WriterAccess Webinar Archive

Contagious Content

Thursday, March 28, 2013 – 1:00 PM ET

Savvy marketers are steeped in analytics and stuck on bottom line results these days. That's a big problem when it comes to content marketing. We all know that matching customer wants and needs with messaging is the driver for content marketing success. But finding out what those needs are and how to turn them into contagious content that straddles the bottom line is challenging. Until now.

Join host Byron White and Ardath Albee, author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, for this month's content webinar.

  • Learn the secrets of how to create educational, expertise and evidence content
  • Get insider advice on how to showcase leadership and value without the hard sell
  • Learn how to tap into referrals and social conversations to drive engagement
  • Find out why stories are much more powerful than any marketing campaign
  • View some examples of contagious content and how it affects the bottom line

Slidedeck Download

The slidedeck from this webinar is available for download.

Video Transcription

Byron: Hi, everyone, this is Byron White, founder of IdeaLaunch and WriterAccess. Pleasure to be with you today to talk about a non-contagious topic regarding contagious content. If this is a great presentation, perhaps it will be contagious. I’m here with Ardath Albee. Ardath—welcome! Are you there?

Ardath: I am; I was muted, I’m sorry. Hi, Byron. Hi, everyone. Nice to be here today!

Byron: Thanks very much for joining us today, we’re excited for your arrival and to dive into this topic with us. I’m gonna go over a couple of ground rules for everybody, then we’re gonna dive into a presentation first by myself, which will last about 15 or so minutes, then we’ll turn things over to Ardath and her part of the presentation. We’re very excited to get going and get started, so let’s do it.

Couple of quick ground rules: we love people asking questions, so that would be great if you could use your side panel to ask us questions throughout the presentation. I’ll answer some of the questions when I’m finished with my presentation, and I will send you some quick notes back. I will also give you a chance to...I’ll monitor the questions so ask as many as you’d like to regarding my presentation or Ardeth’s, so please ask lots of questions. Next, we love getting tweets, we love hearing any feedback from you on the presentation. It really helps our archive. We’ve put a lot of hard work into this, so please tweet us back. I’ll be giving you our Twitter addresses in just a few minutes. So thank you for giving us some feedback; it motivates us and really helps us, so thanks for that.

Next, everyone will be getting a link, both to the recording and a download of both my book and a couple of chapters of Ardeth’s book, as well. There will also be a link to do that on her website. So, you’ll be getting an email of that. This is being recorded, so all will be well with regards to the recording and you’ll be getting a link to that. And finally, please laugh as much as possible. Laughing is a sign that the presentation is going well. I wish that I could hear you laughing, but I’ll be looking for your laughs and trying to design presentations that have at least some element of humor, which ironically, we will be talking about today. So, without further ado, a sort of who we are, here’s our quick Twitter addresses and how to get ahold of us. Feel free to get the tweets hopping whenever you can. But let’s dive in.

I’m going to buzz through just quickly here: “What is content marketing?” and guide you through that process. Then we are going to talk a little bit about why we share. It’s kind of the pivotal part of today’s presentation—understanding why we share. And there’s a great study that I’m going to tune you into that I think is a fabulous study of better understanding that. Then I’m going to share some contagious content ideas and ideas on how to create content that gets shared. So, without further ado, let’s do our sprint on what is content marketing, which I do on this 39th webinar that we have here. Certainly, it’s listening to your customer’s wants and needs. We can do that in some pretty good ways, although, as I keep saying, I think the listening aspect of those needs has got to change. We need to do a better job of understanding what people want and what they need. And certainly chiming into their social media activity helps us understand our customers a little bit better so we’re getting more intelligent with that. There’s a science to delivering content in a compelling way. And, of course, catching them as they are orbiting at very high speeds. And we need to learn how to stop people in their tracks, and to tune in to what we think is important and what they may have great value and interest in. And we need to naturally create content they want and need, another key element here. Probably the most critical element, I might add, with regards to what you can do.

As you leave this presentation, just think hard about do you have a diverse portfolio of assets, which of course gives you the opportunity to catch people that are orbiting at high speeds, which of course is part of the science of making this all work. It all starts with the assets, and that’s the pinnacle. You naturally need to be testing; there are so many different ways that you can test now. We have a brilliant creative director in our office, for example, that helped me with some of the slideshow presentation I’m working on, and it drives him nuts when we take his beautiful designs and we throw them up for testing and they fail. It’s a sad and sorry moment for those that are in the creative space where it is all about conversion as the driver for success these days, and that is a big unfortunate. I’m a subscriber to “Print” magazine and “CA” magazine; I love branding, I love the look and feel of things. Performance, unfortunately, as we raise the aptitude of better understanding of why brand and positioning is still going to remain important to us all. And conversion path analysis is something that is, I think, very difficult to understand, as well. It’s not just what happened on this single landing page, that’s a huge mistake. You need to look at conversion path analysis and scoring that engagement, and trying to determine if, for example, reading a blog post influences the motivation to make a purchase. That’s typically very hard to do, even with free tools like Google Analytics and other elements. It’s difficult to dive into what is influencing the decision. So look for some advancements there are we move forward.

