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Whether you are a marketing manager looking to incorporate blogging and social media into your 2014 mix of programs, or struggling to get more out of the initiatives you’ve already started, it’s important to understand the reasons digital marketing programs fail and the actions that lead to success. While the online reality of prospects self-directing their search for products and solutions has created huge new opportunities, these opportunities come at a cost.
There can be a perception that blogging and social media tools are low cost tools to chase leads, but the reality is that companies must invest budget dollars, employee resources, and time to reap rewards. Meanwhile, marketing managers still have a lengthy list of traditional marketing duties to execute. Here are 4 key stumbling blocks that can derail blogging and social media, and tips on how to avoid them.
1) Lack of corporate commitment for the long haul
We’ve said it before: blogging and social media are part of your marketing marathon - not a sprint to magical results. It takes time to build a body of thought leadership in a blog, and a community of subscribers to engage with it. It also takes time for search engines to rank your pages. Likewise, growing real social media engagement (as opposed to useless, purchased “followers") is an investment of time and patience. It’s unlikely blogging and social media will hit a homerun in the first inning or even the third. But they are as important to your marketing line-up as the bunt or the pinch-hit.
If your management team isn’t on board for a sustained effort, it’s a good bet these programs will be the first to get cut when the going gets tough.
Success Tip: Set realistic expectations early on and get corporate commitment from everybody involved in developing – and sustaining - this part of the marketing program. Gain agreement on the process, the resources and timelines as well as the metrics to measure progress.
2) Lack of internal resources and/or lack of direction for outsourced support
This is a tough one. The reality is that most marketing departments don’t have sufficient copywriting and social media expertise in house. If these resources are on-hand, they are too often stretched to “do their day job” and also keep the blogging and social media programs growing.
Digital initiatives are like the shiny penny of marketing. There is a lot of early enthusiasm when these programs launch and the initial impulse is for companies to say We can do it. We can write those papers, author the articles, and post the tweets. But that enthusiasm washes away in the day-to-day grind of continually developing meaningful content and actively engaging on multiple social media channels while balancing other responsibilities.
Outsourcing content creation and social media management will improve your chances for success– but it isn’t a stand alone solution. Successful blogging and social media programs demand an investment of internal management and key subject matter experts to make sure there is alignment with business goals, and consistent flow for information and thought-provoking topics from within the company to fuel the work done outside. Handing over execution to an outside marketing arm only works when there is clear alignment on messaging, internal support from subject experts and regular communication.
Success Tip: Take a realistic look at internal resources that can be redirected into digital marketing. If the decision is made to outsource, treat them like part of your in-house staff. Jointly create a content calendar and build in weekly touch points and monthly meetings to make sure you’re working together and staying on target.
Get the best of both worlds in content marketing by leveraging your internal experts without over taxing them. For internal contributors who want to participate – great! Encourage them. But don’t build your content calendar on them. Make their contributions “gravy”. Encourage your marketing agency to “interview” multiple internal resources on agreed topics and make this part of your SMEs’ responsibility. Build it into their job description and include it in their performance objectives. This leverages your internal brain trust in a time efficient way, and leverages the copywriting ability of your marketing partners.
3) Poor execution and consistency
Blogging is a hungry beast. It needs to be nurtured with good ideas and executed with passion for the life and challenges of the clients and prospects that read it. And it needs to be done faithfully - week after week - to bring results in both page ranking and subscribers.
Social media needs to be fed small meals multiple times a day. This means pre-planning tweet schedules, LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook posts, etc. so that execution does not stop if someone calls in sick. It also means knowing which channels to chase based on where prospects are likely to engage in social media.
Success Tip: Use a blogging or content calendar to plan out blogs each quarter. You can find one here. Use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule and manage social media. Do a quarterly assessment of distribution channels and tools and refine where appropriate.
4) Lack of cross-channel promotion
Digital or inbound marketing success is equal parts content and distribution/promotion strategy. An investment in creating highly targeted excellent content will not show true ROI unless you follow best practices in distribution. For example, use twitter to send people to go to your blog posts. Use your website to have people sign up for your LinkedIn or Facebook page. Put social media buttons in your email outreach. Use emails to grow blog subscribers. Invite blog readers to like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter.
Cross-channel promotion greatly elevates social media engagement and interest in your blog. A Content Marketing Institute (CMI) study reports that 87 percent of B2B marketers in 2013 use social media to distribute content up sharply from 74 percent in 2012. LinkedIn surpassed Twitter in 2013 as the most used channel.
Success Tip: Make monthly emails about your blog part of your regular marketing efforts. Just make sure you have taken the time to segment prospect lists according to where they are in the buying cycle and by the interest they have expressed in particular products or solutions. Sending blog articles via email is a great way to nurture prospects with more information about a topic they are interested in, or cross-sell with a complimentary product or solution.
Blogging and social media management are two key components at the heart of digital engagement. Setting realistic expectations and keeping a watchful eye on potential stumbling blocks can keep your digital relationship with prospects alive and growing.
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