23 January 2016

How content marketing differs from traditional advertising

Content Machine: Use Content Marketing to Build a 7-figure Business With Zero Advertising
After I posted an article on content marketing audit in my Facebook wall, a friend asked me: "What is content marketing?" I clicked on the reply button, typed a sentence, then another, until the whole thing became a paragraph. But I felt that it's still an incomplete definition. I really need to contrast content marketing with traditional advertising. So I deleted my reply and wrote this post instead.


A. Traditional Advertising

Picture this: It's a Sunday evening and you watch your favorite show in TV, such as football, drama, or cooking.  After a few minutes, poof! The show is gone and you see a gorgeous car, a lovely lady, a soap, a milk, or a a presidential candidate--all having nothing to do with the show you are watching. Your brain declares a red alert: it's an advertisement! You scrambled for the remote, and switched channel, hoping to find something interesting to see for a few minutes, before you go back to the show you love. And by that time, the advertisement should have ended, or so you thought.

This is an example of traditional advertising: trying to catch people's attention when they wish to watch or hear or do something else in order to sell them your goods. Advertising does not only happen in TV. The streets are littered with advertising from billboards to pamphlets. Magazines have inserts showing you the latest tablet PC or that high-precision gold watch. And of course there's the websites, selling you those great shoes and shirts on the side bars, banners, and pop-ups--even if the news article is about the impeachment of a president or the suffering in the aftermath of a typhoon.

One primary characteristic of traditional advertising is rented platform: advertisers go where the crowd conglomerates. Advertisers then rent a space or platform or stall, and shout to the passers-by to buy their goods. That is why advertising can be expensive.  According to the Ad Standards Council rates, radio advertising slot for non-members is about PHP 1,500 (USD 31) per minute while that for TV is PHP 3,000 (USD 63) per minute. Even if you only target 10 slots a day, that's already PHP 15,000 (USD 314) for radio and PHP 30,000 (USD 628) for TV. In one month that's PHP 450,000 (USD 9,427) for radio and PHP 900,000 (USD 18,854) for TV. If you combine the two, you get PHP 1,350,000 (USD 28,281).  This is already more than a million pesos!

C. Content Marketing

Unlike traditional advertising which focuses more on renting platforms in order to sell, content marketing focuses on establishing your own independent platform in order to sell your company's products.  This requires hard work, since the audience initially does not yet exist. You have to build the audience from scratch through growth hacking:
Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which use creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.[1][2] It can be seen as part of the online marketing ecosystem, as in many cases growth hackers are using techniques such as search engine optimization, website analytics, content marketing and A/B testing. Growth hackers focus on low-cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing, e.g. utilizing social media and viral marketing instead of buying advertising through more traditional media such as radio, newspaper, and television.[3] Growth hacking is particularly important for startups, as it allows for a "lean" launch that focuses on "growth first, budgets second."[4][5] Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Airbnb and Dropbox are all companies that use growth hacking techniques.[6][7] (Wikipedia: Growth Hacking)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of techniques (white hat or black hat) used to make the website rank higher in search engine results, e.g. Google page ranking. Website analytics determines how many read each article or click links and buttons. This can be done via Google Analytics, Blog stats, or website heat maps. A/B Testing is genetic algorithm applied to marketing: try out different website designs, headlines, posters, and photos and see which ones have the more impact than the rest in their respective categories. After this, adopt the winners.

Search engine optimization, website analytics, and A/B testing are tools to fish more visitors to your site, analyze where they are coming from, and how they use your website. But without a good solid content, the visitors will just bounce away after a second or two. So this is where content marketing comes in: Content marketing would make the reader stay longer in your site, increasing the chances that he'll browse around and buy something from you.

Why will visitors stay longer in your site? Here's the secret: readers don't care about you; they only care about themselves. So the article that you wrote or the video that you've made is judged by its relevance to your web visitors. Well, you can't please everybody. So you cater only to a very narrow audience who would be potential customers for your products. You talk about their "joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties" (c.f. Gaudium et Spes). And then you share the good news: your products would help them alleviate their griefs and anxieties, so that they can achieve what they hope to enjoy. And a conversion process kicks in: the reader believes in his heart what you are saying is true, and he buys your goods.

