Content strategy

Who is listening to you? You might be surprised

That takes some effort to listen and be aware of what the opportunities actually are but if you ignore them you do so at at your own peril.

Boring

Throughout my career as a professional communicator I come across clients who are absolutely sure they know who their audience is. Invariably they are wrong.Let me give you an example.

Many years ago I counseled a semiconductor company that had a great business selling components to Apple for the iPod. They sold almost 30 percent of all their product to Apple. They knew that Apple was never going away.

In our research into the effectiveness of their content we found what seemed to be a discrepancy. We knew that there were multiple product groups that the client’s technology would fit, but they were focused only on the iPod team. We told them they needed to start a focus on development teams.

They responded, “We know who to talk to, you just concentrate on putting out press releases.”

Six months later, at a trade show, two Apple team managers came by the client booth to take a look at a new codec chip and after a brief introduction one of them said. “It’s too bad we didn’t know about this two months ago. It would have been a perfect fit for a new product we have coming out.”

One year later, Apple introduced the iPhone. One year after that, Apple switched to a competitor’s chips for the next generation of iPod. The client lost all of Apple’s business. Today, that client is part of their competitor having been bought out after their stock tanked about 5 years ago.

The moral is that there is always someone listening, or who needs to listen, to what you have to say. It is your job to figure out who that is and what they need to hear.

A good communication strategy requires looking at all the potential customers and influencers in a particular market. You might be concerned only with the companies and people that will buy your product, but you might not be thinking about the ultimate user of the product; or the people that provide the pieces of your product that you don't manufacture; or the service companies that are distributing your product; or the people that actually influence all of those people. Each of those “publics” can determine the fate of your organization as much, if not more than the immediate customer.

Now you might believe that one set of information is enough for all groups, but you would be wrong. In the case of the client, they were focused on the needs for one application of their technology. when there were, in fact, multiple applications. The iPhone project managers may have been hearing that information somewhere inside Apple, but it wasn't targeted at their product. It needed to be communicated in a way those project engineers could relate.

That takes some effort to listen and be aware of what the opportunities actually are but if you ignore them you do so at at your own peril. Just remember: what you don't know may actually kill you.

Marketing coffee break: Marketing Automation makes investment in people profitable

This is our first interview in a new series on best practices in marketing technology. today we talk to James (Jamie) Morgan, vice president of global sales for SharpSpring, one of our technology partners.

Most companies, we have found, that invest in new tech for marketing and sales somehow think they can skimp on professional personnel but that has been a poor model for success. The marketing automation industry is growing rapidly, one of the fastest growing industries in the world, but the tools are complex. Very few customers of the industry are making effective use of the tools and customer turnover is as high as 50 percent annually. as a result, many industry members are scrambling constantly for new customers. SharpSpring, however, ties it's business directly to marketing and communications professionals and has an admirable 2 percent turnover rate. One of the lowest in the marketing automation industry.

Our discussion with Jamie shows why it is so low and why investing in competent professionals is key to success.

Video: People are still key to Marketing Automation

Marketing automation tools are foundational to improving your digital marketing ROI, but they are not a magic talisman to sales. You still need expertise and experience to get the results you need.

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Sharing is a thing, but it isn’t the only thing.

I received a few emails from a content services vendor this week (Here’s a suggestion…did you get my email… have you read my email…) and after getting over the initial annoyance of a rookie PR gaffe I decided to look into the suggestion while I made coffee. My response is this blog post.

The vendor was Venngage which has a nifty online tool for creating infographics for distribution on digital media, and competes with dozens of similar online tools. The offer was a very long white paper on engagement that, to their credit, had no blatant push to buy their service, but it wasn’t completely subtle. The premise of the white paper is “content that people share is a good thing.” In fact, if anyone from Venngage sends you the link to the paper, I just saved you a who lot of time because you don’t have to read it now. That is all it says, but with lots of statistics before they get to the point.

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It’s true that a metric of content engagement is, in fact, how many people in your audience share your content. For a company like Venngage, creating sharable content is an important metric, which actually denudes their white paper of all subtlety. That being said, sharing is a not a great metric of the value of your content, no matter what the statistics say.

A recent study by Colombia University said almost 60 percent of content shared on social media is not actually read by the people sharing it. They look only at the headline and if it creates a gut reaction (positive of negative) then it gets shared. The problem is that the most common SEO practice is to create emotional headlines that often have nothing to do with the content that follows. The headlines are heavily salted with phrases line “will blow your mind” and “you won’t believe what happens next.” For infographics, if you are among the majority of people that doesn’t actually read shared content or, even worse, taken in by fake news this is problematic. As a result, many infographics shared are full of sensationalistic, inaccurate and down-right false information being spread throughout the digital world. 

This results in two outcomes: misinformed people and people who are angry at you for spreading disinformation.  In the former group, these people are not making a conscious decision to do business with you. If those people do any sort of fact-checking they become the latter group because they are pissed off about being lied to, even though that was not your intent. This practice rarely results in revenue for you, which is the stated goal of content marketing, and it destroys your reputation.

There are only two metrics that truly matter in the area of content marketing: (1) How much time do they spend on your content and website and (2) how many end up asking for a proposal. Everything else is interesting but not important.  You can have a brilliant infographic that gets shared and re shared hundreds of thousands of time, but if they spend no time actually considering that information and if they never end up buying your service or product, that infographic is completely useless.

It is more important to get one paying customer than 100,000 shares or content that no one reads. It takes time to build a relationship and relationship is engagement. So before you invest in tools and gimmicks for social engagement, focus on the quality of your content first. There are no magic beans.

Contact us if you want to figure out how to create engaging and trustworthy content.

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Automation's dirty secret: We still need people

In all cases we have learned that these companies, if they don’t have trainable employees, must invest in employees or consultants with the knowledge and experience. More importantly, those resources need to be dedicated to the task.

With all the talk of automation replacing workers there is a dirty little secret that most people are ignoring: The need for workers to implement and maintain automation tools and to effectively analyze and interpret data from them.


Companies like to buy automation technology with the belief that they eliminate the need for people and expertise but when they fail to invest in the manpower to use that technology it severely hampers the ability of the tools to deliver value. At the same time, while ROI is significantly reduced by the lack of appropriate staff, the cost of eliminating the unproductive tools increases.


Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of marketing automation and online communications.


Over these past two years, Footwasher Media has been doing free preliminary and paid in depth evaluations of organizations and we have discovered that while the industry providing this technology is booming, the effective use of these tools is still far behind the curve in all areas. Here are four scenarios illustrating the problem. We are seeing a lack of production in their marketing and communications programs. In all cases we have learned that these companies, if they don’t have trainable employees, must invest in employees or consultants with the knowledge and experience. More importantly, those resources need to be dedicated to the task.


