Corporate Blogging is Dead, Long live Content Marketing! – 2013 survey results

book-new-largeI am not certain that Google will maintain Google alerts for very much longer. It seems, to put it in Forbes’s words, that it is broken. There is another cool innovation from the olden times which is still working though, I mean Google web trends. I still find it very interesting to see how things evolved through the use, or disuse, of certain keywords in the Google search engine. Lately, I went back to Google in order to check what was happening to corporate blogs. The only thing I was able to find out, was a 2005 report on corporate blogging. Does that mean that corporate blogging is over? Not at all! It is now part of a much broader subject, named content marketing. In essence, content marketing is bit different from just corporate blogging and it is a much better term. The replies of the interest for content marketing over the past few months is showing that something is happening in the web world again. Maybe it is a sign that companies are now more interested in what they get from the content which they produce rather than just spend time producing it. Let us review the 2013 content marketing survey report which gives us some interesting insight into the use of content marketing in 2013 (courtesy http://www.imninc.com/).

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Interest for corporate blogs has clearly shifted from blogs to content

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Key Survey Findings by IMN

  • Content marketing was a medium or high priority for 90%
    of respondents …”  however, one may point out  that comparisons with the 2012 survey my IMN (the first in the series) is showing that the realisation that content marketing is important is fairly recent, even in the US,
  • “31% of respondents have had a content strategy in place for more than a
    year, with 18% stating they put one in place within the last year and 33%
    working on implementing a strategy” … as stated above, all these content marketing programs are still fairly recent and there is still room for improvement,
  • “67% of respondents use a newsletter to distribute content to their
    customers and prospects” …  this is namely true with regard to newsletters for which a great number of users are sending  them once a year therefore showing little or no understanding of how the medium is used,
  • “78% of respondents curate content; 48% having run into permissions /
    attribution issues during the process” … But 15% of respondents are worried that they could use copyrighted content on their own resources,
  • 44% of respondents cited lead generation as the most important goal of
    content marketing programs; an increase from 16% last year.

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Awareness is widespread now. Content marketers are no longer regarded as zombies… well… I have a few recent counter examples but they are not American.

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Increasing leads is clearly what makes corporations tick. Yet, my personal experience in that area shows that few are able to go beyond buzz words and stick to their guns. Lead generation is a difficult trade, it requires a lot of fine tuning, and stamina. A trial and error mentality must be adopted; typically something that large companies have trouble coping with … long term thinking!

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Blogs are still here in that picture but they are not alone and part of an ecosystem. This makes perfect sense. An overarching strategy for marketing content must be adopted vs. piecemeal technical approaches which lead nowhere. Yet, if your blog is lousy, you are bound to go nowhere at all. The fundamentals must be remembered.

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Success is shifting away from readership to leads. Well… in the States maybe, in Europe, we still have a long way to go!

Download the 2005 blogger survey

Tyson Foods’ Hunger Relief Program

Better late than never. I was going through my files today and I found this old piece written after a Blogwell event which took place in New York two years ago. So here it is with much delay but I thought it was worth reading and publishing anyway. Now that I have gone through it I regret I didn’t publish it earlier on because I think that this business case was/still is very inspirational:

Blogwell presentation number 3: Tyson hunger relief (http://www.tysonhungerrelief.com)
April 2009, NYC, NY

Tyson, hunger relief, presentation by Ed Nicholson
in charge of social media, Tyson foods in the US

The third presentation of Blogwell number 3 was that of Ed Nicholson, in charge of social media at Tyson foods in the US, and was entitled how Tyson foods, uses social media to build a community around the issue of hunger.


Tyson’s Ed Nicholson, our fellow member from Socialmedia.org – photo courtesy of disruptology.com

To an extent, this is a similar subject to the one we already tackled in a post about a previous Blogwell presentation which took place in San Jose at the end of October 2008, when Kaiser Permanente presented its initiative against obesity. This time, even though the approach is similar, the aim is quite the opposite as it is aimed at those people in the US suffering from hunger.

I found the description of how a big company like Tyson is trying to tackle this issue, using social media, quite interesting and inspiring. Tyson’s initiative is not about just about a website. It’s about “engaging people in productive and visible ways” Ed said. And God knows there are many people at Tyson foods, even though their name may not be very well known in Europe.

In Iowa alone 9,000 people are working for them, and up to 10% of its workforce is actually involved in this hunger relief program. This hunger relief, social media initiative is more than “the campaign for Tyson.” Ed added. It is actually used to leverage donations in order to tackle the issue of hunger. It started in 2000 and has been going on for now nine years.


