Category: Internet marketing

Big, huge, massive, surprising social media trends

surprising social media trends

Each year I enjoy digging into the Infinite Dial report, the longest-running social media study that is conducted by Edison Research. I always find a few surprising social media trends that raise an eyebrow and this year was no different.

It’s a Marketing Companion tradition to explore some of the big ideas from this research report and on the newest show, Brooke Sellas and I explore questions like:surprising social media trends 2

  • Why Facebook is seeing a rise in teen usage.
  • Why podcast listening us up, but the average number of shows consumed is down.
  • Why Pinterest is in an apparent nose-dive.
  • How the idea that older folks are taking over TikTok is a myth.
  • Why the war on smart speakers will have long-ranging eCommerce consequences.

Oh my gosh, this is a juicy episode. If you’re a social media geek like me, this will be your best content of the week. Enjoy!

PS Could this be the best Marketing Companion intro ever?

Click on this link to listen to Episode 186

Other ways to enjoy our podcast

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Many thanks to our friend Scott Monty for the awesome show intro. Be sure to check out his amazing newsletter The Full Monty and his new podcast available here:

Tim Washer is contributing creative direction to the show and he’s has worked for Conan O’Brien, John Oliver, among others. He helps corporations build more creative cultures.

It’s hard to ignore — millions of business professionals are active on LinkedIn. They have twice the buying power of a normal web user. If you’re in business, you need to be exploring advertising on LinkedIn. Brooke and I have both had tremendous success with this marketing platform and to help you get started, LinkedIn is offering Marketing Companion listeners $100 in free ad credit. That can go a LONG WAY! Take advantage of this opportunity today by visiting

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RSM employs dozens of specialists and experienced marketing directors who assist companies ranging from startups to market leaders with thousands of employees. Companies across the country from all categories are choosing this model to overcome marketing complexity and outpace their competition. The typical outsourcing client uses 11 RSM subject matter specialists but pays less than the cost of one of their own employees. RSM provides breakthrough marketing for clients and has been named twice to the INC 5000 list. Visit RSM for special Marketing Companion offers including $5,000 in free services.

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7 Steps to deal with business uncertainty in this coronavirus crisis

business uncertainty

Uncertainty can be terrifying. And chronic business uncertainty like we’re experiencing now could have toxic implications for your health, mental well-being, and the ability to make the critical decisions you need to make for your career and your family.

As I compose this post in March of 2020, we are in an unknowable, unprecedented situation. The world that we love will come back from the coronavirus crisis — But when? When do we go back to our lives, our jobs, our friends, our schools? And what about the economy?

I’ve been doing Facebook Live sessions with lessons on “Embracing the Chaos” and have also been posting the videos on my YouTube channel. In my last episode, I covered seven practical ideas to deal with uncertainty and put you in the best possible mental state for your life and your business.

1. Be aware of the panic and respond

When we feel anxiety and even panic, your limbic system responds with a knee-jerk fear reaction. This is the same response we have when we jump because we thought a tree root on a forest path was a snake. It’s useful protection for short decisions but toxic if we have to rely on this for days at a time.

People who are good at dealing with uncertainty are wary of the irrational fear that triggers a limbic system response and quell it as it begins to surface. They realize there is no snake in the path.

In this way, they contain a panic response before it spirals out of control.

One of the things that I saw repeatedly in the research about this topic is the therapeutic impact of positive thoughts.

Finding some small thing to stay positive about turns on a different part of your brain. If you stop your brain from being reactive and afraid, you’ll make better decisions.

Positive thoughts quiet fear and irrational thinking.

There is also a lot of research that shows that positivity spreads to other people. So creating positive thoughts in others can suspend that limbic response on a work team.

2. Identify the facts at hand

When uncertainty makes a decision difficult, it’s easy to feel as if everything is uncertain, but that’s hardly ever the case.

People who excel at managing business uncertainty start by taking stock of what they know and what they don’t know and assigning a factor of importance to each.

Dwelling on something impossible — like trying to figure out how long a recession might last — takes away your power to make good decisions.

What are the factors that are unknowable and out of your control? Let them go. Focus on what is certain.

3. Acknowledge that business uncertainty is not a personal failure.

This is a big one for me.

I come from a proud Germanic stock of people who provide and protect.

I realize that could be seen as an old-fashioned notion but hey, centuries of conditioning are hard to un-do. I’d guess that for you, there is probably some little voice inside of you saying “How did I let this happen? Why wasn’t I more prepared?”

Look, I have virtually no business right now and I WAS prepared for something like a recession.

But this level of uncertainty and loss? This is not on me. This is not my fault. And just saying that out loud is empowering … and true.

I have to live in the real world, not be wedded to some historic sense of responsibility right now.

Don’t be afraid to exert self-compassion and say, “Here’s what we don’t know, but we’re going forward based on what we do know. We may make mistakes, but that’s a lot better than standing still.”

The only thing we control in an uncertain world is our response and the decisions we make.

4. Focus on three known priorities 

When I worked in the corporate world, I used to collaborate with a quality control executive. And he was obsessive about getting people to focus on “The Big Three.” Over and over, he would challenge his colleagues to see if they were focused on the three most important things to their role in the business.

Not four. Not 25. Three.

One of my customers sent me a message last week. He said, “Right now in this crisis, I am focusing on conserving cash, responding to customer’s immediate needs, and taking care of my people.”

Those certainly are three critical goals, and the right ones, no matter what uncertainty there is in the world.

How about you? What are your Big Three?

Is it keeping your children comforted and sane in a lock-down? Exploring new business strategies? Committing to a period of wellness and new habits?

