Posts filed under business

A Message to Inbound & Content Marketing Execs From the Trenches: We Don't Care What We Call It

Someday in my career, I hope to work my way up to the top of my field, whether as an executive, a founder, or a trusted leader with valuable insights into the business world around me.


But I’m not there yet. So while I can’t suppose to know what goes through the mind of a CMO or one of those Twitter-famous people, I can with certainty speak to what it’s like to practice marketing in the trenches. I’ve been there. I am there. And I’ve dug around in the mud of these trenches to pull out a message to you, the thought leader-slash-columnist-slash-guru-slash-level five ninja wizard warrior. It reads as follows (clears throat)...

Dear Inbound or Content Marketing Leader:

We don’t actually care what we call the type of marketing we do.

Love, 
Your Frontline Marketers

PS: Send more budget. 


If you work in the online marketing world, then you’ve almost certainly heard the debate raging at the top of our industry. One company or pundit calls this modern style of marketing one thing, the other refutes it, a third invents an entirely new term, and so on. Most recently, we’ve seen this post by HubSpot wherein survey responses identified inbound marketing as a broader umbrella that includes content marketing, along with things like freemium products, free apps/tools, technical SEO, and more (and hat tip to Joe Chernov's spot-on concluding sentiment in that post).

So ... are they right? Maybe. They hire very smart people over there. Handsome, too. (Okay, so they hired me before — I couldn’t resist.)

But seriously, are they right?

Is this stuff called inbound marketing? Is it content marketing? Does one roll up underneath the other? Do they sit next to each other with some overlap? Are they enemies? Are they friends? Do they get coffee on weekends? Does one take the other out to a nice fish dinner but never call them again?

Answer: I don’t know. I don’t CARE. I have work to do. I have a business to grow. I have a career to build.

So, while I personally say "content marketing,” without any thought as to why or whether it matters, I will hereby and for the rest of this blog post call it Marketing Wherein You Create Content and Other Things People Volunteer to Consume Instead of Spamming Them with Me-First Messages (or MWYCCAOTPVTCIOSTWMFM).

Who else is super excited about the future of MWYCCAOTPVTCIOSTWMFM?

Look, I get it: Labeling things is human, conveys meaning, and furthers agendas.

Owning keywords and memes that you can promote in order to win fans and customers is important. I get it. I really, really do.

I also completely understand the need to sell stuff as a vendor or service provider in the MWYCCAOTPVTCIOSTWMFM industry. Logically, the more people who use your terminology and view the world the same way as you, the more people you’ll be able to sell and upsell and cross-sell and all the various directions of selling that ultimately lead to way more customers and revenue and a solution to world hunger.

(Ah, that’s right — we aren’t solving world hunger. We do marketing. Anyways, back to my very important rant about very important terms that address very important world problems…)

As someone who PRACTICES marketing, the label of what I do is actually rather unimportant to me. Maybe I’m alone in that, but I think I speak for at least some of us frontline marketers. And it seems as if this debate, while entertaining at times, is starting to get completely unproductive for individuals in the field. It’s also rather like watching a bunch of ants play tug of war with a dead caterpillar. Yes, to them, it’s the most meaningful thing on earth. But to everyone else? ...

Now, as a MWYCCAOTPVTCIOSTWMFM marketer, I must always include a list in my blog posts, so here are just a few reasons that this debate is rather sillypants:

1. Because good marketers are focused on goals and hit those goals regardless of the tech, tactic, or terminology.

My goals drive everything that I do, whether it’s personal or professional. And my/our goals don’t change one iota if we call something X instead of Y.

Even more importantly, if something you call X yields really great results, great! I’ll try X. And if another tactic or strategy is defined by some organization as part of Marketing Philosophy Y, that’s fine too! All I care about is that it works and helps me serve my audience better.

2. Because many marketers aren’t actually that new to this anymore. They’ve moved past the point where broad definitions matter.