But finally, content marketing is a big, chunky process. It starts with planning and it moves into creation. Creation in itself is very interesting, in how we do that. We’ve made some big advancements there with some software that we’ll be developing and launching to the world in about a month called “Wordgation.” It’s in beta right now, you can kick the tires of it. But, planning and creation need to come together and be much more stronger, much more in tune with data and analytics, but also in tune with just the art of just plain creating great content and content that people would be interested in. And of course, optimization fits with that as well. But of course, editing and distribution and performance measurement. It’s a big game that we’re playing over here, and it’s one that should be taken very seriously as we understand all these elements. Tracking performance is what it’s all about; the more performance, the more ROI we can deliver with content marketing, the more case we can make to spend more on it. And that’s really the biggest point right now from a content marketing perspective, is people are not putting enough money into it to get the quality they need to engage people to make it all work.

So, why do we share content? That was a question that I started thinking hard about, particularly as I began thinking about this monstrous topic we took on here, which is a big one. How do you create engaging content? How do you make it contagious with these elements? And I stumbled on a great survey, which I highly recommend everybody take a look at. It was produced by the New York Times and their customer insight group. It basically said there are five motivations, and I’ve added a sixth one. Why do people share? And I would suggest, and they did extensive research for about three months and interviewed thousands of New York Times customers and really studied and analyzed customers and their reader base and tried to learn what’s sticking and what’s working. What they concluded was that certainly one of the biggest reasons is to bring valuable content to your friends and colleagues, colleagues that need career advice, people you care about. And I put this sort of person into a bucket where this would be somebody that is sharing content because they’re resourceful. They’re careful, they’re thoughtful, they’re helpful, they’re an entertainer. I sort of put this person in a bucket that I call “helpful.” That’s the word that I use for this particular persona. The next element is that we define ourselves by sharing content with people and friends that we might want to get a better sense of who we are. We assume that they may want to know more about what we care about. They might enjoy and get reinforcement of this image that I’m trying to present. So you can begin to see that you’re sharing things to sort of express who you are. Humor is probably the biggest element that I pull from this particular track. Things that are humorous are shared often, as we can sense. That’s really what continues to surface and go viral are these humorous videos. But I would argue that we want to define ourselves in this interesting way.

So, of course, the next reason we share is to grow and nourish relationships by connecting with people online that we don’t see offline. Big result there. No surprise. We also want to share because we can connect with friends that share the same interests. You see this a lot in sports and making sure you’re updated on the latest trades. Even in the business world and what’s happening with acquisitions and mergers. We’re constantly trying to strengthen our relationships with other people by sharing information with them that they will find relevant. They may have already heard it before, but the fact that you’re sharing it and making sure they’re intune is helping to nourish the relationship. Number four is, we share to get the word out, about causes and brands. And brands is integral to this whole process. It’s not just causes; we’re seeing more and more now people adopting brand positions and not brands that are selling things, but brands that are showcasing really good information and good knowledge as a gateway to sharing and bringing that contagious element to the content. So, what are you getting the word out about? You support and want to show something that you care about, you want to motivate others to try out a product or a service that you like. You want to move forward in any way you can to get the word out about things you believe in.

Next, this concept of self-fulfillment. You’re sharing because you want to feel more involved with the world, and to show people that you’re involved with the world. You want to boost your ego with comments on things you’re sharing. Huge reason that people share—when they get feedback from people, from their friends and their fans, it’s a big ego boost for them. It shows that they’re relevant and that they’re pushing out things that people are liking and reacting to. And of course, you want to establish self-value with your own friends, and you want to feel self-worth by helping people. These are some of the dynamics that are very important.

And number six, there’s just plain an addiction with sharing. It’s perhaps a dangerous addiction, as we would all note, with auto accidents on the rise, and what not. But there is something going on here that’s kind of forcing us all down a pipeline of constantly tuning into that beep and that alarm of messages that just come in and what action should I take on it, and what obligation do I have. And how do I fill my time with the sharing element. And it’s getting pretty scary, to be honest. I was at a hockey game last night, a Bruins and Canadians game. And there was a woman next to me that could not stop staring at her phone during this incredible overtime game. And she was more intune with the texts coming in, of perhaps people talking about the game, than she was about the game itself. It was really interesting to see that happen.

