take note where the traffic is coming from. Organic traffic is far outperforming the biggest social network on the planet.

Case Study – Info-Nepal

A look at one of the student’s stats is particularly enlightening. Her site is dedicated to Nepal. It would be a great complement to a travel agent site dedicated to Nepal as a destination.

Not a couple of days AFTER the class was finished, look what happened.

After class

I wrote to her, “Very sudden and very nice jump in your traffic! What’s going on?”

Her reply:

“Yeah it all started about 3 weeks ago. All of a sudden I am getting a lot of traffic. It increased from 40-50 per day to almost 300 per day. I am excited. I need to write more frequently. Thanks for keeping and eye on it.

In other words, she did nothing special. Just plugging away, and even writing less than during the class.
We can see where her traffic is coming from.

Lesson Learned

The crystal clear message: Creating good content results in good residual traffic, sometimes known as the long tail.
When traffic is purchased (think adwords) or pushed via social networks and social bookmarking sites (think referral traffic from other sites) traffic will come as long as it is pushed, driven. But when the buying and pushing stops, so does the traffic.  Not so with good content that is on topic and created at the home site. It’s the content that keeps on giving, um, pulling.
Content marketing is inbound marketing. And it can’t be beat long term.
What is your experience with creating content compared to buying traffic by hook or by crook? Got case study? Wanna share? Feel free to read the students’ firsthand experiences at BillBelew.com. And by all means, reach out to me if I can help you see similar results at your site(s). See you in the comments.

Five Ways to Troubleshoot a Social Media Marketing “Dud”

Author:

Despite our best intentions, marketing – and, in particular – marketing using social media – can be like hitting a bullseye on a moving target. Platforms are constantly rising and falling in popularity, conversations are constantly changing and engagement patterns are constantly shifting.

Even with a solid strategy in place before diving in, it’s not unusual for a company to find themselves a few months in with a social platform on their hands that’s kind of a dud from a performance standpoint, asking themselves, “So now what?”

Here are five tactics to try when that happens.

1. Clarify the audience.

When a company decides to establish a social media presence, the question of “where?” should never be left to guesswork. If the target audience you want to reach (whether that’s current or potential clients or customers, thought-leaders, media contacts, etc.) is already hanging out in a particular place – be that Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc – that’s where you should start.

When a platform is not performing up to par, either the company has not fully thought out whom they want to reach or they have thought about this target audience in too limited of a capacity.

So, if you suspect that an audience match is part of your dud problem, ask yourself these questions…

  • Have you tried to build your community on this social platform with intention? How? (With research tools and monitoring dashboards or just with guesswork?)
  • Are you actively seeking out your target audience right now on this platform or are you simply trolling for conversations and hoping those people will just find you?
  • Are you overlooking an existing audience while you’re searching for a different one? (Sometimes a company may find that a particular platform is brilliant for connecting with say, media contacts, but are so focused on being there to sell to customers that they overlook the new audience they’ve stumbled onto.)

2. Audit your engagement.

A lot of companies are blind to how badly they perform in social media…and that’s totally normal and understandable.

Most marketers are skilled in the art of talking AT someone. Engaging WITH someone in the voice of a brand and marketing content to them without being overtly salesy, as well as being a courteous, active and ever-present listener, are skills that take practice to master. In many cases, when a social channel is “not working” it’s due to not having taken this learning curve into account.

So, if you suspect that engagement is part of your dud problem, ask yourself these questions…

  • How much are you talking about yourself on this platform versus talking TO your community? You want to shoot for a mix that’s at least 70% talking to people and 30% marketing.
  • What is your content marketing strategy and how are you using this social platform to employ that strategy? If you’re just posting content for the sake of posting content, you shouldn’t be surprised if your community is reacting with a big, fat “meh.
  • Is your community manager (or whomever is responsible for being the voice of this social channel) aware of your company’s goal in being on this platform? If you find that you’ve got a lot of chitchat going on with no ROI, it may simply be due to the fact that you’ve been unclear with your front line communicators about the end goals of their activities.

3. Evaluate your passion.

Successful social media marketing is contingent upon you being comfortable in the platform you’ve selected, passionate about communicating there and committed to doing so often.

If, for instance, you start a blog – and it’s for all the right reasons: your competitors all have one, your customers read them, they would be a great forum for showcasing your product – but there is no one on your team who enjoys blogging and you end up only do it sporadically, make no mistake…your blog will likely suck.