1. Big tech
Content chief of a large semiconductor company, who moved from a senior position at a large, well known publication, was appalled by the lack of integration of the analytics tools. “We had a team on the publication whose job it was to maintain and report on readership trends and when I got daily readership stats from the team at the publication it was like looking at a moon launch spread sheet from NASA. At this billion-dollar tech firm, they had a single admin working 10 hours a day maintaining and reporting on customer engagement. I was lucky to get a two-page four column spreadsheet once a month.


2. Human Resources
CEO of a medium size recruiting firm has employed multiple form of automation and analytics tools, but hasn’t integrated it into their daily practices because “they don’t have time for the learning curve.” As a result they are still doing much of the communication and search on a personal, ad hoc level management and staff are overwhelmed by the workload.


3. Startups
CEO of a small Indian software company is frustrated by the lack of production from sales and marketing programs and spent a week examining their procedures. He discovered that while they have not been avoiding hiring marketing staff, they have tried to economize by hiring junior-level marketing and sales people whose experience is not up to the task. Senior management is comprised of experienced engineers with no idea how to manage or direct sales and marketing.


4. Real Estate
The owner of a large Texas real estate company pays exorbitant prices for social and online tools to drive in leads that their agents rarely use because of their complexity but make almost no investment in the manpower to properly integrate the tools into the workflow and train agents in their use.


In each of these scenarios is a common theme: either insufficient staffing for the task or none at all. Some people want to focus only on Silicon Valley as problematic in this arena but as the scenarios above show, It is a worldwide problem that spans all industries. We have found similar difficulties in personal services (beauty salons and spas), consumer retail and financial sectors.


Automation is not a form of magic: Just plug it in and work is done. It doesn’t work that way, anymore than the invention of the wheel put luggage carriers out of work. Automation makes jobs more efficient and cost effective and makes the knowledgeable employee more valuable.


How is your content and marketing program doing? Room for improvement? Drop us a line and we can help.


 


I'm old and you are not. That's good thing.

I turned 64 this year and have been on the receiving end of scams and offers related to social security, dementia and Medicare for weeks now. I'm also getting offered senior discounts without asking. None of that has bothered me as much as getting dismissed because I'm no longer in my 30s (which bothered me as much when I was in my 20s). Today, however I had a revelation and I'm feeling much better about my age.


I was doing a session with the marketing team for a small business back by telephone and was in the process of breaking down their preconceived notions about communication when the youngest member of the team asked me, "How do you know this is what our customers are thinking?"


"Because I've been doing this for 40 years," I replied.


"Oh." She replied. 


Then one of the business owners, well into his 70s asks, "Wait a minute. You said you've been doing this for 40 years. How old are you?"


"I'm 64."


"Well, all right then. I feel much better about this."


What we had in this meeting were people with specific experiences and perceptions that were colored by their what they "knew"to be true. Most people never venture far outside of that comfort zone. They talk to the same people, listen to the same opinions and get annoyed if they are forced to go outside of that zone. In the world of communication strategy, that is a formula for failure. Until you actually spend a significant amount of time outside the zone, you can never properly communicate to your audience.


I've been watching social media since the 1990s, long before we had Facebook and MySpace. I had become pretty good as a communicator in general and with traditional forms of media but I knew that this new form of communication would become more important in a relatively short time, so I went waist deep in it and learned that my particular approach to communications fit better in social media than it did to mass media. That approach essential says: "No one cares what I think. They care what people they respect think. Write about that."


To do that, you need to be outside your walls talking to different people, learning how they accumulate information and knowledge (often two different things), and how they apply it to their lives. No one has all the answers but collectively, they have most of the answers. It is hard to realize that until you've had a few years under your belt, so being old helps a great deal.


But being old doesn't give you all the answers, either. The people that are younger than you have a different perspective in life that is no less valid than yours or people that are older. They all contain a portion of truth than needs to be considered. That is the key component in any successful communication strategy: breadth of perspective. That, however, is very hard to do from the inside of an organization, and the longer you are in the organization, the more likely it is that your perspective will become calcified.


That's why getting the perspective of someone out of the loop is imperative and the best choice generally comes from your current and prospective customer base. What they think of you is an order of magnitude bigger than what you think of you. They may not be correct in their view, either, but when you show you are open to their opinion, they become more likely to listen to yours. In the process everyone gets what they want and need.


Survey shows wineries are losing business at a significant rate

By Lou Covey  

A Footwasher Media survey discovered that most of the wineries outside of two California counties may be losing as many past customers they are gaining new. Wv_2009-01-13_Peaks_MNGT


Overall, the viticulture industry is doing well. Sales of premium wine (more than $20 a bottle) is increasing steadily and California is reaping the benefit of that popularity because If you buy or consume wine in the United States, it is most likely coming from California. There are more than 3600 wineries in California alone, which produce 90 percent of all the wine sold in the United States, according to the National Association of American Wineries


The lion’s share of that market, however, is located in Napa and Sonoma counties. Multiple marketing sources place the marketshare of those two counties between 50 and 70 percent of the total market. Because of that volume, Large Napa and Sonoma wineries can produce enough product to supply retail stores. Smaller wineries with less volume rely primarily on direct sales of wine, at the winery or through wine clubs, the primary driver of revenue. Outside of those two counties, direct sales is 90 percent of the revenue, on average. 


To see how this reality affects consumers, Footwasher Media sent a survey to more than 1100 people who stated they had visited a wine region in the past five years, with 30 percent responding. The respondents, between the ages of 21 and 50 with men and women equally represented, had all visited a winery in the past five years. The questions were:



  • Do you remember where the winery was?

  • Do you remember the name of the winery?

  • Do you remember what variety of wine it was (not red or white)

  • If you remember the name of the winery, have you repurchased their wine through a retail outlet or a wine club?


All of the respondents could remember where the winery was and a two-thirds could remember the name of the winery, but a less than half (44.4 percent) could remember the variety of the wine they sampled and 66.7 percent never bought another bottle of wine from the winery in the past five years. So for every 10 new customers, only a little more than 3 were returning.


That last response should be disconcerting to smaller wineries reliant on direct sales. The wine industry, as a whole, is somewhat recession proof with sales holding up rather well through economic downturns, but sales shift to low cost wines (between $4 and $10 a bottle) and away from higher end selections (more than $20). If two-thirds of your business is going away after the first impression, you are going to have a hard time surviving when the rest of the economy tanks.


What may be more disturbing is that millennials, who are replacing boomers as the primary economy drivers, prefer craft beer and spirits to wine and as boomer retire and die off, the primary market for the wine industry will also go away unless the wine industry can start attracting and retaining the millennials.


Looking at direct sales, Napa and Sonoma pretty much blow away every other region when it comes to tasting room sales. Statewide, the average purchase is $99, whereas in Napa, the average is $216 and Sonoma $120. Outside of those two counties purchases drop below $70.


Chart-7
Our research found that most wineries make use of wine clubs to bolster direct sales and larger wineries in Napa and Sonoma average about 2500 members per club. That’s a healthy return-customer list. However, outside of those two areas, average club member ship drops below 100.  Both Napa and Sonoma winery clubs show a larger member attrition rate than the rest of the industry but members of clubs in Napa and Sonoma send almost three times more on wine than members of clubs outside of those areas.


