Do a Google search for “content marketing for small business” and you’ll get more than 200,000 results. Simply put, content marketing is using content online to market your business. Social media and online content have created an engaged consumer, one that tunes out one-way advertising and demands conversation, responsiveness and interesting content. But plowing through all of the expert and technical advice to find the right approach can be overwhelming for small businesses with limited budgets and time.

The trick for small business owners and marketers is to think differently about creating content. Here are five content marketing musts to create stand out content that will connect with customers and drive high quality traffic to your business:

1)    Stop focusing on adding content, and start concentrating on identifying and fulfilling customer needs.  Do you often answer the same questions from customers? Ask them what they want to know and publish blog posts, case studies, newsletters, tutorials, reports, resource lists or podcasts to answer their questions.  Customers will appreciate finding the information easily on your website without having to call you. You’ll appreciate the cost/time savings.

2)    Content that generates the most benefit for your web site is also content that fulfills your customers’ needs. Stop focusing on SEO for its own sake. Not all content will boost your traffic and search rankings. Choose content for which there is demand but not that much supply. It just takes a little homework to find out what topics or products are searched for frequently but not well covered on many other websites. By demonstrating your expertise with this unique content, you’ll start to be established as an authority in your field.

3)    Remember you’re just renting a room on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or other social media sites. Use social media and blogs to get out your content but always bring your friends to your home, your website. Then do what you do with friends in real life. Find out how they want to be reached and contact them regularly with exciting news. Have call to action items on your website such as email marketing enrollment or requests for more information. Make sure you add social sharing buttons to your web pages to encourage social media sharing and link building back to your site.

4)    Think visually. We live in the age of Pinterest and Instagram. It’s important that you discover visual content that you enjoy developing so you’ll be more likely to create it on a regular basis. Whether it’s making videos, or sharing photos, creating Infographics or interactive games, or producing webinars and slide shows, always think about what visual images will grab your customers’ attention.

5)    Creating a mobile-optimized website should be your priority if you don’t already have one. Google estimates that as much as 25 percent of all searches are conducted on a mobile device. Mobile search advertisers report higher click-through rates and higher levels of engagement with mobile search. All you need is a simple navigation stripped of text with a click-to-email and call functions and social sharing buttons for user friendly connectivity.

One final tip: Use content marketing to personally connect with your customers. I just read an amazing article by Srininvas Rao about his friend, Chris Buillbeau, who emailed every single newsletter subscriber personally for his first 10,000 subscribers. Rao decided to do the same for his email subscribers and recently received this email from a subscriber:

“Thanks for your email! Of all of the resources that I subscribe to, I don’t think I have ever received an actual personal email that wasn’t an obvious use of email marketing personalization features. Your content is awesome, and I am finding it really helpful!”

Can you imagine if you used this personal touch in your small business content marketing? Try it and let me know what happens!

 

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It’s been just a month since Cathryn Sloane published her now infamous post on NextGen Journal, Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Under 25.

 

Wow, did a post from this young college grad hit a sensitive and insecure nerve in social media professionals! In the past few weeks, her post received more than 600 comments and thousands of tweets, mostly negative, reflecting the growing chasm between the generations in the social media world.

Time to get over it, all of you naysayers from Millennials to Baby Boomers. The world doesn’t revolve around you!

As someone well over 25 who manages both public relations and social media for my company, I am grateful that Cathryn’s post started this hot button discussion.

This is a wake-up call for social media managers everywhere.  We should be talking about this issue openly–and honestly examining our attitudes–in every workplace, institution and organization, not just to clear the air with Kumbaya moments but because the synergy of the experiences of all ages can only benefit the work we do.

Although I don’t agree with Cathryn’s post, I respect her opinion and have learned a great deal from this controversy.  After reading some of the nastier comments, I found myself not only feeling empathy for this young woman but for all of the younger people who grimaced when they read the mean spirited stereotypes about their generation.

I remember the thrill I experienced as a 23-year-old when a senior manager accepted my ideas and complimented my work.  I carry this memory with me when I work with and mentor younger pros. I respect their opinions and often ask for their feedback.  As a manager now, I see it as my responsibility to provide leadership and create an environment for all of us to learn together and grow our social media skills to achieve our goals. Because that’s what it’s all about, no matter how old we are and how many years we’ve been working in social media.

 

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Raise your hands, who’s tired of the Facebook Promoted Post box popping up relentlessly on your fan page each time you post?

And, is it my imagination or does it seem that even fewer fans are seeing your posts after the Facebook IPO?

