Critical Commentary of Content Inc.

The summary for Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi was broken into two parts, you can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Today, I will provide my critical commentary.  Just as a high level summary, anyone new to social media should pick this book up.  Even those that know the social media tips provided (and there are a lot provided), the author gets you thinking in different ways to spark new ideas.

Review by: Ryan Raghunandan

Content Marketing DJ

Don’t forget to remix your content to match the best practices for each social platform.  Graphic made using design elements from Canva.

 

What’s the Purpose?

Joe Pulizzi, the author of Content Inc. has a clear purpose to the book, in that a business can succeed using his model of building an audience first, before actually selling a product or service.  This thought process runs counter to the normal “make a product – then market and try to sell that product to an audience that you think wants the product” business strategy.  Considering so many new businesses fail, maybe it is time that we tried things differently.

The entire book is centered around providing meaningful, relevant and aspirational content that helps build a sizeable audience.  Once that audience level is reached, you need to figure out how to monetize based on what the audience tells you that it wants.  You can achieve this by listening to them.  Initially this process stars as a business with nothing to sell.

There are six steps that are well written and clearly labelled, which makes it an easy book to follow along with.  As a refresher from the first blog post, the six steps are:

  • The Sweet Spot
  • Content Tilt
  • Building the Base
  • Harvesting Audience
  • Diversification
  • Monetization

Using the framework above, the author uses real-life examples of companies  (including his own company – Content Marketing Institute) and many tips (especially for social media) to clearly convey how the Content Inc. model can be successful.  For these reasons, I believe that the author’s purpose has been achieved.

Social Media Thanks You For Your Contribution, Joe.

I realized that the rise of social media, eager content producers, and relatively low costs due to fierce competition in the social media services industry made it possible to start a business and advertise fairly inexpensively.  This is one of the reasons I enrolled in the Social Media Marketing program.  If you are going to break free of the corporate 9-to-5 shackles, now would be as good a time as any, thanks to the above factors.

There are many tips including the best uses for content on each social platform from the big stars (like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram) to the underutilized platforms like Google + and SnapChat.

Content Marketing is a huge, overarching topic within the social media sphere, and this is why a highly respected post-secondary institutions such as George Brown College has a course in their certificate program dedicated to the topic.

Content is the piece of the puzzle that needs to drive awareness and engagement which are very important to businesses, especially in a noisy, traffic filled world.  Joe Pulizzi gives readers a content framework to use in order to build their content from a variety of sources, and then disseminate via social channels in an effort to build audiences.

The book goes step-by-step through the content management process from thinking/planning to content strategy.  It also talks about the content (co-)production, content dissemination (via social media), diversification and finally the monetization stages.  Where most books focus mainly on the social media tactics side of the equation, this book gets the entrepreneur thinking about the entire process and exhibits where in the process  social media would make the biggest impact.

Every channel needs to have specific content – which ideally should be repurposed along with the important call-to-action.  The author uses real-life examples of how others have leveraged social media to gain success and garner huge audiences in the process.  Many of the topics the author has mentioned we have learned in this course, and it is a great tool for those who are new to the industry to get their “feet wet”.

In fact, after going through the reviews on a few sites, the few objections to the book were from those who already had social media experience.  For the new entrants into the social media world, this book comes with very high ratings, despite the fact it is a few years older.

Continue reading “Critical Commentary of Content Inc.”

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Digital Farmers, Diversifying and Revenue: Content Inc. Summary Continued

Content Inc. Book Review Part 2

Welcome back.  Today, I am continuing the review of the book, Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi. In case you missed it, you can find part 1 here.

Review by: Ryan Raghunandan

Yesterday, you learned there were six steps in the Content Inc. process, and that the first three were:

  • The Sweet Spot
  • Content Tilt
  • Building the Base

Now, I am going to fill you in on the last three steps of the process, which are:

  • Harvesting Audience
  • Diversification
  • Monetization

Allow me to speak about each of these topics below.

Harvesting Audience

The name of the game here is to gather and gain as many subscribers as possible.  Once you have a large enough audience, you can go ahead and start selling products or services.

Back in the day, the backbone of a society was agriculture.  The crops would grow in the fields during the warmer seasons, and once ripe enough, the farmers would  gather them.  Imagine the online world as one big farm, where you have diligently been building your audience through one main social media platform (and hopefully a couple of other platforms as well).

You toiled away producing and providing meaningful content on the YouTube farm, SoundCloud pasture, wherever it may be. Now it’s time to go into the field and gather as much of that audience as possible.  I am going to call this digital farming.

Joe Pulizzi makes sure to let the readers know that social media is very important at this stage in the content process.  The main objectives at this point are awareness, driving traffic and then converting based on your goals.

