WordPress Digital Marketing: Content, Commerce and Social Selling

WordPress is the most popular open source app on the web, powering millions of sites like this one. It’s free and WordPress.com offers a free hosted version, making it a very accessible tool for even the smallest of businesses.

It’s easy to have a nice looking web site up and running in minutes, that is then equally easy to populate with your content.

Configuring WordPress Solutions

This is just the starting point though, the first perspective to consider is the sheer scale of use case scenarios it can address.

For example AWS define how you can build a very high capacity hosting configuration for WordPress (19 page PDF), meaning it can scale to even the largest of enterprise requirements, and it used by many large organizations this way as discussed next, particularly by media publishing businesses.

Second there are over 50,000 plug-in modules that can extend a site in all kinds of ways, and even more when you factor in the commercial paid for modules not listed. In short while it caters for a simple one user blogging site off the shelf, with this scope of enhancements possible what it can ultimately be configured for is limited only by your imagination.

For small businesses only a small amount of customization can produce just what you need. For example Public Storage in Canada use it for their main web site and employ one or two plugin modules for adding web site functionality like a store locator.

Social Commerce

To start identifying the type of strategic insights that might guide how and why your business could use it the headline theme to consider is “Social Commerce“, referring to the combination of social media marketing and e-commerce; or as Torque explains exploiting the union of ‘content + commerce‘.

As a social media publishing tool WordPress is naturally ideal for that purpose, with functionality like blogs, wikis, RSS feeds and social communities all easy to incorporate, and you can then add e-commerce ones too, from the base shopping cart and payment, right through to integration with accounting systems and even a POS (Point of Sale) component, so it can be utilized as a powerful full business system.

A popular plug-in for this is Woocommerce, who offer a portfolio of customer case studies, such as Pro4mance who sell sports nutrition products.

The e-commerce function isn’t limited only to selling products via a shopping cart, it can also include bookings, making it ideal for hotels, B&Bs or golfing lessons.

Social Commerce offers a number of ways to maximize the core purpose of the site – Boosting sales through better customer engagement and marketing, for example Facebook integration, Social Coupons among many others, and even ones for targeting very specific markets such as EBay Australia.

Digital Storytelling

As a social CMS WordPress is naturally ideal for any kind of freeform storytelling, from simple blogs through sophisticated ebooks and large-scale media publishing portals.

Many large media brands use it, like current affairs magazine MacLeans using it to power its Blog Central, and popular sites like TechCrunch, Forbes, the New Yorker, and Time are all users.

Of course having a powerful content publishing platform doesn’t mean the content you post will magically become engaging, if you simply copy and paste dull product data sheets you’ll only produce dull results. Writing compelling content is actually the most difficult part, which the technology makes easier to manage but doesn’t do for you.

For some inspiration about how it can help some case studies of its use by leading media innovators can prove stimulating. As Elegant Themes describes storytelling with WordPress is an emergent theme, and we’ll explore how this might be utilized for new media industries, from innovative formats for news publishing through ebooks and even games.

A few years back the NY Times set the social media world chattering about their leaked Digital report discussing the same topic ever present throughout the newspaper and media industry: How best to adapt to, survive in and ideally even prosper in a dramatically changing digital world.

The report highlighted how the NY Times is very pioneering in these new approaches, such as a more socially-oriented, and also tablet-friendly, approach to news storytelling, like theSnowfall story, attracting lots of praise for its innovative format as much as the content itself. They offer a catalogue of them here, all of them highly engaging thanks to this format.

WordPress is an ideal platform for replicating this type of format, easily able to offer the same style and other media organizations did so, like Canada’s Globe and Mail using it for a micro-site dedicated to this special feature coverage of the Sochi olympics.

Their CIO repeated this same sentiment quoted from the NY Times CIO:

“This story was not produced in our normal CMS, which is probably pretty obvious. Breaking out of that we are able to do a lot more of what you see in terms of the art direction, typograpy and the lay-out. We dont have the luxury of doing this type of design typically on the web. Now we just have more options and more tools.”

Ie. their expanding use of new social media platforms, like WordPress, goes hand in hand with expanding into these new product formats.

Some modules are especially relevant to the audience and innovation goals of this type of site, such as ‘live blogging’ for example, as discussed by the Guardian Newspaper here, and this article describes how the Post makes use of it via WordPress.

Social Selling

It’s not just media companies who can use the platform for content publishing, it’s ideal for corporate marketing teams especially those looking to enable ‘Social Selling‘.

As Harvard describes here, one of the key foundation technologies for any aspiring CMO/CDO is for them to become more like publishers themselves, harnessing the same principles but for their own marketing, whether that be technology IT white papers or consumer food products.

Case study: Allstream ExpertIP

An example of a b2b supplier utilizing this approach is Canada’s Allstream, via their blog site ExpertIP.

In this case study the Content Marketing Institute explain how Allstream have used social media publishing to offer a great resource for engaging prospective customers much earlier in the buying cycle, as they are starting to form opinions that lead to their later procurement decisions.

It also improved their SEO rankings, bringing more prospects to them, and showcased the company as a business that gets the social media world through great content and editorial style.

Micro-content

In particular it is ideal for “micro-content” marketing, meaning the much faster frequency of content postings needed to service the social media ecosystem of Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook et al.

Hand in hand with these trends is the emergence of “Social Selling”, referring to how modern salespeople go “knocking on virtual doors”, utilizing these networks for sales contact prospecting, and also critically, sharing content updates in a way that portrays them as an approachable subject matter expert in their relevant product field.

Again great content is the key ingredient. Salespeople who simply post product brochure materials will quickly be seen as pushy and lacking in added value, but it’s not a realistic ask that they be tasked with producing the content, it is a very time consuming, highly specialized skill set requiring professional writers. A portal site like Allstream’s ExpertIP is ideal for organizing this, which salespeople can then link to for sharing articles that support their online engagement activities.

There are also a raft of content marketing modules that can be plugged into any site, enhancing it with functions from email lists through polls, rolling presentations, knowledge base wikis and more, so that supporting functionality can be incorporated by the central marketing teams.

DevOps with WordPress

Staying with the media sector we can also highlight some of the underlying technology aspects, in particular ‘DevOps’ practices that support a fast moving cycle of incorporating new features into a WordPress site. A great case study example of this is the Metro Newspaper.

This WordPress case study describes the various ‘hacks’ they employed to grow the site to millions of visitors, achieved through the use of WordPress software off the shelf, which is then augmented with additional modules and ongoing software development and maintenance.

The Head of Development for the site Dave Jensen discusses his philosophy towards this methodology, as well as a number of insightful articles about these improved software practices more rapidly advance the digital products that the web site delivers.

This includes a review of their newsfeed works, and development of their Android app Metro 10.

With the right platforms and tools software developers can build and release software faster, bringing new online digital services to market quicker and more cost efficiently.

Next: Social Selling CRM

For an end-to-end Social Selling capability social publishing tools like WordPress provide one half of the equation, they also need to be integrated with CRM and other Sales Force Automation apps. Referencing popular apps in this space the next follow on article will cover this second half and in combination detail a complete Social Selling blueprint. Stay tuned..

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