If you're a loyal reader of EContent and my column (and I hope you are), you should already know that we have been living through a communications revolution. No, it isn't being televised; it's being tweeted, blogged, and filmed. In December 2011, using social media to drum up interest in businesses is mainstream-commonplace even. It's hard to imagine a time before social media now that it's become ubiquitous, but when I first started writing this column in 2003, I had to explain what a blog was. YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook didn't exist. The only thing your mobile phone could do was make and receive phone calls--maybe text, if you were lucky.
By David Meerman Scott
Posted Dec 29, 2011
I am fortunate. For the past 9 years I have run my own business, helping people by speaking around the world and writing about new marketing strategies. It's so amazing to me that I can earn my income by doing what I love.
I fear we are entering a new era that I'm calling "Portal 2.0." As the major social sites jockey for position, recent evidence suggests, sadly, that Google, Facebook, and Twitter are building walls around the applications in the exact same way that the Portal 1.0 players did in the late 1990s. I'm looking at you AOL, Lycos, Excite, MSN, and Yahoo!.
Take a minute and imagine what it was like to be a marketing professional just a few short decades ago. In those days, marketing meant advertising, and the companies with the biggest budgets won the battle for consumer attention. To get reporters interested in what you did, a Rolodex was critically important and you needed a reliable fax machine to get those pitches out.
As I write this, hundreds of mainstream media reporters are dismissing Charlie Sheen as a sad example of a Hollywood star on the decline. But have you noticed that those same media outlets devote tons of ink and countless hours of airtime to each and every pronouncement by Sheen? As a creator of econtent, Sheen is #WINNING.
Imagine, for a moment, what would happen if a man went up to someone he found attractive at a bar and the first thing out of his mouth was, "Give me your phone number." What if a woman saw someone she found interesting at the local coffee emporium and started the conversation by saying, "How much money do you make?" If you're a famous celebrity - or amazingly attractive - this approach might work, but mere mortals are not likely to get far in the dating world by acting this way. The same goes in the marketing world.
In our real-time world, one person with passion and an internet connection can make a huge difference. The first few months of 2011 have been a great example of that. In January, I followed the terrible flood situation in and around Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. As a result, I've also followed the remarkable story of Baked Relief, a crowdsourced support group that emerged to help those affected by this natural disaster.
For years, I've been saying that to create great marketing content for company websites or social networks, you need to think one thing: Nobody cares about my products and services except for me and others in my organization. What your buyers care about is themselves. Make no mistake, your potential customers care a great deal about solving their problems and are always on the lookout for a company that can help them do so.
All these fancy new communications tools-the telephone in particular-are disruptive and unsettling. Why would anyone want to use the telephone to communicate with clients or customers? That is what letters are for. We do business with our customers like it's been done successfully since our founding. Just tell them to come to our establishment and meet with us directly. Plenty of free sarsaparilla, so come on down! Beginning today, our new companywide policy banning telephones at work will be introduced.
In the emerging real-time business environment, where public discourse is no longer dictated by the mass media, size is no longer a decisive advantage. Speed and agility win.
By David Meerman Scott
Posted Jan 28, 2011
Casual Fridays started as a parallel to the dot-com boom on both American coasts in the mid-1990s,partly led by Dockers, a clothing company. The casual trend very quickly became casual everyday, and it spread to the rest of the U.S. as well. These days, except for bankers and a few other professions, it's business casual all the time. I've noticed in the past 5 years or so that econtent has been going through a similar trend toward the casual.
Gone are the days when you could plan out your marketing and public relations programs well in advance and release them on your agenda. The idea of working on new product launch schedules that target some distant point several quarters into the future doesn't work in today's always-on world of the web. We're living in real time now, and if you're not engaged, then you're on your way to marketplace irrelevance.
I recently updated the portrait I use on my blog, website, and social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter. Updating my photo got me to thinking about how essential the choice of image is in social media circles. It's amazing how much you can discern about people simply by glancing at the image they choose to represent their online persona. The photo you choose to represent you says a great deal about who you are.
For the past year, I researched the business practices of the Grateful Dead as I wrote (with co-author Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot) a book published by John Wiley & Sons recently called Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History. As I was preparing the manuscript, I was struck by how many lessons apply to content businesses of all kinds.
Crisis. Breaking news about your company. Disaster. Recall. When important news affecting your organization breaks fast, you've got to get out in front of the story immediately.
Layar is a free application that uses your GPS location to show what is nearby by displaying real-time information on top of the image on your mobile's camera (it works on other platforms as well as the on the iPhone). The founders of Layar call it "augmented reality." I call it "cool."
I have to admit that I am a campaign junkie. I love observing the marketing aspects of important political races. It doesn't matter who I support; it's the race that keeps me riveted, especially when one or more candidates deploy social media. So it's fascinating to have watched firsthand how Martha Coakley and Scott Brown campaigned for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts.
We're living a communications revolution: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Google Wave, LinkedIn, blogs, forums, chat rooms, wikis. With the explosion of new ways for people to communicate comes debate within companies about how they should be encouraging (or restricting) what employees may use at work. Should there be restrictive use of new forms of communication or should it be used freely?
At the end of 2009, Google announced that (finally) real-time results will be included in Google web search. This means that live updates from sites such as Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts, will appear within Google search results mere seconds after posting.
You can't read a story or watch a broadcast report about the news business without hearing dire predictions of how bad things are. Yet while so many people are focused on the bad news, both Politico.com and TMZ.com, in just a very short time, have built major media companies. So what makes these two upstarts so successful while stalwarts lay off staff and struggle to say in the black?
I'm constantly fascinated by how the world of online content and social media allows organizations of all types to communicate effectively. It doesn't matter what industry you're in-B2B information, consumer ecommerce, music, nonprofit, or government-we can all learn from the smart marketing happening all around us.
I wish I had a buck for every time somebody who works in the financial markets or the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries said something like this to me: "We can't get into social media, blogs, Twitter, and the like because of the regulations in our industry." Nonsense!
In early June 2009, General Motors declared bankruptcy and launched a new "re: invention" initiative to engage with the public and share the ways that the company would emerge leaner and prepared to succeed.
I'd like to be bold and boil down thousands of conversations I've had over the past 10 years as well as about 5 years of After Thought columns into one word: attention.Entrepreneurs, CEOs, and business owners want people to pay attention to their companies. Marketers, PR pros, advertisers, and salespeople are on the payroll for one reason: to generate attention. Truth be told, the editor of this magazine, Michelle Manafy, my contributing editor colleagues, and I all want you to pay attention to us.
Many mainstream media outlets are reducing their staff journalists. At the same time, many organizations finally understand the value of "brand journalism," creating interesting information online that serves to educate and inform consumers. This convergence has opened up an entire new world for aspiring journalists to consider.
My sense is that the bigger a country is, the less likely it is that companies based there will market outside of its borders. Additionally, in my experience, the larger a company is, the more likely it is that its marketers will spend their valuable time managing up to the bosses and presenting PowerPoints to internal audiences instead of focusing on the marketplace.
Quality, conference-centric web content can provide an ideal confluence of on-site and online. Smart organizers create all kinds of different content that helps people to make the decision, prior to the event, to buy a ticket (or not). The content also serves as search engine fodder, driving traffic to the show site prior to the event. As I wrote in last month's column, successes such as the Singapore Tattoo Show, which used a Facebook Group called Tattoo Artistry to help drive 15,000 people to the show's debut in January 2009, are the models to emulate.
Since this issue comes out during the annual Buying & Selling eContent show, I've been thinking about conferences and how they're marketed. In November, I keynoted the MeetingTechOnline (MTO) Summit. Since my topic was How Exhibition and Events are Impacted by the New Rules of Marketing and PR and the organizers were game, we did a little experiment. About a month prior to the gig, I sent an update to my Twitter followers (I'm "dmscott" if you're on Twitter) and said that I would be speaking at the event, and then I offered a discount for anyone who registered using the discount code I provided.
Recently, I was checking out a bunch of people on Twitter who began to follow my updates (I'm @dmscott). When I went to @AFPAA, I was surprised to see the Twitter ID belonged to the U.S. Air Force. I sent a DM (direct message) to find out what @AFPAA was doing and received an immediate answer Capt. David Faggard, chief of emerging technology at the Air Force Public Affairs Agency.
On the speaking circuit, the most frequent question I get asked is around the ROI of social media use in marketing and communications. Often, ROI questions arise because marketers—who have spent their careers measuring the success of traditional efforts such as direct mail campaigns, trade show exhibits, and PR efforts—are now expected to effectively "deploy" social media.
Have you noticed there are a bunch of polls and research reports that ask questions such as, "Do you read blogs?" or "Do you use social media?" or "Do you go to video- sharing sites?" The resulting data often show rather small use compared to the use of other online services such as search engines or email.
One of the most interesting aspects of the econtent world today are widgets: third-party applications that companies build to embed into major content platforms. Used by companies to build a brand and share ideas, applications are an overlooked way to deliver content.
I have had an opportunity to casually explore the attitudes of hundreds of large and small companies whose employees attend my New Rules of Marketing seminars and keynote speeches. Through my process of very unscientific questioning, I estimate that more than 25% of companies block employee access to YouTube, Facebook, and other social networking sites.
The techniques that lead to marketing success online are dramatically different than traditional marketing taught in school or that you've likely learned on the job. In fact, to succeed with web marketing, your existing knowledge about advertising and public relations will be counterproductive.
I recently spent the day with my editor and his colleagues on the marketing, editorial, and PR teams at my publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. We had wide-ranging discussions the release of the Amazon Kindle version of my book. While the Kindle is new, John Wiley & Sons isn't. I can point to a number of things that are evidence of how Wiley is tuned in today, behavior that's indicative of why it has thrived for 2 centuries.
In my 4 years of college, I don't ever recall giving the authors of the books we were reading for class any thought. I vaguely recall Milton Somebody wrote my Economics 101 text, but I don't recall any other authors' names. I never met any authors of the textbooks I used, and they were not a part of my learning experience whatsoever. There is a new model for learning today, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.
Whenever I begin a speech, I ask a series of four questions and have the audience raise their hands if the answer to a question is "yes."
I have strong evidence that “negative” headlines often generate a lot more clicks than “positive” ones. Why do tabloid newspapers put scandals on the cover? Because those big, fat, nasty headlines sell newspapers. Several of my blogger friends have experimented with negative headlines with fascinating results. For example, Jonathan Kranz, a freelance copywriter who works with companies to create marketing materials has a link on his site www.kranzcom.com: “Important Reasons NOT to Hire Me.” Here are some of the reasons: “You like jargon,” “You want to play it safe,” and “You like vague messaging.” Kranz says the negative word “NOT” attracts attention.
As the web has made communicating with reporters and editors extremely easy, breaking through and getting a journalist’s attention using the email methods everyone else uses has become increasingly difficult. These days, anyone can find the email addresses of reporters in seconds, either through services that sell subscriptions to their databases of thousands of journalists or simply by using a search engine.
While it might seem that choosing the 100 companies that matter most in the econtent industry is our biggest challenge in this issue, I find the more difficult (and fun) aspect of participating in the selection of the annual EContent 100 list is figuring out what the correct categories are and which companies go in each. As we revise the taxonomy of econtent companies, each year we seem to have more discussions about what company goes into what category than we do about the merits of individual companies.
While releasing financial results first via the company IR website and RSS feeds and then through a news release sent to one of the press-release distribution services may seem a small and obscure change, it signals that Sun takes direct digital delivery of information very seriously.
As people use search engines to find the information that interests them on the web and browse from one site to another via links, I'm struck by how arbitrary the fences that many organizations build around their content are. The various parts of a typical corporate site or online news portal need to be broken down for the sake of visitors and potential customers.
The most effective way to market products and services online is to develop thought leadership-based content that existing and potential customers will actually want to read.
Prior to YouTube making video commonplace on the web, you’d only see small forays into corporate video and usually these efforts were mundane and predictable—things like a broadcast of the CEO speech at the annual meeting. Well, okay, some people might watch, but unless the CEO makes a dramatic gaffe, a video like that is unlikely to go viral (develop pass-along value). However, I’m increasingly seeing effective forays into viral video marketing.
I have been in and around content syndication since 1983. Just writing that sentence makes me feel like an old-timer, yet I remember as if it were yesterday how bond prices and news were the fuel of the bond-trading work I did right after college. Young men bellowed into multiple telephones—buying and selling as a result of the syndicated prices and news that appeared on the Reuters and Dow Jones Telerate screens.
After witnessing many econtent companies start up, grow, sometimes die, occasionally go public, and often be acquired over the past (gasp) 24 years, I've finally come to the realization that the best companies follow a defined birth and growth process. Initial sparks of an idea typically come from a founder who identifies a market problem that is solved by technology. The founder-turned-entrepreneur then either self-funds or finds seed funding to build an initial product, which is typically released into the marketplace after months or years of development effort. So far, so good.
Dear Warner Music Group Executives:
The BBC reports that 20 million people wanted to purchase tickets to the historic Led Zeppelin show held at the O2 Arena on Dec. 10, 2007. Needless to say, with only 20,000 tickets available, there were many disappointed fans who couldn’t be there when the band took the stage for the first time in 19 years.
Online media rooms provide many lessons in leveraging the value of econtent. This is the one place on any type of organization’s site where marketers and communicators act like publishers to create valuable and original content that reaches all of their constituents.
As a marketer and communicator, I’m fascinated with what companies are doing in Second Life, the 3D online world entirely built and owned by its nearly two million residents. The Second Life economy is built on the Linden dollar in which millions of U.S. dollars (at the current exchange rate) change hands each month. But just as in other social networking sites (like MySpace and Facebook), marketers and communicators who participate are viewed with contempt