For the author, his main goal was obtaining e-mail subscribers.  To gain those subscribers he produced meaningful content.

It is here that the author states that having control over your audience is extremely important when using social media.  As soon as you can, you need to try to convert your audience onto an e-mail list, back to your website, or show up at an event you advertised.

Any social platform you use can change their policies or algorithms at any time, and leave you in the cold.  Just like Facebook did near the beginning of the year.  The same strategy you worked on for years that helped you obtain thousands of subscribers could POOF….be gone the next day.

This phase of the book gives tips on:

  • How to build your subscription base
  • How to effectively create, nurture and utilize influencers to grow your audience
  • Using Search Engine Optimization, various social media platforms and analytics tools to increase the likelihood your content will be found
  • Typical objectives for this phase and the possible key metrics

Diversification:

Have you ever heard of the saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket?”.  That’s the main takeaway here.  Whatever platform you choose to begin with, whether it be YouTube, Instagram, or a podcast, eventually you will need to branch out.

Pretend you had a famous book, like The Daywalker Chronicles by Nancy A. Lopes.  Well that could have all started with a blog, where the first few pages were released on WordPress.  Perhaps readers expressed interest, and wanted to know more about the characters, so the author made a few podcasts to answer questions about the characters.  After more positive feedback, it became a book.  The book was such a success that there was a YouTube episode made (like a mini movie), etc.  The key is to keep moving the audience along the path towards your objective, while minimizing the risk posed by having all your content on one social platform.  Each social platform can potentially introduce you to new audience members, which is good for your brand.

Continue reading “Digital Farmers, Diversifying and Revenue: Content Inc. Summary Continued”

If You Build an Audience, Will They Come? A Book Review of Content Inc.

Hello, loyal readers.  I know, I know.  You’re probably wondering how I could just drop an instant blog classic – commented on by no less than 13 people, and then….disappear.  I’m joking, of course.

The wait was worth it though.  Well, I hope it was anyways.

I have a treat for you today (I couldn’t show up empty-handed – consider this post as being the digital version of a box of chocolate).

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I will be reviewing the book Content Inc: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses by Joe Pulizzi.  That’s a really long title, so we’ll shorten it to Content Inc. for the remainder of the summary.  You can pick up in physical or digital form via the above link on Amazon.

Review by: Ryan Raghunandan

I will break the review out into three posts over the next several days.

  • Post 1 of the review:  Summarizes the thesis of the book and the first three steps in the Content Inc. process
  • Post 2: Summarizes the last three steps in the Content Inc. process
  • Post 3: Offers my critical commentary for the book

Summary – Part 1

Joe Pulizzi has flipped the script when it comes to starting a business.  The central idea of this book is to grow your audience first and then launch the product/service(s) you would like to sell to your customers second.  

In other words, Mr. Pulizzi wants you to create fantastic, engaging, relevant content on a consistent basis, gain a vast audience of followers and then, once you have a substantial following, find a way to sell them something. It could be anything, but it has to be relevant to the content you have already provided.  So don’t make a podcast about chocolate bars for two years and then try to peddle bikes (pun intended) on your website to that same audience.

You’re probably wondering if there’s a mistake somewhere.  Nope.  Not a chance.  I will repeat the above again.

Create engaging, relevant content, build a large audience and then figure out a way to monetize and increase revenue.  This is the Content Inc. Model.   

That’s a bit of an oversimplification, because the book does say it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and patience to achieve success.

There are six steps to the Content Inc. Model, and they are:

  • The Sweet Spot
  • Content Tilt
  • Building the Base
  • Harvesting Audience
  • Diversification
  • Monetization

I will quickly summarize the first three steps.

The Sweet Spot

No it’s not the part of your kitchen where you keep Kit Kat bars (the classic four finger format, of course) and honey.  The sweet spot is a place where your expertise or skill in a certain subject collides with an area of high interest/value or as the author terms it, “passion”.

You math aficionados may notice that the image below looks an awful lot like a Venn Diagram and guess what?  It is!!

You get one digital high-five.

The middle portion, where the two circles overlap, represents the sweet spot.

ProductionSoccer
Imagine the days when podcasts were new to the world.  A Recording Engineer who loved soccer could have easily meshed the two and produced the first soccer podcast, reviewing games from the World Cup or leagues in Europe.

Continue reading “If You Build an Audience, Will They Come? A Book Review of Content Inc.”

