Creating Compelling Content for Today's Changing Customers

Wisdom from "Social Media Marketing Superstars" - Part One

Even though internet marketing is barely more than a decade and a half old, the game is changing for online marketers. Gradually the importance of search engine optimization is giving ground to social media optimization.

In other words, playing in Google's sandbox is not as important as playing in Facebook's playground.

But one thing that has not changed is the importance of creating and posting quality content on the web. Good content is just as important to social media as it is to search engines. With each year that goes by, the world will more and more belong to those who put a lot of (valuable) content on the web.

People frequently ask me how Twitter, for example, can make much of an impact since you are limited to 140 characters. The answer is not much unless your tweets include links to your blog, your website, your videos, your photos, your slide shows, your podcasts or other content you may create and upload to the web.

Content is still king, even as the "game" shifts away from search engines to social media.
  • Content can solve problems for your ideal clients,
  • Good content establishes trust and credibility with them,
  • Good content entertains them, educate them,
  • or it can help them become better, more-informed, consumers of whatever it is that you sell (which is no small achievement, since it helps them distinguish between your products and your competitors' products on factors other than mere price differences).

Additionally - since search engine optimization is still important to any online marketing campaign - content can be optimized with the appropriate keywords to help people find you and all your wonderful solutions online.

Which leads me to a brilliant piece written by my friend Anne Handley of Marketing Profs. I found this in a book called, Success Secrets of Social Media Marketing Superstars.

This book is a collective effort compiled by Mitch Meyerson. It includes chapters written by Anne, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brian Clark, Shama Kabani, Julie Perry, Mike Stelzner and many others. In other words, the superstars.

Anne's chapter is called, "Creating Content People Care About: The Cornerstone of Social Media."

Now let me start by saying that Anne Handley is a genius. She really "gets" the how, why and what about creating marketing content for the web.

Anne, points out that today's customers have changed. They are no longer easily swayed by bombarding them with advertising. Instead they seek out information before making a buying decision. They Google various brands and they ask their friends on Facebook what their experiences with various brands have been.

Think of how you behave when you take off your marketing hat and put on your customer hat.

No doubt you are far more proactive when you are shopping for a new car or even looking for medical care. Possibly you also read reviews and ratings by actual customers of these products on Amazon, Angies List, Yelp or Foursquare. Why then, do you expect your own customers to behave differently when they are buying your products?

So how do you create content that can attract these changing customers? Anne gives us a list of 11 Rules of Compelling Content, with several examples and short case studies. I won't re-list them all here, but I will higlight a few of her insights for you:

  • "Compelling content is vendor-agnostic." In other words, your content is not about you, your company, your products or your brands. It puts the spotlight on what the customer wants to learn and becomes a publisher of information that meets these needs.

    Nothing will turn off your customers/readers faster than lot of self-serving commentary. Keep your brand mentions to a minimum. This is a medium from which people value objectivity, not salesmanship.

  • Build trust by become a resource. Nothing builds trust faster and more reliably than educating customers. Anne uses Rubbermaid as an example. Their blog "does not focus on injected molded plastics but on space-saving and organizing, as well as on the consumers interested in, and the industry build up around these issues. Consider these recent posts: 'How to Sell Clothing at a Yard Sale,' and 'Save Money Packing Your Lunch.'"

  • Compelling content allows for interaction or dialog. Create content that serves a specific community and allow them a voice.

  • Great content does not create barriers. Anne gives an example of a General Mills "community" site Psst General Mills. Instead of finding a community, she found barriers in the form of pages of qualifying questions designed to compile their database.

  • Compelling content starts a conversation.
    Build in ways for readers to share you information with their friends (or fans, followers or blog readers). Don't force them to sign in order to link to your content, but encourage them to share with easy to use widgets.

What kinds of content appeal to you as a customer or potential customer? How have your decisions been impacted by commercial information that educated you and offered solutions to specific problems? And how did you feel toward the brand that took the time and effort to educate you more without an over-powering sales message?

You definitely want to check out the book, Success Secrets of Social Media Marketing Superstars. It is full of a lot of useful ideas from some of the best minds in the field of social media marketing.

For those of you who have already read this book, what were your favorite insights? I plan to write an occasional series of articles based on the chapters and lessons in Social Media Marketing Superstars, so I will greatly appreciate your feedback.

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COPYRIGHT © 2010, Charles Brown

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