Friday, July 25, 2014

Millennials Unimpressed by Content Marketing, Yet Willing to Be Won Over

To some, millennials are entitled and expect to be given the world; to others, we are a tolerant group that just wants to change the world. But to marketers, millennials are the holy grail of potential consumers: those with nearly an entire lifetime of buying power ahead of them. According to a 2013 Yahoo Content Marketing Ingestion Study, millennials will have $1.4 trillion of spending power in the US by 2020.
The problem: Marketers still don’t know how to court them. To try to determine what creative tactics and marketing principles should be used to create enjoyable, shareable content for millennials, Yahoo and Tumblr partnered with Razorfish and Digitas to conduct a study of 15,000 respondents aged 18–34.
The big takeaway? Millennials aren’t impressed, by and large, with the content that brands are lobbing their way. Forty-five percent of respondents reported that they don’t usually find content marketing compelling enough to share.
This stat meshes with what Contently found in its recent study on how consumers feel about the brand-sponsored content that runs on publisher sites. Our report didn’t focus heavily on millennials, but we did find that millennials are nearly as skeptical of sponsored content as older age groups: 48 percent of respondents between the ages of 18–29 simply do not trust sponsored content; 67 percent are not likely to click on an article sponsored by a brand; and 56 percent would rather have banner ads than sponsored articles on their favorite news sites.
But that doesn’t mean that millennials aren’t willing to be won over. Yahoo found that millennials are willing to watch native videos (79 percent) and (slightly less likely) to share them (51 percent), as long as they are relevant to the digital environment in which they appear.
“Millennials are willing to share good advertising, but dislike when advertising feels deceptive,” Yahoo writes. Millennials don’t like feeling that they are being misled—and we learned in our survey that 62 percent felt deceived upon realizing an article or video was sponsored by a brand.
The Yahoo study also asked millennials what they want from their content. Millennials report wanting to become more well-informed (75 percent) and are interested in learning in-depth about specific topics (76 percent). They were also asked what kind of branded content works for them on social, and their responses sound like a game of Marketing Buzzword Bingo: brief, entertaining, funny, fresh, unique, informative, and relevant.
They also want multimedia content that’s available across multiple platforms: 77 percent of those surveyed want to connect to news on all of their devices, and 55 percent watch videos on different devices several times a day.
The big takeaway here is that millennials want to be immersed in high-quality, entertaining content—72 percent even said they “tend to find themselves lost in a vortex of entertainment.” That may sound like the makings of a horror movie, but it actually means that there are plenty of opportunities to put quality, engaging content in front of millennials—as well as consumers at large, as Contently Editor-in-Chief Joe Lazauskas wrote this past Friday. They’re ready to click and share; just give them something worthy of those actions. What’s out there right now is just not up to snuff.
Contently arms brands with the tools and talent to become great content creators. Learn more.

Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Create Content with Subject Matter Experts

via Online it ALL Matters

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

by: Ahava Liebtag

After graduate school, I worked for the Federal government, writing and editing digital content. I'll never forget the first time I had to interview a pipeline engineer about what American citizens needed to know if a pipeline was going to be built on their property.

I was so nervous to ask any stupid questions, I forgot to ask the questions I'd prepared!

Luckily, the engineer was a nice guy and very understanding. But I learned an important lesson: when working with subject matter experts, it's not the writer's job to know everything.  It's the writer's job to know what to ask.

Subject matter experts (SMEs) hold the keys to the valuable content kingdom. They possess the building blocks of information you need to create juicy content that provides your customers with textured, relevant information.

It can be demanding to work with SMEs. So often, they think they know more about the web then you do. And they also may demand that you write in a certain style. How can you make it easier to work with SMEs and create content that converts your users into customers?

5 Tips for Writing Content with SMEs

1.   Explain that content is a conversation: SMEs are typically not writers and marketers. They don’t understand that content is a conversation between the brand/organization and your target audiences. When you frame content as a conversation, SMEs will help you craft and edit knockout content for customers.  Watch this video to learn more about content as a conversation.

2.   Be prepared: When working with SMEs, you will have more success if you are prepared for the interview. Familiarize yourself with their subject matter, as well as their professional profiles. Use Google or LinkedIn to prepare.  You will have a smoother conversation—and the SME will appreciate that you took the time to prepare.

3.   Explain your goals at the outset: If you’re creating content with SMEs, chances are you have strategic goals you need to reach. Articulate those goals to the SME and share how creating this content will help you reach them.

