Native Publishing: The New Thought Leadership Frontier

“You need to build thought leadership” is easy advice to give a marketer looking to build their online presence. Grow your perceived expertise in your field, and you will gain credibility in the eyes of your audience, who will begin to lean your way when the buying decision inevitably arises.

But just how do you go about building thought leadership? Content marketing is a major force, as methods like blogging and webinars (even webinar series) give businesses large and small an outlet to establish their expertise. Traditionally, most content marketing occurs on your own website. But increasingly, social networks are beginning to enter the conversation, establishing the new frontier in thought leadership: native publishing.

What is Native Publishing?

First things first: don’t go looking for definitions of native publishing, because they simply don’t yet exist. Instead, think of it along the lines of native advertising: hampered by years of audiences focusing their attention away from sidebar and banner ads, advertisers have embraced the option to focus on promotional messages that appear within the general content area. We’re talking about newsfeed ads in Facebook, search ads atop the organic results, etc.

Native publishing is not all that different from native ads in that the content appears within the medium a user spends their time in to begin with. ‘Traditional’ content advertising requires promotion of the content (which is hosted on your website) via a link, requiring users to exit Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else they may spend their time. Native publishing, on the other hand, allows users to read the entirety of the content without ever leaving their social network of choice.

The Options in Native Publishing

The advantages of native publishing from a social network’s perspective are obvious: just like you, they don’t want their users to leave their site and read content elsewhere. Put simply, the longer an individual session, the more advertising dollars the network can earn. Users who click a link often don’t return to their social network of choice, incentivizing these networks to offer native options instead.

LinkedIn was the first to do so, when it broadened its Pulse publishing platform to the entirety of its user base last year. Now, the network offers daily featured articles customized to each user’s individual interests and preferences that appear right in its newsfeed.

Facebook has long offered a native publishing option with its Notes feature, but saw its use diminish to almost nothing over the past few years. So the network reacted this September, when it updated the feature to offer more incentivesto publish long-form posts right on the network. Some (including us) have speculated that Twitter’s rumored removal of character limits will not apply to all Tweets, but signify a new, long-form publishing option on the network. In short, native publishing options are growing rapidly.

Native Publishing Advantages

Of course, the mere presence of a new marketing option doesn’t automatically guarantee success of justify spending valuable time and resources. Social networks know that as well as we do, which is why they’re sure to advertise the plethora of advantages that can come out of publishing thought leadership content natively rather than on a blog. And as it turns out, the advantages are undeniable.

Think about the process probably use currently to publish and promote your content. You write a blog post, which will live on your website and hopefully gather page views from your subscribers and its search engine optimization. But in addition, you likely want to promote it on social media, ensuring that it reaches a wide audience of people who may not yet know about your brand. As a result, you need a two-step process: publish your content, then promote it separately on social media.

Native publishing ostensibly removes one of these steps by taking care of the promotion for you. LinkedIn’s Pulse offers publishers the opportunity to ‘tag’ their posts, which in turn boosts viewership to users who may have never heard about your brand before but are simply interested in the subject. Gather enough views, and your post will become ‘featured,’ which means it’s sent out in a daily digest to users around the world. In short, LinkedIn takes care of the post promotion for you.

Integrating Native Publishing Into Your Content Marketing

If you’re ready to abandon your current content marketing strategy and jump fully into the native publishing realm at this point, we don’t blame you. But don’t be hasty: instead of merely switching all of your efforts to this new frontier, it pays to carefully integrate native publishing into your strategy as a new, additional tool instead of the new normal.

For starters, a major advantage of content marketing is that it increases your site visitors, via SEO and other inbound-focused methods. Building thought leadership can only be successful if you offer users a natural ‘next step’ to take, and that’s done far more easily if the content lives right on your website. In other words, website-based content continues to be a valuable marketing tool.

Native publishing on the other hand, is particularly helpful if you’re looking to build awareness and thought leadership among new audiences. Someone who has never heard of your brand before will be much more likely to read your content if it requires minimum effort, such as not having to leave their current medium. At the same time, content that’s curated on a platform like LinkedIn’s pulse will allow you to reach users who may not (yet) be actively searching out your services.

Here is our recommendation for integrating native publishing into your content marketing and thought leadership efforts: use it for top-of-the-funnel messages that are industry focused and not promotional, simply offering a way for audiences that haven’t yet heard about you to learn more about their industry. Meanwhile, you can continue to use more involved methods like webinars and ebooks on your website to draw users in who already know about you as a valuable resource in their industry, ultimately enabling them to take the next step toward becoming customers.

