November 2015

Content Marketing vs Social Media

- by Alyson Shane

One of the things I find myself discussing again and again - with clients, friends, colleagues, and people who are genuinely confused about what I do, is the difference between "content marketing" and "social media."

Usually when I tell people I do content marketing and social media they respond with something like "oh, you just publish stuff on Twitter, right?" which is really only a small sliver of the equation.

While content marketing heavily involved social media, there's much more to creating content than just pushing it out across a variety of social channels. Even though there's a lot of overlap they are, in fact, two very distinct things, each with different goals, strategies, and processes.

So, once and for all, let's clear the air!


The Sun and the Solar System

Social media marketing is the focus of your marketing activity which is located on social networks.

When marketers share content on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, they're operating within the specific confines of those networks. Sure, they're sharing their own content in a lot of cases, but it's on someone else's network, and none of those networks connect to each other all that often (eg: you don't share Tweets on Facebook, and vice-versa.)

Conversely, the centre of every content marketing strategy is the organization's website.

A business' website is designed to be the central place for all of their branded content. Once the content has been published on the central website, it gets shared across the various social networks where the company has a presence. So, "social media" is the act of using specific social networks, and "content marketing" is creating content on your own website to be published and distributed.

The way that I like to describe this process is the "Sun and Solar System." In this example, your brand website is the 'Sun' - the focal point in all of your marketing efforts, and the brightest and most important star in the sky. The other social networks that you use to distribute the content are 'planets' which orbit around the central hub. Like planets in real-life, the 'planets' in this example operate independently of each other, all have unique features, and have one thing in common: they exist because of the 'Sun'.

Types of Content

Social media marketing is designed to fit within the confines of that social network. For example, a Tweet on Twitter needs to be 140 characters or less, Pinterest pins need to have eye-catching photos, etc.

Content marketing, on the other hand, can come in a variety of styles, flavours, and lengths because websites allow for much more creative and extended types of content. On a website brands can publish blog posts, videos, infographics, white papers and eBooks... the sky's the limit, really.

This flexibility in content means that brands can exercise a higher level of creativity in the content they create on their website, because they don't have to worry about falling within a 140 character limit.

Goals

While content marketing and social media marketing are used in tandem to reach specific goals, they actually are designed to achieve two different things:

Content marketing is focused completely on the 'Sun', which allows it to focus more on demand generation and content publishing than on getting the word out about it.

As a brand publishes content on their website, the 'Sun' in the middle of their solar system, they can use social media to direct traffic back to it, developing a relationship with their audience.

Social media is used to promote brand awareness. When a visitor lands on a brand's website, the brand has full control over what kind of experience that visitor is going to have, and they already have the advantage because the potential customer has already indicated interest by going there in the first place.

Because social networks can't be controlled by brands and businesses, the purpose of those networks then becomes to use them as a means to generate discussion and interact with their audience. Additionally, because social networks are mostly democratic (I say 'mostly' because of the recent introduction of YouTube Red) and all user account are created equally, social networks become a place for brands to have informal interactions with their audience.

Social networks also notify you when someone is talking about you, which makes tracking customer mentions, feedback, and criticism a lot easier to track than ever before.

Why Content Marketing?

Content marketing and social media go hand-in-hand, but many people I talk to focus only on the social media side of things because seeing a brand's presence across multiple social networks gives the impression that it's more important.

This is not true, and I'd actually argue that content marketing actually the more important of the two.

That's because in order for your social media feeds to have a way to genuinely connect with your audience, there has to be a central 'hub' (or Sun) at the centre of things to drive brand awareness and help craft a story. You can't tell your audience about who you are if you don't create the kind of content that helps them understand and care, and social networks just aren't as efficient at doing it because you have to play by the rules of each specific network.

This is why content marketing and social media marketing, though two different things with different purposes, are actually intricately linked.

Did this explanation make sense? What do you think about the difference between content marketing and social media? Tell me in the comments!


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In My Community: Butcher

- by Alyson Shane

The most important stories are the ones which make us uncomfortable. The ones which force us to take a long, hard look at ourselves in the mirror and ask "what would I do? How would I react?" and then grapple with the response.

Butcher, a play by Canadian playwright Nicolas Billon, which is currently showing at the Prairie Theatre Exchange, is an example of modern storytelling which forces that kind of brutal, disturbing introspection.

Full disclosure: I was offered these tickets by the PTE in exchange for writing this article. I want to point that out because I want to be honest with you guys about when I get something for free, and also because I want to point out that what I'm about to say was in no way influenced by their offer. I was blown away by this play, and can't say enough good things about it.


A brief overview

Butcher is a play which starts with an old man who shows up at a police station wearing a military uniform, a Santa hat, and a meat hook draped around his neck. He doesn't speak English, but he's got a lawyer's business card stuck onto the meat hook with the words ARREST ME written on it.

Then, a series of scenes begin to unfold inside a single room between a detective, a translator, the lawyer, and the old man, which explore ideas around justice, vengeance, genocide, and forgiveness.

The play is full of twists and turns, and many times I found myself gripping my seat in anticipation. I don't think a play has ever moved me, or made my heart pound as hard in fear, as Butcher.

