Branded Content: Possibilities, Pitfalls, and Predictions

Branded content business models are evolving and it’s important for publishers to stay on top of brand expectations in order to stay competitive. Moreover, with audience control shifting from content creators to walled gardens, paid distribution of the branded content needs to be baked into the plan from Day One.

A seismic shift happened in the 2010s: Platforms took control of audiences away from publishers and brands. The result is the need to pay-to-play, which comes with a host of challenges. Brands need to find ways to efficiently expand their reach, while publishers need to create sustainable revenue streams that don’t fully rely on volatile organic traffic sources.

Enter branded content. Not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination, but one that is increasingly becoming a key pillar of revenue for a lot of publishers.

On the surface, branded content is a win-win for all sides. Publishers use their core skillset (storytelling and content distribution) to give brands reach that they can’t achieve on their own. In return, brands pay publishers for their expertise and access to their audiences.

With that being said, branded content business models are evolving and it’s important for publishers to stay on top of brand expectations in order to stay competitive. Moreover, with audience control shifting from content creators to walled gardens, paid distribution of the branded content needs to be baked into the plan from Day One.

Impressions Alone? 

Publishers use a variety of models to package their branded content offerings. Those can be anything from selling based on pageviews on their site to video views on Facebook. The focus does, however, tend to revolve around soft engagement metrics (views and impressions) across the publisher’s channels. There are publishers who work on lead generation and other concrete goals, but those still tend to stay within the publisher’s ecosystem, rather than working with the brand’s own site.

This is advantageous for both sides: For publishers, it helps maintain their tone of voice and trust among their audience — they don’t need to incorporate a “hard sell” into the content, which can be a turn-off for readers. For brands, there aren’t necessarily any concrete goals, and general “brand awareness” metrics can often be enough. When brands want to measure activity and business goals on their own site, they are generally hesitant to share those metrics with external partners, including publishers.

That’s not to say that sales-heavy content pieces don’t exist. Affiliate content, for example, has been on the rise over the past few years. Publishers showcase a range of products in an article and link to an online retailer, which in turn pays the publisher commission for any sales that result from the referral traffic. Most commonly, these affiliate links lead to Amazon, where publishers get a small cut of the sale. Branded content models are evolving to include this approach as well. For example, Walmart partnered with Popular Mechanics to sponsor an article that featured 15 bike camping gifts for outdoorsmen alongside links to their respective product pages on walmart.com.

Synergy Is Key to Success

When it comes to branded content, synergy is much more than a buzzword. An alignment between the brand and the publisher is absolutely critical for success. Users engage more often when a publisher’s tone of voice meshes well with a brand’s core values and audience. Here are a couple of examples of this synergy in action:

National Geographic with Brita

https://www.facebook.com/23497828950/posts/10156676165733951

 

In this partnership with Brita, National Geographic created a beautiful content experience that educates users about the consequences of bottled water. The piece is fully aligned with National Geographic’s reverential coverage of nature. On the brand side, Brita positions its water-filter products as alternatives to bottled water. This combination creates a value powerhouse for everyone involved and engages Natgeo’s user base in an innovative way with content that is unique and engaging.

Win Schuler’s and Food Network

https://www.facebook.com/FoodNetwork/videos/1220718271463314/

 

In this branded video, Food Network does what it does best: shares a yummy recipe with its audience. Adding Win Shuler’s cheddar into the mix feels natural, and the result is fantastic engagement numbers for the post, bringing value to the publisher, the brand, and most importantly, the user.

Common Distribution Pitfalls

As I mentioned earlier, paid distribution is usually a critical part of making branded content succeed. At Keywee, we’ve worked with hundreds of publishers over the years, helping them distribute their content on Facebook. As a result, we’ve pretty much seen it all, and the truth is that branded content done right isn’t as easy as it seems. Here are a few common pitfalls:

1) Going for the aggressive sell: Publishers don’t always create custom content. Sometimes they post a direct advertisement on their feed. This may fit within a brand’s reach demands, but it doesn’t do much for the publisher’s credibility. These posts diminish trust and are likely to grab more ire than likes or clicks.

