Archive for January, 2013

THE COMPLICATED ETHICS OF REVIEWS & RATINGS

Businesses are being blackmailed … Is there a solution?

The single social necessity we all have as humans is not to have power, but to not be left powerless. This fundamental principle led pilgrims to new lands, colonists to organize governments and oppressed of all walks of life to rally against those holding the notion of powerlessness over them.

And so it comes to bear on the Internet. Protecting your reputation is an activity all people and organizations should participate in. Companies are especially keen to this practice because the liberation of publishing has led to the simple fact that anyone can post anything about anything online, regardless of motive or motivation, with little recourse in the offing. Sure, libel and slander online are still libel and slander, but there’s a whole lot of reputation-sensitive content that won’t fall under the guise of legal precedent.

Anyone can jump online and say, “You suck, company!” That’s not libel. That’s opinion.

Unfortunately, many sites, especially those in the business of aggregating ratings and reviews, take a company or an individual’s power to protect their reputation away from them. Allegations abound from Yelp to ResellerRatings.com and more. Heck, even RipOffReport.com — the site you’re supposed to be able to go to and report ripoffs, has been alleged to trade payment for positive reviews or removal of bad ones.

If these sites are allowing anyone to post reviews of businesses and individuals, there’s no issue. However, many of the sites have been caught or alleged to have filtered out positive reviews only to tell the businesses in question they’ll post the positive ones, or perhaps have a writer from the website produce a positive story about the business, in exchange for money. No pay, no positive reviews. That’s not only not fair, it leaves the businesses powerless.

Yelp even has gone so far as to discourage businesses from encouraging their customers to post reviews on the site. As we’ve discussed before, while their terms of service don’t explicitly state so, an answer on their FAQs in as much says Yelp doesn’t think businesses will solicit reviews in and of themselves, but will only solicit positive ones, thus biasing the content. They assume businesses will exchange discounts for reviews as well, not considering that a business owner may just say to their customers, “Good or bad, review us on Yelp. It will help us get better and/or look better.”

From the review site’s perspective, I can see second-guessing the transparency of the random business owner. I stopped counting the number of clients who have asked me to take down negative reviews or delete negative posts on their Facebook page without even addressing the situation first. So there may be a need for a policy against pushing positive reviews.

But from the business’s perspective, if the only way to combat negative reviews is to pay the site to allow them to solicit or produce positive ones, you’re biasing the information just as badly.

We’d like to assume that every business would solicit reviews — good and bad — and respond to each accordingly. But the honest truth is that most business owners would only solicit positive ones and would just as soon sweep the negative ones under the rug. Still, holding positive reviews hostage and forcing the business to pay is simply put: blackmail.

Is There A Solution?

While a perfect resolution for the great ratings and reviews quandary probably isn’t in the offing, if I were made King of Ratings and Review sites tomorrow and could write policies for them all, I would construct something like this:

It is our intent to offer our site visitors organically posted reviews of every business listed, both positive and negative, that are not solicited from any interested party. However, we understand that businesses may want to use our platform to host customer reviews and ratings for all to see. As such, here are some basic guidelines for businesses on doing so:

If you ask your customers to post ratings or reviews to this site, please only ask them to do so honestly and refrain from asking only for positive reviews

Do not offer customers a discount or incentive for posting ratings or reviews to this site

Should we discover evidence that any business has or is soliciting only positive reviews, or is incenting people to post reviews, we will remove any reviews (positive or negative) we determine to be produced during the timeframe of such encouragement or solicitation and temporarily suspend the businesses ability to mange its page and content on the site

Repeat violators of our policies will permanently lose the ability to manage their brand page, access brand page analytics or receive any benefits of premium or advertising partner relationships with our company

Actively respond and participate in discussions about your ratings and reviews on the site, but do so in a fair and professional manner with the spirit of serving your customers — good, bad or indifferent — with excellence in mind

Upon request, we will supply your business with point-of-sale and on-premise signage to encourage customers to use the site. For those wishing to, we also offer both advertising and premium business subscriptions which provide more exposure and brand page management benefits. We reserve the right to suspend any of those paid or premium activities for businesses violating the terms above.

