Wow Your Crowd: How Content Marketers Can Create Powerful Audience Connections

“Perhaps more than any other art form, comedy cannot exist for its own sake,” according to comedian Andrew Orvedahl in an essay published a few years back. “Comedy requires a bond between performer and audience. And if either ingredient sucks, comedy doesn’t happen.”

He’s right, but we could swap in content marketing for comedy and the statement would still hold plenty of weight. If your content isn’t connecting and resonating with your audience, it may as well not exist. This is one of the most critical skills of the discipline, and also one of the most difficult to harness.

While a standup comic can read the room, scanning faces in the crowd for signs of reception and gauging the volume of laughter and applause, content marketers face a greater challenge. We can’t typically interpret reactions in such a direct manner, meaning we must lean on our intuition, research, and analytics to assess whether our efforts are hitting home. 

To help you master this essential capability, we enlisted some of the best in the biz when it comes to understanding and relating to their audiences in an authentic way. Their guidance for show-stopping performances are featured in our new interactive experience, Witness the Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth, courtesy of TopRank Marketing, Content Marketing Institute (CMI), and a lineup of awesome CMWorld speakers. 

The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth

Today we’ll explore their (and our) specific insights around the vital art of audience connections. 

Three Keys to Creating Powerful Audience Connections

#1 – Learn About Your Audience 

MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley is basically a comedian and content marketer wrapped up into one package (her contribution to the CMWorld preview literally opens with a joke, which is the least surprising thing ever). As such, her advice on this particular topic is especially pertinent.

“Delighting your audience includes understanding your customers, and understanding how your prospects or customers interact with your brand,” she says. One of her suggestions for doing so is to “Undercover Boss your own brand,” referring to the television show in which corporate executives step into a low-level roles at their companies — incognito style — to gain a more accurate understanding of what’s really happening in the trenches.

[bctt tweet=”Sign up for your own service. Opt-in to your own email list. Place a call to your support center. Interact on your social channels. Ask a customer care rep what patterns they see day in, day out. — @MarketingProfs” username=”toprank”]

At TopRank Marketing, completing due diligence around the people we hope to reach — their aspirations, pains, and needs — is an integral component of launching a new content program. As Ann suggests, it’s important to adopt your customer’s point of view and gain a truly empathetic perspective. 

Sometimes this means simply asking ourselves questions in a different way. Instead of “How can we raise brand awareness?” ask “Why would people want to be aware of our brand?” Instead of “How do we define success for our marketing efforts?” ask “How do we define success for our audience?”

As any comedian knows, just because a joke is funny in our head doesn’t mean it’ll be funny to a room full of strangers. 

#2 – Confront the Personalization Conundrum

One of the most pervasive hurdles in modern content marketing is personalization at scale. It’s written about often, here and elsewhere, because it’s a pivotal objective and also a paradoxical dilemma. As Marketing Insider Group CEO Michael Brenner astutely (and humorously) puts it, the phrase itself seems to be a contradiction:

[bctt tweet=”Personalization at scale is kind of an oxymoron like ‘jumbo shrimp.’ I love shrimp. And content marketing. So if you love shrimp and content marketing, we have a lot in common. See what I did there? — @BrennerMichael” username=”toprank”]

He goes on to note that the ways to overcome this discrepancy are to “know something about your audience” and “be able to deliver a tailored piece of content to those unique characteristics.” 

“It doesn’t have to be individualized,” he adds, “just tailored.”

Content marketers can accomplish this by creating more defined and descriptive audience segments (or personas). This is fundamental to our approach at TopRank Marketing, and it can take many forms. Sometimes it’s about whittling down your target audience to the most valuable prospective customers and tightly orienting your content to their role and professional context — even if that means turning away readers who don’t fall into the category. Other times, it might mean leveraging an account-based marketing approach, and refining your focus on the companies you’d really like to land.  

