I’m going on vacation next week, and for the last few weeks, I’ve gone to TripAdvisor.com almost every day to see if there were any new reviews about the hotel where I’ll be staying. Yesterday, I got lucky. There was a new review, and after I read it I may have closed my eyes for a few seconds imagining myself kayaking in sunny Mexico. Man, I love TripAdvisor.
It’s not the lists of hotels or restaurants or the links to book your trip on Expedia.com that make TripAdvisor successful — it’s the traveler reviews offering first-hand knowledge and photos from people who have been where you want to go. It’s unique, valuable content, and it’s the reason I recommend the site to anyone telling me they’re planning a vacation.
So what can your business learn from a site with monthly visits in the millions? It’s simple: Content is king.

How do you view your newsletter—whether e-mail or print? Do you see it as separate from your website? If so, you’re potentially overlooking a huge opportunity to maximize your content marketing impact, says Newt Barrett on Web2journal.com.
In his post, Barrett shares seven ways to get more for your newsletter buck. Depending on your business, all seven of his ideas might not apply, but on his list are a few must-dos to make your newsletter work harder for you:

  • Link each newsletter story to a page on your website. “You want your readers to find their way easily to your online home so they can discover lots more about your company, its products and its people,” he says.
  • Be sure to make RSS feeds available for your newsletter and for all of your web content. “This is an easy and free way of syndicating your news stories that will extend your newsletter subscriber base dramatically,” Newt says.
  • Be sure each article integrates social media sharing capabilities. “If you’re lucky, a great article may go viral and be spread across the web by enthusiasts who value and want to share your content,” he says.”

The latest issue of B-to-B tackles the topic of social media as a revenue-generating marketing channel—more specifically, can social media be a revenue-generating marketing channel?
The article features opinions from experts on both sides. It seems the jury is still out, but nothing sums up the dilemma better than this quote from Matt Ceniceros, who runs FedEx’s Citizenship Blog:
“If you look at social media as a channel instead of a new frontier, it becomes more tangible. From a media relationship standpoint, the way we talk to print isn’t the same way we talk to broadcast, for example. As the business world becomes more sophisticated in using social media, its special way of being addressed will become more sophisticated as well.”
We couldn’t agree more.

Here’s one for the doesn’t surprise us folder: Social media usage in content marketing jumped 500 percent in two years, according to a new Junta 42 study.
Other content products that have seen the biggest increases since 2008 are blogs, online video and eBooks, followed by digital magazines, podcasts and microsites.
Does this mean your company should be using the hottest tools and ditching the least popular ones? Not at all. What it means is that there are a lot more ways to communicate with your audience these days.

Have you ever heard the expression, “You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else”? Well, the expression applies not just in relationships, but also when it comes to your content marketing strategy, according to Joe Pulizzi, founder of Junta42.
In his latest blog post, Pulizzi acknowledges the fact that so many businesses spend countless hours and resources creating buyer personas (sometimes even giving them names), so they can understand who their customers are, without really understanding the brand they are selling (their brand persona).
How does this relate to content marketing? Isn’t content marketing all about the customer? Clearly not, when you consider Pulizzi’s example:
“Just think of the difference between Southwest and Continental airlines. Two reputable companies. Two very different companies. If Continental came out with a video series about their flight attendants doing tricks on passengers, it would seem severely out of place. Southwest, not so much.”

Ten years ago, custom content meant a newsletter or a member magazine of varying sizes and frequency. And today? It probably wouldn’t be an overstatement to say a company’s options are endless in how it can reach and engage current and prospective customers.
As John Bell points out on his Digital Influence Mapping Project blog, custom content, especially the digital kind, today can take many forms.
It could be an app, like the ones created by Kraft Foods and Geico Insurance. Or it could be a community site, like Weber Nation, created for owners of Weber grills to share their tips, techniques and grilling victories.
And the list goes on. There are more options today than in the past, but the goal of custom content has always been the same—to engage customers in a meaningful way.
The challenge for marketers is figuring out which strategy works best for their audience. Are you a marketer facing that challenge? We can help.

Patriotism is a regular topic in many of the magazines we publish at Hammock Inc.: Semper Fi, the magazine for the Marine Corps League; American Spirit, the magazine for the Daughters of the American Revolution; and Foundations, which we publish for the families of the Army National Guard. Now we can add one more title to that list.
In the October/November issue of MyBusiness, the magazine we publish for the National Federation of Independent Business, we honor small business owners with a military background in the feature Heroes of Small Business. They share how serving their country has helped them serve their customers.

Entrepreneurs seem to be getting younger and younger these days, at least that’s the sense you’ll get when reading the August/September 2009 issue of MyBusiness, the magazine we publish for the National Federation of Independent Business. We profiled several young entrepreneurs in their early 20s who started their businesses in high school—and it’s amazing to see where they are now.

We’ve been busy in the office today finding the perfect spot to showcase our newest trophy — the Gold Azbee award we won at last night’s American Society of Business Publication Editors awards banquet for MyBusiness, the magazine we publish for and with the National Federation of Independent Business.

Hey, I’m looking for someone who eats hot dogs for breakfast and whose last name starts with a C. Anyone out there fit that description? Anyone out there know someone who fits that description?
OK, so that’s a strange example, but I was just trying to demonstrate one of the best uses of social media and Web 2.0—crowdsourcing. In very basic terms, crowdsourcing means leveraging your audience to find solutions to your problems—or, in my case, answers to very random questions.