Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Inspiration from the Consumer Side

I live in a world of business-to-business and business-to-government marketers.  Yet, I often find social media inspiration from effective consumer applications.

Here's an example.  This article serves as a good reminder that content distributed via social networks is most effective when it engages, educates and entertains.

Relevance is established and community is constructed via a focus on thought leadership and best practices, rather than a sales pitch on a product, technology or service offering.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Perspective, Please

The headlines sure are depressing today.  A stroll through the New York Times Web site reveals the following gems:

-Israeli/Palestinian turmoil
-Threats of a federal government shutdown due to a contentious Congress
-Continued anxiety about the European debt crisis
-A slowing Chinese economy which may (or may not) indicate that a new global recession is in play
-Growing concerns about new terrorist cells forming in Yemen

Of course, many in the marketing, digital and social circles are preoccupied with the calamity that is Facebook's change in functionality and user interface.

I realize we (me included) tend to not overly fret about events outside our control or influence.  However, I wonder if all of this energy and ire directed at Facebook could be channeled towards more productive endeavors.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why Innovation Thrives Throughout the Washington, DC Region

Geographies with thriving technology, software and telecommunications communities share a number of key attributes. 

One such characteristic is the presence of a collection of market leading companies that serve as a breeding ground for executive talent.  In the Washington, DC region, past innovators such as AOL and MCI once filled that role.  They spawned a myriad of spin-outs and start-ups, which helped create an eco-system of innovation.

Today, government focused systems integrators such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Booz Allen Hamilton, as well as fast risers like Living Social, Merchant Link and Broadsoft provide the ideal environment for the cultivation of the next generation of business and technical leaders.

Additionally, centers of technology are populated with a capital community – from angel investors, venture funds and private equity firms to investment bankers who help entrepreneurs realize a successful financial exit.

Washington, DC scores high in access to funding.  Consider the membership ranks of professional organizations like the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association (MAVA) and the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG).  Executives with a bold idea, a credible business plan and a track record of execution typically find funding in town.

Finally, one vital – yet often overlooked – ingredient necessary for technology to take off in a region is the presence of high quality, research oriented universities.  Think of the impact Stanford has in Silicon Valley or how MIT and Harvard define Boston.

Again, the Washington, DC region shows well when it comes to colleges that flood our business community with trained talent and viable ideas.

The University of Maryland, College Park is a prime example.  While the business school and engineering program typically bask in the accolades, there are also less profile initiatives with a comparable level of benefit for the region.

For the past decade, the University of Maryland has fielded a team to compete in a global competition called the Solar Decathlon.  Pulling students from multiple areas of study, including architecture, business, medicine, engineering and journalism, Maryland’s solar decathletes are charged with the design and construction of a house that meets the most stringent levels of environmental sustainability.

With funding provided by the US Department of Energy, as well as a handful of corporate sponsors, Maryland’s team will unveil its eco-friendly house this month for formal judging.  The competition includes collegiate teams from the across the United States, plus countries like Canada, Belgium and New Zealand.

Win or lose, many of the 30 plus students who comprise the university’s Solar Decathlon team will enter the Washington, DC’s region work force primed to a contribute in a meaningful way.

And we’re all the better off because of it. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Steroid Effect of Collaborative Content Development

Great news…you have a content rich, thought leadership fueled social media marketing program in place.  Yet, readership and audience engagement has become stagnant and, like many organizations, you’ve struggled to raise the impact of the campaign.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we’ve repeatedly stepped into this dilemma in the execution of client programs during the past four years.  Audience interest tends to grow in a series of steps, rather than the always desirable (yet rarely achieved) hockeystick model.

An approach we now employ to juice up the readership ranks, as well as the frequency and intensity of their engagement is collaborative content development with customers, partners, market influencers and other industry thought leaders.  In addition to how it swells readership, this collaborative approach to content also instills third party credibility on a social site.

Here is a recent example:  Strategic clients British Telecom (BT) and Polycom come together to produce and jointly promote a Web-based video on the environmentally-friendly impact of video teleconferencing:

To get the most from your investment in collaborative content, consider the following best practices:

1.  Not all customers, partners and third-parties are equal.  You’ll want to select those with a strong brand and reputation, as well an extensive social following.

2.  Always…and I mean always…remember that social-distributed content must engage, educate and entertain.  Regurgitated marketing slop or overly promotional gunk will rarely garner much in the way of interest.

3.  Promote the content through multiple channels (i.e. social media, Email marketing, events, sales team distribution, etc.) to reach the broadest number of targeted readers, while tying everything to a defined organic search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

4.  Study your analytics each and every day.  Readership and audience engagement provides near real-time feedback from the market in how your messaging has resonated. 

Who is visiting your site?  How do they find you?  How long do they stay?  Do they share the content with anyone? 

This knowledge will inform your content strategy moving forward, as well as empower the sales team with insight and intelligence that can help them more effectively close deals…and faster.