You know your business, Show it!
When customers ask questions about your business, your answers are in effect, part of your content marketing effort. Despite the fact these answers represent just a fraction of your specialised knowledge, what you carry around in your head effectively means you already have a great place to start from when you are ready to expand your content marketing campaign. With your specialist knowledge you are able to rapidly understand and explain the latest products and trends that your customers are interested in. Share your knowledge. Customers are more likely to view your business positively if they find what they want when they visit you. This could tilt a purchasing decision in your favour. Think of it like this, content marketing is an opportunity to not only answer your customer queries in advance, it is also a chance to stand out as an authority in your area.
Buyers want facts they trust
Where do you go when you want quality information? You start by going to an authority. Your regular posts and special insights make it possible for you to be a ‘go to’ person. Whether you offer plumbing or computer services, your regular quality content can enhance your reputation as not only a reliable service provider, but as an authority to be consulted before making a decision. Best of all, your business benefits from the trust you create by giving great content. This is a key benefit you can achieve with your content marketing.
Your Grandparent’s generation trusted quality content
Content marketing is nothing new. Successful brands have always used it to win loyal followers. Examples given by contentmarketinginstitute.com include the Jell-O Recipe book that contributed to sales of over $1million by the year 1906. Consider how you might give tips that are useful to your customers while also illustrating the many and varied ways they can benefit from your services.
Better than paid search results
Krista LaRiviere from gShift Labs says in the video ‘The Power of Three: Content Marketing + SEO + Social Media’, 100% of Google and Bing searchers look at the organic results on the left of the results page while the paid ads on the right are completely ignored by 70-80%. Findings from GroupM, Neilson Research, and Forrester Research show that 94% of searchers click on the organic results on the left but only 6% click on the paid results on the right. Also, US marketers spend 88% of their budget on the paid results but only 12% on the organic results that attract the huge majority of people searching.
Save marketing dollars
These findings make it clear that online audiences are less interested in marketing that is focused on paid search results. This is not surprizing. Just as TV viewers record shows and skip ads when they view later, online audiences mostly avoid the ‘interruption’ of irrelevant ads whenever they can. By putting more effort into creating content your audience is interested in you stand to reduce your marketing budget while also positioning your online presence where people are looking. The online medium is increasingly the norm for sending marketing messages, so this approach is not only sensible, it is essential if you want to reach your audience.
If you already know about SEO (search engine optimization), and its relationship with good organic search results, you know these results are achieved by popular content that attracts frequent visitors. This underlines the fact that good content is at the heart of content marketing. Watch for upcoming posts on how to tune your SEO and content marketing or contact us directly for advice.
Websites need to be maintained
If you own a Website and wonder why anyone would suggest that you need a Website maintenance plan, think for a moment about your car. You know that your car requires regular maintenance, and that the bare minimum required to keep your car in running order is regular oil changes. A Website is similar, but instead of pistons moving rapidly up and down inside the engine to produce the energy required to make your car move, your Website has code that runs in loops and cycles depending upon the buttons visitors press, and on the entries they click on to read.
Your Website lives in a constantly changing environment
That code might be complete in itself, or it might refer to external Websites or code libraries to obtain its full functionality. The Web is one of the most dynamic environments ever created, and so not only do some of these external sources of code and page content change, they might be relocated or disappear completely. In these cases, your maintenance provider will relocate or recreate the missing elements needed to make your pages function. Standards governing code on the Web are also subject to change, and as a result, updating of the internal code on your site might become essential to ensure on-going reliable performance of your pages.
A well maintained Website has a better chance of attracting visitors
A maintenance agreement generally covers the work required to ensure on-going viability of the processes that make your site tick. It may also include things like monitoring or reporting on your search engine ranking and producing reports that count visitors to your site. Extras in some agreements might include a number of basic content updates and changes so that separate payments are avoided for making changes that keep your site fresh – a must for attracting visitors and keeping your search ranking up.
Get someone you trust to represent your technical interests
Another valuable feature to look for includes having your maintenance provider make any necessary calls to the Web hosting service. Your Website resides on a host server. Calls to these service providers are not only frequently time consuming, but can be technically challenging to anyone not possessing specialised Website performance and hosting knowledge. Find an agreement where you can rely on someone else to make these calls for you.
The big difference between online versus traditional marketing is how you find your audience. You know there’s not much point spending money on marketing if nobody ever sees it. Online marketing is still about your product, price, where it can be purchased, and how people find out about it, but the difference now is how to go about finding customers that are mobile, and are not easily found by simply posting a flier in a physical mail box.
Is your brand relevant?
