Archive for the ‘Content Marketing’ Category

Case Study: Leveraging Video to Educate Your Market

This week’s blog post comes from Will Fraser, CEO and Co-Founder of Referral SaaSquatch. Follow him on Twitter @getFraser

When we started Referral SaaSquatch, we spent a lot of time educating the SaaS/subscription market about our platform and how we’re different from ‘competitors.’ Honestly, a lot of the questions, while valid, were the same. What is a referral program? Isn’t that an affiliate program? Can’t I build that in-house?

There was clearly an education gap and even though we were writing about it, we felt we had to build more engaging content to help educate people and streamline answering these questions. We decided to take the cue from our friends over at Moz with their great ‘Whiteboard Fridays’ campaign and started creating video content.

Why video? It’s rich content, easily consumed, and helps establish brand credibility. The concept was simple in essence, take the core lessons from our educational blog articles, then distill them into short-form explainer videos. Spend half a day talking in front of a videographer with another team member producing. Then start promotion campaigns around the content.

Easy enough right? … Not exactly? Well, let me take you through the steps that we took to make our 19 Videos to clear it up.

Video1

Image courtesy of Udemy.com

The Decision

Our strategy had consisted primarily of producing articles and promoting them on different online communities like Quora, Inbound.org, and Twitter. After a couple of months, we were clearly building a following but knew we still needed to experiment with other ways of telling our story.

We asked ourselves, ‘What’s a better way to educate our audience about referral programs?’

Although we were open to experimenting with different content, our goals remained the same: create and promote online content educating our target audience about referral programs.

Building video content was clearly the next step for us to take. Video is easy to consume on multiple platforms, rich content is more memorable than text, it’s easy to share, and can be done on a budget.

Video2

Image courtesy of udemy.com

Building the Content

Okay so we knew we had to make videos to educate our market and increase brand awareness. Now the problem became how?

How do we create video content that’s compelling, but not spend a huge amount of time and money on it? We came up with the idea to repurpose the core concepts of our blog into short 3-5 min videos, which helped immensely reduce the time required for pre-production and scripting. We had one person on the team spend an afternoon and read through our blog to come up with the outline for each video with 2-3 talking points.

Next, we scheduled our shoot, which was 3 hours in a local studio with the key responsibilities laid out like this:

Videographer: Directing – in-charge of framing the scene, audio, and lighting.

Myself: Hosting – speaking and drawing illustrations on whiteboard.

Team member: Producing – setting up each scene’s talking points, checking quality of content, water breaks.

It went off without a hitch. These are videos about things we already knew, so there wasn’t much to learn or remember for each shot. It was easy to speak with confidence. We actually got through the majority of our videos in one take.

So in three hours’ time with two breaks, we shot 19 videos in 26 takes. Not bad for our first adventure into the world of video production.

Video3

Image courtesy of Wistia.com

Distribution and Promotion

Now came the part you’re all really interested in, how do we get the word out? We have this rich content, where do we promote it?

We ended up breaking it down into a list of promotion strategies, and it came down to two ideas. One was to wrap up all the video into an E-Course for the Udemy Ed-Tech Platform and the other was to host the content ourselves with a video service like Wistia.

We liked the idea of Udemy because we could take advantage of an emerging education platform with a strong tech worker presence. Its recommendation engine and review system were both convincing factors, but there wasn’t a smooth way to move the students over to our site (read: No Lead Capture).

Hosting the videos ourselves was an interesting option, as well. We could use a tool like Wistia to perform email capture within the player. We could also promote the individual videos on our blog and social channels.

We ended up building the E-Course and creating an auto-responder email course of the 5 core videos for lead capture on our website. The course has signed up over 1,350 people and helps drive overall brand awareness – while the auto-responder course helps drive conversions to product demos and sales.

Video4

Image courtesy of Iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Activation and Community

The course has built a great way to interact with the community of students who want to talk about referral programs. They can leave reviews, and we can push company updates to the list of over 1,350 people.

Our video content helps support every interaction we have with potential clients. It fills the top of the funnel by driving lead acquisition as well as activating and nurturing our leads throughout the sales-cycle, which really helps to accelerate our growth and impact the bottom line.

Content continues to drive results for our company. Creating videos to reach our audience is a great campaign for us and we can keep re-purposing these videos to help educate and convert incoming visitors.

Conclusion

Our goal was to build more engaging content to help educate our target audience, and video ended up being a low cost, quick, and effective way to do it.The video content was created in an afternoon and continues to increase brand awareness while capturing leads and supporting every other stage of our marketing and sales funnels.

Some things to think about if you want to do this are:

  • Reuse existing educational content. You’re an expert and have probably already written about the most important things to your industry.
  • Video doesn’t have to cost a million dollars or be over produced. Just be real and make sure you get the point across.
  • Take advantage of distribution networks such as Udemy or YouTube. This is often the hardest part of any content effort.

Not every channel or medium is right for your audience, but, in our case, video helped us diversify our educational content, grow brand awareness, and increase conversion metrics.