We’re getting well beyond the days where digital and social and content and inbound and (you get the idea) are new concepts to most marketers. Yes, defining and labeling this notion of MWYCCAOTPVTCIOSTWMFM is important to educate a relatively uninformed, late-adopter audience today, but the industry now includes a large group of online marketers who were early or mainstream adopters and have been doing this for multiple years now. We’ve been successfully educated, and now we want to know how to improve our work and grow our careers.

3. Because it’s better to think of yourself based on your output rather than title anyway.

Now, I don’t mean job titles aren’t important. They’re very important, since they’re often your personal headline to others and can instill you with a sense of pride in your work. They’re also often a proxy for your compensation. Instead, what I mean is that you should promote your superpower and how you’ll help a business, rather than trumpet your title.

This is how you sell products too: Nobody buys a better pillow; they buy a better night’s sleep. So at least personally, I’d rather position myself as someone who can build your company an audience to convert rather than claim to be a “content marketer” or “inbound marketer” or “Jargon Jay” … which, let’s face it, is all non-marketers hear when most of us speak anyway.

4. Because the debate has been raging for years, and we’re still no better off. Why continue?

Marcus Sheridan wrote this post in 2011, which is like a billion years ago in internet time. (I love that he titled his final section, “Semantics Are Stupid.”) Dozens have been published since, and still another one appeared more recently on Business2Community. In this particular article, there are over TWELVE HUNDRED WORDS dissecting inbound and content before the post finally, mercifully ends by asking the right question, the question that we should be asking well before the end of any post on the debate: “What Does This Mean for My Company?”

And isn’t that a hugely troubling sign? Why is that buried? Why do we spend so much time debating semantics when, in reality, all that matters is that question? "How does this matter to my business? To my customers?"

(As a quick aside, I’m also kind of miffed that nobody is mentioning MWYCCAOTPVTCIOSTWMFM as a viable term to replace inbound and content. That's why I'm excited to announce #MWYCCAOTPVTCIOSTWMFM Conference -- to be held September 8-11, 2015! Because I guess that's the only time you can hold marketing conferences in 2015...)

And now, as I start to hyperventilate just a bit, I need to go outside and look at some trees to remind me that life’s gonna be okay.

I’ll wrap up this post here and leave myself open to whatever criticism the intertubes float my way, should someone happen upon my little blog and disagree. But I’d wager I have some support out there too, and if that’s you, please visit me in Twitter Town, USA.

My final message is simple and actually more of a plea, with palms open and heart all aflutter with a bizarre fondness for this industry niche I call home: It’s high time to stop all this useless, self-important, echo-chambery dialogue once and for all and instead work on being better teachers who are refreshingly creative and genuinely, consistently helpful. THAT is what actually matters. THAT is the type of marketing we practice.

So, can we please, please stop with all our navel-gazing? Because unless you found a bunch of subscribers down there, I’ve got work to do.

Posted on September 29, 2014 and filed under content marketing, business.

All The Weird Things Business People Do On Twitter

I’m on Twitter a fair bit, which is to say, my wife thinks I have a problem. (She’s a PhD candidate and therefore spends most of her time strengthening her brain. On the other hand, I spend my time trying to smush all my years of education and my experiences of life, the universe, and everything into 140 characters.)

Anyways, after spending so much time on the tweets, I couldn’t help but notice two things:

Thing #1:  I, like, really need to go outside.

Thing #2:  All us business folk do some really weird things on Twitter that we'd never, ever do in person.

Now, if the social media thought leaders, gurus, sherpas, ninjas, and Level 9 wizards out there are correct, then Twitter is supposed to be more authentic to the offline experience. It’s supposed to be the “cocktail party of the internet” where we all “listen, engage, and interact” in ways that are “genuine and human” and not at all “interruptive” or “placed sarcastically into quotes.” 

But, I mean...c’mon. Is Twitter actually like a cocktail party? Have you ever really noticed how we behave on there? 

People act like all these weird little things they do are somehow okay (they’re not) and that others somehow won’t notice what they're doing (they do).

So with that in mind, let’s go down this scary path together by exploring some common-yet-still-bizarre things we do on Twitter. And yes, we’re all guilty. 