Building thought leadership and establishing credibility is crucial in today’s digital age. And while there are a multitude of methods available to do just that once users already trust you enough to hand over their information, marketers have lacked options to convince audience who have never heard of them about their expertise. Enter native publishing, the next frontier in thought leadership building and one that, done correctly, could transform your content marketing efforts.

Thought Leadership Webinars

How Webinar Series Can Build Your Thought Leadership

If you’re an experienced marketer, particularly if you operate in the B2B sector, you likely know about the value of webinars to your lead generation content marketing efforts. Webinars continue to rank among the top inbound marketing lead generation tactics, even improving in effectiveness between 2013 and 2014.

You might also know that webinars play an important role in establishing your brand as a credible source of leadership within your industry. But did you know that you can take your quest for thought leadership even further with one simple strategic adjustment? Enter webinar series.

The Prevalence of One-Off Webinars

Considering their effectiveness, webinars of any type continue to be underused. But even among marketers who do take advantage of this type of content marketing, the vast majority choose the simple variety: single webinars, based on individual topics, that are relatively easy to plan and prepare.

Chances are you’ve seen these types of isolated events. But if you have not, here is a perfect example: The American Marketing Association offers some of the most sought-after webinars in its field, continuing to establish its position as a voice of authority within the marketing community.

Yet, a single look at its schedule of upcoming webcasts reveals a simple truth: each of them is focused on its own topic, isolated from the other events. Depending on their specific industry, marketers can sign up for one of the webinars, but due to the non-existent connection between the individual webcasts will have little incentive to sign up for a series of them.

Increasing Effectiveness with Webinar Series

Enter webinar series. As you might imagine, webinar series are a number of interconnected webinars that build on each other under one common, overarching topic.

Depending on your industry, you may want to create a series on the intricacies of the supply chain, dedicating each of its stages to one (or more) webinars. Or you could create a series on the importance of safety during home construction, aimed toward contractors. Compared to the prevalent one-off webinars, these types of series offer a number of distinct advantages:

  • Establishing a Relationship. The above AMA example illustrates perfectly the pitfalls of one-off webinars. While they work well for lead generation, they offer little opportunity to ‘hook’ your leads with recurring content. As any inbound marketer knows, lead generation is only part of the equation. Nurturing those leads by slowly guiding them through the sales funnel on their way to becoming customers is just as essential. And whereas one-off webinars can help provide one piece of the puzzle to success, webinar series can make up a large part of the puzzle by themselves. In today’s increasingly democratized digital advertising environment, building a relationship with your customers is important, not only to nurture your leads, but also to increase repeat purchases – which, as you probably know, is a major revenue driver. And webinar series do just that, tying your leads and customers to a topically-themed range of events that will keep you in their minds once they nudge closer to a sales decision.
  • Multi-Use Possibilities. Another significant benefit of webinar series is their use in more than just one area. Experienced webinar hosts know that while the live event is an important part the webinar experience, recorded webinar are just as (if not more) important. In fact, a 2013 study showed that only 16 percent of B2B customers preferred to watch a webinar live, while the vast majority either preferred the recorded alternative or did not have an opinion either way. Webinar series can live on your website as lead-generation machines long after the initial event. Of course, that’s not all that different from their one-off alternative. But here is something that is: turning your webinar series into a podcast. Podcasting is steadily growing to become a force in digital marketing, and spreading your brand identity to this medium allows you to tap your audience in new ways. And while one-off webinars are difficult to turn into effective podcasts, webinar series lend themselves perfectly to the changeover in medium. Potential listeners can subscribe to the podcast knowing exactly what to expect, as the entire series is focused on a distinct topic.
  • And then, of course, there is the most distinct advantage of webinar series:

 

How Webinar Series Enhance Your Thought Leadership Efforts

We’ve come full-circle. By building a relationship with your webinar attendees and utilizing the series in a variety of ways, you ultimately pursue and achieve one goal: building thought leadership. In addition to establishing the necessity of relationship building, the increasingly democratized digital environment we mentioned above also comes with another side-effect: your audience will only trust you if you have established an aura of expertise and credibility within your field. And while you can establish thought leadership using a variety of methods, webinar series can go a long way toward doing just that.

For starters, you can use your series to invite established experts in your industry to speak on certain topics. Thanks to your webinar’s Q&A session at the end, your event will serve as an outlet for industry clients to get an in-depth look into each of the topics you cover. For real-life evidence, check out the case studies in this whitepaper by the Content Marketing Institute on webinar series

Inbound Marketing - Foxtail Marketing

7 Critical Strategies for Inbound Marketing

The main technique of inbound marketing has to do with setting traps. It’s like a kind of marketing jujitsu. You use the customers’ own motivations to bring them into buying from you. You create a need in the fertile soil of customers’ imaginations. You are there where your potential customers are. You become the authority on subjects in which your customers are interested. They turn to you and your products to find out more and you engage them. Then you bring them close to the products and services that can answer their needs. All the choices are theirs.

