Content for a New Type of Customer

When it comes to content, marketers should focus on meaty information, not novelty. So says, Jay Baer author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype. In a recent interview on social media strategies, Baer provides his advice on how to adapt to changing audience habits, and how to lead a successful social media campaign:

How have media audiences changed over the past decade?

[There’s been a] massive explosion in attention. The media buyer used to be easiest job in marketing—now it’s the hardest. Everything is media…think, proliferation of niche magazines, blogs, Twitter, subscribing to Facebook feeds. It’s crazy now. It’s very difficult for businesses of all types.

How do marketers adjust their strategies to accommodate the new ways people consume media?

In an environment that has become hyper-competitive, there are only two ways to succeed: either try to pursue the avenue of being amazing or go out and be amazing. [It’s about] customer-focused strategy. If you’re just that good of a company and you just blow people away then you will be successful. While that’s attractive advice it’s not good advice. Most companies are not amazing. The success path is to just be useful, truly and inherently useful. Connect customers to products that make their lives better and they will reward you with loyalty.

What are marketers at media companies, say a TV network, doing to influence the new ways audiences consume their product?

Media companies create resources and utilities that are outside of their traditional categories. What it requires is to produce information that is not necessarily your historical basis. One important thing for utilities is giving yourself permission to make the story bigger, giving yourself license to be involved in peoples’ lives that aren’t exactly obvious. [One example is] Columbia Sportswear. They have an animated app on how to tie knots. The thing about that is Columbia Sportswear doesn’t sell rope. Yet, they’re creating useful information that is of interest to their customers—people that are more outdoorsy.

What are the best ways for a new company to develop trust with potential customers?

First and foremost, trust is the prism to which all business success must pass. First, you must deliver on the core proposition: You need to be great at that business in order to accumulate trust. Second, can you transcend the transactional so that every exchange you have with a customer isn’t an exchange where you’re trying to monetize them? What erodes trust is feeling like you are simply revenue.

How should companies best maintain top-of-mind awareness? What are some examples of companies doing this well?

Maintaining top-of-mind awareness is harder and more expensive than ever. Media habits dictate that it’s harder to maintain a constant share of attention. Instead of trying to do top-of-mind awareness, it’s become counterbalance to that shift. Companies do a great job by always being in our head at some level. Geico is the first one I think of. You always remember the most recent Geico commercial. Their media spend is enormous and they spend a colossal amount of resources.

Is social media a positive tool for businesses to develop long-lasting relationships with customers?

It can be. I think social media is potentially transformative. Transformative when used appropriately. You have a default state for most businesses. To use social media as the world’s shortest press release won’t work. Nobody wants that. “Our company is awesome, click here to prove it to you” is not interesting. Content is the fire and social media is the gasoline. If you use social media to promote useful things—“here’s a tweet for you to benefit from”—that will work.

What information should fit within that 140-character limit?

Subject matter. What are you tweeting about? Avoid using Twitter as a press release. Job number one is to tweet about more interesting and useful things. The other piece is giving yourself permission to make stories bigger. Companies that are most successful in social media tend to use a higher percentage of social media to talk about things other than themselves—other blog posts, resources you might find interesting.

The best social media pros are podcast [producers]. We have a weekly show where we interview senior social media content managers for big brands—IBM, Dell. It’s a really interesting podcast that goes into the nitty gritty for social media managers, often to give those kinds of stories for practitioners. There are those in trenches doing social media every day. IBM is among the best in the world for social media. They’ve decentralized social media. They’ve trained thousands and thousands of IBM employees to create content on their own. [That’s] ultimately what’ll be most successful for most companies. [Social media] needs to be skill not a job. It’s everybody in the company’s responsibility.

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