Good advice, warts and all


It pains me to recommend an article that contains grammatical errors, however, the content is pretty good. Shame on the author and Forbes.com, though, for poor proofreading and using a negative headline.

Finger wagging is finished, for the moment.

Daniel Newman makes some great observations about how businesses often miss the benefit of using social media because they treat it as advertising instead of a venue for dialogue and authentic information sharing.

Yes, social media advertising exists, and there is a place for it, but putting “ad speak” (One Day Only! Prices Slashed! Too Much Inventory!) in Tweets and status updates essentially just creates background noise on those platforms that users will be in a hurry to tune out.

“Most people aren’t on social media to make a purchase,” Newman writes. “They’re there to interact with friends, and learn about the world around them.”

As I’ve noted myself in this space, think like a user, not as a business owner. Why do you use Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest? Words such as “community,” “news,” and “ideas,” come to my mind. “Purchasing” happens on websites, through catalogs and at stores.

Depending on how comfortable you are with social media, this distinction may seem fuzzy. All the more reason to do some thinking, planning, and maybe consulting, before setting up that social media asset.

Here are some reminders on how to “engage naturally” as Newman puts it.

  • Share something of yourself. Post about things that matter to you and ask followers to respond in kind.
  • Share some of your expertise. Demonstrate knowledge of your business, the community, trends in your industry, etc.

Remember this post from last year that highlighted the transformation of River Pools? If you have yet to check out the video, I encourage you to watch it now. I guarantee you’ll be inspired and I bet you will get some ideas on how to create and sustain engaging content for social media.

If you think I’m harping on social media, well, you’re right. Check out this infographic from Marketing Profs and Morrison Foerster released Jan. 4 and you will see why.


Content Marketing: Everyone is a teacher


I’ve written previously that professionals often make things sound more complicated than they really are. One way is by peppering conversations and writing with their insiders’ alphabet soup. Remember this great scene from Good Morning Vietnam ?

For small businesses and non-profits, the term “content marketing” may seem like a new and complex concept that would require an advanced degree to understand. Not so. It does require, however, a change of perspective.

To develop and maintain an effective content marketing strategy with free social media as the workhorse, stop thinking of yourself as a business owner or a non-profit manager. Think of yourself as a customer or donor.

When you start thinking from your audience’s perspective, you will begin to develop content (articles, blog posts, photos, graphics, links to other articles) that really captures interest.

As an example, consider the Virginia-based company, River Pools. Co-owner Marcus Sheridan reports in this video from the Content Marketing Institute that River Pools was nearly washed up when the economy tanked in 2008. But they didn’t, and Sheridan credits content marketing, along with a big buy-in from employees, with the turn around.

“Everyone in this company is a teacher,” Sheridan explains. Instead of focusing on selling their product, River Pools staff began selling themselves as fiberglass pool experts. They launched “The Most Educational Swimming Pool Blog in the Country” and began by answering common questions about in-ground swimming pools–everything from manufacturing to installation to maintenance.

I encourage you to take a moment to look at your Facebook page, Pinterest board or Twitter feed. Are you only posting info about sales, store hours, products/services, etc., or do your posts offer more. Here are some examples:

  • An antique store owner writes or shares an article about what’s hot on the auction circuit these days. He or she might also pen a blog post on how to check a piece of furniture to determine if it is a valuable antique or a reproduction.
  • As a way to encourage parents with biological children at home, the director of a foster care ministry shares articles on nutrition, discipline, kids crafts, etc. Those same people might be interested in contributing to the work or (even better) in foster parenting when their nest is empty. If you provide a steady stream of content that is well sourced, interesting and fun, they will remember you.
  • I have a friend with a pet-sitting business. She shares articles on pet care, adoption and debunks articles she believes are misleading.
  • The manager of a local food pantry offers up-to-date statistics on hunger in the community, state and country. Instead of only posting the needs of the pantry, he or she includes a thank-you note from a family impacted by the generosity of others. Posts about nutrition, vegetable gardening and smart grocery shopping would also be helpful to this audience.
  • A plumber, landscaper, mason or other specialized professional could readily expand his/her customer base by blogging. A common challenge among homeowners is discerning when a problem is a do-it-yourself project or should be handed over to a pro. Imagine the goodwill generated by helping customers do small repairs/maintenance at home. Chances are very good that a homeowner will call a pro who has been willing to “give away” a little bit of that expertise via social media.

Content marketing is a concept that is more subtle than shouting about specific products, prices and “deals, deals, deals!” When you hear the term “creating community” via social media, this is what the pundits mean.

As one expert in the video notes: “Nobody cares about your product. They are trying to solve a problem.”

If your sales are sluggish and it feels like your customer/donor base is shrinking, I suggest you pour an extra cup of coffee and watch this video. It is filled with real-life case studies, a look back at vintage marketing campaigns that worked, and funny observations.

If, after viewing, you want to try something new in promoting your business/cause, drop me a line at danniewriter@gmail.com or call (502) 432-8725.


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