10 Ways Your Blog Post Can Lay an Egg

As a social media marketing professor, I am embarrassed to say that some of my blog posts were complete duds. After garnering one comment, a “like” from my wife and a couple of shares on one post, I realized I am not practicing what I preach. Have you been there? The following is nothing new. But it’s a compilation of what leading bloggers and researchers suggest we do to make our posts comment-worthy, share-worthy and link-worthy.

> Making Posts Comment-Worthy

Without a trail of comments, blog posts are essentially articles. Lost are opportunities to spark engagement and showcase our content’s popularity as measured by likes, shares, comments and views. And without this social proof from commentary, what confidence do readers have that your post is worth reading?

A sizeable body of evidence also suggests that trails of commentary indeed contribute to search engine results. So what mistakes are made in trying to attract commentary? Media communication and PR literature seem fairly consistent on this subject.

Mistake #1: Shying Away from Controversy

A former wrestling extraordinaire and colleague of mine at Rockwell Collins, Dave Deal, often schooled us marketers on the art of guerilla warfare. As a regional sales director, Dave’s inputs on marketing strategies were followed by his infamous rally cry to “go pick a fight!”

Although intended to steer a competitive strategy, shouldn’t the same apply to blog posts? Without hitting a nerve or fueling a debate, why should readers park a comment on your post? Many bloggers likely fear that controversial posts can spoil a professional image or derail a discussion. But some academic research suggests that by stirring controversy, you can reap a lengthy comment trail devoid of your own biases.
 
Mistake #2: Failing to Solicit Input
A second way to make your posts comment-worthy is to leave your post open ended. In effect, this argument for commentary building suggests that readers have a clear understanding of their role. But consider how you would respond to the proverbial “what do you think?” or “please share your thoughts.” My own reaction is “where do I start?”

Instead, watch what happens when you ask “what have I missed?” Here is where you will find experts coming out of the woodwork. I found this works when I ask students what I did wrong after sharing a story of a professional screw-up. I often have to interrupt with “okay, I get it!”

Mistake #3: Going Silent
One sure way to stop a comment trail is to avoid replies and thereby imply your readers’ comments don’t really matter. In their study of newsgroup participation, Joyce & Kraut (2006) found that those who got a reply to their comments were 12% more likely to post again. The authors attribute this to the commenter’s desire for positive reinforcement. 

Mistake #4: Not Reciprocating
There is a great deal of practitioner support for the case that successful solicitation of comments is largely influenced by the activity you spend on your potential readers’ blog posts. Consider how we feel when our contributions to others’ blogs are not reciprocated. Although much of these claims on comment reciprocation are anecdotal, theories of reciprocity have shown that social media engagement improves as bloggers demonstrate their empathy in the form of comment replies and sharing generosity.  

> Making Posts Share-Worthy

Did you ever have a post with long comment trails and likes but few shares? By ignoring strategies to amplify sharing, you miss an even greater opportunity to bump search engine results and build followers. And likes without shares can amount to a mere thank you that offers only temporary boosts in social activity and newsfeed bumps. The mere fact that shares are often augmented with a reader’s own spin suggests a more vested community interest and message relevance. This, in turn, could translate to new followers. So how do we blow this opportunity? 

Mistake #5: Lack of Emotion
It’s hard to find any practitioner or academic research that does not highlight the importance of emotion in encouraging readers to share content. Whether through tearful joy or excitement, emotional content represents over 97% of the viral content (> 50K views) shared on YouTube. And the remaining 3% applies primarily to informational videos supporting innovative product launches (e.g., Lexus and Apple).

Mistake #6: Too Much to Visualize
And few would debate the accelerated trends towards visual content. In fact, Cisco claims that video traffic will account for 82% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021. But beyond just the simplicity and clarity afforded by imagery and videos, don’t most of us want to share something that looks digestible (e.g., photos, bullets, short paragraphs, simple titles, plain English, etc.)? Anyone waiting for a steady stream of white papers? My 6 year old at the time asked me who was going to read our journal publications. There are no pictures.