Pick three. Focus like a laser. The uncertainty will fade away.

This is liberating because if you try to respond to every distraction you’ll be completely sapped of energy.

By the way, I’m convinced this is a solid business practice at any time. Every decision contains at least a small factor of uncertainty. So focus on the three priorities you can control.

6. Focus on positive actions – even if they are imperfect

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance.

When you focus on actions, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves mental performance.

In the early days of this crisis, I wrote about how I felt disoriented.

Whether I’m writing a blog post, giving a speech, developing a strategy, or writing a book, I’m a teacher. That’s my purpose. And then BOOM! The teaching stopped. All of it.

I spent a few days in a funk trying to determine a new normal. What is my place in this crisis? What is my purpose?

And then it dawned on me that I’m still a teacher. I just need to teach something new.

I can take action to deeply connect to people where they are right now. I can’t be on a stage talking about the Marketing Rebellion, but I can teach through a blog post. I can teach through live streaming and videos. I can help people through personal phone calls.

I didn’t follow a plan, because there is no plan for this. I trusted my gut.

By immediately focusing on positive action — even if it was imperfect — I felt like I had some structure in a universe of uncertainty.

I have not even tried to be perfect. My videos are so plain, and I even had a minor audio problem with a live-stream. But, I showed up. I applied my skills to the situation at hand.

A friend sent me this message after my last video session:

“My personal life has crashed. My business has crashed. My investments have crashed. And I’m in isolation and running out of bourbon. But your words of encouragement on your video saved my day. Never underestimate your impact, sir.”

Yeah. I’m still a teacher dammit.

Taking positive action, even when you’re winging it — and we’re all winging it — provides footing in an uncertain time.

7. Stop asking “What if?”

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, and there’s no place for them in your thinking once you’re focused on the Big Three and your plan.

The what ifs will answer themselves. You can’t change that. You can’t dwell on the unknown and business uncertainty or you’ll go nuts.

Every now and then my mind wanders back to “what if” because I’m a planner.  But every time my mind goes there I feel stressed, so it has to stop!

The virus is not in your control. Unemployment is not in your control. The economy is not in your control.

What’s in your control are the decisions you make and taking positive actions on those decisions.

Does this help?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post 7 Steps to deal with business uncertainty in this coronavirus crisis appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

Why context marketing will rule the next decade

context marketing

By Mathew Sweezey, {grow} Community Member

Wearing a t-shirt, slub jeans, and a new pair of sneakers, he said it first: “If content is king, context is god.” While I’d love to have been the first to utter those words, Gary Vaynerchuck beat me to it. But what is “context?” And why will context marketing revolutionize business in the next decade?

Context is the reason why a person takes action.

Let’s be honest, no consumer ever said, “I want more branded content!”

No, people engage with our content because it helps them achieve a goal in a moment. The goal could have been to answer a question, escape reality, learn, laugh, etc. It is the context of the experience, not the content, that drove the engagement.

Context marketing is a new method of marketing where brands breakthrough by crafting experiences to meet a person in that specific moment of need, and help them accomplish the task at hand. The trust built from that interaction guides the individual to the next stop on their journey, creating motivation and driving demand.

Context and Lego Land

Lego knows that along their customer journey, many parents have a hard time determining which set of toys is the best fit for their child. This leads many parents to visit the online Lego store and leave without a purchase. In this specific moment of the journey, Lego needed to create a contextual experience to break through the parental confusion and motivate action.

Enter Ralph, Lego’s gift-buying bot.

context marketing lego

Ralph was deployed on Facebook to all Lego website visitors who had visited the site but had not bought anything in the past 14 days. The ad invited them to have a conversation with Ralph, who would help them pick the perfect gift.

The experience was a hit. The average conversation with the bot was three minutes, and the sales from the bot accounted for 25 percent of online holiday sales that year. They broke through by focusing in on a key moment of the customer journey, helping them accomplish the task at hand — finding the perfect gift — and guiding them to the next step, buying it.

It wasn’t the copy of the ad or the creative campaign surrounding it that drove the action. It was the brand’s ability to identify the goal of one consumer moment and craft a relevant and helpful experience in context.

Context Marketing — Why now?

Context marketing is happening now because of a seismic shift in the media environment.

Not long ago, content creation was limited to big publishing houses and television stations with broadcast licenses. This was the era of limited media.

But today, consumers and their devices are the largest creators of content noise on the planet, displacing the media monopoly. This is an infinite media landscape that follows a new set of rules.

The first new rule you must understand is that this new source of content isn’t just overwhelming, it’s radically different.

Noise created by brands is typically “messaging” and forced onto the market place. Just think of broadcast ads, unwanted emails, product packaging, etc.

Now think about the content created by consumers. It’s between friends in trusted networks, permissioned, highly authentic, and engaging.

On top of that, there is an entirely new source of content created for us by our devices. Think about the power of a Fitbit to alter the course of a person’s daily and life with a simple notification – “You need to take 500 more steps to reach your goal.” This device-driven content can have a profound effect on the consumer.

Context marketing and consumer behavior

The infinite media environment has changed consumer behavior.

In the limited media environment when access to information was relatively scarce, we relied on our memory to make decisions. Marketing designed to keep us “top of mind” is effective.

In the infinite environment, consumers offload memory to devices. When they need information they seek it out in the moment.

This has turned all decisions into considered purchases. Even the mundane search term “best toothbrush” is growing at a rate of 100 percent year over year. Why? Because consumers trust the information they find over the information we project.

Meeting consumers in those key moments along the journey, and helping them accomplish that task at hand, builds the trust we need to drive them forward.

