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Two Key Marketing Opportunities Amid Stories of Fake Traffic and Fraudulent Metrics

Why Transparency & Organic Content Are Important for Marketers

Why Transparency & Organic Content Are Important for Marketers

“What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” — Morpheus, The Matrix

~~~~~

“How much of the internet is fake?” pondered the headline of a late-December New York Magazine feature, before answering its own question: “A lot actually.” What followed was a systematic unpacking of that premise, via author Max Read. Though somewhat cynical and harsh, his argument was backed by facts and evidence at every turn. He documented case after case of fake traffic and fraudulent metrics. He shared videos of phony engagement factories known as click farms. He cited real stories and statistics that verify the prominence, pervasiveness, and pestilence of these issues. Read’s article shook me out of my restful holiday contentment. This wasn’t all news to me, but never had I seen so many examples compiled into one grim, gut-wrenching montage. The internet is an inherently murky place – you can’t physically count visitors to a blog post, as you could with attendees at a conference speech or customers in a store – so the success of a digital marketplace hinges on our collective faith in the integrity of data (and intentions). It’s not the number of non-human “users” that troubles me. We’ve known for some time that bots make up a large portion of website traffic, and any analyst worth their salt is accounting for that reality. What troubles me is the potential (inevitable?) existence of nefarious actors seeking to deceive and benefit — and the repercussions thereof. Mr. Read puts it best with this poignant observation:

“What’s gone from the internet, after all, isn’t ‘truth,’ but trust: the sense that the people and things we encounter are what they represent themselves to be.”

Taking a Toll on Trust

The digital world saw its share of bombshells in 2018, and I’d argue few were bigger than the filing of an amended lawsuit from a group of small advertisers, alleging that Facebook knowingly delivered false video metrics back in 2015/16, and that the extent of this inflation was greater than previously believed. Though just one isolated incident (hopefully), it’s the kind of headline that serves to further erode a diminishing level of trust between people and the institutions they rely on. These occurrences send shockwaves through the digital universe that are felt in every corner, with wide-reaching implications.    When polled by CMO Council last year, 62% of marketers indicated that reports about false and faulty metrics have caused them to pull back on spend with Facebook and Google. Meanwhile, the latest Edelman Trust Barometer shows pervasive global drops in trust toward platforms — most sharply in the U.S. Global Trust Index For digital marketers that value accuracy and honesty, it can be tempting to ignore these kinds of stories and headlines, going about our own business and letting all that noise play out on its own. This would be a mistake. We can only control what we can control, but within that realm, there are steps we can take to counteract these troubling narratives.

Two Key Opportunities for Digital Marketers

Internally and externally, marketers are dealing with uphill battles that are steepened by these developments. Internally, we have to be able to confidently trust our metrics and present them to our bosses. Externally, we’re facing an audience that is growing more distrustful by nature. From my view, the growing recognition of fake web traffic and fraudulent metrics should compel marketers to reflect thoughtfully, and double-down on two vital cornerstones in the digital era: transparency and organic content.

#1: Transparency is More Essential Than Ever

It’s getting harder for people to take things at face value. So don’t force them to. The more we can be open and honest about our processes, practices, and principles, the more we can distance ourselves from shady actors who are damaging the industry’s reputation. Data measurement and analysis is hard. Errors and mistakes happen. If your agency or business is frontal in the way it identifies and addresses these situations, you’re more likely to sustain trusting relationships with your clients, customers, and business partners. One company that has impressed me with the way it embraces transparency is Lemonade, a tech-driven insurance company out of New York. In line with its overarching mission to combat trust issues that have plagued the insurance industry, Lemonade runs a content series on its website and social media called The Transparency Chronicles, introspectively discussing the business with a stunning level of candor. “We suck, sometimes,” was the title of a post from co-founder Shai Wininger last June, reflecting on the first half of 2018. He didn’t shy away from his company’s shortcomings and failures; he acknowledged them, tried to learn from them, and invited the brand’s community to take part in the conversation. Beyond refreshing to see. Lemonade Transprarency Chronicles Lemonade is basically bringing a new model to the market: insurance claims submitted directly through an app, with a personable AI bot as your guide, removing brokers and conflicts of interest from the equation. There are bound to be unforeseen snags and hiccups along the way with such an endeavor. The company’s openness about its journey makes customers more comfortable in taking part. As a marketer, you can’t guarantee everything you try is going to work. You can’t even guarantee every view counted by a third-party platform is a genuine human being. But if you’re open, honest, and transparent, you can mitigate these uncertainties and ambiguities.

