Key Elements for Building a Content Strategy

Creating a Content Strategy can be confusing. People often get confused between Content Strategy V/S Content Marketing

Altimeter Group’s recent Research report on “Key Elements for Building a Content Strategy” is an interesting read. However, I felt that a little more detailing would help.

I’ve created a graphic below to explain the key elements in more detail.

Creating a Content Strategy requires 4 elements

  1. Content Vision
  2. Content Strategy
  3. Content Development
  4. Content Marketing

Key Elements for Building a Content Strategy

Failing at Social Business? This could be why

Top 3 Social Media Mistakes

Mistake #1: Content Creation

Yes I know it sounds strange. However, it is so easy to create content on social media that people just dive in and create lots of content. They have a content calendar and various kinds of content, but sadly no ROI.

Mistake #2: Confusing Content Strategy with Content Marketing

Content Strategy vs Content Marketing

Strategy is about figuring out what to do, rather than the act of doing(creating) which is distinctly different from the act of marketing the content you have created.

Mistake #3: Social Media Measurement i.e. Measuring the wrong things v/s Key Performance Indicators

We get excited looking at the number of comments, on a post, excited about engagement and even driving engagement at the cost of achieving business objectives. This happens because one mixes up Social media metrics and business metrics (KPI).

Succeeding at Social Media: The three key elements

The first element in a winning Social, Digital marketing strategy is defining the business objectives.

The second element is to know how to create the right strategy to meet those business objectives

  • Who are you targeting?
  • Start with the end in mind.

The third element is monitoring KPIs(Key Performance Indicators) to know that you’re on track to achieve the business objectives.

After the above 3 things elements are figured out, you then go about the actual job of doing/creating – content, defining campaigns, engagement strategy, influencer, advocate, community engagement etc.

Wanna Succeed at the Above? Get the Report on Succeeding at Social Business

How to build your brand advocacy program?

Can you imagine constructing a 20 storey building without a blueprint?

Who needs a blueprint

Obviously not! However, most people go off building a brand advocacy program which might involve thousands of brand advocates just like that!

What is a framework?

The basic structure of something : a set of ideas or facts that provide support for something

The RIDE Framework

The RIDE framework helps you define a brand advocacy program that is unique to your organization. It contains a set of ideas which will help provide the necessary support for your brand advocacy initiative.

It provides a systematic approach to to creating a brand advocacy program.

Why use the RIDE framework?

Most organizations have their own ways of doing things and culture. The RIDE framework provides a  system that you can use and is flexible allowing you you to prioritize based on your situation and company.

What are the Components of the R.I.D.E framework?

It helps you think about the essential pieces which are needed for any successful brand advocacy program.

  • Rewards and Recognition – What’s in it for the brand advocates how are you going to provide them recognition
  • Impact Measurement – What’s the program doing for you, is it helping the organization
  • Discovery – Where and how do you find and discover your brand advocates
  • The 3 E’s – How to Evangelize, Empower and Engage your brand advocates

The hidden step 1 – Define your business objective?

There is a first step in creating your brand advocacy program. It’s about determining why you need it, how it’s going to help the organization. This is often the most critical part. Having a clear business objective ensures long term success of the advocacy program.

RIDE - The Brand Advocacy Framework

Is there a step 0?

Yes. Listening. Often the best way to think about your program, is to start by first listening to the conversations, and examining the content put out by your brand advocates.

More often that not this will help you to get important nuggets proving the necessity of the program. It gives great insight into the needs and issues faced by your customer and helps you see how your brand advocates are filling in gaps which you might not be addressing correctly.

Just like you can’t go about constructing a 20 storey building without a blueprint, the RIDE framework helps you to think through the essential elements necessary for a successful brand advocacy program.

Get started now

Video: How to build a brand advocacy program – Video covers the RIDE framework
Book: Brand Advocacy Book

How to reduce customer support costs the easy way: Brand Advocates

How to leverage brand advocates to reduce your customer support costs?

Customer Support

Within 48 hours of the Windows 10 launch, he provided about 712 answers regarding the launch and adoption of Windows 10 – he was not an employee of Microsoft, he was a passionate brand advocate part of Microsoft’s Brand Advocacy program. (Source).

It’s mind boggling when you think in terms of the customer support cost savings due to just one of these passionate brand advocates. Microsoft currently has approximately 3000 such brand advocates in just one of their advocacy programs. They have many such brand advocacy programs.

