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A few weeks ago, I interviewed David Kaupp of Consilium Global Business Advisors, who was kind enough to give me feedback and insights related to a podcast series I intend to launch. As a consequence of that call, I poked around the Consilium site and found an ebook on B2B marketing. Clicking through, I found that the book wasn’t available yet, but if I left an email address, the company would alert me when the book was published.

This morning I got the alert. Here’s the landing page it directed me to:

Give us three "likes" and we'll give you the book.

Perhpas I’m out of the loop, but I haven’t seen this kind of gate before. In an interesting twist, the exchange of value has shifted; instead of asking for the usual lead-gen contact info, Consilium is asking for social media love.

With all due and genuine respect for Dave, I have some misgivings about this:

  • In essence, Consilium is asking for a “thumbs-up” review BEFORE I’ve had a chance to read the book. I just don’t feel comfortable committing to an opinion I might regret later.
  • Even though I’m not a heavy social media user, I already feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I have to slog through. A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have hesitated to click a “like” button. Today, I’m much more circumspect, recognizing that every millisecond impulse to push the “like” button may be rewarded with years of the social media equivalent of junk mail.
  • THREE likes? One I can see, and two…well, okay. But three? With three commitments, I become not merely a casual fan, but an active advocate of the company. Do I really want to play that role?

I think a strong argument could be made that since Consilium is offering something of considerable value — the equivalent of a 250 page book — it’s only fair the company get something of value in exchange. But they’re also asking me to commit my reputation before I have the opportunity to assess the value of the book itself.

What might they do as an alternative that would be fair for all involved? (And, by the way, more likely to be shared and socially distributed.) Since I’ve already declared my interest, why not just send me either a condensed, preview ebook OR the first 10 – 20 pages as a sample? Or ask me to download the same? Then, after evaluating the preview/sample, I can make an informed judgment call about whether or not I’m willing to exchange three of my social media “likes” for the remainder of the book.

I think that’s a reasonable deal — and probably a more successful way to market the book, too.

 

 

For more practical thoughts on content strategy, consider my content strategy workshop.

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Just ask them.

In my previous blog post, I mentioned my plan to create a podcast series targeted to enterprise high-tech marketers. As part of that plan, I’m interviewing people in the industry (write me if you’d like to be one) about the issues of greatest urgency and concern.

Here’s the remarkable thing: out of 25 direct requests I sent out, 8 people have responded favorably. Not bad — and a sharp contrast to the last time I attempted to recruit people to my content cause. About thirteen years ago, I launched a healthcare marketing newsletter and began the same way as I have now — by asking marketers to share their top concerns with me. But I was far less successful then than I am now. Why? A number of reasons worth reflecting on:

  • I’m not talking to strangers. Back then, I was emailing people who either didn’t know me or didn’t know me well. Today, I can tap into a nice client list and those people who’ve chosen to remain connected to me via social media (LinkedIn, in this case).
  • High-tech is simply more forward-thinking, more open to marketing ideas than healthcare. Think about it: many leading high-tech companies didn’t even exist 13 years ago. Communication methods that seem “new” or novel to other marketers are the very ones high-tech people cut their teeth on. By the very nature of the business, they welcome and feel comfortable with new tools, new methods.
  • Thirteen years ago, it was harder for people to see the value of participating in someone else’s content (which wouldn’t be called “content” back then, of course). Today, with the Web as a universal search-and-distribution medium, more people appreciate the mutual value of collaboration and participation.

On top of all that, I think people are eager to have someone’s ear and appreciate having a person value what they have to say. Next post: a short summary of what trends — of what these people are indeed saying.

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…with the Melrose blues again.

I’m going to launch a regular radio podcast first thing next year. As part of my prep work, I’m interviewing various high-tech marketers to dig out pain points, urgent issues, pressing demands, etc. (If you’d like to be part of this process, please shoot me an email.)

To start, I drew up two lists: one of high-tech clients, the other of high-tech contacts I have on LinkedIn. Frankly, this is the first time, in the many years I’ve been on the service, that I’ve found a use for LinkedIn. At last! Out of 24 requests (between the two lists), I’ve already heard back from 6 people (not a shabby response rate); one has changed careers and become a teacher, the remaining 5 are eager to talk to me.