What makes it good?

I know I just said I wasn't going to spoil anything, but this one is necessary to actually review the play: the old man turns out to be "the Butcher, " a war criminal who ran a concentration camp during a civil war in the fictional country of Lavinia. The Butcher is wanted by two groups: Interpol, and a group of rebel survivors called The Fjurioji, or the Furies.

Butcher is comprised of a series of conversations about the brutalities of war, the kinds of inhumane things that humans can do to one another, and the cycle of violence that is continually perpetuated by hatred and revenge. It explores these ideas so deeply, and in such a visceral and compelling way that I found myself moved to tears or squirming in my seat on several occasions.


One example is when the old man is forced to confess his worst war crime. Most of what his character says is translated through the other characters, but in this case, as he describes his horrific, brutal actions, the audience can only rely on the reactions of other characters to interpret the severity and brutality of his actions.

This scene, where the audience was left to imagine the atrocities committed by a war criminal, was just one of many where I found myself cringing and feeling uncomfortable. It also served to illustrate how far-removed most Canadians are from the atrocities of war: even when someone is spelling them out for us, we still can't manage to comprehend what those experiences are like. It's like they're speaking another language.

Moving & thought-provoking

Lately it's hard not to feel like the whole world has become engulfed by fear and anger. From the recent Paris attacks, to the deplorable comments being shared across social media about Muslims and the Syrian refugees, it's terrifying to see how easily fear can enter our hearts, and stay there.

Butcher shows us how easily we can become consumed by our lust for revenge, and how even the most innocent among us can become twisted, mutated versions of ourselves when subjected to enough horrors and traumatic experiences. That when we treat others with hatred and fear, those people become permanently damaged or broken by it, and can only turn to more violence and hatred to try and fill the hole that our actions carved in them.

This idea, that the cycle of violence is a self-perpetuating process than can only be halted with deliberate kindness and forgiveness, was a powerful message which, I think, couldn't be more relevant to current global issues. Fear and division are powerful manipulative tools, and we have a responsibility to try and act better than the people who have mistreated us, or acted with hatred in their hearts.

With that in mind, I highly recommend that everyone check out Butcher while they can (it's running at the PTE until December 6, 2015). You won't be disappointed.

**I'd like to thank the Prairie Theatre Exchange once more for providing me with tickets to see this outstanding play. I was moved and humbled by Butcher, and can't recommend it enough.


How to Plan & Run a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign (part three)

- by Alyson Shane

Welcome back to the third instalment of the Crowdfunding Crash Course series!

This series of summary posts is designed to go over the lessons learned through more than a dozen interviews with crowdfunders during the course of this project, all with a little bit of insight from myself (of course.)

This instalment will focus on a few things to do after your campaign ends, so let's begin!


Thank Your Backers - No Matter What the Outcome

If your campaign succeeded, congratulations! You kicked some ass, took names, and raised your funding goal. At this point it's crucial to reach out to all of your backers at every level and thank them for contributing to your project and supporting you in your endeavours.

However, if your project was unsuccessful reach out anyway. Be honest with your backers. If you used Indiegogo or a service which allows you to keep the funds you raised, let them know how you plan to spend the money. If you used a service like Kickstarter and you know they'll be getting a refund, reach out and thank them sincerely. If you can, let them know what your next steps are and how they can continue to follow and support your project beyond the campaign.

Remove a Failed Kickstarter Campaign Before It Ends

If you're using Kickstarter and you know a few days before your campaign end date that you're not going to meet your funding goals, shutter your campaign and regroup before it ends. Otherwise you'll be left with a dead, unfinished campaign that will sit on Kickstarter indefinitely.

This was one of the things that Meghan Athavale mentioned in her interview. She said that initially she tried to raise funds using Kickstarter, but didn't plan enough and unfortunately the first time around her team didn't meet their funding goals.

However, what she didn't realize was that she couldn't remove her failed campaign after it ended, which means that when she re-launched an Indiegogo campaign, even though she was significantly more prepared and met her funding goals this time, she still had an old, failed ghost of a campaign out in the ether of the internet. If you think that this is something that could cause issues for you in the future, cut your losses and end your campaign while you still have the chance.

Map It Out!

The overarching theme of this project seems to be plan as much as humanly possible (have you noticed?)

Do-to lists, checklists, all those tools come in handy when planning a campaign of any sort, but the old classic tool is still one of the best: a calendar with all of your important dates, milestones, and reminders plugged into it.

If you're a bit old school like me you might like to physically write things down when you plan, but if you'd like to keep things digital (way easier when working with a team) Indiegogo has a fabulous calendar tool which you can use to plan your campaign well in advance and make sure you don't miss any important dates or milestones.

It's also pretty helpful if you're new to this whole experience and are unsure of when you should be planning each step. Personally I think the timelines are a bit aggressive -I'd give myself a few months to adequately plan, instead of just a few weeks- but that's entirely up to you and how prepared you are!

Learn the Tools of the Trade

This factors into what we talked about in the 2nd recap post, where we discussed the importance of having a game plan to promote your campaign and manage it before you start. Doing your research into the best platforms and tools to help you craft, create, and distribute your message to the masses can make or break your campaign.