AI enables the new era of context marketing

Context is now the marketing king because of artificial intelligence. The volume of noise is so high (Content Shock) that without AI, humans would simply be overwhelmed.

This is why every digital asset from Netflix to Facebook is managed by AI. The algorithms are only showing you the content that is contextual to you in the moment, the content that drives the highest engagement.

Context enabled by AI is now the crux of marketing, but how do you create it? That can be summed up in three words; with, not on.

Marketers need to shift how they think about creating content to creating context through co-created experiences. Context is a collaborative effort.

New cookies

context marketing oreoFor example, Oreo wanted to launch new flavors of their iconic cookie. Rather than spending months doing internal market research, product testing, and finally releasing a cookie to the world with a grand marketing campaign, they did the opposite. They asked their customers to come up with the flavors they wanted to see. They gamified it, and the #myoreocreation was born.

Hundreds of thousands of suggestions flooded social media. To keep the excitement going, Oreo engaged with a majority of those suggestions by responding to consumer posts, or in some cases actually creating a one-off cookie for the lucky fan. This created such a stir that when the new cookies were released they were an instant hit.

Context is part of the omnichannel

Working with content in your market is a broad stroke that can include influencer marketing, employee advocacy, and user-generated content. Each of these can be a collaboration between the brand and an individual but you can go further.

At Salesforce, we’ve found a powerful way to work with our market to create a highly contextual experience. We created the Trailblazer community, a place where anyone can upskill around our product, and other relevant soft-skills. We had an idea, then worked with our market to build the community. Now they keep it thriving.

The co-created community helps people continually improve their business, build a larger network, and improve their personal brand. Each day there are thousands of questions asked and answered by customers. More than 14 million badges (certificate of course completion) have been earned. People love Trailblazer so much many have changed their LinkedIn job title to reflect their status in the community.

The benefits we receive are so much greater than just social media exposure and goodwill. Customers who are Trailblazers spend twice as much, and remain a customer three times as long as those not engaged in the community.

The days of marketing being about pure creative genius are long gone. Now marketers must find ways to work with their audience in the context of the moment.

Mathew Sweezey is Principal of Marketing Insights for,  podcast host, multiple award-winning marketers, pioneer of the marketing automation space, and author of The Context Marketing Revolution.





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Winning the War for Attention: My talk at #SMMW20

winning the war for attention

Winning the War for Attention

I’ve been a speaker at all eight Social Media Marketing World events and it is always an annual highlight for me. It’s like coming home to family — so many wonderful friends to see! If you’ve never attended, you should give it a try and discover the fun.

winning the war for attention andy crestodina, rich brooks, brooke sellas mark schaefer, jay baer, dana malstaff, ian cleary, mike alton, mike kim

In the early days of SMMW, I spoke on Twitter and blogging, then I evolved into content and strategy. In 2016 I was asked to be the closing keynote speaker and I did it again in 2019. What a thrill to speak in front of 5,000 frenzied social media friends!

I think a key to my success at this event is that I always push boundaries with fresh, exciting content. My philosophy is that a great speech delivers insights, not just information. Information … you can get that in a blog post. But you’ll have a unique experience coming to one of my talks!

I pushed the boundaries again this year by doing something different. I spoke from my heart about the biggest problem facing social media marketers today — winning the war for attention.

I see that social media marketers simply try to keep up by copying others or following directions from their favorite gurus. This simply cannot work. Winning a war for attention means we can’t be conformists.

So let’s dig into the heart of the speech …

Winning the War for Attention

I started my speech with a funny story from the early days of television to illustrate a pattern that happens in every content channel.

When TV started in the 1950s, the programs were filled with local talent — singers, cooks, and anybody who could fill some time on the air. Almost anybody could get on the air and almost any business could buy advertising time.

Over the years, the channel “filled up,” and the content became more expensive and sophisticated. Local advertisers dropped out and network (and then cable) TV took over.

Today, what does it take to get your attention on TV? Game of Thrones. At $10 million per episode for a show like that, the content has never been better but if you’re trying to compete on the basis of content, bring your checkbook!

As I told this story, I asked my audience to think of the similarity of what is happening in their own favorite social media space. The same pattern will happen over time. The space fills up with content and it becomes more expensive and difficult to compete, an idea I first introduced in 2014 with an idea called Content Shock.

Now, what do we do about it?

I proposed that answering five questions can lead you to a strategy that helps you win the war for attention. Here they are.

1. Only we …

I asked the audience a simple question. Can you finish this sentence: “Only we …”?

This is a very important question because if you can’t finish that sentence, you don’t have a marketing strategy and if you don’t have a marketing strategy, you can’t have a social media strategy. You’re being set up to fail.

It may take you weeks or even months to figure this out. But you simply must find these special points of differentiation. If you’re stuck, go out and ask your customers what they think. You’ll almost always find the answer there.

2. Company culture

In my Marketing Rebellion book, I go deep into this idea of how company culture really determines how successful you’ll be with your social media marketing.

The company culture both enables your narrative and constrains your ability to win the war for attention. If you have a culture that is open, nurturing and fun … that will be your social media presence. If you’re uptight and controlling, you probably won’t get very far in winning the war for attention.

This can be frustrating because no amount of energy and talent can overcome a dismal company culture. Sometimes, an effective social media strategy has to start with executive education.

I made the point that sometimes social media success must start with executive education.

3. Are you a conversational brand?

I said that the business case for all social media is this: “Come Waste Time With Me.”

Nobody has to be on social media. So to succeed, you have to earn a place that makes people want to waste time with you. Why would they want to do that?

Not all products and industries have an equal chance to win the war for attention.

If you work for a university, a sports team, a pop star, or a professional athlete, you will naturally have a high level of attention and organic reach.

