FIXATE http://fixate.io Create a Meaningful Voice Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:00:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 77021838 Smooth Handoffs: Reducing Friction in Your Content Marketing Workflow http://fixate.io/reducing-friction-content-marketing-workflow/ http://fixate.io/reducing-friction-content-marketing-workflow/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:00:53 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1862

At Fixate, we use tools like Trello to help manage our influencer content marketing workflow. However, we’ve found that even the best-planned process can have friction points that can slow or even stop your workflow cold. Here are a few observations and solutions that can...

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At Fixate, we use tools like Trello to help manage our influencer content marketing workflow. However, we’ve found that even the best-planned process can have friction points that can slow or even stop your workflow cold. Here are a few observations and solutions that can help grease the wheel of your influencer content marketing workflow.

Failure lurks where?

At. Every. Interface.

This is something I learned working on engineering projects: Wherever you have two things that connect or meet an interface, that is a potential failure point.

With a content marketing workflow process, interfaces generally fall into three categories—starts, handoffs, and finishes. Succeeding at keeping the workflow running smoothly is less complicated than running engineered systems. It is more like training with your team for a relay race. It just requires identifying the smoothest transition format, communication, and practice.

Starts

With influencer content marketing, the workflow usually begins when a topic is assigned and approved. This is where it is useful to have a few things in place, such as:

  • An on-boarding process for your content contributor
  • Clear deadline communication
  • A clear understanding of the topic approval process

Remember, it can be daunting to write, especially if your contributor is a practitioner influencer rather than a professional writer. Any source of confusion is a reason to delay facing the blank screen.

Don’t give any of your content creators an excuse to stall because of a lack of clarity on how to get started. You should have a well-understood process that defines when they are cleared to write and the deadline. Make sure you have gone over the process with them personally (by voice or in person, not email). Then, reinforce the process with written guidelines for them to refer to, and then hold them to it.

Topic approvals, and the process for obtaining and selecting topics to write and their approval, should be well understood. Everyone who touches the content, from content creator to content distributor, should know what his or her deadline is, as well as the overall deadline of the piece, and make sure it is clearly marked and assigned through every step of the workflow.

Handoffs

We use Trello in order to manage our workflow. But for it to work, it means everyone has to have the tool and understand how we use it in our workflow. Adoption comes down to three things:

  • Communication
  • Training
  • Enforcement

Like starts, a good handoff begins with ensuring everyone knows that there is a workflow, that it relies on a tool, and that they have to use the tool in order to hand content off to the next step in the workflow.

Then, one must train the workflow users on the workflow tool and process. One way to verify that your workflow users are fully trained is to ask them to move a demo piece of content through the process. Connect this activity to a reward if you are having trouble motivating training completion and process compliance. For example, maybe on-boarding (and the ability to bill) is not complete until this step is done.

If someone tries to work outside the tool or the workflow (to send you content via email, for instance), don’t respond. Or, if they are a content contributor (influencer) from outside your company, you may choose to be their proxy and enter them into the workflow yourself. However, if you have a lot of contributors, this can waste your time.  

Finishes

It takes a lot of people to create customer-quality content. You may have the author, an editor, peer review, a copy editor, a graphics designer (and more) in touch with your content. But this can create confusion as well if you don’t designate one person to be responsible for publication and distribution. Make sure you identify that person, and that: they know who they are, they know what triggers distribution, and your distribution mechanisms are all in place. This means ensuring your distribution lead knows:

  • Where and how to publish
  • How to set up and activate your tools for social share.
  • To notify everyone in the organization and content authors when new content is out so they can use their network to amplify it.
  • It is their responsibility to verify successful content distribution.

The Takeaway

Having a tool to automate your content marketing workflow is important, but insufficient. In order to have a well-run content marketing workflow, you will need to spend some time anticipating the failure points and compensate for them with communication, training, and reinforcement of organizational best practices.

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Killing it with Quuu http://fixate.io/killing-it-with-quuu/ http://fixate.io/killing-it-with-quuu/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 15:00:45 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1855

Using Quuu to Promote Content Your social presence is important. You already know that. These days, the number of tools available to support it is tremendous. Quuu may be just another tool, but for us, it has proven to be uniquely valuable to our business....

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Using Quuu to Promote Content

Your social presence is important. You already know that. These days, the number of tools available to support it is tremendous. Quuu may be just another tool, but for us, it has proven to be uniquely valuable to our business.

Quuu is an easy and simple automation tool that helps your company promote your content. It is a two-sided network. On one side, people are submitting content, and on the other, people are sharing that content. For the content contributors, the benefit is more views. For the sharers, the benefit is more engagement with their network, and more followers. What makes Quuu unique is that all the content is categorized and curated. So the consumers of the content have confidence that it’s relevant to them, and something worth sharing.

While Fixate uses Quuu as a content curator and sharer, it’s the content sharing aspect that has benefited us the most. Quuu has helped Fixate’s commercial blog and media site organic views grow substantially. In the last two months, 35% of the new users on Fixate’s blog are from Quuu.

How we use it

Quuu has over 300 categories to choose from, and does everything for you. Quuu hand-reviews each piece of content to make sure that it’s useful, interesting content, and that you are picking the best category for the piece. If they don’t believe that the article you’ve chosen to promote meets these requirements, they will reject the post and email you with suggestions on how to make the post stronger.

