Q&A from Twitter, Independence Day Version!

The keys to good sponsored content or native advertising, content for B2B organizations, and how to make connections with the big-audience content publishers …

It’s Independence Day in the U.S., and time for a Q&A! And no, those things aren’t really related at all. πŸ™‚

In this 25-minute episode, I answer questions on:

  • Techniques for writing sponsored content (or native advertising) that doesn’t feel like an ad
  • The differences (and similarities) in writing content for B2B or B2C organizations
  • The two key emotional drivers for most B2B customers
  • Looking for the “fuel for the fire” in a B2B company, and how that informs your content strategy
  • Strategies for making connections with someone who has a bigger audience than you do

The Show Notes

Sonia Simone: Greetings, superfriends! My name is Sonia Simone and these are the Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer. For those who don’t know me, I’m a co-founder and the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital.

I’m also a champion of running your business and your life according to your own rules. As long as you don’t lie and you don’t hurt people, this podcast is your official pink permission slip to run your business or your career exactly the way you think you should.

Note: Links to extra resources are in the Show Notes!

Thanks to everyone on Twitter who asked a question for this episode!

Sharon Liu ‏@SZL14

@soniasimone What are some fun ways to write sponsored content that sounds less ad-y?

This is a super fun question — sponsored content, or “native advertising,” or as we called it when I did a lot of them, “advertorials” have been around for a long time. So as is so often the case, the “hot new thing” is something that’s been around for a long time.

A little research tells me they are not the same thing — technically sponsored content is pure content that’s designed to build brand authority. Mediapress studios defines sponsored content this way:

This is strictly editorial. Sponsored content is not brand-biased and focuses on informing rather than convincing their target audience. The strategy behind this is to become a thought leader in the industry, and increase the value of the brand. If the audience goes to that company for advice, maybe they’ll buy their products as well.

Copyblogger would be an example of this, and we call this an “authority content” model. Basically, show up and be super smart and useful on your topic.

Mediapress studios: http://www.mediapressstudios.com/blog/native-advertising-vs-sponsored-content

Native advertising is more that traditional advertorial — it’s an ad, but the tone, voice, and layout are designed to blend into the publication so you can’t tell it’s an ad.

The key to making both of them work is actually the same — you start with the call to action that you want to work toward, and you keep that in mind, but then you sort of squish that part of your brain down and think more like a creative writer or a journalist.

What are the legitimate reasons for going with this particular company, product, or service? What do they, in fact, actually do well? What kinds of buyers are an excellent fit? Who would genuinely benefit from taking the desired call to action?

The only way I know how to do these is if you as a writer truly do believe 100% in the product. So you want to choose your clients — or your employer — accordingly, and only work for companies you think are doing something extraordinarily well.

For an advertorial, the key really is to blend — so if it’s a research-heavy publication, then you need some solid, credible numbers and data. If it’s a more lifestyle publication, then look at the way they use language — what do the verbs look like, how many adjectives are we talking about. Match the voice and the approach.

Hope this is helpful! This was a fun question. πŸ™‚

Shikhashikz ‏@Shikhashikz

@soniasimone in today’s world,do you think only content matters n Concept of b2b n b2c has vanished away?its all about b2p ( people)

This is a question I’m always very happy when people ask. The fact is, it’s always been B2P. When you’re creating B2B — business-to-business — content, versus business-to-consumer, you have to figure out who the stakeholders are — which is just corporate-speak for who’s involved in making the decision you’re trying to get to.

We have a bit of a mythology that when people are at work, they’re somehow more rational and aren’t influenced by emotion. But of course that’s not true at all — and in fact, some of the new brain research is showing us that the kinds of thinking we label as “emotions” are crucial to all human decision-making.

If you think of your own work experience, work is a very emotional place. The emotions are different at work — frankly, fear and status are very highly represented there in most companies. Fear of losing your spot in the hierarchy, and desire to gain a higher one.

But it still comes down to understanding what moves your audience — getting into their heads, empathizing with their complex emotional states, and then understanding their complete customer experience so you can use content to make the path easier to walk.

We have some posts on Empathy Maps and Experience Maps that I think may be useful, I’ll include them in the show notes.