Exchanging quality and value in return for a user’s attention is critical to keeping users around. If a publisher doesn’t want to go as far as creating custom content, a smaller-effort initiative like a sweepstakes in conjunction with the brand is a nice middle-ground solution that benefits the user.

2) Over-estimating organic reach: Most publishers commit to a set number of views when selling a content package. There’s usually no separation between paid and organic traffic. When publishers present the results to the brand at the end of an initiative, there’s only “traffic.” It’s not uncommon for a publisher to overestimate its organic reach and then, with a few weeks to go on the initiative, deploy massive paid campaigns to fill in the traffic gaps. The result is a hastily conceived campaign that can quickly become costly.

Fortunately, publishers can easily avoid this with a bit more planning. Whether running their own campaigns or buying through a vendor, it’s fairly simple to work more strategically. If they start executing a conservatively paced and well-planned paid campaign from day one of the initiative, the overall cost and performance will only benefit. The worst-case scenario is that the promised numbers are reached earlier than expected. Even in that situation, there’s a good chance that advertising dollars will be saved overall.

3) Limited reporting: The publisher-brand relationship is very similar to that between an agency and client; there is a customer who is paying for a service and requires proper attention. It’s incredibly common for a customer to want as much information as possible. If a campaign was sold based on impressions, that doesn’t mean that this is the only metric the customer will want to see.

When planning a campaign, remember that the customer will want to see deeper metrics. For example, a publisher could be promoting a video created for the brand. Even if the main metric is an impression, the publisher should keep an eye on the 3- or 10-second view numbers because the client will certainly have an eye on them. Another example is demographic breakdowns. If the publisher committed to a wide array of locations and audiences, and the content is being viewed only by a small subset, then pivoting the targeting strategy becomes critical for success and the brand’s satisfaction.

4) Publisher – brand misalignment: As I mentioned earlier, synergy between a brand and a publisher is critical for success. On the flip-side of this, misalignment can easily turn into a failure on all ends. When putting together branded content packages, the publisher should ask if the content would fit into their editorial vision if it wasn’t a part of the sold package. If the answer is no, then there’s a good chance the content won’t resonate with the user.

Looking Ahead

As long as digital content and advertising prevail, so will branded content. That being said, there are big changes afoot that will significantly impact the brand-publisher relationship.

1) 5G: There have been a lot of predictions about how 5G will affect everything from online shopping to people’s health. What branded content creators should probably keep in mind, at least in the short term, is that video streaming on smartphones will have far less friction than before. 5G is expected to be about 100 times faster than 4G, making streaming on mobile devices easier. Though earlier “pivot to video” pontifications were a bit overblown in hindsight, the strength of improved streaming options shouldn’t be overlooked. Publishers should expect brands to have more aggressive viewability demands as a result.

2) Performance content: Facebook has been encouraging brands to share select performance data with publishers and influencers. For Facebook the value is clear: Performance marketing usually leads to incremental revenue. For brands and publishers, these are choppy waters. Content plays a significant role in the buyers’ journey, but it’s still very difficult to fully attribute it to purchase decisions. A person reading an article about sneakers will not automatically go out and buy a pair. In other words, content consumption does not directly correlate to purchase intent. So far publishers have been hesitant to adopt this innovation, and brand adoption is yet to be seen. That being said, publishers will probably benefit from preparing themselves for a scenario in which brands will ask for more performance-driven metrics.

3) Shop the ‘gram: Instagram is slowly rolling out a new feature that creates a direct funnel to the brand checkout page on the platform. In other words, users will be able to click on a tagged product and immediately be directed to its checkout page. This allows for a seamless user experience and is expected to be a boon for ecommerce brands. Publishers should be on the lookout for requests of this type in the year ahead.

All in all, when it comes to branded content, the bottom line is simple: The combination of synergic content, expectation managing, and proper planning can create a value powerhouse for everyone involved. If publishers stick to these fundamentals, they can easily set themselves up for success.

How to Not Waste Money on Facebook and Instagram Ads

As publishers, our relationship with Facebook is … complicated. In 2019, Facebook traffic returned for a lot of publishers, and many now consider the platform a reliable source of traffic. However, there hasn’t been much consistency in regard to Facebook’s Ads Manager platform in the last several months, amiright?

As publishers, our relationship with Facebook is … complicated.