Mistake #7: Underestimated Reader Bragging Rights
Having 4 sisters, I could attest to their desire to be “the first to tell.”  After all, don’t they lose their social capital if I already heard the news? So many would argue that posts on breaking news encourage readers to share your content. But have we gone overboard with town criers? An argument could be made that instead of breaking news, we should focus more on interpreting or providing our unique perspective on emerging trends. I found the latter to be more promising than the hackneyed news jacking we get when everyone is live video streaming. Another way to encourage bragging rights is to highlight one of your fan’s comments (e.g., shared personal experience).

Mistake #8: Saturate Audiences with Education
Guilty as charged. As much as I feel compelled to inform and explain, my students will fall asleep if I don’t inspire or entertain them. Renowned philosopher, Herbert McLuhan, perhaps said it best: “Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either.”

In our own studies of social media influence, Dr. John Gironda and I found that entertainment value and inspirational motivation impacted social capital as much as helpfulness and foresight. This would imply that readers are just as motivated to share something that boosts the spirits of their followers as they are in sharing news.
  
> Making Posts Link-Worthy

But these tactics for building commentary and encouraging shares may not invite links. Unless you somehow authenticate those linking to your site, why would they want to interrupt their own content with disruptive hyperlinks?

Link-worthiness is about enticing audiences of high social influence to transfer their social capital to you in response to your rewarding them or validating their claims. And search engines like links especially from sites with high traffic. So what keeps influencers from linking to your site?

Mistake #9: No Meaningful Influencer Outreach
How many of you received links when you validated the claims of an influencer with even the simplest of research (e.g., a survey)? When influencers consume their day with podcasts, blogging and TED Talks, many are left with little time to empirically back their expertise or perspectives. If you can cite and tag their claims in your research findings, many may link to your supportive findings and even invite you to elaborate on their own blogs or podcasts.

Mistake #10: No Meaningful Influencer Rewards
And if you can’t help them, then why not reward them? My highest performing pieces acknowledged thought leaders as featured contributors or industry pioneers. But rather than name dropping with pretentious and invalidated top expert lists, the leading influencers were tagged more as leading examples of the discussed concept.

At this point, I believe that many of you may argue that blogging in the traditional sense will die out in favor of live video streaming. But the goal for talk-worthiness will likely remain. Unless our content attracts commentary, encourages sharing and invites links from reputable sites, can we really expect our readers to join the dialog?

So what am I missing that you found to be effective in boosting comments, share and links?

 

Thought Leadership Wins Social Media Votes in B2B

Did you ever wonder what builds social media audiences in B2B circles?

An empirical study of 171 leading influencers by Dr. John Gironda and yours truly found that thought leadership out ranks helpful advice, engagement, entertainment, inspiration, empathy and content credibility.

So what is thought leadership and what does it mean for marketing and sales representatives?

Aspiring thought leaders must champion groundbreaking ideas that provoke new mindsets around a different way of doing business. Think Steve Jobs and the way he fomented change. But for you to gain credibility for your forward thinking insights, the research suggests you must first earn your stripes with trails of content perceived as timely, relevant and useful (i.e., instructional tips that help buyers with their operational challenges).

This is where a lot of sales and marketing personnel bail out. After all, who has the time to brainstorm fresh perspectives and helpful tips?

But imagine the trust built if buyers see you generously sharing your digital content (e.g., blog posts, videos, live broadcasts, white papers, etc.). Your empathy speaks volumes. And don’t underestimate the confidence built as each shared piece sheds more light on your expertise and relevance to your prospective buyer.

On the thought side of thought leadership, buyers need original ideas or unique perspectives before they consider you a trusted authority. High on their list is your market foresight. How can you help them navigate through turbulent times or uncertain futures? In the social media world, this is often done by consultants who regularly forewarn their customers of risky technologies.