(A quick disclaimer before we get started, intended for Person Who Takes Social Media Way Too Seriously: I embrace the value of social media in work and in play and believe it generally adds more positive than negative to the world. Now please fight your burning desire to launch a tirade in support of a third party's software program that in no way affects how much your family and friends love you in real life.)

Without further ado...

 

Weird Things Business People Do On Twitter

 

Weird Thing #1: Following People

This is Twitter 101...which in no way makes it any less awkward. It's weird behavior, if you've ever really stopped to think about it. (Spoiler alert: You haven't.)

Every single day, people on Twitter essentially tell someone else that — hey…psst…hey! — I’m following you. What are you reading? Hmm? Where are you? What are you doing?

Even the phrase Twitter uses to update you — "So-and-So followed you” — sounds more like a local Neighborhood Watch alert than a testament to how likeable and brilliant others think you are.

Seriously, this should all feel at least a LITTLE BIT creepy, shouldn't it?

What This Would Be Like At An Actual Cocktail Party

This:

Let’s just push ahead before I abandon this list after just one...

 

Weird Thing #2: Responding To A Question By Clicking Favorite

In Weird Thing #2, you think to yourself, “Hey, I have a question that needs answering from other human people!” And for some reason, you think you’ll get actual human people responses by posting that question to Twitter. 

You are wrong.

Because for some reason unbeknownst to scientists everywhere, people think it's acceptable to just click "favorite" in response to your question.

Do you realize what’s actually happening here? Whoever favorites your tweet is voluntarily and publicly alerting you that, yup, they’ve received your question but, nope, they're not gonna reply.

Because screw you. 

What This Would Be Like At An Actual Cocktail Party

My first thought went to Hector Salamanca. He’s that really old Mexican mob boss from Breaking Bad who sits in a wheelchair and communicates by tapping a little bell in response to your questions. But, no, that’s not a good analogy — he’s actually trying to convey meaning and get you a valuable response.

 

Instead, I think a more appropriate experience would be if you asked your friends a question...only to have them flick peanuts at your face.

Just like those favorites on your tweet, each individual peanut is pretty harmless. But after the fourth or fifth hits you? Sweet Baby James. You suddenly feel justified flipping tables and screaming at your screen and setting fire to their car. And I'm only partially exaggerating -- you reach a level of anger that's completely and totally irrational, except in that very moment, it feels warranted. Anyone who’s ever experienced this will know my pain. Stay strong, my friends... (taps fist against heart)

(In case this section wasn’t clear — yes, I'm saying that a 180-year-old mostly paralyzed ex-criminal who barely understands English and responds to stressful questions from drug dealers and cops by tapping a freaking bell is more helpful than most people on Twitter.)


Weird Thing #3: Retweeting And Sharing Content To Your Followers That Overtly Compliments You

Like following others on Twitter, this behavior is so deeply ingrained in how business people act on the social network that it may seem a bit out of place to mention as a weird thing. But trust me — this is weird.

For those of you living under a rock, which is then buried under a much larger, much more wifi-proof rock, let me explain what happens:

1. A company blog or a media outlet mentions someone’s work in their post. In some cases, the person being mentioned — let’s call him Eddie Expert — gets ranked alongside other experts based on how smart or successful or devilishly handsome they are. In other cases, Eddie might have been asked to contribute upfront, or maybe the author cited Eddie's work in their post. Regardless, Eddie comes off looking great in the article.

(Side note: Subscribe below for my upcoming post, The Top 10 Devilishly Handsome Marketers!)

2. Next, when the post has been published, the author of the post mentions Eddie on Twitter alongside the link back to the content that compliments or cites Eddie.

3. Seeing the post for the first time, Eddie gets both an ego boost (“They like me!") and guilt trip (“They expect something of me…”). This leads him to flip the post to his own followers, either in the form of a RT or by writing a (some would say falsely) modest tweet like, “So flattered to be included!” or, “Thanks @Author for a great writeup!” or, “I’m in good company with @MorePopularExpert on this list!”

