My wrap on the Emerging Writers’ Festival Digital Masterclass

The Emerging Writers’ Festival Digital Masterclass was held on Friday 24th May at the City Library.

The full day workshop featured an inspiring range of speakers. The broad theme was creating digital content to support your writing and to build your profile, with a focus on blogs and social media.

The diversity of content and speakers made for an information-packed day. There was plenty to learn and take away, depending on your background and interests. The content ranged from the very practical (how to produce a video, podcast and ebook), to the more strategic (planning and goal setting).

I was impressed by the presenters’ expertise and their passion for their craft. What they all had in common was that they had a good idea, and had a go at executing it, even if they didn’t have the technical skills at first. They tried, they failed, they learned and they got better at it. They sought out advice and collaborated with others. They tapped into their community, or built a new one to support their work. They knew what they wanted to achieve, even if the path wasn’t clear. They found their niche. And the warm and fuzzy part is that they are now sharing what they learnt with others.

I love this video that Mark Welker showed us on the creative process. For me, it really summed up the overarching message I took away from the day. Don’t be scared to try new stuff. At first you won’t be so good at it, but if you keep trying and learning, you will get better at it, maybe even become great at it.

 

Here are a few of my personal highlights from each of the presenters.

Rose Powell (@rosepowell) took us through practical exercises on strategic planning, risk identification, asset mapping and goal setting for establishing a successful website/blog. The take away message from Rose’s presentation was to be strategic about what you want to achieve, make the most of your networks, have clear goals, and find your niche.

Jo Case (@jocaseau) took us through a case study of The Wheeler Centre Dailies site, with a focus on how they both generate and commission content. She included a practical exercise on pitch writing. The content model Jo presented included a wide range of different formats and sources including feature articles, curation of content from other sources, reviews, news, entertainment, events and book extracts. Her model was really useful in thinking about how to keep a website’s content dynamic, interesting, and fresh with limited resources.

Thang Ngo (@ThangNgo) is Australia’s #1 video food blogger. He talked about finding your niche, producing unique content, creating an online community, supporting others, and building your profile. Like Rose, he emphasised the importance of having clear goals.

Johannes Jakob (@jojojakob) gave us the low-down on creating podcasts, based on his experience creating the JOMAD podcast.

Mark Welker (@mwelker) from Commoner Films spoke about moving from one medium (writing) to another (video) and the parallels for story telling in both mediums. He stepped us through the video-making process and shared his tips including: capturing natural light, using a controlled camera, getting up close to your subject, and focussing on texture and detail.

Ash Davies (@PhotoGuides) from Tablo Publishing gave us a crash course on creating, marketing and distributing ebooks. He showed us a demo of his new product Bookmaker. If only every 20 year old had Ash’s creativity, initiative and drive. We would have solved the world’s problems by now.

And so, that wraps up my summary of the digital masterclass. Did you go to the workshop? What did you learn?

Talking content marketing with The PR Warrior

One of the most talked about marketing and communications strategies at the moment is content marketing: the creation and sharing of content to attract and retain customers, generate leads and increase revenue.

I wanted to find out more about content marketing, so I went to the source and had a chat to Trevor Young. Trevor is a leading thinker, consultant and speaker in the fields of public relations, marketing and communications.

Trevor Young aka The PR Warrior

Trevor’s blog PR Warrior has been named one of Australia’s Top 25 Business blogs by Smart Company, where he writes about leadership in communications, with an emphasis towards social media and content marketing.

JH: What do you see as the main benefits of content marketing?

TY: Content marketing, when done well, can increase awareness of your brand, reinforce a thought leadership position, help generate warm leads and build relationships with customers. The key thing is identifying what are you trying to achieve, and then skewing your efforts towards that goal.

The big benefit is that content marketing can be highly effective in attracting people to your brand by providing valuable and compelling content. This is contrary to traditional marketing wisdom where you push the message out. Content marketing is as much a mindset as anything – a willingness to connect with people and share ideas and information.

JH: How does content marketing complement other marketing tactics?

TY: It dovetails perfectly into traditional public relations. Social media and content marketing are core components of modern-day PR. Obviously, content is crucial to social media marketing. When it comes to creating content today, PR people can now widen their vision and produce it across multiple platforms, on the cheap and on the fly. And marketers, especially those in the B2B space whose role it is to generate new business leads, should be all over content marketing.

JH: If an organisation is thinking of going down the content marketing path what do they need to consider?

TY: You need to consider whether you have the right attitude and mindset. Are you comfortable with sharing stories, ideas and intellectual property? Are you happy for your employees to be publicly involved?

If you answer yes to these questions, you need to work out who will be the driving force internally. If it’s a large organisation, there might people involved from different parts of the business. Think about forming a small working group. If it’s a smaller company, chances are it will be the owner or CEO driving things, which is fine if they have the time to devote to the process.