Ifeanyi C. Okolo ‏@pass4lifeltd

@soniasimone how does a B2B company write intermediate content for clients?

This obviously leads right into the earlier question — and again, it’s one that I think is excellent when people ask.

This gets to something that not enough B2B organizations do — they forget who it is who fuels the fire. Somewhere, no matter how esoteric your B2B, there’s a customer who pays for something. A consumer, or a citizen or community resident or taxpayer if you’re talking B2G.

The whole chain needs to know what that person needs. The whole chain needs to make that person successful, so that the entire chain of organizations can be successful.

So if you write point-of-sale software for retail stores, you need to understand the experience of the customer who buys from that store, not just the store owner or even the store employees. If your software makes it hard for the eventual customer to buy, then your product is stealing fuel from the fire.

That insight is how you start to make decisions about what content, if any, you create for those folks, and what it will look like. It’s really the Empathy and Experience Maps all over again, but you just have kind of a chain of maps depending on the specifics of your organization and their relationship to that core customer.

Glen ‏@ViperChill
@soniasimone What’s the best way someone who hasn’t connected with you before could get the attention of you and Brian πŸ™‚

Glen Allsop is a very cool guy, relatively young and has lots of energy and is a great implementer.

In my experience, there are two super strong strategies. The first is, if you can swing it, to meet people in person, ideally at small events. So SXSW can be a ton of fun, but it gets hard to really connect there.

Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.
-Yogi Berra

The parties are massive and loud, the event is so spread out.

Small events, on the other hand, let you spend more quality time with a few people, and that’s what you want. So, you know, cough, we have one coming up in October. And obviously I am biased, but it’s awesome. Truly.

But you probably encounter other small events as well. I’ve certainly had some fantastic conversations at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit, although that’s grown a lot. I’m sure it’s still terrific, though. Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker’s event SOBCon was legendary for this, and in fact it’s where I met Brian Clark and Chris Garrett face to face for the first time, and other fantastic folks as well.

Look for events that are structured to allow for quality interactions between the attendees — and ideally with the speakers as well.

The other super strong strategy is to do something epic. So I will never forget meeting Andy Crestodina, who I met face to face at a larger event, because when I met him he put his Periodic Table of Content Marketing into my hand, and it was incredibly beautifully produced, very smart, a clever concept executed beautifully.

The easiest way to do “something epic” is to have a killer content platform, so have an outstanding blog or a wonderful podcast or a great video series.

Strategy #3 isn’t quite as powerful as the first two, but it makes an impression, and that’s just show up and be nice, and if you can, be useful.

Drive someone to the airport. Leave thoughtful and interesting comments that go beyond “Nice post.” Engage meaningfully and thoughtfully in social media. This is like vitamins for your networking strategy. It just makes it work a lot, lot better.

If you get known for being nice, everything else you do gets a halo from that. And I will tell you straight up, if you’re not nice — or, this is really fatal, if you’re nice to me but you’re rude or mean to my team — then you pretty much have to cure cancer and bring about world peace before I want to talk to you.

I have an ebook on content promotion that goes into some of this in a little more detail, it’s free with the My Copyblogger library.

The final thought on that is — people with big audiences have a lot of people who want to connect with us, and it’s always interesting to me how many folks with big audiences are introverts. So it will probably take some time and you want to try to be patient. Also, observe where folks are easy to find. I tend to be very easy to connect with on Twitter and blog comments, and very hard to connect with via cold emailing or LinkedIn.

Patience and a sense of humor are wonderful. People aren’t trying to give you the cold shoulder and they don’t think they’re better than you are — they just have a lot of communication flying in at them and if they’re introverts, that can get really overwhelming and exhausting in a hurry.

I totally get taking it personally when someone doesn’t respond, and I’ll tell you right now, I go in and out, and sometimes I get slammed and I don’t respond to people I really, really wanted to reply to. They get to the bottom of the inbox screen and my distraction ruins all my good intentions. As much as you can, try to assume that they’re just overloaded, they don’t really think they’re “superior.”

Thanks for the smart question, Glen. πŸ™‚