 

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Promoting Interactive Content: Getting Ahead of the Content Marketing Pack

In 2013, the most popular pieces of content on both BuzzFeed and the New York Times had something in common.

Was it that they were well-research pieces by respected journalists? No. In fact, the NYT piece was created by an intern. Did they break news? Nope, no new news was made. Were they beautiful, Snowfall-like visual constructions? Nope. They were designed from templates.

They were quizzes.  The writing is on the wall: interactive content is the future of content marketing.

 

Banner

But let’s back up a step:

We’re drowning in content.  Absolutely drowning in it. 93% of businesses are doing content marketing, and 99% of software companies (and what seems like 150% of our own special little category of marketing software) are employing it today.  And it is getting worse.

And while I normally write about how content promotion solves this problem, today I want to look at it from another lens: with today’s interactive content, what’s the best way to market it? (I’ll leave making it for another post.)

 

Interactive Content: What it Is

Broadly, interactive content is calculators, quizzes, free tools, and other things of that nature that users can interact with – instead of just read.

Examples

BuzzFeed & NYT Quizzes

In 2013, the most popular piece of content on both the New York Times and Buzzfeed was a quiz. On both the Grey Lady, inventor of journalistic objectivity, and the new publishing upstart best at pushing viral buttons with lists, an interactive quiz was the most popular piece of content.

Let’s unpack these a little more:

Because you are alive and have an internet connection, you have likely seen a BuzzFeed quiz.

BuzzFeed offered the quiz “Which Pink Lady Are You?”, helping users understand, well, which female character from the movie Grease they should be. It was one of the most shared pieces of content in 2013.

In 2014, they came aback at quizzes in a big way with a new graphic layout, leading to winners like “Which City Should You Actually Live In.”

BuzzFeed- What city should you live in?

These graphically oriented quizzes put up some great traffic numbers:

Traffic history

Referral Breakdown

How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk

The New York Times created this amazing, incredibly popular quiz about language patterns in the United States:

Sunday Review

This twenty-question quiz was shared millions of times, and was one of the most popular pieces of content on the New York Times website in 2013.  It was created by graduate student intern Josh Katz, based on the 10-year old Harvard Dialect Survey.

Unknown

In the nation’s most influential paper, which regularly breaks real news and hosts some of the best and most sough-after journalists alive today, the most popular piece of online content was a quiz, created by an intern from 10 year old public data.

 

How Americans Die

Bloomberg published a remarkable interactive data visualization on death in America:

How Americans die

While it didn’t put up the amazing numbers the previous two samples did, it definitely meaningfully outperformed other content on Bloomberg:

How Americans Die #2

 

Why Interactive Content?

So we know that interactive content can be very successful – particularly if we include final states people can share that show their own identity to their peers on social networks. (In some ways, BuzzFeed can be thought of as a venture-backed experiment in social networks and identity behavior.)

This content has several key advantages:

It Sticks Out

Useful and fun tools have not been beaten to death yet by marketers, unlike, say, infographics, ebooks, white papers, and everything that came before them. When you see one, it is still novel, different, and potentially delightful.

It Can Be Evergreen

This is huge – these things can keep on giving MUCH longer than a traditional blog post. They’re new every time people visit.  Effectively moving to interactive content can help publishers create pieces that last a long time, instead of hits driven pieces.

As Summer Anne Burton, managing editorial director of BuzzFeed, said:

“We had been making quizzes slowly, but nothing crazy. Then, around the end of last year, I was looking at some stats and what posts had done really well. Our most shared post was this quiz called “Which ‘Grease’ Pink Lady Are You?” that Louis Peitzman in L.A. did. It had not been a big hit when it was first published, but it had this super long tail.

I had noticed a couple other things like that — posts that were quiz-related or quizzes that had a second life. “

If you’re a working content marketer, you know that consistently coming up with new material and “feeding the beast” is a major challenge. Well-architected interactive tools gie you a chance to step off the treadmill and create a system.

 

They can be designed with a UX that drives conversion

Calculators like this one and other similar pieces can not only attract traffic and serve the top of the funnel, but can also show people relevant offers and drive visitors through the funnel.  I would expect to see more interactive experiences that show off merchandise or offers in the next 12 months.

For example, Julep, the Seattle-based A16Z funded nail polish company uses a quiz to help new users discover their style profile, and sign up for an appropriate package:

Julep

 

Building a Data Asset for Future Work

When people fill out these quizzes and interact with these pieces, that data can go somewhere.  The low-end version of this is taking email addresses and adding them to your list.

The more elaborate version of this is adding this quiz data to a cookie or persistent identifier associated with the user.  This can be a game changer for lead scoring or personalization, and I expect this to be become a pretty typical marketing technique in 2-3 years.

Scott Brinker of the Marketing Technologist Blog has written extensively on this topic as well. He’s even betting his whole company on them:

Marketing Interactive Assets

While the creation of these interactive assets is dramatically beyond the scope of the article (and left to the reader), some of what I’ve observed in seeing people promote these universally applicable.

