Tag Archive | "survive"

How to survive Google’s new local search world

Google has made some significant changes in the area of local search. Contributor Wesley Young gives an overview of the important changes and shares tips on how to keep your local business visible in the search results.
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How to Survive and Thrive as a Corporate Content Marketer

creativity missives from the cubicle and beyond

In early 2012, I turned on my corporate-provided laptop for my first day of work writing content for a large technology company.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. For more than 15 years, I’d been a dedicated freelancer — rejoicing in my independence, working in my little office from a log home in the middle of a vast forest.

Back then, starting my own business was the only way I could live the life I wanted. But thanks to increased telecommuting options and better connectivity, now I get to enjoy my lifestyle along with a regular paycheck.

Content marketers are creative people and being thrust into a hugely bureaucratic environment can be bewildering at first. When I was self-employed, I was free to focus on my own projects. Want to launch a new ebook? Sure! Go for it.

Life as a content marketer in Corporate America is different.

Adapting to the corporate world

When you work at a large company, a paraphrase of the classic Serenity Prayer is helpful:

To survive and thrive, you need to accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

In a company with thousands, or in my case, hundreds of thousands of employees, the chain of command is deep.

It’s unlikely you’ll launch an ebook all by yourself.

As a corporate content marketer, projects inevitably require working and playing well with others in a gigantic sandbox.

You’ll need to accept a few realities in exchange for that lovely paycheck. Here are seven …

Reality #1: You have to follow rules

Depending on what you did before entering the corporate world, you may not have heard of a style guide.

It’s a document that dictates the writing rules for a specific company. No matter how well you write, if you don’t follow the style guide, trouble ensues.

The style guide for the company I work at is 373 pages. (I’m not kidding!) There’s also a word usage database that contain words we can’t write in content. For example, don’t even think about using the word “legacy” to describe old software because that word is banned.

Style guides are just one set of rules you’ll encounter as a content marketer.

The company I work for also has rules for using the logo. It’s worth billions of dollars, so they don’t want people messing with it. Trademarking is another big deal. Procedures exist for everything, along with countless complex forms and systems. Deal with it.

All of this may sound alarming, and at first it is. The key is to gather information about the rules. Knowledge is power and many companies have an intranet that’s a vast repository of everything you need to know.

Become a researcher and you’ll turn into the go-to person for answers, which your bosses will adore.

Reality #2: You don’t always get to create fun stuff

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as a corporate content marketer, you don’t always get to write about what you want.

Sometimes you’re assigned to write about a topic you think is boring, but you have to write about it anyway. Sometimes you know from the outset only three people in the known universe will read what you write. And yet, you have to write it anyway.

If you find you want to jab a spear in your eye the next time you have to wax poetic on the benefits of “neuro-micro-wigeted analytics in the cloud,” write about other topics on your own time.

I write novels on the side, and it helps me maintain my creative mojo.

Reality #3: You must accept review of your work

It’s odd to me, but apparently some writers have managed to get through life insulated from criticism.

As a corporate content marketer, you’ll be working with others, so comments, critiques, and sometimes even starting over are part of the deal.

You’ll have a lot of people telling you your peerless prose isn’t so perfect. You’ll also likely have to work with subject-matter experts who don’t know much about writing, but think they do.

It’s important to disengage emotionally from your corporate writing. You’re not creating War and Peace here, folks; you need to develop a thick skin.

Don’t be the prima donna who ends up with an ulcer from too many nit-picky arguments.

Reality #4: You may have to work with others you desperately want to fire, but can’t

One of the best things about being a freelancer was that I could fire clients who were unpleasant. Sadly, you usually can’t fire coworkers.

Although I’m lucky to work with a fantastic team of writers, some of the subject-matter experts I’ve worked with have been unpleasant and rude.

In a large company, you won’t get along with everyone. When necessary, find out who can help you avoid the irksome people — or at least minimize your contact with them.

Reality #5: You have to meet deadlines, even when they’re arbitrary

In my freelance life, I never missed a deadline. But now my deadlines can be everything from critical to downright arbitrary or absurd.

Sometimes they are completely fluid, which is a novelty for me. (If you have no plan to meet it, why set a deadline?)

In practice, the more people involved, the more likely deadlines won’t be met. Many writers aren’t the best at project management. (Hello, procrastination!)

If you take the initiative to project manage everything you do at work, you’ll stand out.

Reality #6: You have to attend time-sucking meetings

Many content marketers are introverts who would prefer to sit alone and write, but that’s not realistic in the corporate world.

You will inevitably be interrupted by (sometimes pointless) meetings.

The best way to avoid meetings is to head them off at the pass.

Whenever possible, ask if an email or other option would suffice. You need to jealously guard your precious writing time or you’ll never finish anything.

Reality #7: You must avoid the vortex of complacency

After you have worked at a company for a while, you may become complacent when reading jargon and corporate lingo.

If half the company uses the meaningless phrase “time-to-value,” it doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to start writing like an automaton.

Keep striving to produce your best work, even if you have read “best of breed” 700 times. Unless you work for a kennel club, there’s likely a better description to use.

Your entrepreneurial spirit can live on

As I noted earlier, my return to the corporate world was a bit nerve-wracking, and I was worried my independent entrepreneurial spirit would be crushed.

It hasn’t been.

Why? Because I don’t focus my attention on the things I can’t do anything about. The company I work for has been around for a long time and expending a lot of energy railing against reality doesn’t do me or the company any good.

At the end of the day, I get paid every week to be creative. That’s a big deal.

Even when I write about topics that don’t particularly interest me, I’m still writing.

And for a content marketer, that’s what it’s all about.

About the Author: Susan Daffron is a content marketer for a huge technology company and the author of the Alpine Grove Romantic Comedies, a series of novels that feature residents of the small town of Alpine Grove and their various quirky dogs and cats. She is also an award-winning author of many nonfiction books, including several about pets and animal rescue. You can read more about her at SusanDaffron.com.

The post How to Survive and Thrive as a Corporate Content Marketer appeared first on Copyblogger.


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7 Ways to Survive Gmail’s New Promotions Tab

image of toy monkeys

So I’m going to guess you’ve heard about the new Gmail Promotions tab.

Not least because a bunch of smart content marketers have probably emailed you in the last week with some very … concerned messages about you getting their emails.

In a nutshell, Gmail has decided they’re better than you are at organizing your mailbox, so they’re sorting your messages into five categories that they’ve come up with — one of which is called Promotions.

For now, I’ll gloss over the irony that the most powerful and successful direct marketer on the planet seems to be on the warpath against marketers.

Frankly, you probably have a much more pressing question. Is this change going to completely tank your email marketing?

And the answer is … that depends.

It depends mostly on how good your email marketing was in the first place. Some marketers strongly believe this change is a good thing (Taylor Lindstrom articulated this point of view nicely the other day on Men with Pens).

If your readers are engaged, they’re not going to stop thinking you’re a good egg just because your email is in a different tab now. And putting your email newsletters (and blog posts) into a special tab might allow your readers to devote more attention to them.

But the fact is, since the rollout of the new tabs, email companies are reporting a drop in open rates. Not a drastic drop, but a percent point or two can make a very material change to your bottom line.

So don’t panic … but do be smart about getting your messages in front of your best customers and prospects.

Here are seven ways you can make sure your business doesn’t get whacked by the Promotions tab. And if you’ve come up with a strategy of your own, I hope you’ll share it with us in the comments!

1. Create anticipated content

This is the big one, of course.

Going back to the cookie concept principle — the content that you send your audience every day needs to deserve their attention.

It needs to be useful. It needs to be interesting. It needs to be so good that they’re looking around for it if they don’t immediately see it in their Primary in-box.

The Promotions tab is going to make it very clear if your audience has tuned you out, either because you stopped making a commitment to first-rate content, or because your promotion-to-usefulness ratio got out of balance.

We “train” our audiences to open our emails by putting really good stuff in there.

2. Focus on your most engaged customers

Every business has customers who are insane, crazed fans … and customers who tried something once but aren’t really all that connected.

(Except telecom companies. All of their customers hate them. If you’re not a telecom company, keep reading.)

You need to be giving more love to your rabid fans. Instead of appealing to the generic, lukewarm “mushy middle” of your audience — go for the ones who think you’re amazing. Feed the outliers. The most crazy-committed.

Instead of trying to write for everyone with a pulse, write for a narrow, well-defined, and passionate segment of your audience. And knock their socks off.

Whether your business is fountain pens or fitness or frog wrestling — there’s a sliver of your market that you serve incredibly well. Focus on that sliver, and make them even crazier about you.

3. Write a numbered series

Want to make sure people are looking forward to the messages in your autoresponder sequence?

Put numbers on them.

If they got messages 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 … they’re going to email you wondering what happened to message 5.

Obviously, this trick works about 962% better if you have a solid handle on points 1 and 2 above.

4. Make your blog subscription available via email

At first glance, it’s sort of a bummer that our blog posts, and not just our email newsletter and free marketing course, get sent into the Promotions tab. They’re sent via a bulk email provider … which means Gmail thinks that Promotions is the right spot for them. (That’s true today. It may not be true forever. Google does like to change things up.)

But.

That also means that when our amazing, smart subscribers don’t see their Copyblogger post in the morning … they go looking for it. They start clicking around these tab things to see if they can figure out where it went.

And when they find the blog post, they also see our email newsletter — which we try hard to make sure is incredibly useful. (Heck, we put a whole dang marketing course in there.)

Your audience doesn’t think of your blog posts and your email newsletter or autoresponder as two different things. They’re all just “good stuff from this publisher.”

Getting your blog posts into their in-box along with your newsletter and promotional material is a great way to make yourself a familiar and valued face.

5. Create more time-sensitive offers

Want to make sure that your audience makes your emails a priority?

Make sure you’re sending time-sensitive offers to them. (Really good offers, for stuff they want, that’s relevant to why they signed up for your material in the first place.)

If you send out juicy deals with an expiration date attached, your audience learns that they don’t want to miss out on the good stuff. They’ll do what makes sense for them to see your material more regularly — whether that’s moving you to their “Primary” in-box, or keeping a close eye on that Promotions tab.

6. Provide blog and social media “cover” for important emails

Those rabid fans we talked about? They love hearing from you in their favorite social media channel, too.

And since you’re already there anyway, make sure to give a shout-out to your best folks about important emails that are coming to their in-box.

Don’t do this for every message. That’s just lame. But if you have a tight time-sensitive offer, or just something really interesting you want to make sure they see, use your social media accounts to remind your subscribers to check those in-boxes.

(And remember, don’t always point them to promotions. Point them to interesting “pure content,” too.)

7. And yes, educate people about changes to their email box

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting people know how to move your messages to their Primary in-box.

As content publishers, we’re actually pretty savvy about how email works, and how to make Gmail work the way we want it to. You don’t want to assume that all of your subscribers are as savvy about Gmail as you are. And letting people know what to do next is always wise.

This is especially important for new email subscribers, whether to your blog or your email list. The opt-in confirmation message will typically come to the Promotions tab for Gmail users, not their Primary email box. And Gmail may handle as many as half of your subscribers’ email addresses. (Remember, it’s not just folks with a gmail.com address.)

Make sure you’re getting our emails!

If you want your Copyblogger blog posts and Internet Marketing for Smart People messages to go into your Primary in-box, you can just drag a message from the Promotions tab into the Primary tab, then click “yes” when it asks if you want to do that for all of our messages.

And if you don’t have tabs yet — my account doesn’t, as it happens — you’ll know what to do when they arrive.

Kristi Hines is one of the many smart marketers who outlined other options for handling your Gmail tabs, including turning them off completely, so check her post out if you want to learn more about that.

Flickr Creative Commons image by Joel Kramer

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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Why Facebook won’t survive the decade

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Facebook, despite all the impressive numbers, just isn’t a very effective moneymaker. According to their IPO documents, Facebook made $ 3.7 billion revenue in 2011. Not too shabby at all, but in December 2011 they had 845 million users. Assuming they averaged 700 million for the whole year, that’s just over $ 5 per user per year. And that’s revenue, not profit. Given that 15% of its revenue comes from one social game developer, Zynga, suddenly the whole system seems a bit fragile. Its current revenue model isn’t very effective at creating, y’know, actual revenue. I can’t remember the last time I clicked on a Facebook ad. Can you?

Revenue

Facebook certainly doesn’t have anything to worry about in the short term. By opening up in new markets, like Brazil and India, it can boost user numbers and hopefully revenue. But its ability to squeeze money from users is sorely lacking. As mentioned, its ads are rarely clicked. Anecdotally, they’re badly targeted and the creative they use looks so woefully amateur I‘m surprised any brands use them. Indeed, General Motors recently pulled their entire Facebook advertising budget. Not everyone agrees with them for sure (least of all Ford), but if one of the world’s leading brands doesn’t spend ANY money with you, frankly you’ve got problems. Has any large advertiser said that about any other medium ever? Imagine if they said the same thing about TV? It’s unthinkable. Facebook will doubtless continue to experiment with ad formats but, almost ten years after its inception and countless billions of venture capital funding, shouldn’t they be doing a better job?

And then of course, there’s the cell phone. Facebook users in the United States now spend more time on Facebook on their mobile than their desktop computer Great news for the user, but terrible news for Facebook. There are fewer ads on the mobile site. Fewer ads mean less money.

So what can they do about it? The recent app store development should help. Brands will surely pay to use the Facebook API to create social experiences with their customers. But that doesn’t mean anyone will use them.

The simple fact is, just one percent of users interact with brands at all. It’s difficult to see how, even with Facebook’s data goldmine at their disposal, any brand could create something meaningful, that offered more than just 5 minutes of distraction. And then there’s privacy. Why would I volunteer to give corporations more information about me, just so they can sell me things I don’t need?

Aging users

Facebook is still growing rapidly. It recently became the top social network in Brazil and may or may not expand into China. But what about its growth closer to home? Once Facebook becomes mainstream, it’s numbers stabilize and even start falling. From March 2011 to March 2012, Facebook lost 300,000 users in the US. And its worldwide profit was down too by almost $ 30 million.

Facebook was built for college students. (A face book, for those outside the US, is a photo album of your peers that you’re given before you start college). But those college students who were the early adopters (eg, me) are grown up now. Some of us have kids, mortgages, even jobs. Sure, we might post the odd comment, a video we like, but certainly we’re not the avid Facebookers we once were.

But that’s OK, right? I may have left college but there’s a new generation of college kids on the way surely? Well, no. According to Nielsen, the under 18s are the demographic that’s least likely to go on any social network. Isn’t this a bit odd? You only have to be 12 to have an account and we all know how much children like mimicking adult behaviors, so if Facebook was cool, a desirable thing, wouldn’t they all be clamoring to get an account? You don’t need to prove your age after all, so shouldn’t elementary schools be filled with kids who have given a fake birth date just to get on? Facebook was designed for college kids, but you’re more likely to have an account if you’re over 65 than under 18. Isn’t that just weird? My dad’s on Facebook, my little sister isn’t. Says it all really.

Why has this happened?

Doubtless, the ‘gentrification’ of the first generation of college kids has contributed. Likewise, the loss of a novelty factor means that, for most people, it’s not something they get excited about. This then leads to the loss of a ‘network’ effect. If no one you know is on Facebook, you have no reason to join. This is uniquely Facebook’s weakness that its competitors don’t suffer from. Twitter, which now has 500 million users and is growing rapidly, is much more about following people who interest you, rather than having a personal connection. Pinterest, still tiny, is as much about organizing ‘your’ web than it is about sharing. Flickr is for publishing photos and LinkedIn is, ultimately, an aid to help you find work. Facebook is the only network for friends to connect to each other. That’s great, but it only works if everyone does it. And nowadays, there are just too many alternatives.

For people of my generation, we’re busy, we have jobs, and our cell phone bills are not problems like they used to be. So if I want to contact my friends, I email them when I’m at work or call them when I‘m not. The only thing I really ‘need’ Facebook for is to keep in touch with my acquaintances. A nice thing to be able to do, sure, but not something to get upset about if I couldn’t, and certainly not something I can’t get outside Facebook.