In 2019, Facebook traffic returned for a lot of publishers, and many now consider the platform a reliable source of traffic. However, there hasn’t been much consistency in regard to Facebook’s Ads Manager platform in the last several months, amiright?

Facebook Ads Manager Continues to Evolve

First, Ads Manager was completely redesigned in July. Reviews were mixed, but overall the user-interface improved. Even still, there’s always a learning curve when getting to know a new version of an intricate platform.

In addition to visual updates, Facebook Ads Manager is a lot more complex than it was just 2 years ago. There are now 18 different placement options for ads, including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, in-article, plus Facebook’s audience network — which allows you to target users off of Facebook-owned platforms and applications. Facebook clearly marks “automatic placements” as “recommended,” but this isn’t often the best selection for most advertisers — and it takes some savvy to understand which placements make the most sense for your campaign.

There’s also the various options for campaign optimization. Facebook has four different delivery optimization options: conversions, landing page views, link clicks, and impressions. More than that if you consider that there are several different ways you can define a conversion. That’s a lot of decisions to make and places where your campaign can go wrong.

Beyond the campaign criteria above, a typical marketer also has to account for varying audiences and budget optimization, along with creative and copy testing. All this is to say, it’s easy to waste money using Facebook’s Ads Manager when running campaigns on Facebook and Instagram.

Secondly, Facebook Ads Manager underwent some significant changes in November. You remember … the one right before Black Friday. Along with slight changes to the UI, these changes seem to have also placed an emphasized level of importance on a few small but key nuances in how you build and optimize campaigns.

Facebook’s Learning Phase

The learning phase is an often under-estimated way you can derail your campaign objections. As someone on our team once put it, the learning phase is “a dance more than it’s a science.”

Additionally, Facebook’s platform updates in November included “New Learning Phase Insights.” In this update, Facebook launched insights that display “the percentage of ads, ad sets and spend spent in the learning phase over the last two weeks.”

The learning phase of your campaign (the time period in which Facebook is getting to know what type of user is most likely to engage with your campaign, learning from those findings, and further refining your placements and targeting as a result) is roughly 7 days or 50 conversions. Depending on the campaign you’re running, 50 conversions can be a lot, which means most marketers have to wait those 7 days.

So what does the Facebook learning phase mean for marketers looking not to waste money? It means allowing campaigns around 7 days to start spending budget most effectively. And during that time period, any significant edits to the campaign can start that time period over from the beginning, so edit wisely!

Most of us know those impatient marketers. The ones that just can’t stop themselves from making changes to their campaign just a day or two after launch. Stop doing that! Making significant edits to the campaign before it has been live for around 7 days is a surefire way to waste your ad budget. Your campaign will start over from scratch and any lessons learned from your original campaign will not be relayed.

Since this update went live in November, campaigns can now move into a “Learning Limited” status after 7 days. According to Facebook, this happens when:

  • The bid control or cost control is too low.
  • The budget is too low.
  • The audience size is too small.
  • There are too many ad sets.
  • Other ad sets from the same ad account or Page are winning auctions instead.

Certainly use these insights to understand why a particular campaign or ad set cannot exit the learning phase, but also recognize that without paying close attention to the nuances of targeting and placements, as we discussed above, you may run ads for 7 days only to then find out that the platform can’t find enough people to engage with your campaign in the current targeting, placement, and budget allotted.

Also consider the learning phase when planning the timing of your campaigns. If you’re marketing tickets to an event and you want to really hit your audience hard in the 2 weeks leading up to your event date, you’ll spend half of that precious time with your campaign in learning mode — thus not spending your budget most effectively. To combat this, consider running an awareness campaign several weeks out from the event to allow Facebook to find audiences that will engage with your event content, and then retarget those who engaged but haven’t yet purchased tickets.

Objective Optimization of Facebook Campaigns

It’s important to evaluate your campaign objective. As mentioned above, there are more than a few campaign “objective” options you can select when starting your campaign, and each can cause the behavior of your campaign to vary wildly.