A few observations:

  • If you haven’t given your LinkedIn contacts much thought, take a look. There’s something charming about the confusion you’ll experience as you ask yourself, how on earth do I know this person? Where and in what context did we meet? Maybe I should cut back on those whiskey and sodas at those late-night conference cocktail mixers.
  • People change jobs often. Yeah, I know — no news there. But as a guy who has held steady for 17 years, I still find it shocking to see how fluid the world is.
  • Everyone is passionate about something. Yay.
  • Big surprise: the people who responded are among the BUSIEST on my list, with the least time to spare. Yet they’re willing to take time out to talk to me. Interesting. It confirms my longstanding impatience with the “people don’t have time to read, yadda, yadda, yadda,” bullshit I often hear. It’s not about time — it’s about relevance and value. When people see them, they make time.

While the podcast format is still I work in progress, I anticipate 5 or 6 segments within a 30-minute weekly program, each aimed at an issue or idea important to high-tech marketers. In some, I’ll fly solo; in other’s, I’ll interview experts and in-house marketers. If you have suggestions regarding topics — or want to recommend interviewees — drop me a line.

 

 

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The End of Social Media

Published on September 27, 2012 by in B2B marketing, blog, social media, WTF?

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Am I really predicting the end of social media? No, I’m just being a provocative jerk.

But I am concerned about cracks in the walls upon which we’ve built delirious dreams of “engaging” with our markets, blah, blah, blah.

Case in point: As part of my research into podcasting (stay tuned), I signed up with Spreaker recently. Yesterday, I poked around the site a bit but please keep in mind — and this is important — I didn’t add a single meaningful piece of content to the site. I didn’t record a podcast, I didn’t upload a picture, I didn’t write a post. Hell, I didn’t even complete my freakin’ profile.

And yet…

Yet…

This morning, I found not one, but three “follows” from Spreaker in my inbox. Three.

Why? On what grounds could these people have possibly determined that I would be a person they would want to have a “relationship” with? I have nothing on my Spreaker page; for all they know, I’m an empty suit.

“But Jonathan,” you’re thinking to yourself, “you naive fool. They don’t want to relate to you at all. They just want the follow back.”

Yeah, I get that.

And that leads to my initial point. Just as regurgitated brochure crap isn’t “content,” random trolling for followers on Twitter, etc. isn’t “building a network,” it’s building an illusion. An illusion of connection, an illusion of communications, an illusion of engagement.

On one level, this is all very amusing. (Picture me holding my elbow in one hand, a cigarette high in the other. Tres amusant.) But on another, it’s a little disturbing: to the degree that we pump fake content and build fake relationships online, we’re poisoning the social media well.

And the real result will be poor results. For us.

 

I don’t just whine and complain and gnash my teeth: I teach better content strategies, too.

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Content Execution Excellence Part 8: Multiply Your Efforts
Want more content, fast? Hit "recycle."

One of the most important keys on a content creator's keyboard.

You ever wonder how the social media gurus produce so much content so fast? They work hard – that’s true. And many of them have minions, I mean “partners,” they can draw upon for help.

But one of their key tactics is to make every idea do at least double-duty. Instead of investing energy in one-offs, put your time and money on efforts that can produce multiple pieces, easily. A few examples:

  • Turn a series of themed blog posts into an article, white paper or ebook. (You can guess where this content execution series is going…)
  • Or break an ebook/white paper down into a series of posts. Heck, if you’re popular and get lots of comments, you may able to use the comments to expand your content in a “second edition.”
  • Speaking engagement? Record it as a video (or video series); turn it into a webinar/webcast; strip the visuals and make it a podcast.
  • Attending a conference? Grab customers/allies and put them on video. Run a quick survey and turn the results into an article or paper.
  • If you have a hit on your hands, update it and run it again. That’s why Joe Pulizzi and I did with the Content Marketing Playbook.

You get the idea. It’s good to recycle content from one form into another. It’s even better to plan your recycling in advance, investing your resources in ideas and opportunities that can be fulfilled in multiple formats.

 

You and your colleagues can learn how to create more great content faster via my content writing training seminars.

