When it comes to content marketing and social media marketing, expert Michael Stelzner is always at the top of the list. A leading author, speaker, strategist, and founder of Social Media Examiner, Michael helps businesses understand the trends in social media marketing, and how marketers can learn to leverage its power. Recently I caught up with Michael, and he answered some very tough questions that content and social media marketers face everyday.
Marketo: What advice do you have for businesses who are struggling to produce content for their marketing efforts?
Stelzner: First of all, you have to rethink the way you’re producing your content to make sure that it’s not “product marketing content.” Many of us traditional b2b marketing professionals have been taught to talk about the benefits of the product, but nowadays that’s not what people care about. Instead, it’s about figuring out who the audience is, what their pain points are, and then giving them what they want. For example, in my world of social media marketing, marketers want to figure out how to use Pinterest. It’s new, they don’t understand it and it’s highly visual with hardly any text. Since I know that they are interested in this new social network, I go out there and find somebody who is an expert on Pinterest. Then I either commission them or persuade them to produce a detailed piece that explains exactly what the benefits of Pinterest are and how to go about them. Notice this has got nothing to do with my products or services, but it’s got everything to do with the need of my audience.
Marketo: Do you have any tips for identifying the problems and desires of your audience?
Stelzner: Well, the ideal thing would be to create a survey and come up with basic open-ended questions like, “I would like to learn more about blank” or “the thing that I find most difficult when it comes to marketing is blank,” have them fill in that answer for you and then run some simple analysis to figure out what your content strategy should be. For example, last year measuring social media was one of the biggest challenges that people were facing; figuring out how to analyze and measure it. So, we came out with a series of articles that were all about the analytics–giving people exactly what they wanted. You’ve got to find out by asking, it’s that simple.
Marketo: I read that you personally edit the first paragraph of every post that runs on Social Media Examiner. What are your tips for writing a compelling opening paragraph that pulls pulls the reader in to the rest of the article?
Stelzner: That’s a great question. You have to put yourself in the mind of the reader and ask yourself “would I take time to read that?” One of the tips we use is to open with a question. For example, going back to Pinterest, “Are you wondering if Pinterest is appropriate for your business?” or “Is there a way to actually generally leads with Pinterest?” Those are questions that people might be asking and you could then create an article with 10 tips on how Pinterest can help generate ongoing leads for B2B business. Something as simple as that would draw them in.
Marketo: In your book Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition, you mention channel overload syndrome, can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Stelzner: That concept is based on the idea that we are all receiving messages constantly. In the environment we’re in most of the time we are completely surrounded by advertisements. We’re getting text messages from friends, we’re getting email and spam when we drive down the road, when we’re in an office environment people are knocking on our door, when we run websites there are ads trying to lure us away to other websites, the bottom line is there are just so many ads. There is no escape, and what happens is the consumers, the people like you and me, say “okay enough” and we retreat from anything that looks like advertising because we think it is trying to get us to do something that we don’t intend to do. That’s what I call channel overload syndrome and when we are constantly overloaded by these marketing messages, marketers are put in a quandary. How do we solve it? Well, I suggest we do that by giving away content that’s free of advertising.
Marketo: It’s becoming vital for marketers to know who the top influencers are in their niche. What’ s your best tip for identifying the key influencers in a particular industry?
Stelzner: One of the first and easiest ways to identify influencers is to go on Amazon and look at the new releases and the top 10 books in your relevant category. This is great because there are books for every conceivable category and niche. You can see who has new books coming out that relate to you and your business, and you can approach those people. Generally, these authors are considered influencers, or soon to be influencers and when their book comes out they are open to being interviewed and starting that relationship. This is a great little tip that a lot of people can apply.
Marketo: Which influencers do you follow on a weekly basis?
Stelzner: I consume content via podcast believe it or not. One of the podcasts that I listen to is Michael Hyatt, he has one called This is Your Life and it’s about intentional leadership. Another one I follow is Marcus Sheridan and his podcast called The Sales Lion. Then I also listen to Podcast Answer Man by Cliff Ravenscraft for advice on best podcasting practices. Pat Fliyne also has a really cool one called Smart Passive Income. I look at all these different niches and genres and I listen to the tips, then I ask myself how I can apply these to my genre. In my world, there aren’t a lot of people doing what I’m doing, so I look in different worlds to find inspiration.
Marketo: How do you spend your day in order to maximize your time and energy put into the social world?
Stelzner: First thing when I get up in the morning is I check Facebook and Twitter to see if there has been any activity on there. That’s how I get started, I check social and then go into my email, clear out my inbox and then head out to work. I’m usually on the phone with my employees when I’m on the way to work. When I get to work I usually have this 8 o’clock to 11 o’clock no email. I don’t look at email or anything and just focus on the growth of the business and creating content or whatever I need to. Then around 11 o’clock I go to the gym or go for a walk and that’s when I listen to podcasts. In the afternoon is when I have all my meetings and stuff like that. I’ve found that it’s really important to regiment email because it’s so disruptive. If you’re checking email every 10 seconds or checking Twitter every 10 seconds you’ll never get your job done.
Markeot: What is your focus for the rest of 2012 and what can we expect from Social Media Examiner in 2013?
Stelzner: Our Social Media Marketing podcast is the big initiative for 2012. We just launched it a few weeks ago and it’s been a lot of fun. I am interviewing the top social media minds to get their take on whatever is going on with social media. I am getting back into the content creation side of things with the podcasting. In 2013 the big thing is Social Media Marketing World in San Diego. It will be a social media mega-event of the year with the worlds leading social media marketing experts and amazing networking opportunities for marketers.