Call me romantic if you like, but I can’t see much wrong with that kind of approach. It’s fair to the business that doesn’t want to fork over money to the site, to the business that does and to the financial prospects of the site itself. It’s also infinitely more useful to the site visitor, whom one would assume is the top priority for all parties in question.

So, Yelp, ResellerRatings.com, RipOffReport.com or any of the others that might fall into the pay-to-play review sites, you’re welcome to the above. We’d be tickled if you used that approach. We don’t even need credit for it. All the payback we need is the knowledge there’s a better way to do business here and someone is following it.

Did I miss anything? What would you add? Are you being held hostage by one of these sites? Share your story in the comments. (But please remember to report your situation as honestly and fairly as possible. Libel and slander online are still libel and slander.)

Advertisements

The Main Types of Blog Advertising Opportunities:

Online advertising offers three primary types of ads bloggers can use to make money from their blogs.

Pay-per-click: The advertiser pays the blogger each time someone clicks on the advertiser’s ad.

Pay-per-impression: The advertiser pays the blogger each time the ad appears on the blog’s page.

Pay-per-action: The advertiser pays the blogger each time someone clicks on the ad and performs an action such as making a purchase.

Contextual Ads:

Contextual ads are typically pay-per-click ads. The ads are delivered based on the content of the page on the blog where the ads will be displayed. In theory, the ads shown on the page should be relevant to the content of the page thereby increasing the chance that someone will click on them. Google AdSense is an example of a contextual advertising program.Google AdSense and Kontera are examples of contextual advertising oppportunities.

 

Text Link Ads:

Ads that are not served based on the content of a blog’s page but rather are placed based on specific text in the posts of a blog are called text link ads. Text Link Brokers and Text-Link-Ads are examples of text link advertising opportunities.

 

Impression-Based Ads:

Ads that pay bloggers based on the number of times the ad appears on the blog are called impression-based ads. FastClick and Tribal Fusion are examples of impression-based advertising opportunities.

 

Affiliate Ads:

Affiliate ads give bloggers a choice of programs to provide links to products. Bloggers are paid when someone purchases the advertised product. Amazon Associates and eBay Affiliates are examples of affiliate advertising programs.

 

Direct Ads:

Many bloggers offer an option for visitors to purchase advertising space on their blogs. Direct ads are typically shown in the form of banner ads or similar display ads provided directly to the blogger by the advertiser to be uploaded to the blog. Pricing and payment methods vary from blogger to blogger (often dependent on the amount of traffic the blog receives). Direct advertisers on blogs are sometimes called sponsors of that blog.

 

Reviews:

Reviews (often called sponsored reviews) are an indirect form of advertising on blogs. A company might contact a blogger directly asking them to write a review for a product, business, website, etc. If the blogger is paid to write the review, then it is a form of advertising revenue. Some companies offer forms of review advertising such as PayPerPost.

Why television will thrive and print media will struggle in 2013
“You know things are not okay if, on a New Year’s Day, The Economic Times  frontpage has negative news. This pink worthy runs on the belief system that optimism is good for the economy and the markets (and thus its own advertisers). It goes out of its way to tell people the good news, and buries the bad on the inside pages. But today was different. “New Year starts with a number of reasons to worry”, said the lead story in Mumbai,” writes Firstpost’s editor-in-chief R Jagannathan this morning.
 
Jagannathan’s prognosis is not good news for the media industry. A slowing economy (real growth at 5.4 percent) almost always sees corporates slashing their advertising and marketing budgets. With no silver lining in sight, the media business in India is set for a difficult year ahead.
 
In short, there will be less advertising budgets chasing the same advertising inventory, implying, immediately, pressure on margins. TV, though, is different – we might actually see inventory shrink, thanks to TRAI’s proposal to put a cap on commercial time.
Let’s take a look at how the year ahead will pan out for different media. To begin with, let’s take a look at the macro picture as measured by IRS (Q2 2012). Press has shown a CAGR (percent) of just 0.9 percent from Q4 2011 to Q2 2012 – the worst performing of all media. TV has grown by 5 percent, C&S by 11.7 percent, Radio by 1.9 percent, Cinema by 9.4 percent. And digital, the darling of consumers, continues the high-speed growth – showing CAGR of 34.8 percent for the period under consideration. Today, we discuss TV and newspapers.
 
Let’s begin with TV, the largest contributor to advertising expenditure.
 
 
 
TV
 
It’s going to be an interesting year for TV – and TV will have it much easier than print thanks to two developments. The first is the cap on commercial time, a policy decision which will see a shrinkage in available inventory. For genre leaders, this is a boon, as advertisers want to play ‘safe’ and park their money on channels and programs with a proven ability to deliver viewers. So, for example, in the Hindi general entertainment channel genre,  for Colors, STAR Plus and Sony, each of whom guarantees at least 200 GRPs per week, it could result in advertisers queuing up to buy time, which should result in higher yields on premium, big ticket programming. The flipside, though, is that stragglers in each genre might see their already low yields going down. The muscle that the leaders have will get multiplied by a successful roll-out of digitization, which could dramatically increase revenue from subscribers and automatically easing pressure on the need for advertising revenue. So 2013 will be a good year for the leaders in TV – and a tough one for the rest.
 
Pay channels, again, will be gainers. Digitisation will allow channels to charge significant premia on exclusive, premium content, as is being experimented by Kamalhasan with the pre-theatre release of his new film on DTH platforms at a premium price of Rs. 1,200. We will see such premium pricing for movie premieres, for big-ticket sports programming and for exclusive events. A significant increase in subscription revenue will allow TV airtime salespersons to play hardball with media buyers for the first time in over a decade. I’m going to watch this battle from the front row.
 
The biggest gain, interestingly, will accrue to high-quality special interest and niche channels. Thanks to the low number of people meters, channels with niche viewership end up being significantly under-measured – and digitization will change the picture significantly. First, it will allow all households subscribing to be reflected and measured and, second, as a consequence, to demand higher prices for their advertising time.
 
 
 
Print: Newspapers
 
This is a mixed bag. With the total print readership flat and the ad revenue shrinking, this was never going to be an easy year. Whatever readership growth is visible for the category as a whole comes from new markets, with the mature markets flat or negative. As a result, I see the industry operating different strategies for new and mature markets.
 
In the mature markets, pressure on both margins and volumes will force the newspapers, finally, into looking at cover price revenues to generate income. English, especially pink, newspaper cover prices in the metros will go up. Simultaneously, I see pagination in the main papers coming down, as it is in this section that the advertiser demand is most vulnerable. Supplements will increase across the country, as the low ad rates (justified by low print runs) will continue to attract smaller advertisers targeting niche geographies or readers. Leaders in mature market, thanks to their domination in respective markets, will be able to keep ad rates steady, but it is difficult to see any increase in 2013.
 
In the new markets, cover prices will stay low, as will the advertising rates, thanks to the competitive environment. This will continue to be a loss making segment of the trade. Examples will include Times of India’s new editions in Kerala and Vizag, and the new Bengali newspapers launched by ABP and BCCL. It’s win-win for reader and advertiser in these situations, and bleeding for the publisher.
 
We will also see the shrinking of the editorial teams in all small towns, with the bulk of the content coming from a central office, and only city pages being made in the city of publication. Technology allows smooth and low-cost transfer of data, making many in small towns working on ‘national’ pages, business pages, sports pages and entertainment stories redundant. This will also change the mathematics in the business, as people cost in these editions will come down. The papers will bleed, but not bleed badly.
 
What merits close watching is what the larger newspapers do on the digital front. All large newspapers have a mature digital presence, and consumption of content on the web is increasing exponentially. The problem is the monetization of this readership, which few in the world have managed to find a solution to. In 2013, I see at least BCCL making a big play in this area, perhaps creating a digital only, semi-paid offering. In the English market, as readers embrace (especially the new, young readers) consumption on digital devices, the paper, in a physical form, is under threat. The flat readership, as measured by IRS, is perhaps a proof of the migration to digital.
 
The explosion of tablets is a factor that will weigh on the minds of think-tanks at all media houses, but particularly in the print media houses.
 
