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How to Get Consumers Addicted to Your Content

11 Apr


Tara-Nicholle Nelson, vice president of digital and content at SutherlandGold Group, presenting at SXSW 2012

This post originally appeared on NASDAQ’s blog, where I contributed articles about content strategy during SXSW 2012.

Addiction is not a subject usually pegged to positive meaning – we usually speak about addition in reference to physical or psychological dependencies on a substance, person or object.

But addiction can have a positive meaning, too. Some of us get our fix with coffee; we all know someone addicted to Angry Birds, FarmVille or Words with Friends; and there are already some Pinterest nuts popping up all over the web.

There’s a synonym for these types of addictions, says Tara-Nicholle Nelson, vice president of digital and content at SutherlandGold Group, and that word is “love.”

For content addicts, this love is usually expressed by frequenting a small group of sites on a regular basis. Just think – are there any sites that you visit on a daily basis? What exactly is it about those sites that keeps you coming back?

Nelson says that brand publishers must understand what motivates consumers to consistently return to content sites, and then take those learnings to heart. Only then, will brands learn how to create addictive content.

Every brand goes through a process to becoming a brand that is loved by its consumers. That process entails reach, trial and stick. Once a brand has reached out to a consumer, that consumer must then try it out. If these two stages go as planned and the consumer keeps coming back for more, the brand has achieved “stick.”

There are three steps to generating “stickiness,” says Nelson, and some brands are already doing a great job at it.

1. Don’t Publish Information. Fuel Aspirations.

Brands must understand what their customers want to keep them happy. People want change more than ever, says Nelson. We want to be smarter, live cleaner, be more passionate, eat better foods, be more frugal. And we are more committed than ever to achieving our goals and dreams, she says.

To achieve our goals, we want knowledge. Brands can help us make our goal achievement smoother to achieve our aspirations, she says.

There is an opportunity, then, for brands to help consumers visualize, track and reach their goals. This can be as simple as creating content – how-tos, for example – to help consumers get what they want.

Or it can be as complicated as creating new products that help users track progress towards their goals. Products like Mint (personal finance tracking), Chartbeat (real-time blogging analytics) and The Eatery (healthful eating visualization) all do this.

2. Market Your Manifesto.

Brands should create manifestos that transcend the utility that the brand provides – they should take on topics that are bigger than their brands or the verticals that they work in, says Nelson.

Lululemon’s manifesto, for example, is all about a way of life that that has very little to do with yoga and exercise, its core areas of business. Instead, it’s all about life, love, relationships, health. Here’s an excerpt:

“Do one thing a day that scares you… Stress is related to 99% of all illness… Dance, sing, floss and travel… Sweat once a day to regenerate your skin… The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.”

Your manifesto may even become an integral part of your company’s revenue. Sound silly? Think again. Design company Holstee began offering up prints of its company manifesto (as pictured above) last year. The message went viral, and so far, the manifesto has been viewed online more than 50 million times and print sales accounted for 50% of the business’s revenue.

3. Double-down on Content Experiences.

Keep in mind that a consumer’s experience with your brand doesn’t end with a tweet or a visit to your website. Whenever possible, couple content with real experiences.

Lululemon, for example, hosts free yoga events in its store and even puts on an annual worldwide Salutation Nation yoga gathering, where yogis from all around the world gather at 9 a.m. their time to practice yoga together. Not only is Lululemon helping yogis improve their practices during the event, but it posts videos and pictures online afterwards for attendees to enjoy.

Likewise, a number of subscription-based mail services are cropping up, including poster child, Birchbox, a beauty-samples-by-mail company. Birchbox creates a content experience around the arrival of its latest beauty sampling in the mail. The Birchbox team creates video tutorials and how-to posts on how to best use the samples. And users even post their own reviews and how-tos across the Internet.

