Very happy with this new video we released last week to celebrate Earth Month, as well as promote our market research.
More than 20 years after the first website was launched to the world, websites are as important as ever. While social media platforms and mobile apps are laying claim to the throne online, websites are still an essential and important tool for brands.
Many brands these days are focused on content and storytelling. The engine that enables a website to become an organic and evolving home for content is the content management system (CMS). The CMS is what makes posting and updating content easy.
If you're launching or relaunching a website, you may be considering what CMS makes sense for you. It's an overwhelming choice. There are expensive enterprise solutions, open source tools and cheap website builders built in the cloud.
I won't tell you which CMS is the best because it all depends on factors that are unique to you and your organization. I do have some tips to make the choice easier. When picking your CMS, here are the two most important things you need to consider.
- Pick a CMS your vendors and IT staff can support. This is crucial to creating a sustainable website. Whatever tool you select should be widely known and probably not custom made (unless you have the resources to support that… forever). Think of your CMS like a car. There is allure to selecting an exotic set of wheels, but ultimately you'll need to take that car to a mechanic. It'll be cheaper and easier for you if you go with a more common brand.
- Once you select a CMS, learn to live with it and love it. None of these tools is perfect. In fact, most of them are annoying and frustrating in their own ways. But most are capable tools and it's likely you have not yet pushed your CMS to the edge of what it is capable. Are you integrating your CMS with email communications? Is your CMS taking advantage of metadata not just for SEO but to organize content? Have you integrated social media fully? Continue to challenge your CMS.
Image courtesy of Serge Kij
I can't help but wonder if the weight of our content creation will eventually lead to a content marketing implosion.
I wrote last month about how brands need to take more advantage of their live events. Too often, coverage of an event like a press conference or new product reveal is confined to mere text recaps of a speech. With the number of media and others already tweeting quotes from an executive at any given event, there is little value in my mind to simply tweeting quotes from your brand.
That's why I have to give credit to the White House, which got my memo (OK, they figured it out on their own).
During last night's state of the Union, the president's digital team was ready with an arsenal of digital marketing tactics
- Live blogging with a "river of news" on their website
- Social graphics
- Web videos
One area that really impressed me was their use of images to hammer home important pieces of the president's address. The graphics were powerful and shareable. Here are a couple...
To make these graphics happen, the digital team needed access to the speech in advance and the complete buy-in of the White House communications team. And they had to work fast.
Everyone can adopt elements of this approach in their marketing. The key is finding out what is reasonable and makes sense for your audience.
Most importantly, if your organization is hosting an event, take advantage of it.
It wasn’t easy convincing me. For the last several years I, along with many others, have griped about the continued use of QR codes by marketers. But maybe I was wrong...
Kristina Halvorson, an influential content strategist, recently expressed skepticism about the growing buzz around “content marketing.”
In an interview, she argued that most people do not want to consume content from brands…
Nobody wants that. Or if they do it’s a very limited niche. And that’s where content marketers say that you really need to find and focus on that niche, but ultimately what that niche wants to do is go to the help section on your website and find what they’re looking for and leave, and that’s what’s going to define their relationship with your brand. Not your video channel on YouTube.
I feel like I must be misinterpreting something because I can’t disagree more.
Of course it is important that every organization have a website with rock-solid content. And, I actually agree that trying to become a “publisher” like The New York Times is not going to work for most brands. But Halvorson’s comments make it sound like focusing on anything but your website is a waste of time.
Two years ago, I would have placed a company website at the center of a digital marketing plan. But that reflects an old reality. Today we are driven around the Internet by social networks, mobile apps, email, text messages, in addition to Web search. A company website is just another stop in a complicated journey.
As someone who is responsible for the content on several large websites, I believe the influence of websites is shrinking. Don’t get me wrong, websites are still important and necessary – but they are not the end-all, be-all authority on your brand anymore.
Here’s an example from my life. I’m a guitar player and last year I was looking for a new amplifier. Before going to stores, I wanted to narrow down my options, so I read product reviews on guitar messages boards. Then I went to YouTube to hear the amps on my short list in a realistic setting. One of the videos I watched featured the Peavey Delta Blues – and the tone killed me (still does. I’ve watched this video at least 20 times). After more research, which included going to retailers’ websites for pricing and specs, watching Peavey’s official videos on YouTube, as well as other amateur videos, I ended up buying a Peavey Classic 30 (a different but similar model). I’m not sure if I ever went to Peavey’s actual website.
