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Do You Make These 4 Common Mistakes With Subject Matter Experts?



Do You Make These 4 Common Mistakes With Subject Matter Experts?

You don’t need content creators with deep vertical experience to develop a unique viewpoint that makes your brand compelling to target audiences.

By collaborating with subject matter experts, creators can help transform decades of experience into powerful storytelling. But mistakes in the partnership can lead to poor content and reduce internal support for SME content in the long run.

Here are four common mistakes to avoid so that your SME content connects better with your target audience and you connect better with the subject matter experts.

Collaborate w/ subject matter experts to enrich #ContentMarketing with decades of vertical experience and a unique perspective, says @SarahLParkerUK @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

1. Forgetting about the audience

Surprisingly, content creators often forget about their audience when deciding what to write. Almost half of marketers (49%) struggle to determine what their audiences want to read, a 29% increase from the previous year, according to Typeset’s 2021 State of Writing.

Sarah Mitchell, co-founder at Typeset, is an experienced brand journalist and content marketer. She says that the root cause of the problem is a preference for third-party data over speaking to customers.

“Less than half the marketers who answered the survey are in direct contact with their customers,” Sarah says. “Instead, they’re relying on analytics, social media signals, or secondhand information from other people in the business.”

Answering the questions your readers ask is essential to audience-focused content. Failing to do this creates two problems when working with SMEs.

“First, you may not be extracting the most valuable information from them,” Sarah says. “Second, getting time from SMEs can be difficult. If they don’t see a return on their investment, it will be an uphill battle for marketing to get help from them in the future.”

She continues, “Ask your audience what they want and let that guide how you engage your SMEs.”

Ask your audience what they want and let that guide how you engage your SMEs, says @SarahMitchellOz via @SarahLParkerUK @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

To do that, establish processes that enable you to create content for your audience, not your business. “Pick up the phone, create a survey, or get involved in online discussions. Direct contact with your target audience can be the most satisfying activity for content marketers,” Sarah explains.


​​​​​​​2. Failing to provide content goals

To work successfully with SMEs, you should brief them on the content goals before the interview. Andi Robinson, global content leader at Corteva Agriscience, has led content operations and a global content marketing program.

“Marketers who work with SMEs often fail to provide context to the SME prior to engaging with them. You need to give the SME information about who you are trying to reach and what your goals are,” she says.

Make sure that your #SMEs understand your #ContentMarketing objectives, says @hijinxmarketing via @SarahLParkerUK @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Briefing experts on content objectives leads to fewer rounds of reviews and better results. But how do you link SME expertise with the content goals?

Andi asks these questions to put the expert’s perspective alongside the market context:

  • Is this SME used to talking in technical terms while your audience is less technical?
  • Is this SME used to talking about product benefits when the content goal is to create awareness?

The answers can indicate the potential misalignment. Quickly close the gap by providing the SME with the context for the content along with the relevant data points. This now shared common understanding brings the SME closer to your audience and links this tactical content to its strategic goals.

“Most SMEs will know their area well enough that they can easily adjust if you tell them what you are looking to get out of your work together,” Andi explains.


3. Writing before the SME interview

While helping SMEs understand the content objectives will help drive success, avoid letting the strategic intention dictate the content. SMEs can provide unexpected insights and surprising angles.

Ashley Faus, content strategy lead at Atlassian, has run content marketing for major software and technology organizations. “Many marketers make the mistake of writing the asset before talking to the SMEs, and then ask closed-ended questions or leading questions to ‘fill in’ the rest of the piece with expert quotes,” she says.

Interview #SMEs before your write your content, says @ashleyfaus via @SarahLParkerUK @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For example, outlining the content around keywords and existing research can be problematic before you get guidance from the SME. It can lead to content that is not informed by expert opinion.

“The result is an article that can rank but has little or no unique point of view,” Ashley says.

To uncover the most interesting angles, interview specialists first:

  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Follow up on different threads.

It’s also necessary to record the call and prepare a transcript. “Since SMEs are often busy and in high demand, getting as much information from them as possible is much better than simply trying to lend credibility to an already crafted asset,” Ashley says. “This way, the marketer draws out true expertise, and often, they end up with more information for additional pieces of content than simply asking a couple of leading questions.

4. Ignoring the experts​​​​​

Interviewing experts before writing content is key, but it isn’t a magic bullet. To create a powerful piece, you need to listen to what your SMEs say.

Amy Higgins, senior director content strategy, at Twilio, has spent her career creating content that audiences want to read. “I believe a ton of times as marketers, we go into a call or an interview with SMEs with very specific expectations,” she says.

Let the experts guide the conversation to uncover unique ideas, stories, and opinions that will enrich your argument. “I’ve been on many calls with SMEs who help expand the narrative and offer insight that I would have never thought about,” Amy says.

“This could lead the conversation in a different direction than what my ‘program’ needs. But when we listen, really listen, to our SMEs, they provide much more actionable insight that is more relatable to our intended audiences.”

Listen to your SMEs to expand the narrative and find insights you would have never thought about, says @amywhiggins via @SarahLParkerUK @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The point is clear: How you work with SMEs directly impacts the value that your content offers to your audience. It’s a competitive advantage as most creators follow their set topics and miss the unique angles that will draw in their audience. Their outcome is content that reinforces what they (and their audience) already know.