Below are a few great resources to get you started:

Video Creation & Editing: iMovie or Stupeflix

Blogging: Tumblr or Wordpress

Video Hosting: Vimeo or YouTube

Landing Pages: Unbounce

Social Media Management: Hootsuite, Buffer, Crowdbooster, SocialFlow, Sprout Social

Link Shortening: Bit.ly, Snip.ly

Want even more?

I'm thrilled to announce that I'm in the process of putting together The Crowdfunding Crash Course eBook!

As I was putting together this post I found myself having to go back through posts and interviews I'd written, and sift through them to find the information I wanted. It was clunky, confusing at times, and not at all the kind of succinct, awesome experience that I want to provide for all of you.

So, with a very limited knowledge of iBooks Author, I set out on a quest to put together the most complete version of the Crowdfunding Crash Course project to date, all compiled in a handy little book for you to reference and use whenever you need!

The eBook is full of tips, tricks, breakdowns and, of course, the interviews from the Crowdfunding Crash Course Project. In addition to the information already available in post format, I'll be providing a more detailed breakdown and analysis of each campaign, as well as additional insights and advice to prepare for, and manage your campaign after it's ended.

The Crowdfunding Crash Course eBook will be available for free to all of my newsletter subscribers, make sure you sign up to get your hot little hands on one of the first copies!

I'm so excited to be sharing this news with you, and can't wait to get The Crowdfunding Crash Course eBook out there into the big, wide world!

xox

Alyson


Vingt-huit

- by Alyson Shane

The Good

Life is good.

I feel so thankful for my friends, the plethora of people who make me smile and touch my life in so many ways. Being able to watch the people I care about grow and create their futures is amazing to watch, and something that I feel fortunate to be able to share with them.

And for John, my partner through everything, who reminds me every day what it is to devote yourself to the things you love, and to always strive to do good, and to act with kindness and sincerity. I love him more than I can describe, and am so thankful for the time we have together.

The life I have now, where I get to wake up to my best friend every morning, spend my days doing work that I love, and experience the (slightly terrifying) adventure that is running a business, is one I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

The Bad

Earlier this year, as part of my efforts to heal and grow, I asked my parents for some space while I started going to therapy. Their reaction was painful to accept: my mom simply didn't respond or acknowledge the email I wrote to her explaining how I felt, and my dad told me to "have a nice life." When confronted with a reality that they didn't like, they decided to gloss over it by simply not dealing with it and hoping it would go away.

I can't describe to you how awful it feels to have your parents disregard your feeling and experiences this way. It's devastating, and it hurts every time I think about it.

However, it was an eye-opening experience for me. I'd grown up believing that behaviour like this was commonplace and acceptable, but talking to a professional helped me understand that this isn't. It's not normal for parents to cut their children out, or punish them with a wall of silence when confronted with something that upsets them, or makes them uncomfortable.

I started realizing that a lot of the behaviours I was working to get rid of: anxiety attacks, crippling fear of failure, feeling like I'm never good enough, were largely the result of my relationship with my parents, and that their decision to cut me out entirely was a blessing in disguise. In the last ten months I've come to have a much deeper understanding of who I am, and what my values are, and what I want from my life than I've ever had before.

Sure, part of that is likely just a result of growing up and the normal maturing process, but not having to defend my actions constantly, or try to find love and approval that didn't come with strings and expectations attached, has made such a tremendous difference in my life.

I haven't talked about this too much because I don't want to air too much of my family's dirty laundry. However, I do feel obligated to touch on it and share it with you, because it's been an important part of my growing process, and because nobody, not even a family member, has the right to treat you badly.

The Incredible

Without a doubt, running my business full-time has been the biggest and most important change in the past year. Honestly, I'm still not used to it. There are days when I find myself walking around in the middle of the day, maybe on the way to a meeting, or doing some errands while the stores are empty, and think "I can do whatever I want today." That's pretty fucking empowering.

I like being one of those people who get excited to talk about work, and it's been an interesting transition to stop thinking of work as something taboo, or something I'd rather not think about or discuss outside of "regular working hours" to something that I love enough to talk about pretty much constantly.

Of course, it's not all roses and fat stacks; running your own business is scary. There's no guaranteed monthly salary, no pension plan, and no benefits. Everything I do, I have to do for myself. But having to depend on myself (and some advice from much-appreciated mentors and colleagues) has given me confidence and helped me discover so much about myself, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.

The Future

For the first time in my adult life I feel excited about what's to come.

This is new for me. For most of my life I felt directionless; unsure of what I wanted, where I'd go, what I would do with myself. I took jobs I didn't like, hung around with people I didn't much care for (and who didn't really care about me in return), and made decisions based on fear.

I was a scared, insecure, and anxious person.

These days I feel different. Sure, I still get anxious, or stressed, or have moments of doubt, but I've been learning to handle them a lot better, and those paralyzing moments are becoming fewer and farther between.

I truly feel like this was the year where I came into my own, and I'm so excited to see where I'm going to go.

As always, thank you for sharing this journey with me.

xox

yr girl Shaner