As I’ve written here before, effective personalization is instrumental to trust:

Personalization is the surest way to build a rapport in the digital space. When we fail to connect, it sets off immediate alarms. Personalization comes in many forms. It can be as sophisticated as using adaptive AI, or as simple as narrowing the scope and voice of your content to resonate with very specific audiences. Whatever the approach, customers clearly want it. And the potential revenue benefits are undeniable.

#3 – Invite Feedback, and Take It Seriously

Jerry Seinfeld’s elite penchant for generating laughs is rare among standup comedians, but his process for vetting jokes is not. He’s very attentive to the crowd’s reactions to each of his quips. This excerpt from a New York Times profile, describing his period of reflection after a set, says it all:

Seinfeld retired to a dressing room, plopping down beside a bucket of bottled water. I congratulated him on the performance. “I’d say two-thirds of that set was garbage,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Whether it was lines coming out wrong or the rhythm being off.” He said he’d counted “probably eight” jokes that failed to get the kinds of laughs he desired. “There’s different kinds of laughs,” he explained. “It’s like a baseball lineup: this guy’s your power hitter, this guy gets on base, this guy works out walks. If everybody does their job, we’re gonna win.”

I liken the unsatisfactory laughs to vanity metrics in content marketing. Sure, you might’ve gotten the requisite impressions and clicks, but were they meaningful? Are they moving the needle? Are they indicative of audience delight?

To reach these important conclusions, we need to facilitate the feedback loop. We need to create dialogues instead of one-way conversations. And as Tameka Vasquez of Genpact points out, “In a dialogue, you cannot truly listen if you’re just impatiently waiting for your turn to speak.”

[bctt tweet=”We pump out content and then wait until it’s our turn to speak again and pump out some more per our content calendars. What use is it if neither side is listening? — @tameka_vasquez” username=”toprank”]

With this in mind, it’s important to craft your content strategy and editorial calendar with the audience’s voice in mind. One method for doing this, as our Josh Nite suggests in his rundown of content planning tips, is by leaning on user-generated content: “Still stuck with a few blank spaces in your calendar? Let your audience fill them in for you. User-generated content helps foster community, builds enthusiasm for your offering, lets customers see real-world examples of what your company can do, and a host of other benefits.” 

Other methods for eliciting this type of feedback include chatbots, conversations with your sales team, in-depth analysis of website user behavior, and more.

Delivering Great Experiences is No Laughing Matter

Comedians might make a living by telling jokes, but they take their work as seriously as anyone. Their careers depend on forging connections with audiences, and they know the best way to retain and grow those audiences is by delivering an enjoyable, memorable experience that leaves fans walking away smiling. Sound familiar?

You’ll experience plenty of laughs and learnings at Content Marketing World 2019 when the curtains open on Sept. 3 in Cleveland. Before then, you can find plenty more guidance on dazzling your audience in our interactive experience, The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth.

The post Wow Your Crowd: How Content Marketers Can Create Powerful Audience Connections appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

Wow Your Crowd: How Content Marketers Can Create Powerful Audience Connections

“Perhaps more than any other art form, comedy cannot exist for its own sake,” according to comedian Andrew Orvedahl in an essay published a few years back. “Comedy requires a bond between performer and audience. And if either ingredient sucks, comedy doesn’t happen.”

He’s right, but we could swap in content marketing for comedy and the statement would still hold plenty of weight. If your content isn’t connecting and resonating with your audience, it may as well not exist. This is one of the most critical skills of the discipline, and also one of the most difficult to harness.

While a standup comic can read the room, scanning faces in the crowd for signs of reception and gauging the volume of laughter and applause, content marketers face a greater challenge. We can’t typically interpret reactions in such a direct manner, meaning we must lean on our intuition, research, and analytics to assess whether our efforts are hitting home. 

To help you master this essential capability, we enlisted some of the best in the biz when it comes to understanding and relating to their audiences in an authentic way. Their guidance for show-stopping performances are featured in our new interactive experience, Witness the Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth, courtesy of TopRank Marketing, Content Marketing Institute (CMI), and a lineup of awesome CMWorld speakers. 