There are many reasons for this discrepancy, including lack of effective marketing practices and the relative invisibility of any other viticulture area.  Most marketing services purchased by wineries are winery-focused. The content, whether online or print, is about the winery and how wonderful each one is without identifying a single differentiation. Likewise wine associations and guilds lack anything in their content to differentiate one region from another. Every operation has pictures of beautiful scenery, stock shots of wine bottles and glasses and lists the most recent awards for their products. Without differentiation, however, customers will choose what they already know to be a solid choice: the wineries of Napa and Sonoma counties.


Experienced wine lovers can cite products from multiple areas, but those are not the customers that actually drive profits. The individuals that are occasional wine consumers make up the bulk of business and they focus of what is available in retail or where they can go for a vacation, which is well supplied by Napa and Sonoma.


To be able to survive the vagaries of our economy, the wine industry outside of those two counties need to rethink marketing practices and begin differentiate themselves from their competition and give customers a reason to do business with them.


 


Echo Chamber Marketing

While you may have many happy customers, you can rest assured that every unhappy potential customer and past customer is going to your competitors and telling them how awful you are. You just don’t know it.

 


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No matter how many tech companies we talk to we are constantly amazed at how many believe the exact same thing about two issues.



  1. Customer satisfaction

  2. Technical superiority


In issue one they believe that their customers are, collectively, more happy with their service and technology than with their competitors’; that their competitors are widely hated by their own customer base; and that their competitors, even those that no longer exist and all that are going to be are incompetent boobs.


In issue two they believe that customers see their contribution as the “secret sauce” behind the customers’ end products (e.g. “Our chip makes their mobile phone the fastest/lowest power/most versatile mobile phone ever). But that contribution is considered to be a “competitive advantage” by their customers and, therefore, the customers do not want to be identified or quoted.


Reality, however, is not as clear cut.


Reality check #1: There are incompetent people in every company and they annoy customers, some to the point that a customer will drop a product or service simply because they are annoying. But if the product or service provided gives them what they want at the price they are willing to pay, they will put up with the annoyance and incompetence. Any company that demonstrates incompetence, bad products and poor customer service will cease to exist. So if your competitor is still in business then they are doing something right.


While you may have many happy customers, you can rest assured that every unhappy potential customer and past customer is going to your competitors and telling them how awful you are. You just don’t know it.


Reality check #2: Every company we talked to in the past 20 years has told us, “off the record”, that they are providing products and services to a very large customer, or selling products and services to a vendor who is selling products to a very large customer. But at the same time, they say they are not allowed to publicly mention that customer or vendor because they are considered a “competitive advantage.” Every. Single. One.


We have found that smaller customers are generally more willing to give endorsements because it gives them attention in the marketplace, but we have also found that the companies we talk to prefer to talk only about the customers that they cannot publicly talk about.


So in both cases, their claims of customer satisfaction and technical superiority are unprovable.


This is what we call echo chamber marketing.


In their defense it is the only option they have because they really don’t know what the market is saying about them, or even if the glowing reports they get from their customers is anything more than polite conversation and a means to get a price cut for the next round. We have also noted that most of these companies have significant outstanding invoices on the books that have yet to be paid by their “happy” customers and when they threaten to withhold service or delivery the customer immediately calls a competitor. So how “happy” are they, really.


It does not have to be this way.


There are several tools and services that can get you honest feedback from your current and potential customer bases. There are ways to encourage customers who are truly satisfied with you to state so publicly. The choice is yours: Survive as long as you can in your self-built echo chamber, or learn how to thrive in the real world.


 


Bring real estate marketing into the 21st century

Footwasher Media has been looking into the arena of real estate marketing and communication for the past couple of years and has come up with a few interesting observations.


First and foremost is the reality that most realtors are far behind the curve adopting modern, digital communication. Websites are purchased as standard, so there is little differentiation between them. Metrics are employed but rarely studied. Social media is used sporadically and superficially. A very small percentage are breaking the mold and using digital tools with great success, but around 90 percent are far behind.


That last statistic tracks fairly well with the Content Marketing Institute’s numbers on general adoption of digital marketing and communication across all industries as of 4 years ago. At that time you could look at any industry and the numbers were the same as realtors today. However, current numbers put adoption of modern best practices for all industries at around 35 percent, so the real estate industry is falling far behind.


To a degree that is understandable. Most realtors are private business people who associate with real estate companies (e.g. ReMax, Century 21) that provide the independents with office space and a certain level of generic marketing services, allowing the realtors to focus on their business, but even the largest companies are behind the national curve.


Surprisingly enough, when you go outside of tech-heavy centers like Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York, realtors get a bit more savvy and adventurous with technology. We have found realtors making seven-figure incomes in low-population areas of Montana using the most cutting-edge online tools and video to promote their business while realtors in the hottest markets of the San Francisco Bay Area struggling to make ends meet but dismissing the advantages of digital media altogether.


Granted these markets are nothing alike, and struggles boil down to more than just the use of social media.  The real estate market in Montana is not nearly as active and complicated as it is in San Mateo County where a two-bedroom bungalow goes for the same price as a 400-acre ranch with a five-bedroom home outside of Bozeman. And while you would be hard pressed to find a dozen successful realtors in that area of Montana, San Mateo County boasts hundreds of realtors fighting tooth and nail to make a living.


Keeping all that in mind it seems counter productive to dismiss tools that could give you a competitive advantage over everyone else. We met with one realtor that adopted blogging and advanced website metrics in San Carlos, California several years ago. Today he essentially owns the entire San Carlos market, which is filled with some of the most expensive homes on the San Francisco Peninsula. He is grudgingly acknowledged by other realtors as the most successful business they know, and yet they still refuse to adopt his practices.


There are reasons for that, none of them good.


In our discussion with realtors over the past two years the fears and misconceptions expressed by even the most tech-savvy include:



  • Social media is for kids

  • It's a fad

  • Real estate is local

  • It can’t help me/I don’t have the time

  • I don’t understand it


Lets break those down:


It’s for kids: The biggest audience on Facebook in the US are people over the age of 30. Most people, according to any reputable real estate company, begin to start thinking about buying a home in their 30s. Given it's the prime demographic for realtors, wouldn’t it make sense to have an active presence on it? Now, in truth, every realtor we’ve talked to does have some sort of presence on Facebook but they all say they don’t use it to promote their business but to demonstrate their knowledge of the community. That’s a good reason to do it but it ignores the potential to find highly targeted and motivated customers.


It’s a fad: Um, OK. Social media companies are among the strongest drivers of the American stock market for about five years now. Congressional hearings are being called to discuss their impact on national security, privacy, and the economy. We are pretty sure they aren’t going anywhere soon.


Real estate is local: Absolutely and social media and web search, including Facebook, NextDoor, Twitter, etc.  have been proven to be the quickest way to reach local audiences and people looking at moving into certain regions.