In his book, Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage and Delight Customers Online, (Wiley, 2014), Hubspot CEO, Brian Halligan describes how the basic technique inbound marketing technique is to engage customers meaningfully instead of dreaming up new ways of interrupting your way into their lives.

…attract, engage and delight…Inbound marketing focuses on the width of your brain, not the width of your wallet, and entrepreneurs have more remarkable ideas than anyone I know.

Get active outside your website:

One of the principles of inbound marketing is that you and your brand have to get well known among people likely to visit your site. Look for interest groups, sigs, discussion groups, and other online communities in which you have contributions to make and get active. Many advocate arranging public events, appearing on as an expert on media like radio, cable television or in magazines, newspapers and other print media. These kinds of media appearances are usually easy to arrange because the media are hungry for interesting content. Although you will not be able to promote your brand directly, you will be able to add your website address or other information to enable readers or listeners to access your site for more information.

Produce content that educates, inspires and entertains:

The content should be useful, factual and interesting. Use all the knowledge and skill you have acquired in running your business. Recruit the knowledge of others to provide useful authority. Don’t make your content into a sales document right away. Instead try to spark dialog and discussion with your content.

Make your website into a hub, not a megaphone:

Your company and your brand needs to be seen as being at the center of conversation and a source of valuable resources. Make your website into a discussion group that brings people together in the field you feel most comfortable contributing to. Add free tools and advice that visitors can use. These things can convert casual visitors into prospects, and prospects into leads.

The inbound website is wired: 

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of producing massive volume of content without remembering to include a sales funnel. The sales funnel has embedded active decision points and internal links that bring visitors closer to making sales choices. They are also tied to software counters which make diagnostics of the sales funnel and metrics of user interest possible. The site should include interactional sections for the collection of some information about visitors. This information allows your marketers to assess interest by demographics or visitor profiles. Visitors that enter a sales funnel are converted to leads at a rate nearly 20 times higher than visitors that don’t.

Use pointers to the guide visitors to action:

How would you feel if a visitor goes to your site, is delighted by it, but then doesn’t know what to do next and simply leaves? The website needs to contain specific signposts showing your visitors where to go next. If someone comes to your website, make it easy and seamless for them to subscribe to read similar articles, leaving only enough information for you to add possible prospects to a follow-up list and aid in your demographic metrics. Optimizing your search for action is as important as SEO.

Use engaging graphics:

In some ways, the collected wisdom of years of conventional advertising can still be useful in the age of inbound marketing. We know from advertisers’ experience that the average attention span is no more than about eight seconds. It’s the headline and lead sentence in a newspaper article that has to do the job of nailing a reader’s attention. The billboard on the roadway has to put its message into the mind of passers-by in just the time it takes for them to pass it.

Engaging visual images cut through the clutter of words. You can find visuals that tell your story without major expense. Young photographers and artists are anxious to provide you with custom graphic materials. You can make them yourself using your cell phone to make photos or short videos to enliven your site. Each graphic should carry its weight however. You should only use visual content that serves a business function. Avoid vacuous decorative images. The graphic has to grab the attention of visitors for the purpose of leading them into the rest of your content.

Prepare for an altered marketing perspective by hiring experts or outsourcing wisely:

You will probably need some extra expertise to build and regularly update your inbound marketing website. You may need help with analysis of the data your website yields. Most of the time in-house staff does not have the skills to do this.

Starting an inbound marketing approach will involve a corporate change in the way the company perceives marketing. Make sure your staff is oriented to the changes and aligned with new approach. Your sales staff will have new prospects who should be contacted promptly. Marketing should be focused on applying the metrics you obtain to modify and test on-line strategies. The team must be well equipped and comfortable with the technology.

16 Experts to follow If Your Company Uses HubSpot

Hubspot is a powerful marketing automation tool embraced by companies of every size, shape, and vertical. When used effectively, Hubspot streamlines content creation, increases company audiences, converts a greater number of leads, fills the sales funnel, and nurtures leads to the close.

It’s a beast!

Marketing teams who have selected Hubspot know the key to success is understanding the robust tools offered on the platform. In addition to the training and ongoing education Hubspot offers, it’s vital to do some self-educating. Social media is a great place to start.

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