The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth

Today we’ll explore their (and our) specific insights around the vital art of audience connections. 

Three Keys to Creating Powerful Audience Connections

#1 – Learn About Your Audience 

MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley is basically a comedian and content marketer wrapped up into one package (her contribution to the CMWorld preview literally opens with a joke, which is the least surprising thing ever). As such, her advice on this particular topic is especially pertinent.

“Delighting your audience includes understanding your customers, and understanding how your prospects or customers interact with your brand,” she says. One of her suggestions for doing so is to “Undercover Boss your own brand,” referring to the television show in which corporate executives step into a low-level roles at their companies — incognito style — to gain a more accurate understanding of what’s really happening in the trenches.

Sign up for your own service. Opt-in to your own email list. Place a call to your support center. Interact on your social channels. Ask a customer care rep what patterns they see day in, day out. — @MarketingProfs Click To Tweet

At TopRank Marketing, completing due diligence around the people we hope to reach — their aspirations, pains, and needs — is an integral component of launching a new content program. As Ann suggests, it’s important to adopt your customer’s point of view and gain a truly empathetic perspective. 

Sometimes this means simply asking ourselves questions in a different way. Instead of “How can we raise brand awareness?” ask “Why would people want to be aware of our brand?” Instead of “How do we define success for our marketing efforts?” ask “How do we define success for our audience?”

As any comedian knows, just because a joke is funny in our head doesn’t mean it’ll be funny to a room full of strangers. 

#2 – Confront the Personalization Conundrum

One of the most pervasive hurdles in modern content marketing is personalization at scale. It’s written about often, here and elsewhere, because it’s a pivotal objective and also a paradoxical dilemma. As Marketing Insider Group CEO Michael Brenner astutely (and humorously) puts it, the phrase itself seems to be a contradiction:

Personalization at scale is kind of an oxymoron like ‘jumbo shrimp.’ I love shrimp. And content marketing. So if you love shrimp and content marketing, we have a lot in common. See what I did there? — @BrennerMichael Click To Tweet

He goes on to note that the ways to overcome this discrepancy are to “know something about your audience” and “be able to deliver a tailored piece of content to those unique characteristics.” 

“It doesn’t have to be individualized,” he adds, “just tailored.”

Content marketers can accomplish this by creating more defined and descriptive audience segments (or personas). This is fundamental to our approach at TopRank Marketing, and it can take many forms. Sometimes it’s about whittling down your target audience to the most valuable prospective customers and tightly orienting your content to their role and professional context — even if that means turning away readers who don’t fall into the category. Other times, it might mean leveraging an account-based marketing approach, and refining your focus on the companies you’d really like to land.  

As I’ve written here before, effective personalization is instrumental to trust:

Personalization is the surest way to build a rapport in the digital space. When we fail to connect, it sets off immediate alarms. Personalization comes in many forms. It can be as sophisticated as using adaptive AI, or as simple as narrowing the scope and voice of your content to resonate with very specific audiences. Whatever the approach, customers clearly want it. And the potential revenue benefits are undeniable.

#3 – Invite Feedback, and Take It Seriously

Jerry Seinfeld’s elite penchant for generating laughs is rare among standup comedians, but his process for vetting jokes is not. He’s very attentive to the crowd’s reactions to each of his quips. This excerpt from a New York Times profile, describing his period of reflection after a set, says it all:

Seinfeld retired to a dressing room, plopping down beside a bucket of bottled water. I congratulated him on the performance. “I’d say two-thirds of that set was garbage,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Whether it was lines coming out wrong or the rhythm being off.” He said he’d counted “probably eight” jokes that failed to get the kinds of laughs he desired. “There’s different kinds of laughs,” he explained. “It’s like a baseball lineup: this guy’s your power hitter, this guy gets on base, this guy works out walks. If everybody does their job, we’re gonna win.”

