7 Simple steps to creating a rock solid content strategy

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Content, is today's marketing gold. It is the key that brands are using to connect and resonate with their audiences. Here are seven simple steps to having a rock solid content strategy.

The fundamental strategy for successful content marketing is to consistently create and publish great, helpful content. The more your target audience can believe that you have solutions and answers when they have questions, the more your reputation grows as a reliable source. This is what leads you becoming a reliable, trusted brand – a go to brand. Simply: People buy from people they trust.

When creating content, ask yourself these fundamental questions first: Is this content going to provide something that the community will benefit from? Is it unique and something that the user won't quickly find just anywhere? And, does it resolve a problem and answer a useful question. Then, use these steps to draft a solid strategy:

1. Outline your brand goals and objectives

Your social media and content marketing goals should reflect your brand and company goals. How do your content goals (both from a type of content you create, and where it will reside) should align and support your brand's marketing goals. Audit your current social media situation and ensure that it is in line with overall marketing objectives.

2. Define your target audience

Who is your content aimed at? Have you taken the time to really understand your target audience?  Do you know their demographics? Their social media behaviours? Their media consumption habits?
Read : Customer Insights is your First Step in Digital Marketing

3. Where's the demand? What content do they want?

Take your time to understand exactly what kind of content your audience is looking for. What are the questions they are asking? What problems do they need resolved? You need to continuously keep listening across all social media to keep a tab on this. This is critical to formulating your content strategy.

4. What kind of format works for your audience?

What format works well for your audience and community? Is it infographics? Videos? Text? Blogs? Live Streams? Webinars? You can test this yourself by analysing what does well for your posts, or you can get insights on this by monitoring what works well for your competition or your vertical.

5. What platforms are they on?

Knowing where your audience really is helps you decide on your distribution strategy. You may be creating great, useful content, but if it is on the wrong platform, it does not serve your purpose. There's two points here to keep in mind. First, which platforms are they on, and second, what type of platform suits your type of content well.

6. Track your content performance

Have trackable, traceable criteria in place to measure performance. Set your performance goals and track against them. How do you identify and analyze what key metrics you will use? Different elements have different criteria you log against. For sales, it would be click rates and conversions, for awareness it would be audience growth and engagement.

7. Be consistent

Being consistent is key to be recognized as reliable. Having a plan is important, but do stick to it. And, as well, have a sense of readiness for in the moment content – content that reflects what's happening around you. But again, being consistent with platform, format, delivery, timeliness are all key to succeeding.

Please share this with your friends and colleagues, and do feel free to add your comments.

Now read these related posts:

6 Must Know tips to Succeed with Content Marketing in 2017

Content Marketing Strategy: What kind of content should you create?

Plan your Distribution Strategy to succeed with Content Marketing

Winning Content Strategy: Always share something valuable and useful

What's Trending in Digital Marketing in May 2017

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Here are some useful links to posts and articles which will help you stay on trend in the world of Digital Marketing for May 20017. Just click on the links below...

News and Trends

Reports, How To's & White Papers

Simple ways to improve your Brand's Facebook Reach

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With organic reach at an all time low on Facebook, brands need to look at more innovative and creative ways of improving overall reach. And, yes, while engagement is still key as a metric, you can't engage unless you reach.

1. Start with Organic, then go Paid

Clever brands today do use paid, but they start with organic – meaning, they'll wait a day, or a few hours at least, before they boost their posts via paid. Some brands believe only in promoted posts and have ditched the organic reach goal. But it's best to have a strategy for when you should promote via paid and why. On some posts your goal may be to drive traffic to a website – via links. On others it may be to increase awareness and engagement.

Use Facebook's algorithms wisely. If you have $100 to spend, don't just do it in one go. Select the Objectives (Traffic, Video Views etc) according to your goal. Create the ad and spend around $40 the first time around. Run the ad and pause it after a day or two. Then spend another $30, for example in a second burst, and then the rest. Spreading this out will boost both organic and paid content. And the reach can keep increasing over time if the content is engaging and shareable.