Organizations need to be present and active in the digital channels that are relevant to their customers. Having a good website is just the first step.
Content marketing to me is not about your brand becoming Conde Nast. If it was, I’d agree with Halvorson that it’s a waste of time and money. I believe good content marketing is about looking at the whole digital marketing picture –websites, social media, mobile apps, email, etc. – and strategically determining where you need to be and what you need to do there to achieve your business goals. Most importantly, all your digital channels must be aligned.
So, please do make your website is awesome, just know that’s not enough.
Image via Jamie Carracher (that's me!)
Check out this surprising fact. Usage of Google Web search in the United States has decreased in recent years. While certainly not a steep decline, this change in direction merits examination.
When you think of the International CES, you probably think of innovation and technology. But what about people? This year's CES drew more than 170,000 technology industry professionals who came to embrace the future of innovation and grow their businesses and careers. I wanted to highlight the people who attend our show and show how it affected them... All with the goal of driving signups to learn about registration for CES 2016. Here is the video I worked with our talented video team to create.
This year's International CES was incredible. It was my third time at the show and it was the most dense, engaging and dynamic CES yet.
Before I left Washington, D.C., I shared four digital marketing trends to watch at CES. Of those trends, the most influential movement I saw take shape was usage of Snapchat. I'm an off-again-on-again user, but I realized I needed to get devoted when a Web developer in his early 20s on our team asked me if we'd be using it. To him it was a no brainer because it's so prevalent in the life of people his age. In fact, Snapchat stories about CES trended during the show with many users sharing interesting, funny and certainly unique things using the app.
But that's not all I learned at this year's CES. Here are 8 more digital marketing and content marketing lessons I took away from covering this massive event.
- Storytelling is crucial. Marketers have been told this is true for years but I was convinced by Nick Woodman, the CEO of GoPro, who explained during a speaking engagement at CEA's Leaders in Technology dinner that his company became influential because of its story. Millions of videos filmed on GoPro cameras actually have "GoPro" in the title on YouTube. Can you even imagine regular users including other brands in their video titles, he asked. People identify an extremely personal form of video storytelling with the GoPro brand. GoPro's story is that it enables storytelling. The key for all brands, Woodman said, is finding your own story.
- Competing in a loud environment where brands and media are all jostling for share-of-voice requires good content and even better planning. Last year, my team set phenomenal records for traffic to the official CES blog. This year, we demolished those numbers with organic (non-paid) traffic up 227%. We reached more than 156,000 readers during just the week of CES this year. We did it by creating content before the show, sprinkling in new content (like pictures and video) during the show and focusing more on our distribution channels. This year, we leveraged traffic from our website and app more effectively and saw a 79% increase in traffic from social media.
- Managing "digital infrastructure" like websites and apps during a big event is really hard. We always plan for the worst-case scenario because that makes responding to every problem easier. Whenever people ask me early on during CES what I've seen so far on the show floor, I always say "hardly anything." That's because my team and I work at least 12 hours each day just keeping our websites, blog and app running smoothly. We update homepages and app newsfeeds, review and publish photos and videos, write blog posts, and, most importantly, fix stuff that breaks. Once all that is running smoothly, I hit the show floor.
- Respect the hashtag. If I had to name a social media winner from CES, a leading candidate would have to be SoulCycle. The hip spinning class company, which has outposts in big cities like New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., announced it would host free classes at CES, leveraging the official hasthag #CES2015, as well as its own hashtag, to raise awareness and drive engagement. Within minutes of its announcement, Soulcycle was blowing up with what seemed like hundreds of people reserving spots in the classes, including notable attendees like Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.
- Pay attention to what your customers are saying about what you're doing. I heard great things during the show about the work we did and I also heard not-so-great things. I personally don't take offense to constructive criticism because the goal is to enhance the customer's experience. For example, at a keynote I covered for our social media channels, I struck up a conversation with an attendee who loved what we we're doing in digital… but he had just one little suggestion, which I am including in my post-show report because it was so good. This is why I love asking strangers what they think about what we're doing.
