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Interview: Chris from Spokal and Saul from Ritetag

I recently heard Seth Godin say, and I’m paraphrasing here, the reason there’s so much mediocre content on the internet is that no-one wants to take responsibility for an original idea, the safer route being to repeat/regurgitate what everyone else is doing. 

It was this Ph Creative podcast I was listening to, and it got me thinking: I wonder what other industry leaders think about the current state of Content Markeing. I decided I’d reach out and ask some.

There are 2 people I highly regard in this field; Chris Mack and Saul Fleischman.

Chris is founder of Spokal, an Inbound Marketing Automation plugin for WordPress. Describing it simply as a plugin really doesn’t do it any justice, Spokal is a powerhouse of a system which I find invaluable in promoting blog content across social media.

Saul is founder of Ritetag, a hashtag analysis tool. Again, this description doesn’t do justice to the multitude of cool features contained within Ritetag, they have long championed the importance of hashtags in promoting brand content and I have witnessed the software evolve over time into something quite brilliant.

If you’re not already using Spokal and Ritetag, It’s worth exploring both to see if they can add value to your content strategy. I find both Chris and Saul to be amazingly helpful people, who I’m sure will be happy to explain their products better than I can.

Introductions aside, I asked Chris and Saul the same 5 questions about Content Marketing and this is their replies:

Chris Mack

1. I recently heard Seth Godin say the reason there’s so much mediocre content on the internet is that no-one wants to take responsibility for an original idea, so we end up simply repeating what everyone else is doing. What’s your thoughts on this?

I suppose it’s saying the same thing a different way, but a lot of content is written to appeal to a wide base of people. Personally I prefer content that is either opinionated or exceptionally well researched. Preferably both, like Wait But Why (the best blog on the planet IMO) Most content is mass-produced. Google holds a lot of the blame for this. Their algorithm has long favoured sites with a high volume of content. I’d love to see more people taking more risks.

2. How important do you think Digital Content Curation is?

It depends on what your goals are. Assuming your goal is to create/improve a following on social media, then it’s probably the most important part of anything you do with your account, unless you truly create exceptional original work all the time.

3. Can you name someone you believe to be doing outstanding work in the social media space right now?

I’m not sure I think there is a ‘social media space’. I think that was a temporary thing while a new social media world unfolded – but it’s become a normal part and regular extension of word-of-mouth and traditional advertising now.

4. Other than Spokal, what tools do you use?

Not a lot anymore. Spokal, Hootsuite, Feedly, Google Docs for collaboration, ActiveCampaign. We try lots of tools out, but these are the ones we use regularly.

5. What’s your top tip for a small business who wants to get more value from social media?

Just treat your account as though it was your personal page (for the most part). I think the biggest mistake small businesses make is trying to sound like bigger businesses. Your small size is an advantage. I prefer dealing with people who are more adaptable, flexible, and don’t have a ton of red-tape to deal with anytime something outside the ordinary happens. Big companies are a pain in the ass to deal with.

Thanks Chris, some amazing insights there, thanks for sharing. It’s an interesting point you make about Google being to blame for ‘quantity over quality’. Discussions about Google fascinate me and probably consume far too much of my time. I completely agree with you and would add it’s probably more to do with SEOs and the pressure they’re under to deliver results (a bed they made for themselves) who are to blame.

Your answer to Q2 is great. I have long conversations with peers and clients about “let’s create exceptional content, let’s take chances!” Few ideas come to fruition though, not through lack of enthusiasm, but because of budget concerns/restrictions. A client might be willing to try something new once, but if it doesn’t ignite the internet they get cold feet about spending any more money.

Your answer to Q3 shows how far ahead you are in your thinking. This is one of the reasons I wanted to write this post. There’s a really interesting level of understanding when it comes to social ia which I see as being on a sliding scale, with people like you at one end, people who see social media as part of the fabric of the world… and at the other end, people in business who see it almost as a single entity that scares them. Their attitude seems to be, let’s squeeze some money into it and see what it gives back, and if we don’t get enough we’ll ignore it.

