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Here’s a question that’s been nagging me for a while:

Is it high-risk behavior to routinely use social media to let the world know where you are?

Consider this quick case study, then tell me if it makes you think twice about tweeting, posting and checking in your whereabouts. If it doesn’t, I’d like to know why.

4:27 p.m.     Prospective criminal — let’s call him PC (in this case, it’s me) — logs in to HootSuite.

4:28 p.m.     PC spots the following tweet from a male avatar — let’s call him IY:  “I’m at Sunrise Inn (street address, city name).” The tweet includes a foursquare URL. HootSuite shows that IY published the tweet 27 minutes ago.

4:29 p.m.     PC studies IY’s Twitter profile and notes that IY lives in a U.S. city and describes himself as a consultant and best-selling author.

4:30 p.m.     Sensing an opportunity, PC checks the online White Pages. He finds addresses for two individuals by the same name, IY, one of which has the middle initial F.

4:32 p.m.     PC checks LinkedIn and finds one profile for a man named IY. No middle initial indicated.

4:33 p.m.     PC scrolls the LinkedIn profile and finds that IY is president of his own company. The company name is a three-letter acronym: IFY, Inc. PC is fairly certain that it’s IFY who is visiting the Sunrise Inn.

4:35 p.m.     PC returns to the online White Pages to pinpoint IFY’s street address.

4:37 p.m.     PC checks MapQuest to discover that, assuming IFY is still at the Sunrise Inn, he’s more than 55 miles, or a little more than an hour, from home. Even if IFY left the Sunrise Inn just prior to tweeting, he’s very likely 30 minutes or more from home.

As a member of IFY’s online community, what can I do with the news that he’s at a hotel (or a movie theater, or a restaurant) in a certain city at a certain time? Not much. This sort of social media update is of little information, conversation or entertainment value.

But what if I really am a prospective criminal, and I’ve got burglary, vandalism or another form of mayhem in mind? Maybe this sort of tweet is my opportunity to act. To strike.

I’m probably a fuddy duddy when it comes to “here’s where I am, here’s what I’m doing” information sharing. But it seems to me that if we want to keep our loved ones and homes safe and secure, we’re OK sharing who we are, what we think, what we know, etc. But where we are? That’s information best left unpublished.

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What do you think? See any cause for concern in the IFY behavior described above? I’m eager to be educated if I’m missing the point on “here’s where I am, here’s what I’m doing” social media updates. Please enlighten me with comments below.

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This past week more than 600 people converged on Cleveland, Ohio, for a special event. It wasn’t a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, although there was plenty of energy and even a concert sort of vibe. It wasn’t a pro sports event, though the focus was definitely on winning and losing in a highly competitive arena.

This was a business and networking event. The inaugural Content Marketing World conference and expo, produced by the Cleveland-based Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

For two days, corporate and non-profit marketers, agency pros, publishers, consultants, bloggers and technology vendors enthusiastically discussed, demoed and debated the hows and whys of content as a marketing strategy.

If you’re a marketer and you missed CMWorld, you missed many of the field’s leading authors and practitioners presenting their thinking, success stories and best practices. Real-time PR strategies. SEO techniques. Customer experience improvement tips. Plus case studies from companies such as Intel, Kelly Services, Sherwin-Williams and DuPont.

To sample the information shared, you can swim through a swollen Twitter stream at #cmworld, or read a collection of 40-plus ensuing blog posts compiled by CMI’s Michele Linn here. Click on the links and you’ll likely pick up a content marketing best practice or two, or six.


Executive Summary

Meanwhile, if you’re a corporate marketing executive, there’s another type of takeaway to be gleaned from CMWorld. It’s an insight that — provided it resonates with you — has the potential to do more for your team, your brand and even your customers than all the CMWorld round tables and product demos combined.

Maslow's hierarchy

Content marketing: Maslow's hierarchy made manifest?

This isn’t a takeaway you’d have seen bulleted in a CMWorld PowerPoint. It transcends individual speakers and sessions. And it doesn’t come bundled with any of the latest content management systems or social media listening tools.

Yet, if you ask people who attended CMWorld, it’s a good bet many would agree this is the most powerful takeaway they’ll bring back to their organizations. And here it is:

Content marketing is inherently energizing and fulfilling for the people who practice it.

