Creating Communities Through Content – By Nick Wright


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How To Use The Power of Story-Telling To Create Connections, Communities and Customers

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Creating Communities Through Content – By Nick Wright

  1. 1. fourth element fourth element Creating Communities Through Content How to use the power of story-telling to create connections, communities…and customers By Nick Wrightc Click on the arrow to turn the page and start reading
  2. 2. Contents fourth element Key Sections Inside 3 Introduction • Click on the chapter headings to the left to navigate directly to that section. 4 Understanding the New Marketing Landscape 7 An Evolving Definition of Business • Click on the “C” button in the lower left 8 Five Trends That Have Transformed Marketing corner to return to the Contents page at any time. 14 Our Definition of Social Media 16 The Shared Traits of Thriving Communities • Use the arrow buttons at the bottom of each page to navigate forwards and 17 What is Content? backwards 18 The Evolution of Content 19 Understanding the Theory of Interlocking Needs 20 Engaging Your Audience 21 The Formula For Creating Great Content 22 Rent The Voice Or Own The Dialog 23 The New Rules of Social Media 24 Taking The Next Stepsc c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 2
  3. 3. Introduction fourth element The world has changed in the past decade. We are currently witnessing the most incredible paradigm shift ever in advertising and marketing, fuelled by perhaps the most dramatic sociological transition in history. In our new, interconnected online world, the days when marketers could control and position their brands with a snappy 30-second TV commercial, a catchy tagline, a couple of paragraphs of engaging copy or a well-placed press release are over. What’s more, the power and ability to create, edit and distribute content and information to large audiences is no longer the privilege of a select few major TV networks and publishing companies. Today, pretty much anybody with a home computer and a high-speed internet connection can broadcast their ideas, thoughts and opinions to the world. The result of this mass migration online is that conversations about your industry, your brand, your products or your services are constantly taking place among groups and among individuals in social networks, in forums and in blogs. Welcome to the democratization or socialization of content. Otherwise known as social media.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 3
  4. 4. Understanding the newmarketing landscape fourth element Before we start. An understanding of the new marketing landscape. If you’ve taken the steps to download and begin reading this eBook, chances are you’re already a pretty savvy and inquisitive marketer, and you have probably already figured out that the media landscape today is dramatically different to how it was 15, 10 or even just five years ago. Back in 1995, when Netscape launched Navigator – the first mainstream internet browser – we all knew that the world was going to change, but back then we didn’t quite know how or, more importantly, by how much. One thing everybody seemed to agree on at the time, however, was that an interconnected society would present new and exciting social, business and marketing opportunities. We would be able to access and share information online, incubate, refine and then spread our ideas, efficiently and effectively collaborate on projects, and communicate instantly with individuals or groups.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 4
  5. 5. Understanding the newmarketing landscape fourth element [ Before we start. An understanding of the new marketing landscape. ] At the same time as the world started to migrate online, we were also being introduced to faster and more powerful home computers, high-speed wireless internet, affordable digital media devices such as cameras and video cameras, and easy-to-use desktop publishing and editing software. In the space of just a few years, we all went from being TV viewers, radio listeners and magazine readers (consumers of content) to content creators, editors and distributors in our own right. It is the combination of all these seismic advances in technology that have led us to where we are now – an era where it’s possible for a blogger with cool or smart ideas to develop a larger and more loyal following than a national newspaper or best-selling magazine, where a “viral” video on YouTube can create more awareness for a brand in a matter of days than an expensive traditional advertising campaign could in six months, and where you can find the answer to pretty much any question you can possibly think of simply by typing it into a search engine such as Google or Yahoo.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 5
  6. 6. Understanding the newmarketing landscape fourth element [ Before we start. An understanding of the new marketing landscape. ] Of all the major technological breakthroughs that have occurred during the past 15 years, however, the most sociologically influential and transformational of them all has come in the past five – the development of community building platforms. Many companies have recent- ly entered this competitive space, each with its own target audience or niche specialty, but by far and away the most successful of them all is Facebook. Pure genius in its simplicity, Facebook has given individuals and companies the platform to not only build an online network of friends and family but the ability to share relevant and engaging content. In doing so, the company has changed the way a whole generation man- ages their relationships, communicates, consumes and shares content, and even views life. This is what we commonly refer to as the content and community era. It’s already changing the way you live your life. And it’s going to change the way you market to and communicate with your customers – forever.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 6