Think About How People Will Link To, Mention, or Feature Your Piece

Often I see marketers pitch interactives without thinking about how the linking/featuring site will post it.  Most journalists and content creators know how to feature images and studies – but how do you feature a quiz, a calculator, or an interactive multi-part graphic?

Consider making versions that are easy to embed and look great – either a version of the interactive that can be embedded (which you may or may not want to do depending on your marketing objectives), or good images or animated gifs of the tool’s operation.  Then you can make it as easy as possible for your outreach prospects to feature you.

Make Sure Your Device Support and Your Promotion Plan Are Aligned

The rise of the multi-device world has really caught a lot of marketers by surprise and can cause some interesting issues in content promotion.

For example, much of the inventory available on some ad units good for content promotion, like Twitter ads, is mobile. If your piece of interactive content isn’t mobile friendly, you might very well find yourself with an expensive fail if you use them without segmenting to desktop/tablet only.  (I often play a game of clicking on promoted Tweets on my mobile phone and seeing if it leads to a responsive page or not.)

In a perfect world, marketers would have lots of technical resources and get everything working perfectly on every device. (If you’ve worked in more than one or two marketing organizations, you’re probably laughing quietly to yourself at this statement.) But we do not live in such a world – so if you don’t support mobile devices, make sure you don’t unintentionally end up pushing mobile traffic at the piece.

Pitch the Value, Not the Tool

When marketing technology products, marketers are classically told to focus on benefits and advantages instead of features.  Marketers still focus on features, and people still say this, so this is something of an existential problem in marketing.

But whenever marketers get something new, they often get lost in the shinyness and forget about the customer value they’re communicating.

This cognitive bias has two factors:

  • Often people are so excited to do a quiz or an interactive, they forget the editorial and results fall flat.  These still need the same level of knowledge and editorial care and planning that would go into a whitepaper or an ebook.
  • A quiz in and of itself isn’t that novel – pitch the value rather than the technology.

 

You Still Need a Campaign Launch Plan

While this will be a familiar concept to readers of BuzzStream material (we even created a guide about it), even the best pieces of interactive content need a promotion plan and  alaunch plan, ideally across paid, owned, and earned media.

Conclusion

While the New York Times and BuzzFeed don’t have much in common, they’re both succeeding with interactive content.  As interactive content trickles down to marketers,we’ll see this employed more and more, with varying degrees of success.  While the challenge of interactive content is largely in its creation, marketing it effectively is still extremely important, and reducing friction and creating promotion plans are needed to achieve the full ROI of these strategies.

 

 

 

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How to Find and Analyze Your Competitors’ Campaigns

When you understand what your competitors are saying and doing, you become more confident in what makes your brand different and special. You get better at targeting and create more compelling messaging. An audit of your competitors’ marketing campaigns is a great place to start.

5 Steps to a Competitor Campaign Analysis

The following process will help you conduct an audit of your competitors’ marketing campaigns.

Step One: Determine Who Your Competitors Are

Spend some time brainstorming who your competitors are. Ask business executives who they consider to be your biggest competition. Look at who else is performing well in search results for your keywords. Check out tools like SEMRush and SimilarSites. Don’t be afraid to include businesses that are significantly larger or smaller than your own.

Step Two: Research Your Competitors’ Online Properties

Look at each competitor’s website and all of its social media properties.

Website

  • What’s being merchandised on the homepage?
  • Are there any products, categories, or themes that are getting special attention?
  • What categories or themes is the blog focused on lately?
  • Are there any weekly or on-going post themes?
  • Does it explicitly mention any campaigns or contests?
  • Do any specific bloggers or influencers get mentioned on the blog?

Social Media Profiles

  • Is the competitor using any hashtags that indicate an organized campaign?
  • Are there themes that stretch across platforms, like Twitter and Instagram?
  • Has the competitor shared any specific content they’ve created?
  • Are there any topics mentioned frequently?
  • Does the competitor regularly point to specific bloggers or websites?
  • Is there any unique content (like videos or photography) hosted on the social media platforms?

Step Three: Research Your Competitors on External Sites

A backlink analysis (using tools like Ahrefs or OSE) is a great place to start, but results can be muddied if one of your competitors is a megasite like Amazon or Target. In those cases, consider looking only at relevant subdomains or categories. (E.g., If I’m a local garden center competing with a huge brand like Home Depot, I’d pay attention to the backlinks for gardenclub.homedepot.com and homedepot.com/gardenclub.)

Try to find the referring sites that look like blogs, then run a Google search for “Competitor Name” site:theblogname.com. You’ll be able to find when the blogger talked about the brand, what they said, and whether the brand/blogger relationship was a one-off mention or an on-going relationship.

You can run searches for Competitor -site:competitor.com to begin to find similar results. Again, look for the domains that look like blogs or editorial sites. You can get more advanced by including keywords with campaign types:

  • Brand -site:brand.com
  • Brand review -site:brand.com
  • Brand guide -site:brand.com
  • Brand sponsors -site:brand.com

Tip 1: As you go, keep track of all of the sites that could be an opportunity or fit for your brand in the future.

Tip 2: The BuzzStream List Navigator can save you a ton of time here. Watch the video.