That’s right. Call me Pollyanna. Call me Norman Vincent Peale. But we’re talking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here. Esteem and self-actualization as byproducts of a job well done. 

You could see it on faces and hear it in voices of not only the presenters, but the corporate marketers, too. You could almost feel it in the ballroom air.

  • Best-selling author David Meerman Scott, exhorting marketers to cull gobbledygook from their communications and write in real, human and humane terms.
  • Lee Odden, a bona fide SEO guru, reminding attendees to optimize online content for people first, web crawlers and search engine algorithms second.
  • And Intel’s Pam Didner, speaking with passion and humor about opportunities she sees to improve a multinational content planning and development process that most would consider already highly advanced by industry standards.

Whether their planning next month’s blog posts, promoting a webinar or producing a video, content marketers automatically put themselves in the position and mindset of seeking to be of value and service to customers and prospects. It’s implicit in the strategy. The onus is on marketing FOR customers and prospects vs. merely AT them.

But we marketers focus so much time and effort planning and creating touch points to reach and influence our audiences, it’s easy to lose sight of the impact felt by those doing the touching.

A specialist who’s only job is to squeeze another fraction of a percent ROI against the direct mail control package isn’t likely to feel the same sense of purpose and reward that can come with creating an educational ebook or an inspirational video — touch points designed to deliver meaning and value for customers.

Likewise, most traditional campaigns are geared to capture attention and drive action. But unless it’s a public service announcement, being of service to the target audience is usually not a primary objective spelled out in the creative brief.


Energy Born of Intention

This is not to say traditional marketing tactics are less worthy, less creatively stimulating or less intellectually satisfying when planned and executed well. Most practitioners agree content marketing is not a wholesale substitute for more traditional  marketing methods. It’s a complement. An enhancement. And the more integrated the tactics and channels, typically, the better the result.

But if you’re a CMO who’s yet to fully embrace content marketing, consider what it would mean to have your team arrive at the office each day consistently pumped to plan and execute compelling, useful, even entertaining content for key audiences.

Then consider that them doing so is a proven path to achieving business and marketing priorities.  Building traffic. Performing well in search. Sparking audience engagement. Generating and nurturing leads. Creating community within social media. Positioning your brand as a thought leader.

Sound like a win-win?

To be clear, content marketing is no walk in the park. It’s demanding work. Don’t imagine for a minute your team and their consultants and agency partners won’t be working hard and brainstorming bullets to consistently develop great content and deliver real results.

But the fact that so many practitioners seem to gain a higher sense of mission, pride and, dare I say, pleasure when undertaking content-driven strategies might the best argument for adopting one.

As Norman Vincent Peale once said: “There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment. The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.”

More energy. Positive energy.

Is that the karma that comes with content marketing?

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What say you, marketeers? Am I riding unicorns and smoking rainbows with this post? Or do you agree there’s something about attracting and engaging customers with value-adding content that can cause marketers to feel better (i.e., more proud, excited, strategic) about the work they do? Agree or disagree, I’d welcome your thoughts and feelings on the subject.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

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Joe Pulizzi

Looking for some inspiration to get your 2010 marketing off on the right foot?

Take 30 minutes and buzz through 100 content marketing predictions from more than 60 thinkers and doers in the content marketing and social media fields. They’re all captured in the e-book you can download for free right here.

Joe Pulizzi, himself a preeminent content marketing strategist and founder of the content marketing matchmaking service Junta42, put out the call for New Year’s content marketing prognostications late last year. First to take up the question was none other than Seth Godin, who predicted an economic turnaround in the second half of 2010, along with the arrival of a “shiny new thing” that will cause Twitter to lose some of its luster.

Godin’s comment was followed soon after by a veritable who’s who of social media and content, including Jason Falls, David Meerman Scott, Paul Dunay, Ardath Albee, Brian Solis and John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame.

Here’s the question posed by Pulizzi:

What is your prediction for how brand marketers
will create and distribute their own content in 2010?

Yours truly was among those who took a spin at a fearless forecast:

Marketers will begin — at least should begin — to put greater innovation emphasis on being relevant and engaging with content delivered via flesh-and-blood channels — the sales force, customer service, dealers and distributors, etc.