  7. 7. fourth element An evolving definition of business. “The Purpose of a Business is to Create a Customer” – Peter Drucker, author and management consultant “The Purpose of a Business is to Create a Customer …who creates customers” – Shiv Singh, author of Social Media Marketing For Dummies “The Purpose of a Business is to SERVE a Customer …who creates customers” – Josh Weinberger, media and technology journalist and editorc c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 7
  8. 8. fourth element The five key trends that have transformed marketing [ and what that means for you! ] 2 3 4 1 Power To Transparency 5 The People! & Authenticity Socialization “Word of Mouth” The Exponential of content Generation Growth of Searchc c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 8
  9. 9. The five trends that havetransformed marketing fourth element 1 The democratization/socialization of content Up until a decade or so ago, “content” meant a popular TV show, a block- buster movie, an editorial feature in a magazine, a novel or some other type of book. The producers of that content were usually major TV networks or large publishing houses. Production values were very high and the material was always professionally styled, written and edited. Today, those polished and expensive content experiences compete with cheap-and-cheerful home-made videos on YouTube, personal blogs and a plethora of social networks for the consumer’s attention. What that means for you:  Compelling content doesn’t have to be slick and polished to engage consumers. In many instances, “b-roll” style video footage resonates more strongly with consumers because of its apparent authenticity. The advent of affordable digital media devices and desktop publishing software has given everybody the tools and the platforms to create and share content. The barriers to entry for content creation have all but disappeared.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 9
  10. 10. The five trends that havetransformed marketing fourth element 2 Power To The People! With so many entertainment options now available, today’s consumers are increasingly difficult to find. Not so long ago, marketers and programmers had all the control. They decided what was entertaining and when, where and how often you viewed/read it. Today, consumers hold the cards. They now have the luxury of being able to interact with your company, brand or service on their own terms – if they want, when they want and how they want. What that means for you: In this era of consumer empowerment, the traditional advertising tactic of interrupting and/or talking “at” a customer no longer works. Developing relationships with customers now requires a deeper connection. This means your content has to be highly targeted, resonate quickly and add incredible value.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 10
  11. 11. The five trends that havetransformed marketing fourth element 3 The “Word of Mouse” Generation The sharing of content is not a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination. Not so long ago, people would cut out stories from magazines to show friends or family. It was also a daily routine in many offices to collate all of the relevant news stories about a particular company, brand or product from newspapers and then distribute photocopies to all staff to read. With the advent of automated cut and paste, web links and social networks, information can now be instantly shared with an unlimited number of people. “Word of Mouse” has replaced “Word of Mouth.” What that means for you:  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand how beneficial the new phenomena of “sharing” or “linking” can be to your company or brand. A well-crafted or entertaining piece of content, an incisive comment in a forum, or an engaging blog has the potential to drive huge amounts of traffic to your website. At the same time, you have to take the good with the bad. Although negative comments or feedback are never fun to receive, new social media tools allow you to address and solve problems quicker than ever.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 11
  12. 12. The five trends that havetransformed marketing fourth element 4 Transparency & Authenticity In today’s interconnected world, there are some new rules of participation. Networks and communities are founded upon shared passions, interests and goals and they thrive on collaborative spirit and genuine, selfless contribution. Authenticity and transparency are the new rules of the game. Joining a community simply to pitch products or promote your company is regarded as intrusive, spam-like behavior. What that means for you: To create genuine engagement with your audience, you need to start thinking in terms of how you can contribute to the community and add value to the conversations that are taking place within your network. Take the time to talk and, more importantly, to listen.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 12
  13. 13. The five trends that havetransformed marketing fourth element 5 The exponential growth of search Up until recently, when people needed information they turned either to the Yellow Pages, a directory, a handbook or even an encyclopedia. Today, the answer to virtually any question you can possibly think of, and information on pretty much any subject under the sun, are at our fingertips simply by typing a few keywords into a search engine like Google or Yahoo. Search has rapidly become embedded in our culture and, in most instances, it is the only way somebody will find your company or brand online. What that means for you: Online search is another function of your marketing that should be based on content creation. Since most search engine algorithms track the authenticity and frequency of content as well as the popularity of your site and the number of inbound links to it, you need to ensure that the content you create matches the search criteria and keywords of your potential customers.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 13
  14. 14. fourth element[ social media ] defining Our definition of social media. (TRUST US. THERE ARE A FEW OUT THERE!) Social media is the democratization and socialization of information that has transformed individuals from content consumers into publishers. It is the result of a transformational shift in technology that has removed many of the financial barriers to creating and distributing content to a large audience, as well as an accompanying shift in philosophy that places value on community and sharing. In short, it is the transition from broadcast media (one voice, many listeners) to network media (many voices, many listeners). Or you could look at it this way. Social Media is a blend of: content community conversation contribution c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 14