Step Four: Analyze the Campaigns

As you review all of the internal content and external sites that mention the competitor, you should start to get an idea of what the competitor is prioritizing. Maybe they’re working on product reviews within a certain category, or maybe they’re trying to get in front of a specific audience.

Ask the following questions for each campaign:

  • What type of campaign is it? Sponsorship? Review?
  • Who are they targeting?
  • How are they positioning themselves?
  • What are their main messages and tagline?
  • Are there offline components to this campaign?
  • What behavior are they asking for? What are they ultimately selling?
  • Does it seem like they’re using a PR, Social, or SEO agency?
  • What is their goal with this campaign?
  • Why might that be their goal?
  • Does this campaign look natural or does it feel a little forced or spammy?

Step Five: Find Opportunities for Your Own Brand

Now that you have an idea of what your competitors are up to, you can begin to glean insight and ideas for your own brand.

Ask yourself the following about your own brand:

  • What strategies are my competitors missing?
  • Where does their messaging fall short?
  • Which audiences are they missing out on?
    • Why are they running these campaigns?
    • Has the business prioritized a category?
    • Are they after something like coupon use? Does that mean coupons convert well?
    • Are they getting links for the sake of links? Are they at risk for penalty?
  • What do bloggers generally expect from these campaigns?
  • How are my products or services different from what my competitors are promoting?
  • What can I offer to bloggers that my competitors can’t?

Going back to the Home Depot gardening example I mentioned earlier, my research helped me find that the company ran a blogger review campaign last year with the hashtag #DigIn. Rather than looking for links, though, it seems Home Depot was really after email signups. If I were a small, local garden center, I’d think about a few things. First, I should consider an email newsletter of my own. Second, it seems like the Home Depot missed out on local bloggers, so maybe they’re the ones I could go after.

Did we miss any key questions? What do you usually look for when doing competitor audits of your own? Leave a comment or tweet to us @BuzzStream.

P.S. Special thanks to our intern, Olivia Polger, for her help editing this post.

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Targeting Mid-Level Influencers with FollowerWonk and BuzzStream

As marketers, we often talk about building relationships with influencers. Sometimes, though, it makes more sense to connect with the people in the middle. They’re usually pretty persuasive to their small followings, but they just haven’t hit “major influencer” status yet. Here’s a walkthrough of how you can use FollowerWonk and BuzzStream to find and reach them, using a real-life example, a campaign from our recent ebook launch.

 

Targeting-InfluencersTargeting emerging influencers and niche experts can lead to campaign success.

When we launched the Advanced Guide to Content Promotion last month, I created a tiered outreach strategy to promote it, heavily focusing on “emerging influencers” and “niche experts.” Together with some paid amplification efforts, that strategy helped us earn thousands of views and hundreds of shares. I relied heavily on FollowerWonk and BuzzStream to do it.

Prep Work: Strategy, Personas, and Goals

Just like we recommend in the book, I began by identifying and prioritizing target audiences. Getting in front of (and helping) “Forward-Thinking Link Builders” was my primary goal.

Creating the top tier prospect list was easy. I know our industry pretty well and could easily list twenty heavy-hitting SEO super influencers (and, lucky for me, BuzzStream already had a relationship with most of them).

But the bulk of my list needed to be what I call “emerging influencers” and “niche experts.” These aren’t the superstar CEOs, but the people who are a few years into their career. They’re beginning to develop specialities and personal brands. Some of them might be managers, others not, but they’re all still pretty close to the daily work of content promotion, link building, strategy, and outreach.

I cared most about these guys, because they’d be the ones who would find the most value in our guide. (It was written with them in mind.) They’re also the ones who can be very persuasive inside organizations and on teams. I did hope they’d read and Tweet the guide, but, really, I wanted them to read it, learn from it, and share it with their coworkers and bosses.

 

Using FollowerWonk to Find Influencers

Using tactics similar to what Richard Baxter shared in his 2013 MozCon presentation (this is sort of like what he did, but reverse) and lessons my teammate Matt Gratt learned with targeted Twitter advertising, I decided to use FollowerWonk to build our list of emerging influencers and niche experts.

 

Influencers-Followers

We started with influencers and used FollowerWonk to find their audiences.

 

First, I brainstormed groups of two highly specialized experts for various disciplines (e.g., Paddy Moogan and Jon Cooper for link building; Adria Saracino and Kelsey Libert for content and outreach). I was familiar enough with the industry to do this without the help of any tools, but had it been a new industry, I would have turned to BuzzSumo.

I loaded each duo and the @BuzzStream twitter handle into FollowerWonk to get a list of people following the three accounts.

It was important to me that I only selected people who were already following @BuzzStream, because it meant I could be confident they were at least somewhat aware of us and had, in a sense, opted in to hearing what we have to say.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 7.40.19 PM

We focused on the people who followed all three accounts.

I always chose to pull the triple-overlap group. (If you follow Paddy Moogan AND Jon Cooper AND BuzzStream, you’re probably quite interested in link building.) And, in some cases, I pulled groups that followed only one of the influencers and BuzzStream.

