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The ARC of customer engagement

“81% of marketers say customer engagement is a top priority.”

This was one of the headlines from B2B marketing.net’s new report on the ‘age of engagement’, so it’s a fair bet that some of you out there are on a mission to increase your customers’ engagement with your brand. At HN, we’re firm believers that engaging content = engaged customers. So, to help you in your quest, we’ve created a three-step checklist, and a handy mnemonic – the ARC of customer engagement.

Accessible


Make sure your content is easily found and in a format that’s easy to digest. Optimise your content for search; embed social sharing buttons in your content, and optimise your content for viewing on mobile. And don’t hit your audience with a hefty white paper straight away – use a more digestible format, such as a video or an ebook, to coax them in and get the conversation started.

Relevant


Connect your message to situations your customers are facing today. Don’t be afraid to newsjack if the right story comes up. And bear in mind your audience’s place in the decision-making journey: if they’re at the consideration stage, provide evidence that the challenge you solve is important and worthy of attention. At the decision stage, prove the benefits of your solution in the real world.

Compelling


Nobody waits to be worn down by dull content. They just click and move on. Avoid that scenario by injecting some entertainment into your content, using persuasive and well-crafted storytelling to keep their attention – and keep them clicking.

What do you think?

Is customer engagement a key issue for your business? How do you go about keeping your customers engaged? Let us know in the comments, or get in touch on Twitter and LinkedIn.

You can download the full infographic here

All content is content marketing: why you should take care with all your content

Quick – what’s the first thing that springs to mind when you read the phrase ‘content marketing’? Perhaps it’s a case study, or a white paper, or one of the many pieces of content that you work on every day.

Things like ‘technical manual’ or ‘internal training materials’ may not have sprung to mind as readily, but they’re still important pieces of content. They all communicate your company’s personality and brand, and they all consequentially have an impact on how your customers view you. A difficult technical manual may give them the impression that you are a difficult company to deal with, and even internal documents are important; if they don’t inspire your staff to represent your company, then your staff won’t inspire your customers to buy from you.

Of course, you don’t have time to go and inspect every piece of content that is produced by your company; there’s just too much there. What are needed are some comprehensive brand guidelines, which everyone in the company can follow, to do the job of keeping your content on-message for you. You might already have brand guidelines, but try reading them from a non-marketing perspective. Would they make sense to you? If not, then they might need some reworking to apply to a wider audience. Perhaps you could even make dedicated guidelines for specific types on non-marketing content, if you produce enough of them.

It might also be a good idea to hold a training day, or a workshop, so that everyone in the business understands the impact their content can have on your brand reputation and perception. Combined with easy-to-follow, well-defined brand guidelines, you can ensure that the content you produce sends a consistently positive message to your customers.

Ten reasons why YouTube should be part of your content strategy

How do you perceive YouTube? Do you see it as a social network? Maybe a search engine?

However you define it, YouTube should not be underestimated.

I wouldn’t go as far as to subscribe to the current trend of calling it the #2 search engine in the world — at least not if we’re using a technically accurate definition. Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t go to YouTube in order to look up the website of a restaurant; that’s what Google, or Yahoo, or Bing are for. But, considering most people deem a ‘search engine’ as a site they use to find relevant resources on the web, headlines like YouTube: The Monster Search Engine and The second largest search engine isn’t Bing or Yahoo can’t really be ignored.

People are using YouTube to find…almost everything. So, if you’re not there you might be missing out.

YouTube in your content strategy

So here are 10 quick reasons why you need to consider adding video to your online marketing strategy:

1. YouTube receives 800 million+ monthly unique visitors
2. Not everybody reads blogs, on YouTube you’re tapping into a possible new audience
3. YouTube videos are shown on Google results
4. Video is the best next thing to actual face-to-face interaction and it’s much better to humanize your business than written content
6. Video can be easier to consume than written content
5. People search YouTube to learn about products and services more than any other social network
7. Video is easier to communicate and educate your prospects and existing clients around your products
8. Videos, especially YouTube, are viewed on all kinds of screens (PC, mobile, tablet)
9. YouTube videos are easy to share on other social networks and to embed on your website
10. Producing great video quality is achievable on any size budget (even your iPhone can be enough)

If you’re using video as a way of increasing brand awareness, or to entertain and educate your prospects or existing customers, let us know in the comments section below.

Social media in real time:Oreo leads by example

In my recent post about how to create an effective social media content strategy, I touched on how to determine posting frequency. What I didn’t talk about was what you can do once you’ve hit a good rhythm.

Real-time posting

Don’t miss chances to post in the moment to really grab your readers’ attention.

The social media team at Oreo did this oh so well during the power cut that halted the Super Bowl XLVII. By the time the lights came back on in New Orleans, Oreo had racked up over 10,000 RTs, thousands of Favourites and overwhelmingly positive replies — all with a single tweeted image.