2. Create content that is shareable – that gets immediate attention

Attention is the commodity every brand is after these days. You need to get people to pause as your post scrolls by. Thumb-stopping content that people stop at, read, and then share right away is your magic key. The Facebook news feed algorithms is geared to support advertisers with engaging content. The more reactions, comments, and shares your posts get, the better their reach. This applies to both organic and paid. Content has to be relevant to your audience, and engaging – they add value, they educate, they entertain.

3. Video content gets better traction

We know today that video content gets 1200% more shares than image and text posts combined. Go with native video on Facebook – it gets 10 times more reach than YouTube videos shared via links on Facebook. The newsfeed algorithm will factor in time spent on a video post as well as the shaes – and it will boost your visibility and reach. 

Go Longer on Video

One quick tip, Facebook actually supports longer form videos better. We see that video content between 5-15 minutes does better.

But don't limit to video only. 

That gets boring quickly. Facebook posts should vary between video, images, slides and text – catering to a variety of audiences and their mindsets as they scroll through the newsfeed. As well, depending on the insights you see, don't forget to repost a post that did well. Most of your target audience may not have seen it the first time around.

4. Engagement is key

What keeps your audience coming back is engagement. Remember, it is after all, a dialog, a conversation. When you expect people to comment, like, share, shouldn't you be doing the same? Always respond to any comments and queries right away, and do that on each and every one when possible. Acknowledge shares and any feedback that you get on your posts. Facebook algorithm better supports engaged posts and recency is a key factor, so as long as you can keep the engagement rolling, you'll get better results overall.

5. Support your Facebook reach by cross-platform mentions

Use all other social platforms, including any blogs, and your website to boost your Facebook page's reach. Each post has a unique URL (the timestamp of your post is the URL) and you should use this in mentions on Twitter, for example. 

Those are simple ways to increase and optimize your Facebook reach. And that's the basics of Digital Marketing. Do share this with friends and colleagues...

How AI and VR will disrupt and shift your brand's digital marketing

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Digital marketing today is being disrupted and we see a shift in how brand's are using both AI and VR in planning a seamless, immersive experience that is truly relevant in context.

Brands today need to understand the shift. They are no longer in the B2C business – they are in the C2B business, where the customer drives what brands should be doing. Particularly in the social realm. So, a seamless, omnichannel experience that is rewarding to the user – and one that resonates in context is key. With this paradigm shift in mind, we're beginning to see both AI and VR gain ground in digital marketing.

Predictive analytics and Immersive Experience

Brands are fast moving into this territory of contextually relevant (and non interruptive) experience that uses VR’s immersive technology along with how AI’s and it's live predictive analytics makes context and content work seamlessly. 

No real guidelines just yet

What most brands are learning quickly is that there are no guidelines just yet. It's early days. The future is now, but we don't know how to negotiate it. So, the key for brands is to learn fast, be agile, experiment and both adopt and adapt.

Data and Insight

The power of predictive analytics that AI brings can enhance the customer experience by aligning customer  or target audience needs to the medium and the message being delivered. This, of course is hugely dependent on how we employ AI to turn data into insight. How we gather data and what we do with it is key – the accuracy of the data and how we leverage it is where AI can really help.

Earlier brand marketers guess worked their markets – somehow figuring out how consumers behave. Today, technology enables thin-slice targeting and delivering ads and experiences, and content, based on the target's online behavior. IBM’s Watson  runs analytics on thousands of pages per second, collecting and analysing a huge volume of data relating to every ad generated. It also does sentiment analysis down to great detail – including emotions generated during consumption of content. All this in real time. Which enables brands to adapt, make changes on the fly, and make their communications far more meaningful. 

AI can truly shift native advertising

This is particularly relevant to native advertising or native content – because the success of this kind of advertising is context. AI greatly enhances the possibility of native because it can help place the right content in the right context – including the measurement of sentiment and keep adapting and changing as needed. Even with vanilla advertising, ad blocking is reduced because AI helps with better placement that is more acceptable in end-user context.

