The Content Marketing Show was a free search conference that took place at the Conway Hall in London on on Tuesday the 20th of November 2012. The Linkdex team hopped on the tube for only on stop to Holborn keen to find out what the experts had to say. The event was a follow-up to the much loved BrightonSEO organised by the lovely Kelvin Newman from Sitevisibility.
The conference consisted of altogether 14 sessions, with each lasting 20 minutes. For those who couldn’t attend we’ve written a ‘little’ re-cap of the experts’ main insights so that you can get started with your content strategies straight away!
We develop content to communicate and communicate to influence. But what is influence – it’s when you think in a way you wouldn’t have thought or do something you otherwise wouldn’t have done. Influence is a complex system based on many attributes. Almost everyone can influence others – especially those closest to them. We are most influenced by those 150 closest to us.
All too often we start creating content unaware of the goals. You must be looking out for outcome metrics. The “Six Influence Flow” was created by Philip – showing how different groups influence one another. In the Q&A he mentioned that the PR and marketing world is trying to find a single measure for influence or exposure – PR’s advertising value equivalency (AVE) score is no longer good enough, no recognised by professional bodies.
Creating great narratives and using content marketing to drive conversions = amazing campaigns. A narrative ties disparate events into a logical order – they are comfortable for you.
So what’s a narrative then? It focuses on creating a structured sequence of events that is logical and easy to pick up by the reader (clear beginning, middle, ending). What makes a great narrative? A brand has a story and a customer has a story (as they care about themselves) – a great narrative is where this overlaps. Not just boring and dull brand messaging. Brands are aiming to sell various lifestyle choices to customers, e.g Chevrolet’s true story “My dad’s car” commercial:
Not too long ago the dominant metaphor for the internet used to be static pages. Nowadays it’s more like a stream with content coming to you e.g feeds, Twitter. There’s an emotional feeling of being part of the stream – Twitter for example where content is constantly flowing at you. So what culture thrives in stream? Dominantly nanoculture and nanostories which are usually very fast-paced with a quick turnover.
It’s fast, fluid, collarborative, shapeless ( no ‘all’ of it to see) and most of all individual bits probably don’t matter much. So how do we adapt to this? Robin Sloan referred to it as ‘“stock” and “flow” where flow is quick messaging and stock is evergreen, lasting content.
Tom gave a very simple but insightful example – think of your last week and try to remember in what online discussion you have participated. Surprisingly you’ll have participated in various online sharing activities but are you truly able to re-construct each one?
Today’s streams are fluid with various micro-events taking place. Meaning that emotions are built fast but on the other side those events pass by quickly. The sequence of creation, replication and mutation of content vary highly depending on the chosen channel. Different streams/networks provide different message amplifying attributes.
Mimi Ito thinks 2 types of networks exist – friendship and interest networks e.g: Facebook vs. Twitter. Culture now beats features. The most popular pinned word on Pinterest is “love” and the most repinned words are “recipe” and “chicken”! Distinct cultures emerge within networks.
Tom reckons we are feeling machines that think as we are driven by emotions. A study conducted by him has shown that we are mostly driven by the following a combination of: surprise, intense emotion and a tiny bit of happiness. As a result the secret to shareable content is to make it surprising! Empower your audience, don’t just entertain them.
Antony kicked off by saying that “storytelling can scale”. Scale is not automated, de-humanised, numerised or blockbusting. It’s about having one to one conversations that can be scaled. Big data connects with storytelling to create a strong narrative. Look at the US election. They gained huge insights from their data which they then used to tell stories and allow voters to tell their own stories.
They also used clever social media nudges to get people to vote. The reason behind Obama talking on Reddit was because a lot of Reddit people lived in swing states. There’s value in having creative/editorial and data analysts on the same team –but it can actually even go further….
The formula to truly scale your content is probably – “Big Data + Content (and, now…) + Customer Experience”. You have to get a lot more ambitious, scale this up and think about the systems that can do this. He showed McKinsey’s customer decision journey as a replacement for the traditional sales model. Usually this starts with search, social media and the web (where people are going to research products/services/stories). Earned media is the counterweight, not the replacement, of paid media!
Traditional marketing matters, including offline – targeting, segmenting, positioning – you have to know who you’re speaking to, where your brand and clients etc exist in the market. This includes Analytics and other tools. Know your clients (their goals, objectives and expectations) – are there keywords they want you to target, longtail, variations, which words and phrases are popular? Do you have a good understanding of the brand guidelines and the accurate tone of voice? Spend time with your clients and find out what they want from you.
You have to understand their tone and become an extension of that. Know your audience! It may seem simple but all this is easy to forget or not actually implement. For example it’s easy to write in your own style and language. However for your clients you have to do research. Be proactive. Think Big. Understand the strategy. Simplify and make your project go further – e.g. use one message in multiple ways!
Ingredients for great PR exposure: Topical content that is ‘now’ (US election anyone?) – Sexual (leveraging sex is beneficial when a brand aims to get mentions from the main stream press), Controversial (e.g Lance Armstrong doping scandal) and last but not least Celebrity endorsements. You need to hear the story in the morning, be on it by 11am and have it out there later that day if possible. Ideally all of them would be combined but that’s obviously pretty unrealistic!
