The Social Media space understandably generates a lot of buzz. There are a lot of opinions about what it’s all about and with that come many misconceptions. I would like to share some of those misconceptions with you here.In keeping with the timing of Halloween, here is a few “trick or truths?” about the Social Media space.The Social Media space is all about popularity – TRICK?Social Media isn’t a popularity contest – unless being popular is the objective or the definition of popularity is specified. There are many objectives that the Social Media space can assist with, one of which is counting the likes on a Facebook page. So defining your goals is crucial to evaluating the success of a Social Media campaign.The Social Media space takes commitment – TRUTHSocial Media shouldn’t be another task on the brand manager’s desk. Social Media is comprised of many segments of a business: Communications, PR, customer service, marketing and sales. It takes a dedicated team that makes Social Media “their” priority – bringing other people into the mix to assist in growing the Social Media footprint. It also takes real-time management to measure the efforts and shift priorities if need be.The Social Media space is about taking risks – TRICKB?e risk informed, not risk adverse. Social Media is an emerging channel, so like it or not, there are a lot of unknowns – so there are going to be errors. Understanding the consumer’s journey and being present when the consumer needs information is key. But understanding the potential pitfalls of Social Media initiatives is equally as important. In addition to strategic planning and execution tactics, you need to be prepared. This allows for the development of contingency plans. Risk informed, in any business or industry, is expected – in Social Media, it’s the norm.The Social Media space is about adding value – TRUTH?The Social Media space is the perfect forum to shift people's perception and to dialogue with consumers, today. Any business or brand needs to have a voice on Social Media. I view Social Media as a marketing media channel that can assist in achieving any number of objectives.In summary, the premise of Social Media is about adding value to people’s lives. This is achieved by providing information, advice or opinions without the expectation of anything in return. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an upside or ROI. Providing information, engaging with consumers and as a result, creating and facilitating relationships is something that can be achieved through the Social Media space – and that can be of extreme value to business.
A competitive edge is always a necessity to stay ahead of your competitors and also to expand your markets by increasing the number of potential buyers and converting them into leads. Internet has indeed expanded the scope of marketing your company, services and products and has taken marketing and advertising to a totally new level targeting global audience and customers.Content marketing and your companyContent marketing is gaining rapid significance thanks to the dependence of almost everybody on the internet for the most basic to the complex requirement. Internet has answers and solutions for everything that you want to seek. Search engines play a vital role in content marketing, where the popularity of your site or the number of visitors to your site and the number of back links of high quality get linked to your site; eventually improving the site’s search engine ranking. Content marketing in fact targets this importance your website receives. By having your company’s ads posted on blogs and websites having relative content will surely grab one or the other visitor’s attention converting the visitor into a customer. Quality content is known to attract target and thus potential consumers.Articles, blogs, videos, etc are the novel means of marketing your products and services. For instance YouTube is a very popular video sharing site where millions watch videos they want to and right before the video starts many company’s advertise their products and services. Thus it gives the company to reach out at individual level providing the opportunity for the company to show its products, services, etc.Sharing of your content on social mediaYour content on social media is a very effective means of marketing to attract target audience and customers. Internet has again taken this very content marketing to yet another level where people share your content and website among themselves for free. This provides scope for increasing the traffic. All this is made possible thanks to the advent of many of the social networking sites like Face Book, twitter, Pinterest, etc. These social media sites have made content marketing quite easy where a wider number of audience are reached. The readers and visitors liking your content on such medium will share it further and a chain reaction follows with increase in traffic through sharing of your content. And all this marketing of your content for free.Content marketing however has its loopholes. A content marketing strategy becomes successful only if the published content is found to be relevant by the audience. Your content can reach many audiences if your website has a good rank on the search engine which calls in for SEO of your website. Such hindrances are often faced wile indirectly marketing your content on the social media sites as well. For the content to be shared and liked the quality and the information provided in the content have to be enticing. Only then will it be shared to reach many audiences and potential leads. Articles, blogs, videos, etc can be shared but the quality of these really matters that makes the content provided I them sharable.How to make the content more social media friendly for maximum likes and sharesThe content posted must be easy to share and the social sharing buttons must be present or made available at the right spot. The top left side of the page is quite ideal as it is easily noticeable for sharing. The other important pointers to make your content social network friendly include; the type of content you wish to share. The content has to be fresh and likable as it will make many visitors to take time and read your content which if they like would be shared. To grab a reader the title of the content has to be catchy and particularly on social networks an emotional title does the trick.Providing attractive or relevant images along with the content is the basic means of attracting a reader and be careful with choosing of this image as the fate of your content relies on it. Posting the content at the right time is again important. General rule which is tried and tested is that most of the content is read in the mornings. In fat early morning visitors and Saturday visitors tend to leave more comments and tend to share a lot. 
