If you're keen to get more value out of your online marketing activity these 3 C's are important marketing trends your business can cultivate. Think Curation, Community and Cash for content. Which direction will you go in?
1. The curation marketing trend
Google anything and you'll get millions of answers in just a few seconds. The concept of information at your fingertips used to be a wonderful thing. But now we're faced with severe information overload — too much choice and results that aren't exactly what we're looking for.
Give people too much choice and they can't choose. Consider the fears we all face when we try to choose a product or service to buy online. Will it really do what I'm looking for? If I enquire, will it be a waste of time? Will they never unsubscribe me from their database if I show the remotest bit of interest? Which option shall I go for? If I have a problem, what's their customer service like?
All these options are presented to us in pages and pages of results. We scan the results, sometimes clicking through. And we very very quickly decide if its what we are looking for or if to move on. Frustration can build swiftly when things aren't quite right. Maybe the results don't really answer our query or are not to the standard we were hoping for. If determined we may well tweak our search term. But when the same things happens again we'll probably give up.
These problems created by information overload offer businesses a valuable opportunity. We work with SMEs and this is an opportunity that should be of particular interest to SMEs who don't have teams of marketers or big marketing budgets. At SME level, the name of the game is getting the absolute most out of limited marketing resources. Curation can help SMEs do just that.
Dictionary.com defines 'curate' as as "to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation". Wikipedia defines 'digital curation' as "the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets. Digital curation establishes, maintains and adds value to repositories of digital data for present and future use."
You can provide real value to people by selecting the cream of the crop content on a given topic that is relevant to your business goals. I love curated content especially when it is curated by industry experts that I respect or by people I know and trust. Their curated content on a topic of interest means they have done the hard work of sifting through the rubbish (and there is a lot of it online) and have presented me with a wonderful and valuable resource. And I love them for it!
Some simple example headlines for curated content might be:
- The top ten resources for...
- The best blogs on...
- 5 must read books on...
- The most inspiring Pinterest boards for...
These kind of posts require research and expert selection but can be a welcome break from the ongoing challenge of creating your own original content. As well as listing information, remember to add value and personal touches to make your curation activity even more valuable. Explain why you have made this selection. If the selection is quite vast, point people to specific areas of interest. Share why you love the selection you have made and give away a story that inspires others. Finally, when using social media channels to share your curated content, mention the people or organisations who are part of your curated selection. They will feel valued, respected and grateful, and, are likely to reshare and join the conversation. This will help you increase engagement and gain traction via your online marketing activity.
2. The community marketing trend
Dictionary.com defines community, "as a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests."
Today the world is so small it's not surprising for people to find themselves flung across a country, or the world, to start a new opportunity, like a new job. On top of the detachment this may cause, technology is speeding everything up and schedules are getting busier and busier. So, today we often gather around a 'digital campfire' just like that original village or rock cave campfire. We seek a sense of belonging, cohesiveness and camaraderie. If you can create a community around your brand then you'll be on to a winner. Think about how your brand can build a community that has strong and trusting relationships. Think about how you can encourage participation, interaction and mutual benefit.
Here are two examples of successful online communities:
- Inbound is a 50,000 strong community that enables access to the best marketing content on the web, as curated by the community (a good example of curation). It enables people to connect with other peers and shared interests and also encourages them to learn something new and get feedback.
- The Inspired Group is a smaller but still powerful community run by Ann Hawkins. It currently has 3,000 participants and 819 members in its LinkedIn group. It is "a peer group of business owners who inspire, support and help each other to grow thriving profitable businesses".
These are examples of tangible communities. As well as communities like this you can create a community feel around your brand by making your audience feel connected and part of something meaningful. When you do they become fans and brand ambassadors. People who feel part of your brand community are likely to follow your story, sign up to newsletters, take part in online conversations, reshare your content, come to events and ultimately buy your products. Note, this is not about tricking people into buying. The modern digital campfire and its business benefits only works if it is authentic, with real relationships, trust, respect and value.
3. Cash for content marketing trend
OK, this C is pushing it but I was aiming for the easy to remember '3C's of marketing trends' concept!
I'm talking about the move toward people paying for some of your content rather than content being largely free. During content marketing and social media training sessions people often ask me, "How much should I share?" They say, "People should be paying me for my expertise." And the following discussion includes arguments like:
- To attract an audience and potential customers you have to give something, even if it is just a portion. You've got to share some content in order to demonstrate your expertise.
- There will always be DIYers out there. So if people take your content and expertise and attempt to do it themselves (and most likely make a hash of it) they are probably not your ideal customers anyway. I mean who enjoys working with people that don't value your expertise and question every penny you invoice for?
But, harking back to what I said in the curation section of this post, one of the obvious problems of the internet is information overload. There is, unfortunately, lots of poor quality content out there. So, I think there is a growing opportunity for businesses to create more higher value content that they can sell. I think it will become more acceptable than it has been to do this. In the past I have sometimes come across paid content and with a huff and puff I've gone off and found what I was looking for, for free. But what happens when you don't find a free alternative? What happens when the free alternatives are way too many below average answers to sift through? What happens when they are not detailed enough or don't give the full picture? It is in these scenarios that I would sometimes be willing to pay for the right content. It is in these scenarios where there is an opportunity for businesses to provide paid content.
But there is a prerequisite to cash for content. You must first have a proven track record. It will help if you are perceived as an expert and have built a community around your brand, a community willing to buy, share and discuss your content online. You do this by first providing useful free content (before you get on to paid content). People must be able to clearly see that what they pay for will be even higher value than your already valuable free content.
Within cash for content I'm also talking about content selling. Marketing people have been using the 'content marketing' and 'content is king' buzzwords for a while now. But if businesses (and business leaders in particular) acknowledge that the gap between marketing and sales is closing then maybe we can unite sales and marketing teams with "content selling", a much newer buzzword. My point has been wonderfully illustrated by KnowledgeTree in a post they did in 2013 — clearly this is not a brand new concept, but it's not one I have seen used very much at local SME level (yet). KnowledgeTree contrast the more accepted marketing view of content with the developing sales view of content selling.
Think about how much Cash for content (in successful sales) businesses could get if their sales people learnt these sales techniques. With useful and valuable content the sales experience would be much more pleasant for those on the receiving end. It would also be much more successful, enjoyable and satisfying for sales people.
Marketing trends summary
Remember Curation, Community and Cash for content as 3C's — three online marketing trends that could make you feel as epic as these two young achievers. I wonder what they are so pleased about?!