If you’re running a click-based campaign (in other words, your campaign “Objective” is “Link Clicks”), you may start to notice that you’re getting clicks, but your ultimate objective of traffic to your website isn’t being met. If this is happening, add “Landing Page Views” to your customized report and see what percentage of those clicking on the ad are actually landing on your website. Unfortunately, we’ve seen these numbers be as low as 35-40%. That means of 100 people clicking on your ad, only 35-40 are waiting long enough for the page to load.

So where did you go wrong? A campaign objective of “Link Clicks” is telling Facebook that all it takes to make you happy is clicks. Not refining your objective to “Landing Page Views” or “Conversions” means you can end up wasting a lot of money on “clicks” when, depending on your ultimate campaign objective, “clicks” don’t really mean that much.

So, consider and scrutinize your Facebook campaign objective closely. (Note: If you haven’t added the Facebook pixel to your website, you won’t have the option to optimize for Landing Page Views. Adding the pixel to your page lets Facebook see who actually results in a visit to your website.)

Running Ads on Facebook and Instagram Is Not for the Faint of Heart

Executing a campaign on Facebook is not that hard. But executing an effective and cost-efficient campaign is. With recent platform updates and an ever-changing algorithm, it takes work to stay abreast of best practices and knowing how to avoid the pitfalls of an ill-targeted or budgeted campaign.

Thoroughly plan your campaign strategy to avoid wasting money. Consider your objective, placements, and testing parameters closely. There are plenty of resources available to help you make the correct choices for your campaign. Or, get help if you need it. A strategic marketing team that can plan and execute your campaign strategy effectively is worth their weight in conversions.

A Question for Marketers: Is It Social or Is It Media?

Sasha Baron Cohen took Facebook to task last week with his speech at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling Facebook “the greatest propaganda machine in history.” Published in full by The Guardian, the speech was shared on the social media platform, to mixed reviews.

Facebook has 2.45 billion monthly users. Given that reach, it’s hard to classify Facebook as anything other than a mass media outlet. Compare Facebook’s reach to some of the most-viewed television broadcasts:

  • 600-650 million people worldwide watched the Apollo 11 moon landing live on TV (about 20% of the world’s population in 1969)
  • 750 million watched Prince Charles and Lady Diana marry in 1981
  • 2 billion-plus people watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing (about one-third of the world’s population in 2008)

In 2017, Mark Zuckerberg told the first Facebook Community Summit, “Our full mission statement is: Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. That reflects that we can’t do this ourselves, but only by empowering people to build communities and bring people together.”

How’s that working out for us?

Sasha Baron Cohen took Facebook to task last week with his speech at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling Facebook “the greatest propaganda machine in history.”  Published in full by The Guardian, the speech was shared on the social media platform, to mixed reviews.

Cohen states:
“Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others — they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged — stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear … On the Internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.”

My Facebook comment about the speech: “Why shouldn’t social media platforms be held to the same standards as other content publishers?”

Someone replied,

“But they’re not content publishers … they’re conduits for publishers. On FB, you and I and Joe and all kinds of media are the publishers. Think of the phone companies. They can’t be held responsible for what people say over their systems.”

My response:

“I guess that depends on whether you put the emphasis on social or media.”

And of course, most phone conversations are private (at least for now) while most Facebook posts are not.

I sent The Guardian’s publication of Cohen’s speech to my children, two of whom have given up their Facebook accounts. My daughter replied,

“Did you learn about this on Facebook? If so, irony is dead.”

Actually, I did. RIP Irony.

Social Video Standards Need to Look More Like TV

Current social video measurement presents no way to standardize views cross-platform, which means publishers with large social video audiences are held back from full revenue because they can’t prove the complete picture of their audience.

Every month, 14.9 million creators (including media and brands) upload 100 million new videos, generating more than 2 trillion views across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Twitch. Social video keeps expanding as a viable means to grow global business for both brands and publishers, alike. But without measuring the content similarly to the way TV inventory is evaluated, it’s hard to tap into those same billion-dollar budgets.

This ever-changing media environment has been pushed along by sweeping technological advances. Audiences are more global, mobile, and social than ever before. And anyone can be a creator, whether they’re traditional or digital-native publishers, brands or influencers, or building up media empires from scratch.

