Why can’t we all just work together?

It’s the final instalment in our epic content creation versus content curation discussion! Here are the previous stories in the series …

1 – A brief introduction to content creation versus curation
2 – What are we sharing for?
3 – The creationist theory

There’s every chance I come across as someone who isn’t a fan of content curators. To a degree, that impression would be correct. Personally speaking, I find curators spoil my social media experiences.

If I’ve followed a company that has tweeted something I liked, and then that company goes ahead and tweets curated content every hour on the hour henceforth, I’m not going to be following along for long.

My current Twitter feed is filled with tweet after tweet (after tweet) of curated content. Wait – I thought you were anti-content curation, man!? What happened? You sell out or something?

Nup – it turns out the majority of companies I follow have a struck a delightful balance in creating and curating content. And because they’ve given me good content in the past, I’m sticking with them until such time as the ratio of good versus bad is too high to be ignored. Er, is too high that I begin to ignore them. Uh, well – you know what I mean.

More to the point, they’ve written content that’s made me think, “Hey, this person knows their stuff. Therefore, what they share is probably spot on as well.”

And that’s the trick. Feel free to use content curation tools but … use them wisely. Only publish / recommend / retweet content you’ve read before sharing it. Content you believe in. Content you wish you’d written yourself. Content that represents your brand voice.

And for goodness sake, use your own content as well.

+Alistair Nestor

The creationist theory

Hey wait just a darn minute … have you read the other posts in this series?

1 – A brief introduction to content creation versus curation
2 – What are we sharing for?
3 – The creationist theory
4 – Why can’t we all just work together?

It took me a long time to understand why I didn’t recognise articles I’d written online a few weeks after publication. Sure, I would remember the topic, the theme, perhaps even the conclusion – I would recognize these things but still I would wonder, did I really write that?

Turns out, I did … and I didn’t.

Turns out, the SEO guys at work had been fiddling with my content.

Fiddling with it to optimise it for search.

Fiddling with it until I did not recognise my own writing.

Writing for search purposes is just one of the key reasons for writing your own content. In simple terms, if you write it, they might come. And having your content optimised for search (SEO) improves your chances from ‘might’ come to ‘more likely than not will’ come.

Creating your own good, relevant, interesting content for the web is wonderful for your reputation.

Let’s run through three reasons why being a creator is good for your brand.

1 – SEO

As touched on in the introduction, SEO is a MAJOR reason for creating good content online. People research online. They Google, they Bing, they Yahoo! What they DON’T do is search for your brand. Let me explain by way of example:

I’m looking for a toaster.

A quick search brings up the following in Google:

Google-search-toaster

The first four are department stores with 1,000s of SKUs and many, many visitors.

So Breville is our first toaster brand – beating out the likes of Sunbeam, Kitchenmaid and Morphy Richards for the honour of highest Google ranking. Let’s find out why …

Clicking the link takes us here:

Breville-toaster-page

Nothing too interesting here. Nothing particularly content focused. Let’s try the homepage, to see if something else on the domain is helping the search ranking:

Breville-homepage

And there’s our answer. – well, a very large part of the answer anyway A plethora of content …

Video content:

Breville-video-page

There’s also a blog (foodthinkers.com.au):

Breville-blog

In short, Breville has gone beyond a basic e-commerce website with items for sale; it’s actually a resource designed to ‘pull’ customers to it.

Which leads us (somewhat tenuously) to point two …

2 – Thought Leadership

Having a blog called Food Thinkers is pretty smart thinking for an appliance manufacturer. The title is the first smart move: not All About Appliances – not Electrical Small Goods. No, they haven’t referenced their products in the title at all.

Food Thinkers. People who think about food.

Here’s their blurb:

Full of delicious recipes, fantastic new products, helpful information and exclusive offers. Breville Food Thinkers is all about how to eat better, cook better and feel better.

A couple of references to their products, but essentially they’re positioning themselves as a lifestyle resource. Nice.

So now Breville has a platform for taking the lead on matters relating to their industry. In fact, they can potentially broaden their sphere of influence and talk about feeling better and eating better if they so choose to.

Thought leadership is a powerful tool for a brand – one of the few methods that a retailer still (potentially) has control over in today’s consumer-powered advertising world. Being an industry authority engenders trust. And that’s still a powerful factor in consumer decision-making.

3 – It gives you a fantastic marketing tool, resource and destination

Whether it’s a how-to video series, a blog observing industry trends, whitepapers, or infographics, having content on your corporate website gives you a call-to-action destination for your various marketing efforts.

Take, for instance, the humble tweet. Here are three in my feed tonight, all with shortlinks to content located on their corporate website:

Did you click on the short links? Where did they take you? Right through the front door of their business …

Those three Twitter accounts post a few times each day. That’s a lot of traffic they’re generating to their website. And it’s not just to buy, buy, buy. I think of it as an opportunity to break down the barriers of resistance. We don’t want to be sold to, generally speaking. But we do like to learn and be entertained. And that’s what Twitter accounts like the above do to get customers through their virtual doors.

