Your Marketing and Design Reading for The Weekend

We have a bit of a social media and blogging theme for this weekly reading post. If you are interested in knowing what other company marketers are with their blogs and learning how to improve your effectiveness, I think you'll find this collection helpful.

Become a Social CMOElectronic Newspapers

This was an insightful article that reminds us we have to practice what we preach. You know your company needs to be active on social media but you figure you can hire some "kid" and turn him or her loose on your behalf. Not so much.

Forrester's Chris Stutzman points out that only 16% of CMOs believe it is necessary for them to be proficient at social media themselves to be successful leaders. They are in for a rude awakening. In the next 20 years, we will enter what Forrester calls "the age of the customer," meaning CMOs can't be content with customer-focused approaches. Rather, they have to become customer-obsessed.

  • A sea of customer change is heading our way.
  • CMOs must invest in social media to engage with empowered consumers.
  • We are understaffed for social initiatives.

CMOs from the largest companies do not participate in social media—only 15 CMOs from the Fortune 100 have Twitter accounts and most do not use social media to interact with customers. But CMOs have to experience social media to better lead the brand experience. "CMOs can only inspire a vision and outline a compelling road map for the brand experience when they personally understand the gaps in the company's current social capabilities."

  • Listen to customers yourself by connecting directly on social media. It is a lot faster, easier and cheaper to tap into customer sentiment in social media than it is with focus groups or traveling around to have sit-down meetings.
  • Keep a pulse on the competition. Rather than wait for traditional intelligence reports. CMOs should follow competitors on Twitter or Like their competition's Facebook pages.
  • Experience your company's social strengths and weaknesses. Get firsthand knowledge of the company's brand in social media in the same way you would call customer service or shop in your stores.

Another way CMOs should use social network is in helping to motivate and manage their organizations.

  • Inspire employees by doing what you say. If social media is important to the company and marketing, it should be important to the CMO. Digital First Media CEO John Paton advanced the "digital first" strategy as the basis for the publishing company's turnaround and has set the example by establishing a blog.
  • Build momentum with all of your employees. Social media complement methods of connecting with employees to build morale and it becomes especially valuable if your employees are virtual.
  • Recruit talent. Social media give you the opportunity to compete with other companies for employees by networking and communicating a desirable work culture.

As the author notes, you don't have to become a "power user," but you should be in touch with the realities of marketing today.

43% of Small Businesses Spend 6+ Hours per Week in Social Media

Speaking of social media, what kind of commitment are we talking about? Well, HubSpot shares an infographic created by VerticalResponse which reveals that 43% of small businesses are spending at least six hours per week on social media and 25% spend six to ten hours. Some other key points are:

  • The major focus is on Facebook (90% use it) and Twitter (70% use it).
  • About 50% of small businesses use LinkedIn.
  • Usage of Google+ and Pinterest is much lower.
  • CEOs spend one to five hours per week on social media but one-third of them want to spend less time.
  • 66% of the businesses are spending more time on social media than a year ago.

The Marketing Team at Affinity Express is with the 11% who spend 11 to 20 hours per week because we value social media so much for the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits.

21 Business Blogging Tips from the Pros

Social Media Examiner spoke to the 21 top experts to compile a list of tips that can help all business bloggers improve. Here are some of my favorites:

#2         Crowdsource Unconventionally

This tip wisely advises us to differentiate ourselves and our blogs with new approaches and fresh ideas. Essentially, we need to take inspiration for content from everyday life and write about what matters to our audiences. This makes our content interesting and personal—what readers most want.

#7         Do Interviews/Webinars

If you know an expert in something, interview him or her. You'll get a great blog post, increase your own expertise and teach your readers something. Webinars are a bit more challenging to pull off but you can also feature experts in your network and facilitate the session for them, while you increase your subscriber base thanks to their promotion of the session. We just conducted the first in a series of four sales workshops on new services we're rolling out. We used Webex and recorded the presentation and the question and answer section. It could not have been more simple and I was able to send out a link to all those who could not attend the live presentation. We also have an interview post planned and are working with an expert on SEO. #8         Invite Guest Bloggers The next step beyond an interview post is letting someone else write for your blog. You could feature someone in the company who normally doesn't publish or outside professionals you follow and enjoy reading. This may give you more views based on the following of the guest blogger, as well as an opportunity to provide guest posts on their blogs.

#11       Focus on People First

"The most successful bloggers listen to their audience." I couldn't agree more. If you are not publishing content that the audience values because it answers their questions and solves their problems, why are you doing it? Monitor the conversations carefully and remember who you are serving.

