Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Why I Have No Idea What You're Saying

Have you ever chatted with a professional in a different line of work from yours and walked away wishing you'd brought a translator with you? You're pretty sure it was English -- at least, the little words sounded familiar. But 90 percent of it somehow managed to whoosh right over your head. Are you stupid? Do you have a hearing problem? Or have you simply been buzzed by wall-to-wall buzzwords?

We all fall into jargon from time to time. Car buffs talk about torque and fuel ratios, composers pepper their language with Italian musical phrases, electricians casually drop terms such as "resistance" and "capacitor," and physicists no doubt talk like time-traveling refugees from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's only natural for people in the same profession to talk shop. The problem comes when the engineer or the musician or the Chief Operating Officer suddenly has to speak to a general audience. We're listening, but we just don't understand. And after a few minutes of not understanding, we're no longer listening.

The problem isn't limited to industry-specific terminology, either. I'm often asked to rewrite or edit content written by people work in a more general business field, and I still have to spend half of my project time just trying to figure out what the heck these folks are trying to say. A lot of it tends toward the nebulous, stuff about "aligning verticals and utilizing granular compartmentalization to achieve a more impactful synergy," yadda yadda yadda. Business-speak is a way for people to talk a lot without saying much. But if you're trying to sell yourself or your product/service to a mainstream audience, don't be shocked if you're rewarded by the sound of crickets chirping. 

As a first step in clearing up your verbiage, try to avoid jargon-like words that ordinary language can handle perfectly well, such as "agreeance" (agreement) and "incentivize" (spur, motivate). And watch out for whiz-bang phrases that describe something that isn't really that amazing, such as "results-oriented." (You'd never guess how many business professionals think it a huge feather in their caps to describe themselves or their company as "result-oriented." As opposed to what, "sitting-around-doing-nothing-oriented?" You actually aim to deliver results? Does that mean your competition doesn't?) "Full-service" is another phrase that doesn't really communicate anything. (Ever hear a company describe itself as "partial service?") 

Finally, don't overuse the relatively simple, easy-to-understand buzzwords just because they aren't as likely to whoosh us -- for instance, not everything has to be a "driver" for something else. (I see that one a lot too.) Get a thesaurus and give another word or two a chance. There are plenty to choose from.

If you're not sure you can veer away from industry lingo, or you can't tell how accessible your stuff is to your intended audience, get a professional copywriter or copyeditor to go over it for you. You may get a revised version that makes you exclaim, "Oh, so that's what I was saying!"

Monday, December 4, 2017

Creating Content for Influencer Marketing

If you've been involved in your organization's marketing efforts for long, you know by now that "If you build it, they will come" works better for baseball movies than it does for self-promotion or brand awareness. Creating content for your own website or social media pages is a must, but it isn't the whole story. If you want your target market to latch onto that content as quickly and as massively as possible, you need to get the attention of the movers and shakers that these people follow, listen to and obey. You can do this by aiming your content directly at those movers and shakers through a strategy called influencer marketing.

What (or Who) Is a Key Influencer?

Key influencers have been with us since as long as there have been human beings to influence, from gurus and great thinkers of the past to modern-day celebrities such as Dr. Oz and Oprah. (Yeah, we've come a long way.) As social media has blossomed on the Internet in the past decade, a new medium of influence has come into being -- and this medium has turned into a powerful soapbox for both bona-fide celebrities and for countless other individuals who have built up a great deal of authority and sway among their followings. These folks are key influencers. If they recommend a course of action, plug a product or service, or profess their love of a particular brand, their followers listen. some of them will take those recommendations to heart and become loyal customers. They may even evolve into key influencers in their own right, spreading the word about their favorite products and companies.

Wouldn't you love to have some influence over the influencers? Well, you can -- if you aim the right content in the right directions.

Putting Those Eyes on You

The first thing you have to is figure out which key influencers your perfect clientele is paying attention to, and which websites and social media channels they're frequenting. LinkedIn Groups, for instance, is a natural home base for pundits in the B2B realm, whereas Facebook might be more likely to attract the B2C crowd. (You can then drill down into into key demographics; for instance, teens seem to have a special love for Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.) Once you've identified which channels attract the lion's share of your target market, you can figure out which of those users are getting the most views and seem to have the most influence here your particular industry, products or services are concerned.

Now it's time to catch those key influencers' eyes. You might achieve this by:

  • Making endorsements or other positive statements about the key influencers in question, complete with links to their blogs, websites or social media channels
  • Contacting the key influencers and offering them an opportunity to contribute a guest article or video to your website
  • Joining relevant conversations on your key influencers' social media channels so your brand has a clear and active presence there
  • Making helpful, insightful comments on key influencers' blogs or other online articles
  • Quoting their comments in your website and social media content

Influencer marketing isn't a magic wand, and it needs to be employed with a certain amount of subtlety if you want eyes on you instead of just eye-rolling. But if you create high-quality content aimed at just the right people, and then bring that content to where those people live, you'll soon be wielding some influence of your own.