The Smartphone: Quite Possibly Your Best Friend’s BFF

By: Ryan Raghunandan

Have you seen these smartphones before? Odds are, yes you have.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Cook

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They are starting to pop up everywhere.  They are taking over big cities and small towns.  Aliens? Nope.  Locusts? No.  Justin Bieber fans?  Good guess, but no. Give up?  It’s your friendly neighbourhood smartphone.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past several years, you know that smartphones are becoming increasingly prevalent in Canada.  According to a January 2012 Ipsos Reid Mobilology study, 34% of Canadians now own a Smartphone; with BlackBerry and Apple handsets remaining the most popular brands (Barbour / Ipsos Reid, 2012)[i].

I decided to undertake a quick study to find out how and where my family and friends were using their smartphones.  I will be quoting statistics from my study throughout the rest of this blog, unless otherwise indicated.

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The Methodology:

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My survey was posted online on Google Docs from Saturday, July 14 – Tuesday, July 17, 2012.  E-mail invitations were sent to friends and family members.  Friends and family members were also asked to send the survey out to their friends, so it is possible that there were some referral survey respondents.

As a result of using a convenience sample* of family and friends as survey respondents, the results of my survey cannot be generalized to the entire population.

*A sample consists of the people who actually filled out the survey

Demographics:

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N = 41 (the survey was filled out by 41 people)

Gender breakdown of respondents: 51% Female, 49% Male

Age breakdown of respondents:

16-24 years old: 2%

25-34 years old: 90%

35+ years old: 7%

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Summary of Results:

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From my study, here are the top uses based on the data I collected:

 

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 Consumer Smartphone Uses:

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Texting topped the list in terms of activity amongst smartphone users in my study.  A remarkable 98% of respondents use their smartphones for texting.  That number was followed closely by talking (93% of respondents), e-mailing (88%) and taking pictures (80%).

Following behind in the next group, were smartphone activities such as browsing websites (73% of respondents indicated this use), instant messaging (63%), Facebook (63%), navigation and maps (63%), and general use of apps (61%).

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Where Consumers Use Smartphones:

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The top settings for smartphone use were at home (100% of respondents), work (95%) and the mall (85%).  This was followed by use while taking public transit (71%), at a restaurant (66%), as a passenger in a private vehicle (61%) and at a bar /club /lounge (54%).

Important Note: For the non-researchers out there, recall that 90% of the survey respondents were between the ages of 25-34.  As a result of this fact, there were a very low percentage of people who reported using their smartphone device at school. Be cautioned that most of the people who took this survey were probably finished school.  I would hypothesize (taking an educated guess) that at least 80% of smartphone users would use their phones at school, if they were attending school on a daily basis.  This is a prime example of how one cannot take the findings from a convenience sample of 41 friends and family members and generalize to the entire population.

Before getting to the analysis I figured it would be easier if I combined the data that was gathered above with the results from an informal focus group (a group discussion that is guided by a moderator) of six friends.  One of the main objectives was to find out why smartphone owners use instant messaging, Facebook and texting so prevalently.

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Focus Group (Qualitative Study): Key Findings

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  • Respondents believed that texting, talking, e-mailing, taking pictures and going on Facebook were among the top uses of smartphones because they enabled people to be efficient, stay in touch, communicate and socialize.
  • Texting was regarded as being extremely efficient because it allowed consumers to carry out multiple conversations, as opposed to just one conversation while placing a voice call.
  • Facebook was used mostly to socialize, update and inform others of what was currently going on in the respondents’ respective lives.
  • Respondents stated that they texted, used the internet and made purchases on their smartphones at the mall.  Texting was used to continue socializing; while the internet was used to check sales and comparison shop.
  • In one case, a respondent used their iPhone to pay for goods at Starbucks. She stated that strangers were approaching her and asking what she “just did with her phone at the counter”.
  • Hypothetical situation: If a smartphone was a person, what words would respondents use to describe it?  Smart, efficient, entertaining, moody, dependable and as one respondent said “a friend that’s always there for you.”.
  • The focus group generally agreed that owning a smartphone had made their lives more efficient while increasing convenience.
  • Whether it allowed them to clear out their e-mail inbox on the way home (and thus freeing up more leisure time), or facilitating the co-ordination and planning of events, the smartphone was “making things go (happen) faster.”.

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Overall Analysis and Commentary on Smartphone Use

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Smartphones provide consumers with the ability to communicate with friends, family or business associates.  Based on the responses in my study, consumers  want to communicate and stay connected to each other on a daily basis.  In the words of one focus group respondent, a smartphone is like a “friend that is always there for you.”.  It is this level of emotional attachment that phone manufacturers and telecommunication companies aspire to achieve with the mass market.