I liken the unsatisfactory laughs to vanity metrics in content marketing. Sure, you might’ve gotten the requisite impressions and clicks, but were they meaningful? Are they moving the needle? Are they indicative of audience delight?

To reach these important conclusions, we need to facilitate the feedback loop. We need to create dialogues instead of one-way conversations. And as Tameka Vasquez of Genpact points out, “In a dialogue, you cannot truly listen if you’re just impatiently waiting for your turn to speak.”

We pump out content and then wait until it’s our turn to speak again and pump out some more per our content calendars. What use is it if neither side is listening? — @tameka_vasquez Click To Tweet

With this in mind, it’s important to craft your content strategy and editorial calendar with the audience’s voice in mind. One method for doing this, as our Josh Nite suggests in his rundown of content planning tips, is by leaning on user-generated content: “Still stuck with a few blank spaces in your calendar? Let your audience fill them in for you. User-generated content helps foster community, builds enthusiasm for your offering, lets customers see real-world examples of what your company can do, and a host of other benefits.” 

Other methods for eliciting this type of feedback include chatbots, conversations with your sales team, in-depth analysis of website user behavior, and more.

Delivering Great Experiences is No Laughing Matter

Comedians might make a living by telling jokes, but they take their work as seriously as anyone. Their careers depend on forging connections with audiences, and they know the best way to retain and grow those audiences is by delivering an enjoyable, memorable experience that leaves fans walking away smiling. Sound familiar?

You’ll experience plenty of laughs and learnings at Content Marketing World 2019 when the curtains open on Sept. 3 in Cleveland. Before then, you can find plenty more guidance on dazzling your audience in our interactive experience, The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth.

"Study Finds:" How Data-Driven Content Marketing Builds Links and Earns Press Mentions

In 2019, high-authority links remain highly correlated with rankings. However, acquiring great links is becoming increasingly difficult. Those of you who operate publications of any variety, especially those who enjoy high domain authority, have likely received several link building requests or offers like this each day:

“Please link to my suspect site that provides little or no value.”

“Please engage in my shady link exchange.”

“I can acquire 5 links of DA 50+ for $250 each.”

Or maybe slightly more effectively:

“This link is broken, perhaps you would like to link here instead.”

“You link to X resource, but my Y resource is actually better.”

This glut of SEOs who build links through these techniques above have been consistently eroding the efficacy of this style of little-to-no-value ad outreach link building. In the past, perhaps it was possible to convert 2% of outreach emails of this style to real links. Now, that number is more like 0.2 percent.

Link building outreach has become glorified email spam—increasingly ignored and decreasingly effective. And yet, high-authority links remain one of the single most important ranking factors.

So where do we go from here?

Let’s start with a few axioms.

The conclusion: Leveraging data journalism to tell newsworthy stories re-enables effective promotion of content via outreach/pitching. Doing so successfully results in the acquisition of high domain authority links that enjoy the potential for viral syndication. Overall data journalism and outreach represents one of the only remaining scaleable high-authority link building strategies.

How can I leverage data journalism techniques to earn coverage?

To answer this question, I conducted my own data journalism project about the state of data journalism-driven link building! (Meta, I know.)

The primary goal was to understand how major publications (the places worth pitching content) talk about data journalism findings from external sources. By understanding how data journalism is covered, we lay the groundwork for understanding what types of data journalism, themes, and strategies for outreach can be most effective for link building.

We pulled 8,400 articles containing the text “study finds.” This keyword was used as a heuristic for finding data-driven news stories created by outside sources (not done internally by the news publication themselves). We then supplemented these articles with additional data, including links built, social shares, and Google’s Machine Learning topic categorization.

The categories derived by Google’s classifier can have multiple tiers based on the keywords in the article titles, giving us four ways to show the results within each category: The main topic area (containing all relevant subcategories), just the first subcategory, just the second subcategory, and just the third subcategory.

Which outlets most frequently cover data-driven stories from external pitches?