The combination of forward looking insights and operational helpfulness then sets the stage for showcasing your expertise. Without this, your claims for cutting-edge ideas cannot be validated. So start with instructional tips to show what you know. Periodically lay out some predictions for what is coming down the pike, and then provoke a new mindset that signals to your buyers that you are worthy of their selective attention and patronage.

On the leadership side of thought leadership, marketers with the most social clout are often known for their inspiration appeal. You have to be able to drive conversations that literally spark a movement. One way to do this is to edu-tain them. Our research showed no direct influence between entertainment and social influence. But it did show an indirect influence through inspirational motivation. The suggestion here is to dress up your content with humor and visual storytelling as a way to inspire your audience.

Why is this important? Imagine a buyer in total control of the sales process (i.e. inbound marketing). Most of the buyer journey is done digitally, and 60% of the cycle is complete before they contact sales. With over 850 million websites equipped for blogging, everyone wants the buyer’s attention. So who do they follow? Their go-to advisors are opinion leaders that could help in innovative brainstorming. This sounds more like helping than selling.

So what do you think falls next on the list of ways to build social influence?

James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Dr. Barry develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jmbarry@nova.edu

Social Marketing to 4 Types of Influencers

Brands and small businesses are quickly recognizing the power of marketing to their key influencers as their own thought leadership efforts stall out. Invitations to an influencer's podcast episodes, guest blogs and featured commentaries are arguably becoming the quickest and most affordable way to organically grow an audience. Unfortunately, few recognize the distinct characteristics of influencers that impact our ability to get on their radar.

An exploratory study of Top Social Media Influencers found 4 Archetypes derived from an examination of a content spectrum (educational to inspirational) and a communication spectrum (insightful to engaging). The resulting archetypes include analytical pundits, evangelists, mentors and motivators.

Notice from the table below how the approach to attracting each archetype varies across:

·         Content delivery formats

·         The way we interact

·         The method used to boost our influencer's audience

Analytical Pundits seek research to support their vision. They prefer round table forums in a debate oriented setting. Consequently, marketers can get on their radar with empirical data, conference invitations, trend line reports and book reviews.

Evangelists seek more illustrious content that support their fresh leading edge perspectives. Their audiences of advocates often share their views in a storytelling format. Marketers can contribute to their causes or insights with heartfelt commentary and inspirational imagery.

Mentors are looking for ways to enhance their courseware with instructional aids for workshop settings. Their audiences seek enhanced performance skills through tactical tips in a Q&A format. Marketers, in this case, can support them with educational aids and expert commentary.

Motivators seek ways to stimulate their audiences often in an entertaining setting. Content contributions need to help them maintain audience energy so as to sustain a packed audience. This works best when the content includes audience participative exercises, humor and motivational success stories.

So where do you find yourself among these categories? Are you more of an analytical pundit, evangelist, mentor or motivator?

 James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu

Why Apps will Jump-Start “Friend-of-Mine” Marketing

You may know that over 1 million apps are downloadable on an iPhone. But did you know how businesses are counting on these apps to break the mold of traditional marketing? Just at the point where you may feel comfortable sporting your inbound marketing badge, you may want to research this new generation of Friend-of-Mine marketing. As explained further, smart marketers are finding clever ways to befriend consumers addicted to "self-help" apps while reinforcing their brand image in the process.

From "Top-of-Mind" to "Frame-of-Mind" to "Friend of-Mine"

Let's first rewind. For years, marketers counted on Top-of-Mind awareness to reach audiences. So after constantly hearing AFLAC!, AFLAC!, we would remember them if and when we become a prospect. This assumes a great deal of consistency, channel breadth and cash.

But along came search engines and social content marketing. This shifted "Top-of-Mind" to "Frame-of Mind" awareness. The goal here is to align your problem solving content (e.g., webinars, eBooks, blogs, etc.) with targeted audiences precisely when and where they are in their buying cycle. This inbound marketing approach is less intrusive than Top-of-Mind and is based on the generous giving of helpful content.