At Fixate, we use Quuu for both our blog site and media site, Sweetcode.io. We have promoted 16 different posts and used six different categories. We’ve posted in Tech, Startups, Marketing, Web Development, Influencer Marketing, and Coding. On a regular basis we look at our recent articles, and gauge them for submission to Quuu. We pick articles that meet these criteria:

 

  1. A lifespan of more than three months. Because Quuu staggers the submissions, you want to make sure the post does not have a short life. For example, we would not submit something from recent news.
  2. The content is useful. We focus on content that imparts value and is not just opinion.
  3. The content is not a pitch. We do not submit any content that would come over as a vendor pitch.
  4. The content fits into a Quuu category. The self-selecting audience needs to actually benefit from the content.
  5. The article is good. Of course, “good” can mean a lot of things. Because Fixate is in the business of creating content, we have a sense of what high-performing content looks like, and the best practices for producing, structuring, and publishing it. The articles we submit to Quuu follow each of those best practices.

 

What works?

The posts that are more general and explain the details of how to accomplish tasks seem to do the best in the marketing categories. One of our posts, Creating an Influencer Marketing Content Distribution Strategy, received 627 shares and 957 clicks.

We’ve had the best success in all marketing-related categories ( Figure 1).

 

Figure 1. Post Performance by Category

Quuu

 

Our Quuu experience

Quuu is not only easy to use, it also has great customer service. Quuu rewards content that hits its milestones with free credits. Quuu offers 25 badges/goals to achieve (Figure 2). The more you achieve, the more free credits you get. The free credits do not expire.

 

Figure 2. Quuu Badges and Goals

Quuu Badges

 

Over the past year, we have also learned that it is possible to be blocked from using Quuu’s services. As mentioned before, Quuu personally reviews every piece of content. By accident, we submitted the same post multiple times with broken links, so Quuu assumed we were spam and blocked our account, so we were not able to log in again and had to create a new account. (This shows that Quuu really pays attention to the content you are submitting.)

Sometimes we have come across people sharing content with others who don’t necessarily fit our target audience. We have had a few instances where the person who picks up the article definitely does not fit the category. But that is okay because it’s rare. (Also, it’s not our responsibility if users don’t grab the right Quuu category to share.)

Conclusion

In summary, Quuu is a useful automation tool that helps promote company content. Quuu is a two-sided network—On one side, people are submitting content, and on the other, people are sharing that content. At Fixate, we choose to use Quuu for both our blog site and media site, Sweetcode.io. With Quuu, we have promoted 16 different posts, using six different categories. And thanks to Quuu, organic views for Fixate’s commercial blog and Sweetcode.io have grown substantially.

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Handcrafting Company Culture: Fixate’s Approach http://fixate.io/handcrafting-company-culture/ http://fixate.io/handcrafting-company-culture/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:00:35 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1850

Culture is a critical component to the success of the modern company. It not only identifies key aspects of what the company is and stands for, but also subtly tells a story of where the company has come from and where it is headed. However,...

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Culture is a critical component to the success of the modern company. It not only identifies key aspects of what the company is and stands for, but also subtly tells a story of where the company has come from and where it is headed. However, many seem to either lose a grasp of what their culture is, or forget to identify key factors before it’s too late, and the company has already started to grow up. At Fixate, we just completed an exercise in identifying, deep learning, exploring and handcrafting our key identities and factors that make up our culture.

The Why

There are many reasons why companies start the process of identifying culture. At Fixate, identifying our culture was important prior to other stakeholders being introduced into our growing startup. Our culture’s attributes will become the pillars that support how we scale, hire, measure, reward and retain employees, as well as protect what key aspects of our organization need to be upheld as new stakeholders join our team. As an example, as investors show interest in our company, the Fixate culture serves as a compass to help us protect key aspects of our company that are core to building our business. Establishing these baseline goals prior to undertaking cultural discovery not only helps establish the “why” for the management team, but illustrates to the rest of the company just how important this exercise is.

Discovery

To start the discovery process, we curated seven questions for our core team interviews. The intent of these questions was to engage the team and reveal any and all ideas our core team currently has on the subject of Fixate’s culture. Then we held one-on-one meetings with every member of our core team, but did not previously disclose the intent of the meeting. By surprising individuals with the meeting topic, we were hoping to get more visceral answers versus rehearsed answers. And we wanted to turn it into a real-time discovery exercise for each member of the team. This strategy ended up being incredibly successful, and set the stage for organic, engaging, and non-threatening discovery for everyone involved. We designated 30 minutes to one hour to give interviewees the flexibility for direct answers, as well as time to narrate creative answers. As we started the one-on-one process, we disclosed the goals of the process prior to diving into the questions—to take away the suspense and get interviewees’ buy-in. Our team immediately understood why we were having the meeting, and what we hoped to get from the process. Here are the questions we asked:

  • If you were to describe Fixate’s culture, what would it be?
  • What makes you feel successful in the company?
  • What do you believe the “core piece” is of who we are at Fixate?
  • How would you describe Fixate’s identity?
  • How do you see your role in creating Fixate’s identity?
  • As we evolve, are there cultural aspects that you would like to protect or see in the future?
  • Can you identify a core set of principles to define how we grow, hire/fire, and scale?