Because they’re shareable in nature, social videos have previously been evaluated along the lines of likes, comments, and views. Those metrics remain part of the conversation, sure. But relying solely on them is what holds social video back – especially as these platforms are progressing toward more premium inventory.

Mismatched Metrics

Current social video measurement presents no way to standardize views cross-platform; some platforms have adopted IAB and MRC standards of at least two consecutive seconds, while others have not. For Facebook and Instagram, it’s three seconds. YouTube counts video views once play is initiated, but ad views are counted differently (30 seconds, or the duration of the ad). That leads to inconsistency from platform to platform, plus there’s no way to deduplicate audiences or gain further insights about their viewing habits.

Content creators are forced to grade their own homework, relying on mismatched metrics and small panels that don’t reflect digital realities. Publishers with large social video audiences are held back from full revenue because they can’t prove the complete picture of their audience – which today includes social – to advertisers.

Establishing Social Video Value

It’s time for an evolved approach to measuring social video. To show social video audiences at parity with those of traditional media channels, there need to be uniform market standards that attach similar values regardless of global location, screen, or platform. Deduplicated audience engagement and time-based metrics like total and average watch time normalize attention and reach globally, clearly reflecting how an audience cultivated through social platforms can stand toe-to-toe with some of traditional media giants… and how agile traditional media companies keep pace digitally.

With trillions of video views generated across the world’s largest social platforms, it’s essential for the buy- and sell-side to have TV-like time-based metrics to transact on and deliver ROI with confidence. On TV, metrics like watch time, average minutes watched, and unique viewers have long been a staple of how money (and lots of it) exchanges hands. When these standards grow into essential social video measurements, combined with audience demographics and location, what’s truly stopping all of this video content from being viewed with the exact same revenue capabilities in mind?

Social video doesn’t have to stop being itself. It has advantages inherent by design, just as traditional TV does. But in order for social video’s strengths to be valued on par with TV’s, measurement needs to look more similar. Known standards will give publishers and brands access to a massive audience (and resulting revenues) they’ve previously missed out on because they’ve lacked a way to understand that audience and model ROI.

No, B2B Media Doesn’t Have an Ethics Problem

It broke my heart when I read the recent blog post “B2B Media, The Ethics Virus & The Pursuit of Consumer-Grade Experiences,” which argued the majority of B2B/trade publishers have a problem of selling out editorial integrity to advertisers. In the piece, Publishing Executive editor-in-chief Denis Wilson wrote, “If you think your organization is immune (from editorial integrity issues), I’d wager you’re a minority or just wrong.”

It broke my heart when I read the recent blog post “B2B Media, The Ethics Virus & The Pursuit of Consumer-Grade Experiences,” which argued the majority of B2B/trade publishers have a problem of selling out editorial integrity to advertisers. In the piece, Publishing Executive editor-in-chief Denis Wilson wrote, “If you think your organization is immune (from editorial integrity issues), I’d wager you’re a minority or just wrong.” Also, that “B2B media has an especially nefarious legacy of playing fast and loose with the journalistic craft.”

I may have taken the post personally, having been a B2B publisher on and off for 40 years. I never sold a word and, must admit, I have no memory of thinking my competition did either. I do not suggest all B2B publishers are beyond reproach when it comes to bending to advertiser pressure. I do say the vast majority do not do so, nor do they have a culture of selling out.

When I came up in the business, there were storied trade publishers like McGraw Hill, Chilton, Gralla, Penton, CMP and many others. There were fat magazines with solid content that industries relied upon, such as Variety, Automotive Week, Billboard, American Banker and Aviation Week. I used to read Crain publications like the old Ad Age with as much enjoyment as consumer books. Women’s Wear Daily, famously known as WWD, had such quality journalism it gained a significant consumer readership.

In the post, Wilson talks about how B2B publishers today are finally learning “quality original content drives audience engagement and monetization.” Those publishers mentioned support my view the industry was built on quality content.

The ASBPE Focus on Ethics

Ethics was indeed discussed at the ASBPE conference. As Wilson points out, that is to the credit of the journalists in attendance. I heard everything Wilson did, but recognized that those few stories of difficult advertiser pressure were presented not as the norm. The example of one publisher giving into ad pressure was worthy of discussion, because that publication had never crossed a similar line before.

