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How To Bring Big Word-of-Mouth Content to Your Marketing



How To Bring Big Word-of-Mouth Content to Your Marketing

Every customer has the potential to alter perceptions of your business positively or negatively. When handled proactively, their word-of-mouth influence can be a powerful tool for your content marketing team.

Not only is word-of-mouth marketing much more cost-effective than paid strategies, it can produce a greater impact in the short and long term. Research from Kantar found that 93% of consumers say they trust their family and friends and 91% trust review sites for brand and service information. Advertising was at the bottom of the list – only 38% say they trust it.

90+% of consumers trust family, friends, and review sites for brand and service information, according to @Kantar via @CallRuby @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Companies using authentic reviews and user-generated content from their customers in their content marketing tactics bolster their own reputation while expanding their customer base.

Here are four ways to incorporate word-of-mouth marketing into your content:

1. Feature relevant user-generated content

Done well, user-generated content can be perfectly authentic and make an impact. Reshare social shout-outs about your business. This is a low-effort way to draw attention to the public affection your business is garnering. But don’t stop there:

  • Identify content that focuses on the service or product you provide. Look for content that shows the customer using or benefitting from your service or product. That type of “use-in-context” content can be invaluable.
  • Elevate customer stories that involve your brand as a whole or your products/services. Follow up with customers who have shared their opinions publicly to see if they want to tell their stories in more detail. Make them the star of the story – let them do the explaining so that your brand doesn’t have to.

Resharing #social shout-outs about your business is a low-effort #ContentMarketing strategy, says @CallRuby via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

TIP: Word-of-mouth content does not have to rely on lengthy reviews. Even a photo with a brief, positive caption can work.

Example: The Home Edit organizing brand, which has a Netflix show, created an Instagram post with this positive quote from Katherine Sivells: “Thanks to @TheHomeEdit, when I open a drawer or closet, I find myself saying, ‘We need to call Sumner.’ Then I realize it’s not “we,” it’s me and I don’t have Sumner’s number.”

2. Engage in real-time conversations

Your content marketing team should pay attention to customers’ social media posts even when they relate to customer service, not marketing. You can amplify the reach of customer feedback by engaging in the moment. Not to mention, responsiveness can quickly turn a negative into a positive when you can resolve or clarify a situation.

To join the conversation with customers, consider these strategies:

  • Monitor mentions in real-time so you can join the conversation as it’s unfolding and address it if you want the conversation to end or propel the talk to keep it going. Customers value responsiveness highly – a HubSpot survey found that 90% rate an immediate response as important or very important when they have a customer service question.
  • Thoughtfully insert yourself into the conversation. Whether a customer is putting out a call for help, asking a question, showing off your product, or talking about a great experience, engage authentically rather than hijacking the conversation. Answer the question, provide assistance, say thanks, and talk about why you love the product, too. If the natural opportunity is truly there, you may be able to share details about a new product or service.
  • Sound like a person, not a company. Brands that do well in real-time conversations with customers are those that come across as a person, not a corporate brand. These conversations are not the time to sell your branded messaging. These are the opportunities to show off your personality, brand values, and commitment to your customers.

Example: Online pet supply company Chewy replied to a tweet from a customer remarking about their cat sitting in the small box rather than the bigger (Chewy-branded) box. They didn’t talk about their cat-related supplies or how to order and get a box. Instead, they responded with “You know what they say, if it fits I sits,” and a cat emoji.

@Chewy is a brand that gets its #social voice right, replying to customers’ tweets with a personal voice, not a corporate brand, says @CallRuby via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

3. Build stories around customer reviews

People are inspired to write reviews because of outstanding (or poor) service, and many customers won’t make a purchase without looking at reviews. So those stellar customer reviews you already have? Proudly use them in your content – with the permission of the customer.

  • Find the reviews that most accurately describe your brand and what you do and build stories around them. Elevate across social channels, your blog, and your newsletter.
  • Look for a customer with a specific problem or need that your company was able to solve. Add context to the review by sharing any behind-the-scenes work that went into solving the challenge.
  • Convert standout quotes from customers into visual posts for social media.
  • Turn multiple reviews into a content series by coupling together similar reviews to tell one story that demonstrates your company’s service consistency.

Example: Patagonia actively encourages customers who use its Worn Wear repair service to tell the stories behind their repaired garments. One customer writes about her Patagonia nano puff jacket. Within her colorful back story: “Sharp ends of yucca plants and prickly pear pierced tens of holes in the jacket, but it preserved through weeks in the desert, protecting me from sharp flora and chilly morning temperatures alike.”

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Example: At my company, we used feedback from SensoryKidz, an occupational therapy business, for this Instagram post. The visualized quote – “I was doing five things at one time. When the phone rang, I had to go into therapist mode – even though I’m not a therapist – because families are anxious to get something done,” Mike said, jokingly adding, “we need more Mikes.” The accompanying caption went into more details about what SensoryKidz is and why its owners need our virtual receptionist services.

4. Create and share video testimonials

Customer videos can be a valuable asset in your content marketing strategy. Like other forms of word-of-mouth content, they can serve as a vetting source for potential customers. When done well, they deliver personal narratives where future customers can see themselves or their problems being solved. These videos also can be used in multiple ways:

  • Feature full video testimonials on your company’s website. They can be paired with a brief write-up or as part of a larger case study.
  • Share snippets of the video on social media with perfectly edited soundbites that feature how your brand delivers on expectations.
  • Create a thematic blog post series around the content from these videos.
  • Build your audience on YouTube (and other video streaming services). This content can then be leveraged in your search engine optimization and your Google My Business profile.
  • Use in your email outreach.

Get your customers talking

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best tools in content marketing. When your customers do the talking, posting, and sharing, your customer base is likely to grow. The key is to effectively plan, incorporate, and repackage this user-generated content to deliver bigger results for your brand.

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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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes



Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”


“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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The Future of Content Success Is Social



The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book



7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.


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