(Tyson Hunger Relief Food Donation at Finney County, Kansas – picture by Tyson foods inc.)

The idea is to use the website in order to “give food to the people who can’t afford it”. Ed is insisting upon the fact that there was already “a phenomenal community engaged in this issue”. These are good stories, which are also very favourable ground for online blogging and donation events.

Tyson foods has already 2,814 followers on twitter (and 8,201 2 years later). The company is actually following very strictly disclosure rules, as per Socialmedia.org guidelines, and it displays its name on its twitter page. The number of people who find food insecure, according to Ed is staggering. This is instrumental in making the social media initiative by Tyson very dynamic. In a matter of four hours, any post can receive up to 800 comments!

There is no doubt very few social media initiatives can attract that many comments in such a little time. Ed insists upon the fact that “these tools change all the time, but relationships are here to stay’”. I think this is a very wise description of the social media context, one has to focus on relationships, not on the tools, which are only a means to an end.

“Some people understand the media part”, Ed says, “but not the social part”. They are not all one-way push tools. They are about “generating communities”. And generating communities, has nothing to do about technicality, it is a human thing, hence the “social” in social media.

Ed says that agencies can’t develop communities for Tyson because they can’t create strategies. It takes times it takes time therefore, and you combine your way in.

Questions and answers

Q: negative posts.

A: They are kept because they give us an opportunity to respond. “You are using hunger for the wrong reasons,” says one very nasty comment on their blog. “But it’s one point of entry in the discussion”, Ed says.

[note, now it’s me talking: As I pointed out many many times, this kind of opportunity to respond is made available in social media, but it will not in traditional media. As as a consequence negative comments on social media in my eyes are less dangerous than in traditional media].

Q: developing policies and guidelines

A: policies and guidelines are about doing what’s right and what’s legal. But Ed insisted upon the fact that policies were not established first. It started off doing the job and then putting the policies in place.

Q: personal versus company

A: Tyson is a company account on twitter, not a personal account, but it’s managed by Ed. He decided to declare it in his own name, rather than using the company name. Sometimes he uses its twitter account to tweet about stuff, which is personal.

Q: health/nutrition issues

approximately 20% of kids (out of 37 million) are by definition obese. Moreover, they can be both obese and malnourished at the same time. Ed says that food banks are also getting into twitter too and that partnerships with agencies are possible.

Andy Sernovitz: “large companies getting into social media need support and SMBC was the missing piece in that puzzle”

Last week, I was attending the Blogwell and SMBC meetings in Philadelphia. I also had an opportunity to sit with Andy Sernovitz, the founder of SMBC and well known author of the Word of Mouth Marketing opus.

It’s now more than 2 1/2 years since I joined the former blogcouncil, now known as Social Media Business Council, and a lot of water has gone under the bridge. I thought, as Hervé Kabla and myself – co-founders of Media Aces in France – are currently finalising our book entitled ‘Social Media Taught to My Boss’ (in French, but I’m open to suggestions from publishers), that it would be a great idea to sit with Andy and review the history and principles of SMBC as well as take a bit of hindsight and see how things had developed over the years. It’s hard to describe but spending 3 years of field practice in Social Media for a large company implies that a lot of work and effort has been put into these initiatives. Sometimes it’s good to put down one’s tools and muse.

Andy keeps repeating that doing Social Media for large groups is not as easy as doing the same for an individual or a small shop. I know that many people must not believe that this is true. « You are a big brand hence it’s way too easy » a lot of people must think. Yet nothing has ever been more true. Innovating within a large enterprise is a never-ending, groundhod day-like heavy-lifting exercise. This is why SMBC is important. It enables the heads of Social Media like us to get together, to help each other and to learn from one another. This is what Andy is referring to as being the « missing piece in the puzzle ».

And this is also why there are now more than 150 members within SMBC. Hats off Andy!

here are some of the 150 members of SMBC as of now …

Social Media Business Council Members

Start-up of the month : Synthesio describes the 4 types of brands on the web (2/2)

note: this is the continuation of an interview of Synthesio’s Loic Moisand (see part one here). many thanks to Synthesio‘s Michelle Chmielewski for her help with the Englsh version of this post

Major trends in the monitoring market: consolidation and transversal moves

The market has greatly evolved since 2006 and showed signs of maturity in the consolidation actions among various actors. Scoutlabs was bought out by Lithium Technologies, Sysomos by Marketwire. The bought-out companies were easy prey “at the moment of the explosion of social media with the desire of creating true groupings”.