#2: Investing in Organic Content Programs Now Makes More Sense Than Ever

Paid media and digital advertising will forever remain important. But they represent a short-term, finite usage of marketing spend, whereas organic content is a long-term play that can keep on giving. It’s like renting traffic versus investing in traffic. In an age of shaky consumption metrics, the latter becomes all the more appealing.   Smart, strategic content marketing that aligns with your target audience and adheres to modern SEO principles will build equity over time. It’s more qualitative, and not as reliant on short bursts of traffic volume, so brands don’t need to concern themselves as much with the value of each view and click.   Speaking of which, we also need to move away from superficial measurement and toward meaningful measurement. It was encouraging to see, per Demand Gen’s 2018 Marketing Impact Report, that volume, pipeline, and revenue metrics are being prioritized, but still a bit puzzling that two out of three respondents are using activity data as proof of marketing’s value: Demand Gen 2018 Marketing Impact Report At TopRank Marketing we’ve seen the bottom-line impact of content marketing demonstrated through program after program. One client, Welter Heating, saw a 590% combined increase in organic conversions during its busiest month over a four-year span with a best (local) answer content strategy. Another client, Innovatech, boosted conversion rates by 34% year-over-year through CRO and search optimization. As I alluded earlier when talking about transparency, people tend to believe what they can see. The value of content marketing remains plainly evident, even in a hazy digital climate.

A Clear of View of Digital Marketing in 2019

In the movie The Matrix, quoted at the outset of this article, Morpheus presents Neo with an ultimatum: Take the blue pill and you’ll continue to live in blissful ignorance, believing whatever you wish to believe; take the red pill and you’ll see the truth, unpleasant as it might be. That article from New York Magazine served as a red pill of sorts for me. There’s a seedy underbelly to this digital environment, one which has long dug at me like a splinter in my mind, but I’m ready to come to terms with it. And I’m ready to do all I can in 2019 beyond to make sure that our team is part of the solution, not part of the problem. “The frustration across the marketing ecosystem is palpable, and new headlines that breach trust and showcase systemic carelessness have inflamed the issue,” says Liz Miller, senior vice-president of marketing at CMO Council. “The industry as a whole must align on transparency and reliability.” Hear, hear. Through transparent practices and the reliability of integrated content strategy, digital marketing and its reputation can thrive as much as ever.   Looking for further information on the subject? Here’s how marketers can use the art of storytelling to build and regain trust.

The post Two Key Marketing Opportunities Amid Stories of Fake Traffic and Fraudulent Metrics appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information

Building Online Communities in B2B

Building Online Communities in B2B

What does effective marketing engagement look like?

In the common model we see today, it’s something like this: Brands push out relevant messaging, hoping to compel a response or interaction that leads to a conversation (and maybe ultimately a conversion). This can be anything from a comment on a social media post to a chat window initiation.

Nothing wrong with that. These back-and-forths between brands and individuals are important ingredients toward building trust and loyalty. The problem is that, as a sole method for driving engagement, the cast-and-wait approach is too dependent on explicit triggers to spark these interactions.  

Devising and creating content that drives targeted engagement is hard work. It’s worthwhile, but hard, and sometimes even well conceived plans miss the mark. What if you were able to develop a self-driven engagement engine, which fostered strategic conversations built awareness among your most valuable customers and prospects?

Enter: Communities.

Why Communities Matter to Digital Marketers

In his seminal book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin writes about turning scattered groups of followers into a unified “tribe,” which he defines as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”

Human beings have long gravitated toward these communal experiences, elevating the collective power of their interests, beliefs, or passions. According to Godin, a group needs two things to become a tribe:

  1. A shared idea
  2. A way to communicate

The internet has taken care of No. 2, making it easy for strangers around the globe to come together via message boards, social media, subreddits, etc. So really it’s about identifying that mutual idea, or focal point, and taking the lead in rallying people around it.

Coordinating Communities for B2B Marketing

It’s not uncommon for tribes to form around a B2C product or service. For example, my fiancée follows several social media groups dedicated to Oreo cookies. People in these communities share updates about new flavors, and where they can be found. Other examples of strong brand communities include Sephora, LEGO, and Starbucks.

In the B2B space, this is more challenging. People aren’t generally drawn to, say, cybersecurity software in the same way they are to their favorite coffee or cosmetics brand. But that’s not to say there isn’t a deep level of passion for cybersecurity — it’s a prevalent issue throughout our society, and one that many professionals spend their entire days thinking about. The key lies in hitting the right resonant note and facilitating connections.

