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I spoke about Social-First Content at the April 2017 Social Media Strategies Summit in Chicago. As always, I left this Social Media Strategies Summit with valuable insights on social content strategy plus great ideas for further developing our brand.

Social Media Strategists at the #SMSSummit

From this Social Media Strategies Summit, I took away a specific insight on the challenge for social media strategists.

With traditional marketing communication, there were numerous clear divisions among important roles:

  • Creative vs. analytical
  • Writing vs. visual communication
  • Strategy vs. design
  • Developing content vs. publishing content
  • Spokesperson vs. reporter
  • In front of the camera talent vs. behind the camera support
  • Media creation vs. media buying
  • Offline execution vs. online / technology execution
  • Mining customer and business insights vs. audience targeting

Looking back on the combined internal and external team we assembled to market our Fortune 500 B2B brand, we rarely had one person doing both sides of any of the pairs of talents and responsibilities above. Depending on a project’s size, in fact, there may be ten or more people involved across these roles.

Social Media Strategists Face Complex Roles

Now, consider today’s social communications landscape. The divisions between the complementary roles have largely disappeared. Today’s social media strategists must be functional, if not fully adept, at nearly all these roles to succeed.

This idea started developing for me as we started using Hubspot for inbound marketing. I’m continually moving between intense analytical and creative roles in developing and executing content-based workflows.

The realization really hit me while attending a Facebook list building, advertising, and re-marketing workshop at the Social Media Strategies Summit. The presenters covered audience targeting and Facebook advertising in detail. We don’t use Facebook advertising very aggressively, so the topic isn’t one that has occupied much of my attention. As workshop presenters continued, I recalled that in the corporate world, I told media buyers that I’d ask questions, but I understood they had a knowledge base that was difficult to have without living in their world. I depended on their expertise to guide and lead us toward accomplishing our marketing objectives.

Today, however, you can’t afford to make that distinction. Outstanding social media strategists must understand Facebook targeting, advertising, and remarketing. It’s just as important as understanding the fundamentals of writing a compelling story. They also must understand everything else on the list of communication roles.

Sure, in a smaller organization, I’m now taking on many more communication roles than as a VP in a Fortune 500 organization. A team of ten no longer exists for me. Talking with other attendees at the Social Media Strategies Summit, though, it’s clear a team of ten doesn’t exist for many of them either – even within large organizations.

Why Many Mid-Career Marketers Are Dinosaurs

Put all this together, and I think it explains why I see so many mid-career marketers are dinosaurs, either limiting themselves in comfortable, but career-threatening ways (“I just do PR” or “I write but don’t do SEO”), or floundering while they rework the calculations on how much longer until they have enough money to retire.

The much smaller group is leveraging career experience and diving into social content strategy with a passion. These folks are learning to become perhaps the best-positioned marketers: they heave experience AND social sensibilities.

Seeing this landscape for mid-career marketers is why I encourage them to attend as many social content marketing events and conferences as possible. It’s the foreseeable future. If they want to be a part of that future AND get paid, they must be aggressive and prepare to work with multiple generations that grew up in a marketing world where role divisions that made sense ten years ago no longer apply. – Mike Brown

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Beyond depicting your product every which way (or depicting the equipment and people who create your service every which way), what images do you include in your brand’s visual vocabulary?

As you consider that answer, ask yourself this: Are you effectively using the best images to reinforce your brand in strategic, consistent ways?

Let’s talk about your brand’s visual vocabulary. I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time considering on design as we solidify the Brainzooming brand’s visual vocabulary through creating more eBooks on strategy and innovation (with our initial offer on branding on the way).

11 Hacks for Creating Your Brand’s Visual Vocabulary

Here are the hacks that have worked for us.

Start by unpacking your brand for inspiration. Look at all the pieces of your brand foundation (big strategy statements, brand promise) to discover the most significant words and phrases you use to describe your brand. You can do this by:

  • Combing through brand foundation materials and existing creative briefs. This will help you avoid spending time trying to recreate visual vocabulary clues that already exist.
  • Running a Wordle on web pages or other content where your brand talks about itself. This is one way to check for important descriptors.
  • Putting customer comments and open-ended descriptions about your brand through a Wordle to see what emerges on top from the marketplace’s view.
  • Reviewing your current brand visuals to identify themes or types of images that stand out based on repetition or impact.
  • Cataloging brand visuals from direct competitors and other brands that do comparable things to what your brand does. Examine what are doing to uncover opportunities to differentiate your brand visually.

