Do you trust everything you read and see on media?

People used to trust the media, but times have changed: today, media manipulation is easier than ever.

In fact, Ryan Holiday demonstrated this sad fact in his book, Trust Me, I’m Lying. Holiday indiscriminately responded to every query posted on the internet service “Help a Reporter Out” (HARO), which connects journalists with sources. He even hired an assistant to help him handle as many requests as possible. After a few weeks, he had far more requests than he could manage.

One day he was featured in a Reuters story, where he discussed Yikes – young adults who save money but are reluctant to invest in the stock market. The thing is, he wasn’t especially well-informed on the topic.

Another day, Holiday appeared on MSNBC, where he described his experience working for Burger King. The kicker? He was lying! He’d never worked for Burger King in his life.

He pretended to be an expert on several other national news outlets, including ABC, CBS and the New York Times, where he spoke about boats, vinyl records and more. Although his entire media experiment was built around lies, the reporters never noticed. No one ever fact-checked him.

Now you should reject that approach. Instead, simply do good and market your efforts well.

That’s what Walmart did after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The retailer supplied meals, necessities and cash to the victims. Two months later, the company set new goals for sustainability, women’s empowerment and waste reduction.

Their efforts were widely publicized and they didn’t have to lie or create fake stories. Instead, they did something good and announced their commitment to further improvement. And that’s the mark of a great company.

Good content is valuable, but it’s also time-consuming and resource-intensive. That’s why dishonest people steal content instead of creating their own.

If someone steals from you, don’t passively accept the theft – take action. Simply letting the thieves know you’re on to them might do the trick.

For instance, whenever you find your content on another site, comment with something like, “This looks familiar.” Or, “I’m glad my content was good enough to steal.” That will show people that you’re the original author.

And whenever someone uses your content without linking back to your site, ask them to make a fix. If they refuse, file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown request to their hosting company.

Here are two more methods for dealing with content theft that are more time-consuming, but also more fun.

Method one: Use internal linking – links to already-published content on other parts of your site – in every piece you publish. That way, if someone steals your content, you’ll get a notification. And as a bonus, you’ll get an additional link to your site.

Method two: Use Yoast or a similar plug-in. Whenever someone steals your content, the plug-in will automatically produce a customized message below the stolen post on the other site, notifying any reader of the theft. A standard message is: “This originally appeared on XX site.”

These two methods can’t stop content thieves, but they will at least allow you to benefit from the theft by notifying readers that you’re the original source.

Because ultimately, content thieves are annoying, but you can use them to your advantage. Plus, if you have an established brand, accruing new links back to your site is beneficial.

For decades, companies relied on traditional marketing to simply reach an audience. The web makes this easier, but it’s a double-edged sword.

The benefits are clear: customers can help build your brand by talking about it on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Just imagine a retail customer checking in at your business using Facebook Places or Foursquare. Since all his hundreds of friends see the check-in, your store now has hundreds of potential new customers.

What’s more, Twitter and Facebook allow customers to immediately share their new purchases, which can further promote your business.

However, social media presents challenges. You can’t only display good feedback while filtering out the bad stuff. To have a credible brand, it’s crucial to be honest and consistent.

Here’s an example of how social media can backfire: a few years ago, an Applebee’s employee posted a customer receipt online. The guest, who was also a pastor, had crossed off the automatic 18 percent tip, explaining his actions with the note: “I give God ten percent, why should you get 18?” Applebee’s corporate headquarters responded by firing the employee for violating the guest’s privacy.

But some online sleuths found another, older online Applebee’s post which also showed a guest receipt, but this time with a positive message. The public was confused: Why hadn’t this employee been fired as well? Pretty soon, the controversy had attracted hundreds of thousands of negative comments. The fact that Applebee’s responded to every single one of those complaints with the same pre-approved message only fueled the company’s negative image.

Though the internet has given rise to scores of new marketing technologies, they all tend to fit within two major themes: good customer experience and real-time marketing.

Starting with the former, no business can survive without its customers. That’s why you should focus on improving their experience, rather than making money.

To that end, consider the company Men’s Warehouse, founded by George Zimmer in 1973. The retailer was successful until 2013, when Zimmer was dismissed as executive chairman because he disagreed with new policies regarding customer experience. As a consequence of his dismissal, the company reported a 28 percent decrease in profits the following quarter. The reason? New management was focused on stockholder value and market trends, not customers.

Since employees constantly heard the word “earnings” – not “customers” – from higher-ups, they got the message that the company was all about money, not customer experience. Eventually, Men’s Warehouse shifted their attention back to their customers, having realized that this was the only way to make a profit.

Moving on to the second emerging marketing sector: Real-time marketing offers endless opportunities for reaching customers, as long as the timing is right.

For instance, remember the blackout during the 2013 Super Bowl? While everyone else was waiting for the lights to come back on, Oreo saw the blackout as an opportunity. Only four minutes after the blackout hit, they tweeted out the message, “Power out? No problem.” Attached to the text was a black-and-white picture of one of their signature cookies, with the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.” It was a priceless and wildly effective bit of marketing.

Modern marketing is a fast-changing field. But ultimately, focusing on delivering high quality content and an enhanced customer service experience are key to reaching an audience and building a loyal following.

Now here’s a tip. Create good content. This is easier said than done! But it’s crucial.

The next time you write something for your personal blog or business, aim to create the best possible content, in the sense that it delivers value to your readers. That way, your audience will want to share it with their friends, organically expanding the reach of your marketing efforts. Keep blogging guys!

Check out my related post: How can companies better manage multiple social media accounts?

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