The first question dove right in and hit the interviewees with identifying our culture. While at first this may seem too broad, the intent was to allow the interviewees a chance to openly narrate and get their creative mind activated. Next, we avoided strategic company culture questions and asked specific questions about the interviewees’ successful experiences in the company. These questions were incredibly helpful, as unanimously all interviewees discussed what parts of their jobs make them feel successful, what aspects of our team make them feel successful, and what aspects of our company make them feel supported and successful. After asking such specific questions, we were surprised at just how comprehensive our discoveries were.

The Algorithm

After initiating the narrative, then discussing personal experiences, it was time to get specific and get one-word or few-word mantras that describe Fixate’s identity. These one-word/few-word identity tags were then used to go through all of the other answers from the interviews and determine a frequency of the most commonly used words and associations from our interviews.

To complete the process, we curated questions to target our core team’s inner “builder” and inner “protector.” The inner builder/protector balance is important for all employees to keep a pulse on, especially in a startup. By discovering a set of principles that define what our core team hopes to protect as well as build, we also discovered key aspects of our culture that have gotten us to this point, and what will propel us in the future.

At our last QBR, we presented our findings from the process, including the most commonly used words and associations. We left it open at that point to see if there were any changes or discrepancies as a group that simply don’t make sense. In our case, we did not identify any new aspects as a group, but had a ton of fun discussing the discoveries and why they made it to the cultural presentation.

The Outcome

Some of the results of the process for Fixate were keywords, like: supportive, ever-changing, pragmatic, results-oriented, agile, transparent, autonomy, authentic, deep expertise, and tribal. As you can see, these identity aspects span the spectrum of personal “support” and “deep expertise” more related to team and company-wide aspects such as “results-oriented,” “pragmatic,” and “authentic.” From the collected Fixate Identity aspects, we can then derive actionable declarations of our culture, such as:

  • We are unique, execution-driven, and results-oriented.
  • We believe in deep expertise and are authentic.
  • We are open and supportive while preserving autonomy and individualism.
  • Our team is agile and fun while maintaining high integrity with each other, contributors, and customers.

As a startup, it is extremely difficult to find time to execute on introspective projects such as defining our culture. However, handcrafting our culture at this point in our company’s existence is one of the most important duties we could complete. The mission was indeed a success, and our expectations were exceeded. As a company, we now have a unified cultural identity that will help us bring on the right team members and stakeholders, as well as drive our future success.

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The Influencer Whisperer: How to Keep Freelance Writers Happy http://fixate.io/keep-freelance-writers-happy/ http://fixate.io/keep-freelance-writers-happy/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:00:46 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1844

At Fixate, our network of subject-matter experts is the backbone of our content-marketing business. They’re the folks who write most of our content on a freelance basis. As we’ve built our business over the past several years, we’ve learned a thing or two about how...

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At Fixate, our network of subject-matter experts is the backbone of our content-marketing business. They’re the folks who write most of our content on a freelance basis.

As we’ve built our business over the past several years, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to keep that network of experts happy.

Why Freelancer Happiness Matters

You might think that keeping freelancers happy doesn’t matter much. After all, they’re not employees. All they do is turn in work to you. As long as they meet their deadlines and quality expectations, why worry about whether they’re happy?

Well, you should care about their happiness for several reasons. The most important is freelancer retention. If your freelancer network has a lot of turnover, you have to waste time retraining writers. You also lose the institutional expertise that you get from freelancers who have worked with you for a long time.

Keeping freelance writers happy is also important because happy freelancers are more likely to produce good work on time. You don’t want to work with disgruntled freelancers who passively aggressively turn in half-baked articles, or miss deadlines because they don’t prioritize doing good work for you.

Last but not least, you want freelancers to be happy because happiness is a form of compensation. In the freelance world, if you pay enough, you can always find someone to do a job, even if they hate doing the job. Money makes up for unhappiness. But ideally, your freelancers won’t dislike working with you. If you give them a smooth process, rewards, and an overall pleasant experience, they’ll be willing to work for you for lower rates.

Tips for Keeping Freelance Writers Happy

So, how do you go about making sure your freelancers are happy working with you? The following are our tips, based on our experience of building Fixate’s contributor network:

