Risks of dependence on social media

The dangers of becoming too dependent on social media (and the two channels you should prioritise instead)

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As digital marketers, particularly those of us that work within content marketing, we can tend to have a bit of an obsession with social media, and not without good reason. Social is hugely powerful for extending your brand reach, managing and nurturing relationships with customers and even, for many businesses, generating direct leads and sales. So social is really important and every business should have a social strategy in place. However, I do think that we just need to keep this enthusiasm in check, and it’s for one very simple reason - we do not own those platforms.

Let me give you some examples. If Facebook were to increase their cost of advertising where it was fundamentally prohibitive for you to keep creating and promoting content on it, then all of the investment of time and money that had been made to date would have been for nothing. Or if LinkedIn were to close their doors tomorrow, there would be nothing you could do about it.

There are only two assets that we actually own in the digital space. One is our website domain and all of the content on it, and the other is our email list. And therefore, as important as these other channels are, we just need to occasionally remind ourselves that if this activity is not ultimately strengthening and growing the two assets that we do own, then we’re building our online presence on very shaky foundations.

So yes, have a social strategy and use it to its fullest potential, but just keep in mind those two assets that you actually have ownership of.


Interview influencer marketing

6 reasons you need to include interviews as part of your content strategy

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As an agency we conduct a lot of interviews, both for ourselves and for clients,with people of authority within the target sector. There is a reason for this. Well actually there are about 5.

- Firstly, It’s the best insight you will ever capture - these people are the leaders in their field.
- Secondly. the content tends to be evergreen which means that you can reuse it every few months, over and over again.
- Thirdly, if the interview is conducted on video then you can actually chop it up from one long interview, into each of the individual questions, which is how most people like to digest this kind of content anyway, which means that your one video could become five or six, so it’s incredibly efficient.
- Then there’s the fact that these people will drive most of the promotion on your behalf. After all, the point is they are high profile and have large audiences.
- Number five, you will build great relationships. Anyone that has read how to make friends and influence people will know that there is no better way of building rapport than asking questions. And these are people you really want relationships with.
- Finally, it’s easier than you think. As long as you’re polite and sincere then most people, no matter how busy, will be more than happy to give you twenty minutes of their time.

So if you’re struggling to cut through the noise with your content, then I’d highly recommend considering some kind of influencer interview strategy.

Examples of this model that we have launched include:
The Transformation Network
The Cyber Leaders'Network


Old school marketing

Three retro areas of marketing in which we should all up our game

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We tend in the digital world to fixate far too much on the latest technology and far too little on the fundamentals that have always shaped great marketing, so I just want to run through a few example areas of old school marketing that I think we as digital marketers could all benefit from upping our game in.

The first is long form copy writing. We are obsessed now with short form copy, imagery and video and these things are very important, but as any conversion expert will tell you long form sales copy is as significant as ever when it comes to any form of direct response marketing. The same principle actually applies to video, too. There’s a reason why long infomercials continue to do so well. Less is not always more and our ability to tell compelling and persuasive stories in detail is a valuable art form that only the best marketers tend to grasp.

The second area is brand. This one is so obvious that it shouldn’t need saying but as someone who completely neglected it for my first 4 years in digital, I feel I really have to. Brand is everything. Without a clear strategy for it your tactics, no matter how effective in the moment, will be disjointed and amount to little over time. You will have no sense of what truly defines and distinguishes you and struggle to ever connect on an emotional level with your audience. All mistakes that I made over and over again.

Finally, there’s email. Email marketing has been around for over 20 years and contrary to popular opinion it continues to be as powerful as ever. Having an engaged list, whether you’re a consumer or B2B organisation, is arguably the single most valuable asset you can own. It is your primary mechanism for talking to your core audience, has huge implications for your reach across social media as those are the people who will then share your content, and is often the single biggest determinant of lifetime customer value. And yet too many of us skip over it in favour of the latest shiny social platform because email seems old hat. Well there’s a reason why this old hat continues to be worn by all great brands - because it works!

So there are three and of course there are others. The point is that we’d all benefit from spending a bit less time obsessing over the latest change on Instagram or Google update, and a bit more time working on those fundamental pillars of marketing that endure from one decade to the next.

See you next time.


Three easy but effective ways to embed brand values

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One of the most important parts of a brand identity is company values. In fact for some companies, such as professional services firms, where the only thing you sell is people’s time, I would argue that your organisational values are maybe even the single most important aspect of the brand.