So, if you suspect that passion is part of your dud problem, ask yourself these questions…

  • Is the voice of this platform and this style of communication a good match for your brand? Is there anyone on your team (or within your company) who would be natural fit for communicating in this voice?
  • Can you commit to ongoing and consistent engagement within this social channel?
  • Have you set up some engagement policies, content standards or editorial calendars to help support you for the long haul or looked into getting some training on this platform to help you feel more comfortable?

4. Invite Involvement.

Many companies get caught up in having everything just right before they start using social media. But that’s not quite how the space works. Acting like you already know all the answers and trying to monopolize the conversation to share them can often backfire and makes a company look like a self-absorbed blowhard, instead of a savvy thought-leader.

Instead, invite your guests to come into the kitchen to cook up a meal with you rather than focusing on serving them a grand feast on a meticulously decorated table.

So, if you suspect that not inviting involvement is part of your problem, ask yourself these questions…

  • Do you ever ask your social community what they’d like to talk about or ask them for feedback? (And, more importantly, do you then talk about those things with them in return?)
  • You do take advantage of your social community to crowdsource new ideas and initiatives?
  • Do you transparently respond to criticism you receive through your social channels and then publicly follow up to let your community know how you’ve responded to their concerns?

5. Let go, with grace.

Social media is never “done.” If you’re not continually tweaking, iterating, innovating and improving your strategies and tactics in this space, you’re likely treating your audience as a “market” and not as the unique group of people that they are.

In other words, if you’re doing it right, you SHOULD have some duds in there.

So, if you have a platform that is not working — and you’ve tried all of the troubleshooting suggestions listed above, but suspect that the social platform you’ve chosen is just plain a bad fit — try these suggestions…

  • Don’t abandon the platform. There is always value in owning your name on a social channel. Just set up monitoring systems so you can be aware if someone reaches out to you there, so you don’t have to be actively engaged on that platform on a daily basis.
  • Consider syndicating some content to this channel from one that is more robust and active to keep it alive for search purposes.
  • Be totally transparent about the fact that this platform is not your company’s “hot spot.” For instance, include a description on the platform that says, “This is the [page/feed/channel] for [your company’s name]. We use it to share [type of content]. The best place to engage with us is, though is [name of other social channel, website, email, etc.].

When it comes to social media, mistakes come with the territory. So, plan for some social media duds and embrace them when they happen (whether they are fixable or not). In the end, they may not look like a marketing bullseye internally, but, from the outside, they are living proof that your company at least had the guts to step up and take a shot.

Jennifer Kane is principal of Kane Consulting, a Minneapolis-based communications firm specializing in social media. She has more than 15 years of experience working as a strategic planner in marketing and communications and speaks nationally on social media marketing. You can find her on Twitter at JenKaneCo or at jen@kaneconsulting.biz.

Thought Leader: Tired or True?

Author:

Isn’t thought leader just old biz jargon? After all, the term’s been knocking around for years, like ‘headhunter’ and ‘game changer’ and ‘team player.’

But no, for a B2B company today, being known as a thought leader demands your attention. And fortunately, through social media, becoming a thought leader gets easier for small and midsize companies than ever before.

Here’s how elise.com defined the phrase in 2003: “What differentiates a thought leader from any other knowledgeable company, is the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers, and the broader marketplace in which it operates.

Why does that matter?

We’re in an economy where customers try to know everything before they buy. Customers want to know who you are, what you stand for, whether they like you, whether you are telling the truth, will you deliver, are you trustworthy. And customers want to know what other customers think about working with you and the quality of your products and services. And customers want to know if you really know your industry, and whether you can help them make a wise buying decision (even if it’s not to buy from you). And whether you will help them make the transaction transparent or whether you will want to leave them in the dark.

And you know what? Customers will buy from those companies that are the easiest to know.

How do you become that kind of company?

I presented a webinar to a prospective customer last week, a webinar on what frightens buyers about doing business with small companies. I used abundant examples from their industry. The CEO said at the end, “You took the time to learn about my company. Your competitor didn’t do that.” That’s one way to do it-when you have the opportunity to interact with customers, take the time to understand their business. Train everyone on your team to do that, all of the time.