  • Pay fair rates. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth noting because unfair rates are so common in the freelance writing world. Because the supply of freelancers is greater than demand, you’ll be able to find freelance writers even if you pay subpar rates. But then you’ll end up working with freelancers who are struggling to make the pay worth their time, and you’ll end up with substandard work. So don’t be cheap. Pay what it takes to ensure your freelancers feel their time is respected and valued.
  • Pay consistent rates. It also helps to make sure you have a standard, consistent pay rate for all freelancers. Sure, you may have to make exceptions in special circumstances. Sometimes you’ll want to pay a premium to get a project done faster, for example. But in general, paying everyone the same helps to prevent jealousy and keep your freelancer community healthy and happy.
  • Provide recognition and rewards. It’s important to let freelance writers know when content they have produced is particularly well received, and to reward them for consistently good work. This is why, at Fixate, we make sure to pass on messages from our clients to our freelancers about particularly good articles. We also offer a series of incentive programs to reward freelancers who write consistently over a period of time, help with recruitment, and so on.
  • Have regular meetings. You want your freelancers to feel connected to you and your network. Regular meetings are one way to do this. Some freelancers won’t want to attend these, so you shouldn’t make them mandatory. But others value the opportunity to connect with you on a regular basis just to check in. It’s another way to let them know their time and expertise are respected and valued.
  • Make sure their work gets published. In the influencer-marketing business, freelancers write for more than just money. They also want to get their names out there. For this reason, it’s crucial to make sure that the work they write is actually published— ideally, under their own names. This is why, at Fixate, we work closely with our clients to ensure that the work our writers produce is published.
  • Respect their opinions. At Fixate, we heavily edit the work our freelancers produce. It’s part of the way we provide value to our clients. But as we edit, it’s vital to keep our freelance writers’ original messages intact. We edit for language and style, but not to change the opinions of our writers. Even when we disagree with them, we don’t put words in their mouths. Respecting a writer’s opinion is especially important if you want to build an effective network of influencers.

The list could go on, but these are the most important lessons we’ve learned about keeping freelance writers happy as we’ve built Fixate. We think that adhering to principles like these is what helps set our content marketing business apart from generic content mills, where freelancers are paid to put words on a page, but otherwise go uncelebrated.

If you liked this post, you might also want to check out our tips on keeping freelancers engaged.

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The Influencer Whisperer: How to Motivate Influencer Practitioners http://fixate.io/motivate-influencer-practitioners/ http://fixate.io/motivate-influencer-practitioners/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:00:37 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1836

In the influencer-marketing business, your product is only as good as the influencers who create it. That’s true whether the product takes the form of events, videos, social media engagement, or (as is the case at Fixate) expert blog posts and articles. To get good,...

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In the influencer-marketing business, your product is only as good as the influencers who create it. That’s true whether the product takes the form of events, videos, social media engagement, or (as is the case at Fixate) expert blog posts and articles.

To get good, timely content from your influencer practitioners, you need to motivate them. Unfortunately, motivation can be difficult to produce because most influencers are more interested in doing the things that make them influencers and subject-matter experts than in producing content for others.

Fortunately, there are effective ways to motivate practitioners. And they don’t amount simply to paying them a lot of money.

Here’s an overview of what we have learned at Fixate about managing and motivating the network of influencer experts who collaborate with us in producing content.

A Word about Fixate’s Influencers

Before discussing how we motivate influencers, let’s explain what the influencers are like.

At Fixate, we currently specialize in content marketing for DevOps and related technology markets. As a result, our network of influencers comprises people who, in their day jobs, are IT practitioners. They spend most of their time on things like coding in Java, optimizing software testing on mobile devices, or tuning Infrastructure-as-Code tools.

Our influencers are really passionate about technology. They work with us because they enjoy writing about technology and participating in discussions within their communities.

However, Fixate’s influencers can sometimes be curmudgeonly folks. They’re not always great about meeting deadlines. They sometimes want to write about things that are just not relevant for our business. They don’t generally hesitate to complain when they don’t like something.

Yet our business depends on influencers who produce high-quality content that is on-message, and delivered on time. For that reason, it’s essential for us to keep the influencers motivated.

Keeping Influencers Motivated

How do we keep influencers motivated to write great content for us? Here are our main tips:

Money (Yes, It Matters—But Only to an Extent)

Sure, money is part of the equation. Paying influencers a fair rate that reflects our respect for their time and expertise is essential for keeping our collaborators happy and productive.

But there’s much more to it than that. If we wanted to pay influencers ungodly sums to get them to say nice things about Fixate’s clients on the Internet, Fixate would be a very different type of influencer-marketing business. We’re not middlemen who profit by connecting advertisers with high-profile people.

Technical Relevance

We are committed to producing content that becomes influential within the markets we target because it is technically meaningful and compelling to people within technology communities.

Adhering to that principle is in itself another way that we motivate our influencers. When they know that the content they are producing actually matters in a technical way (that it’s not just naked advertising), they are motivated.

This is part of the reason why we seek out clients who understand that good content marketing means avoiding obvious product pitches or simplistic “calls to action.” These not only turn off potential customers, but also the people producing the content.

Promotion

Although Fixate is, by design, not a media distribution company, we work hard to make sure that the content our influencers write is circulated by clients and promoted on our social channels. This is important not only because it helps our clients, but also because it keeps our influencers happy and productive.

No one wants to write an article about a software tool or DevOps concept that never gets published, or is only used internally. Public recognition is a significant part of the motivation for many of our writers, and it’s crucial for us to recognize and reinforce that.

Author Bylines

For related reasons, Fixate only produces ghostwritten content under special circumstances. With rare exceptions (which involve special cases where writers know from the start that their content will not be published under their names), our technical articles and blog posts are published under the bylines of the subject-matter experts who produce them.

From a business perspective, this is not always an easy policy for Fixate to swallow. We have lost deals in the past with prospective clients who were only interested in ghostwritten content.

But sticking to our guns on the byline issue is crucial. If all Fixate did was produce ghostwritten articles and blog posts, we wouldn’t truly be an influencer-marketing company. We’d just be another content mill, selling articles for someone else to publish under assumed names.