A key to generating brand awareness is staying relevant. An emerging standard in marketing is social relevance, and in the digital age this translates to appealing and spreadable media, media that is easily exchanged between digital devices, and probably more importantly, being responsive to customers. It may be a surprise to some, but great service is a huge differentiator in the online business world.
If you sell goods online, you already know that people are eager to shop this way but many are nervous about sharing their financial details on the Web. Consequently, your good reputation based on reliable financial transactions and great customer service is now more important than ever. There is a tendency for this to play into the hands of the established brands because they have already earned trust. Your objective then is to earn that trust too!
Start by developing your commercial presence so you can present visitors with quality content on your online store that shows off goods effectively, and makes purchasing them simple.
Defend against bad reviews online by exchanging goods and responding to feedback rapidly. Friends on social sites often tell each other about positive experiences online so in this way your good reviews will outweigh the bad.
Tell a Brand story
Successful brands invariably revolve around good stories. You’ve seen how famous brands are consistently accompanied by stories about big personalities and the roller coaster rides they’ve had on the enterprises under their control. Social media plays to this love of stories, people like to be involved with the brands that they admire, so get creative and give them the opportunity.
Louis Vuitton is a luxury brand that publishes videos on their YouTube channel. These are well produced experiences that provide access to fantastic worlds that reflect qualities they want associated with their brand. The good feelings created by these videos are repaid with reviews on social channels that amplify positive feelings about the brand.
A positive online reputation counters negative reviews
Producing content that is popular not only generates good PR, over time it can create a buffer against negative reviews. This approach is almost essential because traditional marketing based on ‘interruption’, that is putting marketing material in front of people that they didn’t ask for i.e. TV ads, radio ads, is becoming easier to avoid. People will actively disengage from this force-feeding when they have a choice, so steadily building positive feelings by producing quality digital content that people like sharing and participating with is the way forward.
We all worry to some extent about safety, but the confidence we feel in order to mix with any crowd is probably foreshadowed by previous experiences. In my youth I occasionally went with friends to an ice-skating rink which on a Saturday night was renowned for the rough crowd that gathered there. To this day it probably evokes as vivid a picture as any of the fears and dangers that many of us perceive to be lurking on the Web in wait for our unguarded ‘click’.
Others have their own vision of this menacing crowd and might recall it just as they are about to click the ‘pay now’ button on an online shopping site.
Right here is where I should mention that I have mostly gotten over my fear of shopping online by finding crowds that I trust, either by recommendation or research of my own, and by looking for key indicators that the site is safe. I look for things like the presence of a padlock symbol and ‘https’ (it indicates the site is using a secure connection) in the first part of the website address in the top left of the address bar. Also, I always make sure that my computer is running up to date anti-virus protection.
These things, but mainly my knowledge of the site or recommendation from others, is what reassures me that it is safe to proceed. If you don’t know where to get reliable recommendations then start with people you know that have similar interests. They might already have experience with the sites you are looking at, and remember that the online crowd can help too. Find forums discussing your interests and look for common recommendations.
All of this underlines the fact that when we shop or do anything online it isn’t computers, but the people that we imagine to be behind them that bring up our feelings related to trust. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that when we deal with people, we also deal with the stereo-types that we hold on to.
This was brought home when after purchasing some technical books online I found myself waiting, and waiting for their arrival. Let me quickly pull two stereo-types out of the air for you – American’s know nothing about geography outside of their own boarders, and German’s are the world’s most efficient people. Like all stereo-types, we all have our own stories that re-enforce them as fact, but the experience with my book order gave me an opportunity to laugh at confirmation of these two favourites.
I’ve attached a picture of the package which finally arrived. I blurred most of the image but enlarged three key pieces of information. The from – UNITED STATES, where it went – DEUTSCHLAND, where it was correctly addressed to when originally dispatched from within America - AUSTRALIA.
The trip that my parcel took must have been; supplier to post office in US, from there I can only assume that a US post office worker somehow confused Australia (Southern Hemisphere) with Austria (Europe). What did I say about stereotypes?
From here the parcel was received in Germany where an efficient German postal worker re-dispatched it correctly, and generously (much like a ship’s captain rescuing another floundering vessel at sea) and sent onward to Australia. So not only have they been to Europe for a holiday, something I haven’t done in years, but for technical books they provided more of a laugh than I expected while underlining that Web services are driven by people.
I know this brings me back to the first point about how do you trust people, and especially people that you can’t see, but when you buy a car you don’t know the guy that put the steering wheel on either do you. So you follow recommendations and buy a brand that you have confidence in, same as online.