You’re going to need to know your ‘spheres of conversation’. What direction is your content going to take? What tone is going to be used?

There’s nothing wrong with starting small and building momentum. You don’t need to do everything immediately. Build your content base over time and use social media channels and events to participate in your community and engage customers, friends and influencers.

JH: There’s a smorgasbord of choices for types and formats of content that can be used in content marketing. How do brands choose the right mix?

TY: A lot comes down to budget and resources. Ask yourself the important question: How does our audience (clients/influencers/potential customers) consume media or like to receive information? It’s wise to have a range of options. You can repurpose content across multiple mediums. For example, blog posts can have accompanying video, and regular video interviews can be turned into podcasts and syndicated via iTunes.

I’m a huge believer in solid cornerstone content such as downloadable PDF e-books. If you’ve got a lot of complex information to convey infographics are a great communication vehicle. More and more I’m loving video as a powerful way to communicate. Opt-in e-newsletters are also incredibly effective for many types of businesses, even if they’re not as sexy as other mediums.

You should produce content for your core channels and then occasionally mix it up a bit. It’s smart to be flexible too. Measure what’s working and if something is not all that effective, be prepared to ditch it. Having an online hub where you house all your content is critical, for example, a well-maintained blog or online multimedia news room.

JH: What’s the secret sauce to compelling and shareable content?

TY: If content goes ‘viral’ that’s the cream on top of your content marketing strategy. There are types of content that seem to get shared more often. Really well put-together infographics tend to get shared a lot and list-type blog posts (i.e. 5 top tips for xyz) also do well. Meaty research reports and e-books written around a powerful theme are effective. High quality content will generally resonate with the intended audience if it’s been produced with the right intent, regardless of format.

Occasionally something will come along that really surprises you. Recently I produced a simple Flipcam video of a CEO of a medium-sized company adding a bit of colour and commentary to some research presented in a media release. News Ltd. picked up the video from the website and ran it across all their online mastheads giving us mass coverage. It was a great but certainly nothing we’d planned for.

If your brand is strong and you have a solid community of advocates, enthusiasts and supporters of what it is you do, then if you create killer content, it’s more likely to be shared around, liked and retweeted because you have a fan base to do that.

JH: How does content marketing sit alongside SEO?

TY: Very closely. Lee Odden from TopRankBlog talks a lot about the ‘holy trinity’ of search, social and content. The key is to bring the three elements together for optimum effect. In an interview I read with Lee he pointed out that SEO focuses on rankings and traffic, content people think about distribution of press releases and blog posts, while the social media guys care about engagement. That presents an inherent challenge for uniting the three but the goal is to start bringing them together.

My focus is on producing the best content I can that I hope will resonate with the audience. Knowing what keywords and phrases need to be employed is fine. I’ll incorporate them but only if their inclusion adds value to the finished product. In other words, avoid over-using keywords and blanding out your content for the sake of SEO.

JH: What does the next 12 months look like for content marketing?

TY: If you talked about content marketing to people 12-18 months ago you would have probably got a blank stare. There are less blank stares today and there will be even less by the end of 2013 as content marketing gains traction in Australia. It is more or less mainstream in a business and marketing sense in the US. It’s not at that level in Australia yet, but the signs are there.

Content curation will become really important – careful and strategic curation of content and adding insights.

Video is going to get even bigger. A strong emerging theme is the humanisation of brands, that is, getting people out from closed doors and interacting with customers, and putting internal experts at the front and centre of a company’s content efforts. Video humanises a business.

Smart marketers will up the ante by producing high quality content that can be repurposed, remixed, or as Ann Handley from Marketing Profs  says: “re-imagined”. They will have content as a cornerstone of their marketing and PR efforts. Whether that means employing journalists or using an external agency, I don’t know, but it’s bound to happen.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter @trevoryoung

This post was originally featured on the SMK blog

Activating social content: streams, protocols and dark social

Content becomes social when your audience shares it with their connections via email, chat rooms, or social networks such as Twitter. An effective social content strategy optimises this sharing so that your content reaches as many people as possible. By reaching a wide audience you increase the potential to attract and retain clients, generate leads, improve engagement and build an online community.

A few current and predicted trends are worth understanding to help you shape your social content strategy. Firstly, there is a shift in your audience preference towards accessing content in app-based streams. There is a prediction of the emergence of social media as a protocol, rather than a platform, and there is the puzzle of uncovering ‘dark social’.

To measure the success of social content, you need to understand how an audience is referred to your content. This can be tricky with ‘direct’ traffic, i.e. when someone clicks on a deep link to your content via email, in chat rooms, or through some apps and secure sites shared with them by one of their friends or colleagues. This is because you can’t trace the path they took to get there. Alexis Madrigal has coined the phrase ‘dark social’ to describe this traffic. He quotes an analysis of media sites which showed amongst those sites that almost 69 per cent of referrals are dark social, with Facebook coming in at 20 per cent and Twitter at per cent.  If these results are indicative of a wider trend, then sharing of your content happens primarily outside of the major social networks. This empahises the importance of not relying solely on these networks for activating the sharing of your content. Your social content strategy should also focus on direct referrals such as email marketing, and reaching out to bloggers and influencers.

In order to optimise the social spread of content via social networks, you currently have no choice but to cross-post it to multiple destinations such as Google+, Facebook, and Tumblr. This is the only way to reach your audience, which is dispersed across the ever-expanding selection of social networks. Thomas Baekdal calls this a state of social media fatigue.

Third-party tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social simplify things a little by allowing you to maintain multiple profiles and publish content across a variety of social networks via an integrated dashboard, but this is a stopgap measure.

Baekdal proposes that there will be a shift towards social media as a protocol. This would enable content to be published on whichever social network suits you. Your audience would view it via their social network of choice. This would work much the same way as email protocol. For example, if you are on Outlook, you can seamlessly send and receive emails with someone on Gmail.

This seems hard to imagine at the moment, with platforms such as Twitter starting to restrict third-party access to cross-posting content. However, if Baekdal’s post-Facebook-world prediction rings true it will make it much easier to plan and execute a social content strategy. It will reduce social media fatigue.

Where does content published to your own website fit into this equation?

Increasingly, more of your audience is accessing content via mobile apps such as Instagram, Facebook and Gmail. Australia has one of the largest rates of smartphone use in the world, with more than 60% penetration predicted by the end of 2012. Tablet use is also rising.

Apps display content in a stream that allows your audience to scroll, skim and click links in a single stream of ‘pull’ content. As they become familiar with accessing content in this way, it will become their expectation. They will move away from visiting your website. They will want the content to come to them.

How do you prepare for this change in audience preference? As Anil Dash states, you will need to move away from publishing content to web pages, and start publishing streams. He suggests ‘moving your content management system towards a future where it outputs content to simple APIs, which are consumed by stream-based apps that are either HTML5 in the browser and/or native clients on mobile devices’.

I have been exploring social content trends from the perspective of changes to social networks and platforms. It is equally important to emphasise the role of the content itself in shaping your social content strategy. As Madrigal states ‘the only real way to optimize for social spread is in the nature of the content itself’ while Baekdal imagines a future when ‘the interaction and communication would be linked to the content itself, rather than the platform’. Social networks and platforms will come and go. If you can find that special sauce that is compelling and engaging content your audience will share it and you will have activated social content.

Beginner’s guide to developing a social media content strategy

You’ve decided to take the plunge into social media. Where do you start?

It’s tempting, and not disastrous, to want to get your toes wet by paddling in a few platforms. Send a few tweets, set up a Facebook profile, post some images on Instagram.

But whether you’re an organisation looking to increase your profile and revenue, or an individual wanting to build your personal brand, a content strategy will buoy your social media efforts and ensure you don’t drown. And it needn’t be too tricky or time-consuming. It’s not really that different from a traditional communications/ marketing strategy.

Why have a content strategy?
Having a plan for your content will make it easier to manage, and make it possible to measure your success in social media. Relevant, interesting and compelling content will help position you as a thought leader in your chosen subject-area, will assist you to engage and build a community around your product or service, and increase traffic to your website, social media channels, and consequently through to your organisation.

What are your goals and objectives?
To develop your content, you need to be able to articulate why are you doing it. Why are you engaging in social media? What is your intended benefit to the organisation/ yourself? Some common goals are to:

  • Increase sales/ revenue
  • Increase website hits/ SEO
  • Capture data about current and/or prospective clients
  • Enhance your reputation and raise your profile

How do you measure success?
Once you are clear on your goals and objectives, how are you going to work out if you have met these goals? What are your KPIs and how are you going to measure these? You may need to review and realign your internal systems, data capture and analysis to do this. This will probably involve working across your organisation with different business units such as HR, IT, communications, customer service etc. You might need to buy or use an analytics platform.

Who is your audience?
This will vary depending on your goals and objectives and you will probably find that you have multiple audiences. Typically, your audience will be a subset of your existing or prospective client base. But it should also include a wider community of influencers and potential advocates who can help promote your content. Who do people listen to in relation to your chosen subject areas? Who are the critics, the patrons, the experts, the authorities, the leaders, the mobilisers, the visionaries and the opinion makers?