The top three smartphone uses are texting (100%), talking (93%), e-mailing (88%).  These are all viewed as forms of basic communication, especially for those 35 and under.  Numerous texts sent in a short period of time can quickly transform simple texting into a conversation-like scenario.  Do you text a significant other or friend 30 times a day to find out how they are doing?  As one focus group respondent articulated, “texting throughout the day makes me feel like I’m right with the person I’m texting, all day.”

Phone manufacturers have already noticed the above and have taken texting one step further.  Features such as Blackberry’s BBM instant messaging service allow consumers to essentially text message in real-time.  Think of it as MSN for the smartphone.

Taking pictures (80% of survey respondents), browsing websites (73%), instant messaging (63%), Facebook (63%) and navigation uses (63%) were next on the list of top smartphone uses.  These uses seem to go hand in hand with consumers desiring to stay connected.  Consumers like to share their pictures and, by nature, humans like to feel loved and/or a part of group or activity.

Suppose you woke up a little foggy after a night of partying.  Have no fear, because Facebook is here.  There could easily be hundreds of pictures posted from the party the previous night on Facebook by noon the next day.  Socially, Facebook lets consumers collaborate, plan and share all the activities they have been involved with.  Instant messaging can help facilitate the creation of these plans, in real time, so there is no time delay.  Consumers can pull out their phones as they are en route to a destination and message their friends that they are minutes away or even that they are “walking towards the Sears entrance” at the mall.

Browsing websites on a smartphone is a prime example of staying connected to the world around us.  Whether it’s looking up the latest news headlines, sports scores, celebrity gossip or the latest sales at a particular store, consumers are trying to stay current and up-to-date during their daily routine.

From a marketer’s perspective, what does the above mean when it comes to advertising?

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The Future of Smartphone Advertisements?

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You may not have noticed, but it has been a long time since dropped calls or signal quality were the main selling points in mobile phone advertisements.  The technology has come so far, almost everyone takes call quality as a given.  When you think of it, the main feature of a phone is to talk, however smartphones have changed that way of thinking.

Presently, I have noticed that the focus on smartphone advertisements centers on people connecting, sharing and interacting with one another.  Advertisements depict people multi-tasking, capturing special moments, sharing with friends and family, and increasing the convenience in their lives.

Take a look at a current  commercial for the Samsung Galaxy S III here.  Have you finished watching that 30 second commercial?  Good.  Let’s see, there were wedding photos being taken, a wedding proposal video at an airport, and a father reading a short story (on his smartphone) to help put his child to sleep.  That smartphone is everywhere.  Those wedding photos are definitely going to be shared with friends and family.  The Galaxy S III is even doing the communicating (proposing) on behalf of the boyfriend in the 2nd scene.  Reading a bedtime story on the smartphone is now more convenient with the Galaxy S III since no physical book is needed, it is all on the phone.  Of course, this is just one commercial but if you start paying closer attention to smartphone commercials, perhaps you will see a trend too.

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Smartphone Social Etiquette: Dinner and Movie

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The survey revealed that 66% of respondents are using their phones while they are at a restaurant, and 27% of people are ignoring the “silence is golden” rule at the movies by using their smartphone.  What was the focus group’s reaction towards these findings?  It turns out that use of smartphones at the lunch or dinner table was not a huge deal.  In fact, respondents stated that it’s “common” and it’s “natural to want to be on the phone”.  Respondent also said they would text or look at the time on their phones, rather than carry out a voice conversation on their phone at the table.

However, the focus group was split when it came to smartphone use in the movies, with the biggest grievances being the glare from the illuminated screen and the noise from people talking.

What about one-on-one conversations?  Twice now, I have witnessed two different sets of co-workers taking their break together, sitting at the same table, yet they are not saying a word or looking at each other.  What are they doing?  Take a guess.  Correct, they are texting away on their smartphone.  It gets trickier when you’re in a group of four people engaged in a good, old-fashioned conversation, and one person gets up to use the bathroom.  What do you do when the other two people remaining besides yourself use the bathroom break as a cue to check their text messages or e-mails?

Public transit is another setting where social etiquette dilemmas may arise.  Have you been on the train or bus and someone sitting a few rows down is speaking so loudly that you know they will be spending their evening watching the Oprah Network and eating a tub of ice cream? It can be annoying.

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Final Thoughts from the Readers:

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  • So is there a new social etiquette? What do you think of the above situations?
  • In addition, what do you think about my survey results? Are there any surprises?
  • Has owning a smartphone affected your life?
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FOOTNOTES

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[i]Barbour, Mary Beth and Ipsos Reid (2012, April 19). Latest Wave of Ipsos Study Reveals Mobile Device Brands Canadian Consumers are Considering in 2012. Retrieved July 22, 2012, from Ipsos Reid: http://www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/pressrelease.aspx?id=5596