VR and Immersive content

While AI can help brands configure context, the end experience is still the important thing. No amount of code or algorithm can draw in the consumer if the content fails. At the end of the day, the content needs to engage, tell a story. The inherent power of VR in producing engaging, immersive experiences online is being explored, but the possibilities are seemingly endless.

VR is no longer a technology advancement. Google is ensuring that VR is here and VR is now. With a VR viewer in hand (and Google has shipped millions of its simple Google Cardboard viwers across the world),  there is no shortage of content. What matters then, is for brands to be able to create purpose-built VR content that will resonate in the right contexts. 

Google driving VR

Google tells us "The promise of VR is what the industry calls "presence"—the feeling that you're really somewhere else. VR cameras like Jump can capture the entire experience of a place—every corner, every angle. 

In the not-so-distant future, cameras like these will be capturing experiences all over the world. What does this mean for audiences? How about access to the best seats in the house at any event—floor seats at the NBA playoffs, a box at La Scala, front row at the Beyoncé show? Or the chance to visit the most beautiful places on earth, from the comfort of home? It's the closest thing we have to teleportation, enabling deeper engagement than has ever been possible."

The trick then is for brands to use VR with AI and combine the two to deliver meaningful experiences. Beyoncé for the pop fan. La Scala for the opera fan. McDonald's for the hungry when they are hungry. And a virtual resort tour from Marriott for someone planning a holiday. All in grand immersive virtual reality.

Google reminds us that "VR lets viewers be active participants; they can look wherever they want. When a viewer feels like they are there, they have a greater sense of the situation. Messages become more impactful.

And, again, Google suggests that brands need to ask themselves some important questions...

"Will VR give viewers an experience that they otherwise couldn't have? The subject matter should truly take advantage of the medium—transport people to a place, immerse them in a world, and compel them to explore.

Could you give shoppers a better feel for your product? According to a study from Ericsson ConsumerLab, shopping was the top reason worldwide smartphone users were interested in VR, with "seeing items in real size and form when shopping online" cited by 64% of respondents. This doesn't just apply to retail brands. Cadillac is already using VR to create virtual dealerships.

Will your recording environment be rich with things to see? If you're shooting in a simple white room with nothing on the walls, probably not. If you're at a sports event or a music festival, there's likely plenty to see.

Will viewers want to continue watching beyond the initial "That's cool" moment? It can be a challenge to get viewers to stick around after a minute or so. Make sure you have a compelling hook that will keep them engaged."

So, in conclusion, once we can harness both AI and VR – for the right reasons and it genuinely makes sense for our brand – we can say we have arrived in the middle of this disruption, and we're just OK with it.

Please share this post with friends and colleagues.

Now read these related posts:

Top Technology Trends in Marketing for 2017

• How Data will really drive Marketing in 2017

How VR and 360 degree video is changing advertising and content marketing

A phygital world: Our digital and physical experiences are becoming seamless

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There’s that joke about non-stop flights. How can you get off, ever, if the flight actually doesn’t stop? When I hear about ‘digital’ I am equally confused. How can you experience anything that’s digital without being in the physical realm? You see what’s on screen, you listen to podcasts, you touch that smartphone, don’t you? So, actually, it’s really an online – offline world at any given time.

AR, VR and physical

AR and VR are both manifestations of this. The unprecedented success of Pokémon Go is the first example that comes to mind. The mobile app uses GPS and augmented reality technology to lead users on a hunt for the digital pets – who are scattered around across the physical world. In restaurants, bars, offices, shops, parks, stadiums, and mall parking lots. The point of Pokémon Go is to travel around – in the physical world – with a data connected mobile, exploring different geographic areas to find appropriate Pokémon.