“A recent study undertaken by Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT) said tablet sales in India were expected to cross 1.6 million units this year, a growth of 40 percent over last year, and way above the 16 percent growth registered by PCs and 26 percent by notebooks. Desktop sales grew by only 11 percent. MAIT estimated tablet market would grow to 7.3 million units by 2015 to 2016,” said ZDnet.
 
Each tablet owner is a likely migrant from newspaper in the printed form to newspaper in the digital format. If the reader migrates, publishers of current print products need to have an ecosystem which can deliver on the reader’s needs – and monetize him or her. Much has been achieved in successfully moving the loyal reader from paper to digital – but it is in the area of monetization that we will see some experimentation.

Why television will thrive and print media will struggle in 2013

“You know things are not okay if, on a New Year’s Day, The Economic Times  frontpage has negative news. This pink worthy runs on the belief system that optimism is good for the economy and the markets (and thus its own advertisers). It goes out of its way to tell people the good news, and buries the bad on the inside pages. But today was different. “New Year starts with a number of reasons to worry”, said the lead story in Mumbai,” writes Firstpost’s editor-in-chief R Jagannathan this morning.

 

Jagannathan’s prognosis is not good news for the media industry. A slowing economy (real growth at 5.4 percent) almost always sees corporates slashing their advertising and marketing budgets. With no silver lining in sight, the media business in India is set for a difficult year ahead.

 

In short, there will be less advertising budgets chasing the same advertising inventory, implying, immediately, pressure on margins. TV, though, is different – we might actually see inventory shrink, thanks to TRAI’s proposal to put a cap on commercial time.

Let’s take a look at how the year ahead will pan out for different media. To begin with, let’s take a look at the macro picture as measured by IRS (Q2 2012). Press has shown a CAGR (percent) of just 0.9 percent from Q4 2011 to Q2 2012 – the worst performing of all media. TV has grown by 5 percent, C&S by 11.7 percent, Radio by 1.9 percent, Cinema by 9.4 percent. And digital, the darling of consumers, continues the high-speed growth – showing CAGR of 34.8 percent for the period under consideration. Today, we discuss TV and newspapers.

 

Let’s begin with TV, the largest contributor to advertising expenditure.

 

 

 

TV

 

It’s going to be an interesting year for TV – and TV will have it much easier than print thanks to two developments. The first is the cap on commercial time, a policy decision which will see a shrinkage in available inventory. For genre leaders, this is a boon, as advertisers want to play ‘safe’ and park their money on channels and programs with a proven ability to deliver viewers. So, for example, in the Hindi general entertainment channel genre,  for Colors, STAR Plus and Sony, each of whom guarantees at least 200 GRPs per week, it could result in advertisers queuing up to buy time, which should result in higher yields on premium, big ticket programming. The flipside, though, is that stragglers in each genre might see their already low yields going down. The muscle that the leaders have will get multiplied by a successful roll-out of digitization, which could dramatically increase revenue from subscribers and automatically easing pressure on the need for advertising revenue. So 2013 will be a good year for the leaders in TV – and a tough one for the rest.

 

Pay channels, again, will be gainers. Digitisation will allow channels to charge significant premia on exclusive, premium content, as is being experimented by Kamalhasan with the pre-theatre release of his new film on DTH platforms at a premium price of Rs. 1,200. We will see such premium pricing for movie premieres, for big-ticket sports programming and for exclusive events. A significant increase in subscription revenue will allow TV airtime salespersons to play hardball with media buyers for the first time in over a decade. I’m going to watch this battle from the front row.

 

The biggest gain, interestingly, will accrue to high-quality special interest and niche channels. Thanks to the low number of people meters, channels with niche viewership end up being significantly under-measured – and digitization will change the picture significantly. First, it will allow all households subscribing to be reflected and measured and, second, as a consequence, to demand higher prices for their advertising time.

 

 

 

Print: Newspapers

 

This is a mixed bag. With the total print readership flat and the ad revenue shrinking, this was never going to be an easy year. Whatever readership growth is visible for the category as a whole comes from new markets, with the mature markets flat or negative. As a result, I see the industry operating different strategies for new and mature markets.

