Nathaniel Schooler 0:23
Today we are discussing content marketing and social media. I’m interviewing Ehsan Khodarahmi, he has worked for over six years for brands such as Sky and Samsung before making a brave move in 2015 to become an independent digital marketing consultant.
In addition to his professional work Ehsan is passionate about education and writing has written his own book, it’s actually called Character 100% Character. It’s available on Amazon as well. He’s actually written over 60 articles published by the Huffington Post on LinkedIn and Social Media Expert. The British Chamber of Commerce, University of Westminster, Michigan State University and Miami University use Ehsan’s publications as reference material. He is a humble man and lives his life based on his own very simple philosophy. Say what you mean mean what you say, you can always reach out to Ehsan on twitter at @eksays. Let’s get into the show. Hey, Ehsan. It’s really nice to talk with you again.
Ehsan Khodarahmi 1:30
Thank you very much for having me
Nathaniel Schooler 1:32
You know, I love content marketing, I’m right into writing content and doing podcasts and the occasional video and sort of stuff like this. But in terms of sort of content marketing, the most important thing is…. Well, two things right, is to build the audience obviously, and obviously get the audience to do something to take some sort of action. So what are the best ways to build an audience in terms of content marketing?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 2:02
First of all, we need to define our objectives, what we want to achieve from content marketing, if we are going to sell through content marketing, we need to be absolutely clear and have right KPIs in place. But content marketing is more about storytelling, it is more about educating and informing our audience about our purpose.
So we need to be able to track and we need to be able to interact with our audience. Not just dropping links everywhere, writing blog posts, writing articles. I don’t know paying ghost writers to do that for us, or we do it internally at and these are all great.
But what we want to achieve and how effective that is. So the effort we are going to put into creating content, we need to step back for a second and define our objectives. So this is the starting point for creating meaningful content.
Nathaniel Schooler 3:09
What what sort of objectives are you referring to? Exactly?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 3:14
Corporate objectives, business objectives, how relevant we are to our audience, in what market you’re operating?
And what sort of content our audience would like to see?
Are we writing to sell our products and services? So that is not content marketing! Or are we writing to engage and educate the market about our innovative products, great services?
How are we going to differentiate ourselves? These are the kind of objectives we need to have in mind, we need we need to have KPIs that impact on SEO, the level of web traffic we get.
Social engagement and of course, a and of the day sales leads, do we get inquiries?
Do we get people coming to us asking us questions?
So these are the kinds of objectives we need to define based on that grant, create the right content, right, and use the right channel to do the distribution.
Of course, we need to familiarise ourselves with attribution model in terms of what content drives the most traffic?
What content is more engaging?
What does our audience our community actually, like the most?
Bring us the most business if you like?
Nathaniel Schooler 4:34
Measuring the effectiveness of content marketing, how how do we actually do that then?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 4:40
Again, I’ll have to go back to our conversation just a second ago, by defining our purpose and objectives, what do we want to achieve?
So we need to define our objectives, whatever that is KPIs, if it is reach, if it is a sales leads, if it is web traffic, what is it? So we need to define that this is how you’re going to measure it.
When when, when we set objectives define our purpose, we know exactly what we want to achieve, our audience is clear about it as well, because they know what to expect. And good content is the one that resonates with our audience. So that way we can measure it!
How sticky the content is? The shareability across different social media channels.
If it is republished on someone else’s blog, it is linked to, etc, etc. These are the ways we can measure the effectiveness of our content.
Nathaniel Schooler 5:42
The objectives are set out in the in the beginning, right? And then measuring those objectives is quite simple, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a matter of how many leads we’ve got, how many clicks we’ve got, how many shares we have, how many people have seen that content, how many new new followers we have, or Facebook fans, or….
Ehsan Khodarahmi 6:06
Exactly, the more meaningful, the more relevant the content, the more active that is. So you’re not like content, which actually you don’t like, you’re not going to share it, you’re not going to interact with it, even if you click on the website, the link and go to the website or to the blog, you see, you see the first couple of lines, see, okay, no, it’s not the one I thought it is going to be, you’re going to leave. So the bounce rate on the website is going to go on that is going to reflect on the SEO so you’re going to get some visits. And after that you are losing your audience next time.
When you share some content, people not going to click on it because you know what it is just a clickbait I’m not going to get what I expected to be. So you’re going to lose credibility that way. So it is very, very important to listen people to your audience see what they want and deliver exactly that!