That doesn’t just mean more consolidations, but also more transversal actions with integrations:

  • of social CRM (integration of client relations and social media, one of the most significant trends of 2010)
  • of the press (with press and social media domains becoming more and more intertwined: on the one hand press relations officers are trying to reach information producers that are not connected to the mass media, bloggers in particular, and especially using different methods to transform their press releases into social media releases)

Other actors, including early days French pioneer KBCrawl “have stayed in ‘tool’ mode and haven’t switched to SaaS dashboards” and are being overtaken by swifter players.

brands online reputation: 4 main profiles

I’ve kept the best part for now. 4 years of experience in the field have allowed Synthesio to depict the landscape of online brands in a particularly striking manner; Loic Moisand highlights 4 main types of brands (pictures in the following diagram):

1. “Under-the-radar” brands

These are the brands that…we don’t talk about, or at least not a lot. A little bit like those friends that you invite to a party that don’t show up. There is either no or very little buzz for these brands that are consequently put into a “PR intravenous drip” that could only with hope to revive interest in the brand. In this category we find a jumble of mass-produced products like dishwashing soap and some B2B brands. Here are nonetheless 2 examples of companies that managed to “break the mold” (the best way to revive interest in your brand) :

  • Blendtec with their famous WebTV series “Will it Blend?” that was present at the last MediaAces conference in Paris June 22, 2010 (http://france.media-aces.org)
  • “compare the Market”’s URL was too long and getting too many searches for “compare the meerkat”. Comparethemarket, a sort of “progressive.com” decided to create an online character making fun of people that were typing it wrong in order to create their own buzz.

Not only are there numerous B2B brands fitting into this category that haven’t been able to break the mold, “3/4 of brands fit into this category,” adds Loic Moisand.

Important sidenote : certain brands, depending on the country, their media, and culture, may be “under the radar” here and not somewhere else. The French insurance-comparing site meilleurtaux.com generated high levels of buzz in France but Comparethemarket, the UK equivalent ended up being less successful (hence the need to do things differently)

2. Functional brands

This is another brand category that doesn’t necessarily inspire deep passion but that can generate a large number of comments. It has to do with brands that “we just want to work, and that’s it”. These are the brands that don’t leave you indifferent, but don’t necessarily cry out for your attention, either. In these types of cases the buzz level is  rather high, but focused around the product’s/service’s functions, price, the quality of customer service, etc with levels of dissatisfaction that are often quite elevated. This category includes : e-commerce sites, washing machines, household appliances, mass high-tech goods (except for Apple) and telecommunications operators. The response in this domain has been to have a community manager for their own sites (FAQ, tech support, answering questions) as well as on third-party forums to help web users with a proactive intervention (Orange has actually just taken this step).

3. Brands we love

This segment is – of course – brand nirvana. Unfortunately very few brands are able to be a part of this group, for sometimes irrational reasons. The brands that are able to attain this segment are brands from groups 1 and 2 that have “launched an emotional movement”. Apple, video games (Wii), Sony (only for certain products), Coke, and fashion brands are a few examples of “Brands we love”. They are brands that “take up all the space” and the ones that are always examples, which can almost become slightly irritating at times…They’re incredibly popular, and you can’t do anything about it. They are the brands that knew how to create “a relationship that is more imortant than the product” according to Bernard Cova.

Not everyone can get to this stage. It is full of clans of enthusiasts and brand advocates, where brands don’t need to “create communities” because they already exist, often on their own (Apple doesn’t have one blog and supposedly doesn’t intervene in social media other than to police what’s being said, which no one really seems to find surprising and hasn’t cut down on fan enthusiasm).

The best attitude to have for this group is to accompany communities : answer questions, inform fans, encourage them, occasionally give them gifts to thank them for their loyalty. Blogger clubs are also a phenomenon of this group, which can sometimes lead to large demands. Microsoft – in order to avoid always talking about Apple – organized the launche of Windows 7 at the end of 2009 in its Windows café. All interested bloggers were invited to get a very nice gift – their own complete version of Windows 7 on a DVD just for them. The brand decided not to get involved any further in blog discussions than that. It took a respectful approach of its community, which was the right attitude in this case.

