Monday, June 29, 2009

Making Marketing Content More Sociable

If the Web gave marketers reach, the Social Web gives us responsibility.

To be successful with social media, marketers need to create better, more “sociable” content – content that’s thoughtful, clear, and meaningful to customers.

More so than ever before, content needs to “pull.” It needs to engage readers intellectually and emotionally. It needs to earn their time, as well as their confidence – or they won’t believe it, talk about it or share it with others. And it needs to adapt to their consumption patterns. This means that I now need to be as engaging and entertaining in 140 characters as I have been in the past with 1,500 words, and on a BlackBerry screen as well as a PC screen.

This change may be a big shift for many brand marketers. Most marketers are accustomed to pushing tightly controlled stories over tightly controlled, paid channels. Today, every customer has an audible opinion – and many inexpensive and instantaneous ways to air it. So, customers and other influencers are constantly rewriting and contributing to your story.

As a result, brand marketers need to be constantly “on,” in listening mode, and able to respond quickly to brand challenges and opportunities. As marketers we may hate Yelp and other consumer-rating sites, but they are a fact of marketing life. Today, marketers need to practice “behavioral branding,” by delivering products and services that work as advertised. Think good works well-communicated; errors promptly acknowledged.

I see all of this as a very positive change for marketing. (For one thing: I am looking forward to having the word “spin” disappear from marketers’ lexicons.)

The Marketing Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. This was a time of great political turmoil and activism – a lot of it pretty effective. As a result, I have remained a bit of a rebel.

I’m also a closet optimist. In spite of the terrible economy and our decreasing individual freedom, I believe that people – working together – can achieve things that institutions can’t. And that the Internet is a powerful force in bringing people together in new ways.

So I am thrilled that the Internet is forcing a revolution in marketing by moving it into “the streets”: social networks, blogs and other democratized online media. The marketing revolution is creating some interesting times for brand marketers, particularly those in larger companies and institutions. It’s creating huge new opportunities for smaller businesses. And all of this is great for consumers: more choice, more bang for their bucks.

I specialize in creating and telling stories for brands, including writing a lot of thought leadership content: white papers, articles and e-newsletters. Today, low-cost Internet publishing technologies and social networks make it easier and cheaper for my clients to:

Find out what customers and prospects are really thinking – so we can make our content more meaningful and valuable to them

Deliver our stories directly – and more precisely through SEO – to customers

Extend the reach of our stories, using a “flattened” media that includes bloggers and micro-bloggers in addition to print and Internet journalists

Engage mainstream journalists and editors, many of whom are accessible on Twitter and other social networks

Assemble and inspire groups of consumers to help market the brands

And, of course, find new customers and make money

These ideas aren’t original with me, certainly. But I am taking advantage of them and will be writing about my experiences with them.

The marketing revolution won’t be televised (thank God). It will be Web-ified, Twitter-ized, Googled, Facebook-ized, YouTube-d, Slashdot-ted, delivered over consumer-run Internet radio stations, and narrowcast over brand-owned Internet TV channels.

Long live the revolution!


Please see my blog roll. It includes blogs from some very smart people who inspire me and make me better at what I do. A special call-out goes to my longtime colleagues/former clients, Internet publishing pioneer Michael Kolowich, founder of ChannelOne Marketing; and SEO-PR chief Greg Jarboe, who’s a genius at using SEO to accelerate results from PR. Also to the inspirational Web marketing guru David Meerman Scott and my mentor and long-time editor Joe Roy (aka Mr. Clarity).