Summer Re-Runs: Content Marketing Strategy and Analytics

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Once a year, I head to the backwoods of Maine for a week off-grid. No phone, no Internet, nothing except my family, a cabin, and a lake. It’s a wonderful, glorious experience that helps me to recharge, refocus, and recover from the stresses of modern life.

However, as a marketer, a week with no activity doesn’t help my marketing. All other things being equal, activity yields results in digital marketing; no activity means no results. So, my plan for a week off hearkened back to classic television: summer re-runs. While I was away, software would do the sharing for me of previous content.

Methodology

The next question I had to tackle: which content should I re-share?

Instead of just picking content at random, I chose a data-driven approach. I scanned all my blog posts from 2016 for the most shared posts of the year, then re-queued those in Buffer for the week. After all, if I’m going to have a week of re-runs, best to re-share the things people liked most the first time around.

Using the social sharing scanner I built for SHIFT Communications, I identified these 25 posts based on their popularity the first time around:

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If you’re not one of my clients, feel free to just use the native analytics built into Facebook, Twitter, etc. instead. Or, become a client of mine at SHIFT and you can have access to the fancy tools 🙂

Results

How did the experiment do? Did my re-runs do better than taking a week off entirely?

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  • I began with a total of 2,278 shares across 8 social networks.
  • Over the week, that total rose to 2,637.
  • Overall, I netted 359 additional shares.

What was most interesting was where I picked up new shares.

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While most articles picked up a handful of new shares, a few broke through the pack and carried the weight for most of the re-sharing, such as:

  • Keeping your marketing skills sharp, 37 new shares
  • The future of social media measurement, 56 new shares
  • How we’ve failed marketing automation, 68 new shares

These top three newly re-shared posts have little in common; this time around, audiences approved of these posts instead.

Other Insights

What else did I learn from this experiment?

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Sharing isn’t traffic per se, but it sure helps. I saw a week over week increase of 62% in traffic driven from social networks.

Conversely, because I was posting no net new content, I didn’t please our search overlords. Week over week, I saw a decrease of 3.27% in organic search traffic. I also saw declines in other areas such as referral traffic because I was away, not conducting normal marketing activities.

Conclusion

Should you use the same recipe to populate your social channels when you’re on vacation or otherwise unavailable? I can’t give you an absolute answer, but my results indicate that re-runs are better than nothing. Give them a try using the data-driven methodology of your choice and measure your results. You might be surprised at what gains new life in your content.


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How much do marketing tools matter?

How much do marketing tools matter? I’m asked this question in one form or another nearly every week, by coworkers, clients, friends, and colleagues. The question is often coached in terms of specific products. Is Marketo better than Pardot? Is Hubspot better than Infusionsoft? Is Buffer better than Hootsuite? Is Sysomos better than Meltwater?

The answer to the question is relatively straightforward. Marketing tools are like spatulas.

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Have you ever tried to cook a dish like steak or pancakes without a spatula? It’s awful. You either end up improvising with an assortment of tools that were not meant to do the job, or you ruin the food. Try flipping a pancake with chopsticks if you don’t know what I mean. You can do it, but your rate of success is significantly lower without a spatula.

Any spatula, even a mediocre one, is better than no spatula. When someone asks about marketing automation, the answer is that any marketing automation system is better than none at all.

The spatula analogy extends further. Amazon lists 8,127 spatulas for sale, from the Global GS-25 spatula for $70 to the Rite Lite Menorah Shaped Hanukkah Latke Spatula for $1.35. Is the GS-25 51x better a spatula than the Rite-Lite? Can you cook 51x more food or make food that tastes 51x better with it? Probably not. The difference between the two is largely aesthetic. They fulfill the same function.

Once you have a spatula of any functional use, what matters more is the skill with which you use it. If your pancake batter recipe is made of solely flour and water (yuck), then no spatula is going to make those pancakes taste better. You have to fix the recipe first.

Likewise, the gap, the difference between a Marketo and a Pardot or a Buffer and a Hootsuite is significantly smaller than the difference between a Marketo and nothing, or a Buffer and nothing. Once you have a marketing tool, your ability to be productive, profitable, or powerful with it is far more dependent on your skills and ingredients than the tool.

Buy the spatula, to be sure. But don’t get so caught up in spatula upgrades that you fail to actually cook something good.


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How to keep your marketing skills sharp

We live in complex times as marketers. Every day brings new advances, new technologies, new ideas for us to incorporate in our work. How do we keep our skills sharp? How do we avoid becoming overwhelmed? We can look to one of the most complex martial arts systems for some answers.

Boston Martial Arts class

I’ve been practicing ninjutsu for over 20 years now; the system I practice is composed of 9 separate lineages. Each lineage has its own distinct techniques and methods. By some counts there are over 700 different techniques to learn.

The way my teachers keep the material organized and teachable is through three principles: refinement, patterns, and frameworks.

Refinement

Refinement of the basics is the first strategy martial artists learn. We practice the basics endlessly: throwing thousands of punches and kicks, cutting the air with wooden swords, hitting the heavy bag until our hands are sore. With enough practice, we can execute the basics competently even under duress. While I may not be in the dojo every day any more, I practice my basics daily.

Consider as marketers the basics we have at our disposal. Fundamentally, we are…

  • Writers.
  • Problem solvers.
  • Mathematicians.
  • Coders.
  • Photographers.
  • Artists.

If we practice our basics as frequently as possible – even outside of work – we learn to use them in nearly any situation. One of the reasons I blog every day is to practice my writing and composition basics. What are your basics? How often do you practice them for practice’s sake?

Patterns

Once we’ve become minimally competent in the basics, we start stitching them together. We learn combinations of basics, such as a lead jab, rear cross, and kick. We develop agility with our basics. As we assemble them in different ways, we begin to find that certain sequences solve different problems. We learn these patterns, these sequences, either from our own experiences or from our teachers, who learned them from their teachers, and so on stretching back to antiquity. The Japanese martial arts call these kata, or patterns. Kata are nothing more than previous winning solutions for a particular problem.

Consider as marketers the patterns we develop. We connect writing and coding together to create HTML, to build web pages and email newsletters. We connect illustration and statistics to create infographics. We connect video and audio to produce webinars. Begin to catalog the different patterns you execute on a regular basis and what problem each pattern solves.

Frameworks

Frameworks are how we group patterns together by function. Someone’s grabbing you with two hands? The various lineages have different but related techniques to deal with this situation. Someone’s got a knife / sword / spear? Again, different but related techniques address this problem.

Consider as marketers the problems we face. Facebook changed its algorithm again? What actual problem does this pose? It causes a decline in our ability to create awareness and capture attention. What kata, what patterns do we have at our disposal which solve this problem? We have techniques around advertising, public relations, and other social networks which solve for awareness and attention.

When we begin to classify our knowledge by what problems we can solve, the body of knowledge we have as marketers becomes much more manageable.

System

When we combine constant refinement of the basics, practice and development of our patterns, and organization of patterns into frameworks, our skills never dull. Every new piece of knowledge we gain fits into one of these three areas, either as a new basic, a pattern, or a framework. We evolve to create our own system of marketing.

As marketers, if we adopt the practices of the martial arts masters, we will never become overwhelmed. Instead, with time and practice, we’ll become marketing masters.

Special credit and thanks go to my teacher Mark Davis of the Boston Martial Arts Center, for his patience and instruction over the decades!


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