That probably explains why the vast majority of companies now have documented values. Great. But how many actually have mechanisms for embedding them into their organisational DNA? In my experience, almost none. They get trotted out during the interview phase and then tucked away again and that’s it. What’s the point of that??

If we all agree that every company really needs organisational values then surely we can also all agree that those values must be reinforced in all sorts of ways?

So here are a few ways in which you can actually turn those values from the abstract into practice:
- A monthly meeting - if your values are important, then surely they’re important enough to have a quick meeting every fortnight or every month where you have each person provide an update on something that relates to each value. So if being a great communicator is an important value, why not go round the room and have each person state which clients they’ve met or spoken to over the phone since the last meeting?
- Reviews - when you perform reviews, why not organise them by value?
Most importantly, pay - why not offer everyone a small increase to their basic that they’ll receive when they are consitently displaying each value?

Now of course there are a thousand different ways you could go about doing this, so the point of this video is not to say that these are the ways, but just that you need to have something, otherwise those values are literally not worth the paper they’re written on.

See you next time.


The most important challenge any business owner or marketing director can set themselves

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The difference between brand identity and brand positioning is that while brand identity encompasses the entire brand and is fixed over time, brand positioning is a question of identifying certain elements of that brand identity and really emphasising them in order to access a particular market at a particular time.

People can get really confused over brand positioning, which is why I always recommend taking the following, very simple approach.
- First of all, it must be something that you’re passionate about and that you believe you can do really well
- Secondly, it must be something that really matters to your target audience. Ideally a growing area of demand.
- Finally, it must be something that is not currently owned by a competing brand, which is not to say the competition is neglecting it entirely, but just that nobody really owns it in the minds of the consumer.

That probably sounds quite simple. That's the point of it. However, of course in practice finding something that truly does tick all three of those boxes is really difficult which is why it's so rare to see a brand achieving huge growth without large advertising budgets, but that's precisely the value of it and I would argue that's why it's the most important challenge a business owner or marketing director can set for themselves.

See you next time.


Brand identity building

Confused by brand identity? Here’s a simple model anyone can follow

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Brand is often seen as something vague, abstract and complicated but it really shouldn’t be. in fact as with anything in business I think the more systematic and repeatable you can make it the better.

The approach I use is taken from a model created by David Aaker nearly 30 years ago:

- The brand purpose - why does your brand exist? What’s wrong with your sector or the world that your brand is trying to fix? For more on this, search for Simon Sinek’s “What’s your why”
- We should think of ir as a product or service - what are its key features and benefits?
- What are the organisational values, and how will these be deeply embedd within the company?
- What’s the brand’s personality? Most purchases happen due to emotional and self expressive benefits rather than rational benefits, so if you’re to be able to communicate these emotional and self expressive benefits it’s essential that you first capture the personality of the brand.
- Finally, the visual identity. Really this is the one that should come last, although of course the irony is that it’s generally the thing that people jump to first. It includes the colour palettes, logo, typeface and user imagery.

So that’s David Aaker’s model and of course there are others, but the important thing is that you have a clear framework within which to operate.

See you next time.


Ambitious content marketing

Why you need to start being more ambitious with your marketing

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Decades ago David Ogilvy complained of marketer’s lack of ambition. He argued that with every campaign you should aim for something so audaciously ambitious that you could see it still being used 30 years later.

Unfortunately as digital marketers we tend to take the opposite approach, burying our heads so deeply in analytics and algorithms that we can barely see 30 days ahead, let alone 30 years. This is a huge problem.

Every brand is a publisher now, which means that simply having well constructed and professional content is not enough. You will simply not cut through the noise. Instead, you must set yourself a higher ambition. For example, if you’re a law firm targeting owner businesses in the technology sector, why wouldn’t you set out to own the leading legal digital magazine for the technology sector - why not? Even if you never quite achieved that goal, you would inevitably end up with better content, more engagement and a larger social community than any other law firm?

The great thing about a really big idea is that it then spearheads all of your tactics. It enables you to capture great content, it increases your reach on social media, it reinforces the positioning of your brand, it will probably even help you to attract links for SEO. Whereas when you approach each of these tactics in isolation you make everything so much more challenging and time consuming.

So devise two or three ideas so outrageously ambitious that if you achieve them you know the market will be changed forever. And if you dn’t, well you’ll still have delivered the best content strategy in your market.