Customer Support

Traditionally it used to be the call center where people dial-in and ask their questions, that’s how customer support was provided. It is still the same way many organizations operate.

To reduce the cost of customer support one needs to really embrace the self-service era.

The Self-Service Era

In the Internet/Digital era, people access online support forums, read blogs, attend webcasts, chat with experts maybe over Twitter, raise questions on community sites or via Q&A sites like Quora etc.

Content to Support Customers

In order to meet the needs of this digital era audience one would need to do some or all of the below items:

  • Create tons of content in a variety of formats (Blogs, Presentations, Podcasts, Webcasts…)
  • Establish Support Forums, User Groups/ Communities
  • Enable interactions with Experts

The hard way

The difficult way of going about creating these interactions is by creating all the content yourself.

The easy way

The easy way is to leverage the power of already existing passionate brand advocates in addition to your corporate initiatives. In fact creating a brand advocacy program which fuels these brand advocates should be a corporate initiative.

Examples

When Microsoft was planning it’s Windows 10 product, it took the path of involving it’s most passionate customers. It publicly launched an advocacy program inviting thousands of it’s customers to participate –

With the Insider program, we’re inviting our most enthusiastic Windows customers to shape Windows 10 with us. We know they’re a vocal bunch – and we’re looking forward to hearing from them.

– Source blogs.windows.com

They were looking for people who’re vocal in terms of providing feedback to the company. In exchange they provided them early access, this ensured that they got a bunch of motivated experts on the product much before the actual product launch.

What would these experts do? (Besides providing feedback to Microsoft) They would share their expertise with others.

What were the steps they took:

  • Invited people to get early access
  • Took their feedback (Improved their product in the bargain)
  • Got a bunch of motivated experts who naturally evolved to helping solve customer queries

That’s exactly what happened with the person who provided about 712 answers regarding the launch and adoption of Windows 10. He was a passionate brand advocate who was involved with the program, partly due to his passion and interest and because Microsoft created a program and platform enabling him and others like him to participate.

Create a platform for brand advocates to engage with you and your customers

As an organization they provided a platform for brand advocates to actively engage and support other customers. http://answers.microsoft.com/

Here you will find that customer queries are answered by a whole host of enthused brand advocates.

The platform enables Microsoft to highlight the top brand advocates as well, based on other customer feedback.

(Badges are awarded for being an active contributor and awesome community member. Over time, good contributors earn a variety of badges.)

But…Will a third party individual know more about my products than my employed customer support personnel?

Surprisingly yes. More often than not I’ve seen brand advocates who’re passionate about a product sticking around to using that product for a much longer time than the employee sticking around in the company. Their passion and sticking around help them often gain far more mastery of the product than the typical customer support executive.

However, there is an easy fix to this problem, where the community itself helps in regulating inefficient responses which are a reality.

What if these brand advocates provide faulty or incorrect information?

One simple fix to this problem is to allow the customers to rate the responses.

For instance on the Microsoft Community Support site users can rate if they found a response helpful.

Community Indicates Usefulness

Start Small

If you’ve not yet started down this path i.e. you don’t have an advocacy program in place, start small.

Pick one activity which will help you go down the path to providing support to other customers.

Whether it’s inviting your brand advocates to contribute content(blogs, presentations etc.), or inviting them to test a product, or establish a support forum or a group on social media, and enable interactions with brand advocates. (Simultaneously work on creating your own brand advocacy program.)

The small wins will help you get the necessary corporate support to evolve a larger program resulting in much larger cost savings in customer support.

I would love to hear from you if you have stories on how Brand Advocates have helped other customers. Do share in the comments below.

Supercharge your content initiatives the easy way (Co-create with Brand Advocates)

On July 29th 2015, Microsoft launched Windows 10, the new version combining the classic interface of Windows 7 and the new design of Windows 8.

Within 48 hours of the W10 launch, Windows Experience MVP, Aurélio Baboo provided about 712 answers regarding the launch and adoption of Windows 10.

Windows Experience MVP Jamil Lopes, also a Microsoft Regional Director, presented the new features of Windows 10 at Microsoft’s Windows 10 Launch Event which attracted over 600 people.