If you work for a bank, the electric company, or a company that makes appliances … well, these just are not going to make it to dinnertime conversations. You’re not that conversational and it will be much, much harder for you to win the war for attention.

You have to make yourself conversational. This does not necessarily have to be difficult or expensive, but you do have to stand out in some unique way.

I provided an example of a hand tool company in Lithuania that went viral over its videos that explored how the tools were hand-crafted.

4. How can you maneuver?

I explained to the audience that this was the most important part of the talk. My concern is that everybody leaves a conference like Social Media Marketing World and follows whatever the gurus tell them to do. I see this year after year.

If it is the year of Snapchat, everybody piles on to Snapchat.

If it is the year of video on LinkedIn, then that is what everybody does.

Marketers flock to whatever is popular until they ruin it.

And that’s no strategy. Winning the war for attention depends on non-conformity, not conformity.

I used an example of TikTok, which was a big piece of the conversation at SMMW20. There seems to be a frenzy to get every business on to TikTok. Research shows that indeed, there is a growing older audience there. But let’s take a closer look:

winning the war for attention tiktok

Did you know that about 94 percent of the content created on TikTok is by teenagers? This implies we have a lot of older people stalking TikTok (as they first did with Snapchat before dropping out). So do you really need to be building an audience of 12-year-olds for your business? Maybe.

I’m not against TikTok, I’m just saying, “THINK” and don’t spend budget on activities because some guru told you to do it (This part of my talk received applause!)

To be effective today, you cannot be guru-led and fall in line with a crowd. You have to zig when everybody else is zagging.

To illustrate this, I provided examples from three very saturated industries — real estate, food, and entrepreneurial content — and showed that a little simple creativity helped businesses stand out and create great success.

5. Human-centered content

In this part of my speech, I noted that every great social media success story has a human anchor providing some unique value. (I cover this in detail here: A simple theory of social media success).

I showed how many companies are missing out on opportunities to show real human smiles, personalities, and passion because they act like grape lollipops, which say they are grape but are not really grape at all!

This was the funniest part of my speech and I got the biggest laugh I think I have ever received as I covered a few big social media fails!

winning the war for attention

The point is, the most human company wins — it just does. I believe that with every fiber in my body. And you won’t be winning the war for attention with some fake and inauthentic presence.

Putting it into action

These are the types of guidelines I use with my clients, and they work. They’re not that hard. But they do take a bold willingness to not follow the crowd.

I ended my talk encouraging the crowd to:

  • Be a non-conformist.
  • Maneuver.
  • Be more human.

It seems simple, doesn’t it? How are you being a non-conformist in your industry?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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Why “resonance” is the future of SEO

future of seo

One of the problems in the digital marketing world today is that leaders are using an outdated playbook — especially when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. I think the future of SEO is taking some pretty wild and unexpected turns right now so let’s explore that today.

Content as SEO fuel

The major innovation with SEO over the past few years is that it has largely become a content strategy. Beginning with the “inbound marketing” concept introduced by Hubspot in 2005 and growing into very sophisticated AI-driven techniques today, creating content that can auto-magically bring qualified leads to your site has been a reliable strategy.

But there are a few trends that are changing that and content certainly does not work for SEO like it used to. The future of SEO is moving in a dramatic new direction.

The changing search landscape

Let’s look at the future of SEO and content as it is unveiling itself through three significant trends.

First — voice search. When you search Alexa or Google home by verbalizing a question, you don’t get a list of content sugestions like blog posts or videos. You get an answer. So content has a much-diminished impact in the world of voice search.

It’s impossible to tell exactly how much of the total search pie is going to voice queries, but let’s be ultra-conservative and say 20 percent.

future of seo

When you ask Alexa or Siri to do something for you, you normally don’t get a list of blog posts or podcast episodes in the results. So the implication is that your content is potentially impacting much less of the search market than it did in the pre-voice days five years ago. But wait, it gets worse.

Trend number two — Last month, something very significant happened in the search world. For the first time, more than half (51 percent) of the search inquiries on Google were kept by Google. This means, Google kept the SEO “answers” away from businesses and content creators and directed them to their own knowledge panels, internal properties, and paid partnerships.

Will this continue to grow in the Google direction? The government will have some say over this. Google’s increasing dominance in this space is a subject of a Department of Justice probe. The company owns the dominant tool at every link in the complex chain between online publishers and advertisers, giving it unique power over the monetization of digital content.

So now we have a truer picture of the emerging search world. In the past five years, the majority of organic search traffic that was available to be attracted by your content has been in steady decline.

future of seo content in decline

The main idea here is, the available search inquiries that can be served by your SEO-oriented content has been evaporating over the past five years.

And when we look at the future of SEO … it gets even worse.

Trend three — While the piece of the pie available to organic search inquiries has been in rapid decline, the amount of content competing for that shrinking pie has literally exploded.

When you have more and more content competing for the same search traffic, eventually content marketing is not a sustainable strategy for some businesses. This is an idea I proposed some years ago called Content Shock.

future of seo content shock

This graph from WordPress shows the number of blog posts published each month since the beginning of the content marketing era. You don’t have to be a statistician to realize it’s harder to compete for attention in a world of 80 million blog posts every month compared to one million a month 10 years ago. In fact, your competition has increased by 8,000 percent in a few years. A tough world for an inbound marketer!

Of course, the same thing is happening on podcasts, visual content, and video (there are 300 hours of new video uploaded to YouTube every minute of the day!).

To break through in this environment, you need to either spend more money on quality to win the content arms race or spend more to promote your content. Either way, traditional content marketing becomes more expensive and less accessible for many businesses in this environment.