Enter the "app" generation.

Big brands see the move toward mobile apps as a way to engage in Friend-of-Mine marketing. The concept works like this. Charmin's "Sit or Squat" app allows you to download a map of rated restrooms in your area.

Why would they do this? Hopefully, you will associate Charmin's brand with helpfulness while inviting them into your circle of friends. Okay, that may be a stretch. But imagine seeing only this brand name at the time of need.

The Geek Squad is often questioned why their self-help electronic repair videos don't jeopardize their own repairs. Instead, they find the typical overextended gadget fixer searching for a bail-out. Upon witnessing the Geek Squad's expertise, they make the call. This "Let me Help" form of marketing" is not employed as a sales tactic but as a way for the Geek Squad to become a friend. But in the process of helping, they undoubtedly generate new demand.

A widely downloaded app for stain removals is sponsored by Clorox. Although much of their researched advice goes well beyond the scope of their offerings, they can actually stimulate new demand as users consider new possibilities for stain removal. Similarly, Ortho has an app that will help you identify and treat harmful weeds in real-time. Whose weed killer and fertilizer are you going to remember?

Friend-of-Mine Marketing Offers Entrepreneurial Advantages

Small businesses are also capitalizing on low cost app development to offset the high costs of top of mind advertising. Consider how Columbia Gear has an app to explain the various knots to tie when engaged in outdoor excursions. Rather than sporting ads for their outdoor clothing, they are banking on your befriending them at a time when you might consider their products.

So what cool apps do you think can qualify as an exemplary use of Friend-of-Mine marketing?

James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu or 954-262-5134. More About the Contributor

Inbound Marketing: Give Me FREE Stuff Plus Your Secrets?

Did you ever imagine a world without cold calling or interrupting ads? How about one where marketers share secrets for free? That's where we are heading with social media and inbound marketing. Do you buy this?

Inbound marketing implies that our blogs, webinars and eBooks do the talking. Arguably, we can even post and tweet our way to a sale. In the process, we share valuable advice in order to build trust that is worthy of an invite. This makes sense given our aversion to pushy advertising. But why would marketers spend for us to download their FREE content only to wait for an invite?

Get Your Audience to Know, Like and Trust You

When marketed correctly, useful content can leave a trail of expertise backed by a likable persona. If delivered free, we can even be credited with acts of benevolence. What? Mother Teresa and marketing in the same mix? Yes, if you think of benevolence as blogging about solutions to your target's pain points but without wanting something in return.

Now imagine doing this with ads and cold calls. Where is the trail of expertise and trustworthiness? Let's face it. Today's consumers hold little trust in our promises and will demand a trail of trustworthy advice. What's more, they have the power to ignore unwanted emails and unidentified calls while fast forwarding through commercials. Instead, they conduct their own online evaluations and consult with social networking friends on who to invite to the cocktail party.

Show All of Your Cards for Free

So why not join them? And don't forget to bring a dish. You can start with a free blog that fits the conversation. Then reveal your secrets on how to help them. Before you know it, others will join the conversation. Some may even think you know what you are talking about. Finally, lighten up the dialog and even tell a story. Drop the PR and legal speak, and sound like a human. Better yet, say something funny. Who knows – they may grow to like you.

The same applies to inbound marketing just without the cocktails.

Wait for the Invite

So let's get this straight. We are asked to:

1. Share competitive secrets

2. Provide free content

3. Entertain if we cannot educate

4. Wait for an invite

Is Inbound Marketing Really Here to Stay?

With over a billion on social networks, consumers choose who to hear and who to ignore. But do we really expect to become blogging journalists and comedians to gain their favor? What happened to professionalism and timely savings broadcasted on your favorite channels? I would like to know what you think.

Is inbound marketing:

1. Here to stay for most businesses?

2. A mainstay for some businesses?

3. Likely to fade away?

James Barry, D.B.A. is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu or 954-262-5134. More About the Contributor