We heard about when the rigid wall between church and state required an editor to stop dating an advertising sales assistant or be fired. Another example described when a feature story was written about an industry problem for which a big client happened to advertise a solution. The advertiser relationship had not driven the story. The fact the publisher had to pull their hair out over whether to run the ad opposite the story opener speaks to their integrity. They were worried that although ad and story had no causal relationship, it would simply look like they did. In my opinion they made the correct decision to run the ad opposite the opener, that it was helpful to readers and no lines were crossed.

Yet Wilson and I reached different conclusions as to why ethics was discussed so prominently. To me, it was a reflection of a profession that thinks that is how important editorial ethics are, not to cure endemic problems.

Think back to all the articles Publishing Executive and other media publications ran when native advertising first became a thing. Despite most of us having published advertorials in the past, there was overwhelming pushback that native adverting crossed a line. It was not just theoretical venting. Truly, a majority of B2B publishers during those days told me their staffs would not let them entertain the notion of native. The knee-jerk resistance speaks to a culture not in the habit of doing things for advertisers.

Editorial Contributions

The article correctly acknowledged the importance of editorial contributions from industry experts who happen to work for advertisers or potential advertisers. I’ve been an editor and publisher my entire career, but today as I write for Publishing Executive I am a vendor. My instincts have me steer clear of writing about what I sell and Wilson and I discuss anything I fear may be too close to the line. That has worked out well.

In his post, Wilson attributes industry contributors to low budgets. No doubt that is a huge driver; but there is more to it. I was associate publisher of a trade book called Modern Horsebreeding in the ’80s. Guess who knew much more than all of our writers? The veterinarians and pharmaceutical companies. We did occasionally run articles by their experts — there were no such thing as blogs — though never once tied them to advertising.

When I published a magazine and then website about RFID technology, we were thrilled to get some deeply knowledgeable pieces from industry experts. Sadly, most were not advertisers. But this was terrific content and simply had nothing to do with advertising. If a prospective advertiser really liked that we ran their engineer’s helpful information, great. We’ll take all the good vibes we can get with prospective advertisers. Conversely, when an advertiser complained that we didn’t run their content, we would invite them to suggest a topic. We provided written guidelines they must adhere to, advertiser or non-advertiser. We edited each piece and were glad to consult as they worked on it. I believe approaches like these and those of PubExec are the norm.

The Opposite Reality

From what I have seen, advertiser pressure is something ad salesmen feel more than it being a routine reality. I personally sold ads for decades and ran ad sales teams. Ad salespeople are always hopeful the magazine runs articles plugging clients; it’s in the blood. They sometimes whine to editors about running more copy on their clients. In my experience, editors mostly ignore them with thinly veiled pity.

One speaker at ASBPE said advertisers were purposely overlooked and not written about to avoid the appearance of corruption. As Wilson wrote, “the sticky politics of accepting vendor contributions wasn’t worth the trouble.” In my experience, this is far and away the bigger secret we all carry: advertisers tend to get screwed. We heard how one company mandated that editors not use advertisers as sources for stories. I have personally seen multiple situations where editors avoid calling executives at advertiser companies for quotes out of fear it would look like the publication was kissing advertiser butt.

Big advertisers are often the larger companies in any given industry. These same companies have the biggest budgets for research. These companies are often actually involved in many newsworthy issues and situations because of their commercial reach. It would be self-defeating to avoid tapping their knowledge; yet because of the fear of appearing unethical, I have seen this time and time again.

Advertisers, too, might surprise you. I will never forget at my RFID publication a news investigation that we ran on the cover slammed perhaps the largest company in the industry at that time. They were not advertisers and I thought, well, we’ll never see a dime from them. But it was an important, well-reported story. To the lasting credit of an SVP of Intermec, he told his ad department to place some cover ads in our new magazine. He felt the industry had to support quality journalism.

I repeat: Of course I have heard stories of pay-to-play. The few I’ve heard are memorable because they are rare, not pervasive. One former VP of editorial told me long ago he was made to run feature interviews with some advertisers. Again, that stood out in his mind because it was the opposite of everything else in his career.

I am not saying B2B publishers are ethical saints. Wilson made some excellent suggestions in his post on what editors should watch out for. However, I do believe the B2B publishing industry overall is not rife with virulent ethical lapses.