So is this the end of content marketing?


We just need to think about content and its benefits in an entirely different way.

SEO and the junkyard dogs

I was recently hired by a company in Seattle to conduct a personal branding workshop based on my book KNOWN.

When you think about it, this was an extremely unlikely pairing. If you search for “personal branding consultant,” there are 40 million results. Even if you search for “personal branding consultant Seattle” there are 2.1 million results.

I am not in those top search results. Not even close.

This is not an unusual situation for a small business. I am NEVER going to be in the top search results. Really, the only thing that matters is the top three slots. The top three slots will be won by the biggest, meanest, richest SEO junkyard dogs.

It’s an expensive and never-ending battle that I will never win for terms like “digital marketing consultant,” “marketing strategy, “keynote speaker,” or any of the other jobs that I do.

Chances are, unless you’re the junkyard dog in your industry, you won’t win your SEO battle either. And yet, every company I know is pouring money into content trying to win the SEO battle!

This just makes no sense.

But here I was in Seattle, conducting an awesome workshop. How did my client find me in all this hopeless SEO mess? Through my content. But not through search.

The business case for resonance

The night before my workshop, I had a wonderful seafood dinner with my client. I asked my friend … “Why did you hire me?”

“Your content resonates with me,” he said without hesitation.

Isn’t that an interesting word … resonates.

My content was not at the top of an SEO stack for personal branding. I’m certainly not going to make the Alexa hit parade.

But a person who hired me for this important work chose me because there was an emotional connection that resonated with him on a personal and professional level.

This reveals a more practical and realistic value of content in this competitive environment, and a value that is almost entirely overlooked by marketers today.

At this point, I would like to interrupt myself. Whenever I write a mega-trend blog post like this, I am pointing out an idea that is very broad … and it may not apply to everybody. There certainly is still room today for SEO-driven content, and there always will be as far out into the future as I can see. The numbers I’ve presented here are high level. The true search volume for your industry could result in mostly organic results, especially in smaller niche markets.

The answer to every marketing question is, “it depends,” and that is certainly true here.

But overall, SEO-driven content is probably working less well for most businesses and content that attracts customers due to its authority is becoming more important.

Content and authority

So there are really two basic content strategies you can use to win new business: Content meant to win SEO and content meant to earn authority (content that resonates with readers). And of course, you can have overlap between these strategies:

future of seo

I won the business in Seattle — against all SEO odds — because I ignored SEO. I write for my readers. If I do that well and consistently, I’ll earn subscribers. Eventually, these subscribers will grow to know me, trust me and hire me. I think that is the future of SEO, which is really not SEO at all!

It’s a different way to look at content strategy but for 90 percent of the businesses out there who will never win the SEO battle, content built on authority might be the best and only strategic option.

I’m not creating content to trick you into clicking a link. I am creating content that consistently connects with your hopes and dreams and business needs. I’m building a long-term connection that resonates.

Make sense?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy 

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The small business marketing formula to dominate your niche

small business marketing Tracey Matney

Since I wrote an article on small business marketing, I decided to ask my friends to help me out with entrepreneurial photos to “decorate the post.” Have fun on this crowd-sourced post as you see some of my entrepreneur friends in action, starting above with Tracey Matney!

A few years ago, I interviewed a researcher in New York about the most significant marketing mega-trends. Chief on her list was that the most effective marketing was becoming “artisanal,” meaning that it had to be local, conversational, and connected to an individual or community.

I asked her, “How will giant brands like airlines and car companies survive in this environment?”

She thought for a long moment and said, “I don’t know.”

The future favors the small

I believe that small business owners (like rising star Valentina Escobar-Gonzalez) are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the marketing rebellion before us.

Here’s an interesting thing to consider. If you list every negative trend in the general marketing world, you’ll see why big businesses are hurting and small businesses are positioned to win:

  • People are not seeing big-budget broadcast advertising. Ad-free subscription services like Spotify and Netflix dominate our attention.
  • Major digital advertising programs are jeopardized by new privacy laws and moves by Google and others to end the use of cookies.
  • Ruthless cheaters with unfettered access to our customers flood the market with cheap knock-offs, threatening the biggest companies and their hard-won national brands.

Now let’s look at some of the most important marketing trends driving success today:

  • People don’t believe ads and company spin. They believe business owners, entrepreneurs, and technical experts (like Karima-Catherine Goundiam).

  • Increasingly the personal brand Is the company brand as people seek an organic personal connection to the companies they love. You probably love and admire a business owner in your community. Who do you love at Verizon, for example?
  • Big companies can’t plaster billboards around a city touting how involved they are in the community. We want people to show up. You can no longer just be “in” a city, you have to be “of” the city.
  • Direct-to-consumer online models have disintermediated the advantage of shopping mall scale.
  • Platforms like Shopify, Etsy, and eBay are opening up global commerce for even the smallest businesses.

This is why I’m so bullish on the potential for small business marketing success in this era. Every important business trend seems to be tipping their way, at least to those who really understand what’s going on in this dramatic Marketing Rebellion.

Small business on the rise

small business marketing

Kelly Baader shows us a path toward human-centered marketing.

A study found that more than $17 billion in consumer product goods (CPG) industry sales have shifted from large players to small ones since 2013!

Sales among “extra small” brands — those generating annual sales under $100 million — rose 4.9 percent, the fastest-growing CPG segment, according to market research firm IRI.

In contrast, large players saw their combined market share drop to 55.5 percent, from 57.7 percent, during the same period.

Let’s go back to that question I asked at the top of the post … “How will big brands survive in this consumer rebellion?”