Birchbox also maintains a lifestyle-oriented blog and social media presence that follow topics that appeal to its audience. For example, the team put together a SXSW packing list chronicling the must-have items that they’d be bringing to the conference – great packing tips for fellow attendees.

Nelson’s tips are a great start towards creating a brand and content that people love. What are your tips for creating addicting content?

What Content Strategists Can Learn From the Movies

11 Apr


Content Strategist Carmen Hill presents at SXSW 2012

This post originally appeared on NASDAQ’s blog, where I contributed articles about content strategy during SXSW 2012.

What does content strategy have in common with the movies? At first glance, not much. Hollywood is all about red carpets, premieres and red carpets – and content strategy is about analyzing performance data and tweaking strategies to optimize success rates.

In her SXSW presentation, Social Media and Content Strategist Carmen Hill explained how content strategy and the movies are actually quite similar, though. In fact, she went as far as to say that content strategists could learn from Hollywood screenwriters by obeying the rules of the classic narrative arc.

Content marketers tend to focus on the sales funnel, a systematic approach to sell a product or service. The funnel illustrates a consumer’s path of discovery, consideration and decision-making in the buying process.

Instead, Hill says that content marketers should be thinking like screenwriters, taking consumers through the classic narrative arc, in which a story or movie incorporates the setup, a conflict and a resolution.

In these stories, there is always a hero, or protagonist to go on what is known as “the hero’s journey” through these three levels of storytelling. In “The Wizard of Oz,” for example, Dorothy is the hero. The setup is where all of the main characters of the movie are introduced. The conflict takes up the bulk of the story, and is invoked by a catalyst, or inciting incident. In this case, a tornado takes Dorothy’s house flying through the sky to Oz. Dorothy and her crew go on a mission to see out the Wizard of Oz during the conflict section of the movie. And finally, the resolution of the story comes when the hero saves the day – in this case, Dorothy discovers that she has had the power all along to return to Kansas, and everyone lives happily ever after.

So, where do customers come into play here? Customers are the heroes in the content strategy story. Hill explains that Hollywood heroes have a call to adventure, accept that call, seek knowledge, face their fears, overcome challenges and, in the end, become the masters of their worlds.

Consumers follow this same path, says Hill. They have a call to action when they discover that something is missing in life. They must then commit to making a change and research options, consuming content along the way. They face challenges, such as finances, in justifying and making their decisions. And finally, they acquire the good or service that helps them solve the problem, thus becoming the master of their world.

Brands, then, need to understand who their heroes are. They can figure this out through character development exercises. Much like a screenwriter spends time figuring out the personas behind his characters, a content strategist must figure out the persona behind his audience members. Are they decision-makers? Influencers? What do they care about? Where do they live?

Understanding the main characters of the story is a step in the right direction towards telling a provocative and meaningful story.

Just remember, unlike in the movies, the audience is in control of the story when it comes to your brand’s content. While content strategists may try to create the perfect script incorporating the narrative arc with absolute accuracy, the story will always be reshaped and influenced by its readers.

For your listening pleasure, here is a recording I took of Hill’s full presentation. Please ignore the typing noises — I was composing the outline for this post. :)

My SXSW Panel Gets Drawn

14 Mar

I spoke on a panel about brand journalism with Twitter’s Karen Wickre, Eloqua’s Jesse Noyes and MarketProf’s Ann Handley at SXSW, and oh my lucky stars, it’s been documented via live graphic art. Isn’t that awesome?

This isn’t the first time I’ve been on a panel lucky enough to be noted via live graphic art, though. The first was at WOMMA 2010. Hopefully this is only the beginning of this colorful trend!

See the full-size drawing here.

Amazon Offers Refunds on Defective Kindle Cases

17 Dec

I was super psyched to receive an Amazon Kindle this holiday season, but I wasn’t so excited when I realized that it rebooted every time I turned it on and that it didn’t properly bookmark my place in a book. With the help of an Amazon sales rep today, I finally figured out the problem: the case was interfering with my Kindle’s performance.