So in the end of this, I pull six character types out that you need to think hard about when you’re trying to create content that will have life beyond the initial publishing of that asset. And these are the six groups that I’m going to come back to in a minute as we share some ideas. The first thing to think about is the key factors for influence, that influence sharing. If you’re going to share something, you’re probably going to want to trust the person that is presenting it. It needs to be something simple; complex things don’t tend to get shared. And that’s an important lesson to be learned as we talk about things. There needs to probably be a humorous element to it that’s got a shock factor or makes you smile and brings you some renewed sense of happiness. And a sense of urgency—you are sharing something because you want to be the first to share it, or there’s some timeline on the information. So, this sense of urgency is important. And/or this sort of listening and responding, which is a huge component of sharing. Listening to what other people are saying and responding to what they’re saying and connecting with them. That’s an important part of sharing that I’m sure we’re going to talk a lot about as we continue on.

So naturally you need to make your content easy to share. That’s a key element to this whole discussion. You also need to understand what is non-contagious content. What isn’t getting shared, and therefore, what is getting shared? So this is a nice little diagram that helps you piece that together from a great book by Barry Schwartz, called “The Paradox of Choice. So have a look at that and see if you can work any of that in. I just want to bring you one example of how you can share something. This is an infographic on the site on an SEO book and it gave some really nice, crisp discussion on how you can just copy and paste the code and the infographic will appear on your blog, or on your website. So, they really wanted to get this out, and they’re making it easy to get this out and that’s something you need to do, particularly with assets.

So, what I want to talk about next is just throwing some ideas at everyone on what to do for these different groups of people that I’ve brought from that New York Times study. The New York Times study, by the way, did not really put people in these silos here, but from my perspective, these are the big six silos that you need to think about.

The first one is the helpful person. They’re going to be attracted to resource centers or e-books or, in the case study here, my “101 Content Marketing Tips” book. This is the cover of the book—you’re all going to be getting a copy. It’s a paperback book available in every major bookstore in the country, so feel free to buy it. But, I’m going to give it to you for free. People that are helpful will want to share this with other people, and it will be a statement of “Hey, I have a free book—I’d like to share this with you—on content marketing.” Companies are embracing that. You need to design things that will help this person fulfill his role as to why he shares.

Next is humorous. You know, humor is tricky and can often be forced. When you see it and it works, you can see why it spreads. I was just on Facebook this morning, and somebody I know published this. They’re probably a cat person; we seem to have cat people and dog people in the world. It can be very dangerous to be choosing one of those two camps. I was reading an interesting analysis of people who put cats on their dating sites. It was suggesting that under no circumstances should you ever put a cat up as your picture, or with a cat, because you’ll immediately alienate 50 or 60 percent of the people that may have interest in learning more about you. So, humor is tricky, but humor is making the mainstream of pop culture and it’s something we need to embrace if we’re going to think about trying to get our content to become more contagious.

There’s a nurturing element which I think is key. This is one of our spiritual leaders of content marketing. I’ve known Joe for a long time and love the work he’s doing over at the Content Marketing Institute. Here’s a good example of Joe nurturing people in the industry and drawing some amazing attention to 20 women who are rocking content marketing in a post that you can find over at the Content Marketing Institute. There’s are the types of things where it’s not just pushing out the content; it’s how you present your position on that content. Joe’s done a great job here of presenting something that isn’t just “Hey everybody, go read this!” He’s tried to sell people on this great post; he’s talking sincerely about these women and their contributions in a great summary form.

So, certainly we're all cause-driven. You can't help but find Facebook tuning in and chiming in to news stories. This one, of course, is super-hot right now at the Supreme Court level—we won't have a decision on that until June. As you can imagine, Facebook is pouring out opinions and thoughts and people are rallying around different sides of this particular issue. There's a lot of creative ideas that you can tap into for these people that are going to take action on something that you might be able to start up and spread around.

And of course, being plugged in. We all, particularly in our business lives, want to feel plugged in. We want to feel like we understand the conversations happening in the marketplace and that we're listening to them. Which means that we need to publish about them. We need to create content. And that content, because it's coming from you, the authority, will get spread around. Killer new tools will be discussed and will be spread around. Same with posts and any industry news, or even things about your own business, like record sales or incredible employees. We need to be plugged in to our business and our industry, and we need to get that information out to our fans and our followers.