The expert didn’t know at the time, but an answer is emerging. The big companies know they can’t adjust and are snapping up the smaller “artisanal brands” at a rapid rate. If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em.

A few examples:

Of course, this is also good news for small company founders who newly-minted millionaires!

The small business marketing formula

There are lots of ideas for small businesses in the Marketing Rebellion book but if I were a small business owner (wait … I am!) here are the key small business marketing ideas to focus on:

1. The customer is the marketer

Two-thirds of our marketing is occurring without us.

How do we get invited into the online and offline stories being told by our best customers? How do we help them do their job? Make the customer the hero of your marketing.

How do we create something so unmissable, cool and conversational that people cannot wait to talk about us and carry the story forward?

2. Show up

People don’t want to see photos of your president handing a check to the United Way. They want to see you involved in the community.

Don’t just lend a hand. be the hand. This is hard for the big companies to pull off so get out there and show your community love. Show up where your customers want to find you. Let them see how you care.

3. Be the brand

For a small business, the founder is normally the face of the company. This is a huge advantage in this marketing environment.

Great branding means building an emotional connection between what you do and your customers. Increasingly, that is a person, not a coupon or a product attribute.

Jon Ferrara, pictured here, is a role model for this idea. Jon is so gracious, generous, and accessible, that you can’t help but love his company, Nimble, because you simply love him. In everything he does, Jon puts his family, customers, and employees before his own interests.

My book KNOWN teaches you how to build a strong personal brand in the digital age. This is an essential tactic in the Marketing Rebellion era!

4. Engineer “peak moments”

Build exciting, unexpected delights into mundane customer interactions. When you give people something to talk about, they will.

Jessika Phillips — that’s her in the blue suit in the front — engineers peak moments into every customer engagement and event. Somehow she has made Lima, Ohio, the summertime epicenter of the social media marketing world through her fun and inspiring event.

She creates so much positive buzz that people can’t wait to attend or speak there. The customer is the marketer!

Think about how you can build peak moments into every customer touchpoint.

5. Bring people together

In the end, The Most Human Company Wins™

How does a small business do that?

By showing your face, your smile, your heart, and passion at every opportunity. One of the best ways to do this is to bring people together. Celebrate something. Teach something. Connect people and let them see how amazing you and your employees are!

Julia Bramble, shown here, is becoming an evangelist for helping people “belong” as part of a marketing strategy. Obviously I agree with her. I think it is one of the most powerful things we can do!

There has probably been no better time in the history of the world to start a business. Small business marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just focus on one thing: Be the most human company in your niche.

Make sense?

That is the end of my post. But let’s keep going with my cool entrepreneurial friend photos. Every one of them is trying to make a dent in the world! 

small business marketing

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small business marketing

small business marketing

small business marketing

Keynote speaker Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.


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The cookies must die.


There are about 615 million devices in the world using ad blockers. This easily represents the biggest civil rebellion in the history of the world. In a loud, clear chorus, our customers are saying “stop interrupting me with these ads.”

The ad industry’s response has been to try to get around these ad blockers and show people more ads. Which, is the dumbest possible response.

As I was doing research for my book Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, it dawned on me that consumers have been in rebellion against marketers for more than 100 years.

I thought it was poignant that the first TV remote was invented in 1950.  As soon as there were TV ads, there was a device invented to get around them!

Here’s the lesson we can learn from the history of marketing. The consumers always win. Always.

And the latest battleground is cookies.

Cookies must die

In the digital world, cookies are small pieces of data sent by a website and stored on the user’s computer by their web browser to perform many essential functions. They can be used to verify the account a user is logged in with, record the webpages a user has visited, compile long-term records of a user’s browsing history, and build up a profile of our customer’s interests, preferences, and habits.

Cookies have become the backbone of the digital marketing and advertising industry, enabling tactics like targeting, retargeting, behavioral marketing, programmatic advertising, and much more.

Studies show that ad targeting has been worth more than $25 billion by allowing advertising to more effectively reach relevant (usually) consumers. Many of my customers and personal friends have built their entire companies through the benefit of cookies.

Undeniably, ads that follow you around the web have created a powerful economic engine.

But they also creep people out.

And these spooked consumers have said “no.”

The U.S. Congress, the European Union, the California attorney general and dozens of state governments have said that the cookie-based digital economy cannot stand as-is. This is a violent disruption to our world of eCommerce, much like the rebellion we saw with the ad blockers.

Resistance is futile.

Recovering from the cookies

Last week Google sent shock waves across the industry when it faced reality and announced it would phase out third-party cookies for Chrome over the next two years. This, of course, followed announcements by Apple, Firefox and others.

A post-cookie economy will cause a lot of heartache to retailers and perhaps destroy some business models. As panic sets in, there will be efforts to fight against the changes, or at least find ways to get around them.

Predictably, the advertising trade organizations went ballistic.

“Google’s decision to block third-party cookies in Chrome could have major competitive impacts for digital businesses, consumer services, and technological innovation,” Dan Jaffe, group EVP of government relations at the Association of National Advertiser, and Dick O’Brien, who has the same title at the 4A’s, said in a joint statement shared with Marketing Dive.

“It would threaten to substantially disrupt much of the infrastructure of today’s internet without providing any viable alternative, and it may choke off the economic oxygen from advertising that startups and emerging companies need to survive,” they wrote.

Once again, fighting to keep something in place that consumers hate is an understandable but short-sighted response. It delays the inevitable. The consumers will eventually win.

One possible alternative to cookies is contextual targeting. But if this becomes another way to abuse consumer privacy, we’re just going down another hole that will eventually be legislated away.

