If you've ever been included on a popular list of credible resources online, it feels pretty good, doesn't it? Great lists get socially shared, linked, and emailed, giving those included quite a bit of valuable exposure. By association, the list publisher also gains value in terms of exposure, links, and a connection with list participants.
Imagine finding a list of resources for a topic in which you absolutely dominate and yet neither you nor your company is to be found. Those situations don't feel so good.
Lists by nature exclude, so rather than complaining about why you should have been included, either focus on continuing to dominate the category or make an even better list. A common approach is to create a "10 Best XYZ Resources You've Never Heard Of" list or to approach it from a more creative angle rather than yet another "Top 10 This or That" list.
Plenty of business websites and blogs are making lists this time of year, reflecting on the past 12 months as well as predicting what 2012 has in store. There's something about seeing a sorted collection of useful information that motivates people to read and socially share. Being included in a well-sourced, thoughtfully-written, and well-designed list can evoke a strong emotion in people. Many will feel acknowledged and that feeling will motivate social sharing. Others might feel excluded, but that can also inspire sharing and discussion.
Like them or not, credible, sorted lists and collections of resources are powerful content and social media marketing tools. Unfortunately, many marketers are overusing the same old tactics resulting in aggravating a community, or worse, simply being ignored.
To avoid the #fail of being ignored or the ire of temperamental bloggers, here are two tips on what you as an individual or a company can do to tap into the social media power of lists and collections.
Think of much needed resources in your industry. Are they tips and how-to's, reports, examples, tools, events, networks, or something else? Think about different formats including text, image, video, audio, or something interactive.
What exists in your industry that's highly valued but not easy to find in one place? Bring those things together in a list. Also, think about what you can do to creatively involve your community with the sorting of the list. The "ClickZ Holiday Social Showdown" is a fun example of that.
While you've seen many lists of the most popular individuals for a particular category (especially in the social media realm) on just about every blog online, it's because there's so much overuse that an opportunity to create something genuine and high quality exists to stand out.
A popular list of "Social Media All-Stars" here on ClickZ a few years ago included mostly men. I happen to know a lot of women doing amazing things in the social media space, so I listed them out on my own blog as "25 Women Who Rock Social Media." I wrote each bio based on my relationship with the person included and it was very well received.
For 2011, nominations from those listed the previous year were distilled to another list of 25. Each person was researched and original bios were written. Again, the collection was very well received with 3,200 retweets, 650+ Facebook likes, 60 comments, and over 2,500 links from other websites.
What was initially a response to another list has now become an annual event for our blog that attracts thousands of visitors. Prominent business professionals included in the list link to it from their blogs and social profiles and include it in their resumes and author bios. The list creation itself is now a group effort and I'm simply curating and ensuring quality. It's a win all around.
Surely there are unrecognized people or resources in your industry. What or whom could you recognize in an original and thoughtful way that aligns well with your own unique selling proposition and key message?
Tips on Sourcing, Promoting, and Repurposing Lists
As with any marketing endeavor, think about the purpose and intended outcome of your list first. What search keywords and social topics represent interests, needs, and goals of the influencers and end customers that you'd like to connect with? Pick a topic and stick to it.
Sourcing. As you understand your community, what are the unmet needs in information that you could satisfy? What unrecognized individuals or companies with powerful networks could be resources for, or included in the list? How will it fit in and complement your content marketing and social media strategy? Incidentally, I have an entire book dedicated to this topic coming out in March.
Creation. Put qualitative effort into creating your collection or list. Make it special, useful, and unique. Make it snarky or funny and by all means, make it shareable! Gimmicks are not nearly as important as quality and relevance to the community you'll be promoting to. That said, you do need to think of what will make your collection promotable. Great content isn't great until it's consumed and shared.
Repurposing. Lists of things like people, books, reports, quotes, or just about anything can be repurposed as a PowerPoint on SlideShare or made into a video with bumper messages, narration, and music to be promoted on YouTube. If you're smart about sourcing and making the collection promotable, then don't just do it once. Plan on making the list annually, quarterly, or monthly.
Understand that with collections and lists, people and companies have an inherent desire to be included and recognized. At the same time, lists are exclusionary, so offer your readers an opportunity to add to the list you've created. Encourage them to participate and think about the group social needs, not just your own. A qualitative approach that focuses first on relevance of a collection to the community you're promoting to will result in much better reach and engagement for you.
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Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in helping companies grow online business and community with an "Optimize and Socialize" approach to content marketing. Odden has consulted for hundreds of B2B clients over the past 14 years including: McKesson, Marketo, PRWeb, and StrongMail. He's been cited by The Economist, BtoB Magazine, and Advertising Age for his online marketing expertise and publishes one of the most popular marketing blogs on the web: Online Marketing Blog, ranked the No. 1 content marketing blog three times by Junta42. Odden speaks on the intersection of search and content marketing, PR, and social media at conferences internationally and is the author of "Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing."