How Events Fuel the Content Marketing Fire

December 14, 2015

how events fuel the content marketing fire

Quick, guess what B2B content marketers named as the most effective content marketing tactic?

OK, the headline probably gave it away, but a whopping seventy-five percent of B2B content marketers rated in-person events as most effective, over white papers, newsletters and blogs.

That’s according to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs research report, “B2B Content Marketing: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends — North America.”

2015-14-October-Shaio-Image1

From: B2B Content Marketing – 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America slideshare

After in-person events, the marketers named webinars (66 percent) and case studies (65 percent) as most effective.

Why are events so effective for content marketing? Because they’re structured as a time-bound, content-producing machine: keynotes, panel discussions, training sessions and presentations. All involving people with a shared purpose and shared interests. How could you NOT create interesting content from events?

According to Monina Wagner (@MoninaW), community manager at Content Marketing Institute (CMI), “The key to leveraging in-person events for content marketing is knowing where to unearth ideas.”

Let’s consider five ways you can leverage events to unearth content ideas.

1. Event as a Listening Device

As content marketers, our existence is tied to our target audience. Picking the right events means finding those where we’re surrounded by that audience.

You can learn about your audience via Google Analytics, keyword research and social media listening, but there’s nothing quite like looking them in the eye and speaking to them. You’ll gain an appreciation for their perspectives and challenges in a way that metrics like bounce rate and time on page can’t deliver.

According to CMI’s Wagner, “Events provide an opportunity for an organization to see in real-time what topics resonate with its target audience.”

I want to adjust my own mindset to place a higher importance on listening at events. If I don’t produce a single piece of content from an event, but spent hours talking to my target audience, then I’ll have gained valuable insights.

“Live events give you an opportunity to really hear from your audience. Listening to their questions and challenges and then asking some good follow-up questions will often expose areas where you can fill an important content gap,” said Scott Ingram (@ScottIngram), strategic account executive at Certain.

2. Inspiration for Writing

I love to write. Give me a topic and I’ll dive right in. My challenge is finding things to write about. I prefer to cover a unique topic or delve into a distinct angle. That limits my choices. Sometimes, a comment that I hear at an event will inspire an entire post or article.

My prior CMSWire piece on infographics was inspired by a fellow content marketer. She made a comment about infographics at a Silicon Valley Content Marketing Meetup. On another occasion, I attended a meeting of customer experience professionals. A comment made during a panel discussion inspired me to write about spending more time with customers.

3. Write About the Event Itself

Your target audience is at the event. Others couldn’t make it. If you produce content about the event, both sets of people will be interested.

Last year, I attended Marketo’s annual customer Summit. Because my target audience attends that event, I published a blog post about it, which included six takeaways. Note: Hillary Clinton spoke at the event. One of my takeaways was that she’d run in 2016 (I was right).

For people who could not attend in person, sourcing footage from the event can be an attention grabber. According to Ingram, “Your people are there. What a great time and place to grab some great audio and video content that can be repurposed across multiple channels.”

4. Inform Future Content with Audience Questions

Good content marketing serves to answer questions faced by your target audience. Events are a great place to hear those questions get asked: during technical sessions, breakout sessions, presentations, panel discussions and more.

Write down all of the questions you hear. Next, jot down the answers to the questions. When you return to the office, catalog the questions into topic categories. Determine whether your in-house experts can provide answers that go above and beyond those provided at the event. If they can, you have a nice set of topics for blog posts, webinars, videos, e-books and more.

5. Report on Expert Insights

This is where content marketing meets influencer marketing. All events bring together subject matter experts who are influential in their industry. Put on your reporter hat to write articles about what the experts spoke about.

Recently, I attended a Social Media Club event. An expert panel spoke about social media marketing. The panel shared a number of interesting examples and case studies. The next day, I published a blog post with my takeaways from the panel.

Some of the panel participants saw my post and shared it to their social networks. When you write about someone’s presentation or talk, they’re inclined to share. So reporting on expert insights kills two birds with one stone: you develop content for your target audience, while having the experts share the content on your behalf.

Time to fill up my calendar with meetups, events and conferences. Not only will I hear interesting presentations and meet interesting people, but I’ll have a fresh set of ideas and topics. Given that 75 percent of B2B content marketers find this tactic effective, I’ll see you there. Can we do a short video together?