It can’t help me/I don’t have the time: We lumped these two together because the second is the more honest version of the first. Yes, setting up and learning how to use the tools available take a considerable amount of time away from doing everything the way you have always done it. Change takes effort, but as the example of the San Carlos realtor demonstrates, once done it is virtually self-sustaining and highly profitable.


I don’t understand it: Ding! That’s the most honest response of all of them. Most of us live in an understanding of how media worked in the 20th century and thing it still works that way today. That’s wrong and it’s also why most people get confused about social media.


In the 20th century, people had only three television networks, a couple newspapers, and a handful of radio stations to get information and for advertisers to promote business. Today, there are hundreds of television networks and a dwindling number of newspapers and radio stations. The technology exists, allowing customers and clients to ignore all the outward bound marketing messaging a business produces and look only for what they want. 


In social media, however, their search and content consumption is analyzed by algorithms and information is pushed to them, which can allow realtors to deliver information about their services to a highly targeted and motivated audience. All that needs doing is to take the time to understand how it works and set it up. It could take a few weeks of concerted effort to do that, but after that, it pretty much runs itself.


This last point is the primary purpose of Footwasher Media: helping our clients understand and implement the tools that make it possible.


Want to learn more? Contact us. 


 

SEO is simple, but not easy

Yes, yes, I know. Your customers are far too busy and intelligent to use social media and, even if they do, they do not use it for business-related activity. That’s an inaccurate belief. More than two-thirds of the population of North America and Europe are actively involved in social media on a daily basis, which means it is highly likely that your customer base does use at least one medium every day.

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Two bits of information came out in some conversations today regarding how to optimize search for your website. Most of the conversations were around a report on Search Engine Land where Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, confirmed what the Google algorithms look for in search engine rankings. Here are the two most important activities you can do, based on my understanding:



  1. Engaging content is the most important thing for SEO

  2. Links back to your site


The first activity is all under your control. You identify and create the content on your site and if it is self-serving, bloated and sales focused, you are probably not going to see a lot of traffic coming to your site; probably not going to see that content shared or commented on; probably not going to see customers spend much time reading it; probably going to drive people away from the site before the time spent on the site can give you any value. So invest in good content that your customers want to consume.


The second activity is mostly out of your control because it requires people to add links to your content, and you can;t make them do that… unless your content is interesting. But there is something you can do: start using social media.


Yes, yes, I know. Your customers are far too busy and intelligent to use social media and, even if they do, they do not use it for business-related activity. That’s an inaccurate belief. More than two-thirds of the population of North America and Europe are actively involved in social media on a daily basis, which means it is highly likely that your customer base does use at least one medium every day.


Even if a significant number of your customer base doesn’t use social media, however, your active presence in social media is the second most importing thing for SEO because it provides multiple links back to your site. Every time you share an article, even if it is a crappy piece of marketing dreck it represents a link back to your site. If a good customer decides to click that link, share it (most don’t read the content on the link), or comment on it, it registers with the algorithm. 


Now, the second activity could be even more crucial for you if you insist on producing marketing dreck for content because at least it adds links back to your site. But if you invest in good content, the social media presence will make it even more valuable.


So keep it in mind: Your content and your social media activity are the most important activities for boosting SEO. Everything else is a waste of time without them.


 


4 Steps to Fixing your Content Marketing Program

By Joe Basques
Footwasher Media Vice President Shapeimage_5


A short piece in Entrepreneur.com looked at "7 Inconvenient Truths About Content Marketing” provided a nice summary of some of the major pitfalls to avoid in your content marketing program.  Anyone starting a new content marketing program, however, would be a bit discouraged in the endeavor because it did little, to tell you how to avoid, much less fix, these problems.   


So let’s fill in those blanks.


1.  Strategy, Strategy, Strategy...


The article points out that content marketing without strategy is essentially worthless.  I agree completely.  Strategy is the cornerstone of any content marketing program and documenting it is crucial.  Multiple research studies (Forresters and Content Marketing Institute to name two) have demonstrated that companies with a documented content strategy are seeing tremendous results from their programs with measurable ROI.  Those without a strategy are not happy with their programs because they have no idea what the ROI is supposed to be.  Here’s the kicker: The studies show that between 80% - 90% of the companies interviewed for the survey do not have a documented strategy.  My own personal experience confirms these numbers.


I call that wasting your time and it’s why so many pundits are claiming that content marketing is dead. The reality is, in the case of most companies, content marketing is dead on arrival because it lacks a strategic focus.  


While the article also points out that strategy isn't free or easy. We know that it doesn't have to be expensive.  Yes, it will cost some money for a comprehensive strategy, but without it you won't see the ROI and you're wasting your time.  It's the foundation of your program, so seek professional to help.  Footwasher Media will even give you a free evaluation of your program to help you get started.


2.  Everyone's An Expert...


I think this is the single most common sales objection we hear at Footwasher Media regarding content development.  Most anyone and everyone who's ever passed an English class thinks they can write content for their website.  The truth is, you may be proficient for an English class, but writing content or creating a video that people want to share and engage with is completely different.  


Footwasher Media takes a journalistic approach to content because journalists are trained to find the unique angle in just about every story.  They'll find things you'll never think of because they don’t come from the angle of the corporation but from that of the user. 


Marketers and engineers generally only look at what they think is the upside of their products/technology without actually considering the perspective of the user. Most of them can’t do anything else because they are so immersed in their own messaging. The problem is that how they describe their technology is generally the way they’ve heard the competition describe theirs. So if your content is not unique, your customers can’t tell the difference between you and your competitors, which mean you’re still wasting your time.  The world of content marketing is constantly changing.  


Content marketing is about much more than content.  It’s about platforms, infrastructure and metrics too.  The metrics you are looking at now are probably not the metrics that demonstrate ROI. Even click bait sites like Buzzed are learning that merely reposting someone else’s content is a good way to kill your readership. They are changing their measurements from unique visits and clicks to time spent on the site and sharing. If you want to measure true ROI, hire an expert.  We're constantly studying the changes in platforms and metrics and will get you the best ROI.  When you visit a doctor for critical help, you want someone who’s versed in the latest tools and techniques because your life depends on it.  You should want no less from your content marketing team because your business depends on it.


3.  All content is NOT created equally...


It's generally true that you get what you pay for.  We know many content providers that will repurpose content by including a bunch of keywords.  This doesn’t work and creates useless content.  It’s garbage because it's cheap, easy to do and everyone is doing it.  This ties in to the point above.  Journalists are trained to find the unique angle in just about every story.  They'll find things that are really interesting and your readers really want to engage with and share.  Here's something else to think about: Google’s algorithms know the difference between useless info and quality content and so do customers. We recently did an evaluation for a small tech company and found that even though they were producing copious amounts of content, their SEO was in the toilet and no one was reading their stuff.  The reason, they were plagiarizing their own content in multiple sites and the search engines were dinging them for not having original content… even though it was their own original content being reposted. As the experts, we were able to see that almost instantly.