But aside from when you’re talking to your customers and prospects directly, how can you earn their attention to you by behaving like a thought leader?

One simple way is to offer industry information on your website-make your site a place to which customers and prospects return for up-to-date knowledge. Here’s one B2B company that does it well: Walker Information, offering their online ‘Knowledge Center’ about customer loyalty. They have five blogs, each written by a company expert. Their library of eBooks, videos discussions, case studies, and white papers is constantly growing. The Walker site illustrates the high value of producing content. Walker expects and empowers employees to be thought leaders, and the company continually produces new content of its own based on deep industry expertise.

Another small company doing a good job of thought leadership on their website is Driving Ambition, in the trucking industry. They offer a newsletter subscription and an ‘industry resources’ page. Here’s what they say: “Driving Ambition is committed to helping our customers stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends. Bookmark this page, and you’ll have easy access to the latest transportation news and information,” followed by a list of associations, websites, industry standards, and other information made more valuable because they have posted it in one place. Their blog features timely, relevant posts about events, industry news, speakers, reports, issues, and so forth. Driving Ambition differs from Walker in that most of their informative web material consists of link, announcements and references rather than new content production.

The distinction between these two approaches is important; it illustrates that you can demonstrate thought leadership by creating new industry knowledge but also by aggregating and filtering industry information for your customers and prospects.

How you do it depends on choosing a strategy that you can manage, that you can afford, and that will be meaningful to your audience. Developing a ‘thought leader’ website and embedding a blog that invites interaction with visitors is a sensible place to start.

Ten Tactics to Drive B2B Sales with Social Media

Author:

Hello BlogWorld readers, and welcome to my new blog post series on how social media can drive your B2B sales. I’m pleased to be invited to contribute and look forward to interacting with all of you here.

I work with small and midsize B2B companies learning how to grow their business by making bigger sales to bigger customers. Most of my customers are new to the social media world and especially confused about how it can possibly relate to the B2B sales environment.

So thought I’d start by introducing the topic and giving you my list of the Top Ten tactics that will help you use social media to drive B2B sales. My Top Ten list also forms the topic list that I’ll be blogging about/hope you will add to it!

  1. Position your company as a thought leader/team of experts in your field. Invite several of your subject matter experts to create newsletters, blog posts, white papers, discussion board posts, slide decks and/or videos about their knowledge and expertise in your industry. Provide them with policy guidelines and training for creation and have a system for distribution.
  2. Develop a content strategy to add value to the customer experience. Learn how to leverage your website, blog, and social media sites to present content that your company produces and to share content from others that will be of interest to your customers.
  3. Learn how to use social media to generate high quality leads. For example, use social media tools to invite members of your target audience to attend a teleconference or webinar and give them high quality, relevant information. When they sign up and attend, you have a warm introduction and a reason to call them.
  4. Engage your prospects and customers in conversation about their needs and their desires. Social media platforms make it easy to conduct surveys, to ask simple questions, and to comment on your customers’ observations in real time.
  5. Request and publicize referrals and recommendations through social media. Ask your key employees to request Linked In recommendations from current and past customers, for example, and suddenly you’ll have 10 or 20 or 50 points of view about the quality and capabilities of your team.
  6. Conduct sales research about prospective companies and their key employees. The networking sites give you unprecedented access to information about people at work. Just keep in mind that your company will ‘get’ only as much as you ‘give,’ so encourage your team to be contributors.
  7. Build customer loyalty through multiple social media touch points. Wherever you find your customers on the Internet-and wherever they find you-be prepared to engage in a multi-channel conversation.
  8. Keep up with trends in social media and sales/understand sales 2.0. Lots of small business owners are still hoping it will all go away. But I believe we have hardly begun to tap the potential of the Internet and social media activity for B2B business engagement. The most successful companies will be those that intend to learn and grow with the phenomenon.
  9. Use your social media resource sites to find industry reports, data, and predictions that will interest your customers. Make great resources easy for them to find through you, and you’ll add great value to their experience.
  10. Connect with ravens and mavens. Ravens are guides and protectors of the whale hunters; they want you to win big sales. Mavens are passionate knowledge brokers who know what’s what and can advise you on the trends. Subscribe to their blogs, follow them, ‘friend’ them, ‘like’ them. Most of all, allow them to help guide you through the social media territory.

How are you using social media to support B2B sales? I look forward to your comments!

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