  15. 15. fourth element[ social media ] defining Broken down to its bare bones, social media is about just two things. It’s about CONTENt. and it’s about COMMUNITY. Content and Community enjoy a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship. A philosophical question for you: In an online environment, content is shared and distributed through an interconnected What came first – mesh of personal networks. the content or At the same time, a community is simply a soul-less gathering of people without a the community? shared interest or without relevant and engag- ing content to stimulate discussion, initiate conversation and encourage collaboration. [ Answers on a postcard please – or on Twitter! ] c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 15
  16. 16. fourth element[ social media ] defining The shared traits of thriving communities Pretty much any gathering of people who converge together online is described as a “community” in social media circles these days. By and large, n that’s an inaccurate description. By its very nature, a community is far more the 5 golde than just a mass gathering of people – it is a living and breathing entity that rules for communit y can ebb, flow, expand, contract, grow and flourish or whither and die. The n participatio best communities are those founded around two key factors. 1. Transparency passion Shared interest, purpose or mission (at all times) The most active and thriving communities usually develop around a 2. Selfless shared interest, hobby, passion or goal. It can be a small group of people contribution who converge to talk about finding a cure for a specific disease, or it can be a 3. No hidden huge, multi-national fan club for a famous movie star or singer. agenda 4. Good PARTICIPATION Social interactions and contributions intentions It is not strictly necessary for every member within a community to know 5. Frequent and talk to each other. However, activity within the network is an essential participation component of an active community rather than a stale or passive one. c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 16
  17. 17. fourth element[ content ] defining What is content? (actually, it’s a lot more than just words and pictures) We are human beings. We have families. We have careers. We have hobbies. We have passions. We have aspirations. We have goals. We have lives. In print, the answer is simple – content is words and photos. In an online environment, however, content can take many different guises. In short, it is any written, visual, verbal, audio or interactive material used to communicate an idea, an opinion or information that engages, educates, entertains and inspires us. It really is that simple. Content can be any or all of the following: words images games discussions video audio comments graphs charts c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 17
  18. 18. fourth element[ content ] defining content timeline The evolution of content 1950s – 1995 Television, radio, Not so long ago, we got most of our news and entertainment through just newspapers, magazines • Major publishers and TV networks a handful of sources: television, radio, newspapers, magazines and books. control content creation/distribution. • Marketers’ communication platforms In most instances, the content we watched, read and listened to was restricted to TV, print and radio. created by large publishing companies, broadcasters or TV networks. 1995 – 2006 Fast forward to 2012 and the world is a very different place. A combi- Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites, portals nation of the widespread reach of the internet and the development of • Big publishers and TV networks joined affordable media devices, such as digital cameras and camcorders and by new online corporations. • Cable TV networks emerge to desktop publishing software, has given pretty much everybody the tools challenge TV networks. and the resources to create, edit, distribute and share content. Today, • Companies develop corporate websites. individuals are not just publishers, but mini-media companies. 2006 and beyond Television, radio, newspapers, Never has it been so easy to broadcast your message to the world. magazines, websites, portals, blogs, social networks • Large media companies no longer control creation of content. • New platforms and technologies The Tools The Platforms The Need An explosion enable Individuals and corporations to + + = self publish. [ inexpensive video [ websites, social [ our basic human of content • Static corporate websites replaced by cameras, digital cameras, networks, online desire to connect and and dynamic content experiences. editing software ] communities, blogs ] create communities ] communities c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 18
  19. 19. fourth element[ content ] defining Your first creative decision UNDerstanding The Theory of Interlocking Needs As a marketer, your key objectives are to promote, to create awareness your conte of and, ultimately, to sell your company’s services or products. nt Your customers, however, have a different set of needs. lives here They are either seeking a solution to a problem, searching for specific information or simply looking to be entertained. When creating a custom content program, one of your first steps should be to compare the needs of your audience with your marketing goals. your your company’s customers’ The next step is to then create con- needs needs tent that meets both sets of needs. At Fourth Element, we call this the Theory of Interlocking Needs and we use it as the foundation of every custom content program that we develop for our clients. c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 19