So hire an expert. It doesn’t have to be a full-time person or have a long-term contract and committment. You can bring them on for evaluation and training only. We believe the best use of our skills and knowledge are on a short-term basis. We look at your current program and resources and help you find the additional tools and gain the understanding of how media works. And then we can move on after a few months. You don’t need to sign a year-long agreement and you don’t have to bust your budget.


4.  It's a lousy time to have a service business...


This is where I really disagree with the article.  It's not a bad time to own a service business.  I work in a service business.  Even product-based companies are service businesses. No matter what kind of business you are, though, you have to find what differentiates you from everyone else and write about that.  Most of the time, what you write about isn’t about the widget you sell but how you make your customers’ lives better and more efficient.  Each one of us has a unique perspective on life.  If you can’t figure out what that is, hire an expert and they'll help you figure that out. What makes you different is often something only someone outside of your walls can figure out.


 


Censorship is not the way

As a free speech advocate I’m growing increasingly alarmed over the trend among many to limit speech that offends as well as the freedom of the press to report news. It is happening with increasing activity on college campuses and within much of our national dialog. While this is not unusual outside of the US, it’s becoming commonplace in the US. This essay was promoted when I heard Robert Scoble of Rackspace make an endorsement of the idea of filtering content that he disagrees with on his own Facebook feed. 


I have a great deal of respect for Scoble. He is a journalist of integrity and an important voice for innovation in technology, but for someone like him to come out and recommend technological advances that stifle free speech by creating a freedom FROM speech was disconcerting.  Article-2411817-1BA0651D000005DC-297_1024x615_large


Scoble’s recommendation came during the last week’s national discussion about whether Syrian refugees should be allowed into the US. The fact that I had not yet made up my own mind as to what should be done and rather than state an opinion, I decided to conduct a Facebook experiment to help mold my opinion while, at the same time, demonstrate how objectionable content can be used constructively. That is the point of this essay.


I began with three assumptions:



  1. I do not know everything.

  2. What I do know may be wrong.

  3. Someone else might know more than I do. 


Next, I read as many arguments and news stories as I could on both sides of the argument (they should be let in/they should not be let in) from reputable sources from places like the Washington Post, Foreign Policy magazine and The Economist (to name a few). After reading them I posted them without comment. Then I waited for comments from my friends and acquaintances.


Just about everyone had a specific side to take. It was obvious when they had read what I posted and when they had not. Just about everyone had a strong position based on their own political leanings. Conservatives angrily disagreed with opinions posted by Liberals. Liberal derisively disagreed with Conservatives. There was no middle ground and very little of it was civil to opposing sides. In some cases, I felt obliged to respond to some of the bile but I resisted. Instead, for each response, if necessary I asked for a clarification of their reasoning. This is where the conversation became more thoughtful.


Yes, there were still obvious biases in each respondent. Some went off on rants and diatribes but even in these emotional statements arose common threads, and the most common was, fear that they did not know everything about the issue; that they might be wrong; that someone might know more than they did. Xenophobia, political bias and outright bigotry played a part in all of it, but it was the fear of the unknown and what could possibly happen if their particular solution was not followed was the primary driver. 


I sat back for a day to think about all of this and I came to approach it using the three assumptions.


First was the fear of the unknown. Realizing that approaching an animal that is fearful or even wounded is a good way of getting bitten played into my reasoning. Many respondents described situations that legitimately established their fear of the refugees, while other described situations regarding close friends and relatives. Telling them that they were wimps, whiners and over-reactors (as President Obama has done) doesn’t get them to back down. It gets them to dig in their heels even more. To approach a wounded animal safely requires patience, the ability to properly assess the state of their wound and the means to affect healing.


Second, the fear of being wrong. These people tended to have lots of facts and philosophies at their fingertips. The rejection of German Jews in WWII was widely used. The poem on the Statue of Liberty, another. All of these arguments lacked one thing. Empathy for the fear expressed by the first group. Even when cooler heads addressed the arguments with reason the respondents replied back with aggression to whoever disagreed with them.  Conversely, the people who took exception to the logic snapped back at them in anger, not unlike a wounded animal, because they were afraid, deep down, that they did not know the real answer. 


Finally, the fear of being ignorant. There were some response to the pro-refugee folks that were quite convincing, but because they tended to point out the ignorance of the other in their argument, the response was angry and went in a completely different direction and away from the discussion at hand: whether to allow Syrian refugees in.


In this process I began to consider the fears, ignorance and polemics of the discussion as all valid for the individuals and then produced a single statement with my position:


“We need to accept the refugees as soon as the FBI has established a protocol for screening them. I'm more interested in making sure families are allowed entry. And I am in favor of each family being sponsored.”


This position first acknowledges the human tragedy that is Syria and that humanity demands a graceful response. It also understands the need to take every precaution to keep the nation safe while providing for the needs of the refugees and integrate them within the larger community. It establishes priorities for entry and prevents naturally occurring ghettos of Syrians that could become resentful of their isolation (as we see happening in France and Belgium). 


Instead of taking a side, I assimilated the emotional basis of each side into my position. Remarkably enough, there was not a single comment on they position, but the number of people the “like” the Facebook post spanned the spectrum of political though among my Facebook audience. So let’s bring back the issue of free speech.


If I had my feed filtered, as Scoble suggested, I would not have had the opportunity to come to a clear position, one that heard and understood each side, and came to a conclusion that was not, in fact, agreeing with anyone in particular, but satisfied the concerns of everyone in general. I could not have come to this point without all the raucous and uncivil discussion I saw on Facebook. Every position generated value. 


I do not know everything, but I have access to much knowledge and as I am often wrong, I can find correction relatively quickly. Listen to everyone, consider where they are coming from and respond in kindness. It’s not easy to do and I don’t often do it. But now that I have discovered how to do this, I no longer need that massive filter we seem to want now.

Content marketing works. Numbers don't lie.

Adding the analysis as a foundational part of our methodology was incredibly important in being to understand what is happening in this clients outreach to new business, but what brought about the changes was a fundamental shift in how they communicated and the quality of their content.

Last year, Footwasher Media solidifies its approach to content strategy by incorporating analysis as a foundation stone in the methodology. We partnered with several marketing automation companies and started telling prospective clients that unless they adopted and used something other than Google analytics that we could not take their business. That requirement significantly limited how much new business we took on because 9 of 10 companies and organizations were not will to use it.


After almost one year of changing to the new methodology I'm happy to say that ALL of our clients are experiencing remarkable growth in their business.


I've chose one particular company to highlight (that I won't name) that has had the most improvement because they had the most work to be done.


When this company came to us in August of last year, we used several measurement tools to evaluate where they were. Their website had been up and running for a couple of years so there was some data to grab. On avert, the site has an atrocious 96 percent bounce rate, had only 14 percent of their traffic coming from direct searches, 14 percent from search engines, 1.2 page views per visit and 0.02 minutes per visit.  Oh, and they average 2 visitors per month.


