Content Marketing Lesson from an Evening in Venice

November 12, 2015

content marketing lesson

Dusk turned to dark and I walked from my hotel onto Piazza San Marco in Venice. As I reach the square, musical performers entertain a large crowd:

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”

The Performers

A portly man belts out lyrics from the song made famous by Dean Martin. He’s joined by performers on the accordion and clarinet. I gather alongside a crowd of nearly 100 people. I squeeze my way forward, so I can see the stage.

Here’s a photo of the performers:

performers in venice italy

The singer played to the crowd. He’d start in, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…” then pause. He’d raise his arms to urge us to finish the lyric. When we fell short, he’d raise his arms again, as if to say, “What happened?”

The next time he came around to those lyrics, we did a better job chiming in. Here’s a photo of the assembled crowd:

audience in venice italy

After a few more songs, the singer had a message for the crowd. Knowing we were mostly tourists, he chose English:

“We’re going to take a short break. We’ll return in 15 minutes.”

The Other Performers

None of us stuck around for the 15 minutes. We saw another group performing across the square. The crowd of 20 people soon turned to 120 when we all walked over.

This group featured a violinist playing classical music. I stayed for a few of their songs, then left to explore other parts of town.

Spectators vs. Customers

Both performances took place at cafes with outdoor seating. They hired the musicians and the performances drew crowds. But guess what? The tables were 10% occupied. The “free” crowd outnumbered the paying customers 20:1.

While I enjoyed both performance groups, I left each cafe without spending a dime. In fact, I don’t even know the name of either cafe. On a return visit to Venice, I may seek out the evening entertainment in Piazza San Marco, but have no affinity or loyalty to a particular cafe.

That’s a lost opportunity to the cafe!

The Content Marketing Lesson

Here’s the lesson for content marketers:

  1. Your content is the musical performance
  2. Make good music
  3. Create an association between the music and your cafe


Create great content, but don’t stop there. Your content should make your brand more memorable.

Make your readers come back to sit at a table. Soon enough, they’ll be ordering food and drink.


Social Media Sharing Falling Short? Why You Should Keep Trying.

October 6, 2015

social media sharing makes an impact

The results of a recent tweet:

twitter metrics via buffer

Crickets. No clicks, no engagement, nothing. Did anyone even see the tweet? Twitter’s analytics dashboard tells me some of my tweets receive less than 100 impressions. Given that I have close to 7,000 followers, that’s discouraging.

twitter analytics

Given results like this, it’s easy to get discouraged. Here’s why.

We’re Results-Driven

My day job as a marketer makes me data-driven and results-driven. Looking at my personal Twitter account with a Marketing lens, I think about where I can optimize. If optimizing doesn’t move the needle, then I ask whether to focus my time on other things.

Lack of Progress is Discouraging

Occasionally, I’ll hit it out of the park with a tweet. But for the most part, I’m hitting weak grounders to shortstop. Making an out.

At the plate, professional baseball players fail most of the time. But they accept that. On social media, we’re less patient. While we want to continually drive in runs, the reality is that most of us hit below .200.

Is Anybody Out There?

If a tweet falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, was it a waste of time? I tweet to provide interesting content to others. If there was no one on the receiving end, then it wouldn’t be worth sharing.

That’s why metrics (like those shown above) are discouraging. I found an interesting article, I tweeted it and 44 people saw the tweet. But no one clicked or engaged with it. Was it worth my time? Read on to find out why those 44 impressions may mean all the difference in the world.

It’s Important to Keep Trying

Dark social” is a term coined by Alexis Madrigal to reference hidden measures of social sharing. It’s sharing whose data is not captured and tracked. If you tweet an article and I share the link via email or IM, then that share is not captured by Twitter’s analytics.

My Term: Dark Impact

What I’ve come to discover is this:

Dark social also encompasses the hidden impact of your content. I call it Dark Impact.

Your content can have an impact on people, whether they share it or not. Some personal examples follow.


Recently, I saw a close family friend whom I haven’t spoken to in 10 years. Her first comment was, “I see your posts on LinkedIn. I can almost hear your voice in your posts. I learned a lot about what you’ve been up to.”

Via LinkedIn, she was able to learn about my job changes, as well as understand my current interests.

dark impact

My friend never once interacted with my LinkedIn posts. I had forgotten we were even connected!

But there sure was an impact to my shares.

LinkedIn, Part 2

At a neighborhood block party, I chatted with neighbors who happen to be retirees. I’m connected with them on LinkedIn. At the block party, they told me they enjoy the content I share on LinkedIn.