In the case of cybersecurity specialists, we have to ask: What questions burn in their minds? Which elements of the subject excite or agitate them? Where do discussions among hardcore followers tend to center? This type of empathetic mindset should be at the core of our DNA as modern marketers.

Building B2B communities doesn’t always mean trying to create a “brand community” where your company and its offerings are the primary focus; this can be tough to accomplish, and even when you do, you’re unlikely to pull in many members outside of your existing customer base. The more effective approach, from my view, is building communities around interests and commonalities that align directly with what you do.

Pinpointing the ideal focal point for your community requires an acute understanding of the people you serve, derived through copious research. We can apply many of the same tactics for identifying best answer opportunities to arrive at data-driven conclusions about the most avid areas of curiosity for our audiences. If your customers are repeatedly asking the same questions to Google, they probably want to discuss them amongst one another as well.

Where Can You Build Online Communities?

Let’s say you’re interested in starting a community around a certain topic relevant to your brand. Where might go about doing so? Here are some popular options:

  • Facebook Groups: It’s the world’s most popular social media platform and a prevalent hub for connecting around common interests. We wrote recently about the value of Facebook groups for B2B brands. And Facebook’s recently announced redesign will put groups at the center of the experience.
  • LinkedIn Groups: Often a better contextual fit than Facebook for B2B social media groups, as LinkedIn is (of course) structured around professional topics. Last year LinkedIn made its Groups feature more accessible by integrating it into the mobile app.
  • Forum/Message Board: The online message board traces its origins back nearly to the dawn of the internet, when it was called a bulletin board system (BBS). Today, these platforms for organized digital discourse remain prevalent and — when well populated — highly active and engaging. This post from HubSpot offers some step-by-step guidance for launching your community in such a fashion.
  • Microsite: A special section of your website dedicated entirely to allowing your customers and audience members to interact with one another. It might be a message board built within your site, or a more customized setup. Whatever the case, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy to navigate and follow conversation threads.

Benefits of B2B Community-Building

“Community is important because it brings people together. Community keeps people loyal, makes them feel like they matter. It also lets the company show how much they appreciate their customers,” according to Mary Green, a community-building specialist who shared her insights with B2B News Network.

Beyond the overarching loyalty imperative, here are a few other practical advantages to creating an online community:

  • Firsthand audience research. Marketers are always endeavoring to understand what matters most to their audiences. In many cases, this requires considerable guesswork. But by monitoring a community, you can watch conversations play out organically, seeing what impassioned followers talk about and how they talk about it. This can serve as a crucial springboard for your content planning. It might even help inspire new product features or service offerings.
  • User-generated content. “Brands and influencers can make great content, but the phenomenal stuff comes from the discussion. User-generated content is gold,” says Green. I’ve written here in the past about the power of UGC for authenticity, and online communities can be an excellent resource for uncovering it.
  • Finding and cultivating influencers. Within these communities, you’ll frequently see particular experts emerging with strong voices or magnetic insights. These might be candidates to incorporate more deeply into your influencer marketing strategy.

B2B Brands Running Strong Communities

Looking for inspiration? Here are a few companies that set the right example with B2B community-building:

Bank of America

They major national bank created a small business online community, which they describe as “a forum for small business ideas, insider tips, and the industry knowledge you need to help your small business grow.”

As you scroll through the links and discussions within, you’ll find that much of it is unrelated to banking or even financial matters, and that’s just fine. The point is that numerous customers and prospects are coming to BoA’s website to talk shop.

Bank of America Online Community

Intuit

The QuickBooks Community is basically a public knowledge bank where users can help each other solve problems and learn new things. There are product-centric areas for QB troubleshooting, as well as general business discussions. Intuit company reps are also active participants in the community.

QuickBooks Online Community

Jamf

Jamf Nation describes itself as “the largest Apple IT management community in the world.” It’s a perfect example of owning a niche, and mobilizing a community while keeping product promotion on the backburner. Members are welcomed to “Dialog with your fellow IT professionals, gain insight about Apple device deployments, share best practices and bounce ideas off each other.”

Jamf Nation Online Community

Find Your Tribe

As marketing emphasis shifts more and more toward delivering holistic experiences, community-building should be a key consideration for practitioners everywhere, especially in B2B where the opportunity is especially ripe. Herein lies the next frontier of digital engagement.

Want to learn more about B2B brands that are finding more authentic ways to engage? Check out our post: Flipping the B2B Marketing Script: 7 Brands That Talk to Consumers, Not Companies

The post The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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