With digital media and search, you need to think about a whole new set of considerations when you write content if you want to appeal to buyers who are researching and evaluating products or services. It's not just thinking about the top keywords and inserting them in your copy.
As John Battelle writes in a post that revisits his own database of intentions, there are many more nuances to content and optimization today. Combining search with the social graph, status updates, and check-in or connection to real life is more complex and can be more rewarding.
This is another way of looking at how social media integrates with what we do and how we market and sell. His description (with some light editing):
1. The Query was was a declaration of a very particular intent: What I Want from the web. The goal was to find something you wanted. Hence the name search.
2. The Social Graph emerged as a signal that helped us declare not only Who We Are, we've also declared Who We Know. Both are powerful intent-driven declarations, and both have deep interplays with search. By manifesting who we are and who we know, we can find and be found by others.
3. The Status Update, which emerged almost at the same time as the social graph, is a personal declaration of what we deem important, noteworthy, shareable: What's on our minds, what's happening, what's worthy. A powerful search signal, in real time.
4. The Check-in indicates or Where I Am. This is a crowning declaration of intent, because it connects the physical to the virtual, securing the Database of Intentions to the terra firma of the Real World. As with the other three fields, the check-in - which I expect will soon become automatic via our mobile devices - is a vastly powerful signal of intent: "I am here. So what you got for me?"
Do you see how the evolution is playing off online to off line? This part is where your social media participation and activation can have the greatest impact.
Writing content for the researching eye
Which can be the roaming eye. Case studies, customer reviews, comments, share buttons, community features are all important for this phase. The more interaction you build into your content, the more your stimulate offline word of mouth. Decisions are made offline, often in consultation with a team.
Generally, the stumbling block for many businesses is obtaining recommendations straight on. Part of the issue is that many don't understand recommendations. Here's what you do instead, work on customer success stories, give your customers the tools to tell the world how great they are. You helped them get there.
Video and audio testimonials get you more attention than written case studies these days. Make it stupid easy for your customers to give you those stories. Get a Google Voice number for customers to call in their experiences of outstanding service and record them.
For video, engage with the customer about their experience, listen closely, then write up a series of simple questions that will allow you to elicit that story back when taping. Share those questions, let your customers write down the answers -- not to have a script, to become comfortable with what they will share (helps with approvals when needed, too). Customer interactions on video stand out and get seen.
Checklist for social:
- make it "stupid easy" for your customers to tell their success stories
- facilitate subscriptions and shares
- curate the actual conversations
- engage sneezers, the people who become influential to spreading your content
In some B2B industries that have complex contracts and long sales cycles, you might also consider sponsoring some proprietary research that helps answer some of your customers key burning questions. Findings make very good content to ignite a conversation around the pain points and solutions.
And you'll have the ability to broaden your reach in communications crafted to appeal directly to your customers, which may gain good media and blogger coverage. Make those executive summaries available in many formats -- as visuals on SlideShare, charts with video commentary, etc.
What you learn through interactions in social media is also customer intelligence. How do you play that back? What processes have you put in place to capture that information and do something with it?
Tools that provide either price comparisons or the ROI calculations of using your service vs. doing it in house, for example, are another great attractor for customers who are in the evaluation stage for a service or product. The physical act of playing with variables is very powerful. Car companies, especially in the luxury segment, are not afraid to go there.
Although many companies shy away from direct computation, transparency can be an ally at a tactical level.
If you're a small business, or a consultant who wants to up the game, consider publishing your pricing structure. It's scary, I know, you may think you probably don't make enough. Compared to whom though? Do you work on set fees or do you have price points for different services?
In the last couple of weeks, two people I admire and learn from in my network did that. Mack Collier published a ballpark list of his fees for a social media strategy, and Chris Brogan unveiled his price points. Have you considered communicating your fee structure as part of your content strategy for this phase of the buyer's decision journey?
- are you going to invest in proprietary research with companies such as Harris Interactive, IDG, etc.? Map how you're going to package and communicate research results across networks.
- would it be more cost effective to you and still useful for your customers to learn what their peers are saying who belong to the same professional association? The MENG network has just published a survey about companies adoption of social media, for example.
- do you have the ability to create a tool that will help customers with either comparisons or ROI calculations of using your service vs. doing things in house?
- have you considered a pricing transparency policy as a tactic to gain more customers?
Graphs, maps and visuals that catalog the space are also good tactical tools to gain permission to engage in a deeper conversation around customers pain points and needs.
Business professionals often share their frustration with companies that view social media as just more channels for the same tactics. Help them expand their thinking with these ideas they can use to win by executing a content strategy that maps to the buyers research and evaluation phase.
What other sources of content work for you in this phase?
© 2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.