One neighbor commented to another, “You should connect with Dennis on LinkedIn for the posts that he shares.”

Another neighbor sees the content I publish via LinkedIn Publisher. “I read your post on LinkedIn. I can’t believe your’s was right next to one by Arianna Huffington,” the neighbor said.

dark impact

Without speaking to my neighbors, I would not have known the impact my LinkedIn activities made with them.

I had no idea they read my LinkedIn Publisher posts.

Twitter and Blogging

At meetups and events, I’ll meet someone who says, “I think I recognize you from Twitter.” They had seen content that I shared, or saw retweets from users with large followings. Once, I met someone at an event who said, “Aren’t you the person who blogs about virtual events?”

Remember the 44 impressions I mentioned earlier? NONE of the people behind those impressions engaged or interacted with my tweet. But SOME remember me simply for the fact that I tweeted.

The tweet may have been meaningful, it may have been irrelevant. But I tweeted. And as a result, I was remembered for it.

dark impact

My Twitter and blog metrics may show low clicks and minimal engagement.

But it’s making a difference with someone, somewhere.


What to Do?

Keep trying. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Share useful information. Whether you realize it or not, you’ll make an impact.

Next, leave home and get out of the office. Meet new people and network. That’ll help connect your social media activities with the people you’re impacting. It’ll shed a light on the dark impact.

Use Blogging to Generate Leads

September 16, 2015

use blogging to generate leads

Q&A with Dayna Rothman, the Director of Content Marketing at EverString.

In a recent blog post, you talk about helping “shape the story for the business.” How does storytelling translate to lead generation?

Storytelling and content marketing are a critical piece of lead generation.

In fact, I believe that content should be the basis of all lead generation campaigns that you run. As all marketers know by now, your buyers have changed.

They are not only self-educating along the buyer journey, but they also have extremely high expectations. Your buyers want a brand they can relate to — they want a brand that tells a story.

The more enticing your story and your content is, the more likely it is that people will give you their information. Then, you can use those stories to move buyers through their journey.

Note: read Dayna’s post, Creating a Category Through Storytelling: Why I Joined EverString

Tell us about what you cover in your book, “Lead Generation for Dummies”?

All aspects of lead generation for all different levels and company sizes. The book discusses everything from hiring a team, creating a lead gen strategy, to all of the different inbound and outbound lead gen tactics you should take, what metrics you should track, and more.

Note: Buy the book at Amazon, Lead Generation for Dummies.

Before Marketers start blogging for lead generation, what must they do first?

Marketers need to understand their lead gen goals as it pertains to the blog. How do they want generate leads? Through subscribers? By having visitors download content assets from your blog? Are you using your blog in outside lead gen campaigns? Once you figure out your goals, you can optimize your blog and individual posts.

What blogs do you read to help inform your own blogging?

Well, the Marketo blog of course! When I was there, we focused on optimizing lead generation through different avenues. I also love Copyblogger, MarketingProfs, and sites like Gawker and Mashable.

How do you measure the effectiveness of blogging to drive lead generation?

There are a few ways to measure effectiveness. You can look at blog subscriber growth, content assets downloaded from individual blogs, referral traffic, where do people go after reading your blog, etc.

B2B Blogger Meetup

Want to hear Dayna speak? In October in San Mateo, we’re holding a B2B Bloggers Meetup. Dayna will do a presentation on “Blogging for Lead Generation.”

Tell us what you plan to cover during your Meetup presentation?

I will cover how to think about lead generation when it comes to your blog. I will discuss how to optimize your blog and what different CTAs you should consider to collect lead information.

I will also talk about how to format your posts and what outbound campaigns you can use to drive traffic to your blog and increase leads.

Meetup Details

Everyone is welcome to attend and the Meetup is free. All of our Meetups take place in San Mateo, CA.

October 28, 2015 [Wednesday], 6:30-8pm: Blogging for Lead Generation, featuring Dayna

Hope to see you there!

Note: I originally published this post at LinkedIn.

10 Things to Check Before You Publish that Post

July 20, 2015

blogging checklist

Wait! Before you hit “Publish” on your next blog post, consider using this ten point checklist.

1) ALT tags on your images

The ALT tag is used to describe (for search engines) what your image is about. This is particularly useful on image search sites, such as Google Images. If someone searches an image for “plastic container” and you’ve used the same term in your ALT tag, your page may get listed higher in search results. Readers won’t see your ALT tags unless they view the HTML of your post.

Helps with: Organic search traffic, including traffic from image search sites.

