Old social media strategy is new again

With Facebook’s recent algorithm update that favors news from friends over organic updates from brand pages, the unpaid reach of brands has been hit yet again. We are in a place where social networking has returned to being a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family. As marketers, the easy button days are over.

Social strategy now looks like one of two basic models. First, there’s the broadcast model: pay money to spread your updates. This is an advertising and broadcast model, and it looks very familiar to anyone whose media background is television or radio. You pay your money, you get your distribution. It’s easy, it’s clean, and it’s well understood. It also works no matter what quality of content you have, at least in terms of getting eyeballs. For brands with average or good but not great content and financial means, this is going to be the default choice.

Second, the friends and family model. If you are a brand that has a strong base of fanatically loyal customers, those individuals can still share things at scale that will be seen by their friends and by their friends in a ripple effect. This is no different than any other word-of-mouth strategy that you’ve used in off-line word-of-mouth or influencer strategy. The goal in the friends and family model is the activation of as many friends as possible on behalf of your brand. Particularly for small businesses with loyal followings, this will be the default choice.


The model that is truly dead, and has been for quite some time, is the build it and they will come. Those days are over.

Whether we like it or not, this is the state of social media today. We can broadcast and pay for reach, which is good if we don’t have insanely great product, service, or loyalty. Or we can cultivate and nurture our most rabid fans. Either strategy will work; it’s just a question of which is the better fit for your brand and the resources you have. 

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Marketing optimization is never done

One of the most peculiar things a marketer can say is to refer to optimization as a discrete event.

“We got that search engine optimization project done last year.”

“We optimized and cleaned our email list at the end of last quarter.”

“I’m looking to hire a consultant for a two month social marketing optimization process.”

These are all phrases I’ve heard this year. It’s astonishing that marketers believe any form of optimization is a one-and-done task. Optimization is never done. Your website should never stop getting better. True, once you’ve reached compliance on certain standards, there’s less work to do, but as long as you’re creating new content, your work is never done. The same is true for email, social media, direct marketing, call center scripts, etc.

If you believe that you’re done with optimization, your competitors are going to eat your lunch. Why? If you just do optimization tasks infrequently, chances are an algorithm out there somewhere will catch you by surprise. A competitor who is continually optimizing and learning will take advantage of the change, while you remain unaware of it for weeks or months. Only when you see the drop in your metrics in your reporting will you realize something’s gone wrong.

On the other hand, if you’re continually optimizing, if you’re continually learning and refining, then you may be the competitor everyone else fears. While many advantages are temporary, you swing from advantage to advantage like a digital marketing Tarzan, and your competitors never catch up.

How do you develop a culture of continuous optimization? Take a cue from your computer. In the background of all modern computers are silent optimization tasks that run daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Make a simple spreadsheet of all your marketing methods, and then categorize tasks by when you need to run them.

For example, one of my tasks weekly is cleaning and updating my Almost Timely newsletter list. I run this every Sunday night.


One of my monthly tasks is verifying that the number of pages on my blog matches the number of pages indexed in Webmaster Tools. Another monthly task is removing or fixing link errors that Webmaster Tools finds.

Make yourself a series of recurring tasks for optimizing your marketing, and then set calendar appointments to do them. Your marketing will never be out of date!

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How do you know which content to reshare?

Which web pages are your most popular?

Which tweets are your most popular?

How do you know which content to reshare?

These are not infrequent questions asked by content marketers. How do you decide what’s popular? One of the simplest methods is to use quartiles. If you’re unfamiliar with quartiles, they are a basic statistical analysis method in which a normally distributed data set is split into 4 even pieces. For the purpose of this post, we’ll want to focus on the upper quartile, the top 25% of anything you do.

To make this more concrete, let’s walk through an example. Go to Google Analytics. Go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.


Set the list using the dropdown box in the bottom right to 50 pages, then export into the spreadsheet software of your choice. Eliminate all of the extraneous columns until you’re just left with pages and views:


In a column next to the views, write this formula: =Quartile(B2:B51,3) (assuming you have 50 lines of data from B2 to B51, otherwise adjust):


It’ll come up with a number that represents the third quartile boundary, or where the upper 25% of your data is. These are the most popular posts. The third quartile represents the upper 25% of traffic you’ve obtained. If I make a chart with this data, it looks like this:


What do you do with this information? If you’re re-posting content on social media, use this as the boundary line for what to retire and what to leave out. It’s a great place to start. Bear in mind you can use this method for any marketing analytics data set you have.

Consider paying to promote some of the posts in the top quartile. They’ve already proven themselves, proven their worth – what if you took it up a notch with a few dollars?

If you do any bylines or content syndication, consider these your A-Team. These would be the posts you might want to excerpt only, or write alternate versions for other platforms (at the very least attributing your content back to you).

By using a simple statistical method (and yes, it has its flaws, but that’s for another time), you’ve now got a starting point for identifying popular stuff. There’s nothing overly magical about quartiles themselves; you could use any quantile you wanted (10% brackets, 33% brackets, etc.) but quartiles are baked into most spreadsheet software, and they’re easy to explain to non-math inclined people.

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