Stephen and his team had to focus on cheap PR for a hotel’s “Valentine’s day” promotion so they went for something a bit controversial stating on the hotel’s website “Romatic Break For 3″ instead of two! As you can imagine this created a buzz and made people look twice. As a result the’ve received mentions in ‘Metro’, BBC 5 Live, The Sun, a US TV channel and even on Colombian national radio. And the cost of it? Entirely for free. The effort: minimal (on-page copy only). And most importantly the benefits mentions in commercial press!
He also referred to a clever quote by Woody Allen “80% of Success is showing off”.
So what would it take to get a link from Stephen Fry (he has 5 million Twitter followers)? Stephen Pavlovich and his team were taking the mickey out of the Conservatives ‘Big Society’ idea and created a product (on their site) called “10 Downing Street Experience for £250,000″ and emailed that to Stephen who tweeted about it!
They simply took the idea “what would you do if you weren’t afraid” and created the zombie experience. The next step was to think who the ideal person to link to them would be, and it was Simon Pegg – starred in “Shawn of the Dead” and has a lot of Twitter followers. So they send an email to his agent and Simon obviously liked their idea and tweeted about it!
As a follow-up someone posted about the experience on Reddit, so they got involved. Simon was followed by Reddit and a Facebook message. The majority of the traffic came from Reddit meaning they weren’t soley reliant on Google. This campaign got them mentions in The Sun, Wired, FHM and even Fox news! 3 months after the first coverage, Jamie Oliver tweeted about it so did Derren Brown! What do we learn from this once again – after the initial work it happened naturally.
Another useful insight was Stephen’s approach to journalists – when pitching to journalists they usually give them a headline title with a photo (to ease the journalist’s workload). Furthermore if one story already got picked up in the UK and has to be distributed to other geographical locations Stepehen usually mentions that it has already been picked up in the UK which sparks immediate interest, clever!
Seed. Leverage. Be everywhere.
Keep in mind, it needs to be something you can express in a couple of words – romantic break for 3, zombie apocalypse experience etc. He combines those ingredients at the beginning. You don’t want to be too keen. It’s easier to get traction when you have credibility – when someone else has posted it!
Suck as much out of one piece of content as possible, you’ll be surprised by its variety and diversity. You might feel like you work in a boring industry and you don’t have anything exciting to offer to your audience but think again! How can you make content you already have access to more exciting? The challenge here is that you’re not famous and people probably don’t care, so how do you spruce it up? She suggests auditing your content, extracting insights from your employees.
Going forward, especially with author – your employees will become more front facing perhaps – putting a face to the content. Think about your own employees as potential authors with “human voices”. If you work in a long established company ask the most ‘loyal’ employees to help you with your idea generation process.
Keep in mind, employees are the greatest resource for social networks promotions so get them on Twitter. Foster employees who want to write and are enthusiastic, it’s crucial though that you show them the value of it. ‘Subway’ ran a campaign focusing on their history including popular sandwich choices and the evolution of the brand in general. The idea was to explore how the brand has come along. Think about the resources you have in place and how you could ‘recycle’ them. Here’s a list of resources you’re likely to have in place:
Proposals: think of business proposals that went wrong, make the best out of them and publish the research you have conducted for them!
Case studies: show off your great findings, don’t just have them in PDF and HTML but also in the form of an e-book: trade off for email addresses. Put findings into a video for YouTube. An in-house example would be to ask the people who have created the case study video for you to feature it on their site and link to you.
Calendars: have a website section linking to trade shows, don’t just make list of events but write about them beforehand and in retrospective as well.
Presentations: if you are presenting at a conference record your presentation or even if it’s only you rehearsing at voila you already have a podcast in place! Also use slideshare, record webinars and upload them onto YouTube, or send an email to clients. Have a follow-up presentation with Google hangouts for those who were too shy to ask questions.
Facts: can be boring, but actually very valuable. Present them in animation videos showing the most important facts in an exciting way.
Events: when you are lucky enough to attend events take photos and make videos, take your chance and make the best of it! Imagine you are a reporter and approach your industry’s thought leaders and ask them for advice or run interviews with them. Record that and feature it on your site or upload it onto YouTube. Or simply taking photos and transcribe an interview you’ve done with them!
Publications: don’t forget that old content needs to be indexed so upload it.
Key is to think about how you can add value to recycled content, what’s your new angle on the story?
“Successful Briefs – The Key To Getting Good Content” Jochen Mebus – Vice President Sales Europe – Textbroker (@TextBroker)
Scaling content production and increased quality levels are of great importance to meet Google’s latest ranking factors. So what can you do? Ensure that you are operating a good blog even in different languages if you have an international target audience. Various brands (including the biggies such as Coca Cola and Google) are using crowdsourcing initiatives not only for content creation but also more creative approaches. So in terms of content how do you get what you need?
Here are Jochen’s hints on a good briefing: Do you want to inform or entrtain? Do you need to optimize your website for an easy purchase process or make it as engaging and entertaining as possible? What’s the tone of voice? Name your target audience – are they young or old? Ensure that you describe your preferred style of writing and what kind of text you’re looking for.