2) Add internal links

Browse your post for terms that relate to pages on your website (e.g. product pages). Hyperlink the phrase to the relevant page. I also like to use Google Analytics “UTM” parameters in the URL (e.g. utm_source, utm_campaign) so I can see how much traffic this “internal linking” drives. Search engines like sites that use internal linking effectively.

Check out this post by Brian Honigman on website metrics. You’ll notice that I inserted numerous internal links to relevant DNN product pages.

Helps with: Organic search ranking, page views per session, bounce rate (lowers it), time on site, conversion rate.

3) Embed related content

I check DNN’s SlideShare and YouTube channels to see if there’s any content directly related to the post. If there is, I grab the “embed code” from that site to incorporate the SlideShare or video directly into the post.

In this post by Steve Roth on Google Hummingbird, I embedded a case study from our SlideShare channel.

Helps with: Time on page and (possibly) conversion rate.

4) Have links open in a new window

I add (target=”_blank”) to my hyperlinks. This way, when a reader clicks on a link in my post, that link opens in a new browser window. I don’t want the reader to leave my post.

Helps with: Time on page, bounce rate (lowers it).

5) Spelling, grammar and syntax check

Once I publish a new post, I like to do one more read through it. Occasionally, I’ll find errors, which means that I didn’t do enough of a “QA check” prior to publishing. I like to do a final read-through before I hit the publish button.

Helps with: Reader trust, return visits.

6) Use H2 and H3 tags on headings

This item (number six in my list of ten) is using an H3 tag. Instead of merely bolding a heading, the use of these tags helps search engines understand the structure of your post. Use them.

Helps with: Search engine indexing, which may have a slight impact on organic search traffic

7)  Calls to Action (CTA)

Readers loved your post. What do they do next? Don’t strand them. Give them somewhere to go: a related post, a trial of your software, an offer to sign up for your newsletter.

In this guest post by Brad Shorr on website redesign, the call to action is to download a related eBook from DNN.

Helps with: Page views per session, bounce rate (lowers it), time on page, time on site, conversion rate.

8) Meta Description Tag

The meta description tells readers and search engines what your post is about. On social shares, this field is often pulled in to provide context. It’s also the text displayed (below the post title) in search engine results. I keep mine pretty brief: one sentence that captures the essence of the post.

Helps with: Traffic from organic search and social shares.

9) Image filenames

Similar to image ALT tags (covered above), filenames can be an important search engine ranking factor. Electric-toaster-oven.JPG is better than IMG20150496-lage.JPG, because search engines can figure out the former is a toaster. On the latter filename, they have no idea. So double-check that your images have well-understood filenames. If they don’t, then re-name the image file, upload the new image and delete the old one.

Helps with: Organic search traffic, including traffic from image search sites.

10) Confirm comments are enabled

It’s a recently debated topic: whether to allow comments on your blog. I vote “yes.” Let readers share their thoughts, while moderating inappropriate, profane or off-topic comments. I love to hear from readers, even if what they say hurts :-)

Helps with: Reader trust, reader engagement, time on page, time on site.

Note: I originally published this to my LinkedIn profile.

How to Be More Authentic on Twitter

June 13, 2015

how to be more authentic on twitter

Note: This post was originally published at Online Super Ninja.

One of the great things about Twitter is its wide variety of users. There are brands, celebrities, executives, sports fans, music fans, startup founders, bloggers and more. Everyone brings their unique style. Some users are real and authentic, while others seem automated.

There are automated accounts out there, in the form of spam (and other) bots. Twitter even has a webpage titled “Automation rules and best practices.”

I prefer to follow and engage with authentic users on Twitter. Here are 16 tips on increasing your Twitter authenticity.

1) In your bio, don’t refer to yourself in the third person

In your Twitter bio, you have 160 characters to tell us who you are. Talk to us as if we’re meeting for the first time at a cocktail party. Tell us your occupation, your interests, your hobbies. But substitute the word “I” instead of your first or last name. If you do refer to yourself in the third person at cocktail parties, people probably think you’re talking about someone else.

2) Avoid overstuffing your bio with hashtags

I get it: you want to insert key hashtags in your bio, to increase the likelihood that people find you. But if your bio is exclusively hashtags, then we really don’t know whom you are. It’s like the old days of SEO: when you keyword-stuffed a web page, people no longer knew what you were trying to say. So include a hashtag or two. But be conversational in your bio.