This ties in with your answer to Q5. I think a lot of businesses are overwhelmed by Twitter, which can appear to be vast and noisy, but the opportunities are in paying attention to individual users, who after all are real people and if they walked in your shop would expect to be treated with respect and gratitude. ‘Be Yourself’ is a strong message.

Saul Fleischman

1. I recently heard Seth Godin say the reason there’s so much mediocre content on the internet is that no-one wants to take responsibility for an original idea, so we end up simply repeating what everyone else is doing. What’s your thoughts on this?

There is substantial pressure to publish frequently, and it is probably what prompts people to aggregate and regurgitate the analyses of others. ​

2. How important do you think Digital Content Curation is?

Digital content curation and particularly tracking where your watch-list people spend their time commenting, truly interacting rather than ​only starting conversations with articles and social updates – this is important for those of us who need to get on the radar of specific people.

3. Can you name someone you believe to be doing outstanding work in the social media space right now?

Stewart Rogers: http://venturebeat.com/author/stewart-rogers/

4. Other than Ritetag, what tools do you use?

I think you mean for social media and content marketing.  In that case, ​Tweetdeck, ​Camtasia Studio 8, and ScreenToGif

5. What’s your top tip for a small business who wants to get more value from social media?

​Begin with your customer avatar and a​ ​ solid understanding of the pains your products/services​ cure/reduce.  How would those in need of what you offer describe the solution they seek?  What are their words for this solution?  Test these words with a hashtag optimization tool and narrow down to hashtags for these terms with a high ratio of positive outcomes (retweets, impressions, link click-throughs, etc.) versus unique Tweets with the hashtag.  Test posts in Twitter and Instagram, especially, that use one of these hashtags along with just one more: a “tweet lifetime” hashtag (low unique Tweets/hour, but moderate to high retweets/impressions/etc. per hour.)  Track positive outcomes: link click-throughs, shares/likes/retweets.  Refine to using hashtags that get you the best outcomes.  Whatever you do, roll with the changes.  Check the engagement numbers on a hashtag; it might be time to test a related hashtag with better current engagement.

This is all about reach and getting ROI on your time investment in social.  Equally important is engagement over broadcasting.  use something that keeps those replying or mentioning your accounts and competitors accounts front-and-center.  The (free) Tweetdeck.com site lets you set up columns for these and makes it easy to respond fast to customers, disgruntled people – and also see how others in the same game are doing this.

Thanks Saul, some great insights from you here. This notion of pressure to publish frequently, it’s interesting isn’t it. Alakazam is reliant on it! I wonder how this has come about? I think it ties in with what Chris said about creating exceptional content. If your stuff was exceptional, you’d publish no sooner than necessary, right? But I guess those of us who are not exceptional settle for often.

Your answer to Q2 highlights something very important to me. There’s levels of engagement to social media. Businesses need to decide how deep they are willing to go and this determines how heavily they invest. Are you going to stand on the periphery and broadcast? which is what many businesses do, their Twitter feed a stream of promotional tweets with links to their website… Or, are you going to delve deep into it and find the conversations that you can engage with in a meaningful way and impress individuals with your attention to detail? I’m not saying either way is necessarily wrong or right, but taking the time to engage deeply is where you add value.

For anyone really struggling to understand Twitter and get to grips with hastags, your answer to Q5 is awesome! I think the beginning of your answer is really important, understand what your product does and the words your customers would use to describe it. This is good marketing isn’t it, and reminds me that social media is not, cannot be, the ends and means in itself, but a vehicle to express yourself, let others know what you do, and share ideas. And a great point about doing things that keep people mentioning you. That’s the ticket for me, it’s word of mouth isn’t it?

I’d like to thanks Chris and Saul for their contributions, for sharing their most valuable insights, and for making this blog post possible.

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