I created a bunch of Excel reports in FollowerWonk and downloaded them all.

 

Cleaning the Data: Filtering the List

I combined all of the documents and then removed duplicates (there were a lot.) Next, I sorted by follower count. A lot of the superstar CEO influencers floated to the top of the list, and I deleted them out, since they’d already been accounted for elsewhere. I also deleted anyone who had less than 150 followers.

Using Excel’s filters, I got rid of inactive accounts by excluding people whose most recent tweet was earlier than Jan 2014 and people who had tweeted less than 100 times. To address spam accounts, I only included people who had a follower number greater than the number of people they were following.

Basically, I whittled down my list until it had about 100 people, which was a reasonable amount of outreach for the time I had allotted.

 

BuzzStream for Outreach and Followups

I saved my doc as a .csv and uploaded it to BuzzStream (Note: I was working in the People section of BuzzStream, not the Website section.) BuzzStream automatically matched FollowerWonk fields to contact records.

I tested a few different outreach templates and personalized them pretty heavily. Since I’m an active member of the community I was reaching out to, it was easy for me to bring up personal connections. I could mention conferences we’d both attended, stuff they’ve written that I liked, friends we had in common, etc.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 2.08.37 PM

Sending outreach in BuzzStream.

 

The template that performed the best was personalized, fairly short, and featured a friendly request for a share.

 

Our Results

Response to the guide was very positive. Lots of people shared on Twitter and a bunch let me know that they’d also shared with their teams internally. We got a lot of views, and — with the exception of a small list of things we’d do differently next time — we deemed the project a success.

The outreach has proven successful in other ways, too. So far, it’s led to people pinging us when they have content of their own that our audience might like, a delicious coffee meeting that involved insightful conversation about the industry and our work, and a bunch of shoutouts in presentations and blog posts.

 

Conclusion

Getting linked to or written about on huge sites is great, but sometimes smaller niche blogs make more sense for your business. Going after the mid-level influencers and niche experts can drive the right views from the right people (and great links, too).

How do you create prospect lists? Where do you go to find influencers? Leave a comment below or talk to us on Twitter.

 

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A 9-Step Crash Course on Content Distribution

Today’s post comes from Ritika Puri. In addition to sharing PR and content tips on the BuzzStream blog, Ritika has written for Forbes, The Next Web, Business Insider, and American Express OPEN Forum.

Content marketing is a customer acquisition powertool. The concept is simple — inspire, engage, and delight audiences through great storytelling. Write compelling, heartfelt blog posts. Create beautiful infographics. Produce never-before-seen e-books and guides. Delight your audiences, and pour your humanity into your brand.

It sounds simple, right? Produce great content, and you’re set.

Not quite.

The competition for audience attention has never been more cutthroat. More and more brands are jumping into the content ecosystem, with 78% of marketers believing in storytelling as the future of marketing. Meanwhile, human attention spans are getting shorter — goldfish are putting us to shame.

In addition to creating amazing content, your marketing team needs to build out a thoughtful and high-impact distribution strategy. Rely on this guide for the ultimate crash course.

 

1. Content Syndication

It takes time to build and grow your audience. One way to kickstart the process is to syndicate your content with established media channels. First, publish your content on your own blog. Then, pitch the story to editors at bigger publishers to redistribute.

Here is an example of a blog post on Coworks that was recently syndicated with The Next Web. The Coworks blog, at the time of syndication, was only 1-month-old:

 

Original Post on the Coworks Blog

 

TNWPost Syndicated on The Next Web

 

A syndication strategy takes time and patience to fully develop. Editorial relationships are tough to build, especially for brands. Prove to editors that you’re committed to delivering value. Keep networking, and keep asking. Syndication is a business development art — persistence and creativity are key.

 

2. Email Marketing

It’s unlikely that audiences will be visiting your blog (and content) on a regular basis. There is so much content on the web, and yours is likely to slip through the cracks.

The most effective way to reach consumers 1:1 is through email. When you publish a blog post, send your email subscribers a short-and-sweet snippet to tell them that you’ve published something awesome. Include a bold call-to-action (CTA) back to your blog to drive consistent traffic.

Here is an example email that promotes an article on the Coworks blog:

Email

Roughly one-in-ten users who opened our emails clicked through to finish reading the article on the Coworks blog:

GA

Visits from email about the post

Pay attention to open, click-through, and unsubscribe rates to learn how audience respond to and engage with your content. These data points will help you optimize your strategy.

 

3. Client Service Teams

Content is a tool for building relationships at scale. Your marketing team’s blog posts, infographics, videos, and ebooks can help spark natural conversations between sales teams and prospective clients.

These conversations provide a low-touch, yet high-impact say to say hello — “just because.” In some cases these “hellos” may materialize into strategic upselling opportunities.

Marketing teams should build feedback loops with account management, sales, and customer service reps — these teams are at the front-lines of your organization and are powerful distribution engines.

 

4. Paid Channel Advertising

Did your company recently publish an e-book or guide? Are you looking to generate leads? Paid channel advertisements can help you connect this long-form content with mid-funnel audiences. Here is what you do:

  • Step 1: Drive traffic to your website organically.
  • Step 2: Retarget these visitors on Facebook and AdSense with a CTA to your free e-book.
  • Step 3: Set-up a landing page to capture leads.