Though the above are about the popular Windows 10, a much lesser known product Powershell celebrated a different milestone. PowerShell MVP Boe Prox celebrated the one million views mark last month on his Learn-PowerShell.net blog! 

Why Co-create content with your brand advocates?

Co-Creation

Each of these brand advocates extended the reach and increased the credibility of Microsoft in their own unique ways via different kinds of content: Questions & Answers, Presentations, Blogs etc.

Microsoft on it’s part has also supported and evangelized their activities.

Co-creating content or partnering with your brand advocates provides an easy way to super charge your content initiatives and helps in:

  • Increased credibility

Trust

92% of consumers trust “recommendations from people I know.” Only 37% trust search engine ads, and just 24% trust online banner ads. (Source: Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey

  • Reduced cost (do I even need to explain this 🙂
    Reduced Costs

 

  • Motivated Brand Advocates

Motivated Brand Advocates

 

Your brand advocates love to co-create. They like being a part and are extremely enthusiastic to participate with you. You need to enable it.

 

  • Word of Mouth Marketing

Word Of Mouth Marketing

Co-creating content with your brand advocates ensures an extremely high level of buy in from them. This leads to them helping you in spreading your content far and wide. It’s a win-win for both.

 

  • Increase Engagement and better relationships

Co-creation builds relationships

One of the most important benefits of working together and co-creating content with your brand advocates is the deeper relationship you build with them, due to the often high touch engagement with them.

How to co-create content with your brand advocates?

There are a number of ways to co-create content with your brand advocates:

1. Support Forums – Create a support forum where they can answer queries which your other customers might have.

2. Presentations – Invite them to present at your events and support their community events and presentations.

3. Blog – Encourage them to blog, by organizing blog competitions, feature popular bloggers on your digital properties.

Will it slow the process of content creation? Isn’t it tedious?

Yes, and no. If you don’t have a brand advocacy program in place it might seem be slow going, as first you’d need to discover your brand advocates, build a relationship with them and then talk about co-creation. However, you might want to start by approaching those brand advocates who are already out there blogging or providing support by answering customer queries etc.

What if the brand advocate posts something which is not appropriate or misinformation?

Any brand advocacy program would necessarily lay down a few rules of engagement for brand advocates. It would list the do’s and don’ts. Moreover, you would select brand advocates who are appropriate for your brand. You need to purposefully go about creating your Brand Advocacy Program.

When and how should you begin co-creating content with your brand advocates?

Small steps. Begin small, whether it’s asking their help in creating an FAQ which lists the common solutions to how to use your product better or inviting them to share their expertise on your products at a presentation or just blogging. ( You can also grab a copy of 10 ways to get user generated content via your brand advocates on www.sanjayshetty.com )

Get started Now!

Resources:

Video: How to build a brand advocacy program

Book: Brand Advocacy Quick Start Guide

How scarcity and exclusivity helps your brand advocates feel special (and gets you enormous word of mouth publicity?)

ScarcityDo you remember when Gmail was introduced into the market? It was exclusive, there was a select list of people who got access, it was all hush hush or so it seemed. You just couldn’t get one. There were some select individuals who had access to it. These core group of people had exclusive access.

Now here’s the most important part about this. The core group was small. For instance, among my network of friends only one had received access. Not everybody had access. Access was scarce.

The only way you could get onto trying out Gmail was if they (the exclusive initial users) gave you access. When I got access I promptly gave it to my network of colleagues, friends and family.

People just couldn’t stop talking about it.

There was stiff competition

Now remember Gmail wasn’t Gmail as it is today. There were a lot of other big name players in the market; Hotmail, Yahoo Mail etc. But this combination of ingredients, Exclusivity, Scarcity and leveraging networks caused an enormous amount of people to get talking about it.

How easy availability could mean low perceived value

Time and again brands lose value when they lose sight of this basic human principle of scarcity and exclusivity. I’ve often seen it in retail. Two adjacent stores containing the same brand product. Or going into a mall and finding the same shirt in all 5 stores in the mall.

It might seem that making it more available would make it easier for people to buy it, however, more often than not it doesn’t.

Increase in Value, even though it was free

Email ids were freely available, there was nothing outstanding that Gmail was offering, yet it piqued people’s interest, everyone wanted a Gmail id.