As you step inside any contact center or meet with any support manager, there is always one common theme: staffing. It is no secret that social has completely changed the way companies staff support teams. Understanding how social has upended certain hiring practices while reinforcing others is essential to recruiting and staffing your social teams.An Organization of ExpertsMany organizations are still building a social customer response team by handpicking or selectively hiring social agents with experience in a traditional call center (often their own). It is important to recognize that social is not a channel and therefore, companies must look across the entire organization of experts as potential points of customer engagement. In practical terms, that means any employee is potentially an agent. That is really hard for some companies to grasp.On a similar note, brands should not overcomplicate social. Thinking about the core customer care team engaging via social media support model isn’t all that different than any other support medium. Sure, the skills may be different – agents have to type as well as talk– and the risks may be higher  -– accidentally responding with information about a customer’s account on a public instead of private message, but the basic support process—listening to and empathizing with customers, crafting a solution and following it through to closure—is the same.The Making of a Great Social AgentThe basic support process guided by the customer care team is also availed by other potential engagers. These engagers are employees from product development, innovation teams and other teams that have deep and specialized process knowledge and as such are part of (directly, or as back-up) to the support team. Keeping this in mind, staffing for social means considering both the core support role and the experts that support these agents. All of these aspects of the support team allow companies to enhance their ability to engage customers at scale.When a company can identify their experts, they need to define what it means to be a great social agent. More than anything else, a good social agent understands simultaneously the business objectives of the organization, the situation and context giving rise to the customer inquiry, the resources at-hand that can be applied to the issue, and any constraints around the potential solution path. This has been true of support professionals all along, and surely continues in an age of public, visible support interactions.Establishing Performance MetricsOnce establishing what the expectations are of a good social agent, it is important to define performance metrics. There can be more nuanced metrics related to productivity due to the sheer volume of social traffic.  Some traditional metrics, like handle time and first contact resolution, may need to be tweaked a little due to the asynchronous nature of social.  At the core, the most meaningful business metrics – ROI, achievement of revenue goals and customer satisfaction – remain unchanged.Finding the Right AgentSo now you are probably thinking, “OK we know who to look for and what to look for, but how do we find them?” In the past –and by past, I mean 5 years ago – reward programs targeted towards incentivizing experienced staffers to join the social ranks may have worked. But, today we are seeing certain agent qualities like empathy and humility trump policies that reward tenure. What’s important to investigate however is that the rewards for social support agents should be the same for normal support employees.Let’s put it this way: if social agents are not motivated by the same rewards as other employees, there is something wrong at an organizational level that probably needs to be addressed before a social engagement program is considered! Effective social engagement—leading to visible customer advocacy—depends heavily on purpose-based alignment across the organization. The excitement of support, whether as a font-line social agent or a deep-knowledge process expert, is that you never really know what the next request is going to be. Combine that with the almost universal personal satisfaction that comes from helping someone, makes for a very exciting job.  That is what should get employees fired up about going to work.Your Star Social Support TeamBy expanding social engagement across the organization by way of experts, employees connect more deeply with the shared business objectives of that organization. Tangible connection to shared purpose is absolutely associated with—in fact, it is a pre-cursor to—above-average employee retention. As a result, this attracts the best and brightest in the field.  Set up a social strategy with agents and knowledgeable experts and retention will take care of itself.If a brand can focus on these few things when recruiting and staffing their social support teams, they will be golden!