We have to get ahead of the curve and learn to go to market in a way that not only respects privacy but helps guarantee it.

We will figure it out.

We’ve all been down this road of disruption before.

I was in a marketing leadership position with a Fortune 100 company the first time the internet dramatically rocked my business world.

I was responsible for selling huge volumes of packaging products to beverage companies such as Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, and Coors. These contracts ran into the billions of dollars and the high-stake negotiations could run for 12 months or more.

All that went away in a single day.

In the early days of the internet, our customers started using reverse auctions (also called Dutch auctions).

All of the packaging suppliers would log into the same computer account and place their bids for the annual contract. There was complete transparency. Everyone could see every other company’s bids. And then we watched the price drop like a rock as competitors lowered their bids, minute-by-minute.

Competitive and panicked sales managers countered with desperately low prices as the clock ticked down — an emotional reaction as their high-volume business evaporated in the closing seconds. In a span of 20 minutes — not months of negotiations — an entire annual contract was completed before our disbelieving eyes.

A century-old business model had been disrupted. Sales and marketing in our industry had been re-invented. I literally didn’t know how we could stay in business under those conditions. Maybe that’s how you’re feeling now with the Google announcement.

But we did stay in business. Eventually, we transcended the chaos and adjusted to a new reality. And that’s the way it’s been with every business disruption in the history of the world.

The consumers always win

The lesson is, the best marketers need to get ahead of the consumer curve. The consumer rebellions always win, so stop doing what people hate.


Robo-calls? Stop it.

Piles of unwanted direct mail litter? Stop it.

Lead nurturing (a friendly way to say you’re spamming people until they block you). Stop it.

And cookies? Well, our customers generally don’t want to be creeped out and tracked anymore.

So we’re going to have to stop that too. It may seem impossible, but we will find alternatives.

The new mindset

I recently wrote that the new marketing mindset must move from “change our customers” to “come alongside our customers.”

Today’s customer possesses the accumulated knowledge of the human race in the palm of their hand. We should trust that they can make their own decisions.

So let’s find a way to come alongside them and help them have a life that is meaningful, healthier, more profitable, less stressful, more fun, awe-filled, adventurous, delicious, loving, joyful, and beautiful.

There are lots of ways to do that without violating the privacy of our customers and angering them. Just watch.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of

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The surprising math behind a growing social media community

growing social media community

I often get asked about the art and science of building a healthy and growing social media community and today I’d like to introduce an unusual concept — the surprising math behind building your online tribe.

Here’s an example to illustrate the lesson for today …

Let’s say you’re having wonderful success building a growing social media community, whether that means a blog, YouTube channel, or Facebook Group. You’re creating a safe and meaningful environment, adding unique value, and engaging with an active audience.

For argument’s sake, I’ll assume you’re doing so extremely well that you’re adding an average of 20 new members to your community every single day. Good for you!

Now comes the surprising part. Here is a chart that shows the expected total growth of your community over 600 days if you add an average of 20 new members every single day:

growing social media community

At this point, you might be thinking that I am really bad at math.

This is simple right? 600 days x 20 new people means you should have a total audience of 12,000 people, not 2,000!

How is it possible to have zero growth over time? This should be a straight line up into the atmosphere, right? You’re adding 20 people a day!

Well … yes and no.

The growing social media community

When forecasting your community growth, you have to consider a very sad fact of life. People leave the community.

growing social media community

My daily struggle!

It might not be your fault. People leave their jobs, move away, they become disinterested in your good work and move on to something else. There are a lot of reasons, but people come and go.

How many people can you expect to leave a community? As you know, the answer to every marketing question is “it depends!”

But for me, I average an audience loss of about three quarters of one percent, week in and week out. Let’s round up and call it 1 percent. So, for every 100 people active in my growing social media community, one of them leaves.

Here are the reasons I lose subscribers in a typical month:

growing social media community

UNSUBSCRIBE — Means people just don’t want my content any more. When people unsubscribe it might because the content is no longer relevant to their job or they are simply getting too many emails.

HARD BOUNCE — A hard bounce indicates that the subscriber’s email address is no longer any good. They may have changed email provider, switched jobs or moved.

PERSISTENTLY UNDELIVERABLE –These subscribers have been marked as undeliverable for at least two weeks and more than three delivery attempts. They appear to be unresponsive, unreachable or abandoned email accounts.

Like any proud papa, I hate it when people leave the tribe. But it’s a fact of life. You will keep gaining people, but you may also lose about 1 percent for whatever reason. On the first chart, we observed that once we hit about 2,000 people in our vibrant, growing social media community, we are also LOSING 20 people (20 is 1 percent of 2,000) every time we add 20 people.

So, at that community size, gaining 20 people per week or over whatever timeframe, means your growth had flatlined! There are weeks I get 70 new subscribers and have a net gain of one!

Building a buffer into your plans

To compensate for the natural attrition in your community or content audience, you actually have to set a target to grow your followers at an increasing rate.

In this example, when you reach 2,000 subscribers, to keep a growing social media community going at a steady pace you actually have to add 40 people, not 20!

The implication is, the more you grow, the more you have to grow.

The bigger your audience, the better you have to be just to stay even.

A common social media problem

Maybe you have not considered this little dilemma before, but when you think about it, it makes sense, right?

I see this dynamic happening all the time in my client work. They don’t understand why they are working so hard yet don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

The simple reason is, good enough today isn’t good enough tomorrow if you want to keep growing.

Make sense?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy 

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What’s the difference between marketing versus branding?

marketing versus branding

I was asked this question during a meeting of young marketing professionals recently: What is the difference between marketing versus branding?

A deceptively simple question but an important one and I thought I would answer this today.