Conclusion: Influencer Marketing Is About More than Cash

By now, it should be clear that paying influencers is not the main way that we motivate them.

Although getting influencers to write for free would not work in most cases, we believe that in order to build an effective influencer-marketing business, influencers should almost be willing to work without pay.

The other types of incentives you provide (like the opportunity to contribute to meaningful discussions and gain recognition from peers) should be the main reasons your influencers work with you.

After all, if they’re influencers, they already love the things they do, and they make money doing them. Your job as an influencer marketer is to give them an opportunity to do the things they love even more, with a broader reach.

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Content Marketing is the New PR http://fixate.io/content-marketing-new-pr-startup-accelerator/ http://fixate.io/content-marketing-new-pr-startup-accelerator/#respond Tue, 06 Jun 2017 15:00:25 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1841

PR is simply a way of keeping your brand top of mind within your industry and for your target customer. Though you may be putting all your effort into selecting a PR agency, you may actually have one sitting inside your own marketing team. With...

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PR is simply a way of keeping your brand top of mind within your industry and for your target customer. Though you may be putting all your effort into selecting a PR agency, you may actually have one sitting inside your own marketing team. With the proliferation of platforms to reach customers provided by social media, websites, blogs, and other non-traditional news and advertising sources, increasingly, content marketing functions as PR.

The increasing use of influencer content marketing, which takes opinion leaders and transforms them into advocates for your brand, is a good example of this revolution. This is particularly effective for B2C marketing. Influencers can include journalists and bloggers, but they can also be celebrities who lend their own brand to lift up yours.

In B2B marketing, particularly where domain expertise is required, influencer marketing can mean enlisting science and technology reporters, outspoken scientists, or technologists to build your brand. There is another incredibly valuable population of influencers—influencer practitioners, those who are closer to the problem and whose credibility comes from domain expertise. In our experience, practitioners as influencers are more persuasive and deliver more value than internally produced content.

So how does one harness the power of the practitioner PR ploy?

Measure, Plan, Measure Again

If planning is everything, and the plan is nothing, planning without data is actually less than nothing. Yep, it could actually set you back.

Measure

What do you measure, then, so you can formulate an effective strategy? Start with what a PR firm will do—Measure your Share of Voice (SOV). Then, go one step further, and measure your Conversation Share of Voice (CSOV).

What’s the difference, you ask?

SOV measures how often your brand is mentioned in the entire world of conversations. For example, if your company is a startup accelerator, then you would search your brand name and see how often it comes up in press coverage, press releases, blog posts, social mentions, etc.

SOV measures something much more specific. It identifies how often your brand shows up in a specific conversation. For example, how often does your brand name show up in “startup accelerator” conversations? Even more specifically, how often does it show up in conversations about startup accelerators in your geographic region? Finally, who are your competitors for CSOV?

What is the best way to measure SOV and CSOV?

A variety of tools are employed by PR firms. None will get you to CSOV. Our methodology drills down to CSOV, and using our Re:each tool reveals your CSOV competitors.

Plan

Once you have determined your CSOV for several conversations, you’ll decide which conversations you need to win, or at least where to increase your CSOV. We advise looking for a stretch “awareness” goal (like a startup accelerator) that is more general and hard to win, a more realistic strategic goal (for instance, a related area, such as midlife career development), and a tactical goal (startup accelerator in my region).

How did we get to these conversations? In our case, we used Re:each. However, this can also be done based on your own market knowledge and market research.

Within each conversation, topic selection is key. These will be the topics related to each conversation you (or preferably your influencer practitioner network) will write about. Then, this is just straight-up content marketing distribution strategy and process—mapping content to blogs, white papers, and other media, and connecting it to your social media and media outlet strategy.

Measure Again

The good news is, you know what to measure now—your CSOV for three specific conversations. You know how to measure it. And you measure it again—monthly. And you are surely measuring all the standard business metrics, like lead gen, and digital marketing metrics such as tweets, likes, and shares, as well as your KPIs on your website analytics, on a more frequent basis.

Conclusion: Use Marketing Like PR

By now, it should be clear that social media and the interwebs have changed the face of both marketing and PR forever.

This is a good thing. Companies should mainly be focused on their products, services, and customers. Staying close to all three makes for great customer experiences and builds companies and brands that last. By treating your marketing strategy as your PR strategy and measuring your likelihood of being top of mind using conversation share of voice, your brand connects directly to your customer through participation in conversations that are meaningful to them. Relying on influencer practitioners as the voice in these conversations allows you to leverage their reputations and domain authority to communicate with your customers in an authentic way.

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The Influencer Whisperer: The Three Types of Freelance Writers http://fixate.io/types-of-freelance-writers/ http://fixate.io/types-of-freelance-writers/#respond Thu, 01 Jun 2017 15:00:37 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1829

If you work in the content marketing business long enough, you learn that there are three main types of freelance writers with whom you can partner to help write content. Understanding the differences between these types, and how each category of freelancer corresponds to different...

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If you work in the content marketing business long enough, you learn that there are three main types of freelance writers with whom you can partner to help write content.

Understanding the differences between these types, and how each category of freelancer corresponds to different business goals and visions is important for building the most effective freelance network.

Keep reading for our take on the three main types of freelance writers, and which ones are most valuable for effective influencer content marketing.