We engaged with them in October and immediately began implementing a strategy using the Sharpspring marketing automation platform, our lowest cost partner. By December we had renovated much of their content and implemented a strategic plan to develop a quarterly email newsletter program. Their budget was extremely tight but we worked with what we had.


By the end of January, two months before we sent the first newsletter, we started seeing significant increases in the website traffic and lead generation. That growth has continued as we approach the end of the first year.


The bounce rate has dropped to 62 percent on average with an outstanding 20 percent on months when we sent out the newsletter. Admittedly 62 percent is nothing to crow about, but is dramatically better than what it was. What was truly gratifying is that the site average 42 percent of the web traffic directly from the emails. Often, visitors use the email to fund the site as a repeat visitor, rather than going through search engines, however even search engine visits have almost doubled over last year. 


The best part was the engagement of the visits that went from 0.2 minutes to a stunning 8.7 minutes as of October 1. That is the average time of visit for the period between October 31, 2014 to October 1, 2015.


Adding the analysis as a foundational part of our methodology was incredibly important in being to understand what is happening in this clients outreach to new business, but what brought about the changes was a fundamental shift in how they communicated and the quality of their content. 


This methodology works. The numbers don't lie.


The cost and potential of speaking engagements

Unless you are already mind-bindingly successful and in demand as a speaker, don’t count on being able to get people to pay you to show up and speak… or even speak for free.

Every client I have ever had makes one request that can never be satisfied: Obtaining speaking engagements.


It’s not that it cannot be done, but that the client either lacks the patience or resources to make fulfilling that request possible. So I thought it might be a good time to actually put down how those engagements actually happen.


First, one needs to understand that speaking engagements are generally offered 6 months before the event actually happens because events just don’t start spontaneously. Most of the planning stages begin the day after the event last occurred, subject matter is decided upon and the search for participants in the program begins. Who is chosen to participate generally comes down to the following:


1. Sheer luck.  


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This occurs when a person originally selected to speak has to bow out at the last minute and there are no other options immediately available. I recently placed a client in an opportunity that literally arose 5 days before the event. We had to quickly put together a presentation that shoehorned the client’s technology into a narrow application and, while the talk was generally well received, several of the attenders made a point during Q&A to say that the technology really didn’t match the subject matter. It was an acceptable alternative to the organizers because they had a hole to fill. This doesn’t happen often. In fact it may never happen for a client. Don’t count on it.


2. The speaker is very well-known and in demand. 


One of the deciding factors on who gets to speak is that the main speakers will attract more people to the event. For example, Thomas Dolby, a musician and producer popular in the 1980s, was chosen as a speaker at a tech conference I went to a couple of years ago. He received a pretty good check and had all his expenses covered by the organizers for coming to the event and talking about how he had pioneered electronic music. It was a good talk, but he was well known by the crowd and was quite entertaining. The room was packed and enthusiastic. I have had clients that became well known after a few years int he business, but by then we had moved on to other clients. 


Unless you are already mind-bindingly successful and in demand as a speaker, don’t count on being able to get people to pay you to show up and speak… or even speak for free.


3. You have a non-promotional presentation of significant value to attendees of the event.


Many conferences invite people to submit ideas for presentations to a review committee. The committees receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications, but can choose only a few dozen. Those applications are screened for promotional material and technical importance. You also have to get by the bias inherent in the selection process, much of which will be run by people you compete with. 


I’ve been involved in this process with a dozen different organizers. One of them has the person in charge of PR for the event on the committee. This person also represents several companies that exhibit at the event. Unsurprisingly one or two of those clients gets a speaking slot every year. So most of the selections in these events have more to do with politics and money than merit. That brings me to …


4. Money, money money, money.... MONEY!


At one time, a keynote address was only one slot in the schedule. It was a coveted slot and events would labor to find someone who would do the entire industry proud. Then the organizers came to realize that the keynote was also something that CEOs of corporations would pay a great deal of money in order to get the slot.


Did you ever wonder why Bill Gates was always the keynote speaker at Comdex/CES? It’s because Microsoft always bought the largest exhibit booths. Apple also had several keynotes at Comdex before they backed out in favor of their own events, but one of the reasons they never came back was because they thought they were high enough that they shouldn’t have to pay. 


Microsoft has also downscaled their participation in CES, which is why Intel, with it’s large presences, got the keynote this year. So when it comes to speaking slots, money talks and innovation walks.


That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money at an exhibit to get a speaking slot, but you will get more opportunities to speak when you buy exhibit floor space or sponsorships.


From this we can determine whether your PR/marketing folks can get you a speaking engagement:


 



  1. Highest potential - Fame and fortune. No cost but you probably don’t qualify 

  2. High potential - Pay your way onto the program 6 months in advance. Could as much as $100,000 so you have to determine if the value of the opportunity is worth that much. 

  3. Crap shoot - Submit a non-promotional tech presentation. Increase the odds by buying space or sponsorships. Ask if it is worth it first.

  4. Lottery ticket - Last minute program addition. No cost but highly unlikely.


 


So let me wrap this up. Speaking engagements are a good way to raise visibility, but they are not cheap or even free. If you have limited resources it may not be the best course. If you are good at speaking a better option is podcasting. If you have engaging content and aren’t selling stuff, you have a good chance of building an audience. If not, at least you will have made your CEO feel good about himself, and some days, that’s important.


 

Time, talent and desire to connect make Linkedin valuable

This final post of the series looks at how to become a valuable source of information and attract important connections. But first, let’s address whether you should even try.

In my previous posts about Linkedin I talked about the value of the platform, the frustrations users are having, changes that Linkedin might consider to reverse those frustrations and how you can screen contacts more effectively to minimize spam. This final post of the series looks at how to become a valuable source of information and attract important connections. But first, let’s address whether you should even try.  Leverage-linkedin-for-success



A communicator is a person who can bring disparate and anonymous people and groups together through the distribution of information those people and groups find valuable. If you don’t care if they find that information valuable, or you don’t really like bringing people together, you might consider avoiding social media altogether. That is a valid option.


There are people that have plenty of business and don’t really need more. There are people who are considering retiring from business altogether and they don’t need more connections. There are people who just don’t like human interaction. For all of those people, social media is a useless place to be. But there are billions of people who do need to know how to do it right and, for business, Linkedin is a very good place to be, but its value to those people is dependent on whether the people they want to reach find their information valuable.


Linkedin is an excellent blogging platform. I maintain a professional blog, a political blog and a theology blog but only with the first one do I make an effort to expand my audience as the rest are just hobbies. However, my audience on my Linkedin community is larger than my blogs, my Facebook pages and my Twitter accounts, simply because the target audience for what I have to share is primarily on Linkedin. I’ve also used Linkedin to boost traffic to client sites, as well as my own. I’d like to think that’s because people on Linkedin find me to be a brilliant writer, but it’s more likely that I post information and comments that people find interesting.