Where do they hang out online?
There’s no point creating content for Facebook if the people you want to engage with are mostly using Google+ or LinkedIn. Once you’ve identified the audience for your content, you need to find out where they are having conversations. Some places to start looking are blogs and forums, as well as the various social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube etc, and niche social networks. There are lots of free tools that you can use to search across social media.

What will hook them in?
Now that you have defined your audience and know where they hang out online, you need to work out what content will hook them in. How will you grab their interest and stand out amongst the overwhelming volume of content available online? A good place to start is to see what topics are trending and popular and making news for your audience. Listen to what they are talking about and take notice of the phrases they use so you can speak the same language.

Equally important is deciding what you want to talk about. This should be related to the core business (and subject knowledge) of your organisation. What are your competitors talking about? What’s your content niche?

What type and format of content will you create?
It’s ideal to have a mix of content types and formats to appeal to different people. A mix will also give you the opportunity to repackage content for different formats, which increases your content spread without much extra work. For example, you could do an interview with an expert and blog about it, publish a vodcast of the interview and capture still images. That’s three types of content from one activity.

You can experiment with a range of different formats and see what works best for you and your audience. Choose from text, podcasts, vodcasts, webinars, ebooks, games, photos, apps, widgets, infographics and other data visualization content.

The different types of activities you could run include events, news items, research reports, whitepapers, competitions, articles, interviews, seminars and stunts.

Create or curate? Both!
A great way to generate content is to curate. Content curators sift through a bunch of content on a particular topic, find the good stuff, collate it, give it some context and share it online either on their own websites/ blogs or via curation tools such as Pinterest, Scoopit or Storify. Curation is a great way to demonstrate expertise in a particular subject area. If you would like to know more about content curation see my earlier post.

Who will do it? A call to arms.
Once you’ve worked out what sort of content you want to create and curate you need to find someone to do it. It’s going to take resources aka people. The best way to make it manageable is to decentralise responsibility across the organisation. Think of them as your content army. You will need to have a content editor to coordinate the process, quality, mentoring, training and support. They will need to develop a content policy for the foot soldiers. This site has a great selection of policies from a variety of organisations.

Content delivered fresh
Another way to make your content creation and curation a manageable process is to develop a content schedule. This way you can assign responsibility for content chunks to your content army and ensure you are developing relevant, regular and fresh content to your audience. This website has content schedules as well as other useful templates for content marketing.

It’s a conversation
Don’t fall into the habit of using social media solely as an information broadcasting medium. Your aim is to engage your audience in a conversation, get them to participate in your online community, and ultimately carry out some action that benefits your organisation (buy something, donate money, tell their friends about you etc). You can do this by:

  • Telling stories with your content
  • Having an emotional hook or call to action
  • Knowing your voice
  • Being authentic, conversational and approachable in your tone
  • Having interesting, compelling content that keeps people coming back for more

If you are interested in knowing more about managing your online community, try this site.

Like? Follow? Connect? Which platform?
There’s no right answer to this question. The best approach is to go where your audience is and don’t try to do everything at once. Start with 1 or 2 platforms and build up from there. Whether you decide on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram etc, it’s worth varying your content across platforms so people have a reason to follow/ like/ connect with you in more than one place. You could try targeting different audiences via different platforms. Or you might decide to stick to one platform and create separate accounts to segment your audience. If you’re still not sure which one to use, do some more research. Benchmark against similar organisations – what are they using? Find some best practice examples, talk to your networks, and go online and lurk for a while. Consider getting a social media dashboard to manage your accounts.

Shameless self-promotion
If you do decide to use more than one platform cross-promote across social as well as your other marketing and communications channels such as e-newsletters, email signatures, print advertising and your website. Make sure your own website is social media ready, e.g. people can easily tweet, like, and share content directly from your site.

And more shameless self-promotion
Be proactive in building your audience – they won’t come to you. There are many ways you can do this:

  • Engage with, connect and follow others
  • Invite people to connect with you
  • Share, like, retweet and comment on other people’s content

Monitor success and adjust your strategy
Earlier on, I raised the importance of knowing your goals and objectives and deciding on KPIs to measure these. Once you have set up your social presence and you are posting content, you can start measuring some basic metrics such as views, shares, likes and retweets to see which types of content are most popular, what times and days get your biggest audience when you post, and what topics prompt the most comments from your audience. Be prepared to experiment and change course if something isn’t working as well as you’d expected.

I hope this brief intro to developing a content strategy for social media has helped demystify the process and given you some practical tips to get started.

I used the following resources to help me write this post and you might find them useful too.

Good luck!

Social Media Knowledge (SMK) workshops

What makes an awesome content strategy?

44 must read resources on content marketing

Content Chemistry: The Periodic Table of Content

10 Reasons Why Your Social Media Marketing Efforts Aren’t Working—And What You Can Do About It