Type 1: The Content-Mill Writer

The first category of freelance writers are the ones who are exploited by “content mills”—content-marketing businesses that specialize in producing large quantities of content that is generally not of high quality.

The reason that content-mill content is of poor quality is because content-mill writers tend neither to write well, nor to be subject matter experts. They can put words on a page, but that is about it. They’re not qualified to discuss complicated subjects in detail. The articles they write end up being very generic. They lack specific examples or case studies to back up their points.

Content-mill writers also lack the ability to craft compelling, digestible prose. Their writing is unorganized and may be subject to logical problems. Good copy editors can resolve some of these issues, but it’s hard to turn a content-mill article into a high-quality piece—and most content mills don’t bother, because quality is not a major part of their value prop.

Of course, content-mill writers still find gigs because they are willing to work for little pay. Content mills take advantage of this by hiring them to produce low-quality content, which the content mills in turn sell at a high margin.

Type 2: Journalists

The second category of freelance writer that you commonly encounter in the content-marketing world is what I’ll call journalists.

I’m using the term journalist in a broad sense. This category is not limited to people with formal backgrounds in traditional journalism. It also includes writers who produce content frequently for online news sites.

These types of writers usually write well. Their articles are easy to read and require little copyediting. For that reason, this is the type of writer that content-marketing editors often prefer to work with.

The downside of relying on journalists to produce your content, however, is that they don’t have subject-matter expertise. They can often speak the language about a given topic, but they don’t truly understand it. They write articles filled with buzzwords like cloud, Big Data and DevOps without knowing what those terms actually mean.

This lack of expertise is sometimes lost on content-marketing editors, who are not subject-matter experts themselves. But it’s obvious to anyone who is an expert in a given topic and reads an article written about that topic by a journalist-type freelance writer.

Type 3: Subject-Matter Experts

The third type of writer is one with genuine and deep expertise in a subject. This is the type of writer we rely on at Fixate. They are practitioners, and therefore, subject matter experts.

When we select writers, we look for people who have professional experience in areas like Java development, mobile device testing, DevOps engineering or Unix system administration. We don’t work with freelancers who can talk about these topics without really understanding them. Our subject-matter experts are just that—experts, plain and simple.

The challenge of working with subject-matter experts is that they tend not to be strong writers. A handful are, and when you find those experts who can also write well, you’ve struck gold.

But in most cases, subject-matter experts require a fair amount of editing guidance and help to produce articles that reflect deep expertise and are well written, too. That’s OK. These are the things editors provide, because, as we’ve noted elsewhere, you don’t have to write well to be an influencer. You just have to be an expert.

Working with subject-matter experts to write high-quality articles is at the core of our value proposition at Fixate. We rely on editors who know their stuff, too, when it comes to technology, because they also have backgrounds in the fields they manage.

Conclusion

By now, it’s probably obvious that we think the third type of freelance writer is the best to work with if you want to build an effective content-marketing business.  The first type will give you really big margins because content-mill writers will work for next to nothing. (On that note, check out our post on what to pay freelance writers.)  The second type, journalists, will produce pretty prose that sounds smart, but is uncompelling to experts in a given field.The third type of writer, subject-matter experts, create a lot of work for editors, but they end up producing truly high-quality content.

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The Influencer Whisperer: The Money Question: How Much to Pay Freelance Writers http://fixate.io/much-pay-freelance-writers/ http://fixate.io/much-pay-freelance-writers/#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 15:00:42 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1813

If, like us here at Fixate, you work frequently with freelance writers, you have probably often wondered what to pay them. In this post, we provide the answer—or something close to it. We can’t tell you exactly which pay rate is the best fit for...

The post The Influencer Whisperer: The Money Question: How Much to Pay Freelance Writers appeared first on FIXATE.

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If, like us here at Fixate, you work frequently with freelance writers, you have probably often wondered what to pay them.

In this post, we provide the answer—or something close to it. We can’t tell you exactly which pay rate is the best fit for your freelance writer network, of course. But we can give you some insights based on our experience.

Ways to Calculate Freelance Writer Pay

There are two main ways to calculate freelancer compensation. The first is to pay by the hour. The second is on a per-project basis.

We find that paying per project is the best approach. It’s hard to keep track of freelance writers’ time. It’s also easier from a cost-planning perspective to pay per project, because it allows you to know ahead of time how much you’ll owe your writers when the work is done.

This is why Fixate has consistent and standard rates that we pay freelancers for different types of work. For regular blog posts, we have a set rate. For extended articles, we also have a standard rate (although this can vary a bit depending on the details of the project).

For longer-form content, like whitepapers and eBooks, the rates we offer to freelancers are based on a percentage of the overall project contract. This rate varies somewhat between different types of projects depending on the amount of research and time required, but it is usually within a pretty consistent range.

How Much to Pay

Deciding whether to pay freelancers on a per-project basis or hourly is the easy part. Coming up with actual rates is harder.

At Fixate, we base our rates on the following—According to surveys of our subject-matter experts, it takes between four and six hours to write a standard blog post. In their day jobs as programmers, DevOps engineers and the like, most of our writers make between $50 and $100 per hour. To justify the time they spend writing for us, we pay them a per-project rate that reflects approximately what they would earn in their full-time jobs working the same amount of time.