The Internet is not the Web
Before briefly describing some of its impact, I’d like to clarify what is meant by the Web. The terms Internet and Web (or world wide web), are generally used interchangeably but in fact are not the same thing. It is a technical point, but the Internet refers to the computer network that makes up the underlying infrastructure that connects the Web. It includes things like the data lines, and the software that passes ‘packets’ of data around from one computer to another. The Web on the other hand consists of the applications that we know and love, things like Twitter, Facebook and our favourite websites. This layer functions because of the underlying infrastructure provided by the ‘Internet’, and our experience of it is defined by the entertainment, information, and social interactions we derive from it. You could think of the Web as the software layer designed for people, while the Internet is the hardware and software designed to serve that software.
Greatest communication medium ever
Prior to the Web, no communications platform has offered the diversity of methods for creating, sending, and receiving media. We can watch and listen to music, take pictures and upload and share them on sites like Instagram, and with phone apps or Web services accessed by a computer we can upload or download all of the above. Facebook, Twitter and myriad other services instantly connect us with expanded people networks and compared to TV, the Web gives us so many ways to communicate and to enjoy and share digital media that if it came to a choice between them, I’d take Web access any time.
The Wild Web Frontier
Academic writers have compared the electronic Web frontier with the real physical frontier during the period of European settlement of America. There are real parallels because just as the freedom and space of the American frontier provided opportunities for people to make fortunes and to escape old world social constraints, the Web too has provided entrepreneurial opportunity and allowed for people to escape normal social constraints. Contentious social differences between the Web and ‘real life’ include the possibility of communicating anonymously and the potential power to generate non-government sanctioned world-wide movements.
In 'Communications, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society' the writer Castells, M. (2007), claimed that “If a majority of people think in ways that are contradictory to the values and norms institutionalized in the state”, that change will happen. And that “power relations, that is the relations that constitute the foundation of all societies, as well as the processes challenging institutionalized power relations are increasingly shaped and decided in the communication field.” When you consider what a difference the Web has made to our ability to communicate, it puts into perspective the threat it poses to any state or institution wanting to maintain a firm grip on hearts and minds. Not advocating revolution, just saying, the Web is powerful!
The Web has amplified our connective powers
In ‘Net surfers don’t ride alone: Virtual Communities as Communities ’ there is a quote by Phil Patton (1986, p.20) : ‘ the pathways that connect us via electronic communication (the Web), will connect us at the same time that we are in control of our connections, in the past, concrete highways connected us, but detached us as we utilised those pathways’.
In other words, in the past, the concrete highways that were built to connect us, at the same time detached us from those we wanted to connect with as we used them. The Web is not like this, we (proviso here – with a really good provider) can have unbroken connectivity and carry our connections wherever we go. Concrete highways isolated us when we utilised their connective power, but not only does the Web make us constantly connected, we remain at the centre of our connected universe no-matter where in the world we are. This distorted sense of finding ourselves always in the centre of our connections extends to time. The Web creates an altered sense of time.
On the Web, discussion not only lasts forever, it improves with time
We can comment on a discussion online that might have sat on a server unread and not visited for 12 months or more. Our fresh comment can reawaken a stale discussion as search engines pick up the new activity and draw attention to it, or from our own network of connections fresh attention is brought to bear. In this way, the Web can keep conversations alive indefinitely. This might have far reaching effects because a significant discussion keep alive this way, over time might become sufficiently developed and refined by the contributions of many, until great new ideas become available for everybody. At least this is the potential of the Web, and it is one reason some governments fear it.
Information tailored to my taste and delivered when and how I like it
A negative view about the Web is that it creates a possibility that Nicholas Negroponte from MIT Media Lab termed ‘The Daily Me’. This is the effect created by our personalisation of media streams where we pick and choose which voices and opinions we listen to until we have no need of contradictory views because our channel is already pleasingly full. This puts us at risk of simply reinforcing the opinions we already hold, and leaving us in a position where we have a reduced need to open ourselves to differences of opinion. This is a way of looking at the reality of having abundant choice, where instead of opening us to multiple views and opinions, it gives us the power to succumb to our human need for comfort and instead we take that power and stuff our communications channels with views and opinions that closely mirror our own.
Using the Web this way is possible, but I take the view that abundance of choice is good. I find that as the number of sources in your ‘communication channel’ increases, so too does the diversity of information because people are diverse and they like passing on things that they find interesting or strange. This is probably less true if you stick to purely social channels like Facebook where like groups tend to cluster to discuss things in common. But platforms like Twitter are ideal for finding information and opinions outside your normal social reach because it enables you to plug into networks that you would not meet in normal daily life.
Leave a comment to suggest other Web topics for discussion.