4.   Send an outline before you write: Everyone likes to be included in the process. Take the time to draft an outline before you begin writing, to organize your thoughts. More importantly, it prepares the SME for the first draft of content.

5.   Set limits on the editing process: When you send the draft copy for review, make it clear that you are only asking for a “factual” review. If you are writing digital content, there are certain technical limitations on edits because of SEO and web writing best practices. On every copy deck Aha Media sends, we explain the editing process with big red letters across the top, “PLEASE READ THIS PAGE BEFORE EDITING.” It helps to keep the editing process smoother.

Make Friends with the Expert

Working well with SMEs takes practice and confidence in the subject matter. Establish a rapport and connection before you jump into the interview. You will create an environment of sharing and exchange, which will result in a fabulous conversation that you can turn into content that converts.

Need help writing content with your subject matter experts? It's our expertise at Aha Media.  Email Ahava today.

3 Strategies to Stand Out From the Content Creation Crowd

via Content Marketing Institute
By JAMES SCHERER published JUNE 24, 2014

3 Strategies to Stand Out From the Content Creation Crowd

regular lightbulbs with one different oneI wish I could say that standing out from thecontent creation crowd is something that I excel at, but I can’t.
I like to think I write intelligently, quickly, and well, but all that does is make me a pretty good content marketer. It doesn’t make me a content marketer who stands out from the crowd.
So perhaps I need a special something. Perhaps we all do.
Your competitors are creating content. They’re competing with you for the top of the search results and they’re doing it at an ever-increasing rate.
It’s no longer enough to simply write content. Everybody’s doing that. Your local spa is blogging. Fashionistas, coffee shops, photographers, law firms, warehouses, outdoor stores, salons, and haberdasheries (okay, I’m not 100 percent sure about that last one, but you get the point) are all leveraging content creation to market their products and services.
What’s the question your business answers? Type it into Google. Is your website or content at the top? If not, then this article might be worth a read.
Let me give you an analogy:
Let’s pretend you are in a fast-flowing river with about 100 other people, standing in waders up to the thigh with white water pushing against you, trying to knock you over.
A rescue helicopter comes over the ridge, with room for four or five people in its cabin.
What do you do?
Now, you could wave your arms and scream until you’re hoarse. The problem with this tactic is that about 90 of your fellow rescuees are doing the same thing. With their screaming and the roaring of the rapids, the helicopter wouldn’t be able to hear a thing you’re saying.
Or, you could find a nearby rock with its tip just above the water. You could climb on top and get a bit closer to the helicopter, standing out from the crowd by finding a place that seems a bit less dangerous (finding your “content” niche). This would be a good call.
But there are a dozen other people who have managed to climb onto your rock as well. You’re pushing and shoving as there’s not quite enough room, and the helicopter is getting closer. It’s sweeping over the frothing water, coming fast and low.
What else you can do to get its attention? The helicopter only fits four or five people and there’s a dozen of you on this wet and slippery rock.
Here’s what I suggestRaise a flag. Start singing. Start stomping your feet and clapping your hands. Take your shirt off. Take your pants off. Throw a shoe. Throw your pants.
You need to get off that rock, and sometimes that takes extreme measures.
This article will give you three strategies (and 25-odd specific ideas) on how to stand out, be memorable, and generate a personal brand that people remember.
Before I dive in, I want to warn you that the suggestions I give below are just that: suggestions. Many of them have never been tried before (that’s the whole point). If you like an idea, test it out for a month or two and measure your results. (However, if you get fired for going too far with one of my suggestions, I’m not accepting liability.)

1. Find your “thing”

In person, it’s far easier to have a memorable personal characteristic that people will take away from meeting you. Do you have pink hair or a face tattoo? Do you have a ridiculous laugh or do you sweat profusely when you get nervous?
Online is harder. You need to find the pink hair within your online persona (I’d try to avoid the sweating profusely, if you can). You need to translate your ability to charm people in public into an ability to charm people with your content.
Here are a few suggestions on finding your thing:
  • Go current and relevant: Start a weekly write-up of sector news or relevant posts.
  • An actual persona: Create a character and write whole articles as that person. Or, create a memorable mascot and have it feature consistently in your content.
  • POV: Feature an odd point of view (for instance, you could try to write as the Google algorithm rather than just about it).
  • Go super visual: Use images, graphs, screenshots. Make your content visual on a whole new level.
  • Find the niche within your niche. Let’s say you’re a Facebook marketer, and within that niche you’re also a Facebook advertising expert. But how about becoming a Facebook targeting expert? Nobody knows Facebook targeting like you. You’ve done it all, seen it all, and are on the very cusp of every development and update. You’re the guy or gal when it comes to Facebook targeting, and everybody knows it. Use this distinction to propel your content above that of your competitors. 
Finding your thing is up to you. Get creative. Are there real-world characteristics about you that could work with an online persona? Brainstorm with your friends and family, colleagues, anybody who knows you. What do they think is your primary characteristic? What stuck in their head the first time they met you?

