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Laurel MiltnerNovember 19, 20105 min read

Picks of the Week: Nov. 13-19, 2010

This week's articles tend to dance around one big picture: merging multiple disciplines to develop effective business strategies in today's online world. Read on for: advice on strategic content marketing, quick tips to improve your writing, details on Facebook's new Messages, finding business results from social media activity, and the importance of personal branding.

Content Marketing

Writing for Strategic Influence 

This is an excellent article on the current and future state of marketing (and overall business strategy) by Ray Edwards.

In it, he proposes that: “far from simply being a different way of delivering persuasive copy, the new ‘content marketing model’ is actually a reflection of something far more significant… No longer do our customers accept our neatly packaged, carefully honed, isolated messages about our own products and services.”

Rather, due to the availability of information on the web, “our customers (and our prospective customers) are able to see the entire persona of an individual or company with startling accuracy. They can read praise from clients and customers, read articles written by and about the company, and see reviews from actual buyers.”

In short, content marketing shouldn't be seen as a new strategy for crafting your message and getting it out to target audiences. Rather, companies must work together — across departments — to determine their brand promises and adhere to them in practice, and then share what makes them special with target audiences. (Or, walk the walk before you talk the talk.) Done well, your best customers will share your story, too (and help craft it). 

Money quote: “A new day has arrived. Instead of ‘having’ a marketing message, we must ‘be’ a message… Accountability is no longer optional, it is simply reality.”

7 Ways to Improve Your Writing… Right Now

Solid copywriting advice from James Chartrand, who offers seven simple tips to improve your skills (without having to wait until practice makes you perfect), including:

  • Keeping your copy concise and clear
  • Remembering the magic of three
  • Being conscious of tone
  • Breaking up copy with short paragraphs, bulletpoints and subheads

For details on these and James’ other three tips, see the complete post.

Social Media

Facebook’s New Messaging: Five Reasons Why it Matters

Earlier this week, Facebook announced new features it will roll out in Messages. Here, Forrester’s Augie Ray reports: “Since it involves a new email address, some people shrugged the new functionality off as a weak email tool.  They're right — but that's like complaining an apple makes a poor orange. The new platform is a poor email client because it isn't intended to be an email client. Instead, this is a new form of communications.”

Augie goes on to offer five reasons why the updates matter to Facebook users, Facebook itself and the future of communication, including:  

  • Though not a Gmail killer, as others have posited, this could be a “Gmail wounder,” aimed at “facilitating and enhancing your personal relationships,” and leaving boring communications like bills and marketing emails to Gmail and others.
  • Messages “reinforces that Facebook is for friends… not [a place to] manage thousands of soft relationships.”

For more on these and other thoughts from Augie, as well as a 4-minute video Facebook created to explain the new feature, see his full post. For marketers and PR pros, there’s a lot in there to think about regarding social media and communication strategy in the future.

(Also, for more on Facebook Messages, see a Storify page I created to collect some of the best articles I found on the topic.)

Calling Social Media “Ineffective” Is a Corporate Cop-Out

In this article, David Griner takes aim at a recent report from Investor’s Business Daily that debunks social media as an effective marketing platform because “more than 30% of global companies found social networking sites ineffective in driving traffic to the companies' Web sites.”

David is quick to point out that he’s “all about healthy skepticism when it comes to the marketing effectiveness of social media, but… also get[s] frustrated when these sorts of findings get singled out as an excuse to bash the whole field.”

After digging into the data in comparison with a 2009 Forbes study on advertising effectiveness, David shows that a 30% dissatisfaction rate is actually pretty on par with other online marketing activities. And, “like all marketing techniques, social media outreach has its strengths and weaknesses. It's a new channel, one that requires some new learning and constant experimentation.”

He also points out that “the goal of marketing is to get your message out to as many people as possible, as effectively as possible.” Thus, judging effectiveness solely by measuring traffic to one’s site is not necessarily the best way to determine success.

Key takeaway for marketers: “Look at what our customers want from us… not just what we want from them.”

Personal Branding

Platforms Constructed and Dismantled 

This is a fascinating look at personal branding and online reputation management penned by academic Sidney Eve.

Sidney shares that in her experience teaching college students, she’s found that “while Gen X and Boomers understand the importance of platforms, networking, and connections… many digital natives struggle to truly grasp the significance and value of their social network.”

This can become a problem for up-and-coming professionals because, as Sidney points out, “It’s naive to deny that network size matters when it comes to evaluating someone’s impact and influence. We may resent it, and we might question whether professional success is all about ‘who you know’ or how many you know. Yet clearly both quantity and quality are key factors in building our networks… And let’s face it, networking opens doors and leads to opportunities—something that was true long before anyone had heard of Facebook.”

So what’s a millennial to do? Rather than depleting your contact list to exclude anyone who isn’t a close friend, “think about how to partition and privatize Facebook profiles into professional and personal segments.” Be aware of the persona you’re projecting to the world, and as alluded to in our first article by Ray Edwards, live up to who you want to be in all of your communication and actions, both online and off.

For more on the importance of personal branding, and the careful balancing act the comes with it, see Cristian Gonzales’ article, Why Personal Branding Is Not Just an Exercise in Egoism.

What were your favorite articles of the week? Comments are open for your opinions.

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