On Facebook, for instance, you can create ‘Lookalike audiences’ based on your existing CRM database — prospects who fit the same demographic and interest-based profiles of your most engaged customers.

Here is an example ad from General Assembly, a company that aims to democratize education. The company is promoting a free trial of its online content program.

Take a look at the paid channel ad:

Paid

…. and the corresponding landing page:

GenAssembly Landing page for paid social ad.

 

5. Social Visuals

You already know that Facebook and Twitter are invaluable channels for promoting your content. The challenge, however, is that these markets are saturated.

It’s crucial to give your tweets and status updates a ‘visual edge’ — to outsmart the crowd in capturing fleeting audience attention spans.

Be sure to include compelling images with your social media updates:

image Social updates with compelling images stand out in feeds.

 

6. Hashtags

Tap into existing conversations through #hashtags related to your content. Use hashtags strategically by pinpointing what’s trending and by tagging keywords in your tweets and status updates.

TV Series Doctor Who does this well:

DW

Doctor Who page post on Facebook

 

DW2

BBC network uses same #DoctorWho hashtag. 

 

7. Your Immediate Network

If you’re publishing a particularly meaningful piece of content, ask your network to promote it 1:1.  These could be offline and online networks. As an example, take a look at this blog post on Clarity.fm, which features the story of volcanologist turned nonprofit entrepreneur Jess Pelaez:

 Wisdom

As you can see, her interview received hundreds of shares. Her secret? It’s no secret at all — it’s her amazing network.

Jess does not have thousands of fans and followers — and neither does her nonprofit, Blueprint Earth (at least, not yet).

What she did, to promote this article, was to reach out to her network, which consists of scientific and geological associations. These groups promoted this article to their audiences. This promotion strategy helped drive visitors to the Clarity article.

 

8. Your Extended Network

Thanks to social media, today’s marketers are continuously in touch with anyone and everyone. Maybe you have thousands of LinkedIn connections. Maybe you’re an avid blogger who enjoys publishing on industry sites.

In either case LinkedIn is a platform that can help you get the word out to key communities in your industry —  in more ways than one.

When you publish your content on your blog, you can very easily promote it through the LinkedIn groups that you’re a part of:

LinkedIn

Promoting Content on LinkedIn

 

LinkedIn is also opening up its influencer program — a platform for writing content within LinkedIn — to the general public. If you’d like, you can re-publish your own content through these channels for more eyeballs (like Danny Wong did here, with this example from Coworks):

Wong

Original blog post

 

Wong2

Republished on LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s technology will help match these articles to new audiences, potentially driving high pageviews. Make sure to link back to the original article on your site:

takeaway

Post links back to original article.

 

9. Build Distribution into Your Content

Embeddable ‘click to tweet’ features and community interviews can help accelerate this process. Here is an example of an article of Clarity.fm that generated thousands of shares. Why?

  • The content was awesome, with a compelling human-interest element
  • The content was community-generated
  • The content was very easy to share, with integrated tweets

With natural engagement comes organic distribution:

C2T

Building in content distribution using Click to Tweet. 

 

Final Thoughts

Opportunities for distribution are limitless. Depending on your business model, there are incredibly opportunities to get your content out to the public, in a high-impact way.

You just need to scratch beneath the surface to look for the ‘less than obvious’ and ‘less than clear’ paths. These distribution touchpoints will be key opportunities to outrun the crowds and outsmart the noise.

What is your company’s approach to content distribution? How is it creative? You pick #10 to add to this list.

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Introducing The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion

Content marketing is all the rage, but it’s getting harder. Why? Because everyone is doing it. As more and more companies produce more and more content, it gets even harder to be heard, get found, and stick out. To help marketers, agencies, and anyone who’s crafted content meant to get in front of people, we’ve put together The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion.

 

The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion Banner

 

As New York Times bestselling author Jay Baer says:

“The notion that you can simply create interesting content and people will magically find it is a lie. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. You have to treat your content executions like a product, and launch them the same way you would a product.”                              

This guide is a 75-page step-by-step walkthrough of how to handle that launch, from setting goals to targeting tweets.

Content Promotion: Rise Above the Noise – And Ring the Cash Register

One way to get heard above the roar of today’s marketing landscape is to promote your content effectively.  Most marketers aren’t doing this at all yet – certainly not effectively.

We’ve found (and discovered with our last big content project) content promotion that combines paid, owned, and earned media, that’s well-organized and well-scheduled, can create incredible visibility, break through the noise, inspire customers to take action, and most importantly, drive revenue.

It’s also a great opportunity for digital agencies to go above and beyond their clients’ expectations. Great content promotion requires excellent creative skills, a thorough understanding marketing persuasion, channel expertise, and a deep rolodex (or BuzzStream account) – all traditional strengths of marketing agencies.

We created the Advanced Guide to Content Promotion to help marketers earn the attention & success their content deserves.  After all, you should spend just as much time promoting your content and working on distribution as you do working on ideation and production.