4. Sensitive brands

These are brands that are “stressful” according to Loic Moisand’s terminology. The 3 sectors that are affected the most: health, safety, and children. People are scared in this segment, the brand can be scary, or becmoe a threat; the stress is real and “you have to reassure people”. It’s the only thing that can be done. Admitting you were wrong and showing that you are correcting the problem, even if, when opinion is against you, the attempt is bound to fail. Becoming a “sensitive brand” means risking becoming a disgraced brand. Certain brands will forever be in this category, like pharmaceuticals for example (without exception according to Loic Moisand); but there are other brands that switch from other segments to this danger zone :

  1. banks, since the 2007 crisis, have become scapegoats for the economic problems in the West if you believe their detractors, to the point of having lost sight of their essential economic functions (see the example of Kerviel here)
  2. BP, that has now become a symbol – according to their detractors – for the environmental problems like Total in France after Erika – justified or not
  3. chronically : users with worries – based on facts or not (not up to us to decide) – about electromagnetic waves from WiFi connections, Wimax, telephones, etc (here’s a link towards a show with Etienne Cendrier from the site robin des toits)
  4. food brands criticized for their choice of ingredients or their methods, like Nestlé, for example, that became a Greenpeace target in 2010 for their use of palm oil in chocolate products

A dynamic brand classification

A brand can pass from one segment to another at any moment. Apple did, for example, when a rumor about exploding iPhones spread in 2009, as did Renault with rumors of stuck Vel Saltis gas pedals (2005-2006), and Toyta in 2010 with with their own technical problems, even if the rumors usually disappeared along with the crisis.

I find this classification to be particularly useful as it presents us with a point of view that is different from the classic clichés heard on the web about brands. It also allows for web and PR directors to take a step back in order to decide which direction is the best for their brand.

sidenote: this is an empirical classification and is not a result of a scientific study. It may evolve over time depending on the country and brand’s history. The opinions expressed here about certain brands are the personal opinions of the author and do not reflect a proof of good or bad quality of these brands whatsoever.

Creating and embracing a social media culture (ConAgra Foods)

ConAgra's Stephanie Moritz

Last month, on Nov 10, 2009 the 7th blogwell session took place in sunny Atlanta, Ga. (this is meant to be a joke for I have been twice to Atlanta so far and have seen a lot of rain not to mention flooding). Nearly a month later – and I am a little late for that – now that the dust has settled I wish to recap on some of the best sessions I was able to attend. Stephanie Moritz, ConAgra foods presented her company and its many brands of foods (Hebrew National, Egg Beaters, Peter Pan, Banquet, Slim Jim, Kid Cuisine, Healthy choice…), most of which are huge hits in the US although less or even not at all known in Europe (another tale-telling example of non globalisation; there are many examples of brands which are immensely successful this side of the Atlantic and unknown on the other side and vice versa).

Stephanie explained how a big brand like ConAgra could use Social Media to stir passion within its fans. Here are my notes from that session, the live transcript of which you can also find here courtesy of Gaspedal and the Social Media Business Council.

Embracing a Social Media Culture

By Stephanie Moritz, ConAgra foods, USA

Social Media is everywhere. It is now mainstream. Consumers refuse to be marketed at. They want to participate, they have a passion. The challenge is to adapt it within a large organisation. How do you create inspiring programmes for your customers? It takes:

  • Targeted manageable plan,
  • A plan that supports business goals,
  • A focus on consensus building:
    • Setting a plan that achieves and ties to your business objectives
    • How do your get champions on board?
  • Long term commitment:

    Gapedal's Nieman and Stephanie Moritz
    Phil Nieman from Gaspedal and Stephanie Moritz
  • 1st step: understand how social media fits in our culture and objectives. How can you amplify your PR effort using SM
    • Creating a masterplan: define clear business objectives and match them with the SM initiative
    • Enterprise-wide solution. Not just Marketing
    • Establish some guidelines before moving into that space
    • Building the foundation first and listen to conversations. Who Responding to consumers. Addressing issues in a transparent manner.
    • Getting to know the blogging community. We ourselves tried blogs and tried and understand => Building communities
  • 2nd step: getting senior management to become a champion (through CMO)
    • Digital immersion
  • 3rd step: create coalition: there wasn’t much budget or staff. Experts and specialists throughout the organisation have been identified. All cross functional teams were identified. Enthusiasm made it.
  • (Audit) Identified key bloggers and organised discussions on products and how they could work together.
    • Created a Twitter page, spent a lot of time on it
    • Created a facebook page
    • Benchmarks, listened to conversations
    • Attended blogger events and blogger media conferences for the sole purpose of listening

When should a brand use social media? Not everyone should jump on the bandwagon Benchmarks are carried out continuously Key to success:

  • Set clear goals,
  • Create enterprise-wide endorsement,
  • Determine roadmap,
  • Commit.