And finally, for the addict out there, you can actually learn the most popular times that people are tweeting and making Facebook posts. And it's sad to learn that Facebook, on a daily basis from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.—prime work time for those of us that are employers with employees—is Facebook time, apparently. That's when the most posts are coming out. Wednesday at 3 p.m. is best during the week. After 4 p.m. is best. Now on Tumblr, peak times are interesting. Tumblr peak times are 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Twitter, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. is where you'll see the most re-tweets and passing on. This was a survey done by Bit.ly, by the way, and studying the usages of those.

That's really all I wanted to talk about today. This is a link if people are on the line and want a quick link over to download my book on the spot. You can get it right there: www.idealaunch.com/101 You'll also be getting a link from me. Without further ado, I'm going to turn this presentation over, and I'm going to go look at some of the questions that got fired in. Please ask any and all questions and I'll start answering them live. Thanks, everyone.

Ardath: Thank you, Byron. Hi, everybody, thanks for joining in today. I thought that a lot of the things Byron had to say were very interesting. What I'm going to do now is talk to you about how you think about creating contagious content and what needs to go into that. Just a couple of things about me—anybody who knows me, knows that I'm absolutely obsessed with contagious content and creating marketing strategies that help companies turn prospects into sales opportunities and buyers. One of my core foundational beliefs are that personas are a must. Each of the people that we sell to have different needs, wants, roles and responsibilities. If we don't know that, I'm not quite sure how we do create contagious content, because it needs to be created specifically FOR someone.

Let's start with what I mean when I say "contagious content." In my book, there is an entire section that I've devoted to contagious content. For me, it's content that speaks directly to your target audiences and engages them. Because for them, it's as if it was written just for them. It's so tuned in to what is relevant and what they care about. In order for you to create that contagious content, you can't just create content that is supposed to serve everybody; then it's really not relevant to anybody. It's not dialed in to a specific audience need. We need to look at how to figure out what is really going to be contagious to your audience. What I want you to consider is that every company or brand has a distinct value. They have a unique value proposition for their audience. You find that value where your company's strengths intersect with customer needs. When you find that sweet spot, that is when you're at your most relevant. It's as relevant as sunshine is to sunglasses. It needs to be that clear and that relevant. It needs to take that little of an amount of effort for them to "get it." What you really want to think about is where that happens for you. What is the strength that your company has, and that your customers care about and really meets their needs?

When you start thinking about this need to develop contagious content, the first thing you need to realize is that everyone you are trying to interact with has a status quo. They're all busy, they're overworked, each one of them is pushing their own rock up the mountain, and trying to get to the goals that they're responsible for achieving. We really need to pay attention to what that means. When I wrote my book in 2008, people were exposed to about 5,000 marketing messages every day. Can you imagine how many that is now? The whole idea of contagious content is what gets you above the noise. It's what gets you noticed and makes people pay attention because it's just so dang relevant they can't help it. We really need to think about everything that's going on in their lives, and how do we really reach them? How do we get their attention, given all that other stuff that's going on?

One of the things that I would like to show you is how context matters. You need to develop content that is specific for the audience that you want to engage. Here is an example that makes this very clear. We have Kerri in Customer Service and Sam in Sales. You sell software that helps agents in call centers manage customer knowledge. You would need to understand that Kerri and Sam want different things. Kerri needs to reduce average channel time. Her agents need to get on calls and off calls faster. Sam needs to increasing upselling, cross-selling and revenue. So, if you need to engage both of these people, the same piece of content isn't going to do that. If you try to write general content, it isn't going to serve the needs of either, and it isn't going to be contagious, because they aren't going to share it with anyone.

There are generally three aspects of contagious content that I look at. The first is education: "Why the heck should I care?" If your prospect is busy, what is going to get their attention? You need to educate them. Have they recognized there is a problem? We need to educate them on how to solve it. We will talk to Kerri about how she can solve issues faster and keep customers satisfied. We'll talk to Sam about he can make more money. Two different contexts.

Once you get them thinking about the problem, now you get them thinking about "how do we fix it? What are my options and who can help me do that?" They're doing to go out exploring and engage with expertise. We need to engage people with ideas that they will take to other people. That way my ideas are getting them to look to us to help them solve a problem. How does our expertise help Kerri get that 360-degree view of the customer? How are we going to get that increased share of the wallet for Sam? You have to always keep in mind what the context is for each person we are developing content for.

Now they want to know why the heck they should believe you. We need to offer evidence and be prepared to show them that we deliver what we promise. That's where you get into evidence and analysts' recommendations. What I want you to get is that these parallel stories are actually stories. You want these people to buy in and make progress so that you are in alignment every step of the way.

What I see a lot is that companies have a lot of the early-stage content about education and the problems that their products solve. Then they have a lot of end-stage content, product brochures and fact sheets. They aren't connecting the dots all the way across.