Notes About this Post

Image adapted from CommScope’s photo on flickr.

This post was originally published at CMSWire.

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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.

 


How Mark Schaefer Made a Splash with Content Shock (And What You Can Learn From Him)

January 29, 2014

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Insights for Content Marketers

I consider 2014 “The Year of Content Shock and The Conversation that Ensued.” Mark Schaefer is Executive Director at Schaefer Marketing Solutions, where he provides marketing consultation to businesses. He’s the author of the {grow} blog, along with a number of books.

Photo: Mark Schaefer on Twitter (@markwschaefer)

Shortly after the New Year, Schaefer published a blog post, “Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy.” The post received 400+ comments, along with thousands of tweets and hundreds of articles. This week, Schaefer followed up with a new blog post to address all of the dissenting opinions.

My Quick Take on Content Shock

Content Shock
Image via Mark Schaefer.

Too many dissenters took a “black and white” view of Schaefer’s piece. Either content shock will doom us all or it won’t. In fact, this was my original interpretation. As Schaefer’s follow-on piece notes, however, we don’t live in a world of absolutes – there’s grey matter in between the black and white.

As a content marketer for a “small” brand, you’re not doomed to hopeless failure. In fact, if you’re a small fish in a big pond, Schaefer prescribes the following:

“If you are facing a possibility of content saturation in your market, you need to be thinking of ways to change the game.”

Mark Schaefer’s Winning Formula

Mark Schaefer
Image via Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

Schaefer Marketing Solutions operates in a highly crowded space. First, consider their direct competition: individuals and agencies who offer similar consulting services. They’re blogging and publishing books, too. On the agency side, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of agencies with far bigger budgets.

Next, consider the “indirect competition” – the rest of us who are publishing related content. Whether it’s social media marketing or content marketing, Schaefer competes with HubSpot, Marketo and KISSmetrics for attention and readership. It’s not a zero sum game, but it’s competition nonetheless.

So with the two blog posts alone, let’s consider how Schaefer combats content shock for his own business.

Find a Timely Topic

While some trace “content marketing” back to the age of cavemen, it’s hard to avoid the fact that the discipline and the term are getting a lot of buzz in 2014 (and, earlier in 2013). We’re all talking about “content marketing” – but more importantly, brands are putting serious dollars behind it. I’ve worked with journalists in past jobs and many of them (today) are heading up content marketing at B2B brands. So January 2014 was a good time to introduce “content shock.”

Take a Well-Reasoned Stand

Taking a stand garners attention. Taking a well-reasoned stand gets attention, but also drives dialog and conversation. If you wrote a blog post about “Why World Peace is Overrated,” you’re taking a stand, but you’ve lost credibility with most people in the title alone. Schaefer presented a well-reasoned argument that combined with a timely topic and a little controversy, generated a firestorm.

Side note: a search on Google shows that the original Content Shock piece has 12,500 inbound links pointing to it!

Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions

If he had enough time in the day, I bet Mark Schaefer would reply to every single blog comment and every single tweet. If you look at his blog posts, he gets rather close to doing just that. It takes a lot of time for Schaefer to respond to people.

blog comment

But consider his competition: other marketers, agencies and vendors like Marketo and HubSpot. They might have bigger budgets than Schaefer, but some of them do NOT interact as much – or if they do, they don’t do it in the inviting and genuine style of Schaefer.

Advantage: Schaefer.

To combat content shock: having a plan in place to genuinely engage with the readers of the content you produce. Schaefer, “predicted” all of this (in a sense) with an earlier post  that he published, “How to beat Hubspot at its own game.”

Follow Up

Sometimes, it’s not enough to reply to comments and engage with your readers (and dissenters). If you were fortunate enough to have your content spark a conversation, then take the time to carefully review all of the input (both in favor and in opposition of your stance) and follow up. Your follow-up should summarize the dialog, then provide your response. Just like Schaefer did.

Conclusion

So how can smaller fish survive in the larger content pond? Consider what Mark Schaefer did:

  1. Find a Timely Topic
  2. Take a Well-Reasoned Stand
  3. Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions
  4. Follow Up

What are you waiting for? Go do it!


6 Steps to More Effective Content Curation

June 8, 2013

A plan for curating content

Introduction

Whether you’re a corporate brand or a personal brand, it’s important to effectively curate (and share) good content. Effective curation builds influence and authority: share information that enables your audience to learn (and do their job better) and they’ll come back for more. Here’s my six step plan for more effective content curation.