Explore ideas to associate visuals with your important brand words and phrases. Start by:

  • Plugging brand words and themes into Google Images. This will help you uncover images the world associates with your brand words.
  • Searching brand words and phrases in professional photo sites to see what stock photos images exist. Careful on this: you will see lots of visual clichés you don’t want to associate with your brand.
  • Extending your search to visually oriented and image-based social sites (Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr). Look for how a broad range of people capture and categorize images linked to your brand’s attributes.

Document what you learn through:

  • Writing ideas describing the images you found. This is the approach I employed. Some of the related words were literal; others were more abstract.
  • Creating Pinterest mood boards. This is a smart alternative suggested by a design blog.:   http://designyourownblog.com/visual-vocabulary-brand-identity/They recommend pinning images you find on separate Pinterest mood boards to identify themes, then consolidating them into one overall brand mood board.
  • Finding what works for you to capture and share your results with others. I used words because my next step was taking photos to build our brand image library. Working with words makes it easier for me to avoid duplicating what others are doing. Looking at visuals as my starting points would make it too easy to potentially co-opt other people’s’ visualizations accidentally.

This is a simple approach for building your brand vocabulary, but I know it worked for us.

If you haven’t invested much time thinking about your brand and its visual vocabulary, starting simple can move you ahead dramatically! – Mike Brown

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Chatting with a mid-career professional who is at the height of job frustration, she placed a career strategy challenge on the table:

  • “A résumé is supposed to have metrics, but I have no real metrics I can own for my contributions at my day job.
  • “What I’m doing in my day job isn’t the kind of work I want to do in my next job – at least under the same circumstances. I need to find something more fulfilling.
  • “I’ve done outside work at various times, but it’s not a consistent work history. Plus, I can’t jump back into entrepreneurship with its lack of stability.
  • “I have some starting points describing myself that have potential to go on a résumé, but they seem fluffy and lack concrete accomplishments.”

With all that backdrop, the question was, “What should I put on my résumé that is going to help me attract an employer’s attention when I email or post my résumé?”

I know this isn’t an isolated career strategy challenge.

Parts of it feel a lot like what I was facing at various points in my corporate career. When you are part of a big organizational machine, it is often difficult to isolate what you do to create metrics. And if you tend toward under-selling yourself, you freeze when faced with touting your own capabilities and accomplishments.

5 Career Strategy Challenge Ideas When You Lack Résumé Metrics

What’s the answer to this career strategy challenge?

I don’t know that there is one answer, but here are the ideas I shared:

  • You can always go to a professional to help prepare your résumé. Here is one I’d recommend if you pursue this idea. A professional creates compelling stories for job seekers all the time, and there’s tremendous value in both that experience and the objectivity of someone else looking at your great capabilities.
  • Create your own metrics. Every organization wants to improve what it does and do it more efficiently. If you’ve struggled to compile metrics for your personal contribution to the organization, create a performance improvement project in your department. Go to your internal customers under the banner of bettering your department’s contributions. Ask them for specifics on where your contributions improve good things, reduce bad things, accomplish results with fewer resources, and improve efficiency and effectiveness in any other quantitative ways. Collect success stories, too, even if they aren’t metrics-based. All this work will improve your day job while giving you ample résumé material.
  • Reach back out to your outside clients and ask them comparable questions about performance improvements, cost efficiencies, and customer successes they can attribute to the work you did for them. Those could be easier, more compelling metrics to establish.
  • Beyond the success stories you are collecting, ask several people close to you to create a recommendation letter for you that highlights at least five key characteristics, talents, work accomplishments, and selling points that they would use to communicate about you positively to others. They will likely share things you don’t see in yourself that you should be communicating in your résumé.
  • Network like crazy! Start now, and continue for the rest of your career. If you are a unique talent who is hard to adequately and differentially describe in a couple of pages, why limit yourself to selling yourself in a couple of pages? My advice to this job seeker was that her next position is going to come from someone that sees and gets her talents and finds the right role. By meeting hiring decision makers personally through an aggressive networking effort, the résumé becomes less important. Then, instead of selling you sight unseen, it becomes a crutch for the decision maker to better describe you and what they see in you to others in the organization.

Those are my ideas.

They helped get her thinking about new possibilities. Ultimately, these ideas are all about action, and doing the hard work to bring them to life! – Mike Brown

 

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If you’ve been pursuing a content marketing strategy for a few years, you have some content that worked and some that didn’t work when you first published it. You also likely have content that’s continuing to work for you in that it’s still attracting new visitors. We hope you also have a good deal of content that, even though you may have created it years ago, is still largely accurate and relevant.

Reviewing the most successful pieces emerging from your content marketing strategy up to now provides the opportunity to create new growth from your evergreen content.

We have been doing that with our own content marketing strategy along with helping clients take advantage of the same opportunity: updating, reformatting, and enhancing evergreen content so it’s primed to generate new visitors, subscribers, and audience members eager to download it.

