Several marketing executives from small to medium aerospace companies have recently asked me how to combine multiple internet communication channels most effectively. Most companies have an official “classic” and established website but find it difficult to integrate blogs and micro-blogs (Twitter) effectively with it. Most of them have simply added two “appendages” to their homepage: a blog section and a link to their Twitter account. Without coordination and planning, this inevitably creates a three-headed communication monster.
But it does not have to be. The way I see it, the three channels represent an information pyramid with Twitter at the top, blogs in the middle and websites at the bottom. Here is how each element fits in this model:
Website: This is your reference library. This is the “big bucket” of information about your business. It contains practical information (contact, eServices login, support, events) which will be the most accessed. It also contains reference information (solutions description, customer testimonials, press releases, documentation, white papers) that can be voluminous. Even though it will hopefully have a basic navigation and search feature, the website will still be too massive and intertwined to be useable directly by your curious/novice prospects.
Take for example the Crane Aerospace website: they make a (very cool) tire pressure monitoring system called SmartStem. This system is both used in commercial and business aviation, is a landing gear system and a sensing system, and has a unique brand. A search for “Tire Pressure” on the site returns 50 hits. In these days of information overload, chances that someone will dial-up their homepage and start sifting to the many reference pages, navigation menus, and search results is very slim. Prospects will need a reason to get there and have a pre-existing functional interest. For example in this case, extended tire life and safety. That is why well tagged/keyworded reference pages will get visitors from the main search engines: Google “Tire pressure Business Aviation” and SmartStem pops up as top choice, but search for “Tire Life Extension Aviation” and the results get fuzzier.
This means that today, it is more likely someone will type a query and then jump into the middle of your website rather than come through the home page. But competing for attention based on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is more an art than a science. A good website should be organized like a good library (or Wikipedia). Start from any point and navigate through related information, subjects and keywords (even to external sources like a good article about your product). It should answer questions like: what are the advantages of the product, what are other people saying about it, and at what trade show can I see it?
However, some prospects will still come to your home page to see “what is going on” with your company. They are not coming to “watch a commercial”, but rather find some thought leadership, strategic direction and news about your company. And these days, the best way to convey this information is through blogs.
Blogs: These brief “discussions” are no more than one or two pages (a dozen paragraphs MAXIMUM) and provide highlight of ideas or news events that are easy and fast to consume. To be successful, blogs should be educational and thought provoking rather than commercial. They should focus on quality rather than quantity (1 to 2 posts per month is more than enough). They should definitely contain links to reference information on your website, so if someone is interested they can “dig deeper” to, for example, a white paper or a customer testimonial. Blog entries should discuss all relevant subjects of interest in hope of positioning the company in the role of a trusted source of information and expertise. This means the blog should also discuss news that may not translate directly into a product sale, but rather in reader education. There should be plenty of external references and links to other sites to encourage “exploration”.
To increase exposure, blog titles and short summary should be posted on the website homepage. They should be appropriately tagged and keyworded as well as made available as an RSS feed so they can be integrated into other sites from news organizations and industry associations. Links to blog entries should also be posted on other forums such as LinkedIn discussion groups, FaceBook pages, or in comments to articles in news websites such as AviationWeek. Surprisingly, blogs can have a fairly long shelf live, especially when they are linked back from future entries. Keeping old blog posts up to date is a good practice. Most importantly, they should be created to solicit feedback and “engagement” with prospects. Comments and poll answers from potential prospects are excellent audience barometers. But how do you make sure your blogs are noticed? That is where Twitter comes in.
Twitter: Think of this as the “Headlines News” channel to your company and blog. Unlike blogs and websites, Twitter entries will only have a very brief life. People that follow you or a particular subject (like #aerospace), will rarely read an entry that is more than 36 to 48 hours old. This should be used as an “alert” system for your community that there is something they should pay attention to. It could be a new relevant blog post (from you or someone else), a new document on your website, or some related breaking news. Because of this, quality is much more important than quantity. Unless you are at an important event where many things are happening (e.g. Farnborough AirShow), companies do not need to post every day. I would say that a minimum of once or twice a week is a good measure. As with the blogs, don’t just post news about your company and never post blatant advertising (FAIL example:”With @PAirmotive you get a world leader in the manufacturing of fuel controls for general #aviation.”) Posting other relevant information such as partner or customer news is as important. Re-Tweeting other posts can also be an effective way to stay “interesting”. The bottom line is to stay in the forefront of your prospect’s mind with little gems of interest without become boring, irrelevant or, worst, annoying!
I often get push back from Marketing Executives that think adding Blog and Twitter communication to their strategy is “too much additional work”. Instead, I encourage them to think about transitioning or reassigning resources from “traditional” marketing (brochures, mailers, printed ads) to these “internet” marketing ideas. They should slowly transform from “Marketing Managers” to “Online Prospect Community Managers”. The ideas in this blog post can be implemented by dedicating as little as two/three work days a month to writing and publishing. And if they don’t feel up to it themselves, they can always outsource this activity as a service. (Full disclosure: that is one of the services I offer).
So, what has worked well for you in combining these three elements? What has not worked? Please leave your comments and suggestions here for further discussion.