And it’s not like you need to create new content for every tweet or Facebook status update you post. The ExplorerB2B tweet is a direct copy of one they sent out seven days previously! Some marketers link to posts they’ve written months, even years ago. And why wouldn’t you if it’s well-written and relevant? That’s the sort of invaluable resource you build when you become a content creator.

Think about it.

And then write about it!

+Alistair Nestor

What are we sharing for?

In a recent post I broached the subject of content creation versus curation.

To summarise, there are those in social media who create original content for their followers, and there are those who share that content. The question is, which is it better to be? Will you earn more respect as the creator of knowledge or curator of good content?

Today we take a teensy step back and ask the question Country Joe McDonald would be proud to ask, “What are we sharing for?”

Learned-er scholars than me posit we’ve left the Industrial Age and are now taking our first steps into the glorious Age of Information (I know, convention says it should be ‘The Information Age’, but as a colleague rightly pointed out, that’s a little dull for something new and shiny, so ‘Age of Information’ it is).

So what does the Age of Information mean to a business owner when thinking about one’s marketing? Let’s consider a couple of concepts that we’ve all likely heard before, but perhaps haven’t quite got our heads around …

WARNING: I’m going to lean heavily on a scholarly work for these definitions. Andreas Kaplan and pal Michael Haenlein wrote a seminal paper on the challenges and opportunities social media bring called – somewhat unimaginatively – ‘The challenges and opportunities of Social Media’.

Web 2.0

First coined in 2004, Web 2.0 describes the change that occurred when end-users (consumers) began contributing to and modifying Internet content. Well, not so much the creation and collaboration itself; rather, Web 2.0 is about the technology advancements like Flash and RSS that allowed for this collaboration to occur. Wikipedia is the shining beacon of Web 2.0 in all its glory.

User Generated Content (UGC)

Ok, so you probably don’t need this explained. This refers to the content created by users, as found in the various channels available online. I rather fancy Kaplan and Haenlein’s three basic requirements of UGC, which are that the content must (and I quote):

  1. Be published either on a publicly accessible website or on a social networking site accessible to a selected group of people
  2. Show a certain amount of creative effort
  3. Have been created outside of professional routines and practices.

Ooh, isn’t that an interesting set of rules! Why yes, it is! Wait, why? Because it defines the ground rules for how Web 2.0 technologies and frameworks should be used: accessible, creative, and user-generated. Tidy.

Ok, so how come it’s important to create or curate content? I’m glad I asked. The key to this new world … sorry, Age of Information … is engagement.

Engagement means many things in this context. Here are two of those things:

  1. Consumers now have a voice
  1. Businesses no longer broadcast, they start conversations

Let’s quickly discuss these two things, and then move on to the thrilling conclusion in which we reveal why sharing content is important.

To say that consumers have a voice is an understatement. They in fact have THE voice. The balance of power and influence has shifted gravitationally towards the humble consumer. What I mean is that marketers no longer have the primary ‘say’ in how a brand is perceived. More and more that perception it is defined by message boards, social networks, review sites, blogs, and so on.

That is to say, marketers still segment the market and position the product to suit that segment; however it’s the segment that is influencing the branding, success, and sales of that product.

Which leads us, serendipitously, to point two; what smart companies are doing to influence this shifting power balance. Smart companies, you see, are proactively creating environments or channels where their customers can talk about their products. Better the devil you know, so to speak. In other words, by having a social media plan, companies can influence to a degree the conversations being had online by customers.

And THAT is where content comes in.

By creating or curating good, relevant, interesting content, companies are creating an environment where their customers can virtually congregate. Companies can proactively liaise with their customers in chat rooms, forums, with Live Chat, by email, in blogs, comments sections, tweets, Facebook posts … basically LOTS OF PLACES.

Content is the bait. That sounds terrible but it’s true. It’s the carefully made, well thought out, strategically placed lure that represents a worthwhile engagement by consumers.

I feel dirty writing that. The truth is, content done right is pretty darn hard to do. Call to actions, targeted topics, key words, SEO, relevance … there’s lots to think about when crafting a piece of prose for publication.

Suffice it to say, content is the new presence that TV advertising once represented. It’s the new way to prove thought leadership and relevance.

And sharing that content? Ah, that’s where Web 2.0 comes in handy. The Internet is one, big, glorious tangle of hyperlinks. And getting our content shared is PROOF that that content is RELEVANT. In fact, a SHARE is a wonderful reinforcement that what you’re doing and what you represent is on the right track. And nowadays, sharing is so much easier with those dinky social buttons just waiting to be clicked. Oh look, there’s some at the bottom of this article!

Ultimately, we want customers. Content sharing is the new word-of-mouth. And let’s face it; word of mouth has been a pretty fine driver of success for the last thousand years or so of commerce, right?

+Alistair Nestor

Bloomberg’s Justin Smith’s Blueprint for Modern Media

One definition of entrepreneurship is the ability to evolve your product, business model, technology, or talent base to capture a changing market opportunity

via Bloomberg’s Justin Smith’s Blueprint for Modern Media.

This article will be discussed on here shortly.

In the meantime, READ THE EXCERPTS from Justin Smith’s email to Bloomberg staff. It’s a manifesto for content marketing if ever I saw one.