Developing interesting content, however, is not simple and there is no real formula for developing it. There are tools and techniques for writing effectively, but finding out what is interesting to your audience takes time and observation.


For example, when I wrote a post about how things are getting better in online journalism no one cared. Essentially, all I did was point out a few observations I made.  But when I write about a problem and offer a potential solution, like the first post I did about Linkedin, there was a mammoth response. 


That’s the beauty of social media. You can get almost instantaneous measurement of the value of your content and adjust accordingly.  It’s a constant work in progress and, again, takes time and effort.


Producing timely information is another way to boost your audience. For example, I did a piece about the Tesla battery product a few months back that got thousands of views and hundreds of responses, but follow on posts about alternative energy have not gotten anywhere near the response. That’s because when I wrote the piece on about Tesla it was the same day that the company announced the product. It was fresh and on the minds of my audience. The followup pieces lacked a breaking-news hook.


That does not mean, however, that small responses are not valuable. In social media it isn’t about how many people follow you or read your material, it’s whether the right people do. My followup pieces attracted twice as many valuable connection requests than the Tesla piece did.


That final point is the real value of Linkedin. If your profile and content attract 1 new piece of business, or one new partner, or one investor for a client (and this series has done all of that), it is better than getting thousands of views without a single connection request.


You need three things to make Linkedin, or any other social platform, valuable. First is your ability to create attractive and engaging content, the willingness to put in the time to study the responses, and the desire to increase your potential market. If you lack one of those three, find someone who does have the attributes you lack and get their help. 


And if all of this feels a bit overwhelming, feel free to give me a call or shoot me a request to connect.  I’d be happy to give you an analysis of your current program and put you in touch with someone who can take care of all of this for you.


Keeping crap out of your Linkedin feed

If you walk into a business event with a thousand people and you stand in a corner the entire night not engaging with anyone, the event is useless to you. Same with social media platforms. You only get the value back that you put into the participation.

The input on my concern about Linkedin’s future has created a massive response in the past week. More than 30 comments in my Linkedin post and a couple hundred direct messages and emails. All of the input is consistent.


While comments range from power users who say the will continue to be power users, to those that say they are leaving Linkedin altogether, but the consistently say that the level of SPAM is increasing, which makes the platform more difficult to use. So today I’d like to talk about techniques to eliminate the SPAM and make Linkedin useful for you. Linkedin-icon
If you walk into a business event with a thousand people and you stand in a corner the entire night not engaging with anyone, the event is useless to you. Same with social media platforms. You only get the value back that you put into the participation. 


Step one, when you join Linkedin, do not automatically add everyone from your contact lists until you’ve taken time to go through those lists and weed out useless contacts. If you don’t feel you have time to do that, don’t make those connections. Several respondent in the discussion said that when they joined they started getting all these requests to connect from people they said they didn’t know. But I had one of them check one of their contact lists (in this case, Yahoo) and he discovered all the names of the people asking for connections. He had no idea those names were in his list.


For the record, I did not add my lists to Linkedin until about 5 years after I joined and had gone through hours of cleaning up those lists.


Step two, actually look at the profile of the person asking to connect. Do you actually know them? Do you want to have them in this particular virtual community? If the answer is no, then you don’t have to accept it. But before you say know, check out their profile by clicking on their name in the request. This might be someone you want to connect to or it might be a fake profile. Here’s how you know:


Linkedin has a standard request and whenever I connect with someone I try to change it and make it personal to let them know why I want to connect. This doesn’t work when I use the app, because it doesn’t give me that option, but from the desktop I always state my case. If someone doesn’t make that effort that’s strike one. So next I go to their profile and if they don’t have a picture that’s strike two, if they do have a picture and it looks too slick (which happens more often when I see a picture of a young, pretty girl, I do a Google image search to see if they are that person. Many times, they have stolen the image from someone and in most cases, that’s where I stop altogether and delete the request. If they pass those two tests I look at who they work for, where they went to school, what their experience is and if it would be advantageous to both of us to connect. Fake profiles usually list the workplace generically (“a direct marketing firm”) and their title is just as generic. If they are not interesting or are just too generic it’s strike three. They are out.


That is not a foolproof system, however. I recently was approached by someone who claimed to be interested in investing in a client. I went through the basic vetting process and everything clicked. We began a conversation on Linkedin and certain forms were filled out. However, my intuition started tingling and I decided to check it out a bit further. The photo was right, the job description was right… but his email address was off. It was exactly the same as the legitimate company, but he added a dash between words to go to a fake site.


So that’s step three: Don’t be gullible. Take the time to look into the people who you are getting involved with. It really doesn’t take more than a few seconds.


 Linkedin and all the other platforms are not magical. They don’t operate without personal effort any more than a ream of paper can produce a great novel until you pick up a pencil and start writing. If you follow those three steps, you will dramatically see a reduction in your SPAM almost immediately.


The next and last installment will be how to get more legitimate contacts through a content strategy.


A Linkedin power user growing dissatisfied with the social network

This is a real problem that could damage the effectiveness of Linkedin and maybe they should start thinking about what to do about it.

Last week I published an audio interview with IdaRose Sylvester about her doubts about the value of Linkedin. She echoed some of the concerns that I expressed although I'm not about to give up on the platform as yet. She introduced me to Todd Herschberg, a former Linkedin Open Networker (LION), who she said might have had a different perspective. Not quite. In fact he agrees with her more than me.


In this 20-minute interview, we got even deeper into the problems of Linkedin which focus primarily on spam and fake profiles that are proliferating on the platform. This is a real problem that could damage the effectiveness of Linkedin and maybe they should start thinking about what to do about it.  Here's the interview.


 



One businesswoman looks at Linkedin

The rising SPAM flow in Linkedin is causing some of the more valuable members to flee to other platforms.

A couple of weeks ago I provided my input on the benefits and weaknesses of Linkedin and promised insights from others. The first to respond was IdaRose Sylvester of Silicon Valley Link. IdaRose is an incredible international networker, an angel investor, former analyst and business consultant and is exactly the kind of person you would expect to be a power user of Linkedin... but she is not. And for good reason. 


As I mentioned in my post, the rising SPAM flow in Linkedin is causing some of the more valuable members to flee to other platforms. We recorded the interview. Check it out.


 



One man's view of the state of Linkedin

LNKD
This is our second installment on our series on Linkedin and it's value and I’m going to look at it from a very selfish perspective: How I use it, where I value it and where my frustrations are. We’ll follow up with input from other sources in the next installment for perspective.


First off, I’m a big Facebook user. I’m on it several times a day and I crowdsource a lot of information there. I barely pay attention to Twitter. Linkedin falls in between the two. I do a little in Pinterest, Instagram and a handful of others just to experiment and say I know something about them, but that’s where I’m focused.


At the top of the value list I put Linkedin Groups, which is like diamond mining. You have to go through a lot of mud, rock and dirt to find something of great value. I participate in multiple groups, some more than others, and have launched a couple with varying degrees of success, and I regularly add and cull from my list. I’ll get into why I do that a bit later.