#12       Skip the Promotion on Business Blogs

People don't follow blogs to get sales pitches. They want information and solutions. If your product happens to help in a particular situation, you have to be very subtle about mentioning it and keep the objective of the blog front and center. 

#15       Brand Journalism

Create content for the blog that can be reused and re-purposed across media. Think of yourself as a reporter covering your industry and develop articles on relevant subjects. You'll get more mileage from your investment of time and a larger audience.

#17       Show Your Personality

Unlike other content, it is perfectly acceptable to express your opinions and talk about your experiences. It's the opposite of most marketing writing and it took me a while to write in the first person but I'm getting there. Take a look at the entire post and see which tips you like best.

30 Ways to Promote Your Blog Posts

This infographic is a great resource that will give you some new ideas for promoting each of your posts. It starts with some success tips that make perfect sense: 1) write in your own voice and be authentic, 2) be consistent in your blogging practices even if that means you publish less frequently, 3) have visually appealing photos, and 4) build a following by marketing not by assuming people will find you.

Here are some of the highlights.

Share posts on social media

  • Schedule on Twitter two or three times per day for the next 30 days (changing the title).
  • Create a Pinterest board specifically for your blog posts.
  • Share posts on your LinkedIn profile, in groups and through ads.

Leverage bookmarking sites

  • Submit posts to StumbleUpon.com, Digg.com. and Delicious.com.
  • Try Reddit.com, one of the most popular bookmark sites.
  • Technorati.com is the top search engine for blogs so take advantage of it.

Publish to your contacts

  • Add to e-newsletters.
  • Add to your email signature using Wisestamp.com.
  • Make an RSS feed available to readers.

Tap into other blogs

  • Comment on other posts (frequently) and link to your blog (judiciously).
  • Submit guest posts.
  • Join a blogging community and exchange contacts with others.

We'll be busy at Affinity Express trying out some of these tactics over the coming weeks!

"It is what it is:" More Annoying Phrases to Avoid

If you are going to read the list, be prepared to admit that you have been guilty of saying and even writing some of these in the past (and maybe even this morning). In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that I have "reached out to" people (always in business and never in personal life, for some reason).

I've also said, "We'll address it later" but most often to my kids and not colleagues. "You know what I mean" has been whipped out on occasion and almost always after I have just said something that I know was hard to follow.

The phrase I use most often—and it comes with a certain number of years in business—is that "I couldn't care less." I do not stress about certain things because I have learned it is a waste of energy when something is out of your control.

I agree with PR News because I can't stand when people use "literally" with such vehemence to sound smart ... but they actually mean "figuratively." It is worse when people pronounce it like they are from England ("litch'-rah-lee").

By the way, if you sprinkle in "quite frankly" to your conversation, I'm going to assume you are a liar most of the time.

But I disagree on "out of pocket." To me, it is not about being away from my desk, etc. Rather, it is a phrase I never want to hear when talking to my insurance company!

Thanks for the laugh, PR News!

10 Things I Hate About Branding

Last, but definitely not least (that's a bonus that could definitely be added to the most annoying phrases above), who doesn't love a good rant now and then? Ed Roach gets all his rage out in this post. Just reading it may be cathartic if, like me, you are a member of your company's branding police.

He points out that it is a lot of work to stay on top of one's brand and wishes he had an "Easy Button." He also hates having to remind businesses that their brands are more than logos and are top-down initiatives. We're very lucky at Affinity Express to have a CEO who believes in consistency and Ken will even send emails to me when he notices non-compliant email signatures!

The author hates that consistency is worth so much to your brand and wishes he could change things up a bit, yet knows that would actually diminish what has been achieved to date. This is something we often debate at Affinity Express because we'll get occasional questions about changing or updating our logo but we have had this one only about six years. Plus, it is quite an expensive and time-consuming proposition to make a change.

One item that particularly resonated with me is "Why do some businesses still feel they must follow the leader in their category. In my career, I have heard salespeople use another company's slogan to reinforce a point or set up a comparison to a leader in another industry. My advice: never hitch your branding wagon to someone else's star. One teeny-tiny public mistake for them and your brand is toast. Even worse, you have no control over it or advance warning.

I don't know if I'll go on a branding or other rant anytime soon but this one was fun. Thanks for sharing it with me, Kriti!

How much time are you spending on social media? Do you have annoying phrases to add or subjects you want to rant about? Let us know and start our weekend in a social way!


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