 Advanced Guide to Content Promotion CoverDownload The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion for free. No email opt-in required. 

What You’ll Learn: Get Seen by the Right People

In the 75-page guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Design Content Promotion Campaigns that Get Your Content Discovered By All the Right People

  • Select the Right Paid, Earned, and Owned Tactics to Accomplish Your Goals

  • Implement New Tactics that Combine the Power of Advertising, Digital Marketing, and PR

  • Execute Complex Promotional Campaigns that Run Like Clockwork 

The guide is absolutely free, and no opt-in is required.  Download it, enjoy it, share it with your friends and colleagues, and let us know what you think.

 

 The Advanced Guide to Content Promotion Banner
 
 
  
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Finding and Claiming Links for Content

You can find opportunities to claim links for your content (like ebooks and infographics) similarly to how you find unlinked mentions and links to reclaim for your brand. Acquiring all the links you deserve can move the needle on search and traffic. Here are three common missed opportunities and fixes for each.

Missed Opportunities Image via Lel4nd on Flickr

Missed Opportunity #1: Only Searching for Your Content’s Title

Fix: Also look for the titles that other sites give your content.

When sites like Mashable and HuffPo pick up your content, they’ll usually change the headline to suit their audiences. Then, when smaller sites pick up stories from those big players, they use the same wording.

Sometimes, the smaller sites do their homework and credit you by linking to your original content, but often they credit the sites like Mashable and HuffPo instead.

How to find these opportunities: Look at the post titles and headings that big sites use to describe your content and enter them into a tool like Fresh Web Explorer.

 

Fresh Web Explorer

Here’s an example of a Fresh Web Explorer unlinked mention search using the terms that big sites used to describe this Oscar dress infographic

 

How to reach out: Simply thank the site owner for sharing your content and ask if they’d be kind enough to credit the original with a link back. Whenever you can, use this outreach as an opportunity to build a relationship. Share the post on your own social media channels and offer to ping the blogger when you release similar content in the future.

 

Missed Opportunity #2: Ignoring Sub-Sections and Data Points

Fix: Looking for cropped versions and unique text, too.

 

If you have very large visual content, bloggers and journalists will likely take screenshots and create smaller versions that better fit their blogs’ layouts (or things like Twitter’s 2:1 aspect ratio). As you’re doing your own reporting roundup, look out for these smaller clips.

 

Google Analytics

For example, Google Analytics created a 2:1 image of a recent infographic to optimize a tweet.

 

How to find these opportunities: Do a reverse image search or set an Image Raider alert to find instances of bloggers using the cropped images. Hit the Buzzmarker to check for a link on those pages (or manually check using “View Page Source”).

In you have a lot of text content: If you did original research, look for instances of people sharing your data points and not crediting you.

In you created sub-content like diagrams: Run reverse image searches on those, too.

How to reach out: Again, a polite thank you and request for credit will serve you well.

 

Missed Opportunity #3: Forgetting about International

Fix: Get familiar with Google’s other TLDs.

Even content with a lot of english text can get picked up by non-english sites. Here, too, are many opportunities to earn high-authority links.

 

Infographic

Image of english infographic on non-english site.

 

How to find these opportunities: Run reverse image searches on domains like Google.es and Google.de to find these sites. (If you’re using Chrome, you can hit the “translate” button to understand what the sites are about.) Then hit the Buzzmarker or view page source to check for links.

How to reach out: Since this outreach is short and simple, translation tools work relatively well. However, investing a few dollars in a service like Gengo can give you a much better template to work from (which you can save and use in the future, too).

 

Learn More about Unlinked Mentions and Link Reclamation:

Link Reclamation Whiteboard Friday by Ross Hudgens of Siege Media
Guide to Using Unlinked Brand Mentions for Link Acquisition by Kiala Strong on Moz
Reclaiming Links to Your Infographics and Creative Common Images by Kristi Hines on iAcquire
Monitoring Your Brand — Unlinked Mentions by Sarah Gurbach of SEER Interactive
Link Building 101: Finding Web Mentions by Jon Ball of PageOnePower

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Lessons Learned from This Years Successful Valentine’s Day Stunts

Today’s post come from one of our favorite customers, Lexi Mills. Lexi has six years experience in online marketing and communications and spent 2 and a half years at an International SEO Agency becoming an SEO PR specialist.  She heads up digital at Dynamo PR.

Determining what content will be interesting and relevant to a large audience is one of the most challenging and sometimes frightening parts of a content marketeer’s job. 

One oft-used tactic is piggybacking on a topical event.  With over 180 million people exchanging cards and over 196 million roses being produced for Valentines Day, there can be no doubt that this event would be topical.   

However many have fallen into the trap of trying to link their product/service/content to a topical story or seasonal event and failed. So what is it that makes online content and seasonal PR stories sink or swim? How do you make your press release and content stand out amongst the avalanche of other brands trying to take advantage of this event?