Let’s start with the basics and advice from an old friend.

What is marketing?

Marketing is such a rich topic. But let’s avoid navel-gazing and keep our definition simple.

The most important mentor in my professional life was Peter Drucker, the best-known management consultant in history (and also the most brilliant person I have ever known!). Here is his iconic quote about marketing:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

This is just so beautiful in its simple elegance. At its highest level, marketing is about creating and keeping customers. 

Another great influence on me is Dr. Philip Kotler.

He expounds on the basic idea presented by Dr. Drucker:

“Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.  Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.

“The most important concepts of marketing are segmentation, targeting, positioning, needs, wants, demand, offerings, brands, value and satisfaction, exchange, transactions, relationships and networks, marketing channels, supply chain, competition, the marketing environment, and marketing programs.”

We see from Fr. Kotler that is marketing is A LOT … even down to the supply chain. Marketing is certainly much more than Facebook Likes, isn’t it?

But here we see the term “brands” pop up. Dr. Kotler shows us that branding is part of the subset of the wider world of marketing responsibilities. So what is branding all about?

What is branding?

In my speeches, I often describe branding as the process of building and sustaining an emotional link to your customers.

When somebody mentions your company or your brand, what comes to mind? At the highest level this is your brand … what people think of you.

Here’s a little experiment to make the idea of “brand” real to you.

I recently gave a talk in Poland and asked, “when you think of Coca-Cola, what comes to mind?” Immediately, somebody in the audience shouted “polar bears!”

Wow. Even in Poland, Coke means polar bears!

It doesn’t mean brown sugar water.

It doesn’t mean a product that is bad for your health.

It doesn’t mean mountains of plastic packaging waste.

Coca-cola could mean all of those things, but it doesn’t. Coke is this:

marketing versus branding

Coca-cola isn’t just a soft drink. It’s a feeling. What do you feel when you see this familiar polar bear image? Maybe it’s

  • Warmth
  • Family
  • Happiness
  • Fun
  • Holidays

And, as Peter Drucker said, this IS the distinguishing function of the business. Exactly! This brand feeling is what makes Coke different than any other product in its category. It’s not promising to be the cheapest soft drink or even the best soft drink. But it provides a certain strong, positive feeling.

Most important, it has been able to sustain that feeling for decades and — through  branding — remain relevant across the generations.That’s what make Coke magical from a marketing perspective.

Marketing versus Branding

I recently wrote about how the role of marketing and branding is evolving. In the earliest days, a brand was primarily what was established through persistent advertising. Today, an idea about your brand could occur at any customer touchpoint. Even a single tweet can impact your brand!

So everything you do, and everything you don’t do, can influence what people think of you and your brand. That’s why increasingly, the role of the CMO is being reimagined as the person responsible for the total customer experience.

I realize that some may see my definitions today as overly-simplistic, but I think if you had to explain marketing versus branding to somebody in five minutes, this would do the job!

Marketing is the distinguishing function of the business. And endlessly fascinating.

I don’t think I could have ever selected a more interesting career.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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The happy marketing story of the big fat pig

happy marketing story

This is a happy marketing story. It’s short and sweet and I love it so much because it represents marketing the way it should be done for a small business in the heart of a marketing rebellion.

Let me talk about the photo at the top of this post.

That’s me with Jeff Corbin, the owner of The Tie-Dyed Pig a relatively new barbecue joint in Radford, VA. I was visiting this little college town to do a guest lecture there at the invitation of my longtime friend Dr. Gary Schirr. Gary knows I love BBQ — especially beef brisket — and he had a treat in store for me.

When we walked into the cozy restaurant, the first thing you see is this giant pig. A significant amount of floor space that could have been serving paying customers is devoted to the towering fiberglass swine.

“What is this?” I asked owner Jeff Corbin.

“That there is my marketing,” he said with a proud smile.

And so it is.

The visual prompt

Here is a truth about all human beings. We love posing with giant animals. Dinosaurs. Dogs. Even bears.

happy marketing story

But I digress.

Back to the pig.

Let’s look at a few core ideas from my book Marketing Rebellion —

  • In a world of streaming content and ad-blocking, consumers don’t see ads like they used to. And if they see them, they don’t believe them.
  • Two-thirds of our marketing is occurring without us. Consumers carry our stories forward through social media, word of mouth, and reviews. The customer is the marketer.
  • The job of the professional marketer in this environment is to help customers do their job. How do we help our customers carry our story forward?

Placing a big pig in the middle of your store is an invitation to share your story.

However …

You have to deliver the goods

A big pig is only going to work if you have an authentic, interesting and, relevant story to share.

Let me tell you about the rest of my experience at this restaurant.

  • Brisket is normally a dinner-only item, but Jeff made it available for lunch because I was coming in.
  • At the end of the meal, Jeff came around with a plate of beef and asked us if we wanted another helping. More meat? Yes, please. That stands out.
  • The food was delicious and plentiful. He had some unique menu items. The venue was clean and whimsically decorated in a tie-dye theme. There was free parking near the restaurant’s location at the business center of town.
  • Jeff’s personality filled the room. He approached a table of elderly women by saying “Hello you beautiful, wonderful women!” They blushed in appreciation.

My point is, Jeff delivers the goods. If the place was dirty, if the food was cold, if you could not find a parking space, then the pig doesn’t matter. The pig only works as a reminder to tell people about the overall experience at the restaurant.

You have to deliver the goods, every time.

So I think Jeff is set up to succeed. He is surrounding his customers with authentic, interesting stories and offering the opportunity to pose with a big pig as an excuse to tell people what it is all about.

I think this is a happy marketing story indeed.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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