Not only that, in the following week, he visits your website again to see what new thing you talk about, what problem you solved, what product you offer. You have gained his trust and a relationship is formed. Why would he buy from other companies, when you are already there--an expert who knows his problems more than even he himself? Later he subscribes to your blog and gives his email address. You have already gained one sure audience for your blog. Soon, you'll gain more audience like him--still interested in their own problems, but they turn to you for help. It first comes in trickles, then the word of mouth kicks in amplified by social media. Your articles gain traction as they gets shared more and more and read more and more. You can jumpstart this process by promoting your posts through advertisements in Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But if you are short of cash for advertising, organic growth is a slow but sure path to growing a community.

Content marketing need not to be all in the form blog posts. Content can also be in form of photos, posters, slides, tweets, white papers, e-books, podcasts, and videos. You need to define your over-all content marketing strategy that would unify these content scattered in different blogs and social media that you own.  That unifying theme is your branding, which may be summed up by your company's tagline, such as "Just do it" for Nike or "Impossible is nothing" for Adidas.

Without a consistent branding, without a consistent adherence to the company's tagline, content marketing fails. If this happens, take a break, go to a 30-day retreat with your staff, and rethink your content marketing strategy.

14 January 2016

How to make a time scorecard for task and media management

Datexx The Miracle Cube Timer
I. Where Did My Time Go?
 
When I'm blogging, time runs fast. Even a two-hour blog post feels short: it's just two paragraphs with several links to primary and secondary sources--even Wikipedia. Since I tend to write by threes, e.g. three paragraphs or three sections with three paragraphs each, a blog post can take about 3-9 hours to write. And so I sometimes I ask myself: where did my time go?

Last Sunday, while scribbling some things in the "New Ideas" page of my 26-ring binder notebook, I realized that I need to monitor my time. I need to do justice to my day job as a physicist and professor. I need to make sure that I spend at least 4 hours doing something related to teaching and 4 hours doing something related to physics research. And of course, I also need 4 hours for blogging.

My problem is that I don't really know how to classify my activities. If I blog about teaching, will that be considered blogging or teaching? If I blog my research thoughts, will that be research or blogging? I need a clear-cut set of categories, so that one action or activity can be classified into only one category. In mathematical parlance, the mapping from the activity to the category must be one-to-one and onto, i.e. a function.

B. Activity Log

Since I don't know how to classify my activities, I decided to do the scientific approach: gather data first, then  construct a reasonable set of categories later that would classify the keywords corresponding to the activities.

I divided my day into 30-minute intervals. You can make this even finer, say 20 min or 15 min or 10 min. But 30 minutes or its integral divisions is a good unit for me since the whole day can fit in a single page of my notebook. Also, the smaller your fundamental unit, the more things you need to tally--and that's extra time spent on administrative overhead and lesser work on things that really matter.

So in my notebook, I wrote on the leftmost side the numbers 6, 7, 8, .... 10, and 11 ever other line, which correspond to the hours of the day. On the second column to the right, I wrote only the significant activity that I did for that 30 minute interval. A short description would do. In my case, here is my data for three days ago, 11 Jan 2016:
  • 7:00 Laundry
  • 7:30 Tweetdeck
  • 8:00 Tweetdeck
  • 8:30 Dress up
  • 9:00 Breakfast
  • 9:30 Email
  • 10:00 Faculty meeting at office
  • 10:30 Go to School HR
  • 11:00 Lunch
  • 11:30 Walk
  • 12:00 Play guitar
  • 12:30 Facebok
  • 13:00 Email
  • 13:30 Book writing in Overleaf
  • 13:30 Book writing in Overleaf
  • 14:00 Book writing in Overleaf
  • 14:30 Book writing in Overleaf
  • 15:00 Snacks
  • 15:30 MO meeting while walking
  • 16:00 Fix Office Internet problem
  • 16:30 Email
  • 17:00 Physics News Writing
  • 17:30 Physics News Writing
  • 18:00 Email
  • 18:30 Google Docs Report
  • 19:00 Supper
  • 19:30 Buy office supplies
  • 20:00 Tweetdeck
  • 20:30 Tweetdeck
  • 21:00 Facebook
  • 21:30 Book writing in Overleaf
  • 22:00 Book writing in Overleaf
  • 22:30 Google Docs
  • 23:00 Walk
  • 23:30 Snacks
  • 24:00 Home
  • 24:30 Blog: QuirinoSugonJr
  • 25:00 Blog: QuirinoSugonJr