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Video: What does it take to be a marketer today?

So, a few months ago Rob Ciampa and I got into a heated discussion about whether or not we’d hire a marketer who didn’t have a significant Twitter followership or blog readership. (You’ll have to watch the video to see where each of us stands on this, but you can probably guess my position and you should know that Rob and I disagree — which is a good thing.) On the strength of that conversation, Rob invited me to join him in a video in which we would talk about what we want to see in an effective marketer. This video is the fruit of that discussion.

I’m very flattered that Rob would put so much effort into talking to me. If anything, the video has too much me and not enough Rob. Winston Churchill once said of FDR that meeting Roosevelt for the first time was like taking your first sip of champagne. Rob is like that — an ebullient and engaged personality who can converse knowledgeably about history, food, travel, culture, food, marketing and food. Did I mention food? Here’s the thing: no matter how good you think your last meal was, Rob ate something better. Always. And he has the pictures to prove it.

As a kind of appendix to the video, I offer the following thoughts on the issues we discuss:

Social media and the marketer: How much social media activity is “contributing to the conversation” and how much is merely headlong self-aggrandizement? BS, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. You make the call. In general, I think marketers (and everyone else) would do better to talk less and say more — quality over quantity.

Technology and the marketer: I know enough about electricity to not stick a fork in a wall socket. That about sums up what I think marketers must know, at the very least, about technology — enough not to get shocked. If they can learn to apply technology to make things move, all the better.

The “chief cultural officer”: The very title smells like California and reminds me of one of my favorite lines from a Woody Allen movie: “Right now it’s just an ocean, but with some money, it could be a concept.” Do most companies need one of these? Probably not. But some do need to be fluent with contemporary culture. I have been impressed, for example, by how The Gap responds to change. In the 70’s, they embraced a backwoods persona in keeping with a post-Woodstock, anti-establishment aesthetic. In the 80’s, however, they completely renewed themselves (a bath and a haircut, as it were) to be THE parlor for casual Yuppie cotton goods. Then in 90’s and the into the 00’s, they showed real smarts by not dramatically altering The Gap brand and instead, creating an entirely new one, Old Navy, in keeping with a grunge generation looking for disposal clothing with a thrift store chic. Smart.

Other thoughts: I think the best description of advertising I’ve ever heard is, “salesmanship in print.” Good marketing embeds salesmanship in whatever medium it works within. In essence, that’s what I look for in a marketer: someone who knows how to implant salesmanship in products, prices,positions, promotions, etc.

 

Want to bring some Kranz into your organization? Get your in-house content marketing training here.

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Would you welcome a referral from this guy?

Yeah man, thanks for the referral!

In the last two days, I’ve received two automated email messages with the subject line, “Are you taking on new clients?”

Curiosity getting the best of me, I followed the link to a site called Referral Key. In the latest (and probably inevitable) iteration of social media networking, Referral Key offers a referral exchange platform that removes the inconvenient work of having to actually know people and understand their businesses before exercising professional judgment.

The promise? Hey, if you give rewards, you get referrals. If you give referrals, you get rewards. Whatsa’ matta’ wid dat?

Let me back up a bit to explain my own referral policy. Many people think I’m crazy, but…I won’t accept cash or percentages from professionals I’ve referred my clients to. Conversely, I won’t “reward” people (other than with gratitude, good will and maybe some in-kind services) for referring me.

Why? To maintain client confidence. Whether I’m the one referred or I’ve referred someone else, clients can be sure the recommendation was made, not on the prospect of obtaining a “reward,” but in the belief that the recommendation is in their best interest.

Which isn’t exactly the modus operandi of this referral model, is it? In fact, Referral Key extends the weakness of LinkedIn one step further: instead of exchanging contacts among people we barely know, we can now dilute our credibility even more by exchanging referrals with virtual strangers.

Put yourself in the client’s shoes: How would you feel about hiring professional talent based on an exchange that emerged from a social media site that encourages spam-messaging of your LinkedIn network base?

Call me crazy. Call me old-fashioned. But if you want a recommendation for marketing or creative talent based on my first-hand experience working with legions of professionals, call me on the phone. I may not have the right person for you in mind. But if I do suggest someone, it will be because I genuinely trust that person’s ability to help you. And nothing else.