Brands! Stop leading with your features and benefits. Ask yourself this instead: How can I help?Jay Baer challenged all the marketers and brand managers gathered for the digiSTORY 2014 conference to tell stories that matter. “Marketing sideways,” he called it: “Making the story bigger.” Callahan Creek proudly sponsored the conference, and we were excited to hear that Jay’s talk dovetailed nicely with some of our own strategies.Here are three challenges that marketers today face when it comes to getting their message heard:Audience disaggregation - Audiences don’t clump the way they used to. There’s no “Happy Days,” “Cosby Show,” or “Seinfeld” reaching a mass audience like they used to.Customers are storytellers too – They have instant access to tell social and web platforms and can tell horror stories about your brand. As Jay put it, “Customer service is a spectator sport.” Everyone can see these negative experiences.Competition for attention – There is noise everywhere. Additionally, brands are fighting to cut through content that customers have carefully curated themselves with their own preferences. In your Facebook News Feed, for example, you’ll see posts from friends and family that you interact with often. His biggest question, when it comes to relevancy: “Are you more interesting to me than my own wife?”What brands tend to do is fall into a dangerous trap, falling back on hype. Telling stories louder. Literally, sometimes. Like this guy:(Ironically, this kind of ridiculousness can be its own novelty. The video went viral, was featured on Tosh.0, and owner Mike Mixson is obviously listening on social media, because he responded to us on Twitter. And now we know who to go to when we’re selling golf clubs.)Instead of hyping your brand, what if you created stories that help? After all, as Jay said, “there’s only two letters’ difference between “hype” and “help.” Catchy, eh? Yeah, he’s good at that. But he’s also good at making an idea come alive in simple terms that relate to companies’ needs.Baer’s challenge to marketers is essentially to create a “story so useful that people will pay for it.” (Earlier in the day, we heard from Brian Storm, who has created a viable business model with MediaStorm by telling engaging and important stories that people are willing to pay for. Most of these stories are meant as a call to action for social injustice or other cause-related things.) Marketing sideways doesn’t showcase features and benefits. It means giving something away of value that improves your business over time. And it works. It’s something we are using right now for several of our clients. One statistic Baer quoted (I don’t remember the source unfortunately) was that useful articles are forwarded 30% more than average. That’s kind of a no-brainer, but now consider this: The only thing that really matters is content, not the quality of the video. Take this video, for instance, with almost 150,000 views:Amazing, right? I am totally doing that the next time I prepare corn on the cob.Here’s something else to consider: People are doing tons of online research before they purchase. In 2011, 10.4 sources of info were needed before purchase, which is twice as much as 2010. Mobile data usage doubled in 2013. Consumers are looking things up on their phones, even while they are in brick-and-mortar stores. Why not make sure that you own the conversation with helpful content on the very subject that consumers are searching for?This summer, I needed some help with the filter on my backyard pool. I immediately went to YouTube and saw a series of How-To videos that covered every possible problem I might have and how to fix it. They were all from one guy at this company in Virginia. It was pretty funny when Jay mentioned him in his presentation, and not at all surprising to find out that these videos had affected his bottom line positively. Marcus Sheridan is the co-owner of River Pools & Spas, and in addition to the video(s), the company has an enormous amount of helpful content on the company blog.So what types of stories can brands tell?Stories that inform. Stories that build knowledge on a relevant subject.Stories that build trust. Trust is the filter through which all business success must pass. One good way to do this is to be transparent, because the truth always comes out. Why not lead with it?Stories that build kinship. Giving your brand humanity gives your story a hero. Remember, friends and family are trusted 92% of the time. (Again, I don’t remember the source of this stat – sorry.)One secret to marketing sideways is that you have to give yourself permission to make the story bigger. Chompie’s Deli has been around since 1979 when founders Lou and Lovey Borenstein moved from New York to Arizona. The videos on their YouTube channelaren’t about their sandwiches – they’re about them. And sometimes it seems like you’re watching clips from a Christopher Guest movie! Check this out:Another secret to telling good stories is to make the story smaller. Take those big stories and atomize them, like the #LowesFixinSix Vine videos, which show helpful hints for common problems around the house and clever shortcuts with a fun amount of novelty.Lastly, empowering your fans to tell stories is always a great idea. It’s also authentic and affordable. Jay mentioned a river rafting company that encourages their customers to tell stories of their trips with photos and stories on the company blog. Letting your customers tell everybody what a great time they had on one of your trips sounds like a pretty good way to drum up new business. And because its self-produced, the genuine quality of it makes it easier to trust.“Youtility,” as Jay calls it (also coincidentally the name of his book) is a process, not a project. Inspiration doesn’t respond to meeting requests, so you have to look for examples in your life every day. It’s an adjustment. You can be a utility. Your brand can be a utility -- a trusted source. His last challenge was simple: When you wake up every morning, ask yourself: “How can I help you?” 