C. Task vs Media Scorecard

Based on the data in Section B, I divided my online work into different category systems based on task and media platform used:
  •  Tasks: University, Observatory, Organizations, Relationships, and Personal
  • Media: Blogger, Email, Facebook, Google+, Google Drive, OverLeaf, Twitter, and Wordpress
This two-dimensional classification allowed me to make a tasks vs media table. On each cell, I tallied the number of 30-minute intervals that I spent on each platform. I then summed the result for each platform and for each affiliation.  The result is a task vs media score sheet as shown in Table 1.

Of course, in your case, you can add more platforms, not necessarily online, e.g. the platform that you are standing on when you teach in class.  But for digital marketers, it is important to focus first on the digital platforms, because these are time sinks, especially Twitter and Facebook.

The good thing about the scorecard is that you can do it in paper or in spreadsheet. Also, the mere act of tallying already provides a bird's eye view of how much time you allot for each platform and whether such time investment is in line with your duties.  In this way, you can immediately correct yourself by going to another task. As management guru Peter Drucker said: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

For example, you see yourself devoting more time in Facebook (a whopping 2 hours!) and it's mostly sharing pictures of cute cats with your friends and not for what you are paid for: writing that press release which was already due yesterday. So you close Facebook, open Blogger or Wordpress, search the related literature in the web, transcribe your interviews, and craft a compelling story for your company complete with pictures and videos.
Time scorecard for my task and media management.
Time scorecard for my task and media management. The tasks are classified into five categories: university, observatory, organization, relationships, and personal. The media, on the other hand, are classified into the different content marketing tools and platforms.

09 January 2016

Don't thank your Twitter followers publicly for following you

Amazon eGift Card - Thank you (Whimsical)
Whenever someone follows my Twitter account @QuirinoSugonJr, the first thing that I check is his posted tweets. If I see tweets that thank each of his followers for following him, even for three followers at a time, then I don't follow him. I know some digital marketing books recommend this shout out to your new followers, but I don't like this practice. Here are three reasons why if you are in the content marketing business:  

1. Newsfeed Clog

Those thank you's will clog up my news feed. I prefer to read a link to an article, a memorable quote, useful tip, or an important news. The Twitter account that bears my name is primarily for business-related topics. Since I spend only a limited time in Twitter, I want to make a good use of it.  And I mean business.


2. Robots Alert

Those thank you's are difficult to manually maintain for each follower, unless you automate your thank you's. One of the tell-tale signs of automation is if you repeat your thank you wording, again and again, even if you have two or three preset patterns. But if you automate your thank you's, they are not anymore personal, so what's the use?

3. Tweet Bloat

Finally, those thank you's bloat the number of tweets in your profile. You may have 20,000 tweets, which may rank you with long-time twitter influencers. Let's do the math. If the minimum number tweets per day to become a thought leader in your field in Twitter is 10 tweets, then in one year you can only make 3,650 tweets. So it takes 3 years to reach 10,000 tweets, and another 3 years to finally reach 20,000 tweets.  But if half of your tweets are thank you's, then your Twitter profile is more on the sizzle and less on the steak.

Recommendation

"But I wish to thank my followers for following me!" you would say.

Of course, you can, but not publicly in your Twitter timeline. Here's a tip:
Thank people through a Twitter direct message with a short marketing pitch for your products or website. Be sure to include the url link. It's courteous and reasonable. It does not look spammy and you can automate it.


