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JayBaer-IRMA

Jay Baer presents at the 2012 IRMA Conference in Scottsdale.

A few months ago, renowned social media strategist, coach, and speaker Jay Baer spoke at the 2012 International Regional Magazine Association (IRMA) conference in Scottsdale. He professed that when marketing your business via social media, you should strive to be a YOUtility — “If you help someone, you make a customer for life,” Baer says. Or, put another way, “If you’re useful, your potential customers will keep you close.”

Marketing has changed significantly in the last five years or so because it no longer revolves around a one-way channel of communication. Customers are now asking questions constantly in the public realm, especially via social media. They’re constantly posting and tweeting, looking for answers. It’s imperative for companies — according to Baer — to address those questions and offer solutions.

He used the Twitter example of @HiltonSuggests. In their Twitter profile description, it states: “Exploring a new city & looking for insider tips? We’re here to help!” As an official Twitter account of the Hilton HHonors program, it obviously behooves them to offer advice to travelers, who might then stay at a Hilton property in the future if they aren’t in the first place.

Baer spoke about three types of awareness that businesses need to keep in mind to create a potential customer:

  1. Top of Mind Awareness — In 1977, the top TV show in America had a 30% rating. In 2011, the top TV show in America had a 12% rating. Consumers are, well, consumed with options these days. So this type of awareness is dwindling in our highly fractured media landscape.
  2. Frame of Mind Awareness — Also known as inbound marketing, this is the idea that when the customer is ready, they’ll find you, based on content and information you own that already exists. As Baer says, this does not create demand, it fulfills it.
  3. Friend of Mind Awareness — Personal and commercial relationships are changing. A company can earn a consumer’s trust by being a valuable resource. When the customer is ready to buy, they don’t have to seek you out. You’re already there, much like a friend.

The three types of awareness are explained in more detail on Baer’s company blog at convinceandconvert.com.

In that same blog, Baer speaks highly of Geek Squad, which has hundreds of instructional videos on its YouTube channel. At our conference, he focused on River Pools, which found a niche in the pool and spa industry by offering a useful series of blogs that helped boost business even in a down economy. In the regional magazine sector, he pointed out Cottage Life’s online Q&A function and Arizona Highways’ hiking reviews and guides. These businesses have found exceptional and innovative ways to be YOUtilities.

One phrase that stuck with me from Baer’s presentation was, “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.” Baer stressed the importance of content, saying to use social media first and foremost to promote content.

To request slides from Baer’s IRMA presentation, go here. Other helpful websites he mentioned were socialhabit.com and zeromomentoftruth.com, the latter from Google concerning the online decision-making moment.

My Analysis

As the editor of Nevada Magazine, I was happy to hear Baer’s emphasis on content because we (and other magazines) have plenty of it. However, my experience has shown that people tend to comment/react more to an intriguing image than they do a link to a story. I’ve tried to combine the two by posting a photo that relates to a story, then providing a link if our followers want to read more about the subject. Fans seem more likely to share an image as well with their respective networks.

As far as being a YOUtility goes, Nevada Magazine’s stories in and of themselves help tourists planning a Nevada vacation and residents of Nevada who plan to travel within the state. I’ve received numerous letters in my five years as editor in which readers/subscribers talk about how our magazine helps them (or urges them) to plan Nevada trips. The key is to extend this YOUtility factor to social media.

This is where I feel like Google+ and Twitter are more advantageous to businesses because you can more successfully search keywords and phrases, which allows you to find people who are having discussions along the lines of your business. In our case, we look to engage in discussions about Nevada travel. Or, simply find people who have traveled in Nevada and have an interesting story to share. For example, earlier this year I discovered an East Coast photographer named Bob Lussier, who had posted some spectacular photos from his Nevada travels on Google+. Two of his Austin photos from that trip were published in our July/August 2012 issue.

How is your business a YOUtility? How do you help consumers via social media? How do you promote your content in creative ways? More importantly, how do you get people talking about it and sharing it?

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“Mr. Magazine” Samir Husni speaks at the 2012 IRMA conference at Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale.

I’m currently attending the 2012 International Regional Magazine Association (IRMA) conference in Scottsdale. Saturday’s keynote speaker was Samir Husni (pictured above), or “Mr. Magazine.” His main points about the magazine industry are summed up below.

Print is not dead. He started the discussion by asking if any magazines profited more from digital than they do from print. Of course not a single hand was raised.

Be concerned with your audience. Make design and editorial decisions based on the demographic you’re trying to reach; or better yet the one you already know you’re reaching.

Be relevant, necessary, and sufficient to your audience.

The secrets of a successful magazine are as follows:

1. Give audiences their favorite things. Remember that you and the rest of your magazine staff do not represent the reader.

2. Humanize the brand. You can’t create a publication with one person or demographic in mind. Hone your mission statement and make the content fall in line with that mission. People, places, and products should figure prominently.

3. Dare to be different and better. Husni discussed ownership, showmanship, and membership as key elements.

He also left me, being a sports lover, with an easy-to-remember acronym: MVP. Meet and exceed expectations, validate info readers already have or know, and preview the near future for them.

Husni also stated that it drives him crazy when people say, in reference to media, that these are “interesting” times. These are intriguing times, according to Mr. Magazine.

Finally, in a cover critique, he said a reader should be able to judge a magazine by the cover. Sacrifice design for the habit of addictiveness, and be consistent issue to issue with typography and sell lines (as Husni prefers to call the text on magazine covers). Readers should know by and large what they’re getting from every issue.

What do you think? If you’re in the magazine publishing industry, how do you stay consistent? Or do you change it up on occasion? Do you think about newsstands more than subscribers? Have a look at some recent cover images from Nevada Magazine, and let me know what you think.

These are the things that try editors’ and publishers’ souls at the annual IRMA conference.

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