When I was at college, we were still the generation that would take digital cameras on a night out then lovingly post the photos on Facebook the next day. Smart phones have destroyed that culture. Not just because they rendered cheap digital cameras unnecessary (and at any rate, we now just call them cameras), but the sheer volume of photos now on everyone’s phones means that people no longer need to photograph themselves on a night out. It’s just not exciting anymore. Consequently, one of Facebook’s most appealing uses has been lost. I might just be getting old, perhaps the college kids still do this, but if Facebook wants to keep on growing, it has to find a way to stay relevant to its early adopters (me) whilst also attracting the next generation. If it doesn’t, the pattern we’re beginning to see in the US will be replicated worldwide. Regardless of the billions of users Facebook may or may not get, if it can’t hold on to them for more than five years or so, the whole thing begins to look rather unsustainable.

Instagram

And so we arrive at the elephant in the room, Facebook’s purchase of the retro photo-sharing app for a cool billion dollars. Instagram, for the record, doesn’t make any money. I don’t mean money as in profit, I mean money as in revenue. If you’ve ever had a job, you’ll have made more money than Instagram. If your kid has ever had a job, they’ll have made more money than Instagram. All the money Instagram have ever spent has come from venture capital investments. Debt, in other words.

So why would Facebook spend so much money on an essentially valueless product? Partly it was defensive. Instagram was looking for a buyer and Facebook knew that Twitter was interested and wanted to maintain its position in the photo-sharing market. And of course culturally, old companies that are worried about their future often buy younger ones for over-inflated prices. See AOL’s purchase of Huffington Post, or News Corp’s purchase of MySpace for other examples.

But then again, why shouldn’t Facebook buy Instagram? I mean, it’s not their money either. For all its millions of dollars of profit, Facebook doesn’t have a billion just lying around in the bank, it’s taken on a debt. A big one.

The problem with bubbles is that they eventually burst, and the bigger the bubble is, the louder the pop. It’s possible I’m wrong, that Facebook looks back at Instagram’s billion-dollar price tag and thinks it worth it. Or that investors, having paid $ 38 per Facebook share, get a decent return on their investment, but there’s no denying that the stakes are getting higher. Can Facebook, with revenues of fewer than 4 billion really be valued at over 100? With profits of around $ 200 million a quarter, it would take 125 years for investors to get their money back. That’s assuming Facebook pay out 100% of their profit as dividend 100% of the time, which even they say is unlikely. (Read the IPO documents, they’re a little terrifying).

Yes, there is growth potential, but it’s not guaranteed. It could all just be one big fad.

The McDonald’s effect

Of all the businesses in the world, very few have successfully marketed themselves to everyone. There are, at most, a handful, but the most successful in my view is McDonald’s. Here is a company that successfully attracts children and their parents, students and lawyers, the list is endless. Some groups will be over-represented for sure, but no one, from Shanghai to Seattle, Paris to Pakistan, feels unwelcome in McDonald’s. This, truly, is one of the great business success stories.

But it’s also a trap. Businesses often feel they can pull off the same trick, but they can’t. Facebook was once exclusively for college kids (you had to have a .edu email address). They then expanded internationally, so other suffixes were allowed (eg, .ac.uk for the UK). Progressively, they loosened the restrictions and made themselves available to everyone. They became like McDonald’s.

But I’m not sure it’s working. As mentioned, Facebook is becoming less and less relevant to my life and the lives of my friends. Where once, despite the lack of smartphones or even laptops, everyone I knew was on there every day, now only a handful are. And increasing numbers are dropping out altogether, without being replaced. The younger generation just aren’t as excited as we were.

So what’s next?

Facebook’s much-delayed IPO will be interesting when it actually happens. What sort of return will investors expect? Which staff members will stick around having just become millionaires a hundred times over? What sort of revenue-generating tricks does Facebook have up its sleeve? Social gaming I’m sure will continue to be a money-spinner in the short and medium term. Apps likewise, might boost the bottom line, and 1 billion users will probably happen. But I’m still skeptical. I don’t think it can avoid Myspace’s fate.

Nowadays I can contact anyone I want instantly and for free in a thousand different ways. If I want to play games socially, there are apps (and websites) for that. And there are endless ways to take and share photos. Facebook was once the only and best place for these things, but it’s not anymore. It’s become an outdated gimmick. When I graduated in 2007, the first thing I did (almost) was post my graduation photos on Facebook. Will the class of 2020 do the same? Maybe they will in Sao Paolo or Beijing, but on the campuses of Harvard or Columbia? I very much doubt it.

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