Blame it on EdgeRank, Facebook’s algorithm for determining what appears in your fans’ news feeds, or what does not appear at all. EdgeRank analyzes your page and posts based on what you post, how often you post and whether or not fans interact with your page. If fans don’t like or share or comment on your posts, EdgeRank does not count them and your page posts will disappear from their newsfeeds.

EdgeRank is nothing new but it seems that since the Facebook initial public offering, some pages’ fan visibility dropped as quickly as Facebook’s share value.  Two weeks after the IPO, Facebook announced the new Promoted Posts option for status updates on brand pages so you can buy the eyeballs of your fans that you already have.  So, when the page administrator enters a new status update, there is now an additional button next to the blue ‘Post’ box, offering a drop-down menu that says ‘Promote.’

Without some form of Facebook advertising, it is estimated that most pages’ newsfeeds reach 7-12 percent of their followers. So what can small businesses and non-profits, that can’t afford to “pay to post” or risk turning off fans, do?

And for others who are considering advertising, you walk a thin line between annoying fans with commercial messages and keeping them informed. Fans want to receive your updates—that’s why they follow you—but how will they feel if your Facebook page becomes inundated with advertising via status updates?

For those of us who have worked hard to earn fans who want to see our posts, it’s time to tweak our tactics. We’ve known that a blog  is one of the best ways to increase your website’s SEO. A blog can also help to increase your fan visibility on Facebook. Retail consultant Cindy Baxter has posted some helpful tips about using your blog to publish directly to Facebook using RSS Graffiti which I’ll be trying in the weeks to come and will keep you updated on the results. I’d love to hear if you’ve tried this and or any other tactic to keep your fans receiving your newsfeeds.

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“We need to market our business/product—where should we advertise?” It’s a question I hear often from brands and businesses I work with. Why do so many believe that the primary way to market is through advertising? They’re still living in the Mad Men era of advertising when a company developed a product and then figured out how to advertise it. In an insightful interview with Mark Ramsey Media, Seth Godin asserts that marketing must come first.  Smart, effective brands build marketing into the product’s DNA and follow a few basic steps:

  • Scott Dunseath in the Airstream trailer turned photo booth in the new Reno Tahoe USA Visitors Center in Reno eNVy

    Spread a story that resonates

  • Earn permission to communicate
  • Build a fan base
  • Create connections

A successful story of brand/marketing integration is Reno ENVy, created by Scott Dunseath and a couple of partners in 2005. I first learned about the store from Reno Tahoe USA when I was checking out the tourism website for a trip to Nevada.

I had never been to Reno before, much less Nevada, when I walked into the store for the first time. I immediately wanted to start “rockin’ the eNVy”–buy an Airstream trailer and follow the Jason King Band on the road around Nevada wearing Justin Boots Bent Rail J125-Toe Cowboy Boots in Full-Quill Ostrich, and a  “I’m a 10, in Reno” t-shirt.

In 2005, Scott and a couple of his friends came up with the idea from a twist on the abbreviation of Nevada.  “NV” morphed into “eNVy” and became a running joke. After testing the name on T-shirts and hats at local outdoor events, they realized that they were on to something. They started a screen printing company called Fuel to create a line of shirts, hoodies, hats, glassware and stickers. Their logo, a trailer, also started with a joke, a parody of the John Deere logo. Many of their customers identify with the trailer lifestyle and fell in love with the new logo.

How can you not love a brand that describes itself:  “Reno eNVy is about pride and pioneering spirit. It’s about reverence for the past and an irreverent celebration of individuality. It’s about personal expression with an edge. It’s a misfit culture with its own set of values. It’s about good times in God’s country. Go ahead and do it. Nobody’s looking, and even if they are, who cares?”

Now Scott is spreading the eNVy beyond the Nevada border with his latest project. After he moved his store to Sierra Street in downtown Reno, he saw an opportunity to get more tourists excited about Reno and Tahoe. He collaborated with the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority and the City of Reno and just opened a new visitor center in the back of his store in May.

That’s where I met Scott a few days after the grand opening–sharing his infectious enthusiasm and promotional brochures provided by other Reno/Tahoe attractions and the Visitors Authority with some New Yorkers visiting Reno for a bowling convention. Scott brought in an Airstream trailer to use as a photo booth for visitors and he  posts the photos to the Reno eNVy Facebook and Twitter pages.

That’s pioneering spirit, Reno eNVy style. Do you have examples of  brand/marketing integration for products or companies you love? Share them in the comments.

 

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