For me, content on Linkedin tends to be more timely and unique than what I get in my Facebook feed. There are fewer shares of of general news because people rarely share articles from the Washington Post and Politico and I’ve never seen shared content from click bait sites like Gawker and Vox. Most of the shared content on Linkedin I see is business and technology related. In fact, Linkedin is a great way to get away from national politics,


Linkedin is very valuable as a blog platform. I’ve learned more on what interests people, what specific types of people are interested in, and what subjects are generally a waste of time. Thoughts and information that someone found interesting in random one-on-one discussion rarely get a lot of attention, but put those thoughts and information in context with a news event of that week get huge amounts of attention. I share most of what I create on Linkedin with my Facebook and Twitter followers as well, almost invariably, my Linkedin content sharing is more popular on those platforms than on my own blogs.


That’s the good.


The bad is the spam.  My Facebook and Twitter accounts are properly filtered to keep spam at a minimum. I haven’t found a good way to do that on Linkedin. There are multiple learning sites and articles in Linkedin support that tell you how to set your profile to limit that unwanted content, but it also limits who sees you or can see you. Unlike Facebook, where you can filter individual content and help the page to learn what you don’t like, Linkedin has an all or nothing approach. That means lots of annoying people can contact you with useless offers to buy stuff and services.


In my case, because I have written about SEO and where it fails, I am barraged by SEO, lead generation and other marketing services asking to have a chat and demo. I also get blind requests from people who have paid Linkedin to scrub information from some of the groups I belong to and send me blind email requests. When that happens I go into the groups that they indicate as common to us and reevaluate whether I should continue in them. Two of three inspections usually ends my membership.


As I said before, I’ve had some success using Linkedin to raise visibility and drive lead generation for several clients as well as for Footwasher Media. It takes time and thought to do it right, and it isn’t a good medium for email-blasting. It’s good for making valuable connections. That, in the end is what it is all about.


That’s my view of the state of Linkedin, but that’s one man’s view. In the next couple of weeks we’ll be doing a pod cast as the third part of this series to get the view of other Linkedin users. If you’d like to participate, got to this form and provide me contact information and a brief statement about what you think is good and bad about it platform. We will pick a couple and get back to you.


Is Linkedin a valuable business tool or a spam bucket?

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We are starting a new series today discussing Linkedin, looking at where it is as a social network, its strengths and weaknesses and how to best use it as a business and individual. Linkedin continues to grow in popularity as a business tool for finding talent, business networking and B2B marketing. The bad news is that it looks like it’s hitting a plateau.


At the end of 2012, Linkedin was growing at almost 100 percent quarter to quarter. That boosted its stock stratospherically and with good reason. As of the end of last quarter that growth had slowed to less than 35 percent and continues to drop. That growth decline looks like it began with the steady introduction of marketing tools, specifically lead generation, near the end of 2012 and took a major plunge with the launch of their expanded marketing platform in February.


I’ve been hearing about the rapid expansion of spam in Linkedin for several months (We plan a live discussion of the topic of Linkedin spam soon, so watch this space for details). I also noticed a significant growth of spam in my own inbox recently.  Several major influencers told me that they had already given up on Linkedin because of the crap flowing steadily to them, joined by malicious code and sophisticated investment scams (which I almost fell prey to and will be talking about in the live discussion).


Linkedin will need to address these issues soon if they are to stop the bleeding, but there are some simple techniques you can use to minimize the flow of unwanted material and keep this platform a valuable source of information and connections. Come back next week and we will let you in on a few of the secrets we’ve discovered.


If you can’t wait that long, click here, fill out the form and get a free consultation.


A brief history on the rise and demise of SEO

Google took the issued of keywords and shoved its priority to the very bottom of SEO and pushed paid search to a specific box on their search page. Suddenly a new group of sits were climbing rapidly to the top of the search engine… traditional media sites. Newspapers, broadcast organizations and bloggers. How could that be? Because Google had changed the algorithm priorities.

 Google has always kept the lid on the secrets of their search algorithm, but since the beginnings of online search, the secrets have leaked out and been discovered by very smart people. These people make up the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry.


Effective-seo
There are multiple points of SEO, but from the start, key words were the most important. At first, putting the words in the header of websites was the major starting point so the SEO experts, mostly web designers, made that the primary focus of their counsel to clients. Finding what the most important words were became the definer of the successful site design.


Then Google saw how much money designers were making with this understanding and started selling key words and the designers went wild buying up key words like they were candy and using them for their own resale opportunities. The problem was that you could put ANY key words in the header, even if they had nothing to do with your company.


So Google changed the algorithm to say that for the key word to be valid, it also had to be used in the viewable content. That made it tough for designers to use the key word “President Obama” in a website about boner pills. So designers started grafting in content from other sites and scattered it through websites just to meet that requirement and people using search got pissed off that they were getting links to sites that had absolutely nothing to do with their own search. And the designers were making even more money. 


So Google instituted paid search making companies that wanted to be first in searches pay for the right to bee seen first. That was the first step in killing the importance of key words and the value of traditional SEO.


But searchers didn’t want to be slapped with dozens of ads when they did search and the resulting backlash served as a boon to social media. For the first time, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin started taking searchers away from Google, Bing and Yahoo. Something had to be done. 


Google took the issued of keywords and shoved its priority to the very bottom of SEO and pushed paid search to a specific box on their search page. Suddenly a new group of sits were climbing rapidly to the top of the search engine… traditional media sites. Newspapers, broadcast organizations and bloggers. How could that be? Because Google had changed the algorithm priorities. There are actually dozens of priorities but for our purpose, we just need to concentrate on the following six.



  1. Amount of time spent on the content

  2. Degree of comments (no comments first, one comment second … 57 comments big time)

  3. Amount of shares, likes

  4. Number of views

  5. Paid key words

  6. Unpaid key words


At present, when you talk to web designers and SEO experts, you will find they fall into two categories:



  1. Off-shore click factories that build quick and dirty websites from half a dozen templates and still focus only on key words for SEO. They are dirt cheap, promise the world and prey on small businesses. They send out massive email blasts and fill your Linkedin box with requests to connect because they “saw your profile and believe they can help your company.”  They are to be avoided at all costs.

  2. Experienced web designers/SEO companies that continue to make a good living off of small to large company management who think they know how everything works. These service providers know what the story is, but they follow the philosophy that the customer is always right so they will deliver only what is expected. Their costs range from reasonable to very high and they can be directed, grudgingly, to do the right thing if you know what to tell them.


Footwasher Media won’t work with the first because we know the way only leads to pain and suffering. We will work with the second as long as they realize that we are not going to be taking the easy way. The recalcitrant providers are not on our list, nor are customers who insist on letting them do what they want. 


Keep in mind, however, that neither group are content strategists or providers. They take only the content provided them by the customer. That’s you. If you know how to create engaging content that delivers results, you are on your way to greatness.


If you’re not, contact us.