This approach works well. How do we know? Because the rate we use works for our business model by keeping our margins manageable, while also ensuring that our freelancers keep coming back to write for us.

Other Types of Compensation

When thinking about how much to pay freelance writers, you should also take into account the non-monetary types of compensation you offer them.

Writing for Fixate offers more than just a paycheck and 1099-MISC at the end of the year. Our writers also get exposure within their communities. Their articles are published under their real names, and Fixate’s editors make sure that the messages and opinions of the writers are preserved when the articles are published by Fixate’s clients.

Many of our writers receive speaking gigs at tech conferences as a result of the articles they write through Fixate. The articles also give them a nice portfolio of relevant technical writing to show off when they apply for jobs and promotions.

In the DevOps market that we serve, these non-monetary rewards are never going to be enough on their own to justify asking writers to write for free. But they’re a nice additional form of compensation that you shouldn’t discount.

Nor should you overlook the importance of having a clear, streamlined payment process for your freelancers. Don’t pay them 90 days out. If you can help it, don’t send them paper checks that could get lost in the mail or misplaced. Make their lives easier by offering direct deposit. Easy payment terms are another perk that plays a role in developing a compensation model.

Conclusion

We haven’t told you in this post exactly what we pay our freelance writers. But we’ve given you hints—and it should be pretty clear that we pay well more than the $5-$25 per-article pittances offered by generic content mills.
That’s because rewarding our subject-matter experts fairly and communicating how much we respect the time they invest in writing articles is a key part of our business. We think it should be the same for any content-marketing company that wants to stand out.

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Beneath the Hoodie—How Effective Marketing Can Help Prevent Ransomware http://fixate.io/effective-marketing-help-prevent-ransomware/ http://fixate.io/effective-marketing-help-prevent-ransomware/#comments Thu, 25 May 2017 15:00:05 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1819

As the world continues to feel the impact of the latest ransomware attack, cleverly coined WannaCry, this is an excellent time to reflect on a systemic approach to combating these types of attacks. Ransomware is not new. At its core, WannaCry exhibits both traditional and...

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As the world continues to feel the impact of the latest ransomware attack, cleverly coined WannaCry, this is an excellent time to reflect on a systemic approach to combating these types of attacks. Ransomware is not new. At its core, WannaCry exhibits both traditional and more cutting-edge ransomware characteristics.  Although newer and more ferocious variants of ransomware have emerged and have evolved the anatomy of the attack, most ransomware is distributed in the classical email phishing technique, thereby exploiting the human vulnerability present in all organizations. Ransomware variants like WannaCry can be stopped in their tracks by leveraging existing IT best practices and existing tools, and exploiting interception technologies. So how is it that WannaCry was able to cause so much chaos across the world, effectively infecting over 230,000 computers across 150 countries? One crucial contributing factor is inadequate market education that lacks a cohesive voice within the security market.

Education

Even with the best tools on the market, education is a critical component to a comprehensive security strategy. I personally have a seven-prong strategy (and growing) to combat these modern threats. This strategy includes aspects of:

  • Patch management
  • Permissions compartmentalization
  • Mail security
  • Endpoint security with crypto-interception capabilities
  • Next-generation firewall, with advanced threat protection and globally managed web proxy
  • Backup: extremely strong and tested backup, as well as recovery methodology
  • Education: education and training of end users to help them avoid common threats

Given the gravity of the WannaCry disruption, it is time to take education beyond the boundaries of the organization, and leverage modern marketing techniques to help proliferate cybersecurity knowledge.

False sense of security

Too often, I have sat in meetings with heads of organizations who say, “My company is not under attack,” or “Bad guys don’t want our data, they just want government or healthcare data.” It takes an attack like WannaCry (on a scale large enough to be reported by the major news outlets) to get their attention. A false sense of security won’t protect anyone, and it’s time to become proactive rather than reactive.

I do not necessarily blame the end user entirely for the education gap. Cybersecurity vendors will leverage the “wait for the newest headline” tactic to help galvanize their pipeline activity. After the release of WannaCry, a flood of emails in and out of my SPAM mailbox promptly appeared from cybersecurity vendors describing WannaCry, and the reasons why their technologies are effective against it. Those vendor emails will stay in my spam folder.

It’s not just the tools and technologies that make the sale, it is also the vendor’s commitment to ongoing support and education. Even for individuals in the ITOps world, this education is lacking. Microsoft, for example, released a patch in March of this year to cover one of the many bases needed to help thwart the WannaCry exploit. This is a problem. Microsoft has unfortunately enabled the general perception within ITOps professionals of never being “bleeding edge” when it comes to Microsoft patching, or else risk potential downtime. However, when evaluating the massive disruption and acquisition of new technologies in the SecOps space, we as IT professionals are forced to ride the “bleeding edge” with our trusted security partners. For an effective strategy to come to light, we need these worlds to converge, and market education can help drive this message.

Effective marketing can be a vehicle to educate the market and the end user. Rather than awaiting the next CNN or MSNBC article describing an exploit, data exfiltration, or ransomware attack, security vendors can use more modern marketing techniques to help combat modern cybersecurity challenges.

