Return on investment is a favorite marketing mantra. Not for Ted Rubin. He prefers “return on relationship” — using, evangelizing and ultimately trademarking the term since 2009.
“In a fast-paced, digital world, defining and maintaining our relationships has become unexpectedly difficult,” Rubin said. “Social media has enabled us to connect with an infinite number of individuals; it has given us the tools to extend relationships that years ago would have been impossible.”
These impossible connections start with content, which naturally is another Rubin specialty as a social media strategist and chief management officer at the content creation tool Photofy. He talked with 20-year social media power influencer Madalyn Sklar about tips and ideas to scale content creation.
“Content is the medium through which brands can level the playing field,” Rubin said. “Not just any content cranked out by your corporate marketing department, I’m talking about going to a source that’s close to home—your employees.
“Remember, if you are a small business, you are an employee, too,” he said. “Employee-created content can overwhelm corporate or agency-created content by connecting with shoppers as close to the point of purchase as possible.”
“Scaling” to Rubin means creating enough employee content for marketing so it can have a real effect on search engine optimization.
“The solution is to have these employees help you create branded content at scale,” he said. “The main idea is to change your thinking about how to incorporate localized and general branded content.
“What’s going on in people’s lives and in their neighborhoods, things your customers would find appealing or fun, things that are relatable, this is the key,” he said.
Scaling content creation is more than selling or giving information about products.
“It’s about engaging people, sharing valuable content about multiple topics, some directly related some not,” Rubin said. “I turn tweets into blog posts and blog posts into tweets.”
Time for productivity
Sklar regularly powers her tweets to the next level.
“One way I scale my content creation on Twitter is pinning a threaded tweet that relates to my latest weekly Twitter tips,” she said, citing her “6 Ways You Can Boost Your Twitter Productivity.”
“If you’re ready to quit wasting time and maximize it instead, these tips are a must,” Sklar said. “They’ll make it so much easier for you to manage your Twitter presence.”
Marketers would do well to see their Twitter content as an advertisement.
“I share ideas, and the ones that gain great traction often turn in the blog posts or series of posts,” Rubin said. “I have fun with content and don’t let creating a lot of content control me. I control it.
“I then generate an enormous amount of Twitter content by going through blog posts and creating many, many tweets from each,” he said. “Basically, I repurpose all of my content from various platforms, and the easiest to do it for is Twitter.”
Rubin often is the source of his best content:
- I tweet my thoughts.
- I tweet about my activities.
- I often tweet whatever I post to Instagram.
- I tweet other people’s content every day.
- I serendipitously share different people’s content every day.
“I no longer keep a pad and pen by my bed for middle-of-the-night ideas,” Rubin said. “I tweet them out instead and have feedback by the time I wake up. My issue is never how to create content, but how to have time to share all the content I have or create.
“Everything going on around you is content, and everything you create can be repurposed in so many ways,” he said. “It is not so much an advertisement as it is a voice, a platform for engagement.”
These encounters can be quick strikes.
“You have the ability to not only share information, marketing material — and yes ads — but the opportunity to test, share, re-test and create at an incredibly fast pace,” Rubin said. “I test almost every thought and idea on Twitter before releasing elsewhere.
“This is so important: A brand is what you do, a reputation is what people remember and share,” he said. “So, don’t think advertising — although it is. Have a mindset of outreach, engagement and relationship building.”
Social on the job
Choosing who creates content is as important as the material itself.
“Most brands make this way too difficult,” Rubin said. “Some companies still fear the ‘socialization’ of the workplace but locking your employees out of all personal social channels while at work is a big mistake. It only forces them to break the rules and use a different screen.
“Instead of being productive, aware of daily social trends and advocating for your brand, they gripe about you on their personal platforms,” he said. “If you think telling employees not to be social actually makes them less social, that’s BS. They are just doing it behind your back.”
Naturally, Rubin favors the opposite approach.
“Why not embrace and be able to shape, leverage and utilize?” he said. “It’s become clear that employees are a company’s secret weapon. They are an untapped resource for building brand, reaching consumers, improving employee engagement, increasing revenue, enhancing culture and lifting the ability to snap up talent.
“This is a very important topic because we as individuals are the most important ‘influencers,’” Rubin said. “As I so often say, everyone, influences someone. In short, employee advocacy is no longer an experiment.”
As in so many instances, it is not the message that’s most critical but the messenger.
“Empower your employees, and they will power your brand,” Rubin said.
A good relationship with employees aids content creation.
“This helps everything,” Rubin said. “The employer-employee relationship needs to be revamped because it is at the heart of the customer experience, which is the freaking brass ring.