Let’s begin by taking a look at which top-tier news outlets cover “study finds” (AKA, any project pitched by an outside source that ran a survey or study that had “findings”).

For companies conducting studies, they hope to win press coverage for, these top sites are prime targets, with editorial guidelines that clearly see outside pitches of study findings as attractive.

It’s not surprising to see science-based sites ranking at the top, as they’re inherently more likely to talk about studies than other publications. But sites like The Independent, Daily Mail, The Guardian, CNN, Washington Post, and NBC News all ranked highly as well, providing great insight into which established, trusted news sources are willing to publish external research.

Which topic areas do these publishers write about most?

Diving a little deeper, we can explore which topics are covered in these publications that are associated with these external studies, providing us insight into which verticals might be the best targets for this strategy.

There are many unique insights to be gleaned from the following charts depending on your niche/topical focus. This data can easily be used as a pitching guide, showing you which publishers are the most likely to pick up and cover your pitches for the findings of your study or survey.

Here is a view of the overall category and subcategory distribution for the top publishers.

As you can see, it’s…a lot. To get more actionable breakdowns, we can look at different views of the topical categories. The categories derived by Google’s classifier can have multiple tiers based on the keywords in the article titles, giving us several ways to show the results within each category.

You can explore the Tableau sheets to get into the nitty-gritty, but even with these views, a few more specialized publications, like InsideHigherEd.com and blogs.edweek.org, emerge.

Which topic areas drive the most links?

Press mentions are great, but syndication is where data journalism and content-based outreach strategy really shines. I also wanted to understand which topic areas drive link acquisition. As it turns out, some topics are significantly better at driving links than others.

Note that the color of the bar charts is associated with volume of sharing by topic—the darker the bar on the chart, the higher it was shared. With this additional sharing data, it’s plain to see that while links and social shares are highly correlated, there are some categories that are top link builders but do not perform as well on social and vice versa.

This next set of data visualizations again explore these topic areas in detail. In each batch, we see the median number of links built as an overall category aggregate and then by each category.

Which domains generate the most links when they pick up a data-driven story?

Another interesting question is which domains overall result in the largest number of links generated for “study finds” stories. Below is that ranking, colored by the median number of total shares for that domain.

Notice that while The Independent ranked supreme in the earlier graph about including the most “study finds” pieces, they don’t appear at all on this graph. Sites like The Guardian, CNN, The Washington Post, and NBC News, however, score highly on both, meaning they’re probably more likely to publish your research (relatively speaking, since all high-authority sites are tough to get coverage on), and if you’re successful, you’re probably more likely to get more syndicated links as a result.

Which topic areas are the most evergreen?

Now, let’s look at each category by BuzzSumo’s “evergreen score” to see what kind of content will get you the most bang for your buck.

The evergreen score was developed by BuzzSumo to measure the number of backlinks and social shares an article receives more than a month after it’s published.

When you’re considering doing a study and you want it to have lasting power, brainstorm whether any of these topics tie to your product or service offering, because it appears their impact lingers for longer than a month:

What this all means

Link building through data-driven content marketing and PR is a predictable and scalable way to massively impact domain authority, page authority, and organic visibility.

Always consider:

1. Which publishers make sense to pitch to?

  • Do they often cover external studies?
  • Do they cover topics that I write about?
  • Does their coverage lead to a high volume of syndicated links?

2. Does my topic have lasting power?

To really make the most of your content and outreach strategy, you’ll need to incorporate these tips and more into your content development and pitching.

In previous articles on Moz I’ve covered:

These ideas and methodologies are at the heart of the work we do at Fractl and have been instrumental in helping us develop best practices for ideation, content creation, and successful outreach to press. Pulling on each of these levers (and many others), testing, and accumulating data that can then be used to refine processes is what begins to make a real impact on success rates and allows you to break through the noise.

If you want to discuss the major takeaways for your industry, feel free to email me at kristin@frac.tl.

Did anything surprise you in the data? Share your thoughts below!