Mark Schaefer_The ID Group InterviewThe ‘Talking Content Marketing’ series continues with expert opinion from modern marketing thinkers.

We welcome to the discussion Mark Schaefer.

Mark is a college educator, blogger, speaker and consultant who specializes in corporate social media marketing workshops. He is the author of three best-selling books including Return On Influence.

Mark stands for being a teacher in all that he does – blogging, podcasting, speaking, consulting, teaching at university and writing books.

Let’s get down to business…

Do we need to stop chasing everything (bigger audiences, more followers, more likes) slow down a bit and focus on a niche network (that we own) and have a core following of people who care and listen to us?

There are exceptions, but normally things like ‘Likes’ and traffic are vanity metrics. The only metric I really look at daily is Return Visitors. Essentially that is like a vote that you are doing a good job and people are coming back.

I find that the web is pretty sensitive. When I do a good job I am rewarded and if I slack, I will probably figure that out pretty soon too.

In the end, people buy from those they know and trust and we certainly have an unprecedented ability to build that kind of community on the social web.

I know that ‘Content Shock‘ is now ‘so January 2014’ but if we are looking to differentiate ourselves and our businesses what is the single most valuable thing to stand above the competition?

I believe the subject I covered in the Content Shock post – surviving in an age of information density is THE topic for marketers going forward. So the single most important “thing” will be different for different businesses as they try to find a way to beat that dynamic and stand out. It’s hard to be prescriptive since the answer will differ wildly by business and industry.

I do think the first place to look is an examination of your place in the market.  Where is the competition vulnerable? Where are they lagging? How do you use these social tools to exploit a niche?

Where are your customers? How are they getting their information?

How do you uniquely serve your customers unmet and under-served needs?

If you can answer those questions, you will be on your way toward creating a strategy that works for your business, even in an information-dense world.

‘Content Shock’ shown a lot about making a stand, having an opinion and sticking to it. Is this what many lack and need to be more present with to be recognised as a credible source?

I guess I didn’t necessarily see it as taking a stand, but it does take courage to express your views. I thought the position I took was well-reasoned and I had actually been thinking about the concept for more than nine months. So it was not a flippant piece at all. I think I just expressed what had been on a lot of people’s minds but they were a little afraid to say it.

I also think that I am flexible in my views in that I am willing to learn and stay open-minded. So I don’t see myself “taking a stand.” My role is to start a conversation.

For those adopting a content approach is it more important to be present and committed to writing (or audio, or video) rather than chasing an audience ie. will your audience eventually find you?

This is a complicated question.

There is a certain camp that says that great content rises to the top and that our audience will find us. Of course, this isn’t necessarily true. It takes a complex cocktail of quality, consistency, optimization, site authority and maybe even a little luck to get through. And then it takes patience, perseverance and dedication to stay there.

I do think it is important to develop an authentic voice and find your own audience. That only comes over a period of time however as your content “voice” becomes clear.

Is being influential about being interesting to others and considered as a valuable resource?

I think that is a start but not necessarily how things work on the web. To some extent, influence comes from simply being KNOWN. Look at somebody who is a celebrity. They may not be creating influence by creating interesting and valuable content. They may be influential simply because they are famous.

There are lots of examples like that. Somebody who is in the public eye can change behaviors and opinions just because they are famous.

But for most of us, yes … influence comes through consistently creating helpful content for a relevant and engaged audience. It’s probably why you asked me to be on this interview instead of my neighbor. You know me through my helpful content.

What platforms work best with you to grow a dialogue with your audience?

By far this would be my blog. I think every business should have at least one source of what I call “rich” content, meaning something that is more in-depth and an opportunity to create authority.

The primary sources of rich content are blogs, videos and podcasts. There might be a few others in some cases but those are the main three.

Once we develop a portfolio of rich content, this becomes the fuel for our activities on the social web. I would start there and then you have something powerful to share on the other platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Mark Schaefer. The ID Group interview. Talking Content

Many thanks to Mark for his time and taking part in the ‘Talking Content Marketing’ session.