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Social Listening: Consumers Don’t Like It and What Your Brand Should Do About It

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It’s common for companies to listen to conversations on social media. This way, they can understand consumer opinion about brands, products, and services.

The problem is consumers don’t like it.

A 2012 study by JD Power and NetBase shows that 40% of consumers think social listening intrudes on privacy, even though this is “social media.”

False Expectations?

The question is should users even expect to have online privacy in the first place?

Last summer Google basically told a federal court that people who care about privacy should not use their service and as Molly Wood, executive editor at CNET subsequently pointed out:

“Google reads your e-mail, knows what’s in your calendar, looks at your photos, and knows who your friends are, and that’s just via its in-house services. When you include the breadth of its search, Google knows everything about you that’s public information, from your address to all your online profiles, to your marital status and much, much more.”

I think part of the misunderstanding between consumers and marketers is that they look at privacy differently. Marketers spend a lot of time online – researching, studying and trying to understand how vast amounts of online data can be used to improve services.

But consumers aren’t as informed (no disrespect) about online data and how it’s used. Most of the time, they’re just afraid that their personal information is being used for something “covert” and they don’t like it.

But I want to have my cake and eat it too!

What’s interesting is that consumers want it both ways. They don’t necessarily want brands listening to their conversations, but they definitely expect them [brands] to respond if a consumer has a complaint!

There is no magic formula to help brands figure out what to do. What’s clear though is that marketers have to act in such a way that consumers are persuaded about the benefits of social listening.

What’s a brand to do…?

At the end of the day it’s all about respecting the customer, always getting their permission and going out of your way to explain why you need specific personal information from them. Here’s what social listening should look like:

  • Don’t just listen; understand the full picture before you respond.
  • Consider the context of online updates and conversations – your response should always satisfy consumers’ expectations.
  • Engage with the intention of delivering mutual value i.e. better experience and incredible customer service.
  • Demonstrate how listening builds relationships, rather than simply ‘intruding’ on consumers’ conversations.

The benefits that come from social listening end up flowing through to consumers as well. Marketers should therefore be bold about educating their customers and explaining how online conversations are used. This not only builds consumer trust, it also alleviates fears based on lack of knowledge.

What do you think? How should marketers behave in order to leverage the benefits of social listening? Please leave your feedback in the comment box below.

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content marketing strategy

6 Content Curation Tips for Delivering Maximum Value to Your Audience

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Do you curate content from other sites on your own blog?

If so, you’re probably doing it one of two ways. Either you’re just posting excerpts (not the whole thing!) of other people’s articles and including a link back to the original source (this is actually called content aggregation).

Or you’re posting excerpts of other people’s articles and adding your own commentary to provide additional insights and context to the article (true content curation).

The first method offers some value to your audience in the sense that you’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting on their behalf thus giving them a quick resource for keeping up to date with relevant content. In exchange they rely on you to point them in the right direction for content on a particular topic(s). See Alltop.com as an example.

The second method offers even more value (to your audience and to you!) because adding your voice and unique perspective to the curated article tells people why the topic is important and also positions you as a trusted thought leader and expert in that area.

If you’re curating content on your website, here are 6 best practices to ensure that you’re delivering maximum value to your audience:

  • Make sure the excerpt from the original source is not too long
  • Include your own commentary to give insight and guidance to your audience
  • Turn off your ‘no-follows’ – the no follow attribute on hyperlinks tells search engines not to give SEO credit to the site you have linked to. Don’t use no-follows on links to the original publisher.
  • Make your commentary longer than the excerpt because it reduces the amount of duplicated content and is thus better for SEO value.
  • Re-title the article so that you’re not competing for the same title on search engines.
  • Share only the thumbnail size of the original image unless you have permission to share the full-size image

For more content curation tips check out Curata’s blog.

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content marketing strategy

6 Tips for Using Content Marketing & Social Media for Any Doctor

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Are you a doctor who’s interested in learning how content and social media marketing can help grow your practice?

For decades doctors were able to get away without investing too much money in advertising or marketing. Then when the Internet changed everything, many of you started to use (and are still using) costly methods of online advertising to market your practices e.g. banner ads.

The problem is patients have completely tuned out to some these tactics and developed chronic cases such as banner blindness.

According to Pew Research, today’s patients are increasingly turning towards the Internet to find information (not advertisements) about symptoms, treatment and support. That means if you want patients to find you when they go online, you need to be involved in content marketing and social media.

And in case you’re wondering how social media and content marketing are related here’s what you should know…

Both are about educating people, answering their questions, and sharing interesting news about your practice. When you do this primarily on your blog it is content marketing

But there’s more.

Social media promotion is critical to online content marketing success. Because there are millions of users on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social sites, it is very likely that people who need your medical expertise (yet don’t know that your blog exists!) are hanging out there.

The best way to reach them is by taking the stories that you’ve posted on your blog and placing them in these sites.

It’s that easy?

Well, yes and no.  Yes, because once you have all your content ready, all you have to do is promote it on your social media networks. But preparation is key.

Social media is a very active space. There are a lot of interesting conversations taking place at the same time and since your target audience has a short attention span, they can get distracted very easily.

The challenge for you as a doctor using social media, is that you have to be more interesting and more creative than the other people or brands in your target audience’s network!

How do you that?

Here are 6 content marketing and social media success tips for your medical practice.

#1. Blog Regularly

If you don’t already have one, develop an editorial calendar to help you blog regularly and consistently. Remember too that social media content benefits from planning and regular updating.