As content marketers we tend to fixate on other content types — value-adding articles, white papers and e-books; social media postings and dialogue. Still, some of the most critical content for building brand and business is that which gets lumped into the easy-to-neglect category of “collateral.”

The days when it was good enough to throw a brochure and some case studies in an envelope and consider that you’ve done an effective job of following up with a customer or prospect are over. 

With Web 2.0 thinking and technology, there’s opportunity for bringing customization, engagement and measurement to these communications. And, as recipients click through personalized content collections – online experiences tailored to their needs and interests, vs. off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all print pieces – marketers can measure and continuously learn from their interactions.

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Be curious to know if you see what I see, or just what your prediction might be for social media and content marketing in 2010. Comments welcome.

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Where there’s smoke…there’s Twitter.

At least that was the case this summer when a Gord Hotchkiss, president of Enquiro, a search marketing firm, began tracking a wildfire burning in the hills outside his hometown, Ketowna, British Columbia.

As Hotchkiss relates in an excellent post for Search Insider, he began watching the blaze from the deck behind his home, armed with binoculars, a laptop and Twitter. Meanwhile, his wife was inside, monitoring news reports on radio and TV.

Suddenly, Hotchkiss found himself in the midst of a spontaneous media experiment. Which channel — radio, TV, or Twitter — would be most effective at quickly conveying fresh updates on the fire’s progress?

I won’t give away his entire post, except to say the more venerable media venues did not fair well in this side, by side, by side comparison.  Instead, Hotchkiss’ experience is a thought-provoking case study regarding ways social media can dramatically change how — and by whom — breaking news gets reported and consumed.


Breaking News Becoming a “Crowded” Field?

As a former newspaper reporter, I’m not sure I can begin to imagine, much less list, all the implications here for professional news journalists. Except to predict one thing:

If (as) this type of of crowd-sourced, online local news reporting really catches on, the media likely to be challenged most by it will be broadcasters, less so than newspapers.

Newspaper reporters have already adjusted to having their stories come out on the back end of the news cycle. They know radio and TV can not only get to the scene, but be broadcasting to their viewers, with much more immediacy.

Thus, newspapers have had to add context and texture to their early reportage on a breaking event, knowing that the basic facts of the event are likely to already be in circulation by the time their coverage hits the streets.

Broadcasters, meanwhile, suddenly have a new, extremely nimble competitor for the immediate and evolving details of breaking news.

As Hotchkiss’ post points out: When a TV talking head is droning the same two-hours-old script, with the same from-the-scene-earlier news footage looping in the background, but meanwhile the event continues to unfold and be reported on social media in near real-time — well, that talking head starts to look and sound a little silly and outmoded.

If, indeed, anyone is still tuned in.

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At risk of being named grand marshal of the annual Ludditeville Labor Day Parade…

Here’s a quick post postmortem to TPC’s recent post regarding social media and its potential clash with concerns over workplace productivity.


Study Looks at Social Media Acceptance, Concerns
A new study by Minneapolis-based Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law seems to show business execs feeling conflicted — in some cases, literally of two minds — over social media’s benefits and potential pitfalls.

The online survey, conducted in July, garnered responses from a random sampling of 438 management, marketing and human resources executives. Findings included:

  • 81 percent described social media as a potential corporate security risk (the study summary does not define “security risk,” but reading between the lines, it seems to be referring to a breach-the-firewall, IT type of risk).
  • Ironically, the same percentage said social media can enhance customer relationships and build brand reputation.
  • 69 percent said social media can be a useful tool for recruiting new employees, and another 64 percent said social media can be an effective customer service resource.
  • 51 percent fear social media could be detrimental to productivity, while nearly as many — 49 percent — expressed concern that social media could damage company reputation.
  • 40 percent of the execs surveyed said their companies block employees from using social media during work time
  • Only one in three of the companies represented by respondents have implemented social media guidelines, and only 10 percent have undertaken social media training for employees.

Study sponsors say the findings argue for adoption of thoughtful social media guidelines (their summary report suggests 10 very broad ones), along with training for employees.


TPC’s Survey: Unscientific, but Interesting

For the record, TPC conducted its own survey tied to our last post on the topic of social media being potentially in conflict with office productivity.

