The last day in May was an exciting one for London content makers. We had the opportunity to move away from our desks and attend a free conference on digital marketing’s favourite buzzword: content marketing.
The Content Marketing Show, hosted by the same guys who do BrightonSEO, set out to explore “the junction between social media, online PR, SEO & content strategy.”
Many of the speakers at the show shared similar opinions and experiences – one even shared the above fun slide with Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling (swoon). Here are my main takeaways from the conference:
7 major lessons from the Content Marketing Show
1. Content is a team sport
The conference opened with a talk by Danny Denhard, Senior SEO Manager Europe at VoucherCodes.co.uk. He compared the building of a content team to the building of a football team. Every player on the pitch has a job and each has specific strengths which make them a valuable asset on the team. From the goalkeeper who is there to protect your project, to the selfish striker who will work independently but get your team the results needed. To succeed and keep creativity coming, you must have a mix player types, know when to make substitutions and learn how to nurture your team.
Dan Fielder the Managing Editor at Sticky Content addressed this too. He explained that pulling ideas and content from all departments of your team is crucial in acquiring the knowledge and passion to communicate with your customers.
One of the tips provided by Sarah Howard, Head of Content at Red Rocket Media, was to make content a company-wide exercise. By using your entire team, you can create the best content possible. Plus, having multiple personas on your site builds up its authority.
…and sometimes people need incentives to get involved
While some of us content marketers would like to dream and hope that our teammates are motivated to contribute to the company blog, often this is not the reality. This can be because they lack the writing capabilities or just simply the time. Sarah offered the suggestion of making content a competition between teams. With posts receiving the highest reach earning bragging rights or a free lunch!
2. Planning and preparation is key
A strong content strategy requires proper planning and preparation. You need to have a content calendar. This was touched-upon by nearly every speaker at the Content Marketing Show.
For Dan Fielder the planning stage involves being very realistic. He spoke about underestimating what you can achieve and beginning by tackling the things which require the least amount of sign-offs or ones that can be quick wins and ROIs. Once you do this, you use your successes to argue your case when more time or more money is needed.
Jo Kerr, Digital Manager at vInspired took a different perspective on the topic of planning. She looked back at her experiences as a student newspaper editor and the planning she lacked during these years. One of the most important lessons she shared was that even though you need to plan ahead, you also have to be spontaneous. Expect breaking news and be able to adapt to it.
…and data is crucial
Making data your friend was the theme of Simon Penson’s talk. The Founder and MD at Zazzle Media described the role data plays in shaping content strategies. Using “Google’s Hidden Gems”(Google Ad Planner, Google Consumer Surveys, Google Public Data Explorer and Real-Time Insights Finder) and social data, like what is available on Facebook’s Power Editor, will not only tell you the type of content that will get you the engagement, data can and should be used to validate a campaign’s effectiveness.
3. Make content people want to share
This is obvious, but this point was still one of my favourites spoken about throughout the day. The reason was that each speaker had a different perspective on how to do this.
For Laura Edwards, one of the best ways to do this is by making the content easy to share. The social share buttons should be visible, enticing and placed at the top. Make sure the share message is already written because people are lazy. Any interference they face can stop them from sharing. Similarly, when asking for permissions on Facebook, never ask more than you need because this will throw users off.
…do so by telling good stories
Caliber COO Tony Samios opened with a verse from a storybook. His talk carried this story theme, focusing on the relationship storytelling has with strong content. He explained that people enjoy stories because they like to experience the similarities between themselves and others. While technology has changed and influenced the way we tell stories, storytelling is as old as time itself. Social media has given us the ability to personalise stories in a much more intimate setting.
Tony explains that this is important for marketers because consumers are not concerned what the brand has to say about themselves, but what others have to say about the brand. It is all about providing an emotional connection. Tony stressed that content needs to be emotionally, intellectually and aesthetically appealing. It needs to be creative and authentic. Good stories can compel people to change, and as such, content should inspire action.