Barrier to entry

Restricting the access to some select people had a dual effect. The people who got access felt extremely special. The felt part of an elite exclusive group and they went ahead and expressed it to their friends and family, asking if they would like a Gmail id, thereby causing massive word of mouth publicity.

Getting early access to resources helps people feel special

“The Windows Insider Program, where PC experts and IT Pros can get access to a technical preview of Windows 10 for desktops and laptops. Soon after, we’ll also be releasing technical previews of Windows Server and our management tools.”

That’s from an announcement Microsoft did when they launched the Windows Insider Program – only the people in this program got access to Windows 10 before the rest of the market.

It was perceived to be exclusive and scarce.

Objections

Objection! I don’t know what or how I can restrict access to… and make people feel special

Let me take on a few quick examples of how one can do this in almost any sector/industry.

Hospitality:

– Last few rooms at x price.

– Open bar from 5-5:30 for select customers

Schools:

– Entrance exam on x date.

– Admission forms available only till 10th November…

– Open day on Y date. An exclusive opportunity to meet all the faculty personally.

Music Company:

– Invite only access to meet the singer personally while he/she launches the next album

– Backstage pass

Fashion House:

– Exclusive peek at upcoming designs

Consulting Firm:

– Exclusive conference/Seminar for CEO’s with one-on-one consulting with top management

More ideas on how you can provide restricted access and help brand advocates feel special
   – Early peeks at your upcoming products
– Meetings with your management team
– Reserved seating at your events
– Exclusive discounts for your products
– Showcasing the client at your events/website/blog… social channels.

Why

The big reason why

There is another reason why companies might often find it useful to introduce scarcity.

Often when you’re planning to launch a new product or service you might want to test market it in the real world to understand product acceptance and to figure out and iron out any issues, which you may not have seen.

This practice has often proven invaluable in discovering glitches or understand what aspect of the product or service really matters to your customer. At this stage of testing or launching a new product involving all your customers would not necessarily be useful as you’re still testing the waters. However, the fact that you’ve invited a few of your customers to be a part of this will make them feel special and will give you invaluable insight.

Scarcity and exclusivity often create demand and value

Just like Google did with Gmail, Microsoft with their Insider Program and so many other companies, applying principles of scarcity and exclusivity can help your brand advocates feel special and cause them to generate enormous word of mouth publicity for you.

Have you seen an example of scarcity and how it has created demand or value or helped in increasing word of mouth? Do share in the comments below.

Microsoft Edge–The new browser in windows 10

One of the most common tools we all use is a browser, and I find the new Edge browser provided by Microsoft in Windows 10 just super.

Fast

To say it’s fast is an understatement. It’s fast and snappy.

Internet Explorer?

IE is still around, and if you want to open a specific website page with it? That’s possible too.

Add-ons

Yes you’d need to hang on to IE if you’ve got some favorite add-ons which you use regularly, especially folks in the enterprise.

Microsoft’s new Edge browser has discarded two of the oldest browser technologies found in the aged Internet Explorer (IE) and is replacing them with add-ons based on HTML5.

(More details on Technologies and APIs not supported in Microsoft Edge)

Windows 10 Installation on Lenovo x220 Tablet

Around 5th of August I received a notification on my computer that Windows 10 is available for my machine.

The notification when clicked seem to indicate that it had already downloaded Windows 10. On clicking I realised that was not so. It then proceeded to download it.

Installation

Smooth! Is the only word I can think of. I upgraded my Windows 8.1 loaded Lenovo X220 Tablet. I think this is the first Windows installation ever where I’ve experienced everything working post installation.

No missing drivers

Can you beat that. Everything worked, Wi-Fi, display was perfect. And hold your breath my Tablet Pen worked perfectly.

Thank you Microsoft for a flawless upgrade experience.

Interface

A much cleaner interface, don’t know how to explain this, but simplicity and detailing both at the same time.

 

More later…

Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program – New Brand Advocacy program

Learn how Microsoft rolls out it’s largest brand advocacy program ever, the Windows Insider Program. I’ll be sharing lessons from their launch of this new brand advocacy program.

The Announcement

First the announcement itself, it’s a pre-sell:

Microsoft is launching the Windows Insider Program tomorrow.

The Windows Insider Program, where PC experts and IT Pros can get access to a technical preview of Windows 10 for desktops and laptops. Soon after, we’ll also be releasing technical previews of Windows Server and our management tools.