The one-question TPC MicroSurvey asked whether, if witnessed by a supervisor or peer visiting a social media site during work hours, respondents would feel:

  • Pleased for being seen as cutting edge
  • Embarrassed at being “caught”
  • Fearful of being reprimanded or even fired.

In all, eight people clicked through from the post to answer our highly unscientific, uni-question survey. Of those eight, responses divided as follows:

  • Pleased: 4
  • Embarrassed: 3
  • Fearful: 1

Which raises what is probably an unanswerable question:

Cup half full, or half empty?

Is it a sign of growing social media acceptance, with more certain to come, that half of respondents would be glad to be seen viewing social media during work?

Or, is it a sign of a potential “chilling effect” that 50 percent — remember, these are people reading, commenting and taking action on a blog post — say they would be either embarrassed or fearful if seen visiting a social media site during work hours?

We’ll leave that question for you to ponder.

Whether you do so on work time is your call.

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Say you’re at work. You’ve got Facebook, Twitter or even LinkedIn up on your computer monitor. imagesYour boss — or a peer — unexpectedly walks in. Which of the following most closely describes your reaction?

          a.) Pleased that you’ve been noticed staying abreast of the latest in business communications and networking technologies.

          b.) Embarrassed at being caught sneaking a peak at social media sites on work time.twitter_logo_header

          c.) Fearful, or at least concerned, that you’ll be viewed as a slacker or, worse yet, reprimanded or fired.

          d.) Other.

linkedinLet’s not make this a hypothetical. Go ahead and take this one-question Touch Point City MicroSurvey, then come back to finish this post and offer your comment. Or, finish this post and then take the survey. Either way, we’d like to hear what you’re thinking. And we’ll publish the results in a future post.

After all, your answer to the above — tens of millions of people’s answer to the above — will have much to say about where we’re all going with social media as a business and marketing consideration.


The Big But

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like are, without question, intriguing and potentially powerful marketing and customer service channels.

But — and here’s the big but — if the business professionals we marketers seek to inform and engage via those channels are hesitant, or even forbidden, to access the content and conversations provided there, we’ve got a problem.

Lacking widespread acceptance as a legitimate tool of business, social media might just become a channel to nowhere. At least it might during the normal business day, when many brand perceptions get shaped and lots of purchasing decisions get made.


Working Away at Social Media

It’s possible this question has already been debated ad nauseam. But TPC got thinking about it because of a study done recently by Nucleus Research, a Boston-based provider of IT research and consulting services.

In late July, Nucleus released “Facebook: Measuring the Cost to Business of Social Notworking.” Get it? Notworking?

Nucleus interviewed 237 “randomly selected office workers” about their Facebook use. Among the findings:

  • 75 percent of those interviewed have a Facebook account
  • 61 percent access Facebook during work hours
  • Those who access Facebook at work do so for an average of 15 minutes daily, with the range as low as one minute and as high as 120 minutes
  • 13 percent claimed to have a business reason for accessing Facebook; 87 percent couldn’t define a clear business reason for doing so
  • One in every 33 created their entire Facebook profile during work hours

logo

Based on its research, Nucleus came to this conclusion:

Companies that let employees access Facebook during
work hours can expect to see total office productivity decline by an average of 1.5 percent.

Rebecca Wetterman, Nucleus’ vice president of research, framed the survey findings in this stark context:

“If your company is facing tight margins and low profitability, as many are now, then how can you accept any work distractions that drain your overall productivity? While it won’t make you popular, restricting Facebook can reclaim lost productivity. If your profitability is say two percent, this could be the difference between staying open or closing shop.”


Does Your Content Empower Your Audience to Justify Your Social Media?
TPC isn’t privy to how Nucleus defines “total office productivity.” And we recognize that for some types of businesses (e.g., marketing and PR agencies), and some job categories (e.g., marketing, PR, corporate communications, investor relations), it’s more acceptable, even expected, for employees to spend time focused on social media sites during work hours.

But what about purchasing managers? Design engineers? Other product and service specifiers and influencers? If they’re shamed at the thought of engaging with social media, or outright barred from doing so, social media suddenly becomes a lot less social.

You wonder if there’s a day of reckoning coming. A day when our customers and prospective customers are going to have to explain to superiors — and to IT gatekeepers — the legitimate business reasons why they need to access and interact with social media during work hours.

