What Medium Do You Choose to Publish?

This week marked the announcement of Medium, the newest offering of Evan Williams and Biz Stone. These are the two “rock star” entrepreneurs who successfully created Blogger and Twitter. What they are trying to do with their newest venture is to redefine how and why content is published on the web.

In his first blog post about the new concept, Williams says Medium represents only “a sliver” of what he and his team have learned about publishing and the need for innovation. Blogger pioneered the premise that one could publish for free whenever and wherever desirable and create a reading audience. While the effort was revolutionary at the time, it has become commonplace as other substitutes and competitors have pursued the same target market. To “up the ante,” Williams thinks that collaboration and quality content that is crowdsourced are the new frontier:

“Lots of services have successfully lowered the bar for sharing information, but there’s been less progress toward raising the quality of what’s produced. While it’s great that you can be a one-person media company, it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others.”

Pinterest postures as a collaboration platform where favorite objects (mainly photos) from the Web can be saved and shared. Crowdsourcing quality content through reader votes is done in differing ways by Digg, Reddit, and Tumblr. Of these, Tumblr is the best of the bunch for publishing and sharing content. In the dual realm of curation and instant publishing RebelMouse, uses social-networking activity to create a curated page of content that can be organized by preference, and Svbtle is a simplified blog platform with a stripped-down design.

Matthew Ingram, writing for GigaOm, observes that “both of the things Evan Williams is famous for also looked either unnecessary or unimpressive, and in some cases both. Blogger was cool if you were a geek and wanted your own website, but it was far from obvious at the time that self-publishing was going to become something huge or crack open the media industry in a fundamental way. And Twitter looked so ephemeral (not to mention the ridiculous name) that many people dismissed it as a plaything for nerds that would never amount to anything. So as Aaron Levie of Box.net noted on Twitter, it doesn’t pay to underestimate Williams when it comes to this kind of thing.”

Ingram says that Medium looks like a combo of Pinterest & Tumblr, though not proficient at text contributions. Furthermore, he references Josh Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab as saying that Medium subverts the notion of the author as the most important thing about the content. Medium is focused more on the value of the content, regardless of who is producing it or voting on it. Instead of a blog or collection showing whatever is the newest thing — the typical reverse-chronological format used by most blogs and publishing platforms — Medium sorts according to popularity (similar to Digg.) does (in a similar way, tools like Prismatic sort items based in part on the social activity around that content).

The social media culture demands more from publishing; BuzzFeed and the recently-launched Branch (also incubated by Obvious Corp.) are trying to become viable, popular solutions. Time will tell whether Medium is better than anything else out there. As Levie put it, don’t bet against it!

 

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Social Media Metrics for Your Firm

Professional services firms (law, CPA, architect, engineer, IT services, consulting, etc.) are struggling with modern marketing. Many firms were founded in an era wherein marketing was seen as a “necessary evil.” As marketing (or business development, client development, etc.) has become more essential for improved books of business, firms have begun to hire marketing staff. In most cases, these folks have been tasked with corporate marketing rather than marketing the individual professionals. With the onrush of social media as a marketing discipline, there is a sharp dichotomy between the corporate web presence and the “sum of the parts” of individual professionals’  social media presences.

 

Michelle Golden, who is  very active in professional services marketing organizations, recommends taking baseline measurements as early in the (any) marketing process as possible, and then identifying very specific objectives as part of an individual’s role in increasing his or her—and ultimately the firm’s—visibility. She writes of the individual versus company promotion trade-off, in a blog postWhy Social Media Rock Stars Are Good For Your Firm.(Sometimes CPA- or law-firm partners get frustrated about the attention an individual “supposedly representing the firm” starts getting when their online visibility increases. This (blog post) helps explain to those partners why they should encourage the individual “fame” and not squelch it.) 

Golden says that “You can rarely truly know exactly where a lead is generated anymore (unless it’s from a specific campaign) and that’s OK. We are looking for overall growth. This is all the ROI that you’ll need.”

Here are some specific ways she suggests to put marketing metrics in place:

BASELINE MEASUREMENTS

To accurately assess growth later, I recommend taking these broad baseline measurements now:

  • number of current clients
  • revenue (average and standard deviation)
  • revenue change % year over year
  • client longevity (length of stay with the firm)
  • frequency of client interactions
  • frequency of transactions (purchases)
  • number of clients lost per month, quarter, or year
  • number of new clients per month, quarter, or year

PLANNING AND GOALS

  • Increase retweets and mentions (by anyone) related to [practice topic] from [baseline #] to [goal #] by [date]
  • Obtain [#] retweets and mentions by target personas including peers and thought leaders in the specialty (i.e., Get on their radar. Knowing exactly who they are in advance is best.) by [date]
  • Receive at least [#] unsolicited invitations from trade organizations to speak or write by [date]
  • Earn [#] appearances as media “expert” in [publication or station] by [date]
  • Receive [#] questions or requests for advice from [define personas] every [frequency]
  • Build up to [#] of [define persona] Twitter (or blog) followers (or subscribers) by [date]
  • Move [# define persona, or specific names] from digital to personal conversations by [date]

TRACKING WORTHWHILE THINGS

  • Where did it appear?
  • Who said it?
  • Was it positive? Y/N
  • What was said? Categorize the nature of the comment and keep a clip file.
  • Was the mention about a particular practice, department, or person?
  • Did the mention include reference to your content or website? If so, to what specific content or page?
  • Who responded and how fast? You may want to keep the response in a clip file, too.

Keep the suggestions above in mind as you develop and refine a social media strategy as a part of your overall marketing plan. Helping your team members become better at their online thought leadership will enhance the brand reputation of the firm. In the process, your best indicator of ROI–increased revenues–should show enhanced performance as well.