You need to plan for the interesting stories that you will share on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest. Of course many of these stories will be inspired from your blog, but once in a while you may also need to add other content (photos, video, podcasts etc.) to engage audiences within those specific networks.

#2. Tell Awesome Stories

Use your blog to tell stories about your industry, practice, people and events. Each story should be unique and interesting enough to create appeal and draw new audiences on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites that you use.

Human-interest stories are very popular on social media. As a doctor, you have no shortage of such stories although you have to be careful not to violate patient privacy. Patient stories help to illustrate how your practice is impacting people’s lives, and thus generates more interest from other online audiences.

#3. Execute well

Even though 99% of patient stories are interesting by default, how you execute them on social media is very important.

For example on Facebook and Pinterest, posting visually appealing and well-edited photos will go much farther than posting links to your blog. On Twitter you will need different executions skills such as how to craft a compelling tweet with 140 characters, or how to use relevant hashtags to make it easy for people to find your content.

Every social media platform is different. It’s important for you to learn those environments and leverage their unique features to reach a wider audience with your message.

#4. Include location

One of your primary marketing goals is to attract more patients to your practice. So start by creating or updating your Facebook page, Twitter profile and Pinterest account and adding your physical location and your contact information.

When patients come in for their appointment, encourage them to ‘check-in’ to your location using Facebook Places.

Checking-in on Facebook has the same effect as word-of-mouth marketing. When a Facebook user sees (on her Newsfeed) that her friend (your patient) has checked into your location, she’ll be curious to learn more about your practice and will probably click through to your Facebook Page for more information.

#5. Work on your ‘About’ section

The ‘About’ section of your Facebook page should be optimized with keyword rich names, categories and descriptions. The words you use to describe your practice should reflect the natural conversational language that your audience uses. This will increase the likelihood of appearing on Facebook’s Graph Search results.

Similarly, the ‘About’ page of your website should not just focus on keywords that match the medical conditions you treat, but also on answering questions that typical patients would ask. Think about some of the common questions that your patients have asked in the past and update your About page with content that provides those answers.

#6. Consider contests, promotions & giveaways

Contests, promotions and giveaways are very effective ways of acquiring new clients via social media. Because contests can produce outstanding results, it’s important that you make yours stand out by offering a prize that will create excitement and enthusiasm among your audience. Giving away a free iPad has nothing to do with your practice, so don’t bother.

You can give away a relevant product with a ‘limited time only’ message to create a sense of urgency and interest. Avoid giving away free services as this might encourage people not to buy until they find out if they’ve won. To ensure high participation encourage Facebook fans to submit photos of themselves, or share stories for a chance to win.

Your Turn:

Which of these content and social media tips have you used to market your medical practice? Please share your experience in the comment box below.

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content marketing strategy

The Key to Success with Sponsored Content

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The use of sponsored content (also known as native advertising**) is on the rise, though not many brands understand exactly what it is, how it works, or who is currently using it.

Sponsored content is content (e.g. blog posts, articles, Facebook posts, videos, tweets and Infographics) written (or co-written) by a brand (say SAP) and published on a publisher’s domain (say Forbes.com) for the purpose of acquiring new audiences.

Sponsored content is interesting, engaging, quality content NOT a marketing message. It should add value to the user’s experience (i.e. entertain, educate, enhance communication etc.), and always, always line up with the reader’s expectations on the publisher’s site.

It should also be labeled clearly as originating from the brand or sponsor and not the editorial team of the publisher. Here’s a great example of sponsored content on Forbes.

Why use Sponsored Content – The challenge

In recent years consumers have developed a severe case of “banner blindness.” The banner ads we’re used to seeing alongside regular website content are suffering from consumer suspicion, doubt and even contempt.

Hence marketers have been forced to reconsider the way they advertise since they’re not reaching the audiences they want to.

The opportunity

Sponsored content is more aligned with the media that today’s consumers are used to. It provides brands with an opportunity to engage with consumers using a more relevant message and without losing credibility.

According to the State of Native Advertising 2014 report authored by Hexagram and Spada, the most popular reasons why brands and marketers use sponsored content are:

  • To provide a more relevant message to audiences (67%);
  • To increase consumer engagement (63%);
  • To generate awareness or buzz (62%);
  • To create word of mouth advertising (48%);
  • To combat “banner blindness” (43%).

Who uses Sponsored Content?

The Hexagram report indicates that 62% of publishers offer sponsored content opportunities to advertisers; 41% of brands use sponsored content, and 34% of agencies work on sponsored content campaigns.

Done right sponsored content can benefit both the publisher and the brand. However there’s one rule that should be followed to ensure an effective campaign.

The Rule

Brands must put the needs of their audience first and avoid pitching at all costs.

This forces them to think of creative ways of relaying a brand message without resorting to old advertising tactics that consumers hate and don’t interact with anyway.

When sponsored content is done right it tells a fluent story that is highly appropriate and useful to consumers. Somewhere within the story, a brand message is “tucked in” so tactfully that the reader’s experience is not disrupted with a pitch – like this IBM article published on Forbes.

If this can be achieved then consumers will receive and engage with relevant messages, and brands will invest more with publishers.

Some Final thoughts…

Some brands are not comfortable with the concept of sponsored content – they worry about blurring the lines between editorial and paid content, which could jeopardize consumer trust. This is understandable.

But at the end of the day, as long as readers are getting the kind of content they want and not complaining like in this case, and as long as there’s transparency about the origin of content (e.g. ‘Sponsored Content’ or ‘Brought to you by…” or something similar) then brands have nothing to worry about.

What do you think? I’m interested to hear your views or experiences (both good and bad) about sponsored content.

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