What This Would Be Like At An Actual Cocktail Party

Something not at all annoying or stupendously selfish...

Too much false modesty and self-aggrandizing behavior? 

Not on Twitter!

 

Weird Thing #4: The Too-Soon Request

In some cases, people DO use The Twitter in the way it’s supposed to be used: human people connecting to other human people. But then, almost instantly, they turn around and ruin it.

Of course they do.

In Weird Thing #4, one person tweets another person with something that’s actually, genuinely enjoyable or nice. They might say something like, “Really enjoyed your article, thanks!” or, “Nice meeting you!” or, if you’re lucky, “Hi, I noticed you just dealt with Weird Thing #2 — here's an actual answer to your question instead of another peanut flicked at your face." The list goes on.

But then, in the VERY NEXT interaction, which happens almost instantly, they hit you with a self-serving request. Suddenly, after what felt like a cursory interaction on Twitter, they’re asking to jump on a call or pitch you a product or cut out your kidney. After their initially nice tweet, it's like a robot brain takes over:

"HUMAN PERSON RESPONDED. RAPPORT-BUILDING PHASE COMPLETE. DESTROY! DESTROY!”

What This Would Be Like At An Actual Cocktail Party

How I Never Met Your Mother:

 

(We're almost done with the list. Now is probably a good time to remind you that all of this is HOW WE ACTUALLY ACT on Twitter. I completely understand if you need to go hug a puppy. Go ahead. I'll wait...)

 

Weird Thing #5: Referring To Yourself As A "Visionary" Or "Thought Leader" in Your Own Profile

Weird Thing #6: Quoting Yourself in Your Own Tweets

Proof positive that eating glue as a kid has consequences.

These are so atrocious, they don't warrant further discussion. Let's just move on...

 

Weird Thing #7: Going Out Of Your Way To Make Private Discussions Public

Did you know that if you start a tweet with an @-mention of another person, then your followers won't see it? It's true. Starting with "@" means the only people who see the tweet are you, the person you @-mentioned, and anyone who just so happens to follow both of you. To make a tweet public, the message's first character can not be "@" -- it must be some other character. (This is why you see some people putting a period in front of the very first @-symbol.) 

This is somewhat nuanced, so here’s an explainer graphic I created (via Hubspot):

Now, this feature isn't the weird part.  You just need to understand it to understand Weird Thing #7.

In Weird Thing #7, a person who fully understands this @-mentioning nuance will intentionally add a period ahead of an @-mention. Worst of all, these tweets that are now public should really have remained private, because they're just a bunch of meaningless conversation back-and-forth or semi-private comments. They're not intended for you, nor can you decipher what they mean without clicking them to read the rest of the back-and-forth (likely with a person you don't even follow).

In short, you don't want or need to see this tweet -- you lack all context to understand it -- but the other person doesn't care because they're an Attention-Mongering, Tweet-Blasting Little Leech. 

Let's take a look at two vomit-inducing examples. In each, notice the period or the characters added before the first @-symbol:

  1. .@Bob I totally agree!
  2. Hey @Bob, great meeting you today!

In the first example, it's likely that Bob and the AMTBLL are having a conversation. Or maybe the AMTBLL just decided to express, with WAYYY too much pep, just how much he or she agrees with Bob, because Bob is perceived to be influential and important. Either way, the first example is one part of a conversation that you know nothing and care nothing about, but does the AMTBLL care? Of course not! Because, yet again, screw you.

In the second scenario ("Hey @Bob, great meeting you today!"), there's likely no initial conversation happening that you missed. The AMTBLL probably just met Bob offline, and because they didn't get enough hugs as a kid, that somehow matters, and they feel compelled to let the entire world know with an unbelievably obnoxious tweet...whether you want it there or not.

You guys...seriously...

WHAT.

THE HELL.

ARE WE DOING?!?!

Answer: I don't know, but I suddenly have to go outside.

What This Would Be Like at an Actual Cocktail Party

Posted on June 10, 2014 and filed under social media, business.