10 Actionable Content Creation Tips from Content Marketing World 2018

10 Actionable Content Creation Tips from Content Marketing World 2018

Big Ideas

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September 19 2018
Big Ideas

It’s been a little over a week since Content Marketing World 2018 in Cleveland, and I think I’ve finally recovered from the mid-event party at the House of Blues. While I can’t help you relive the magic of 2000 marketers leaping around to a Kris Kross’ JUMP,  I can give you a taste of some of the best takeaways CMWorld ’18 had to offer. Here are some standouts to steal for your next strategy meeting.

  Content creation tips from CMW 2018


10. Focus Below the Fold

Allan Gannett, the CEO of TrackMaven, has LinkedIn pretty much figured out. If your audience is present on the platform, you’re in luck – the platform is far less congested than other social channels (looking at you, Instagram) and as Gannett explains, there are some simple ways to significantly boost your reach on LinkedIn without fumbling through LinkedIn Ads Manager. The key? Talk to people! Respond to comments and engage people in conversation. The LinkedIn algorithm strongly favors content that people are talking about. This means offering your commenters more than a “Great point, Ted!”. Ask questions, seek opinions, and – if you dare – flirt with takeaway #9…


9. Don’t Avoid Conflict – Invite It

Every marketer has a client or two that is absolutely terrified of controversy. Rather than take a stand that might invite backlash, these clients would sooner offer a neutral nod in the politically correct direction or stay mum altogether. As Nadya KhojaHead of Marketing at Venngage points out, this is a missed opportunity. Speaking out in a way that aligns with your core audience is a hot trigger for genuine engagement. Your core audience is more likely to develop strong positive associations with brands that share their moral leanings. Nike’s recent ad with Colin Kaepernick is a great example. As for those who disagree? Well, chances are, they aren’t your buyers. But they might feel strongly enough to engage with your buyers in the comment section, boosting your engagement rate.


8. Communication: Too Much is Better than Enough

Sometimes, a customer’s expectations and your actual product don’t exactly match. You don’t have to work in marketing to be familiar with that situation. Mykim Dang, Director of Video for America’s Test Kitchen, is an evangelist of proactively protecting your work from disasters, and it all comes down to transparency. When working on content – whether you’re on the client side, the creator side, or even on an internal team – you must eliminate assumptions from your process. Like, all of them. Kill them dead, as soon as one pops up. Assumed your client knows how many hours of editing might be required to make the changes they asked for? POW! – shoot them that email. Assumed the agency you hired is optimizing your video for social media? WHAM! – book that meeting. Assumed your VP of Marketing doesn’t care how many hours you put into that internal brand video they asked you to do? OOF! – it’s softer to land in a sandbox than to hit your ass on the curb.


7. SEO is the Cure for Writer’s Block

Want to create content, but not sure what it should be about? With so many SEO tools out there, including many great free ones like Ubersuggest, there’s really no excuse to avoid content creation because you can’t pick a topic. In her presentation in the Brightcove PLAY Studio workshop, Katie Pennell, Senior Performance Content & SEO Manager at Nina Hale points out, there are many ways to find out what your audience is searching for. Start by performing keyword research that replicates what real people are typing into Google or YouTube. No matter what your product, there’s sure to be a niche of people searching through all their questions about it. Think of the questions your customers ask you in person and start there. For instance, “How do I install…”, “How often should I replace…”, “How much does it cost to…” – think along these lines.


6. Research Gets No Credit but Earns All the Value

This was probably the biggest “aha!” moment for me, thanks to Michele Lin and Clare McDermott, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Research Officer at Mantis Research. In the marketing world, there tends to be two main archetypes of people. There are the creative folks who flunked chemistry (anyone else?) that tend to zero in on narratives. Then, there are the analytical people – who would rather use liquid White-Out as eyedrops than write a short story – who focus on hard data. The strongest content has a balanced combination of both. Think of all the fascinating infographics, the compelling articles and the educational videos you’ve seen over the past year. For great content, you need excellent research to earn trust and build value, but you also need a strong and interesting narrative to keep people engaged. For maximum value, use original research and stamp your logo on your infographic – you do want the credit, don’t you?