05 January 2016

3 temptations in content marketing

Scenes from the Past Magic Lantern Slides - Temptation of Christ by Satan in Desert Vintage Biblical Study 1890 - 10x10 Iron on Heat Transfer for White Material (ht_246853_3)
After Christ fasted for 40 days and nights, Satan tempted him with comfort,  fame, and glory--aren't these everything that we wish for? Let's consider these temptations one by one and see if we succumb to them in our blogging and content marketing strategies. Specifically, we shall discuss three things: (1) content scraping, (2) viral content, and (3) worship me.

1. Turn these stones to bread: content scraping
The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” 4* He said in reply, “It is written:c‘ One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.' (Mt 4:3-4)
Blogging is difficult. Even great writers would need about an hour to write a decent and well-researched paragraph. So an 8-paragraph epic content requires 8 hours of labor, which is a full day's work. So bloggers are tempted to go the easy way: steal other people's content through content scraping and make money out of these through advertising. Here's a definition of Content Scraping from Techopedia:
Content scraping is an illegal way of stealing original content from a legitimate website and posting the stolen content to another site without the knowledge or permission of the content's owner. Content scrapers often attempt to pass off stolen content as their own, and fail to provide attribution to the content’s owners. Content scraping can be accomplished via manual copy and paste, or may use more sophisticated techniques, such as using special software, HTTP programming or HTML or DOM parsers. (Techopedia)
I read before that one of the magazines of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (I think it's the CBCP Monitor) was scraped by a US website, so CBCP has to shut down its web magazine and make a new one with a different name (perhaps it's the CBCP News) with better web security installed.

Blogger and Wordpress are also vigilant about content scrapers. If they see that your blog post is 90% scraped from somewhere else, e.g. Amazon, then pfft! Your blog is gone.

So what do we do when we are faced with turn-these-stones-into-bread temptation? We can meditate on what Christ said: "Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." Blogging can still be fun and rewarding even if we don't make money out of every word that comes out from our own keyboard strokes. These words that we write may not come from the mouth of God, but at least we must strive that what we write should be edifying and useful for our intended audience.

2. Jump from the Top of the Temple: Viral Content
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”d 7Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” (Mt 4:5-7)
To jump from the top of the temple and survive the fall is a spectacular feat that draws the crowds and leaves their mouths agape. Most bloggers want a spectacularly awesome content that will be virally shared in social networks. There is no harm in trying to achieve virality, provided that the means are legitimate techniques, such as SEO, excellent writing, and well-designed posters.

But other bloggers enter the dark side by using Black Hat SEO techniques banned by Google:
Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses text that is hidden, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking. (Wikipedia: Search Engine Optimization)
Some write false news or satire or clickbaits without informing the reader the nature of the text. Check out Fake News Watch for the list of such websites.

Website header of Fake News Watch


And still others use other people's photos and change the images to make it appear that the people are either stupid or endorse certain political candidates, such as Duterte in the case of the love team Aldub:


Kath Crave on December 6, 2015 in Facebook: "For those spreading this photo about ALDUB endorsing Duterte for President.  Please stop sharing it...(Rody Duterte For President Movement International)
"For those spreading this photo about ALDUB endorsing Duterte for President.  Please stop sharing it as it was clearly mentioned by Tito Sotto during Eat Bulaga yesterday that AlDub is not endorsing any candidates for the election.  He even advised not to vote the candidate because the supporters are making up false stories.  So in order to protect Duterte's candidacy as well, we should not keep spreading unconfirmed campain from other artists just like this.  Just saying :) #Duterte2016 (Kath Crave, Rody Duterte For President Movement International)

What do we do when we are faced with jump-from-the-top-of-the-temple temptation?  Let us ponder on the response of Christ to Satan: “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” Many people worship false gods. For SEO practioners, it is Google Page Ranking. For online advertisers, it is the pay per click (PPC) or pay per impression (PPM). For political followers, it is their political candidate. And they would do everything to put their gods to a test by outsmarting Google, clicking on their own PPC links, or making others vote for their political candidates. In doing so, bloggers and marketers probe the fine line between good and evil, and breach it to make their content go viral, but at the expense suffering the pain of loss due to drop in web traffic and PPC earnings when Google updates its algorithm or drop in positive public relations ratings when the public lashes out at the duplicitous political marketing methods. Sin has deleterious effects, not only in the after life, but also in the here and now.