The most compelling digitally delivered content is still created in the physical. The magic of Snapchat is the capture of the instant in physical. As is Instagram. And, on the flipside, QR codes on ads, on concert tickets, on boarding passes enable the physical to lead to the digital. And often, back to physical. The QR code on a boarding pass takes the physical-to-digital-to physical route to enable a physical experience – flying somewhere.

Google's micromoments

Google’s ‘micro-moments’ is all about mobile powered solution of intent with information that is of course accessed via digital for action that is often in the physical. The “I want to go” to a dim sum place now is guided by information from Search via mobile, but it does end up with a lunch. Real dim sum, served at a physical place in those real steamer baskets.

Google says “Of leisure travelers who are smartphone users, 69% search for travel ideas during spare moments, like when they're standing in line or waiting for the subway.” That’s not for virtual travel. It’s for the real go.

Then there’s So-Lo-Mo. Social media activated and conversations activated on Mobile but in physical Local context. It’s essentially location based marketing, on social, using a device. “Your friend Bob just dropped into your local Starbucks for a latte, would you like to meet up now? And, here’s a map on your mobile.”

Google also provides some neat stats on smartphones and physical action: “Of smartphone users, 91% look up information on their smartphones while in the middle of a task – a real task. And, 82% consult their phones while they're standing in a store deciding which product to buy.” That’s a brick and mortar store. And people also view merchandize or comparison shop in a physical store before buying it later online. Showrooming.

Experience – the buzzword of the year

Honestly, the big word this year is going to be ‘experience’ – and we’re no longer thinking online or offline for experience. The internet shapes and delivers physical experiences – and the virtual is increasingly showing up in physical. The better experiences, which every brand wants to deliver, happen when online and offline work in symbiosis to provide multidimensional engagement. The truth lies bare in the term ‘augmented reality’ itself. It’s about using digital to augment – to add value, to dynamically build on reality.

Nike (via Weiden) unleashed somewhat of a backlash at online, showing how online foils us from living the fuller life. The “Are We Running Today” campaign tells us that while online can be great, it draws us away from what we really ought to be doing. Ironically, these digital-delivered ads urged viewers not to get caught in the online-only way of life. To go out and run. And experience the real world. The on YouTube ‘Time is Precious’ campaign is stark. True. And scary actually.

Adidas have also upped their online – offline game. The Glitch app (invitation only) delivers an interchangeable boot concept allowing players to change their game whenever they want. It targets serious players, the hardcore customers, and yes it is a sales pitch, but it uses the power of an app to deliver customizable cleats, and scores.

Power of mobility

The power of mobility and the accessibility of social is what’s encouraging today’s hyper connected consumers to wipe out the on-off boundaries. First of all, it’s almost always, always-on. Then there’s empowerment of voice. Whether they buy from them or not, consumers are quick to let businesses know just what they want and need. Even when the products or services and the last mile of engagement is physical. Like, say, in home appliances, or organic food products. Business channels and customer relationships are being recontextualized because people today have a digital say on everything.

There are numerous examples of digital meeting physical. We know about offline media monitoring using mobile. About digital OOH. Robots. Interactive airport directionals. Smart homes. Personal assistants (digital, of course, not man fridays). Cross continental remote surgery. Remote 3D printing. Amazon (or any online retail). AR and VR assisted experiences at resorts and even sporting events. And there’s always data lurking behind it all.

Data, digitally, is helping transform physical retail experiences – predicting emotions and need states when people are ready to buy. They’re calling it ‘mood retail’ – a mind boggling mix of data, physical shopping, retail therapy and psychology.

The online – offline experience. It’s not even hyphenated anymore. It’s intuitive, immersive, and intensive. It’s phygital.

This post was published in Campaign Middle East, Feb 19, 2017.

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7 Winning Content Ideas for your Social Media Posts

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It's not easy to come up fresh ideas for your social media posts every day. Here are seven easy to follow tips on types of winning content you can create easily.

1. Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers make up great stories. One easy way to create interesting posts is to pose interesting questions. Remember, your audience loves sharing experiences and opinions on social media – so provide a platform for their expression. Having a relevant and interesting image to go along with your question will get immediate attention, and more people will engage. You can ask your audience which of your products, for example, they really like. But don't always post questions just about your brand. They should involve the audience's genuine interest and passion. You can also get a lot of interest by asking them to predict something. For some questions, you can provide two options as answers, rather than leaving them open ended.

Another way is to provide answers – again with relevant and useful visuals. These resolve the audience's problems, or answer queries. Many brands use this content bucket to respond to Frequently Asked Questions about their products. 'Answer' posts can be useful 'how-do' demos, instructional videos, simple solutions explained visually and more.

2. Fill in the Blanks and Poll Posts

Asking your audience to fill in the blanks actually engages them and gives them a sense of direction on how to express themselves. "My favorite player in Superbowl LI was ___________". Or get a sense of which social platform they are most engaged on "The social media platform I use most every day is __________". You get the drift.

3. Create a theme for days of the week

If you create bucket themes for days of the week, you can come up with content for those days easily. As well, people will know what to expect – it gives them a feel of consistency about your posts. Movie Mondays, Tuesday Tip of the Day, Wednesday Windows, Thursday Thanks, Friday Fun, Saturday Showtime etc. Often you can actually find day themes that are common hashtags, and you can get more mileage by using those hashtags.

4. Special Holidays, Unusual and Funny Name Days

There are names for almost every day of the year – and a lot of them have hashtags attached to them. You can create pretty cool content by building your posts around these day themes. You can ask them questions around the days theme – and perhaps have a quirky call to action. Be sure to use appropriately relevant visuals to make these posts interesting. Check out this site to get a list of days in the year you can build your posts on. Remember, it can be days, or weeks, or even occasions that you create.

5. Jump on the Local Events Bandwagon

There's usually a lot of interest on events around town – a concert, a special occasion, a gala or a big sporting event. You can use the buzz around these events to generate interesting content. Use hashtags when possible. Actually, these can be global events as well where a hashtag will get you a whole lot more interest than a normal post. You can plug the local event, provide tips, may be even a couple of free tickets...

6. Feature your customers

This works like magic. People want to be heard and seen on social media. You can feature customer testimonials, demos, unboxings or even a simple 'how-to' tip that they provided. Use their photos or videos – this adds visual value and authenticates the post as well.

7. Share resources

You really need to come across as their friend, as someone who provides useful content. Don't hesitate to provide information, tips and resources from third parties that will be of relevance to your audience.

These are simple tips to follow. And they make for interesting content buckets that go beyond the usual types you do on a regular basis. Create useful, interesting content and you'll engage your audience better. And that's That's Digital Marketing Strategies 101.

Please share this post with your friends, and please comment on this if you want to add something...

Now read more on social media and content:

• 6 Critical Steps to a Winning Social Media Strategy

• Winning Content Strategy: Always share something valuable and useful

Content Marketing Strategy: What kind of content should you create?

How to and What to Track on Social Media: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter

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How to and what to track on Social Media – on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is really about reaching the right people at the right time – and engage them successfully. Many social media marketers are confused about what to track – and why, and how. Follower counts really do not matter. They're good for the ego, but they really mean very little.

In a report done by Forrester, we learn that businesses have an engagement rate of less than 0.2%. Instagram was the only exception to that statistic. Imagine, if you have 100,000 followers. This means, that actually only 200 people have some sort of interaction with your post. I would rather have just 10,000 followers and 2%. Same 200!

Your first step is to do a complete audit of your social media. What works? Which posts deliver better engagement? Which ones fall flat? Are you talking to the right people? Do you know your target audience? Your customers? Your social media is really about delivering to them, engaging them.
Customer Insights is your First Step in Digital Marketing.

Facebook Metrics that matter

Facebook offers some really useful insights on performance. Log in as a manager of the page and look for the Insights tab.