See you next time.


Why you need to spend less time creating content and more time promoting it!

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Did you know that 90% of blog posts receive fewer than 10 unique viewers. I just made that up. I've no idea if it's true, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was! I'm always amazed and frankly depressed when I look at the blog section in analytics on a new website that we're working with, at just how little exposure they tend to receive. Of course you'll always get some exceptions; those blog posts that tap into some obscure long tail traffic but it's traffic that's almost worthless.

We see exactly the same problem on social media, so we'll look at a Facebook business page, for example, and there's all this great content, but the engagement is almost negligible. Now I think that the reason for this is when we look at the creation of content we view it very differently to the promotion of content. We tend to view the content creation as something that we've already committed to, but the promotion of content is viewed as an optional extra, but I just want to illustrate how crazy that mentality is with some numbers...

Let's imagine that it takes you 5 hours to create a blog post, including the research, creation and chopping up and scheduling for social. Now 5 hours is not a long time in fact it should probably be a lot more than that! And now let's imagine that you value your time at £70 an hour, which again is not terribly high. Now on that basis you have invested £350 in that piece of content and it's going to be seen across the blog and social by just 20 or 30 people. OR, we could spend an extra fiver on promotion and have it seen by thousands of people, and if it does really well then spend another fiver or tenner. These are not big numbers but we're so obsessed with keeping these promotional costs to an absolute minimum that we'd rather spend nothing at all. Well that mentality needs to change.

See you next time!


Make Christmas come early (and all year round!) with evergreen content

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By evergreen content we mean that which doesn’t go out of date, or at least very very slowly. As opposed to topical content, which might have a life span of a couple of days or couple of months, but sooner or later its relevance is going to expire.

Now of course there's an important role for topical content - it helps you to maintain relevance and it can help you tap into various trends on social media - but for various reasons I believe that you should focus the vast majority of your efforts on your evergreen content in the early stages of any campaign.

The first reason is that if this content is to be used across email or social media and it's evergreen in nature, then you're going to be able to reuse it again in the future, probably multiple times, and therefore you can justify spending so much more time, energy and money in making this page as amazing as possible.

The second thing is that if this evergreen content is to be housed within the website itself, then it's going to bring in search engine traffic day after day, week after week, month after month. And therefore the first thing I would encourage you to do is map out all the possible landing pages for your site, and I'm not talking about blog posts that bring in obscure, long tail traffic, but those pages that will actually bring in targeted traffic that can actually convert. I would encourage you to create a map with as many of these pages as possible and invest in creating the richest detail on these landing pages, because what that means is that when you then engage in your social media or PR or whatever it is that's going to increase the authority of the domain in the eyes of the search engines, the value of that is going to be so much greater as you're casting your keyword net far wider.

So yes, of course topical content has an important role to play, but for the reasons explained just focus your efforts on absolutely nailing your evergreen content. Get those foundations in place first.


How AI will change SEO

How AI will change SEO

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Artificial Intelligence is one of the biggest topics of conversation and debate within the world of marketing. In fact Google came out earlier this year and announced that their entire philosophy is shifting from one of mobile first to AI first. In other words, that’s the thing that’s going to drive their decision making more than anything else over the coming years.

Inevitably this is going to have significant implications for all areas of marketing, but I think the most profound implications will be seen within SEO itself. Historically we’ve tended to approach SEO in quite a tactical and reactive and almost slightly cynical way. So each time they’ve introduced a new penalty or new ranking signal and the entire SEO community has reacted to it, irrespective of market, irrespective of whether or not that specific thing really matters to their audience. So if Google has come out and said that they’re favouring websites with SSL certification, or those sites with great mobile UX, or those sites that develop great content and social communities, then everyone in SEO has responded and said “Right, we’ve got to prioritise that thing". However, that isn’t really how SEO should work, because Google’s only objective is to reflect what matters to the audience, and what matters to the audience is going to vary from market to market.

So maybe there are some markets where social media isn’t that significant, and maybe there are some markets - and I know this sounds outrageous - where mobile UX isn’t that important, because perhaps in that particular niche 90-95% of the traffic still comes from desktop.

So I hope that this move towards machine learning is going to encourage us all to think a bit less reactively and a bit more strategically, and focus on the thing we should have focused on all along, which is creating great content that resonates with our audience and allows us to really build our brands.

See you next time!

Dan