The motto of content marketing is to create and distribute content that is consistent, relevant and valuable to an audience. The aim is not solely to ramp up the sales or social shares but to build brand name, create sharable visuals, provide great content and create value. With good content marketing, the results are always one – the defined audience learns to recognize the brand as a friend. Many brands have achieved a perfect content marketing score while sticking to the basics. The following are 10 perfect examples of content marketing that everyone should emulate:1. Moving House Checklist by Budget Direct This is simply not a checklist, it is a master checklist allowing Budget Direct homeowners to never be scared about the moving day again. As an insurance company, it sticks to things it knows – insurance. But that doesn’t mean the brand can’t provide value beyond that subject. By choosing a related subject, Budget Direct is still appealing to the same defined audience base and, at the same time, providing immense value. The checklist tells the reader about how to prepare for moving 2 months before the date. It keeps offering valuable tips as the moving day gets closer.2. Anthropologie’s Coconut Cooler and Other DIY DrinksAnthropologie is an established name in fashion but look at its side act – the DIY drinks feature. The best thing about this feature is that the drinks are seasonal. The flavors and ingredients are different, which adds an element of uniqueness to the blog. Anthropologie’s fashion posts are known to be original and this USP extends to the DIY drinks segment as well. More than anything, after reading these posts, the reader recognizes Anthropologie as a friend that knows a lot about fashion and enjoys amazing drinks.3. Tumblr of Lana del ReyThis is a great example of using shareable visuals for content marketing. The Tumblr blog was launched in 2014 and from the first post itself, the content marketing began. Using gifs, a popular medium on the internet (and particularly Tumblr), from “West Coast”, Lana appeals to her target audience – teens to 20s girls. Gifs allow the content to be visual, short and extremely shareable and the microblogging site is a perfect platform for this. Also, Lana’s core values – which have always been feminism and other social issues – are also mirrored by Tumblr. Thus, her audience would recognize her as a friend on these issues and thus, a reliable word.4. Virgin Atlantic’s Tokyo Instagram GalleryCrowd curation is a great technique to use in content marketing and Virgin Atlantic does it extremely well. The blog of Virgin Atlantic is mostly known for great travel content – places people should visit and what they should see there. However, they pad these posts which Instagram galleries like the Tokyo one. The photos are curated from Tokyo’s instagrammers who give the readers a peek into the real Tokyo. They have many other great Instagram galleries like Los Angeles Instagram gallery through which their readers get interesting sights with perfectly curated content.5. Disney’s Behind the Screen Content – The brilliance of behind-the-scenes content should never be underestimated and Disney has understood the importance of this content marketing tool. The blog of Disney Parks frequently contains posts of behind-the-scenes acts. For Disney fans, this is amazing because they want to find out how the magic was created. Everyone likes bloopers and makings, and Disney fans like it even more. These posts show that Disney knows its audience and the frequency reveals that it cherishes that support by giving them BTS perks every now and then.6. Equinox Plank MarketingEquinox reveals the value of amazing brand building using content marketing through its Plank post. This fitness club has various locations in the US and their website appeals to the most important thing that their readers look for – fitness. So, there are a lot of fitness based articles, like the Plank one, which reveal interesting facts and practical tips to stay fit. The plank post too shows, with the help of a slideshow, some key planks that the reader might be missing.7. Whole Foods’ Money Saving Grocery TipsWhat is the one thing that Whole Foods’ consumers cherish the most? It is eco-friendly and healthy foods. Walking into a Whole Foods is an experience in great customer service, splendid organization, healthy foods, friendly employees, and of course, eco-friendly products. Their blog mimics these ideals by frequently offering great tips, like how to save money on grocery, with content that is shareable, relatable and useful.8. Brew Guides from IntelligentsiaThe industry says B2B whitepapers and Intelligentsia answers with these amazing brew guides. They use great and attractive photography to offer instructions about various tools used to make coffee. The readers must be aware of V60s, Chemex and French Press but do they know how to use them perfectly? The pictures are so delicious that everyone wants a fresh cup of Intelligentsia coffee ASAP!9. World Business Schools Infographic of Business Insider IndiaFor an infographic to work, there is no need for fireworks. All it should do is provide valuable information in bite sizes. This infographic by Business Insider India provides information about the top 25 business schools on a global scale in images that are concise and cohesive. The design is clean and simple, and contains all the information a student would need from this infographic. Also, it is a time saver!10. Panera Bread’s Pinterest – All the posts of Panera Bread on Pinterest are content marketing geniuses. They give visual stories, promote the brand, offer curated content, use visuals and also give links to their blog. Most importantly, however, they match with Panera Bread’s ideals – healthy, cozy, familiar, and comfort. A lot of external sources are used and the images are absolutely delicious.The trick to content marketing is that the content needs to be eye catching. The value you wish to provide would not work if the content is not attractive looking. This is why visual and shareable content works so well for the above examples.