It’s probably best to give examples of similar content to the crowdsourced authors so they get the picture! List specific questions you want the text to answer, inform the author about the desired structure (do you want meta description used?). Formulate your SEO requirements – what are your keywords? Always ask the author to contact you – the briefing should be concise. Not too long, not too short. To get the content you need you can use freelancers, bidding sites, writing site and crowdsourcing agencies. Any one of these can work.
But whichever way you go, you need to brief them in the right way.
Viral successes are often difficult to explain not even to mention to measure. Therefore you have to be realistic and understand ‘where’ your brand currently is. Don’t bolt on monitoring social media or content – this is an ongoing campaign. You have to consider – what’s the right thing for me and my brand?
Understanding conversation and metrics is the most important thing. Understand the best times in order for your audience to tab into the conversation. Do this by looking at your site’s traffic. What days and what times does your site attract the most traffic? Once you’ve identified that publish content accordingly.
He emphasises benchmarking – seeing how your mentions change in line with real events. Spikes often (obviously) coincide with real events such as tube strikes if you’re TFL focus your efforts where the people are. Also measure the conversations and
when it occurs throughout the day – what are the best times for you to release stuff? Also keep an eye out for the competition and when they’re active. Plan your reporting. Define clear objectives, review your traditional reporting, what do the execs want to see, focus on the results and what drives them. Get your hands on data and be flexible and responsive.
Make sense of the noise, sort, filter, categorise.
Simon’s previous experience was in offline publishing therefore he turned his print insight into web strategy! According to him think like “Oceans Eleven” - you need a great team, and a leader. Part one is the strategy. Start with covers in the magazine world – clear proposition, dee, hot to, gadgets, theming, lifestyle.
Editorial pillars occur when an editor puts together a cover as they’ll know what persona they’re talking to and they’ll create editorial pillars accordingly. “Men’s Health” for example know they need to talk to the bodybuilder, mind improver and sex improver. They’ll have a cover on each of these things. Theming – ‘The ___ Issue’, like the sex issue or the power issue. Create a big section which talks to those personas but also makes them feel like they’re getting more value.
Usually print publications theme a year ahead and know they have to create issues far in advance. Simon put emphasis on the importance of personas. In detail they knew what brands of clothing their target audience wore, what beer they drunk,
where they went on a Saturday night etc. But you need to know your own persona – what tone and language are you going
Have that strategy conversion but turn it into a celebrity character. Part Two in the heist – conversion. One key tactic to get sold is incentivised purchases – free gift. He saw a 27% uploft at one stage. In the digital worl you can run competitions. Be brave and shout it from the rooftops when youre giving away something. Typography and hotspots are important. Some need to be immediately readable, some creative as part of the design. Magazines know where the key hotpots are.
(Neilsons F pattern when we read a digital page is similar!) Part Three Content flow types – content flow is about understanding how your content is delivered over time. What you want to look for is variation. Magazines do lots of set pieces well – lists, images, Q&As, product focus etc. They match ideas to the form of content.. e.g. video > win a car Find your opinionated persona and plan it into the editorial calendar. Reverse engineer the plan of magazines. Form this you can create your own expert content strategy!
You can read Simon’s own write up of his presentation here.
Resonate and influence are his favourite words and everyone in the room is in that business. So how do you know when you resonate or influence someone? Resonate and influence combines – communications received, messages understood, changed behaviour, objectives achieved. What does success look like? Mentions, tweets, likes, shares, rankings etc. If you read Tribes by Seth Godin you’ll see that he bought into the idea that you can influence people by connecting with the few powerful people.
When you read “The Business of Influence” by Philip Sheldrake and “Grouped” you clearly see new models emerge. The key to being successful is to resonate, be human and nurture relationships. Its about influencing those closest to you. It makes sense to reach out to the people who are most passionate about you and your competitors – have those people at the centre.
Similar to PRs who have conversations with all the people they know! Matt’s suggestion was to invest in the best content creators. Clare Francis from MoneySavingExpert.com has extensive financial journalism experience and is now looking after their content creation. Without a doubt she is one of the best suitable candidates for that role! Great content is hugely powerful.
If relationships and people are really important – you need to maintain them. Dunbar and Killworth say you can only have between 150-290 deep relationships. Resonate in the right place. You’ll be amazed how many conversations happen in
coffee shops and at conferences. “Resonate” a fantastic book by Nancy Duarte emphasises on making your audience the “hero” and letting them have the spotlight.
News on the other hand are dynamic and move fast. You need to respond quickly. If you have this circle of people, how do you monitor what they’re talking about? By finding supplementary news and add value to that conversation.
Journalists don’t just replicate stories, they like to build on it, which is a great opportunity for your content. You can also drive the agenda. We have done this with “Geo-Rankings” and “Authorship”. The Geo SERP is all based on relationship pieces. Author then took on a life of its own and AJ Kohn mentioned it etc, it resulted in having its own dynamic.
If you’ve resonated people have heard and understood you.