To avoid copycat content, you should get better at collaboration, and that starts with listening. “My advice when working with SMEs – listen more and love the journey of discovery,” Amy says.


Be ready to listen and discover

If you want your collaboration with SMEs to be more than a routine exercise, be open to discovering new and interesting directions. You often can more easily create the content you think is needed, but then you would miss out on what your audience says they want and get focused insight from SMEs to build your brand’s content credibility. That’s how you establish a competitive edge.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?



Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

The world survived the first three months of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

But what are marketers doing now? Did your brand follow the shift Dennis Shiao made for his personal brand? As he recently shared, he switched his primary platform from Twitter to LinkedIn after the 2022 ownership change. (He still uses Twitter but posts less frequently.)

Are those brands that altered their strategy after the new ownership maintaining that plan? What impact do Twitter’s service changes (think Twitter Blue subscriptions) have?

We took those questions to the marketing community. No big surprise? Most still use Twitter. But from there, their responses vary from doing nothing to moving away from the platform.

Lowest points

At the beginning of the Elon era, more than 500 big-name advertisers stopped buying from the platform. Some (like Amazon and Apple) resumed their buys before the end of 2022. Brand accounts’ organic activity seems similar.

In November, Emplifi research found a 26% dip in organic posting behavior by U.S. and Canadian brands the week following a significant spike in the negative sentiment of an Elon tweet. But that drop in posting wasn’t a one-time thing.

Kyle Wong, chief strategy officer at Emplifi, shares a longer analysis of well-known fast-food brands. When comparing December 2021 to December 2022 activity, the brands posted 74% less, and December was the least active month of 2022.

Fast-food brands posted 74% less on @Twitter in December 2022 than they did in December 2021, according to @emplifi_io analysis via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When Emplifi analyzed brand accounts across industries (2,330 from U.S. and Canada and 6,991 elsewhere in the world), their weekly Twitter activity also fell to low points in November and December. But by the end of the year, their activity was inching up.

“While the percentage of brands posting weekly is on the rise once again, the number is still lower than the consistent posting seen in earlier months,” Kyle says.

Quiet-quitting Twitter

Lacey Reichwald, marketing manager at Aha Media Group, says the company has been quiet-quitting Twitter for two months, simply monitoring and posting the occasional link. “It seems like the turmoil has settled down, but the overall impact of Twitter for brands has not recovered,” she says.

@ahamediagroup quietly quit @Twitter for two months and saw their follower count go up, says Lacey Reichwald via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

She points to their firm’s experience as a potential explanation. Though they haven’t been posting, their follower count has gone up, and many of those new follower accounts don’t seem relevant to their topic or botty. At the same time, Aha Media saw engagement and follows from active accounts in the customer segment drop.

Blue bonus

One change at Twitter has piqued some brands’ interest in the platform, says Dan Gray, CEO of Vendry, a platform for helping companies find agency partners to help them scale.

“Now that getting a blue checkmark is as easy as paying a monthly fee, brands are seeing this as an opportunity to build thought leadership quickly,” he says.

Though it remains to be seen if that strategy is viable in the long term, some companies, particularly those in the SaaS and tech space, are reallocating resources to energize their previously dormant accounts.

Automatic verification for @TwitterBlue subscribers led some brands to renew their interest in the platform, says Dan Gray of Vendry via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These reenergized accounts also are seeing an increase in followers, though Dan says it’s difficult to tell if it’s an effect of the blue checkmark or their renewed emphasis on content. “Engagement is definitely up, and clients and agencies have both noted the algorithm seems to be favoring their content more,” he says.

New horizon

Faizan Fahim, marketing manager at Breeze, is focused on the future. They’re producing videos for small screens as part of their Twitter strategy. “We are guessing soon Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into TikTok/YouTube to create more buzz,” he says. “We would get the first moving advantage in our niche.”

He’s not the only one who thinks video is Twitter’s next bet. Bradley Thompson, director of marketing at DigiHype Media and marketing professor at Conestoga College, thinks video content will be the next big thing. Until then, text remains king.

“The approach is the same, which is a focus on creating and sharing high-quality content relevant to the industry,” Bradley says. “Until Twitter comes out with drastically new features, then marketing and managing brands on Twitter will remain the same.

James Coulter, digital marketing director at Sole Strategies, says, “Twitter definitely still has a space in the game. The question is can they keep it, or will they be phased out in favor of a more reliable platform.”

Interestingly given the thoughts of Faizan and Bradley, James sees businesses turning to video as they limit their reliance on Twitter and diversify their social media platforms. They are now willing to invest in the resource-intensive format given the exploding popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content.

“We’ve seen a really big push on getting vendors to help curate video content with the help of staff. Requesting so much media requires building a new (social media) infrastructure, but once the expectations and deliverables are in place, it quickly becomes engrained in the weekly workflow,” James says.

What now

“We are waiting to see what happens before making any strong decisions,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure. But they aren’t sitting idly by. “We’ve moved a lot of our social media efforts to other platforms while some of these things iron themselves out.”

What is your brand doing with Twitter? Are you stepping up, stepping out, or standing still? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]



45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open



How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money

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