With the Insider program, we’re inviting our most enthusiastic Windows customers to shape Windows 10 with us. We know they’re a vocal bunch – and we’re looking forward to hearing from them.

The Windows Insider Program is intended for PC experts and IT pros who are comfortable using pre-release software with variable quality. Insiders will receive a steady stream of early builds from us with the latest features we’re experimenting with.

– Source blogs.windows.com

The barrier

They’ve clearly demarcated the target customers:

For PC experts and IT pros who are comfortable using pre-release software with variable quality.

 

Learn about why you need barriers for a successful brand advocacy program.

The introduction to the program

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-coming-soon

The Introductory Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84NI5fjTfpQ

In-depth

Let me quickly run you through the main points of the upcoming insider program. I’ve included below a small transcript of the video on the page http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-coming-soon (Words in maroon are my comments.)

Windows Insider Program

We’ve designed the Tech Preview so you can see what we’re building as we’re building it and tell us what you think.

(Here they’re telling the potential brand advocates what they are going to get: A ring side view to how they are building the next version of their software.)

We hope to involve tech enthusiasts like you in our software development process over the next several months so that your feedback becomes part of the next version of Windows.

(You get a chance to see your feedback incorporated into the product, they’re Empowering you and enabling you to co-create with them.)

The tech preview is meant for PC experts who are comfortable downloading unfinished software.

(The are putting in place the requisite barriers to entry to ensure they have appropriate brand advocates.)

The first step which you might have already done is to download and install the Tech Preview…. (abbreviated)

But we’ll be updating it regularly.

As a Windows Insider, you’ll get two benefits.

  • You’ll get more frequent updates with earlier but less polished software and
  • You’ll have access to the Windows Feedback app from which you can send us comments directly.

(Clearly articulated benefits, early access and a way to communicate with the team.)

……… (abbreviated)

But one thing’s for sure: by signing up, you’ll be the first to take all of the new features out for a test drive.

—- followed by demo

And one of the areas where we’re looking for feedback in the Tech Preview is multitasking.

(Specific guidance as to where they need help from brand advocates.)

—- Followed by demo of multitasking features.

Sign up for the Tech preview at http://preview.windows.com

(Distinct microsite for this brand advocacy program which is separate from their other brand advocacy programs. A.k.a. Segmentation.)

Analysis and Comments

This is a perfect example of the RIDE framework in place to create a brand advocacy program.

First the Big O: They’ve identified their objectives:

Business Objective

1. To get early participation from target customers,

2. Get product tested

3. Enable massive word of mouth marketing even before the product is launched.

Rewards and Recognition:

Recognition and Reward

1. They’ve promised early and frequent product updates to the brand advocates.

2. Providing early access ensures their partners and advocates have a lead over the rest of the market. That in itself is a huge reward as they get hands on with the product and a chance to be experts before others.

3. The program name itself is a recognition, if you’re selected you’re in the Windows Insider Program. For some this in itself is a reward and recognition.

Impact

Impact Measurement

The direct impact from this program is going to be multi-fold.

1. Innovation and Testing – Ideas from the field, their very customers giving direct feedback.

2. Word of Mouth Marketing – This brand advocacy program is going to lead to massive amount of word of mouth marketing for Microsoft, with customers speaking on social media, forums, blogs, articles, video demos etc. Each brand advocate in some way or the other whether in person or online is going to be speaking about this to someone else.

Discover  – Identification of Brand Advocates

Discover Brand Advocates

1. PC experts who are comfortable downloading unfinished software

The 3 E’s – Evangelize, Empower and Engage

Engagement

1. They are empowering their brand advocates by promising them early access.

2. They are giving access to the Windows Feedback app from which you can send comments directly to them, thereby empowering and engaging with them.

They’ve beautifully ensured empowering and engaging, and I’m sure they have a plan to evangelize their brand advocates too.

The above is a good example of putting in place the RIDE framework.

You can learn more about it in my brand advocacy book which covers how software product companies can implement a brand advocacy program using RIDE, the 5 step brand advocacy framework.

RIDE Framework - 5 steps to building a brand advocacy program

What do you think about how they are rolling this out?

Do you think they will have a large number of participants?

Do share in the comments below.

Get and Retain More Customers with Low or Shrinking Budgets – via Brand Advocates | Using Digital, Social Media, Communities, Technology and Visual Thinking