1) Understand your audience.

Keep your captive audience captive

Photo credit: Flickr user Anirudh Koul via photopin cc

Rather than using analytical tools, I build an understanding of my audience less formally. On social media, a portion of my following includes those whom I followed (and they, in turn, followed me back). This segment I know fairly well, since I followed them in the first place.

For others, I develop an understanding based upon interactions: replies to my tweets, comments they add to retweets, etc. In using Twitter over the years, I’ve come to understand that my followers are interested in social media, technology, events and sports. And that’s not surprising, because those are my interests as well!

2) Understand yourself.

You may be saying “of course I understand myself!” And while I’m sure that’s true, this step is really about defining your brand and what it represents. The understanding of your audience is reciprocal: they’re also developing an understanding of what you represent.

Let’s say you’ve been sharing articles on science and technology for the past 12 months and just developed an interest in baking cupcakes. In the past, your tweets were 80% science and technology. Today, it’s 20% science and technology and 70% cupcake recipes.

The shift in interest is fine, but understand that many of your followers “found” you because of your science and technology tweets. This means that you’re less influential (to them) on that topic. If that’s not what you wanted, then you’ll need to re-balance your content sharing back towards useful science and technology.

If cupcakes are indeed your new thing, then I like chocolate peanut butter varieties.

3) Assess title AND content.

Assese both the title and the content

[Make sure both the meat and the gravy are savory.]

The title of an article (or post) is crucial. On Twitter, it’s the only thing your followers may see. I look for a combination of subject matter and compelling headline. Good headlines draw you in, while answering the “what’s in it for me” question at the same time. Of the following two options:

Blogging Tips from an Expert Blogger
10 Tips to Make Your Blog Take off Like a Rocket Ship

I prefer the latter.

Titles: to change or not to change.

Occasionally, I’ll share a worthy piece of content for which the title lacks a bit of punch. In my mind, the title doesn’t do the piece justice. So instead of tweeting the article with the supplied title, I’ll share the essence of the article in the tweet. If I’m short on characters, I’ll delete the original title. Doing this results in a higher likelihood of people clicking on the link.

The content (aka meat)

Now that we’ve covered the title, it’s critical to actually read the content (or at least skim it). If the content doesn’t match the title, or if the content quality isn’t up to par, then don’t share it.

Favor quality over quantity when it comes to curation. Even if you’ve “sold” me on a great title, I avoid sharing these types of content:

  1. Content that was written solely for SEO (you know what I’m referring to, right?).
  2. Blogs that have an imbalance between banner/search ads and content.
  3. Slide show content (i.e. want to read our Top 10 list? Click “Next” nine times).
  4. Content that’s too short (e.g. 1-2 paragraphs in total).
  5. Content that my audience would not value (despite the strong title).

4) Acknowledge the author(s).

On Twitter, list the author’s Twitter handle in the tweet. On Facebook, tag the author – or, tag the Facebook Page of the organization that published the article.

Acknowledging the source is a common courtesy, while linking to their profile sends them a little love. Authors will see that you’ve acknowledged them – and in turn, they may follow you, retweet you and share some of your content.

5) Add a splash of commentary.

When users share my tweets or blog posts, I appreciate it when they add their own thoughts within the tweet. Let’s face it: if you’re “merely” sharing article after article, just listing the title and link, you could be an automaton (rather than a human being). So try this:

For every 5 articles you share, include a comment in 1 of them

Here’s an example where I combine commentary (albeit brief) with acknowledgement:

In addition to commentary, feel free to insert relevant hash tags. For instance, if a tweet about event technology doesn’t already contain it, I often add the #eventprofs hash tag. I then change the “RT” to an “MT,” to indicate that it’s a Modified Tweet.

6) Re-share and re-distribute.

For curated content that you really love, re-share it again later on (but not TOO often). I’d love for my Twitter followers to read the great article I just shared, but the reality is that 90% of them missed my tweet.

In addition to re-sharing, provide additional distribution by publishing the content on other social networks. For instance, for an article you tweet, selectively share it:

  1. On Google+.
  2. On your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Pin an image (from the article) to one of your Pinterest boards.
  4. On Facebook.
  5. Write a blog posting and link to the piece.