8 Ways to Create New Growth from Evergreen Content

Here are 8 ideas to explore based on your top blog posts for ongoing traffic:

  • Use your most popular evergreen blog posts along with related ones to create a new eBook. Freshen the content by re-editing the multiple pieces and adding new content. You can also enhance the content with new graphics and design.
  • Freshen these blog posts with new infographics or graphic depictions and republish the blogs for newer readers.
  • Aggregate multiple, related blog posts and republish those as a comprehensive article on a topic.
  • Create videos to bring a more personal dimension to the evergreen content.
  • Write the opposite angle of evergreen blog posts. For example, if it’s about doing a certain number of things to accomplish a goal, write the list of things you should not do if you want to accomplish the same goal.
  • Expand a list post by writing the details behind each of the items, providing greater depth.
  • If you have a post that helps people learn how to do something or analyze a situation, turn it into a one-page download. This can make it an easy-to-use life or job aid.
  • Using a popular list post as the basis, create an infographic as a new download.

Those are all great ways to get new growth from your evergreen content.

Exploiting your most popular content in this way will make the hardest working elements of your content marketing strategy produce even more results! – Mike Brown
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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence offered an internal branding strategy take on the United Airlines woes, offering strategic thinking questions you can ask and answer to improve your brand’s resiliency and avoid brand crises.

3 Ways Your Internal Branding Strategy Can Be Smarter than United Airlines

Via Armada Corporate Intelligence

United Airlines is at the forefront of recent business and general news due to having forcibly removed a passenger from a partner airline flight. Chicago Aviation Department police dragged Dr. David Dao from his seat after United identified him as a low-value flier. That put him next in line to be bumped to make way for several crew members. Dao suffered a broken nose and a concussion, and lost two teeth. This past weekend, United made headlines again with another incident; a couple headed to their wedding were removed after having moved into more expensive seats.

United Airlines seems unable to extricate itself from the intense negative media spotlight right now. These situations underscore a major brand impact of smart technology: nearly every customer is a broadcaster following his or her own personal rules for the ways in which broadcast journalism operates. While the era of personal broadcast journalism is several years old, it’s clear that even major brands have not fully adapted their branding and customer experience strategies to recognize this phenomenon.

3 Internal Branding Strategy Challenges

The concept of internal branding addresses the ways in which an organization prepares its own people to carry out the experience it delivers for its customers. For an airline, determining the correct way for a gate agent to manage boarding, or for a flight attendant to interact with passengers, are both elements of managing an internal brand team.

With current United-related stories focusing on its business practices and crisis communication response, let’s pursue a slightly different path. Here are three internal branding weak spots the United incident highlights. For each, we articulate a challenge and related internal branding questions for your organization to ask and answer.

Anticipating Flexibility in a Rules-Oriented Culture

When making sure an airplane takes off and stays in the air, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. That’s why airlines are sticklers for operations manuals, checklists, and rules. With United, a Wall Street Journal Story reports the company cultivates a “rules-based culture where its 85,000 employees are reluctant to make choices not in the ‘book.’”

The challenge: giving your people the flexibility to handle negative customer situations that may develop or are already happening. United is reviewing its policies after the fact. How can a brand better anticipate these situations? A variation on business war games could be helpful; set up customer interaction situations, having stand-in rogue customers disrupt the system. Alternatively, data analysis of real world customer interactions could signal unusual ones a brand should explore, particularly if a customer introducing more system stress than expected turns it negative very quickly.

Internal Branding Questions:

  • How much customer interaction detail is spelled out within your brand policies?
  • What do you do on an ongoing basis to monitor when policies aren’t functioning properly?
  • Are you actively imagining unusual, hypothetical situations to test how applying the rules might escalate and turn customer interactions negative?

Who Is Your Internal Brand Team?

It is easy to identify your employees as critical members of your internal brand team, particularly those with direct or indirect customer contact. Brands typically focus training attention on employees to ensure they understand and carry out the brand promise as intended.

The challenge: looking beyond your own employees to understand other parties and organizations that are on your internal brand team. While early reports suggested United saw the interaction with Dr. Dao as the purview of the Chicago Aviation police, the officers present on the plane were certainly part of the United internal brand team. One wonders whether United strategized the possibilities with the officers before they boarded the plane to remove the passenger. If that conversation took place, it’s difficult to see how dragging a passenger off the plane was a sanctioned course of action.

Internal Branding Questions:

  • Has your brand team consciously explored, from a customer’s perspective, who all the parties are that interact with your customers within your brand experience?
  • How many are partners, contractors, agents, or even unrelated or unaffiliated parties you would never include in traditional employee training?
  • What steps can you take to make them more formal members of your internal brand team?