Luke Lewis, UK Editor at BuzzFeed, closed the Content Marketing Show with a look at BuzzFeed’s move into the UK. One of the things that makes their content so successful, is that it taps into peoples’ passions. Luke explained that good articles harness that feel good factor in readers.
He asked the question most of us content marketers ask ourselves on a daily basis: “How is your post going to be what people share when everyone’s writing about the same thing?”
Content needs a hook. While there are many possible angles, the one that has been most effective at BuzzFeed is nostalgia. Anything that incites an emotional response is content that will be cut through.
4. Recycle the old (but good) pieces
Dan Fielder touched upon this and said part of your content plan has to be thinking of the different ways you can slice and dice your content. Basically, ask yourself how a single asset can be used in different formats and seeded to different platforms. Also think about creating templates that can be reused, such as a troubleshooter video series.
5. Be nice, be personable and be multicultural
Ben Redford designer at Mint Digital perhaps gave one of the most entertaining talks of the day. This was definitely due in part to the fact he is responsible for fun inventions like Olly, Polly and Projecteo. According to Ben, his success stemmed from blog posts his team posted of their invention production process. All he did was show people what he was doing and people responded. The blog posts were not done for the intention of increasing their SEO. His most poignant point for me was the importance of showing interest in what your consumers are doing with your product after the buying process.
Many of the speakers touched about the necessity of knowing your audience. Eric Ingrand, Vice President Content Marketing EMEA at EnVeritasGroup, went one step further and pointed out that in order to reach audiences you must create multicultural content. This does not mean translating content from English to another language, it requires creating fresh content in that specific language.
It is customers first and SEO second for Ed Bussey CEO and Founder at Quill. Hos talk was about offering content your customers want before worrying what Google wants. This is content that is relevant, helpful, timely and interesting. He also mentioned the importance of localising instead of translating.
6. Look beyond shares and start judging campaigns by conversion
Justin Taylor, Founder & MD at Graphitas, said what content marketers, SEOers and social media gurus needed to hear: social shares aren’t good enough. He described these as vanity metrics and deeply stressed the importance of looking beyond shares and start judging campaigns by conversion.
7. The old outreach process is broken and has to change
This is probably one of the toughest challenges facing content marketers today. Paul May, CEO/Co-Founder at BuzzStream called us out. He told us that the old outreach game is up and we have to start doing better. We have to develop a new and improved outreach process. A big part of this is building relationships. This can be done by retweeting posts by bloggers you plan to target, by sending friendly emails and by making sure you target people who can benefit from what you are offering.
Outreach needs to be personalised, positioned, persuasive and needs to have a call to action. Being personalised and positioned means you are clear and upfront on why what you have is valuable to them. Paul is careful to explain that it does not mean feeding them false flattery. Instead of gushing over their blog, he suggested introducing an email saying you read their article on a specific topic and its subject made you think their readers would be interested in the article you are offering.
You also need to have a call to action in your outreach. Start small by requesting a Twitter follow and progress to asking for a link. Paul warned the audience that wording here was key. Instead of asking for a link directly, phrase it instead like this: “Do you think this is something you can share with your readers.”
The day was very informative and full of valuable lessons. There were also a handful of memorable quotes:
- “If your content is good you won’t have fight to get peoples attention they will give it to you.” – Laura Edwards founder of social media agency Nitter Natters
- “Practice random acts of content kindness.” – Dan Fielder the Managing Editor at Sticky Content
- “Make me care please.” – Tony Samios COO Caliber
- “Become your audience, capitalise on what works, scrap what doesn’t, get everyone involved and adopt a data-led content marketing strategy.” – Sarah Howard, Head of Content at Red Rocket Media’s
- “To be comfortable outside your comfort zone you must be multicultural and multiplatform.” – Eric Ingrand, Vice President Content Marketing EMEA at EnVeritasGroup