“Content marketing” and social media are the two biggest buzz-word phrases in construction marketing these days. Marketers are studying and trying to emulate highly dramatic success stories only to discover results which are less-than-gratifying. In theory, the new media “should” be truly effective, especially since you can add depth, video, and deeply researched analytics to the mix, presumably targeting your potential clients with an extreme degree of accuracy, and “building relationships” with them one-on-one.
Note the use of “quotes” around many of these words. Years ago, when I started this blog, a reader observed that I tended to do this sort of thing too often — it makes it harder to read the results. Taking into account the concept of appreciating constructive criticism, I’ve toned these quotation mark expressions down.
However, this time, they remain in place. The reason: The empirical evidence of social and content marketing remains somewhat elusive for most architectural, engineering and construction businesses and practices. If anything, these tools simply enhance and extend the best practices you should be observing anyways.
These observations are apparent in an intriguing Fast Company article where writer Lisa Nirell describes her challenges in achieving content/social media success.
I just recovered from a HootSuite infection. I thought that by posting new content each day, hordes of new B2B corporate decision makers would find me. I watched and waited for my Klout score to skyrocket.
Boy, was I disappointed. The majority of new followers included yoga instructors, network marketers, and sundry dilettantes. I had fallen prey to CCM–Content Creation Madness. Given the incessant social media frenzy, I suspect I’m not the first.
Nirell suggests the solution is to observe a “content creation strategy” and provides a few warning signs generated from hard experience by Tim Hill, President of Global Marketing for Blackboard, a technology solutions provider for the education market:
- Your content is downright boring. According to Hill, “I was seeing a lot of talk about us (in many cases, we were leading with it)–who we are, what we can do–and not enough on our customer’s problems: student progression and academic outcomes.”
- You’re growing rapidly. Since 2007, Blackboard has managed 12 acquisitions and one merger.
- Ineluctable proliferation of content. Hill stated that “with more people saying more things in more places, Blackboard marketers now had a broader mission and more competition for readers’ attention.”
- You let the sales organization dictate your content strategy. You know you’re in trouble when the sales reps have the power to request a “special” white paper or presentation, and tell you it’s essential to closing their next big deal.
Allright, then, is there a simple “content creation” cure for readers here? I’ll go out on a limb and suggest these elements.
- Bad practices and best practices need not be too far apart. The argument is that we should not blow our own horns, publish boring content and the like. On the other hand, recycling material is both easy and, in a limited sort of way, effective, if you accept low response rates and interaction as part of the picture. Just don’t expect great results.
- You’ll achieve your best results if your social media participation is natural, that is, relates to real interests, people, and relationships. If you are comfortable shooting the breeze with your friends on Twitter or Facebook, the best approach is to use these media in the same way for your business. Again, you won’t necessarily score huge results — even the most ardent social media users report their lead generation is still quite low, despite the time they spend, but it doesn’t hurt your brand recognition, and in any case, you could be having fun doing the stuff.
- Think, always about the “others” in the process — and remember, the other is the picture, story, and human element. When you mirror back the stories of the people closest to you, you may achieve some success.
Just don’t set unrealistic expectations. I’ve several days interviewing the AEC community’s social media leaders and, while undoubtedly some are doing quite well, I suspect their success is much more because of their general marketing and promotion abilities than because of their specific application of social and content media. Believe the hype if you will — but be realistic if you expect any sort of truly valid answer to the “content creation madness” question.
If you have a success — or failure — story with social media and content management strategy, please feel free to share it here with a comment or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.