3) Think twice about Auto-DM’ing new followers

“Auto DM” (or, automated Direct Message) refers to the practice of sending a private message (Direct Message) to new people who follow you. I don’t like receiving these. Other users feel the same way. In fact, some users will unfollow anyone who sends them an Auto DM. Not only are these messages impersonal, they also tend to be promotional (e.g. “Check out my website”, “Visit my YouTube channel”, “Like me on Facebook”).

4) Respond to questions

twitter dialog, @dshiao and @jentsao

I try to respond to any question (or comment) that I receive, assuming the question itself is authentic. Twitter is a great conversation channel that enables me to converse with others. The neat thing is, these conversations can result in connections, colleagues and friends.

5) “Favorite” tweets to send positive karma

The “Favorite” button is interesting because people use it in different ways. Some people use it as a bookmarking service. I use it to send positive karma back to the person who tweeted. It’s a way of saying “I like what you tweeted.” And that’s how I interpret it when people Favorite my tweets.

6) Monitor interactions on your scheduled tweets

Tools like Buffer help you schedule tweets to be sent out at specific times. I use Buffer when I find a lot of links to share. Instead of sharing all at once, I spread them out over time. If you schedule automated tweets, be sure to monitor interactions. I stay on top of my interactions by frequently checking Twitter from my smartphone. If someone replied to my scheduled tweet, I’ll see that on my phone. If you schedule a lot of tweets and never reply to a comment, people will think your account is completely automated.

7) Share photos

While you have 140 characters available in each tweet, a picture is worth a thousand words. Sharing photos helps take users into your world. We get to see what you see. I share photos from events, the outdoors and other interesting things I come across.

8) Share your geographic location

twitter profile of Heidi Thorne

This tip comes courtesy of Heidi Thorne (@heidithorne): “I appreciate a general idea of where you’re located. I realize that some are concerned about security issues. I get that and you have to do what’s right for you. But for those without security concerns, including a country, state or region would be really helpful.”

9) Ask questions and encourage conversation

Twitter is one of the world’s best focus groups. I like to start a dialog by asking a question. For example, “What marketing automation solution are you using?” or “Tell me something exciting you have planned for this weekend?” Asking questions gets you engaged with followers and non-followers alike. These sorts of conversations increase authenticity. Just avoid selling yourself or pitching your product when doing so.

10) Own up to your mistakes

This tip comes courtesy of Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt): “Mistakes make you human. Don’t be afraid to admit them. Taking responsibility for your mistakes adds to your credibility, trustworthiness and authenticity.”

11) Share facts in your bio that no one else knows

Twitter profile of Aaron Lee

Taken literally, this might be hard to do. But the point is, share some unique facts about your hobbies, interests and passions. In my bio, I mention that I love blogs, bad jokes and karaoke. My LinkedIn network doesn’t know this (well, most of them don’t), but my Twitter followers do.

12) Don’t Favorite or RT your own tweets

Let’s just say it: this looks weird. It would be like writing a positive review of your own book. Or walking around town complimenting your good looks. Quick note: a “Favorite” can be un-done. If you mistakenly favorited your own tweet, click on “Favorite” a second time and it’s erased.

13) Use humor

Another tip from @JeniseFyatt: “Humor makes you a more likeable and approachable human.” I’ll crack a joke from time to time. Sometimes, people respond. Other times, the joke falls flat. One metric I use for authenticity is DTMYL: Did That Make You Laugh?

14) Mix business with pleasure

When I started on Twitter, I was “always on” with work-related tweets. I was too focused. I was not authentic. These days, I primarily tweet about Marketing topics, but will mix in tweets about my sports teams (especially when they’re playing) and related non-work interests.

15) Retweet regularly

Retweets get other people’s tweets on your profile (and in your followers’ feeds). If you never retweet, then every tweet is coming from you. Share the love by expanding the reach of others’ tweets. Don’t go overboard, however: use a good mix of original tweets (from you) and retweets.

16) Give thanks

Let people know that you appreciate their share, comment or retweet. Saying “thank you” is not only authentic, but it incents the recipient to share more of your content in the future.

Your Turn

I shared 16 tips for being authentic on Twitter. Surely, I missed a few. What tips would you add to this list? Use the comments area below.

Dear Future Customer

May 16, 2015

dear future customer - meghan trainor adapted lyrics

Channeling Our Inner Meghan

Much of what we do in Marketing is develop content and coordinate programs for lead generation. In other words, we’re engaging with future customers.

I’ve taken Meghan Trainor’s popular song (“Dear Future Husband”) and adapted the lyrics for marketers.

Dear Future Customer (Lyrics)

Dear future customer,
Here’s a few things
You’ll need to know if you wanna be
My one and only
Oh wait: we’re polygamous, we have many customers (whoops!)