The fact that the cost of an ad during Super Bowl XLVII is around $3.7 million makes this social media win all the sweeter.

Oreo

The four-step social media content strategy

It’s often said that ‘content is the currency of social’ and I don’t think a truer word has been spoken. Successful social media marketing involves creating content that engages customers, stimulates dialogue and evokes a response.

Here are my four simple steps to create an effective social media content marketing strategy:

1. Determine content themes

Your content needs to have a focus in terms of the topics you plan to cover and the tone it will take. Here are some pointers for determining that focus:

    • Know your audience. Who do you anticipate will be reading your content? What challenges do they face, which you could address?
    • Stimulate engagement. It could be educational, entertaining, inspirational or promotional. Ideally, it should contain elements of all four.
    • Demonstrate knowledge. One way to gain trust is by establishing yourself or your company as an expert. Try imparting advice that’s practical and based on your real-life experiences.
    • Be consistent with your business’s proposition. You don’t want content that is out of step with your company’s messaging or personality — it wouldn’t seem authentic.

2. Determine content type

Depending on the channel, social media content can take many forms: blog posts, tweets, status updates, contests, quizzes, poll questions, infographics, videos and photos. So decide which tools are going to make up your kit bag and test each one to see which works best.

3. Determine posting frequency

How often you can post updates? Here are a couple of tips:

    • Post at the optimal time. By this I mean post on the days and times when you are most likely to receive responses in the form of Likes, comments and shares. Google Analytics can help to determine optimum posting times.
    • Be consistent. Whether you post daily, weekly or monthly, if you’re not consistent, your customers will lose interest. Let’s be realistic, if your favourite TV series was shown randomly each week, would you really keep watching?

4. Create a content calendar

The next step is to develop a calendar to schedule your posts. Calendars can be created on a weekly or monthly basis.

Content calendars can be developed using a spreadsheet; or if you prefer, there are many social media management applications out there like HootSuite, Sprout Social and Buffer to name a few.

To plan even more effectively you might like to try tools like TweetDeck, which allow you to schedule your tweets and keep an eye on your Twitter stream, making it a lot easier to retweet and share.

So let’s get started!

INFOGRAPHIC: If IKEA did content strategy…

Last year, IKEA celebrated its 25 years in the UK. It’s changed the face of furniture buying on a global scale and we think its phenomenal success is down to its customer-centric approach. It even opened in-store restaurants because its shoppers were hungry! While we pondered some awesome IKEA stats we also wondered what it’d be like if IKEA did content strategy…

And so to celebrate this great iconic brand here’s our take on content strategy IKEA-style in that familiar infographic format.

INFOGRAPHIC: If IKEA did content strategy...

Here’s the code if you want to put this infographic on your website:

Video testimonials. Glory toys or sales enablers?

Video as a format for case studies is a pretty common thing these days. There’s power in them, even if you only have talking heads; power that’s hard to harness in the written word. After all, you can see the whites of their eyes, hear the timbre of their voice—all giving credence and authority to your advocate’s words.

Straightforward approvals

These video assets are both harder and easier to create than their text-based cousins. The effort has to be expended up front to get agreement for the shoot, to find a suitable location, to plan what’s going to be said and cut that down to 200 words or less— a sound-bite or two that captures the essence of the relationship in all its richness. Once immortalised on film, however, your internal approval process is pretty binary. There’s no tinkering with the content to emphasis a key point or soften another. The footage either makes it through the final cut—or not. And customer sign-off is equally straight forward.

Using video as bait

And the value of the end result? These assets are high profile—syndicated on YouTube or taking pride of place on your website. They absolutely give prospective customers a glimpse of the sorts of companies you do business with and the positive experience that they’ve had working with you.

What about the rest of the sales cycle?

With the best will in the world, testimonial videos can only tell part of the story and, especially where the solution is complex and a consultative selling approach is called for, don’t deliver robust support throughout the sales cycle. As my client put it at our meeting today, “you create this kind of video for the glory”, not always to drive the sales process forward.

At the front end of the buying process, before your organisation is even aware of the opportunity, text is drawing your prospects in. You need keyword dense passages that ensure search engines rank your story and make it easy for prospects to find information about your successes. You need summary text that can be included in your newsletter letting customers know about the value you can add. At the proposal stage, full case studies describing the value delivered and the ROI are essential to winning the deal; these are invariably in written form, making it easy to append them to the rest of the submission and easy to circulate and digest. And once the dust has settled you may want to capitalise on your achievements and submit a description as an award entry—again as a piece of writing.

Video may be more glamorous but when there’s complex information to assimilate, reading allows us to explore at our own pace and go back and forth to achieve a deeper understanding of the subject. Text-based stories will always have a place alongside video, doing the leg work for SEO and bid submissions where that deeper understanding is needed to build deeper connections.

Free download Video ebook

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