  20. 20. fourth element[ content ] defining ENGAGING YOUR AUDIENCE IS A SELFLESS ACT Always put the Resist the temptation to make a sales pitch. content needs Tell the engaging, behind-the-scenes stories that make your of your audience first. company, brand, product or service unique. If consumers Consumers are not buy into your stories, they will buy into your products, too. interested in your brand, products or services. They are interested in Humanize your brand Ditch the brand speak themselves – their and your products Put down the corporate problems, their aspira- People buy people, not brands. brand bible and talk to tions, their goals, their It’s easy to be cold and your customers in their passions, their lives. emotionless about a faceless tone of voice and in their If you create relevant corporation. It’s much easier to language, not yours. content that addresses like a company when you have their personal needs, a connection, a rapport or even they will appreciate it. just familiarity with its staff. c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 20
  21. 21. fourth element[ content ] defining Engineered to be shared The Formula For Creating Great Content Creating compelling content that grabs and retains the attention of your audience is an art. Fortunately, it’s not rocket science either, although it helps to have some consumer media experience, good writing and editing skills and some story-telling flair. In order to be engaging and shareable, content needs to be: ENERGIZING exclusive Educational expansive Your content needs to Deliver unique, If your content Don’t simply + + + stimulate emotions. behind-the-scenes can solve problems, talk about products. It should inspire your stories that your you will become a Demonstrate your audience to take audience will not trusted resource and passion for your = positive action(s). find anywhere else. a potential vendor. industry. CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 21
  22. 22. fourth elementAs a marketer, you have two communication options. 1. you can rent the voice 2. you can own the dialog Purchase a ready-made audience from TV networks Build your own community by delivering and/or publishing companies. Yes, this is a nice engaging, entertaining and valuable content. way of saying that you are buying ads! Yes, this means you need to get creative! Advantages: Advantages: o Somebody else does the heavy-lifting for you. o Ability to create content that matches o Easy to control and measure. your audience’s needs. o Everybody does it, so it’s safe. o More flexibility in variety of content that can be delivered. Disadvantages: o Communication is on your schedule, not the publisher or broadcaster’s. s Can be very expensive. o Distribution platform is free. s Communication is limited to ads/advertorials. s Relationship with the audience ends as soon as you stop advertising. Disadvantages: s Need to assemble your own content development s imited control of the content environment L team and build your network/community. in which your brand is immersed. IMPORTANT NOTE: Once you decide to embark on the social media route, there’s no turning back.Silence and inactivity tells the online community that you either don’t care, or that you have nothing interesting to say.c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 22
  23. 23. It’s a free world. fourth elementAlthough the consumers are in control, there’s nothing tostop companies and marketers participating in social media. you just have to play by some new rules: g The one thin er et 1. Content is the name of the game. every mark 2. Keep it real. Authenticity and transparency are crucial. needs to remember : 3. It is not OK to sell (unless you have earned that permission) 4. Always add value – to the conversation, Every time somebody to the content, to the community. forwards a link, shares a piece of content 5. Listen. or posts a comment in a social network or Consumers – not corporations – are now the arbiters forum, they are mak- on what is considered compelling content. Unlike the ing a statement about themselves and putting worlds of print and television media, there are no their reputation and editors, producers or directors to filter or second-guess status within their peer what we watch, read or view. In the social media world, group on the line. Will there is no judging criteria other than how quickly and your content enhance or damage your brand’s extensively a piece of content it is shared among the mil- reputation? lions of personal networks that exist around the world. c c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 23
  24. 24. fourth element Taking the next steps We hope that you have enjoyed reading overview of some of the key concepts We are a content marketing agency, but our Creating Communities Through Content and to help you either make your first of course there are others. We recom- eBook and that you now have a more inroads into content and social market- mend that you talk to several agencies thorough knowledge of the constantly ing, or to perhaps refine and improve an to see how closely their ideas, philoso- evolving world of social media and a underperforming social media program. phies, strategies and experiences align better understanding of how and why with your company’s goals and objec- content and community are the key One word of advice: Creating compel- tives. foundations upon which this new ling content is a collaborative process media marketing landscape is built. requiring multiple skill sets. It is unlikely At Fourth Element, we are looking to that you will have all of these resources build relationships with innovative com- Our goal with this ebook was not to in-house, and we therefore recommend panies and marketers who are ready to create a comprehensive guide to content you solicit the help of a specialist brand- challenge their existing way of thinking creation and community building – that ed content marketing agency to identify and embrace the new skills and philoso- would require perhaps another 100 the strengths and weaknesses of your phies needed to succeed in content pages! – but rather to provide a general existing resources. marketing and social media. If you would like to discuss Creating Communities If you would like to find out more about Through Content, please contact Nick Wright at: Fourth Element Creative, please visit us at: www.fourthelementcreative.comc c r e at i n g c o m m u n i t i e s t h ro u g h co n t e n t 24