Inbound Marketing: Content is everything in search and social
This week’s MarketingSherpa Book Giveaway features Search and Social: The Definitive Guide to Real-Time Content Marketing by Rob Garner, VP of Strategy, iCrossing (a Hearst company).
This book is based on six years of columns for MediaPost Search Insider and Social Insider, along with Rob’s speaking engagements, blog posts and experience as a marketing practitioner. The depth of this experience and knowledge really shows in the detailed, actionable information Rob provides readers.
I had the chance to hear Rob speak on this material at a recent Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association meeting, and later got the opportunity to pick his brain a little on search, social and content marketing.
Here is the result of that conversation …
MarketingSherpa: What is the importance of content in search and social marketing? How do content marketing, SEM and social media marketing strategies interact?
Rob Garner: Content is everything in search and social.
Without content, search engines and social networks do not exist. Content connects a business and its audience, and in the age of the always-on consumer, brands need to know how content travels in real time. In addition, search and network technologies overlap and are becoming interdependent.
Marketers need to understand how to build connected brands by capitalizing on the way search, social and content overlap.
For example, a person with a delayed flight is stuck in Boston during the marathon and needs a hotel on short notice, and she asks a question on Yahoo! Answers to help find one. An astute hotel marketer is watching the keyword and real-time content space for questions such as these, and provides a quick answer for availability, along with directions and other helpful information.
The question and satisfactory answer gets indexed in Google and Bing, and ranks highly for “last minute downtown Boston hotel” or similar long-tail query.
The question is viewed by hundreds of people with a similar issue over time. The good news is the hotel marketer not only solved one problem for one person, but for potentially dozens or hundreds more with the same question and need.
MS: How do search and social marketing strategies differ for B2B and consumer marketers (if at all)?
RG: Many things are the same, because people are behaving the same way in B2C and B2B worlds, and some are different. While marketers who target consumers understand that social and search are basic places to focus their marketing efforts, B2B marketers often question the value. I have yet to come up short in finding a targeted network and search keyword space for the most targeted B2B audiences.
The bottom line is that B2B targets are people who use search and social networks just like everyone else, and there are endless ways to creatively reach them through content.
MS: Real-time marketing is a term used in slightly different ways by different industry experts and practitioners. What is your definition of real-time marketing?
RG: “Real-time marketing” occurs when a brand is always present for the always-on consumer. It is a way of thinking and philosophy that requires businesses to meet the demands of an always-on digital world.
MS: Among many different topics, I found two ideas that might not be as familiar with MarketingSherpa readers. Could you provide some insight into these terms?
- “Flows” of communication
RG: Marketers focus on being connected to our audience, as we should. But what falls by the wayside is the opportunity to stoke the flows of communication on a regular basis. In my book, I talk about Dr. Manuel Castells and his theory of the space of flows.
Simply put, once you are connected, your communication flows are what define a good part of your business identity in the digital realm. You are what you say you are, and you are what others say you are. A flow of communication is a constant dialogue — a flow of conversation through real-time content, search and social. In effect, your business is defined by both your connections and flows.
For example, your stream of status updates and shares is a flow. Your content calendar is a flow. Allowing a space for user-generated content that is populated by a regular audience is a flow.
- “Digital asset optimization”
RG: Digital asset optimization is the optimization of assets beyond simple textual webpages. For example, videos, press releases, images and content management systems can all be optimized. A social media presence can be optimized, just like a webpage can be optimized for search engine visibility.
MS: For this book, you reached out to a large variety of expert sources. What was the most surprising insight or tactic you learned about search and social marketing during this research?
RG: Sarah Skerik of PRNewswire confirmed that social signals such as retweets and shares were having a direct impact on press release distribution in real time. To me, this was one of the most concrete examples of real-time optimization for search, with social signals driving the way.
MS: Million-dollar question – understanding that every marketing effort is going to be unique, what are the top five tips or tactics from your book?
RG: First, brands need to be present for the always-on consumer. Being present means more than having a social profile or content indexed for search, but actually being a present and live curator of your content.
Second, know that “recency is the new relevancy.” The “newest content first” mentality goes a long way to helping you achieve high visibility. The more you are present in real time, the higher your visibility in both search and social.
Third, know that natural language is the connective element between your company, content, search, social, and your audience. Get robust tools for keyword and language processing for both search and social, and know the language of your audience.
Fourth, if you want great results from search and social, look at content scale like a forest, and not a weed. Go big, and go for high quality. The bottom line is that what you get from search and social is directly proportional to the quantity and quality of your content. Content is defined as everything from social interaction that leaves a digital trail, to articles, apps, databases, and good ideas and memes.
And fifth, make content that is unique and personal. Do something brilliant. Being unique is what resonates against the status quo. Networks and search engines will notice when you are unique.