5. High Production Value ≠ Meaningful Content

Tim Schmoyer and his wife Dana have been creating YouTube videos since their early days as a couple, and he had some eye-opening insights in his session. As someone who coaches other creators, he shared an anecdote about a group that was creating beautiful, sparkling video content – yet, they struggled to connect with an audience. Meanwhile, they lamented, the guys sitting at home on their mid-range webcams seemed to be raking in millions of views. What gives? Schmoyer points out that creating a loyal audience, in reality, has little to do with cinematic polish. He cites Primal branding by Patrick Hanlon, which points out the tribal nature of a dedicated audience. I won’t spoil the book for you, but the key takeaway is creating intimacy with your viewers. It’s the sense of being part of an “inner circle” that turns users into fans – not the price of your camera lens.


4. Create Opportunities for Others, Every Chance You Get

Tina Fey has been a personal hero and source of inspiration for about 3 generations of women in my family. The audience at CMW – mostly other female content writers who, like me, saw her as a career idol – hung on her every word during her 45-minute talk session. I could gush about her apparently effortless likability for hours, but for brevity’s sake, I’ve picked just one aspect of her talk to focus on: inclusivity. Fey called attention to the importance of making sure the room was not filled with too many people of the same background, and the importance of building platforms for other voices to speak. For some people in positions of power (like Fey), it could mean creating opportunities for women and people of colour. For those of us who aren’t decision makers, it can be as simple as amplifying the great ideas of others who don’t bring a lot of power to the table. (“I agree with Rachel,” or “Kaitlyn’s plan sounds like it really hits the mark.”) These are simple acts that have powerful benefits, both for the careers of others and for the final product of the team.


3. Don’t Capture Leads – Interact with Them

This is where many of you internal marketers and sales managers are probably leaning in. Leads – we all want them, we all want more of them, and we all want to know more about them before we call them. Maybe your organization has a couple of gated whitepapers which act as your “bait” for those whale-sized leads. Or, fine, sturgeon-sized. Bass-sized? Can I just get a damn trout?

Here’s the thing – the whitepaper game is a very overpopulated pond. You might be thinking of what makes your lead qualified. Don’t forget, they’re thinking about what makes YOU qualified. So, you must have a cutting-edge hook.

As David Cunningham, Director of Demand Generation at SnapApp points out, the way forward is to create lead-generating content that is also interactive. First, remember your SEO basics and create content tailored for your desired lead’s search queries - “Top Ten Digital Marketing Trends” could be “Top Ten Digital Marketing Trends for Retailers in 2018”. Then, between subheads, imagine micro-surveys (1 or 2 questions) that ask your audience pertinent questions, like “Which of these marketing challenges does your business struggle with most?” or “Which of these tactics do you think your business could be doing better?”. The benefits of these micro-surveys are many. From the lead’s perspective, they engage conversation, boost scroll depth, and stand out in a sea of plain text. On your end, they help qualify individual leads with relevant questions for your sales team and collect useful data on your audience’s pain points.


2. Curiosity is the Key

Ever since Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping, took the stage, I haven’t stopped thinking about this takeaway. Davis defended the humble goldfish, marketing’s favorite scapegoat (scapefish?) for the world’s dwindling attention spans. He recalls an experience sitting in a restaurant’s waiting lounge next to a giant aquarium, in which a tiny goldfish scooped up a few gravel pebbles and spit them at his face. The goldfish did this repeatedly – for over ten minutes. As Davis says, “don’t blame the goldfish!” Audiences’ attention span can be kept for longer periods, if you earn their interest. So how do you hold interest without falling back on “snackable” content? Don’t give your audience all the answers too soon. It’s up to content creators to create the “curiosity gap”, the space between “what they know” and “what they want to know”. Focus on creating questions in your audience’s mind in the first few moments of your piece of content, starting with the title. Then, don’t give them the satisfaction of an answer until the very last moment. As soon as your audience thinks they’ve absorbed all the value your content has to offer, they’ll bounce.


1. Don’t Wait to Start Creating Content

If every presenter at the conference had one piece of advice in common, this would be it. There are so many mobile-friendly video editing apps available now (try VidLab or Videoshop), as well as amazing platforms to help you elevate your content strategy, today is really the best time for anyone to become a creator. You don’t have to be the best at any one medium. Just pick one that you can stick to – podcasting, blogging, video, whatever – and put something out there. Go forth! Make mistakes! Fail constructively! You have your whole life to get it right, you have limited time to get started.

As long as this list is, it could be ten times longer with all the incredible insights brought forth by each presenter. Feeling like you missed out? You can still purchase a post-show video pass at the Content Marketing Institute website. Big thanks to Joe Pulizzi and the Content Marketing Institute for putting on this awesome event. See you next year!


UPDATE: It turns out, I CAN share the magic of 2000 marketers dancing to Kris Kross’ JUMP. Thank you Stephanie Stahl for capturing this!


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