2. Write differently

Most everybody can write content. It mostly just requires a couple hands and a basic understanding of language. Theoretically content marketing also requires a bit of knowledge about your subject, but that can be faked pretty effectively. Nope, it’s mostly about two hands (hell, even one works) and the ability to string words together and finish off with a period.
However, not everyone can write differently. Not everyone can write content that is memorable a week or a month down the line. It’s the people who can, however, who are encouraging brand recall, social sharing, and commenting and are, thus, boosting their readership.
I’m not saying that each article you write needs to be a diamond ring, carefully polished, honed, and perfectly positioned in its setting. Spending three days on a single article is not good for your content marketing ROI, and it’s likely your boss (even if that boss is you) won’t appreciate it either.
Instead, what I’m saying is to focus on writing differently:
  • Write controversially: When Matt Cutts said guest blogging for SEO is dead, I took the opposite point of view. When Veritasium released a YouTube video stating that “advertising your page on Facebook is a waste of money,” I responded quickly and emphatically that they were working with incomplete information and that their conclusions were hasty at best (and downright dangerous at worst).
  • Write in color: I don’t actually mean greens and blues and reds (thought that’s not exactly a bad idea either). I mean write with flavor. Cuss. Write a poem. Write an entire article in iambic pentameter. Or, more realistically, write in a fun or anecdotal, sarcastic, or satirical way. Write with skill and talent and engage your reader in more than just subject matter.
  • Write something new: Theories and hypotheses go viral (so long as they’re seriously backed up and make sense). They create controversy themselves and increase your reputation as a thought leader.
  • Write something old in a new light: Take something that people see as understood or take for granted. Turn that thing on its head. Go against the status quo and write an article about using email marketing for lead generation (prompting your existing clients to tell a friend) or using phone calls for webinar sign-ups.
  • Write honestly: Empathy goes a long way. Talk about the struggles you’ve had in the past, and how you overcame them. Play around with talking about your current marketing efforts. Be honest about failed A/B tests, failed marketing campaigns or advertisements. Talk real numbers and show actual shots of your analytics. 
Something else to keep in mind is that not all writers are created equal. I have a degree in English, read constantly, write constantly simply for fun, and was employed as a copy editor before jumping head-first into the world of content creation. If that’s not you, don’t worry about it, but do put some time into mastering your craft as best as you can.
People who blog for business may want to start with a short creative writing or English literature course at a local community college. Focus on persuasive essay writing or short stories (the two combined plus statistics equal 90 percent of blog content). Also consider taking a typing course. I type about 110 words per minute and, I can tell you, it makes my job a whole lot easier.

3. Create differently

Content marketing isn’t just about writing, it’s about consistent content creation: case studies, white papers, presentations, infographics, videos, podcasts, webinars, eBooks… the list goes on.
Creating one of these that stands out from the fast-flowing river is what’s hard.
How do you make a webinar that doesn’t send people to sleep?
  • Host it over coffee with your guest, and (if you know your subject matter), don’t script it at all. Don’t even edit it. This creates an honest interaction with your viewer.
  • Answer questions live and prompt people to ask whatever they want.
  • Keep doing it even if the first 15 times suck. Webinars take more time to catch on than other pieces of content but provide a high ROI and the greatest influence on your reputation if they do. 
How do you make a podcast that people will actually want to listen to?
  • Have a running theme of podcast Fridays where you also provide a recipe for your favorite mixed drink.
  • Create a persona you argue against. For example, if you’re a fan of Facebook Ads, create a persona (or bring in a friend) who champions AdWords.
  • Bring in a teenage kid to talk about social media and how they relate to it. Make it a bi-weekly or monthly conversation. 
How do you make an infographic without a full-time graphic designer and an original report? 
  • Use Google Presentations or Canva and free photo-editing software like GIMP.
  • “Borrow” ideas from your competitors, but put your own flavor on them.
  • Compile stats from case studies, reports, and other infographics. Copy graphs into your own colors (and remember to source!).
  • Create a SlideShare presentation instead (with PowerPoint if you absolutely must, though Google’s presentation tool is better). 
How do you make a YouTube video that gets more than 41 hits?
  • Choose a topic that hasn’t been done a thousand times. Consider the content ideas I’ve given above (controversial, opposing views, characters, etc).
  • Put time and energy into it. Spend time on the script and speak with more excitement and slower than you think you should.
  • Buy or make a green-screen (they’re crazy cheap).
  • Include transitions and edit the intro and outro (Premier Pro should come with your Adobe subscription).
  • Fashion a prompter so you’re not umming and ahhing constantly. 