Nathaniel Schooler 7:06
How can businesses create leads and sales?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 7:09
I think it was The Content Marketing Institute, they reported over 78% of consumers are likely to purchase from a brand which shares personally relevant content to them to those consumers. So it is very, very important to identify the needs of our market our audience potential customers and write about their needs. So we are going to sell the solution of the problems we need to like, kind of somehow connect with them in terms of what they’re looking for we have it for you.
We need to work with micro influences and micro influences or existing employees or friends with certain clout, expertise in our in our business industry. That’s it really, we need to look into our local and national community to identify the leaders in our industry, connect with them, build partnership, collaborate with them.
Nathaniel Schooler 8:19
Why would any business want to educate their customers and help the competition,
Ehsan Khodarahmi 8:24
This is an opportunity to show our customers why we are different or competitive competitors, why we are better. And of course, if you are teaching something to your competitors, you should be happy about it. That will open doors for us, maybe bigger competitors will become honest, maybe someone out there is going to see our content and our initiatives to educate our customers and are going to do more business with us customers are incredibly clever and savvy, they know which business is authentic, which business is doing better service both before and after sale.
So customer service and client relationship management is the competitive advantage. So we shouldn’t be worried about educating our customers and our competition. Because educating customers is much much cheaper than spending money on marketing, advertising and PR to get a customer.
So let our competitors spend money on advertising and marketing. We spend it on educating our customers helping them to make informed decision. Because if we help them to make informed decisions inform purchase decision, it is more likely for them to stick with us refer more customers to us. So this is the power of responsible and a responsive business. And we can do that very well through content marketing.
Nathaniel Schooler 9:53
So first of all, we want to find out what actually matters to the, to the potential customer, or the audience? And then we in essence, work out the words that resonate with them, and the content that resonates with them the most. And then we make sure that that’s available on the platforms that they are visiting.
Ehsan Khodarahmi 10:18
Exactly, we need to be 100 percent honest with them, this is something I’d like to call radical transparency. Because that is the only way we can gain our audiences’ trust. If they trust us, we’re halfway through we can can sell them more things, we can do more business with them. They know we are in business. And as long as we are honest, they love to continue doing business with us. Simple as that!
Nathaniel Schooler 10:47
I’ve been doing a little bit of research recently been talking to to a friend of mine over in New York, she’s involved with a with a business that it’s actually targeting people the words that they want to hear. So what I mean by that is analysing brand messaging and brand conversation, it’s actually matching the words to the audience.
So there’ll be like a turn-key solution, which will be available whereby you can basically plug in your customer data, and it will tell you what wording you actually need to be using, versus the words that you are using based upon who your customers are. So I’m quite excited. So it’s going to break it down into even finer market segments of personality types.
Ehsan Khodarahmi 11:42
understanding the audience psychology
is great and white a salary your friend has developed a system that brings AI into it, which is fantastic.
Nathaniel Schooler 11:53
Yeah, well, it does. I mean, the problem, the problem with AI in general or it has been has been, you know, a lot of people have overhyped it but actually to really hone it down and say. “Well, I’m going to use AI for this very specific thing.” Is my forward, you know.
So in terms of like your past work that you’ve that you’ve done, I mean, I know you worked with sky TV in the UK, and you’ve done sort of various other stuff, what’s the most exciting piece of content marketing that you’ve that you’ve seen, or perhaps start with the most exciting piece that you’ve done?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 12:31
The most exciting one was when I created a media house for a leading marketing technology platform, I was responsible for all aspects of the content marketing in Europe, and managed a team remotely in America in Canada. So I always responsible for over 50 pieces of content, long articles per week, and over 1000, short content, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. So that was really exciting because I had to do the editorial, the mission statement for it and create the the media house and build a team around it. So that was really interesting, which I did about a couple of years ago.
And the most exciting and interesting content marketing activities I see around is Red Bull, they do some really cool things, they go above and beyond anything, you can imagine the really clever bunch of people and also IBM, especially around machine learning and artificial intelligence. So they do quite a lot of educational material. They do a great content marketing to educate their audience.
Nathaniel Schooler 13:49
But in terms of in terms of the one piece of content that you’ve that you’ve seen, like that you’ve perhaps you’ve created, or you’ve, you’ve managed the creation of what’s your name, most fun?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 14:01
I think we did one piece of content together just three months ago, four months ago, around artificial intelligence and machine learning. So that was really interesting, because that was the moment or I tried to educate myself, I learned a lot more about the technology and what it does, we used a number of different tools to do our research, and we went on Google and searched for things. So it was combination of technology and also personal thinking. Going through the content and going through social media channels to see what people are talking about how they interact, and what they they know about the topic. So that was the most exciting and interesting piece of content I worked on.