- Watch to see what evolves during an event. During CES, the anonymous posting app Secret purchased promoted tweets, which they used to advertise their app. To encourage participation, they created a CES 2015 forum for posts from Vegas about the show. I, and others, periodically read the posts to see what people were talking about. If you're attending an event, check out if there are any "unofficial" communities growing up around it.
- Having a content creation plan is essential and, now, so is a paid media plan. Big events attract more audience attention, which generally helps everyone involved snag larger audiences. Using paid media can help extend that reach and also help your content stand out. When working on events, I recommend developing a paid media plan that leverages social networks like Twitter, video platforms like YouTube and content discovery networks like Outbrain. You may get bigger traffic organically during events but imagine how much bigger it'd be with a well-planned and executed paid media strategy.
- Do what you can but don't do too much. Going into a big event with grandiose ideas that you can't possibly execute is a sure-fire way to frustrate yourself and burn out. Be realistic and set goals you can achieve and then sprinkle in stretch goals.
Did you attend CES or are you working on another big event? I'd love to hear your feedback. Connect with me on Twitter @ jamieca and let's chat.
Apps are important, no doubt. But so are mobile websites.
My career has always been about diversity. From its start 10 years ago to today, I’ve dabbled in a wide range of jobs and skills – journalism, public relations, advertising, social media marketing, Web development, building apps…
Today I shared a post outlining the major trends that I think all digital marketers need to embrace in our careers next year. I thought I’d share a few specific places where I’d like to improve and grow my own career next year.
Organizations invest a lot in marketing, and I believe that business leaders are going to increasingly ask to see more hard returns on investment. I’m dedicating more of my time to building ways to measure the success of my efforts. I’m planning to experiment more with A/B testing, click-through rates and ultimately conversions. I already know that the projects I lead are creating growth in audience and engagement… but I can’t honestly say I know exactly what that means for the bottom-line. Finding out is my next big challenge.
We all know the next big growth of digital will come outside the borders of the United States. Twitter, which is blocked in China, is opening an office in Hong Kong, for example.
I am fortunate in my current position to be helping launch a new technology trade show in Shanghai. I get to see first-hand how different the digital landscape is outside of the U.S., especially in China, a country that is incredibly unique. I believe understanding digital on a global scale is an awesome opportunity for career growth.
This has been on my list for years. When I set a goal ordinarily, I work my butt off to achieve it. Public speaking, however, has always been pushed to the back burner. I know I can do better – I just need to make it a priority. I will devote time to improving as a public speaker in 2015. Now that I’ve written it here, I have to do it, right?
What are you focusing on in your career? Connect with me on Twitter @jamieca.
Most marketers aren't using video yet, but they should.
At this point, the stats are well known. Marketers are publishing more online content than ever before. That content comes in the form of blog posts, tweets, photos and even Snapchat stories.
And let's not forget video. Marketers have been told repeatedly that video is a critical piece of the content mix.
But what is a marketer to do when his or her content gets no results?
It doesn't take a guru to see that most videos published by brands, or anyone really, are not that widely seen. Why? There are millions of great, good, just OK and terrible videos posted every single day. Even the next Steven Spielberg would have trouble cutting through that noise without a little help.
Recognizing that challenge, here is a new approach to consider, which I've modeled off what we did at the Consumer Electronics Association to help boost viewership of our videos from the International CES.
Step 1: Produced less video. This was the most important change we made. In the past, we published hundreds of videos from CES with many coming out in the same two month time frame. Not only were our videos competing with the millions of other videos out there, we were competing with ourselves. All that hard work was not being maximized, so we elected to condense the number of videos we created and focus on improving the quality and promotion of the videos we did publish.
Step 2: Made better use of videos produced. We aimed to make our videos more evergreen and full of excellent information. Our communications team, which produces a wealth of video content, focused this year on producing trend stories that included stats from our own market research – rather than one-off interviews, which we learned were not effective online. Together, we approached our videos more like TV news packages than "web hits."
Step 3: Showcased video properly. For years, we were hobbled on our website by a poor viewing experience for videos. It was a common complaint we heard from our colleagues – videos are a pain to watch on our own site. Last year, we did custom design and development one a new "video wall," that took better advantage of our new video hosting platform uStudio. It relied on uStudio's API to include titles, descriptions, tags and the ability to search. The huge increase in views to our video pages (more than 189 percent) indicated that it worked.