This has effectively exhausted my creativity for the day. I hope you can take one of these suggestions and work with it. I hope one of them inspires you to use your own creativity and find your own stomping, clapping, pants-off combination that helps your helicopter seek you out amongst the crowd.
Taking a page from my own book, I’m going to be entirely honest with you, reader. I am still looking for my own “thing” that makes me as a content creator memorable. Excellent writing will only take you so far. I need Stelzner’s casual ability to podcast like a boss, Mari’s omnipresent sunny disposition, Godin’s content prolificacy (and baldness), Kawasaki’s inexplicable ability to make mediocre content go viral and Pulizzi’s… I dunno, vision for starting this whole content marketing shindig in the first place?
I’m open to suggestions — let me hear them in the comments below.
Looking for more inspiration on content creation that helps you stand apart from your competitors? Read CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook: 24 Epic Ideas for Connecting with Your Customers. 

4 Steps to Take Video Content Beyond Ads

via Content Marketing Institute

By ANDREAS PANAYI published JUNE 25, 2014

4 Steps to Take Video Content Beyond Ads

alarm clock-wake up callGo ahead. Do your own research and see if you can find meaningful insights and data on measuring, benchmarking, tracking, and optimizing online video content. No doubt, you’ll end up as frustrated as I was. And you’ll find that most of the information out there is focused specifically on online videoadvertising.
I am still hopeful that one of these days marketers will wake up to the fact that online video content is not just about advertising. The real evolution is the huge shift to video for almost every other form of content and communication: employee communications, product videos, how-to tips, customer reviews, brand stories… you get the point.
There is an interesting prediction that two-thirds of the world’s data will be video by 2017. I think that stat warrants repeating: Two-thirds of the information we consume — research, news, entertainment, you name it — will be in video form. Even if this forecast ends up being only partially accurate, are brands remotely prepared to measure, track, benchmark, and optimize engagement for these types of video content? 

You don’t have time to hit snooze

Here are just a few alarms that should be shaking content marketers from their sleepy approach to video content strategy:
  • Ninety-six percent of U.S. adults who have watched a video on their computers, tablets, or mobile phones at least once over the past 6 months find video helpful when making purchase decisions, according to a recent survey by Animoto. And 73 percent say they are more likely to make a purchase after watching an online video that explains the product or service. 
  • Another recent study by Invodo found that half of consumers claimed YouTube videos influenced their purchase decisions. Some 57 percent of online shoppers said they are less likely to return a product bought after watching it explained via video. 
In light of this, it’s important to keep online video advertising in perspective, and remember that ads are merely a subset of a bigger shift to using video content to better engage with consumers.

Some marketers are starting to stir

As marketers and communicators, it’s time we spend our energy, resources, and funds to better understand, measure and capitalize on this bigger shift to online video content. We’re already seeing some signs of this:
For example, two-thirds of marketing and sales professionals will increase their video spending as a means to increase brand awareness (47 percent), lead generation (40 percent), or online engagement (40 percent), per a new report from Ascend2. Interestingly, they consider video email their most effective distribution channel, followed closely by video platforms such as YouTube and company or brand websites.
These are promising numbers, but when I look at the magnitude of the opportunity and the avalanche of video content that will transform the web from a text to a visual network, I find myself frustrated with how far behind marketers fall every day. The only way to capitalize on the opportunity is for marketers to take ownership and embrace an enterprise video content strategy today — one that includes strategic measurement, testing, benchmarking, and optimization, just like every other aspect of their marketing and communications programs.

Why the slow start?