Everyone Is a Reporter, Everyone Is on Camera

The first-hand reporting on the United incident came from multiple passengers, complete with different camera angles of the exchange between the Chicago Aviation police and Dr. Dao. The passengers uploaded their videos to social networks directly. That means they were in effect broadcasting the video without any chance for a United response. Sharing the videos may, in fact, have happened even before senior United executives learned of the incident through internal communication channels.

The challenge: brands are controlling less of the message about themselves than ever before. Each customer (or bystander) can cover a brand interaction as it happens. That means there no opportunities for a brand to hide from negative situations or even go through typical internal communication protocols. In a practical sense, this means every member of an organization’s internal brand team needs to be aware that EVERY interaction has the potential to wind up on social networks, and then broadcast channels. Not only do they need to be prepared for this, a brand needs to be listening for customer-created reports. These communication channels move faster than most internal communication processes!

Internal Branding Questions:

  • What does delivering media training look like for EVERYONE in your organization – and for your extended brand team?
  • What is the bare minimum training required to prepare frontline people interacting with customers to understand the impact of personal reporting?
  • What provisions do you have for listening to miscues and problem situations that an external party is reporting even before your internal brand team members can?

Are you prepared?

As you explore these internal branding questions, we do encourage you to consider the worst possible situations you can imagine to more accurately test your internal branding readiness. Don’t shy away from considering: How bad could it get? – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

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It’s natural for a business to struggle with new ways and places to add value for its customers. Other than dropping price, in what ways can you adapt your branding strategy to boost the benefits and reduce the costs (be they financial or non-financial) of having your company as a provider?

That’s a huge question.

One way to look at your branding strategy to identify new value opportunities is to ask this strategic thinking question:

What mistakes are customers prone to make before and after they work with us, and how can we eliminate (maybe even guarantee to eliminate) any of those mistakes?

That’s not a new branding strategy question, but it came to mind once again while heading to my car after morning mass yesterday. I hadn’t seen one of these trucks for a few months, and this was a great opportunity to take a picture of it standing still.

Yes, that’s a big typo on the side of the truck. And it’s been there for at least a few years.

Think about this opportunity if you’re a vehicle graphics company. Maybe you’re adding new materials to your product mix. Reducing the time to take off and install vehicle graphics. Selling service packages over an extended period to touch up graphics. Offering a discount here and there to get your customers to swap out their graphics on a more regular basis.

Those ideas all center around what you do.

How about looking before and after for potential mistakes?

How about offering a 100% spelling, grammatical, and image accuracy guarantee? That would be great for when everybody that wrote or reviewed copy that was going to go on the side of a truck suddenly forgot (we hope forgot) the basic rules of English.

That could be a great service. And all you’d have to do to market it is rip off the picture in this post, and assure your customers that YES, this really DOES happen!

What are the comparable opportunities in your business? Spend fifteen minutes today thinking about the dumb mistakes that happen before and after what you do. See if there are a few ways you can help your customers completely avoid those to create more value in what you deliver for them.

It’s all up to you if this strategic thinking question will create its full impact for your brand! – Mike Brown

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I’m excited to be speaking again this year at several Social Media Strategies Summit events. The first is in Chicago on April 26-28, 2017. I’ll be speaking at the SMSSummit in New York this coming October (October 17-19, 2017). Additionally, I’ll also be presenting a workshop at the GSMI-sponsored Branding Conference, also during October in Chicago.

As part of the relationship with these GSMI conferences, we’ll be co-releasing several new Brainzooming eBooks on brand strategy and social media content marketing. The first of these eBooks is now available. You can download your FREE copy today!

FREE 81 Social Media Content Marketing Ideas eBook

The new eBook features a checklist of 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand. The checklist will help you generate social media content marketing topics that fit your brand and engage your audiences.


Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand includes ideas to:

  • Better involve your audience
  • Share your brand’s knowledge
  • Teach valuable lessons
  • Develop brand-oriented lists
  • Share impactful opinions
  • Incorporate your people into the stories
  • Repurpose strong social media content marketing topics

One great thing about the eBook’s checklist is you can apply it to both long-form (eBooks, blogs, videos) and short-form (status updates, photos, short videos) content multiple times. This will keep your social media content marketing fresh and consistently up-to-date across social networks.

Download and take advantage of this free resource to grow your social media impact. While you are at it, check out the Social Media Strategies Summit events in Chicago or New York. Register for these events and join other senior-level corporate professionals looking to learn how to accelerate their brand presences across social media.
Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

Looking forward to your thoughts on the new eBook, and seeing you in Chicago or New York for the 2017 SMSSummits! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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