 

In the mature markets, pressure on both margins and volumes will force the newspapers, finally, into looking at cover price revenues to generate income. English, especially pink, newspaper cover prices in the metros will go up. Simultaneously, I see pagination in the main papers coming down, as it is in this section that the advertiser demand is most vulnerable. Supplements will increase across the country, as the low ad rates (justified by low print runs) will continue to attract smaller advertisers targeting niche geographies or readers. Leaders in mature market, thanks to their domination in respective markets, will be able to keep ad rates steady, but it is difficult to see any increase in 2013.

 

In the new markets, cover prices will stay low, as will the advertising rates, thanks to the competitive environment. This will continue to be a loss making segment of the trade. Examples will include Times of India’s new editions in Kerala and Vizag, and the new Bengali newspapers launched by ABP and BCCL. It’s win-win for reader and advertiser in these situations, and bleeding for the publisher.

 

We will also see the shrinking of the editorial teams in all small towns, with the bulk of the content coming from a central office, and only city pages being made in the city of publication. Technology allows smooth and low-cost transfer of data, making many in small towns working on ‘national’ pages, business pages, sports pages and entertainment stories redundant. This will also change the mathematics in the business, as people cost in these editions will come down. The papers will bleed, but not bleed badly.

 

What merits close watching is what the larger newspapers do on the digital front. All large newspapers have a mature digital presence, and consumption of content on the web is increasing exponentially. The problem is the monetization of this readership, which few in the world have managed to find a solution to. In 2013, I see at least BCCL making a big play in this area, perhaps creating a digital only, semi-paid offering. In the English market, as readers embrace (especially the new, young readers) consumption on digital devices, the paper, in a physical form, is under threat. The flat readership, as measured by IRS, is perhaps a proof of the migration to digital.

 

The explosion of tablets is a factor that will weigh on the minds of think-tanks at all media houses, but particularly in the print media houses.

 

“A recent study undertaken by Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT) said tablet sales in India were expected to cross 1.6 million units this year, a growth of 40 percent over last year, and way above the 16 percent growth registered by PCs and 26 percent by notebooks. Desktop sales grew by only 11 percent. MAIT estimated tablet market would grow to 7.3 million units by 2015 to 2016,” said ZDnet.

 

Each tablet owner is a likely migrant from newspaper in the printed form to newspaper in the digital format. If the reader migrates, publishers of current print products need to have an ecosystem which can deliver on the reader’s needs – and monetize him or her. Much has been achieved in successfully moving the loyal reader from paper to digital – but it is in the area of monetization that we will see some experimentation.

Active Listening

Hear What People are Really Saying

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.

We listen to obtain information.

We listen to understand.

We listen for enjoyment.

We listen to learn.

Given all this listening we do, you would think we’d be good at it!

In fact most of us are not, and research suggests that we remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation. This is dismal!

Turn it around and it reveals that when you are receiving directions or being presented with information, you aren’t hearing the whole message either. You hope the important parts are captured in your 25-50 percent, but what if they’re not?

Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What’s more, you’ll avoid conflict and misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for workplace success!

Tip:

Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. By understanding your personal style of communicating, you will go a long way towards creating good and lasting impressions with others.

About Active Listening

The way to become a better listener is to practice “active listening.” This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.

In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.

You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.

 

Tip:

If you’re finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating their words mentally as they say them – this will reinforce their message and help you stay focused.

 

To enhance your listening skills, you need to let the other person know that you are listening to what he or she is saying. To understand the importance of this, ask yourself if you’ve ever been engaged in a conversation when you wondered if the other person was listening to what you were saying. You wonder if your message is getting across, or if it’s even worthwhile continuing to speak. It feels like talking to a brick wall and it’s something you want to avoid.

Acknowledgement can be something as simple as a nod of the head or a simple “uh huh.” You aren’t necessarily agreeing with the person, you are simply indicating that you are listening. Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening also reminds you to pay attention and not let your mind wander.

You should also try to respond to the speaker in a way that will both encourage him or her to continue speaking, so that you can get the information if you need. While nodding and “uh hushing” says you’re interested, an occasional question or comment to recap what has been said communicates that you understand the message as well.

Becoming an Active Listener

There are five key elements of active listening. They all help you ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they say.

1. Pay Attention

Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly.

Look at the speaker directly.

Put aside distracting thoughts.

Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!

Avoid being distracted by environmental factors. For example, side conversations.

“Listen” to the speaker’s body language.

2. Show That You’re Listening

Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.

Nod occasionally.

Smile and use other facial expressions.

Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.

Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.

3. Provide Feedback

Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.

Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying,” are great ways to reflect back.

Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say?” “Is this what you mean?”

Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.

 

Tip:

If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so, and ask for more information: “I may not understand you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is XXX; is that what you meant?”

 

4. Defer Judgment

Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.

Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.

Don’t interrupt with counter arguments.

5. Respond Appropriately

Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.

Be candid, open, and honest in your response.

Assert your opinions respectfully.

Treat the other person in a way that you think he or she would want to be treated.

 

Key Points

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening habits are as bad as many people’s are, then there’s a lot of habit-breaking to do!

Be deliberate with your listening and remind yourself frequently that your goal is to truly hear what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message. Ask questions, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message. If you don’t, then you’ll find that what someone says to you and what you hear can be amazingly different!

Start using active listening today to become a better communicator, improve your workplace productivity, and develop better relationships.

The 7 Cs of building a social media strategy

After using social media for a while, a lot of people and companies decide that they need a strategy. Of course, that approach is like putting the cart before the horse.

To ensure success, think about your social media strategy in the context of the seven Cs.

1. Community

Like all good communication, it is best to start by determining your target audience. Where do they spend time online? What social media channels do they use? Before your social media efforts can take shape, you should listen and learn about your community.

For example, one of their top social media communities for a business-to-consumer brand such as Oreo is Facebook. Its recent salute to the Mars landing was a huge hit with their 27 million Facebook fans. Meanwhile, a job seeker will most likely find a community on LinkedIn. According to a recent survey, 93 percent of job recruiters use LinkedIn to find qualified candidates.

Finding out where your community interacts on social media is the first step of a successful social media strategy. It’s important to determine what type of conversations are taking place about your brand and in your industry before engaging in a community or building a community from scratch.

2. Content

After you figure out how your community engages with social media, you should determine what content you’re going to share with your followers.

For example, if you want to grow your personal brand, what articles are you going to share to highlight your expertise about your job or personal interests? If you are a company, how can you show your clients and prospects that you are a thought leader or that you are trying to make their lives easier?

To learn more about the importance of content, you may want to read the Content Marketing Institute blog.

3. Curation

You can’t think about content without mentioning curation. Curation is a way of sharing other people’s content. According to Beth Kanter in her post Content Curation Primer, content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the Web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way.

In his post “Manifesto for the Content Curator,” Rohit Bhargava defines a content curator as someone who continually finds, groups, organizes, and shares the best and most relevant content a specific issue. Content curation is one of the easiest ways to share content because you don’t have to create anything. This leads well into the next “C”: creation

4. Creation

Creation is the act of producing content online, whether it’s in the form of text, images, or video. If you have published a blog post, uploaded a video to YouTube, or taken a picture and posted it to Instagram, you are in the creation business.

One of the ways to help you create content is to start an editorial calendar. It may be helpful to use this editorial calendar template. If you don’t like spreadsheets, you may want to consider using an application like Divvy. For the more advanced content creators, using a content marketing software platform such as Kapost should be something you consider.

5. Connection

After you have either curated and/or created content, the next C is the physical act of sharing content. This C is about connecting with your community and gaining a deep understanding of what your target audience likes about your social media activities and strategy.

By looking at measurements and data, determine the kind of content your communities are attracted to and willing to share with their friends and colleagues.

Many brands have created buyer personas so they can better understand and connect with their target audience. In other words, personas are fictional representations of your ideal clients, based on real data about demographics and online behavior, along with educated assumptions about their history, motivations, and concerns.

On the personal branding side, use these five tools to manage your relationships online.

6. Conversation

This C is all about having a conversation with your community. This C is similar to the community, but the difference is the actual engagement part of communicating with your communities. To help you with this concept, learn the 3 key social media conversation starters.