There’s no contesting that video content is quickly becoming the new order on the web. But just like any monumental shift, there are hurdles that we ignore or approach reluctantly when it comes to optimizing video content, such as:
  • Content ownership: Naturally, the consumer marketing professionals own online video advertising. The rest of the video content can fall under the purview of a wide range of verticals, including PR, product development, corporate communications, internal communications, investor relations, executive offices… the list goes on. Without centralized ownership, there’s no standard for measurement and optimization — and often no clear understanding of what needle to try to move and when. 
  • Measurement: Current advertising measurement is relatively generic and, although standards are evolving, gross rating points, clicks, and views are still acceptable success metrics. But, measuring longer-form video content (1–5 minutes) is a bit more complex, and there is no standard for creating a relationship between variables that will help quantify content engagement and success. 
  • Content production: I am oversimplifying this to make a point, but in a traditional advertising structure, all I need to do is call my creative agency and ask them to produce a couple of great commercials a year that work both online and on TV. Fast forward to a new world where fresh cross-department video content needs to be created and distributed according to a strategic editorial calendar. That requires a publisher mentality and the involvement of many teams working together — not just marketing departments. With this comes a multitude of process and production challenges, including determining what part of the organization will be responsible for paying for the necessary shifts in resources. 
  • Distribution: Advertising — whether on TV or online — offers plenty of evolved processes, and there are plenty of companies whose raison d’etre is to target the right video ad content to the right people at the right time. Meanwhile, the rest of the video content distribution typically relies on the marketers and their video strategy in creating an integrated distribution platform. They must effectively and efficiently tie together all of the company’s content access gateways without forgetting about mobile platforms that are leading the way in video consumption.

How we can avoid the video graveyard

We need to look beyond online video advertising and embrace the video content revolution as something much bigger and broader. Unless we focus on how we measure, benchmark, and track all video engagement, our expensive video content will end up in what I call “video graveyards” (i.e., most of the branded channels on YouTube).
At a relatively high level, here are four steps I would suggest to get content marketing on the right path:
1. Define your overall video content strategy, including metrics and benchmarks:Not unlike other marketing tactics, the makeup of your video content and distribution structure should be driven by business goals and the profile of your target audience. Establish measurement metrics and create benchmarks, before tracking, reporting, and optimizing. 
I believe that measuring your videos’ engagement levels must be at the core of your KPIs. I wish I could tell you that it’s as easy as looking at the number of views or “likes” from your YouTube analytics dashboard, but it is a bit more complex than that. Video engagement is not a single event but rather a relationship between multiple weighted attributes in three key factors: exposure, action, and social amplification. So, when you look at setting up your video engagement KPIs, you need to look at tracking attributes — such as channel subscribers, percent of videos viewed to completion, socially embedded vs. on-channel views, etc.
2. Think and act differently: Try structuring your marketing team like a content publisher. To be a bit more specific, typically marketing departments produce content that speaks to the interests of the company (i.e., it focuses on the company’s products and services). By injecting publisher-centric resources and methods, you can start creating and delivering content with a better balance between your brand’s needs and those of your consumers. 
A publisher mentality will help not only with the way your content is created but also with how it gets organized, targeted, created, vetted for relevancy, delivered, and archived. The easiest example I can think of is incorporating an editorial calendar into your content processes to help you plan out the creation of thoughtful, timely, and relevant content. Taking a page from a publisher’s playbook can help marketers figure out what parts of their company’s content plan would work best in a video format, as well as how to integrate their internal content resources to reflect the needs of the enterprise at-large — not just certain department silos.
3. Be creative with your resource usage: Find the right balance between developing content internally and using third-party production resources. Keeping both your brand’s business objectives and your consumers’ needs top-of-mind will also help you strike that balance: Third-party content sources can often help validate the authenticity of a brand’s messages and provide added value without the bias of internally generated content. Third-party content can also help address the need to sustain a healthy stream of new content, while keeping internal costs in check and realizing quicker turnarounds.
4. Mind your company’s technological infrastructure: Make sure the technology and development resources of your company are factored into your strategy development. Otherwise, you may build a great content-producing machine with no functioning mechanism for proper distribution — which means your content will, ultimately, go nowhere. How many of us have created great content that never really reached its ROI potential? I am sure we are all familiar with “the moment is gone” scenario — situations where the time between coming up with the idea and being able to deploy it became too long. Having the right technology in place to keep the process moving forward can help alleviate the potential for your video content to fall into the graveyard of great ideas that died on the vine.
None of the above is a walk in the park, but they are steps all marketers need to start taking. Start with measuring what you’ve done to date, and then create benchmarks and quantitative goals for where you want to go. As for that part — the vision — the best advice I have is to look beyond the obvious.
For more great ideas, insights, and examples for advancing your content marketing, read Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi.