I love branded content tools and applications.
If you aren’t thinking about creating one, you need to be…now!
What is a branded content tool? Simply put, it’s an online application that comes from a brand (i.e., Kraft) that solves a very simple problem or is incredibly helpful. Most times, it’s free as well.
Why create a branded content tool/app? Similar to content marketing, where a company delivers valuable, relevant and compelling information in order to position that company as a trusted expert, a branded tool uses data content to do the same thing.
What are some branded content application examples? Here are a few of my favorites.
- Website Grader from Hubspot. Free and easy-to-use tool that measures how well a website is doing in terms of search engine optimization. Website grader has been so successful for Hubspot (over 1 million websites to date), that they launched a number of other graders, including my new favorite, the Gobbledygook grader.
- The Webbed-O-Meter from Webbed Marketing. Free tool to analyze your “buzz” effect over 16 different social media sources.
- iFood Assistant from Kraft. Recipes on the go via your iPhone.
- Personal Budget Planner from Mint.com. Easy-to-use online tool that helps you create a financial budget.
- Nike Plus from Nike. Track your running and training. Also, check out the Perfect Shoe Finder from Nike. Very cool.
How to start? Think of this…what’s something very simple, and very helpful you could be providing to your customers for free, that ultimately positions you as an expert related to the products/services you sell. The alignment of those two things could make for a killer app.
Some odd examples? If I’m a printer, I’d create a “design your own magazine cover” tool. If I’m an air-conditioning repair shop, I’d create an automated check up tool that emails key dates to tune-up the air conditioner. If I’m a dentist, I’d develop a teeth simulator that shows what happens to teeth if you eat certain foods for sustained periods. You get the point.
What helpful tool should you be developing that your competition hasn’t thought of…yet?
First time I found Get Content Get Customers in a bookstore – Borders at the Newark Airport…sandwiched between Porter and Ramsey.
Picture #1 shows the actual position of the book when I arrived. Picture #2 shows the book as I left the bookstore. Amazing, isn't it?
Also, for all you Kindle fans, GCGC is now available on the Kindle and currently sits at #8 in the Direct Marketing category.
If you are a regular to this blog, you’ve heard this before: in the future, it will be very difficult to tell the difference between media companies and brands that sell products and services.
Heck, we may be there already. Media companies are working hard to develop products while their advertising revenues plummet. Brands must develop consistent content and publishing strategies in order to attract and retain customers (to ultimately sell their products).
It’s a strange marketing world we live in today.
Another shining example of this happening is at The Guardian, the liberal UK newspaper and online resource. After giving my speech on the Future of Custom Publishing at the “Best of Corporate Publishing” 2009 event in Berlin, Germany last week, I had the opportunity to listen to Colin Hughes, managing director of Guardian Professional, the B2B Division of Guardian Media.
After talking for a while about content syndication, Colin opened up about the future of The Guardian. Here are his thoughts through my notes:
- No one has figured out how newspapers can make enough money online to be profitable, including them.
- They are not quite sure when the last day will come for a printed Guardian, but their leadership is quite sure it will come within the next 30 years, if not sooner. They are preparing that it could realistically come very soon (though).
- They belief the key to their growth is in creating new, unique and valuable products and services by leveraging the Guardian brand.
Let’s focus on that third point for a second. The Guardian has been working with over 850 development organizations around the world. Their charge: to develop new applications and products based on the Guardian brand.
These development organizations get free use of the Guardian brand, with the only caveat being that if any money is made, there must be a revenue share with the Guardian.
It’s a Facebook Apps meets NYTimes strategy. The Guardian has their own VC fund, but instead of monetary investment, they willingly give use of the Guardian brand. Only time will tell if it will work, but I believe they are headed in the right direction as a large media company.
In 10 years, it will be interesting to see if we’ll be able to tell The Guardian from other brands working to sell products and applications in their chosen sectors.
As media companies have been aware for some time now that their emerging competitors are their own advertisers, brands need to be aware that future competition will come from media companies as well.
Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson) from Brain Traffic did an amazing presentation about Content Strategy as the Future of Marketing. It’s thanks to Kristina that I’ve been presenting more about a greater focus on content strategy as THE critical part of a total content marketing strategy.
- Relevance is key to your brand’s importance to a customer. Relevance is created through the distribution of consistent, compelling content.
- Information from a brand must be useful. It must solve challenges or entertain (depending on the brand). hmmm, I wonder what can do that (yes, content)?
- When thinking about content strategy, think about USABLE content for your customers. That means, less talk about YOU and more focus on THEM.
- You need a content strategist, either inside your organization or a partner for hire. Plan for one NOW.
- Stop thinking like a marketing person when developing your content and start thinking like a publisher. It helps if you develop content that your customers would want to share with others.
- Your content, and thus your website, is more than marketing, it’s an asset. Start thinking about taking resources out of places other than the marketing line. It’s that important.
- Experimentation – 5% (i.e., duckduckgo.com)
- Adoption – 10% (i.e., 12seconds.tv)
- Gestation – 15% (i.e., Yelp)
- Escalation – 15% (i.e., Twitter)
- Consolidation and Monetization – 25% (i.e., Facebook)
- Maintenance – 30% (i.e., YouTube, blogging)
My friend Scott Abel (The Content Wrangler) gave an outstanding presentation at Web Content 2009 on social media tools – best kept secrets. The full presentation is below, but here’s the quick take on the 10 Scott shared:
- Google Docs Forms Designer. Create custom forms for surveys and downloads. Customize in less than 10 minutes.
- Delicious Promotions. Scott reviewed the power of promoting events and offers through Delicious.
- Tynt. Scott’s favorite tool. It tracks what users copy from your website (very cool tool).
- Ping.fm. Write once, publish many. Ping allows you to publish to as many as 60 social networks in less than 10 seconds (NOTE: be careful. Understand how your message is being sent and where it is going so you are not Spamming anyone.)
- GoView. Screencasts that allow you to show instead of tell. According to Scott, a step down from Jing but easier to use.
- bit.ly. Shorten your URLs for distribution and be able to track them as well (who opens it where).
- Scribd. YouTube for PDFs.
- Kwout. Screen captures with working links to original pages.
- Knowem. Checks brand name availability across 120 social media websites.
- slideshare. Increase the value of slide decks far beyond the conference presentation.
Had the pleasure of presenting “Please Stop Talking about Yourself” at the Web Content Conference 2009 in Chicago this week. As usual, I was discussing the importance of brands creating their own media channels, and putting their publishing hats on in place of traditional marketing practices. You can catch the PowerPoint presentation on creating media channels here, but for the PowerPoint averse, here are the top 10.
- Create an online media site. Examples – HomeMadeSimple.com and BeingGirl.com from P&G; Out-Law.com from the UK law-firm Pinsent Masons (we also talk about Out-Law as a full case study in Get Content Get Customers).
- An educational enewsletter (not to be mistaken for the “sales happy” enewsletter). Godfrey gives us a great example from the b2b marketing side.
- A slideshare channel. Why not create your own presentation channel at slideshare? Trendsspotting provides a perfect example of this in action.
- The free web app. Hubspot’s website grader is a classic.
- The Twitter tips channel. Collect the best information on the web and distribute through Twitter. Be the expert content resource for your industry.
- A Facebook movement. Fan pages are fine, but provide something of relevance that your customer base can dig into. Shama Hyder does a great job with her ACT blueprint page.
- Raid traditional media. If you are not looking at media properties in your industry to purchase or partner with, you are not being a smart marketer.
- The mobile helper. Kraft’s iFood assistant could change the way people cook.
- A digital magazine. Yes, even with all the social media rage, there is still a place for digital magazine. Betty Crocker creates targeted digital mags for consumers of all food specialties. Check out this one on birthday parties.
- The video microsite. Can’t do a post like this without mentioning willitblend.com, perhaps the greatest ROI ever on a video storytelling series.
Look, I’m no @chrisbrogan when it comes to Twitter followers, but I have a nice following (@juntajoe). At this point, I still take the time to individually review who follows me. During this process, it pains me to see the many Twitter “beginner” mistakes that turn me off from following a person back.
So, you might be a Twitter Beginner if you make these mistakes (think of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck” when you read this).
1. If you don’t fully complete your Twitter profile.
I probably see about 1/3 of Twitter accounts that don’t complete their profile.
First, enter your name. Your real name. Are you mjp4833 or are you Mary Johnson?
Second, enter your website that best represents who you are.
Third, enter your bio that tells your interests, or the type of things you tweet about. Mine is “Evangelist for content marketing. Helping companies learn how to be publishers.”
Fourth, enter your location. Personally, I’m tired of the GPS location. Do you have a home?
This all may seem really obvious to you, but I’m amazed the number of people that don’t complete it. Without a complete profile, your inexperience shows. Be sure to come out of the gates like you know something, but you were just late because you were stuck in traffic.
2. If you keep the default o_O image and don’t change to a more professional picture.
Click on Settings, Picture. Make it a good one.
3. If you follow 500 people before posting something somewhat intelligent.
Does “is chilling on the carpet” attract the kind of conversations you are looking for?
4. If you follow too many people too fast.
Be careful here. The new people you follow might think you are a spammer.
5. If you don’t watch your ratios.
Keep your following/followers ratio as close as possible. FYI, if you have MORE followers than you are following, it shows me that you are picky about who you follow. Some might disagree, but I like that and usually follow those people back.
6. If you use auto direct messages.
I know that many experienced Twitter users will disagree with me on this. Some people set up an automatic direct message function that goes to all followers, telling them to sign up for something or that they are looking forward to following me. I cannot stand that. Too impersonal.
Direct messages are fine, but make it personal. (btw, I used to use Auto DM’s at first too…then I learned better.)
For more on beginners, check out this article on best practices for Twitter beginners. Also, check out this Greg Verdino post “If Twitter Were a State, It Would Be Arkansas“. Greg includes some excellent data on Twitter newbies. Interesting story as well.
Let’s add to this list. If you have more, send them to me and I’ll add them to the list.
Get Content Get Customers is just hitting bookstores now (you can read the news release from McGraw-Hill here). When Newt and I first started putting the book together in late 2007, content marketing was a relatively unknown term. Now seemingly a household phrase (at least according to Twitter), brands are still struggling with exactly what it means to develop a content marketing strategy.
Ah, but social media is all the rage. Is social media working for you? Are you struggling to figure out how to make it work for your customers? Could it be that your content strategy isn't driving your social media initiatives?
Here are five important reasons why a content strategy needs to be considered before integrating social media into your marketing plans.
- Social media does not work unless you have something valuable to say! Developing a content marketing strategy is about understanding your customers' pain points, and then delivering multi-channel content that solves those customer challenges. Without having something to add to the customer conversation, how is it possible to leverage social media tools where you can help guide the conversation and position your brand/company as a trusted advisor?
- Publishing is marketing, marketing is publishing. If we've learned anything over the past few years, it's that the majority of new media marketing efforts rely on a keen understanding of publishing. That means that you (the marketer) need to take your sales and marketing hat off and put on your publishing hat. Instead of features and benefits communication (look at most enewsletters, which are most times product or offer driven), are you delivering information like a publisher does to readers? The publishers of the future are not going to be media companies, but companies that ultimately offer a product or service. That includes you.
- Social media activity does not mean you are accomplishing your marketing goals. That's where content strategy comes in. What is the purpose of your content? What are your key messages? What content assets do you have and what do you need to acquire? All the social media interaction in the world won't answer these issues for you, which should be completed first.
- It's the content that is ultimately shared through social media. Valuable educational and amusing information is shared through social media. So many brands have rushed into social media wondering why they don't have the right kind of Twitter followers, or why they don't have enough comments on their blogs or within their communities (or what they are getting out of social media in the first place). Understanding that it's the content plan that drives the spreading of your ideas is the first step.
- Social media = I hear you + I'm listening to you + I understand (thx @briansolis). Now replace "social media" with "publishing" or "content strategy". Works, right? Now try this…content strategy = I hear you + I'm listening to you + I understand + successful marketing goal and content measurement. This cements the fact that you are producing this content, not only to be shared by your customers and prospects, but to accomplish a significant marketing objective.
Ultimately, it's not about just experiences and interactions through social media. It's about creating meaningful experiences and interactions. It's about creating valuable, relevant and compelling content on a consistent basis that positions your brand as the trusted expert to your customers. When that happens, customers and prospects want to talk to you, and want to share your content.
Ah yes, that is where social media is so important. Social media is where the magic can happen. But consider content as all the upfront work, research and practice that it takes to put the magic show together. Social media is the Abracadabra.
So, I urge you, step back from your social media initiatives for just a second, and consider the following:
- Where are the content assets in your organization that provide the editorial information for your content strategy? Do you need a content audit?
- Do you have experts in your organization that can write from a journalistic perspective? This is not features/benefits content. It needs to be the best of the best on the topic you are writing based on your marketing goal. If it's not the best, can you honestly position yourself as the expert? Hire a turnkey content provider to help you that understands this. Quality content counts!
- Who owns the content strategy in your organization? Where is that individual at – marketing, PR, communications? Without ownership, creating a consistent message to your individual customer segments is a challenge at best.
If you are new to the content strategy game, I urge you to check out our book, which includes dozens of examples from companies that are putting successful content strategies to work.
Developing a content marketing strategy is not easy, but necessary.