If so, it’s going to be incumbent upon marketers to not just be “on” or “doing” social media, but to ensure the conversations and content that define our social media offerings are truly relevant and value-adding. In other words, that the social media you strategize and publish is actually doing something for your audience.

Otherwise, decision-makers critical to your brand and business success might be lacking the evidence they need to argue the case for accessing your social media during office hours.

As you ponder that notion, be advised that Nucleus has launched a second study to examine the impact of work-hours Twitter use on productivity, the findings of which might pose this philosophical question:

If a marketer tweets in the marketplace, but there’s no one online to hear it, does it still make an impact?

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What do you think? Are social media and productivity headed for a High Noon-style showdown? Has your organization instituted policies that restrict social media use during work hours? If you were the CEO or CIO, what would be your stance on social media use by employees during the workday?

Lots of angles and implications here. Comments and discussion welcome. And don’t forget to take our one-question TCP MicroSurvey.

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Joe Pulizzi is no luddite when it comes to social media.

Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi

The former Penton publishing exec and founder of content marketing hub and match-making service, Junta42, can Twitter, TripIt, Facebook and LinkedIn with the best.

So, if you’re feeling a little behind in blending social media into your branding and marketing efforts, you might be buoyed by this post from Pulizzi’s Junta42 blog. In it, he argues that marketers who rush to adopt social media before establishing a content strategy are putting the cart before the horse.

The tweet before the meat.

 

Tweeting On Empty
Couldn’t agree more. In fact, a colleague recently passed along this good example (and by good I mean bad) of what can happen when it appears a business or a marketer has jumped into social media because, well, the water’s fine and everyone else seems to be diving into the pool.

It’s one of those classic faux pas vignettes, this time involving Time Warner Cable. But it could have been any organization where the strategy and motivation for using social media is unclear.  

A designated corporate tweeter from TWC put out the following message:

“…working on customer loyalty programs and would love your ideas/input — raffling an ITouch on Thurs to constructive suggestions.”

Already you know something’s a little off. Let’s assume we’re seeking customer insights to enhance a loyalty program. Most of us might find a more artful way to make the ask than to say, essentially, “Hey customer, we’re looking for ways to make you more loyal. Got any?” 

However, a customer took the bait and proceeded to publish a series of tweets describing some fairly specific wants and pain points. More attentive customer service reps. Great flexibility to personalize channel packages. A monthly bill cleaned up of “cryptic misc. charges.”

After about the fifth tweet of constructive feedback and critique, the TWC tweeter chirped back:

twctweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rough translation. “Appreciate the comments. But we’re actually not that interested in listening to you. We’d prefer to market at you.”

 

Content Trumps Social Media
Now that’s just one example, perhaps an aberration. Presumably, TWC is a fine organization with mostly excellent marketing intentions, execution and people. But the bigger point, the one made by Pulizzi’s post, is this:

Make sure you’ve got something to say, something of value to offer, before you go stirring up too much conversation and following via social media. And be ready to engage in conversation. Otherwise, you’ll end up whistling Dixie, or engaging in aimless chatter, and that’s not a good place (and by not good I mean bad) for a brand to be.

“Ultimately, it’s not about just experiences and interactions through social media. It’s about creating meaningful experiences and interactions,” Pulizzi writes. “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.”

 

Visual Metaphor Alert!
I added a comment to Pulizzi’s post. It’ll probably sound quirky, but it might help establish a visual metaphor by which to keep your social media and content strategy priorities in order.

Social media is a bit like a colony of ants, streaming out from a hill. Bumping into each other. Climbing over one another. Exchanging antennae rubs. Impressive amounts of kinetic energy and potential on display.

Then, abruptly, the scene changes. Those seemingly random interactions start to signal there’s something important or valuable going on back at home base.

Suddenly, what appeared to be mostly a scramble starts to assume purposeful patterns. Queens get nourished. Eggs get laid. Tunnels get dug. The colony and its inhabitants flourish.

That earlier scramble was social media activity lacking an organizing purpose. Without a content strategy.

The latter, more orderly scene? Let’s call that content marketing in action, leveraging social media as channels by which to stimulate awareness, consumption and sharing of your content.

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If you haven’t yet, check out comp-1Get Content. Get Customers.,
co-authored by Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett. It’s just out
in paperback from McGraw-Hill.

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