Facebook provides a very useful dashboard of the key metrics you need to track. The two critical ones are Post Engagements – the number of times people have liked, commented on, and shared your posts; and Actions on Page – how many times have people clicked on your Call toAction. Of course, you can check out Page Views, Page Likes and Reach,  but if you've got no engagement, these mean nothing.

Your most important KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is to push towards increasing post engagement. A quick way is to go through all your posts and identify the ones that did well on Engagement. Try and replicate what you did there. Facebook actually shows engagement metrics by category – Video, Photo, Status or Link posts. Here, it also tells you, that may be your video posts are doing really well, and your Link posts are not.

It's also important to have benchmarks. Check out how your competitors are doing. Facebook provides engagement performance for any other pages you choose to watch. This should also help you set some goals. You'll also see which posts perform for them – giving you ideas for your content and format.

A way to track conversion from Facebook is to track Actions on Page. The report shows you who clicked on links on your page – to your website, for example. You can track by device, location, gender and age. If you look at Page Views and then hold that against Actions, you'll get a conversion rate.

Track what's key on Instagram

Previously, we depended on third party analytics platforms to track Instagram performance. For deep dives, we still do. But Instagram now have some built in analytics available. First off, Instagram will always have better engagement rates than your other social platforms. But it's important to engage on a continuum – meaning you need people to come back to you, regularly. You need to have a Business Profile on Instagram to gain access to Instagram Insights. (Here's How to convert to Business Profile)

Engagement on Instagram is measured in Likes and Comments. Links within posts are not allowed. Actually, you can have a link, say to your website, but it has to be in the bio. A neat way to track 'Instagram conversions' is to have a custom landing page on your website – only for Instagram traffic. As well, it's best to use a custom trackable link like Bit.ly (I swear by this), or Google's Campaign URL Builder.

So, what do you track on Instagram? 

1. A simple one is average Engagement Per Post. Add up your Likes and Comments and divide the sum by the number of posts. Track this over short periods – like a week or month to keep this metric current.

2. Track Engagement as a percentage of your total population of followers. Take your total engagement (Likes + Comments) and divide by your total followers. Does your growth rate reflect how often you post? What about the types of photos you posted over the last period you measure?

3. Some people are keen on follower growth. It is important to track Follower Growth rate only to see if you doing things right on the platform

4. Track traffic from the URL in your bio. This literally tracks conversion.

Follower locations is important – it tells you where your key markets are, and helps you time your posts. You should also see when your followers are active and which posts are working with your audience. This way you can optimize what and when you do on Instagram.

Twitter Analytics that count

Twitter provides some interesting metrics in the Analytics dashboard. On the Home tab, you can track performance numbers for the last 28 days, as well as your top tweets. You can track how well you are able to engage your audience with your tweets –  there's a list of your recent tweets with numbers on impressions, engagements, and engagement rates.

Impressions – really don't matter, because it counts the number of people who have seen your tweet – but that doesn't mean they haven't just scrolled past them.

Enagement is the key metric. Engagement is when when people actually click on, favorite, retweet, or reply to your tweets. A 28-day average compared to the best performers help you find out what went right. You need to try and increase your engagement rates. That's a great KPI for twitter. Check which tweets did well, and replicate what went right. Also check engagement against time of day or day of week. Build a post schedule based on this insight.

Audiences matter. You can go to the Audiences tab to know more about your followers. You can see a breakdown by interests, buying style, household income, and net worth. The interest data, for example, helps you define where you should focus on for your topics. Afterall, reaching the right people is key.

Many marketers track a lot more information using tools and dashboards, and then combine them to track overall social performance. The above are the absolutely critical ones you track – without having to spend a lot of money on paid-for analytics. By the way, I also recommend tweetreach which is pretty cool  for analyzing twitter performance.

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Now read these related posts on Social Media:

6 Critical Steps to a Winning Social Media Strategy

8 Ways to boost customer loyalty using Social Media

6 Types of Social Media Posts to Engage your Audience

7 ways your brand can increase Facebook organic reach