Social Media and Content Marketing: Don’t expect the world to find you
Social media is essential for promoting content marketing. You might have the Mike Tyson of blogs, but without the Don King of social media promoting it, you likely won’t be discovered and will never even get to step into the ring to prove your mettle. But together, social media and content marketing drive up demand generation like an Iron Mike uppercut knocks out Michael Spinks.
To get some inside-the-ring advice, I turned to the demand generation experts at one of our strategic partners, Eloqua, to learn how they promote their own offerings.
Eloqua CMO Brian Kardon recently created a new role at the company – director of content marketing – and filled it with an old face – Joe Chernov. Joe was the global director of communications and social media at Eloqua – where he was responsible for analyst relations, press relations, and social media.
In addition to being the marketing automation company’s newly named director of content marketing, Joe co-chairs the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s member ethics panel … so if you like this interview, please tell three friends.
One of your first decisions upon heading up content at Eloqua was to launch Eloqua’s new It’s All About Revenue blog.
When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, English mountaineer George Mallory simply stated… “Because it’s there.” Why did Eloqua start this blog? Simply because it wasn’t there?
Joe Chernov: Hall of Fame football coach John Madden once said, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback.”
We had three quasi-corporate Eloqua blogs – one thought-leader blog, one best practices blog, and one product “how-to” blog – in addition to several executive blogs. Each had its own voice, own look-and-feel, and own (desired) audience.
Early on in my lead communications role, I wanted to blog about the story behind a new social media product we were launching, yet none of the blog owners would accept my “commercial” content. That’s when I realized that we needed a central blog, a resource for Eloqua to talk more broadly about the industry, competition, and our plans for the future.
We launched the blog in April, and we’ve averaged about three posts per week, with the most popular post receiving about 6,000 views. Not a bad start.
Also, it’s become an outlet for news commentary by Eloqua. Within 24 hours of Oracle buying a competitor of ours, Eloqua CEO Joe Payne blogged his analysis. He picked up so much press that super-influencer David Meerman Scott himself blogged about Payne being an example of the importance of executive nimbleness, the value of being fast.
Even though Eloqua is an established company, launching a new blog from zero is an ambitious (and daunting) endeavor. How did you use social media to begin to build an audience? And how do you continue to use social media to promote content and deepen that engagement with your audience?
JC: Here’s an unpopular answer: You have to earn it. For the most part, our good posts generate lots of views, our not-so-good posts generate few views. Believe me, I know: I own the “least viewed” post award.
Now this isn’t to say you can’t effectively promote your own blog. There are a number of practical steps you can take to build an audience:
- Invite guest contributors or interview known figures in your industry – in other words, involve people that have a vested interest in promoting their post to their followers.
- Mix media – video, illustrations, and graphics tend to be hyper-consumable formats.
- Don’t be afraid to stir the pot – Sometimes controversy is a good way to attract new visitors. Everyone rubbernecks, even online. But market at the margins. Your central focus should remain on the quality of your content.
Sometimes content is about clever repurposing, and when you launched this blog you did just that. You took two internal documents and made them public.
Let’s talk about the first one – “The Content Grid.” This really shows how the blog is the hub of your content marketing, right there in the middle, next to Twitter. But how does this awareness and consideration get turned into revenue? After all, “It’s All About Revenue,” right?
JC: We have a long sales cycle. Most prospects that enter our database aren’t ready to convert immediately, so we nurture them over time. So it’s a little early for us to measure the ROI of this initiative.
But the indicators are strong. For example, we know that visitors to Eloqua.com who watch a product demo ultimately convert at a much higher rate than those who don’t. And we know that a disproportionate number of visitors who discover Eloqua.com through our blog view a product demo. We also know that the It’s All About Revenue blog is referring visitors to Eloqua.com at a much higher rate than all of our other blog assets combined. We are confident that in the next quarter or two, we’ll begin to see these leads convert.
There are a couple of media channels that we may inch in one direction or the other in our next rev of The Content Grid, but one change I cannot imagine making is to shift the location of the blog.