Take a spin with our free trial
And don’t forget the flowers (if you like it)
‘Cause if you’ll treat me right
We’ll be the perfect vendor
We’ll give you multi-year discounts,
That’s what you need

You got that 9 to 5
But our customer support is 9 to 9
So don’t be thinking we’ll be baking apple pies
But we’ll ship you some for Thanksgiving
Sing along with us
Sing-sing along with us (hey)

You gotta know how to renew your subscription
Even when we’re acting crazy
Tell us everything’s alright

Dear future customer,
Here’s a few things you’ll need to know if you wanna be
Our favorite customer
If you wanna get that special badge
Participate in our advocacy programs

After every fight
Just apologize
Wait, we shouldn’t be fighting
Even if we’re wrong
[Grin] The customer is always right!
Why disagree?
Why, why disagree?

You gotta know how to treat us like a vendor
Even when we’re acting crazy
Call us out on Twitter (and follow Meghan here: @Meghan_Trainor)

Dear future customer,
Make time for our customer conferences
Don’t leave me lonely
And know that next year, we’ll get Bruno Mars for the concert

Why Google Should Take an Interest in Pinterest

May 10, 2015

A Pinterest search for Fathers Day gifts

Pictured: Search results for “fathers day gift” on Pinterest.

Going forward, Google’s competition will not come from traditional search engines. You see, the nature of search is changing. Today’s generation of kids are using the web in ways that are far different from us.

The Nature of Search is Changing

On the way to school one morning, my daughter’s sixth grade classmate told me about the Fathers Day gift she made over the weekend: an apron that her dad could wear while grilling.

For ideas on what to make her dad, she searched Pinterest. Scanning through images of gift ideas, she came across the apron. She read the description, then clicked through to the website. The site listed instructions on how to make the apron.

When I asked my daughter’s friend if she was aware of Google Image Search, she answered, “Of course. But Pinterest is better.”

Why Pinterest?

Why is Pinterest winning share with today’s kids? It comes down to a few C’s:


Let’s compare the broad reach of Google to the targeted reach of Pinterest. When you’re trying to find an answer to a question (e.g. “What is a storage area network?”), then indexing the entire web is an advantage. Chances are you’ll find the best answers in the search engine results pages.

But what if you’re looking for ideas for Fathers Day gifts? And what if you want to only view images of those gifts? Pinterest provides an advantage, since they only index images “pinned” by their users. Google Image Search, on the other hand, indexes the entire web.

My daughter’s friend determined that Pinterest search will give her better results than Google search.

Related Post: How a Pinterest Board Gained Popularity After I Stopped Pinning

Also, the core activity of Pinterest is to browse, and for that activity, Google is not even in the game.

My daughter and her friends own smartphones and each of them is an active user of the Pinterest app. They like images related to their interests: celebrities, singers, food items, pets and humor.

They value Pinterest for the content it delivers. And while they’re already using the app, it’s easy to perform searches right there. No need to navigate over to a separate search engine.


Some of my daughter’s friends are so active on Pinterest that they’ve accumulated several hundred pins. Whether they know it or not, they’re mastering the fine art of content curation: finding interesting things and deciding which ones they should share with their friends.

While my daughter’s friend didn’t re-pin the Fathers Day apron, it’s only natural for kids to do this: perform a search on Pinterest, find something you like, then re-pin it to one of your boards.

This is a missing element of the Google search experience.

When I find something relevant (or interesting) in a Google search, I have no means to “pin” that or share it with someone, other than emailing them the link.

Related Article: Google Takes On Pinterest With Google+ Collections (Marketing Land)


My daughter and her friends follow each other on Pinterest (side note: they follow parents as well!). For the most part, “community” on Pinterest is about the people they know.

Related Post: The Real Reason Google Spent $1B to Acquire Waze

While they do get followed by strangers, most of their re-pinning comes via their friends, or via well-known brands they follow. They’ll also send each other private messages (via Pinterest) to share pins.

So not only does Pinterest allow them to find interesting content, it also provides tools to share, connect and bond with one another over shared interests. This “community element” is essential.

Bringing it All Together

Pinterest serves a good model of what Google Plus might have been: a way to tie Google search users together, from content that’s created via curation and community.

While Google prides itself on being a series of “one and done” experiences (i.e. take users quickly to the right/best search result), maybe there’s value in providing an “always on” experience, like Pinterest.

After all, today’s kids seem to be always on Pinterest. And that has implications for the future of search. Google needs to take a greater interest in Pinterest.


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