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If you’re a marketer, I sure hope you don’t have to be sold on the power of free. But sometimes it helps to be reminded. In the UK, a World Book Night in which a number of titles were given away in Trafalgar Square (how’d they keep the pigeons off the books?) has led to — no surprise — a significant increase in monthly sales for most of the participating texts. The only surprise, in my mind, is that so many publishers and booksellers were surprised (which may not be so surprising given the overall marketing cluelessness of the publishing industry as a whole). It’s really simple: giving away free books creates favorable publicity; publicity boosts public interest; increased interest leads to greater sales.

We get this, but too often, publishers don’t. When Writing Copy for Dummies came out in 2005, I had to argue with my publisher over an opportunity to have a chapter published as an article in a well-respected marketing magazine. “You can’t just give it away!” they said. I said that the article would whet the appetite for the book. “But why would anyone buy it if they’ve already read it?” they replied. As you can see, this discussion was much like talking to a small child. I had to spell out the obvious and explain that, 1) magazine readers would only get a small portion of the damned book and 2) the increased exposure would help sales. In the end, I could only permit publication of just a few pages worth of material. Sigh.

If the publishing world collapses, it won’t be because of ebooks or the Web or because young people “don’t read”; it’ll be because publishers refuse to look beyond an aging marketing/distribution model that hasn’t changed since the Great Depression.

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Ultimate Guide to Corporate Blogging Ebook Now Available

Ultimate Guide to Corporate BloggingThe “Ultimate Guide”? That’s one heck of a promise. But I think the good people at Openview Labs have kept it. (Self-interest alert: yeah, I contributed a section to the ebook.)

What makes the Ultimate Guide to Corporate Blogging worth downloading and reading? Let me count the ways:

  1. It clearly defines the business value of blogging — a case you can take to the powers that be.
  2. It maps a practical pathway for creating a blogging strategy and implementing it.
  3. The book gives you metrics for measuring progress and spots the most likely challenges.
  4. The authors have articulated the responsibilities of each corporate player who should have a role in your blog.
  5. The “Quick Start” guide helps you get up and running, fast.
  6. Finally, it’s packed with hints, tips and suggestions from credible authorities — such as Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley, Darren Rowse and Grace Kang — and from one suspect authority: me.

It’s free. So go get it. Obey. Okay?

When you’re ready to train your own people to create content, check out my content writing training seminar.

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2011 Social Media Predictions
Crystal ball reveals all for 2011

"I see a future cluttered with crowded and decreasingly relevant social media..."

My buddy Joe Pulizzi has just released the 2011 version of his 100+ Content and Social Media Predictions available here. My prognostication appears on page fifteen.

Since Joe sent out his request for opinions way back when (a month ago?), my opinion has changed somewhat. One reason: the impact of a marketers survey serving as the foundation of a report I’m writing with a client. I can’t quote from it until it’s released, but I can say it reveals some very interesting things regarding the respective roles of mobile marketing and social media…

So, my altered opinion for 2011: as mobile grows in significance, marketers who experience the very immediate and measurable impact of mobile apps and sites will lose patience with the amorphous promises of social media — and budget allocations will adjust accordingly. Frightened social media gurus, feeling the virtual earth move under their feet, will backpedal by telling us about the importance of “integration,” of considering mobile as just one part of a 360 degree customer relation strategy.

But customer actions will tell a different, truer story of their own. As mobile consumers use real time data and connectivity to make purchasing decisions on the spot, many of our brand-building investments will prove irrelevant. What will matter?

  • Price, location, convenience, offers
  • Giving consumers immediate access to the information they want
  • Customer opinions: influencing what customers have to say about our products/services will grow in importance

What will not matter or matter less?

  • Building pseudo relationships that have little meaning to consumers
  • Pumping out content for the sake of pumping out content
  • Adding more noise to an already noisy, crowded environment that demands too much of a consumer’s time and attention; frankly, they’re in “Hollywood” mode: don’t call us, we’ll call you

Disagree? Let’s plan to meet again a year from now and see how things actually turned out…

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