The blog is the hub of the content wheel. It allows for immediate posting, direct language, reader engagement, and it feeds traffic to the corporate site.
It’s also a medium that third parties are comfortable pointing to. Could you imagine someone like Jeremiah Owyang tweeting a link to a company’s website? No way. He’d never do it … and with good reason. Jeremiah’s loyalty is to his reader, and readers don’t want to be pushed to websites that are trying to sell them stuff.
A properly executed blog, however, is different. It’s the human voice of the company, and, as such, people are reasonably comfortable pointing their readers to that channel.
If all of your content marketing efforts eventually drive into Eloqua.com as the main place for lead conversion, how have you worked to test and optimize the website, and the entire process, to maximize lead conversion and reduce the potential for leaking leads and therefore revenue?
JC: Content marketing is leaky. We leak out a lot of leads. It’s literally a daily conversation I have with our demand generation director. It’s a Catch-22: You can’t capture leads if you don’t gate content, but your content won’t spread if you gate it. So what do you do? We are experimenting.
We set The Content Grid and Social Media Playbook free, completely ungated. If we sponsor an analyst report, we may gate that – after all, it’s a very specific, and highly valuable, piece of content and one that our audience is used to paying for.
We have some other content planned – topical guides, ebooks that we’ve written – and we may set them free for a finite period of time, after which we could introduce a small gate. Or perhaps we will embrace the channel: if the guide is distributed on the social Web, it’s ungated; if we send it to someone in our database, we may direct them to a landing page where we can collect more information.
We are trying different models. In the end, Eloqua is shifting to the school of thought espoused in the new David Meerman Scott/Brian Halligan book, “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead.” In the long term, setting your knowledge free is the most direct route to success.
The second key piece of internal content you posted was the Social Media Playbook, and you weren’t shy about it either. The Abbie Hoffman-esque blog post you wrote to promote it is entitled, “Steal Eloqua’s Social Media Playbook.”
I was most interested in the ethical considerations you mention in the Playbook, which seem to be inspired by your role with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. It seems like everywhere you turn there is some flashy/shady social media “evangelist” using black hat tactics.
As you say in the Playbook, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. But they can smell a marketer from a mile away.” So what are some key tips for being an ethical social media marketer…both to be a more effective marketer and also simply to be a decent human being?
JC: I am going to take that Abbie Hoffman comment to my grave with me. That made my day.
But the ethical component of social media marketing cannot be understated. The fact is there are federal guidelines designed to protect unwitting consumers from deceptive businesses.
But I think the social Web does a remarkable job at policing itself. I believe what the government has been good at is giving some fundamental ground rules.
For years, marketers struggled to distinguish cunning from deceptive, but now the FTC has done that for us. In their guidelines for testimonials and endorsements, they make it very clear that if there is a relationship between a company and a consumer, and that consumer “speaks” (blogs, tweets, etc.) about that company, then that testimonial is a form of advertising, and therefore must be disclosed.
I don’t think companies realize how far this directive reaches. Frankly, it means that if a staffer at your organization runs a personal blog in which he writes about your industry, then he must disclose his employment. I think many companies are in violation of this FTC rule, not out of malice, but ignorance. I wanted to include a larger section on ethics in the Playbook, but feared it’d come off as preachy.
To sum it all up, what are the main things companies should focus on to drive demand and leads with content.
JC: Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Use your blog as the hub of the content wheel
- Stop thinking of Twitter as the goal, consumption is the goal…Twitter’s value is that it is a useful tool in directing people to points of consumption
- Don’t expect the world to find you. Yes inbound marketing works, and your blog should be your hub. But of the 20,000 downloads (in the first month) of The Content Grid and Social Media Playbook, nearly half occurred “in the wild” (SlideShare, Scribd, Facebook).
- Assume that 50% of your time will be spent in the dialogue phase of content marketing. Creating remarkable content, distributing it broadly and measuring the impact is, together, only half of the battle. Engaging in a dialogue everywhere you publish your content is vital for success. It’s also the best trigger for sustained interest and long-term word-of-mouth.
- In the end, remember that this is a meritocracy. Good marketing isn’t going to turn bad content into a success.