For the past week, I’ve been enjoying my Kindle, reading The Count of Monte Cristo, but it seemed odd that it kept restarting every time I powered it on. My good friend Parker Higgins has a Kindle, too, which I had the opportunity to test out while on a trip together in Prague, prior to adding the device to my winter wish list. I didn’t notice the same problem with his device, so I immediately took note of the discrepancy.

Calling Amazon yesterday, I spoke to a helpful sales rep named Evan T. He told me that a number of customers had called in with the same complaint and that the company had discovered that it was the case at fault.

Evan directed me to take the Kindle out of its case to see how it performed over the next day. The following day, he would call me to check in.

Indeed, he called, and we diagnosed the problem promptly. Without the case, the Kindle performs perfectly.

Evan issued me a credit of $59.99 to purchase a new case on Amazon.com, which I did promptly. Of course, this time, I chose it in orange, my favorite color.

If you’re suffering from this same first world problem, read more about the refund on Bloomberg.

Update: Read here to learn why the Kindle crashes with the case, and check out some metro map Kindle screensavers made by my buddy, Parker Higgins.

First Week at Mashable

29 May

Woosh! It has been a crazy two weeks! Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to The New York Times, where I served as a social media consultant. The weekend following that, my Mom got married (re-married). And this week, I joined Mashable as a features editorial assistant, just a month after they celebrated the opening of their New York office.

I’m working with Managing Editor Sharon Feder on writing and editing supported features posts, while also collaborating with the entire features team: Josh Catone (features editor), Matt Silverman (associate features editor), Zachary Sniderman (features editorial assistant), Stephanie Marcus (features editorial assistant), and Amy-May Elliott (features writer).

Because Mashable is a small company, I’m excited to also have the opportunity to collaborate with everyone else as time goes by. Within the first week, I already feel like a part of the team. And if I had to sum up my first week in three words…

  • Awesome: Lame word, I know. But it’s always my fall-back word to describe things that are… well… awesome.
  • Inspiring: The company culture is open and encouraging. I feel inspired to create. It’s a great vibe.
  • Busy: It’s a positive sign when a company isn’t afraid to throw you right in there. After a quick orientation on my first day, I edited a few posts. And by the end of the week, I was averaging three to four posts edited per day. And I even wrote two posts! Needless to say, there wasn’t a moment to spare. It’s a fast-paced place.

Special thanks to the Mashable team for welcoming me with open arms. Here’s to a budding career at one of the top blogs in the world!

Faisal Shahzad’s Headline Photo is Sourced from Orkut

5 May

A screenshot of Faisal Shahzad's image on NYTimes.com, as sourced from Orkut.com

The recent creation of Facebook Open Graph opened a whole new can of worms regarding privacy on social networks. Now more than ever, the world is all a-buzz about privacy. But what about privacy for criminal suspects?

Faisal Shahzad, the suspect who admitted to attempting to explode a bomb in Times Square on May 1st, has been pictured across multiple news sites. Most of the pictures being used to depict the suspect are from Orkut and Facebook, social networking sites that Mr. Shahzad maintained profiles on. From a quick search on both sites, I couldn’t seem to find his profiles. But somehow, news agencies have managed to locate his photos and post them alongside the latest headlines.

How could an individual with a plan to unleash bombs in Times Square leave his online social presence completely unprotected from the media? Was he oblivious to the fact that his photos might some day be shared on national television and across the web without his authorization after his attempts at mass destruction? Or did he actually unknowingly give authorization to both sites to share his content with the world? Were the privacy settings too difficult to understand?

Maybe it was just that the default settings said, “Yes! Please obliterate my right to privacy,” and Mr. Shahzad didn’t realize it. Whatever the reason, I am amused to see “Orkut.com” as the source of these photos.

What are your thoughts on news sites sourcing Orkut and Facebook for photos? Do you think there are any privacy implications?

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