Here is the post :-
Nathaniel Schooler 14:48
I really enjoyed working on that as well. We wrote a really long article anyway, it’s somewhere around I think it’s on my website, actually, somewhere somewhere about.
Ehsan Khodarahmi 14:56
Iit was very well received. People really liked it
Nathaniel Schooler 14:59
So let’s have a look, I’ve got another another topic that I’d like to talk with you about. And that’s, that’s corporate communications. You said to me before, it’s such a wide topic that we can we can talk about all sorts of things. So corporate communications, and with regards to identifying your brand advocates is what we decided we were going to talk about today. So what’s your what’s your view on on that
Ehsan Khodarahmi 15:27
in corporate comms, corporate communications culture is incredibly important. More often than not many organizations, many businesses confuse culture with office perks. We need to have a solid definition for culture, then we come to corporate communications, because in communications, it is corporate, whatever it is between individuals; understanding is key. We need to speak the language everybody understands, we need to have set of values, common objectives.
In terms of communicating the brand message, we always start internally, which is the responsibility of corporate comms department, then it goes external, they do a lot of testing a lot of thinking about how you’re going to put the message out and how you’re going to communicate certain messages with a wider audience. Through that interaction. Through that communication, we can identify micro influencers, we can identify brand advocates, because influencers and advocates aren’t living outside the organization. So all inside the organization have, you’re going to identify them through effective and systematic corporate communications, if people feel comfortable interacting with us interacting with the corporate team, fantastic, this is how we are going to work with them, build a community of advocates.
When we have advocates, from our employees, from our staff, we are going to be more trustworthy in the eyes of our community, our audience, our stakeholders, this is this is how you’re going to do it by having effective communications and make it easy and comfortable for people to communicate with the department that goes back
Nathaniel Schooler 17:26
to you actually having a personality behind the corporate accounts, right. And actually having sort of persona of not an individual, but actually of the company, right?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 17:40
it company, what does company means companies, group of people,
Nathaniel Schooler 17:46
Ehsan Khodarahmi 17:46
That persona, if we are going to create a persona for it, that’s artificial. We need to identify what we as a group of people stand for what we want, what do we want to achieve?
What do we have to offer? What is it we are selling?
What is it we are doing?
Why do we exist as a company?
That is going to be the persona, there is going to be the character, the personality we need to shape and form; because if you’re going to fake it, we are not going to make it. It may take us, I don’t know, two years, three years. But after that we are going to find ourselves in a crisis, we are going to see things backfire. Look at Facebook, for instance, it was in the news today, almost 50% of numbers. Facebook announced we have 2 billion active users, they say almost 50% of them are fake, technically one.
So who is saying the truth?
What’s going on?
So for how long, can we fake it, eventually, people are going to find out about the truth. So it’s better to be honest and transparent from day one, because that is going to make us more successful. The voice of the company is its employees, the face of company, is the CEO is the leader of the business, and every single employee working for that business.
Creating an image is very important, of course, but that image should be real, it shouldn’t be fake, and having to do it through total transparency, being honest with people people really like to to hear when they read something, they like to hear the voice of the author. You read a piece of content, and you can hear the voice of the author, that author has done a great job!
Nathaniel Schooler 19:52
Yeah, very much.
Ehsan Khodarahmi 19:53
He cannot hear that voice. That piece of content is artificial. And that means that content doesn’t connect with you.
And that is exactly the same thing, we corporate comms and the image, you feel it, you feel like there is something not right. So as soon as you have that feeling that company may need to review their branding and their messaging through corporate comms.
Nathaniel Schooler 20:21
Could it be that they haven’t actually created a plan for the actual communications or it needs just revisiting,
Ehsan Khodarahmi 20:31
They certainly need to have a plan based on a plan to make the content marketing and social media work. They hire people, based on that, that plan, they run their campaigns and their marketing. So when they when they know exactly what they stand for, and that they make that the DNA of the culture they know what kind of people they want to hire, they know who are going to be the future influences who, who is going to be in the community of advocates, and who is going to amplify that message externally before hiring those people. This is what corporate comms should be doing.