3. All the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence will be yours if you worship me
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”* 10At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’”f 11Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
Copywriting is the art of convincing the reader that a particular product is good for him and he must buy it. There are many techniques in copywriting. Maria Veloso, for example, lists several of these in her book, Web Copy That Sells:
  • Zeigarnik Effect--the state of mental tension and unbalance caused by uncompleted tasks. This is related to the Cliffhanger. (c.f. p. 126-128)
  • Embedded Commands--An example of this is "I wonder how quickly you are going to buy this product" (c.f. p. 129). This sounds like a Jedi mind control trick as used by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Rey.
  • Presuppositions--When the brain is bombarded with multiple thoughts, it is forced to presuppose (assume) and accept suggestions as facts. For example, "What will you do with the extra $2,500 you'll earn next month?" (c.f. p. 130-131). Well, this assumes that you'll earn the money--which you may not.
  • Linguistic binds--This is a form of syntax that connects what is obviously true with what is not necessarily true. For example, "Now that you've read this special report, I'm sure you realize that you must get a copy of The One Minute Cure...." (c.f. pp. 132-133)
When used well, copywriting techniques can really increase sales. But they can be abused and turn marketers into hypnotists like vampires luring innocent virgins to their grasp to bite their necks and drink their blood. The primary purpose of advertising is to tell the truth. The only problem is that people tend to purchase based on emotions and rationalize their decisions with their heads. So marketers sell the sizzle and not the steak, in the same way as when Satan gives Christ a vision of the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence provided that Christ must worship him first.

We have seen many kinds of products that are sold by marketers without serious scientific research to back their claims.  At best these marketers would use physics concepts like Quantum, Energy, and the like to mystify the reader who has no physics background and give him visions of cancer cure, eternal youth, and goddess-like beauty.  The One Ring of Sauron, for example, is one such product. The Ring tempts glory in the battlefield for Boromir, a kingdom-size garden for Sam, and all the fishes in the world to eat for Gollum. All that the Ring bearer needs to do is to put his finger on the Ring and all these will be his, but in so doing he will be enslaved by the seduction of the Ring and his mind laid bare to the Eye of Sauron.

So what does a marketer do when tempted with the magnificence of the wealth and power in exchange for marketing a product based on lies and deception? Take off the Ring. You can see the world better without it, despite its bleak jaggedness and broken stones, as Sam realized in his entry to Mordor. Marketing is hard, because marketing is evangelization: to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them all the good things the product can do for them (c.f. Mt 28:19-20). Marketing means to write with barely not enough money in your pocket, going from house to house, from one social network to another, proclaiming the good news and blessings to the first customer who opens the door of his heart to you. And for those who won't buy from you, you just shake off the dust from your sandals, click the Not Follow button, and move on.

To set our marketing perspectives right, we ponder on the words of Christ: "Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” St. Ignatius makes this more clear in his Principle and Foundation:
Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it. For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.
Content marketing is a vocation. Even though marketing has sometimes been associated with avarice and deceit, it is ultimately a work of man, the fruit of his labor and the work of his hands, which he can offer to God as a sweet-smelling sacrifice for the sanctification of the world and the salvation of souls.

Conclusions

Just as Christ was tempted by Satan in the desert with comfort, fame, and glory, content marketers are also tempted with the same things, such as content scraping, content virality, and idolatry by worshiping the idols of Google Page Ranking, PPC clicks, and Popularity. That is why some of these marketers opt to use unethical techniques to increase the number of their visitors and income: (1) steal other people's content and pass these off as their own; (2) black hat SEO, self-clicking of PPC links, and deceptive images to make their content go viral; and (3) psychological manipulation by using hypnotically suggestive yet deceptive phrasings to make readers click and buy. In order to fight off these temptations, content marketers must learn to write excellent prose, apply the legal SEO ways provided by Search Engines, never use deceit copywriting, and promote only trustworthy and edifying products.

Notice

The author is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for him to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.