Content Marketing: Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to bridge the gap between experiential learning and the establishment of new standards and best practices. By leveraging practitioner content within vendor blogs or syndicated sources, vendors can help educate not only ITOps professionals, but also end users on the current state of security and the anatomy of modern cyberattacks (and how to combat them) at all levels in an organization.

Better Documentation: We appear to be in an era of documentation decline. Effective marketers will need solid technical collateral to back them up on the journey to educate the IT Security professional.

Re-establish Trust: In today’s security landscape, it is unacceptable for an industry to create and maintain an ethos of mistrust of their vendors. The largest example is Microsoft’s management of their patches, but this is certainly not the only example. There has evidently been a decline in trust of vendor updates throughout the entire SecOps and ITOps space, and effective new marketing techniques such as content marketing, documentation, and market education re-establish and reinforce this much-needed trust.

Moving Forward

Ransomware is not going away. New threat variants are not going away. Security vendors are doing tremendous things to battle the rising tide of new threats. But with the release of WannaCry, it is becoming increasingly evident that the education gap needs to be a major focus of the entire industry going forward. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Influencer Whisperer: Deadlines Aren’t Dead (Not Even for DevOps Content Marketers) http://fixate.io/deadlines-arent-dead/ http://fixate.io/deadlines-arent-dead/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 15:00:10 +0000 http://fixate.io/?p=1808

Do deadlines still matter? You might think not—especially if you work in the DevOps world. After all, DevOps has kind of killed deadlines. The whole continuous delivery concept does away with the idea of rigid development schedules characterized by tight deadlines. In DevOps, you’re supposed...

The post The Influencer Whisperer: Deadlines Aren’t Dead (Not Even for DevOps Content Marketers) appeared first on FIXATE.

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Do deadlines still matter? You might think not—especially if you work in the DevOps world.

After all, DevOps has kind of killed deadlines. The whole continuous delivery concept does away with the idea of rigid development schedules characterized by tight deadlines. In DevOps, you’re supposed to deliver work continuously, whenever you complete it. If you’re talking about software delivery, deadlines are more or less dead.

But when it comes to content production, you can’t be so quick to write off the importance of deadlines. Deadlines matter a lot, even if you’re writing for an audience of DevOps programmers who are used to doing everything at the last minute.

Let me explain…

A Very Brief History of Deadlines

In both the traditional publishing world and the traditional software delivery world, deadlines mattered a lot. Editors and publishers expected writers to stick to the deadlines they set. Project managers invested great effort trying to make sure their developers delivered code according to roadmaps established far in advance of the software due date.

Fast-forward to the present, however, and the expectations have changed when it comes to deadlines for both writers and programmers.

In the age of the Internet, content gets published digitally as it is written. Even traditional newspapers now publish stories instantaneously online. Essentially, publishers today do continuous delivery of content.

And when it comes to writing software, continuous delivery is now king. Programmers are no longer expected to stick to rigid roadmaps. In fact, doing so can be a risk because tight software development roadmaps constrict an organization’s ability to adjust its workflows as its needs change.

Why Deadlines Still Matter

If you’ve read this far, you might be confused. I started this article by stating that deadlines still matter in the content marketing business. But so far, all I have done is explained why deadlines are no longer important for many people in publishing or DevOps.

So let me explain why deadlines do indeed still matter for content marketing.

First, they matter because consistency is key if you want to practice effective marketing. Being able to publish new content according to a regular cadence helps instill in customers and potential customers the idea that your business is reliable and predictable. Sticking to a schedule requires you to have a set of deadlines that are respected.

Second, deadlines are important in content marketing because regular publishing helps you measure the results of your efforts. You can’t gather good metrics if your content production is erratic due to irregular production deadlines.

Third, deadlines help set clear expectations and develop a culture of professionalism for the influencers who help generate your content. This keeps your business organized and helps to maximize freelancer engagement—an essential consideration when you want to effectively manage a network of freelance influencers.

Fourth, deadlines keep everyone in sync. Writers and editors can’t work well together if the latter don’t know when the former will turn in their work. Editors and clients can’t align if editors are unable to deliver content when promised. While “parallel” workflows and continuous delivery might work when you’re developing software, they become problematic if you are creating influencer content.

Fifth, and finally, deadlines are a way of respecting everyone’s time. This is important because it helps to cultivate a culture of respect between writers, editors and clients. Even in situations where deadlines don’t actually matter from a functional perspective, they are valuable because they reinforce the idea that everyone’s time is important, and that all parties respect one another. In this way, deadlines help to breed a culture of respect and collegiality, which is especially valuable in a business where writers, editors and clients work for different organizations, and therefore lack the close connections that would exist by default if everyone had the same employer.

Conclusion: Deadlines Aren’t Dead

So, there you have it. Although we live in a world where deadlines can sometimes seem stuffy and outdated, especially from the perspective of the changes that have taken place in recent years to the way publishers and software developers work, they actually aren’t.

If you’re in the content marketing business, at least, setting and respecting deadlines is still crucial.

This is why, at Fixate, we take deadlines very seriously. We make sure our expert contributors know how important deadlines are to us, and we have designed a content-production process that ensures that we always deliver content on time to our clients. We free our customers from the struggle to enforce deadlines with freelancers, and we cultivate cultures of respect and professionalism within our influencer network. It’s an important part of the way we add value to content marketing.

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