“The key is the mindset, and the key is finding the right tools and using them in collaboration,” he said. “Stay in communication with your employee micro-influencers so they are always in the know about campaigns, designs, events, and milestones.”
Micromanagers need not apply.
“One of the biggest challenges brands face in working with their employees to create content is letting go of control of their brand collateral,” Rubin said. “I will say this again and again because it is at the heart of scaling content creation for a brand: Empower your employees, and you will power your brand.
“The idea is to make collaboration with employees easy, seamless and most importantly, measurable,” he said. “Make them feel not only comfortable, but that is more about them than about the brand.”
Turn them loose
Having confidence in workers benefits them and management.
“This takes the fear out of unleashing your employees to the digital wind, especially if your brand is larger, with multiple markets and areas of operation,” Rubin said.
These ideas are fundamental when motivating employees to generate content.
“First and foremost, empowering them to build their personal brands — to better themselves — empowers them and therefore empowers you,” Rubin said. “Make it clear that you support them in their efforts first, and they will naturally support you.
“Show them how sharing content betters their relationships, grows their personal brands and influence, and they will support the brand,” he said. “This enhances their ability to share content via their personal channels daily, grow their following, and showcase their talent and abilities.”
Employee motivation grows when they know “What’s in it for me?”
“If you make it easy for employees to create and share content, and make it clear you want them to grow and enhance their own personal brands, they will create for you while creating for themselves,” Rubin said.
Besides employees, influencers might have a role in content creation. Choosing the right influencers is not to be taken lightly.
“Follow them for a while,” Rubin said. “Get to know them. Make sure their style fits your brand. Remember that influencers are nothing more than media. Too many think what we call ‘Influencers’ actually influence in a way that drives people right to stores to buy.
“That is such a fallacy,” he said. “You are buying media and content creation that engages and gets the attention of consumers. Influencers are a media buy, and yes — if done correctly — often a better media buy than the usual ad buys, but think about them and measure them the same as any media buy.”
Before any influencer or media buy, have a vision and strategy.
“The biggest mistake brands make when trying to engage influencers is not first trying to understand who they are and what they stand for,” Rubin said. “They think it is all about the money, and simply the number and reach.
“I write a lot about looking people in the eye digitally,” he said. “For me, the most important influencer marketing tool is building relationships. Influencer marketing — when used to its best effect — is about building a network of business relationships that will yield results over time.”
Autopilot won’t fly
No content creation effort will succeed without an investment of time and effort.
“You’ll get as much out of the program as you put into it,” Rubin said. “If your goal is to find a platform, and make this like programmatic advertising, and do whatever you can to automate the process, you will throw the majority of your budget down the drain.
“A network gives you reach, but a community gives you power,” he said. “Relationships are like muscle tissue. The more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become.”
Value is not synonymous with finance.
“If you are only focused on the money, you risk completely overlooking the people,” Rubin said. “The moral of the story here is to build relationships, turn them into the community, and remember the people come first.
“When your team worries about how to measure the content being created by an influencer, first just measure it the way you measure all of your media,” he said. “Second, add the relationship building factor that keeps customers coming back.”
Coming back to the employer-employee relationship, Rubin noted its explosive potential.
“Employee-generated content receives eight times more engagement than content shared from the company itself,” he said. “ On top of that, employee content extends brand messaging by over 500 percent. Crazy, right?
“So, why aren’t more companies getting employees engaged in content creation,” Rubin said. “It’s well known that companies with engaged employees outperform their peers; involving employees in content creation can help to create a sense of common purpose.”
Tap into content creators
This brought him to his company’s Photofy content creation tool.
“We believe employee-created content has tremendous potential to fill in some of the gaps in current digital marketing stacks,” Rubin said. “ECC leverages the personal influence of the content creators, thereby delivering substantially higher engagement rates than corporate-branded content.
“For larger organizations, such as franchises and retailers, ECC helps to localize and personalize content in a way not possible with geo-targeted advertising alone,” he said. “Because ECC using common brand assets is all customized and shared by the different users, its impact on search-based algorithms is profound.”
Rubin believes that deployed at scale, crowd marketing can significantly augment corporate digital media efforts.
“It allows the organization to empower their employee base in this effort as well,” he said. “Most organizations are sitting on a goldmine of authentic content creation that is likely closest to their customers.
“With Photofy, you can give your employees the tools to create and share branded content coupled with a powerful content management system and analytics package,” Rubin said.
Jim Katzaman is a writer at Data Driven Investor and a manager at Largo Financial Services. A writer by trade, he gathers the majority of his story content from Twitter chats. This has led him to publish about a wide range of topics such as social media, marketing, sexual harassment, workplace trends, productivity, and financial management. Medium.com has named him a top writer in social media.