The State of Trust (in Under Three Minutes)

The 13th annual Edelman Trust Barometer contains some very interesting developments on the state of consumer trust.

Some points that caught my attention included:

Technology is the most trusted industry, while banks and financial institutions are the least trusted.

Only 18 percent of those surveyed trusted business leaders, and only 13 percent trusted government leaders.

Influence and authority has shifted from the few top leaders to the many (with the help of social media).

Messages in the new media age must contain humility, transparency and a willingness to explain mutual benefit.

Great insights…

Converged Media Imperative

Converged media has been a hot topic the last two years and is picking up speed in 2013. This concept represents a blurring of the lines between the three types of media: paid, earned and owned.

I don’t think there are many who would disagree that this is happening and will continue. But another important issue is: What type of marketing professional will flourish in this environment and bring added value to his or her brand?

A word that comes to mind to describe this professional is: diverse. Fluency only in a single area, be it advertising, public relations, social media, branding or others is career and brand limiting. The value add comes from multi-disciplinary professionals who understand all of the converging types of media at the strategic and tactical levels and can fit them into a bigger, more seamless picture.

The disciplinary silos must come down. They should be replaced collaborative, cross-functional teams that can work together across the media spectrum.

All of this doesn’t mean specialization has no place. It simply means marketers must adapt and grow in their understanding of media, and work together more effectively. Converged media demands it.

We Have Seen the Brand, and It is Not Our Enemy

The explosion of social media hasn’t been good for branding. Somewhere along the way, branding seems to have developed a bad name (although still not as bad as public relations).

I saw a comment the other day on a social media platform to the effect that the concept of branding was outdated because “we’re all connected now.” It’s not an isolated comment these days, but rather it represents what many have stated over the past few years in one form or another. The underlying belief behind this is that any attempt by a company to develop and promote its brand is inherently based on lies. That there is some type of spin being created to trick consumers and lure them into believing something false.

This type of thinking shows really a lack of understanding about what branding is all about. That’s why I like this post about the Zappos brand because it tells the story of what a brand really is: an extension of the culture (people) that work there.

Branding is about taking what is true about the company and presenting that to consumers, not making things up. Ideally the true culture and values of the company add up to a distinct value proposition in the minds of consumers.

Because consumers can talk to each other now via social media doesn’t invalidate brand development and communication efforts. Indeed, it only make these efforts more important. Companies sometimes fail, because they’re filled with people that can make mistakes. That doesn’t mean the great lie of branding has been exposed.

(Shorter) Content is King

Bigger isn’t always better. In fact, when it comes to content, shorter, bite-sized pieces are often (but not always) better. For marketers and content publishers, competition for attention and speed of information almost necessitates shorter content in many cases.

Shorter content allows more frequent publishing, which is needed when the average life of a tweet, Facebook or Google+ post is only hours.

It can also be saved and built into lengthier content pieces. Entire books have come out of a of series of blog posts. If the content is collected it can be used for any number of long-form applications.

Bite-sized content also allows fast communication. Views can be shared more immediately while news is breaking.

Passive audiences are also more likely to consume a short piece of content than a piece they fear will steal their time.

Long content pieces will always continue to have their place and importance. But with content marking, saying it as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality are becoming as important as ever.

Here are a couple excellent (but longer) posts on content brevity:

6 Reasons to Make Your Big Idea Small

What’s So New About Content Marketing?

Blogging Lessons from Year One

Time really does fly, doesn’t it? It seems hard to believe that it’s been well over a year since I started this blog. It’s been a fun and rewarding experience. If you’re a blogger I’m sure you can relate to my sentiment.

I certainly have learned a lot about blogs and blogging over the course of the last year. The focus of this post is on personal blogging. Business blogging has somewhat different considerations. So, in no particular order, here are some of my key takeaways from blogging year one:

  1. Choosing a good blogging platform is important. I’ve been extremely happy with WordPress. There are other good platforms out there, but that don’t really offer the full functionality and theme options that WordPress brings to the table. This being said, find a blogging platform that works for you so that you can make your posts quickly and effortlessly.
  2. Blogging has to be personal. It should be first and foremost about what you want to share and write about, your area of expertise or passion. This is what keeps motivation high.
  3. Write for yourself, but so that others can learn and benefit. Think about how add value when someone stops by to read your post.
  4. Frequency in posting is somewhat important. This depends on your blog goals, but once a week is a good guideline to follow. The main benefit of weekly posting is that it keeps you disciplined. It also helps to grow the blog’s followers. If your goal is to dramatically increase readership then that would necessitate more frequent posting.
  5. Post length isn’t overly important. What is important is to provide clear and helpful information to the reader, whether it’s in 100 or 1,000 words.
  6. Learning from other bloggers is important. It gives us new perspectives and ideas.
  7. Learning from other bloggers is not important. Sometimes, being too focused on what others are doing compels us to try and be like them. See number 2 above.
  8. Commit to quality content. It’s better to post less frequently than produce poor or unhelpful content. Good content attracts, bad content repels.
  9. Trying new things adds life to your blog. No one wants to see the same old topics and format over and over again. Try something new and see how it goes, such as new topics, interviews, videos, images, guest posts and more. The opportunities are limitless. Keep exploring to keep things interesting for everyone.

Your turn bloggers. What has your experience been? What bit of wisdom would you offer?

Putting Social Back in Social Media

In some quarters, the social part of social media is missing in action. You don’t have to look very far to see examples of social media used mostly for broadcasting, building personal brands and generally for promotional purposes. If one way self-promotion isn’t how we would act with someone in person, why do we feel it’s fine to use social media in this manner?

The longer I’m involved in using social media (which hasn’t been that long compared to some), the more convinced I become that things should be more natural than they seem to be in many instances.

Social is about being open, transparent, helpful and engaging. For many people these traits come easily, for some not so much. That’s not to say one can’t grow in these (like I feel I have) and experience more success and enjoyment using social media. The areas above are definitely examples of where we should be trying to improve.

When it comes to business use of social media, antisocial behavior is even more prevalent. Many businesses have a long way to go to become truly social.

A SideraWorks presentation titled “What Is Social Business?” beautifully defines the six core principles of a social business.

They are:

  • Agility
  • Openness
  • Empowerment
  • Smart connectivity
  • Active intelligence
  • Adaptability

For businesses that haven’t started to embody these principles, now would be the time to start. Our digital society likely won’t become less social in the years ahead. The good news is that becoming a social business is achievable, and it offers great benefits. Check out the presentation for more information on those.

Whether it’s personal or business, we could use more social in social media. I’ll be working on it. Will you?

Let me know what you think.

 

Opportunity Knocks: Differentiate Through Customer Experience

There’s an opportunity being squandered by many brands today. It’s the opportunity to differentiate through a unique and exceptional customer experience. It’s not that many brands aren’t attempting to do this. Many are, or at least that’s what they’re saying. But the question becomes: Is the commitment to customer experience as high a priority as it should be?

Businesses-to-consumer brands, for the most part, are more adept at customer experience models than are business-to-business brands. Most products and services on the market in most categories are very similar. Sure, some have distinct features and benefits, but if the customer experience is problematic, any differences are quickly negated.

Brands that develop an outstanding customer experience and communicate that over time carve out a distinct market advantage. Being faster, more reliable, dependable, approachable, helpful, accommodating and offering the highest quality builds customer equity and generates positive word-of-mouth marketing.

The keys are developing the customer experience continually, being fully committed to it, communicating it and enabling customers to do the same. It’s a great opportunity, for B2B and B2C brands alike.

Here’s a good piece on customer experience, focused on B2B with specific cases, from MediaPost for further reading on the subject.