Step 4: Promoted videos like crazy. There is no such thing as organic viral video content. You're better off asking for a shooting star on your birthday than to expect your brilliant video to bring in millions of views without some help. Videos require their own marketing and promotion plans that include paid media. For us, that meant highlighting great videos on our homepage, in our app, through our social platforms and via promoted social posts. We're seeing real success promoting videos directly on YouTube to targeted audiences, as well as running video natively on Facebook. Your results may vary, but the key thing is to have a promotion plan for every video. Just publishing it won't get it seen.
Video is a fun and challenging arena to mix it up online. This is just the start of a video marketing plan. Did I miss anything? Let me know on twitter @ JamieCa and I'll add it here (with a credit to you, of course!).
I say it all the time at work – our little team of digital marketers at the Consumer Electronics Association tackles more amazing assignments than I ever have before. That includes my days at big agencies. And, it's worth noting, we do it all with a reasonable and sustainable work-life balance (most of the time).
I'm so blessed to work with a team that kills it every day.
Here are a few of the things we produced in recent months that I'm super proud of:
- Relaunching our blog with a fresh, responsive new look. Traffic is up by more than 250% compared to the previous year. http://www.ce.org/blog
- Designing a new layout for events, using a single page look with a focus on registration calls-to-action. http://www.ce.org/innovate
- Building a fun "meme generator " to promote the International CES. http://cesmeme.cesweb.org
- Launching a new owned video hub, which focuses on displaying and exploring our CES video content. http://www.cesweb.org/videos
- Publishing our first website based in China to support CES Asia, an exciting new event in Shanghai. http://www.cesasia.com
- Rebuilding our mobile app with a focus on content. http://www.cesweb.org/mobileapp
What awesome work has your team tackled recently? Tweet me @jamieca.
And don't forget to follow the rest of my team on Twitter!
The International CES starts in just over two weeks. CES is where the entire world goes to celebrate technology. As an employee and an admittedly biased fan of the show, I can't help but read every article I can and take note of the trends taking shape that will change the world.
CES isn't just about technology, though. CES gathers the world's most innovative and exciting brands, which results in some pretty interesting approaches to public relations and digital marketing. Here are a few of the trends I'll be watching for at the show.
It's been an interesting year for online video, and I think there is no more interesting a place to look for trend-setting than Vine. The short-form video social network was built specifically for mobile and is a fountain of talent. A number of big tech brands have worked with popular Vine actors (aka Viners) this year, and I'm anxious to see if any make cameos this year in Vegas.
Speaking of mobile, I've been watching Snapchat with curiosity. Brands like Taco Bell and even General Electric have used it this year to reach out to younger consumers. I haven't been able to locate a ton of tech brands using Snapchat in their marketing efforts – but with its addition of the "Stories" feature, it's tailor-made for short-form storytelling that takes shape during this four-day news bonanza.
I'm not enamored with the idea of live tweeting events anymore, especially events where news media are covering every facet of it. What's the point? You can't cut through when you're saying the same thing as everyone else. I think the attention major events draw offer brands an awesome opportunity to go beyond posting a transcript of what executives say. Those moments in the spotlight offer a chance to go big with pre-made videos, photos, illustrations and more to extend the reach of brand messages and stories.
Owned media channels
As social networks make it harder to reach audiences organically, I'm hearing more buzz in the content marketing world around the idea of building owned media platforms. Have you heard the phrase "don't build your house on rented land" yet? For years, brands have built up social media audiences, sometimes at the expense of owned digital properties. I'm starting to see smaller brands and thought leaders focusing more of their efforts on driving traffic back to their owned properties, like personal and brand blogs (like this one). Will we see this unfold at CES?
The tech news site Re/code stirred conversation today when its editors announced they turned off reader comments.
“In effect, we believe that social media is the new arena for commenting, replacing the old onsite approach that dates back many years,” they wrote.
Re/code joins news outlets and blogs like Popular Science, which have removed comments within the last year or so.
So, is commenting on websites dead? This is a question I’ve grappled with at my own job. The blog I supervise has grown its traffic substantially during the past two years. I’m happy with the content mix and quality. Yet, our comment volume is negligible. It’s led me to wonder – if we don’t get many comments, is it even worth having them?