The 3 Habits of Successful Social Publishers

Publishers who represent non-fiction authors and experts can use social media to drive sales of books and information products by following the three habits of successful social publishers. Successful publishers who know the difference between wasting time with social media and selling with it rely on developing three habits.

Publishers who represent non-fiction authors and experts can use social media to drive sales of books and information products by following the three habits of successful social publishers.

Successful publishers who know the difference between wasting time with social media and selling with it rely on developing three habits. These are:

  1. Getting back to basics by solving readers’ problems on social media.
  2. Designing to sell, provoking responses from prospective buyers in ways that connect with authors’ books, coaching and other products.
  3. Translating, discovering customers’ evolving needs and desires, using them to induce sales transactions.

You can immediately begin selling books and other info products on social media platforms by applying these three success principles. Let’s look at each more closely and make them actionable in your everyday work life—let’s make them habits.

Habit No. 1: Solve Problems and Create Experiences
Here’s how the idea of solving problems to create sales works for non-fiction books, reference kits and informational products like webinars, DVD collections, etc. The main idea is to use social media platforms to:

  1. Provide answers to potential buyers’ most common questions in ways that provoke more questions (that your books answer!);
  2. Make it easy for the prospect to take action—to actually do something that puts them on the path to understanding why your book/product features THE hands-down expert/knowledge; and
  3. Give prospects a chance to actually begin to experience the power of your publications’ wisdom/method/solution through a small sample of the real product.

This is the best way to effectively coax or nurture prospects toward buying books, webinars or any kind of published information products. The objective with social media is to convert visitors to a lead. Then it’s up to you to nurture this lead into becoming a buyer of your books and information products.

But good news: This is easy work if you follow the formula.

Habit No. 2: Provoke Response and Earn a Lead
Blogging using this technique helps buyers discover answers to specific problems in search engines and make subtle yet direct, controllable connections with what you want to sell them. You see, when readers type specific questions into Google or Bing, your blog (or your authors’ blog, assuming you’ve coached him/her on this technique) will pop up and direct them to experts and authors with terrifically useful answers—yours.

The trick is to supply prospects with answers (within the blog post) in limited, short-form ways that provoke them to interact more with you/your author… so they can more clearly understand the thought you just provoked.

The key to selling more books and products is to answer potential buyers’ questions in ways that allow distribution of small samples of the more comprehensive solutions your books or products provide. To accomplish this, simply give prospects a clear pathway to “get more of that kind of thinking” into their heads/companies; give prospects something to sign-up for.

Help prospects act on their impulses by giving them a way to “get more” of what you just sampled. Mix in a direct response marketing element—a clear, irresistible call to action.

Habit No. 3: Begin a Courtship, Not a Drive-By
It is best to not ask prospects to trade their email for a whitepaper or access to a single video. Yes, most B-to-B marketers do this, but please don’t do it yourself. Don’t do a drive-by!

Grabbing at email addresses (just because you can) will reduce both the take and conversion rates. Ultimately, prospects likely will not connect taking the offer with your lead follow-up routine. They will feel spammed and unsubscribe.

Think about it in your own experience. Ever download a paper only to become part of an irrelevant sales follow-up call? Compare this to opting-in to a series of logical email messages that helped you get clear on something or learn a new skill.

Bottom line: You don’t need prospects’ email addresses to deliver a single piece of knowledge. Instead, when you give prospective buyers a way to act on their impulses, just be sure to set the context.

This (action your prospect takes) begins an educational process or journey for them. This approach will make it easier to connect your ultimate product pitch to that journey in ways that create more conversions.

Don’t Quit!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed join the club but don’t quit. Social media marketing is heaping on more work—and you’ve already got too many to-do’s on your list, I know. You may even be skeptical that social media can help publishing companies create sales. It’s tough moving beyond being liked, followed or re-tweeted.

Successful publishers know the difference between wasting time with social media and selling with it relies on developing three habits. These are solving readers’ problems on social media, designing it to sell (by provoking responses from prospective buyers in ways that connect with books, coaching and other relevant products) and translatin—discovering customers’ evolving needs & desires, using them to induce sales transactions.