 

Content That Speaks C-Suite Language

 

Roanne Neuwirth of the Farland Group (http://www.farlandgroup.com/) writes in a post this week for The Content Marketing Institute that McKinsey & Co has mastered the language of the c-suite. McKinsey Quarterly newsletters are read by corporate executives because the subject matter is engaging, relevant, and contains key topics related to global business excellence. Here’s what distinguishes their approach to content that has proven to be so effective:

Data-driven credibility. Whether a survey of hundreds of technology executives or interviews with 15 chief strategy officers, McKinsey starts with peer  insights and gets compelling facts on which to build their content.

Actionable, relevant, timely information. McKinsey focuses on leading-edge management topics that are  top of mind for executives and shares cases, examples and stories of how other executives have taken action on the opportunities and challenges presented. It’s easy to see how to take these ideas into other environments.

Succinct insights. McKinsey extracts the key points, the most relevant highlights and the most provocative  ideas in the layout and design making the key takeaways easily identifiable and consumable.

Channeling their audience. McKinsey moved its  model to a stronger focus on online formats (audio, video, print) and shifted the print publication to quarterly round-ups. It has integrated a strong social and email strategy to ensure that the content gets to executives in formats that matter.

Even though top executives can be challenging to approach, it is well worth the effort. They control the purse strings.  For marketers in the B2B setting, knowing how to attract and engage the attention and commitment of this critical target audience can make a business very successful.

 

Know that top executives think Return On Investment continuously—whether the investment is their time or the purchasing power they wield. As a rule, the psychographic mindset of the C-suite is to trust a small handful of advisors as subject matter experts. Inherently, most sales approaches are mistrusted and it is very hard to gain enough gravitas to be heard among all the voices clamoring for the right to earn the respect and trust sought.

 

Farland recommends the following guidelines for their clients to penetrate the C-suite “blockade”:

  1. Hard facts drive credibility… and credibility is key. Content based on data makes an impression on executives; peer-based insights and stories add to the credibility of the data collected
  2. Provide actionable and timely information on issues that matter, in formats that allow ready extrapolation. There has to be a “so what” that comes out of the data and it needs to be up-to-the minute, on topics relevant to the executive’s business, role, and current challenges.
  3. Summarize, summarize, summarize. Deliver your ideas with targeted summaries, succinct points, where the bottom line ideas and actions are easy to extract and consume.
  4. Channel matters. With executives in particular, the content has to be easy for them to access, wherever they are — on their iPad during a flight, in a printed paper to peruse after dinner, or in a short video while waiting for a meeting to start.
  5. Push beyond the common wisdom and top-of-mind trends. Executive content needs to present a provocative vision for future possibilities.
  6. Evolve from technical to strategic. Executives are not interested in reading about technologies and products—those are only a means to an end…Position solutions in terms of the bottom line and what can help grow the business.


Who Moved My Marketing?

If a traveling salesman from the early 20th century were to be transported in time into modern day, he would have to be astounded at how marketing messages are conveyed. No longer is the day’s work measured by how many individual presentations were made. No–the world has changed quite a bit and we now have access to prospects around the clock through the power of the internet. Printed materials have given away to digital versions, the materials themselves have become flexible tools that are dynamic rather than static, and the information is disseminated through a variety of methods including the ubiquitous social media.

The information in the described value chain is referred to as “content.” The field of content marketing is now the dominant topic in marketing conversations around the world. The infographic below has a lot of messages. Briefly, thought leadership is the goal and may be accomplished through a variety of means. Increased visibility, wider reach, and improved sales are the outcomes of a well-executed content strategy. Credibility is built and enhanced through well-written pieces online that are disseminated via popular applications such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

As you read through the information in the infographic, we suspect it challenges you to think about your own business promotional strategy in new ways. How do you generate content? Who is responsible for amassing it? Through what means do you share your content? Do you have strategies for niche markets? What is your budget (of financial and human capital) for all of this?

Whew! That’s a lot to consider. Think on it. Develop a plan. Get some help if you need to. But, it’s time to stop putting it off. Your company needs a content strategy–because it has become a primary marketing strategy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content With No Content

Does your professional services firm have a strategy to produce, distribute and repurpose content for multiple market segments? If it does, you are in the minority. Best practices are to create and disseminate content to enhance search engine rankings. Philosophically, billable professionals have insights to share and there are numerous venues for thought leadership to be established. The fact of the matter is, sadly, that the professionals simply are not easily engaged to sit down and generate the content.

The almighty billable hour, the internal metrics, and the likelihood that most would prefer to do the work than to write about it, are all reasons one may choose not to blog, write articles or white papers, or post updates ad tweets. Simply put, very few firms have much experience creating an environment that acknowledges and rewards contributions to thought leadership that do not produce an immediate return. Performance measurement and incentive compensation practices will need to be revised in order to encourage content production as a preferred behavior within the daily, weekly, etc schedule.

If, like other forms of outsourcing, the firm were to contract with a contractor to produce content on behalf of the billable professionals, it would most likely lack the technical acumen and personal passion necessary to be an intriguing, gripping read. However, contract content editors may be a very good idea. Either a staff person or outsider could help to determine themes, subjects, and nuances that would make the content more readable in layman terminology.

Revise & Refine

 

Become discontent with unsatisfactory content–both in terms of volume and quality. Find ways to change the corporate culture to celebrate the content revolution. Articulate the increased stature and visibility that authors enjoy. Recruit firm leaders to demonstrate their personal commitment to writing–even when it produces no immediate revenues. Finally, make writing an assignment. Section/niche leaders should have a scheduled slot for covering their “beats.” Those aspiring to become partners can demonstrate their drive by taking on writing responsibilities. With content editors, these activities can be managed to successfully produce great content, repurpose it for other social media uses, and promote firm expertise.