18 practical content strategy tips in 8 minutes

If (like me) you have been tuning in to the rise of content strategy, but feel a bit lacking in actual practical know-how, then this collection of soundbites and voxpops – wrung by me from the mouths and Twitter accounts of the world’s leading content strategists – is truly the badger’s nadgers.

At last month’s Content Strategy Applied conference, I hunted down asked the keynote speakers, presenters, panellists and attending experts for one single tip they could give that would help people (like me) apply content strategy to their web work. There was also some follow-up Twitter conversation on the subject, which led to a few bonus tips making the final cut.

The full list of interviewees and contributors, with a quick summary of their one piece of advice, follows beneath the video. Which is here:

I’m extremely grateful to the following for contributing:

1. Kristina Halvorson, Brain Traffic: Start asking lots of smart questions about your content. This also helps shift the conversation around it.

2. Ken Yau, Baddit: Ask why! Be a pain in the butt. There should be a justification for content existing.

3. Fiona Perks, Bright Stuff Communications: A good content strategist never forgets about the end user.

4. Julie Mahoney, LBi: Always incorporate different channels – social media, mobile devices.

5. Richard Ingram, Ingserv: Use context to shape your content. Don’t just find out who your audience are. Discover the circumstances and emotions behind their interest.

6. Amy Laskin, Ogilvy: Don’t make assumptions about your users; they will surprise you every time.

7. Rob Hinchcliffe, Hour of Play: Find your hook: immerse yourself in your community, listen to what they’re saying, find the common themes, and then build a narrative around those themes.

8. Nikki Tiedtke, eBay Europe: Before anything, first try to find out who your customer is. Not just users but the client. Understand what they need and why. Don’t jump into solutions.

9. Jonathan Kahn, Together London: Content strategy is half collaboration, advocacy, and organizational change – the deliverables and techniques are useless on their own.

10. Steve Wilson-Beales, MSN Entertainment: Find out what your audience is searching for, what topics are trending on social networks, use autosuggest tools… CS is replying to that need and allows you to create an editorial layer.

11. Kath Ludlow, Bright Stuff Communications: Think about content as the stuff that people are going to use, enjoy, keep, share, react to and act upon. Focus on delivering a strategy that delivers this response on a long-term basis. Then you can’t go wrong.

12. Danny McCubbin, Jamie Oliver online: Be transparent in the content you put up on site. Don’t intervene too much in the community – your audience will tell you if you have got it right or wrong. Be authentic.

13. Chad Butz, Bourne: Get to know the business and marketing objectives inside out and relate all you do back to those, from selling in to analytics.

14. Seth Bindernagel. Mozilla: Localisation: ask do you intend your content to meet a global audience?

15. Lucie Hyde, eBay Europe: Don’t think multilingual think multicultural – language is just the start of localisation.

16. Charlie Peverett, iCrossing: Creating page tables? Make your life a whole lot easier – use mail merge http://bit.ly/gQ7LbS

17. Rahel Bailie, Intentional Design: It’s all about the metadata – it governs everything.

18. Jeff MacIntyre, Predicate LLC: Every content strategist is, at minimum, a professional communicator. This entails two requirements of you. One, never sacrifice clarity on the altar of the buzzword, and two, critical thinking is mandatory – develop a considered point of view (and rationale) for the trends and ideas that matter most to you in your work.

If you liked this video, please do share it. You might also find this CS Applied conference post I wrote for Firehead web recruiters useful: Content strategy in 60 tweets.

Want to become a company blogger?

Here are the quick links to my Blogger’s Style Guide, which I’ve posted over on my Subs’ Standards blog as a series of 10 posts.  This is the ‘how-to’ that I give to my company bloggers when they start writing posts for their employer’s blog. It acts as a support document for those who know their subject well, but know little about blog writing or publishing in general.

Blogger’s Style Guide

  1. How is blogging different?
  2. What readers like / ideas for your posts
  3. How to structure long posts
  4. Short or long?
  5. What does SEO mean for writers?
  6. Links are good!
  7. Five tips on tone
  8. Comments and feedback
  9. Writing a good title
  10. Don’t fall foul of your boss – or the law!
Of course, what happens after the raw copy comes in is a whole ‘nother series about content and blogger wrangling.

I’m also finding that this is overlapping with my Content Strategy work so I’m hoping to add posts on #CSforum10 here on this blog soon for those interested in the Content Strategy Forum in Paris last month.But I’d rather do it in context of my ongoing content strategy audits rather than just report back on the event so need to sort some permissions first.

A dozen Twitter tips for 2010

The ‘cool, shiny new thing’ that sent marketers crazy in 2009 was Twitter. (This year, it’s mobile apps by the way.) Why? Because although Twitter launched in 2006, it exploded into the mainstream in late 2008/early 2009. And brands were champing to get a piece of that action.

Having just spent three days at Search Engine Strategies London, Twitter is still clocking up a lot of mentions from SEOs and businesses, etc, who worry about how best to involve with it. Well, you’ll see a rise in this engagement, especially now that it is being crawled by Google for real-time search results and because marketers are realising the value of a recommendation on Twitter.

So rather than regurgitate whole speeches, here’s what SEOs and marketing types from SES London are saying about Twitter for 2010 – at least in the sessions I attended:

1 Real-time search: be wary of the value of Twitter
230 million pieces of content are published per day by user. 40% of searches have a real-time component. Potential $40 billion market. But:

  • 90% content is created by 10% of the people (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • 74% of Twitter content is produced by 5% of the users.
  • Is 5% really representative of everybody?

Aaron Kahlow opening keynote: Is Social Media the Future of Search

2 How McDonald’s operate their Twitter

CoTweet allows people within organisations to use the same Twitter account – as used by McDonald’s.

Aaron Kahlow opening keynote: Is Social Media the Future of Search

3 Should you spend time and money on Twitter?

Who is my audience? Are they on Twitter, if not don’t spend (time) there.

Aaron Kahlow opening keynote: Is Social Media the Future of Search

4 Has Twitter peaked?

Twitter is not accelerating as fast now, it has peaked on the growth rates. The vast majority have less than 5 users.

Rand Fishkin, Social Media Best Practices for Marketers Inside the Brand

5 Can Twitter drive traffic and sales?

Social network profiles (including Google Profile) drive traffic. Active Twitter users, Dell, also reported in excess of $3m in sales in 2009. Its Twitter is essentially just a promo shop, eg, 15% off at any Dell Outlet – which leads to direct click-thu sales.

Rand Fishkin, Social Media Best Practices for Marketers Inside the Brand

6 What are the biggest problems for marketers using Twitter?

Analytics, KPIs, how does it impact the bottom line. Also, getting followers in the market you are going after.

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting: I think Twitter is working, but I can’t prove it!

7 How many Twitter accounts to set up?

One brand Twitter stream can include: PR, service, sales, crisis, recruitment, product.

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting

8 What’s the ROI of Twitter?

ROI of Twitter = traffic to site, buzz, inbound links for SEO, reduced service costs, leads, sales. (All trackable ROI.)

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting

9 Twitter – trend towards automation

Fact – individuals are adopting Twitter, but what about brands? Great thing about Twitter is that brands can connect one to one. But there is a trend of moving towards automation.

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting

10 Check your bounce rate from Twitter traffic

When analysing your online stats, compare traffic from different sources. Eg, from blogs, it usually has high context, expectancy is there, users know what they want to see, and spend more time on site. Twitter – may generate high traffic but can also have a high bounce because it lacks space to create context.

Matthew Bailey, Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation

11 Twitter 101 for brands

  • Don’t overthink it, be personable
  • Share info/links
  • Listen
  • Use hashtags to organise and search
  • Twitterlists are useful if you are following hundreds and want to discover new people
  • Tweetdeck – organises your Twitter use
  • Scheduling tweets – Future Tweets – good for client use

Lisa Myers, Social Media 101

12 Tools for monitoring social media

Free Social Monitoring Tools:

  • www.socialmention.com
  • www.tweetbeep.com
  • www.tweepmeme.com
  • www.klout.com
  • www.blogpulse.com

Paid Monitoring Tools:

  • www.trackur.com
  • www.radian6.com

Lisa Myers, Social Media 101

10 expert tips on email marketing

Rough of an e-newsletterIf you’ve ever had the job of putting your marketing email, ezine or e-newsletter together – whether designing the format, writing the blurbs, testing different subject lines or segments, sending it out to subscribers, dealing with unsubscribes – 7 Proven Tactics to Increase Response for your Email Campaigns seemed the session to attend at Search Engine Strategies 2010 London.

Having spent much of last year producing a monthly email across nine segments for a major car insurance and breakdown company, I was interested to hear latest best practice and get some inspirattion. After all, we tracked KPIs, tweaked designs, improved clarity on calls to action buttons, yadda yadda blah blah, and saw a leap in click-throughs. But what else could we have done?

Tamara Gielen, Independent Email Marketing Consultant, who ran email programmes for eBay among others, had some ideas. She promised seven tactics in the presentation but instead, I counted 30. So there’s lots to know, too much to reproduce here.

Here are 10 bulletpoints.

  • Sell your email programme on the website – don’t just have a button asking them to subscribe to your email but clarify the offer on the button, eg, ‘train me to profit’, ‘be the first to know our special offers’, ‘free email tips’, and so on. Agencies may need to advise the client to do this if emails are outsourced.
  • Tell them why you are asking for their info on the sign-up form (perhaps add a ‘why are we asking this?’ button on the page). Be transparent, it builds trust.
  • Welcome your new subscribers – send a welcome email within 24 hours, when they are highly engaged. Let them know, ‘This is what we are going to be sending you.’ Ask them to do something (of benefit to them) and send them back to your site.
  • Listen to your unsubscribers – they will tell you what they don’t want. Maybe they don’t want to fully unsubscribe but are fed up of your monthly email outs. So give them the option of getting less emails on the unsubscribe page, eg once a week/month. Or just email seasonally, even just once a year, when they are likely to be shopping for your service or product. Better this, than losing them altogether.
  • Give ‘unsubscribe’ alternatives – eg if emails are unsuitable, ask them to sign up for an RSS feed, suggest a ‘follow us on Twitter’ option or to become a Facebook fan, would they like to sign up for the catalogue – offer alternative channels for you to communicate with them.
  • Use social networks to grow your list – eg, encouraging your customer to become a fan on Facebook means other people see that in their newsfeed. Why is that interesting? Make it interesting, eg, Papa John’s on Facebook offered a free pizza if you become a fan and won a million more subscribers to their email  as a result.
  • Allow subscribers to share your content via share buttons to help acquisition. First figure out where your audience is, eg, B2B is great for LinkedIn. B2C may be on Facebook, Twitter, etc. But remember people will only share links if there is something of value in the content.
  • Emails do not have to be weekly or monthly – use triggers, eg, a Birthday trigger, such as ‘Fiona, Birthday greetings from [brand], here’s a [discount/freebie/offer] to celebrate.’
  • Subject line length/content – include the most important message in first 4-5 words, ask questions, sell benefits, and include an urgency.
  • When should you send your email? – think about when your customers are likely to be browsing and when buying, eg, a retail email may do better at the weekend when people are free to click through and buy. But test your timings. Tamara sends hers at 9.30 on a Monday morning – because few send at this time (the bulk of emails is sent on Wednesdays/Thursdays). Stand outs from your competitors. Also she notes that many have a 9am start and are going through emails at this time – her email then pops up on top (she has 50% open rate by the way).

Images: © Maxpower/Flickr