Conclusion

Think of yourself like a museum curator. Hundreds (or thousands) of people are coming to your exhibit. Select (and show off) the pieces of fine art that you’ve assembled. Leave the lesser pieces behind the curtain.


With Virtual Events, You’ve Got Game

September 20, 2010

On the INXPO blog, we write about virtual events and virtual business environments.  I wrote a posting about gamifying your next virtual event.  The benefits of adding a game element to your event:

  1. Games are Participatory
  2. Games Create Competition & Networking
  3. Games Foster Elevated Retention

I then provided some strategic advice for virtual event gaming:

  1. Content Must Be Contextual
  2. The Game “Layer” Should Be “Thin”
  3. Benefit of Teams

Do you got game? Read the full posting:

INXPO: Gamify Your Next Virtual Event


5 Tips For A Successful Virtual Trade Show

June 22, 2010

The following is a guest post from Craig Rosenberg.

On the 29th of June from 8AM to 4PM Pacific, I’ll be running my first virtual trade show: Mastering Lead Management.  At Focus, the company I work for, we’ve been doing webinars for our clients for years. But this virtual event is our first day-long comprehensive show.  To differentiate and make it as successful as possible, there were a few critical decisions we made during the show’s development:

We called it an interactive summit — To us, a virtual trade show or trades hows in general give the impression of a vendor bazaar where everyone’s main goal of the event is to get buyers introduced to vendors. Buyers expect more.

We leveraged all unbiased, third party content (no vendor pitches) — We have sponsors, but our approach to any content we create is all about making it “buyer-helpful,” that is, information that helps buyers do their jobs better or make more informed purchasing decisions.

We gave all sponsors full booth functionality — Instead of worrying about creating different pricing schemes for different features in the booth, we gave everyone everything we could.

    We think these decisions are at least in part the reason why we’ve garnered thousands of registrants to the event so far. Based on what I’ve learned and past experience with all kinds of trade shows, here are my 5 tips for successful virtual trade shows:

    1. It’s all about the content, it’s always about the content – All the blog posts and marketing we find today about virtual events is about minimizing environmental impact, shrinking travel budgets, etc.  While I think these points are interesting, we believe that if the content is compelling, they will come.  Think about it, despite all the marketing we are producing about people avoiding live events, they go and they go because they see value.  White papers, webinars, you name it, they all still work. But it’s about the content. Why would virtual events be different?  The answer is they are not.
    2. It’s all about the variety and volume of content – A virtual summit gives you multiple opportunities to peak a buyers interest with all kinds of content.  In a white paper or a webinar, it’s a one-shot deal.
    3. Content drives the types of leads you get – The biggest factor for the future of the virtual trade show market is ROI.  I can tell you that if you try to be something for everyone, then that’s what you’ll get.  Guess what, that is the problem with the traditional trade show market.  For successful lead generation, I’d suggest creating more targeted content and be prepared for less numbers.
    4. Virtual events are scoring machines – From a lead management perspective, virtual shows provide amazing activity data on attendees.  There is a lot of content available to participants and a lot of opportunities for interactivity. All of this should be collected and sent to whomever cares, such as sponsors.
    5. Understand why trade shows don’t work – This is a bit of a “reset” of the points above, but trade show attendance isn’t only down because of shrinking travel budgets. Trade shows are down because buyers have A LOT of choices for content to do their job better.  15 years ago, trade shows had a pretty solid hold on information. Now with the internet, information is everywhere without the time and resource commitments that make it harder for live trade shows to compete. What can you learn?  Well, people aren’t going to come to your event just because your show is virtual (and you don’t want them to), they are going to come because they see value.

    Craig Rosenberg is Author of The Funnelholic, his very popular B2B sales and marketing blog. He is also Vice President of Products and Services at Focus where he oversees product creation, management, and delivery. Prior to Focus, Craig spent years as a consultant for SalesRamp where he designed, built and managed lead-generation and inside sales strategies and processes for high-tech startups.

    During that time, Craig built lead generation machines at over 25 different companies in a variety of different high-tech verticals ranging from business applications to IT infrastructure. Because of his extensive experience, Craig acts as an advisor to Focus‘s clients, helping them solve a variety of different marketing and demand-generation challenges  You can visit Craig’s B2B Demand Generation Blog at www.funnelholic.com.

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