In the end, I support reader comments. Here are a few reasons why:
- As a marketer, I don’t want to willingly give up traffic that might come to and stay on my website. Vibrant conversations lure repeat visitors. I won’t stick my head in the sand and try and discourage social conversation (because that’d be dumb) but I don’t want give up and hand my traffic to social networks to monetize.
- Reader comments are an opportunity to create an engaged community. Sites like Reddit, The Verge and any of the Gawker sites thrive on comments – that’s part of the value they bring beyond the content. The challenge is cultivating a commenting community. It is certainly harder now than years ago, but it’s definitely a worthy goal – one I can admit we have not achieved yet in my own world.
- When conversations around content happen in social media, it disconnects from the source. Random visitors to your site have no idea where to go to discuss it if there are no comments. Sure, they could tweet it, but that’s often like talking to yourself at a public park. Also, consider Facebook. You can probably remember a story someone posted recently that created a huge conversation. You can bet a bunch of those people didn’t even bother going to the article before joining in.
It’s undeniable that social media has taken a lot of the wind out of comments’ sails. A solution for now may be a hybrid approach. Rather than deleting comments completely, find a way to incorporate social discussion into your website – like how Buzzfeed uses Facebook comments. This might be an opportunity for a company like Disqus to build a commenting feature that pulls in related social conversations, which you can join right from a page.
I want to know what you think. Here’s the truly ironic thing – you can’t leave comments here. I use Rebelmouse as my CMS and can’t turn on comments using the free version. Tweet me at @jamieca.
At work, I jokingly say that I should be a consultant for agencies types. Believe it or not, providing good client service is not always a given when spending thousands of dollars. It was a shocking revelation for me after spending more than seven years working in agencies before jumping to the “client side” two years ago.
Honestly, “client service” to me is just good customer service. Even if you bill at $170 an hour, a lot of what you may have learned bagging groceries or waiting tables years ago still applies.
Rather than spill all the beans at once, I thought I’d create a blog series to share what I’ve learned and observed. So, class, let’s begin with lesson #1:
- Respond to emails promptly. Even if you don’t have an answer, let your client know you got their message and are working on a response. Yes, believe it or not, some people don’t answer email.
- Always take the high road, even when you’re tempted to fire back. Sometimes clients are a pain in the butt. Sometimes they are mean. The thing is, nothing good ever comes from getting down in the dirt when working with a customer. At that point, you’re risking your firm’s and your own reputation.
- Provide constructive criticism. It’s frustrating when a consultant says you’re doing everything right. Clients may not know what they’re doing wrong, but they normally know they’re not doing things right. That’s why we value an outsider’s perspective – someone who can help us improve. Don’t be “yes” men and women (unless that’s what your client truly wants – and if it is, I’m sorry, that’s the worst).
- Please pay attention to details. When a client provides you with feedback or edits, incorporate those requests in the next version of your deliverable. It is incredibly annoying as a client going over a list of requested changes like an accountant to be sure the firm you’re paying did everything you asked.
So, that's my first batch of tips. Are you seeing a theme? Do just a few simple things, like respond to email and pay attention to details, and your clients will put you at the top of their list. That means new business for you.
What do you think? Connect with me on Twitter (@jamieca) and let me know.
Photo via Bruno Girin
I was recently reading interviews by Jeff Tweedy, one of my favorite musicians. He offered a really interesting take on music file-sharing...
A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that's it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it's just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work. Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator. People who look at music as commerce don't understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property. I'm not interested in selling pieces of plastic.
Tweedy, who fronts the band Wilco, speaks from a unique place. His band, which boasts fervent fans like me, is not a huge band. In fact, at a recent concert I attended, he introduced one of the band's classic songs by saying: "Remember that one summer when Heavy Metal Drummer was all over the radio? You couldn't go anywhere without hearing it? Yeah, me either."
Wilco, while not famously popular like Taylor Swift or U2, has found a way to prosper in the digital age.
Tweedy "Low Key" (Official video)
In Loving Memory of Molly Glynn 1968-2014 Tweedy is a collaboration between Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and his son, Spencer Tweedy. Their debut album Sukierae is av...