Nathaniel Schooler 21:10
So first of all, you come up with the plan, okay, for the business. Then you you’ve decided the kind of message that you want to get across. And then you basically find people that actually fit with that. I mean, just, I’m just, I’m just saying this because it’s something that I’ve noticed, really with IBM because I do a lot of work with those guys. They’ve they’ve actually got a team behind like, quite a lot of the Twitter accounts. I mean, that’s them. That’s a major part of the IBM the IBM sort of comms right.
And, and I communicate on a daily basis with IBM Watson. Yeah, IBM Watson commerce, right. And what’s really interesting is I’ve actually watched that team. And I’m actually I’ve actually seen probably two or three people leave since I’ve been engaged with that Twitter account. And they are exactly the same kind of personalities, when they when they’ve left, they’re quite fun, they’re engaging, and so forth. So that’s it.
Ehsan Khodarahmi 22:11
This is the personality of the individual, your higher that gives personality and character to your brand. Your brand doesn’t have personality on its people behind the brand, inject that character and that personality to it. So whoever is running those Twitter accounts, is going to show his or her personality, IBM’s Twitter handle on its own doesn’t have a personality, you can have a plan, you had have a checklist, all sorts of things and give it to 4 different people.
So you know what, they create the content and respond to whatever tweet or whatever Facebook updates, you get. Those four people respond completely differently, with different tone of voice with different attitude, with different words. But when you own your tone of voice, and you tell them exactly how you want the messages to be communicated. You don’t decide for them what words to use, you just tell them how you want to come across how you want your brand to come across, then those four people they do more or less the same job, they they deliver the same tone of voice for you. So this is also important.
Nathaniel Schooler 23:28
Yeah, very much. So you would outline a series of words that would educate the team as to the the tone of voice that you want. So you would you would say things like, you know, you want to be happy, but not too happy or excited, but not too excited? Is this the kind of method you would use or not?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 23:47
No I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t choose any words for them. But I would certainly say avoid using negative keywords. Because that would effect the sentiment as well. Also, the way the brand is going to come across.
I would say, “Be sympathetic towards negative comments towards feedback, be more positive reset and deal with it accordingly. And also have some engaging characteristics during the day.” If that makes sense.
Nathaniel Schooler 24:19
What do you mean by engaging characteristic?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 24:22
Don’t be reactive, don’t wait for people to come to you. If you see people talking nicely about your brand, or about something your business your brand is doing about your industry, interact with them engagement, comment on the articles, invite them to communicate with you, they may become your advocates.
Nathaniel Schooler 24:43
Well, thank you. That’s that’s been really, really interesting, what about visual communication.
What do you know a lot about visual communication you must do if you’ve if you’ve gone and created all of this content. So where would you sort of I mean, from where I’m sitting visual communication begins with a brand blueprint doc, that’s that’s how I look at it. So much like a person, you would you would create a brand blueprint document and you would define obviously what the business does the key differentiators the why they’re different, you know, and or better, and also what gives them authority and credibility. And you would also create, say, five cornerstone words that represent business or product.
Once you’ve defined that you would take that into the visual communications, wouldn’t you?
Ehsan Khodarahmi 25:33
Of course, people like to see things, they like to have interactive content in front of them. text on its own, can do only so much. But when they see the actual finished product, they see animations, they see videos, they see all those visual content, they would react completely differently, and they would engage better that would definitely improve their interaction with the brand. And that’s why we we need good design. That’s why we need good graphics and good visual in place images for services.
Nathaniel Schooler 26:14
But in terms of like, the visual communication, I mean, you and I, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve seen, you know, social social media imagery go from people, people just sort of going to Shutterstock choosing an image, putting some some text on it to represent something based upon their own opinions, right.
What’s happening now, as you well know, is you know, I don’t work for IBM, I’m an influencer within the futurist program. So but I do know that they’ve partnered with Shutterstock and the are actually using the Watson AI to sort the shutter Shutterstock images, for this product that they’re basically selling; so that is giving the marketers a much much faster way to get their images ready right and get them get them out there so it’s so exciting to see where this is going to go in the next six months a year two years because I mean I think sooner or later the small businesses are going to get a heads up and they are going to actually be able to do this very thing as well.
Ehsan Khodarahmi 27:27
You’re right using all those visual assets definitely help marketeers to communicate their brand message is better to convert visitors to subscribers and customers definitely help because you can tell a better story through visual that’s for sure.
Nathaniel Schooler 27:47
Okay, well, thanks ever so much. So I really appreciate your time.
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