7. Conversion

The seventh C is conversion. You can’t talk about social media without having a return on investment (ROI) conversation. Remember, your social media strategy should be tied to your business strategy. To help you get started, you may want to look at these 14 social media ROI metrics.

When thinking about this from the company perspective, it is important to remember to look at it two ways: the external view by your clients and prospects and the internal view by your employees. To develop a successful social media strategy, it is important to communicate, convince, and most importantly, convert social media into action, both externally and internally. Your social media metrics should boil down to three main categories: awareness, sales, and loyalty.

 

On the personal branding side, social media is a way to help you advance your career—whether it be climbing the corporate ladder or launching a successful business. You can judge the success of your personal social media strategy by whether you’re top of mind with your network and whether it helps you get that interview or land that perfect job.

For ways to maximize conversion with your social media strategy, you may want to learn about the social media maturity model. According to Forrester, there are five main stages of social media maturity and adoption.

Truly influence people by making an emotional connection.

 

People are wired to connect.  Neuroscientists have discovered that there is a part of our brains in the prefrontal cortex that helps us tune into other people, making the connections that are necessary to create relationships that help us survive.

How does this little bit of neuroscience have anything to do with blogging?  Because the most successful blog posts are those where the writer has tuned into something that the reader is experiencing.  This affects that part of the brain, generating an emotional connection with the reader.

For those who understand how people really make decisions, that’s the key. You may imagine that we weigh all the rational choices and do some mental calculation in our heads that helps us make a choice but in reality, all the possible considerations would literally stop us in our tracks if we didn’t have the shorthand of emotions to guide us.

Typical objectives for a corporate blog don’t take this into consideration.  They focus on goals like providing thought leadership, generating traffic, or to improving SEO–all reasonable goals for a blog but they tell only part of the story.  If you want to truly influence people, the most effective way to do that is to connect with them on a deeper, emotional level.

And as a marketer, influencing people is your job.

This means that when people read your post, they  must feel something.  When a reader connects with you emotionally, you are able to establish trust and as we all know, trust is what makes people want to do business with us. The secret sauce is how you accomplish that.

At Lion Brand, we have several talented writers who are passionate about our product.  Our objectives are to inspire and educate people.  But the real home runs are when we are able to touch peoples’ emotions.  A recent post by a guest blogger is a perfect example of creating that emotional connection.

Franklin Habit, wrote a post called Me, Me, Me, about how he feels guilty about knitting sweaters for himself.  He talked about how he gives away most of what he knits and it is sometimes unappreciated. He goes on to say that if he knit more for himself, he would know that he could make something that fit perfectly and it would give him great pleasure.  Franklin was able to tune into a universal truth about knitters and about people in general that speaks to the guilt of taking care of yourself.  He did it with openness, vulnerability and humor. (I invite you to read the post and consider how you relate to it, whether you knit or not.)

The numbers back up the power of connection.  That post, written within the last couple of weeks has been viewed over 11,000 times, shared on social media a couple of hundred times and has received many comments that talk about how he captured their feelings exactly.  Clearly engagement is closely related to connection.

There is truly nothing like the feeling that someone “gets” you.  People who read that post knew they had been “felt.”  This mirroring of peoples’ emotions is one of the most important ways to connect with others.  When reading his piece they said to themselves,  “Yeh, that’s how I feel too sometimes too.”

I know myself that my most successful posts were written when I was emotional about something and felt I needed to right a wrong.  When I wrote this post about how businesses need to change to be able to participate in social media I was feeling angry about an interchange with someone who didn’t understand this. I believe that the sharing of this post was based on others who felt the same frustration that I did.

It’s not realistic to think that you can create a moving piece of writing every day.  In the same way that relationships are built on a range of communication from small talk to deep, relationship-building conversations, a blog will consist of a mix of different types of writing.

There are probably thousands of blog posts about (pick your number) of ways to get more traffic or to write a successful post.  And all of those tips and tricks can lead to the “small talk” part of the relationship.

But the real secret sauce of a great blog post is the ability to connect with another human being and to make that person feel that you know her.  That’s how we create relationships that last.