Below I have reviewed some 2014’s Valentines stunts to help answer these questions and provided my top 5 tips for seasonal PR and content newsjacks:

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Combining the Powers of Search, Content, and Digital PR

When I was 7, Captain Planet taught me a lot about marketing.  If you’ve never seen Captain Planet, it was a cartoon about a small group of international teenagers who each had a ring that gave them a relatively uninteresting power. (One guy could light things on fire, one woman could make it windy, Levar Burton’s character Kwame could make sinkholes, things like that.)

But when they put their rings together, and their ‘powers combine’, they made Captain Planet:

captain planet

Captain Planet had great super powers (unlike those kids with their rings), and regularly vanished all sorts of polluters, lobbyists, and other evil doers.  (Intriguingly, he also spoke English with a Californian accent and had a mullet. This was not explained.)

Increasingly, marketing is seeming like Captain Planet: while individual marketing experts who know their channel (SEO, PR, content, PPC, analytics, etc.) can do helpful things, when they combine their powers, they can create Captain Planet –  a customer acquisition flywheel.

SEO, PR, and Content: Long Lost Cousins with Complementary Powers

Individually, each of these disciplines can do cool things.  But by playing well together, they can build a growth machine.  Specifically, they can create a growth machine that scales non-linearly with investments of time and money – the best kind of growth machine. Allow me to explain:

SEO has long been excellent at attracting high-intent (and thus high-conversion rate) traffic to pages, consistently, at an affordable cost.  However, increasingly pure-play SEO strategies are coming under fire – from a mix of increased SEO competency and competition, an addition of more ads, answers, knowledge graph boxes, and things that seem to combine all of those things, increased risk and cost of certain link building techniques, and an increased focus on user-level metrics.

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Using Paid, Owned, and Earned Media to Promote an eBook: How We Marketed Linking Outside the Box

how to use paid earned and owned media to promote an ebook

We hear a lot about earned, owned, and paid content promotion, but what does a campaign look like? And how can a marketer with limited resources put one together?

Recently, we here at BuzzStream launched our Linking Outside the Box ebook and promoted it across paid, earned, and owned media. This content and promotion effort had a meaningful impact on our marketing funnel and our business.

You can download the ebook here:

get the free link building guide

While we didn’t do everything right and will do some things differently next time, in this post I want to dig into some of the things we did, and how we used tools like Unbounce, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, and of course BuzzStream to get the word out about our project effectively and affordably.

Goals, and How to Meet Them:

Our original goals with the project were:

  • Get 1000 downloads of our ebook within a month of launch
  • Get 100+ People Sharing the eBook
  • Get 500+ new non-customer names on our email list
  • Achieve a 10% increase in BuzzStream sign-ups over last month with average or greater free-to-paid conversion, 3-month retention and ASP. 

(Ed note: If you’re not familiar with SaaS businesses, free-to-paid conversion and retention are measures of how people continue to use and pay for the product. ASP is average selling price. Because it’s easy to drive low-quality traffic that doesn’t convert to paying, happy customers, sign-up goals should also have a quality goal to prevent ‘doing dumb things to move a metric’ syndrome.)

We also had some softer goals like getting positive mentions by industry leaders and improving our brand impression in the SEO space, which were also important but less measurable.

“But what about links?”, you might be asking yourself. This book was a mid-funnel play – we wanted people who had already come to the BuzzStream website to get further educated on both link building and BuzzStream.  While we certainly would like to get links (and we did indeed get a few new linking root domains), it wasn’t a key goal for this project.

If you’re curious as to where those numbers came from, they were picked through a three part process: researching comparable ebook case studies, calculating what would be required to see a meaningful ROI, and picking numbers large enough to make the project seem worthwhile and yet not so large as to be thought foolish.

I used the download numbers published by Velocity Partners and Mack Web from their ebook projects.  The other numbers worked backwards from that, and additionally worked forward from the business goals that would result in a positive and meaningful ROI for the project. (Once it became clear how long an ebook took, it was easy to see

So once we knew what we wanted to accomplish, we could go about achieving it.

Results (Fortunately Positive)

Fortunately, we achieved our objectives:

Downloads: Goal: 1000. Actual (as of 12/12/2013): 1221

The vast majority of these came in the first few days, but due to onsite promotion we continue to get 5-10 downloads a day.

Shares: Goal: 100 Actual: 127 tweets + 19 LinkedIn Shares + some other shares:

ebook shares 

As Calculated by http://sharetally.co

Now, some of these are from corporate accounts, and are from the same people sharing on multiple networks, but it looks like we just edged over this one as well.

New Non-Customer Names:  Goal: 500 Actual: 856

Sign-Up Lift: Goal 10%. Actual: 26.9% lift in sign-ups over the previous 4 weeks.

There were other, standard marketing activities (outreach & PR, blogging, social, retargeting) etc. going on during both periods, and the ebook was the only major program we ran in that time.  There’s also typically some seasonal decline around the holidays and into the end of Q4, but we didn’t observe that this year.

Brand Benefit:  This is harder one to measure, but we got some great feedback from industry leaders on the book:


“That’s great,” you might be thinking to yourself, “But how do I make that happen?”

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