Content Marketing World 2011 Diary: Day 2

September 9, 2011

It’s Day 2 of Content Marketing World 2011, and quite frankly I’m exhausted. Yesterday featured a full slate of top-notch presentations, followed by a fun night of dinner, drinks and a two-hour Q&A with film maker Kevin Smith (I only caught the first half, but as you may already know, I can confirm Kev is no fan of Southwest Airlines).

We’ll see how much gas is left in the tank for today’s running diary, with more updates (hopefully) coming throughout the day.

For a breakdown of yesterday’s high points, check out my running diary of Day 1 at Content Marketing World.

Day 2

4:18 p.m.: The last session of the week just got out (my apologies to Kevin Smith, who is scheduled to close the show. I love ya Silent Bob, but I have a plane to catch.)

So just a quick update to wrap things up. I sat in on a session with Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs) and C.C Chapman (@cc_chapman), co-authors of Content Rules. The two went over the top 10 excuses for not being ready for content marketing. “Content isn’t for everybody – it should be, but you might not be ready, and that’s OK,” C.C. said.

The pair made some particularly interesting points on the myth that content marketing doesn’t apply to B2B organizations. (C.C. actually referred to this notion as “complete crap.”) As Ann (correctly) put it, B2Bs actually know more about their customers than anyone, and thus have a golden opportunity to create content that will truly resonate with their respective audiences. So there!

It was a great show overall, and I hope you enjoyed the diary. See you next year!

3:04 p.m.: To start off the afternoon, I decided to pop into a session titled A Guide to Social SEO Strategy for Content Marketers. The presenter was Lee Odden (@LeeOdden), CEO at TopRank, who I’ve always been a big fan of.

The session was almost stymied by slideshow failure (PowerPoint kept moving from slide to slide on its own accord), but Lee handled it like a champ and came through with some awesome info. (For example, did you know that there are anywhere from 50 to 200 different versions of Google’s search algorithm running somewhere on the ‘Net at any given time? I didn’t.)

Most of the time was spent looking at the connection between social media interaction and SEO. Lee talked about how many people tend to bounce back and forth between social media and search, and how content marketers can take advantage of this. As an example, potential customers may go on social media (LinkedIn, maybe) to ask their peers for product recommendations. More than likely, they’ll then take those suggestions and plug them into Google to research them and decide on which one to purchase. After that, there’s a good chance they’ll then return to LinkedIn to discuss the product they chose and why.

As Lee noted, recent studies show that 48% of customers use social media and search together when making buying decisions – a prime example of why search and social strategies need to be linked. Everything needs to be optimized for both, he explained. And by everything, he means everything. “If it can be searched for, it can be optimized.”

There was a lot more to cover in the presentation, including some great stuff on how to perform an SEO audit for your website. Hopefully we can setup a podcast with him sometime soon to go over that topic in more detail, as I think it could really benefit a lot of companies out there.

1:45 p.m.: The lunch session for Day 2 was an interesting one. A handful of speakers were each given seven minutes to discuss a content-related topic of their choosing. I thought everyone did a fine job, though my two favorites were segments on content curation and the relationship between content marketing and the Muppets (yes, you read that right).

Barbra Gago (@BarbraGago), strategist at Left Brain DGA, gave a clever presentation on the value of curating content that was made up almost entirely of … well … curated content. The previous day she shot video of various content experts discussing the different ways marketers can take advantage of curated content, which included OpenView’s own Amanda Maksymiw, pictured right. (Note: The picture doesn’t really do justice to how massive the screens were. Soon after the video ended, I posted a tweet asking if that was really Amanda or the great and powerful Oz.) Barbra then edited the footage together to make a cool five-minute video on content curation – comprised entirely of commentary generated by others at the show. Get it?

As for the Muppet segment, just go ahead and contact Andrew Davis (@TPLDrew) of Tippingpoint Labs for the details. It’s worth it.

11:16 a.m.: I decided to try the executive track for the morning’s first breakout session. This one, titled Content Marketing Metrics: Justifying Content Marketing Spending, also featured a panel. A good part of the discussion focused on the challenge of getting company buy-in and funding for content marketing efforts.

Lynne Esparo, VP of Marketing with Nuance Communications, made the point that the ROI for content has to be really buttoned up to succeed, since while many senior managers have no problem spending on customer acquisition, they are much less likely to invest the same amount of money into customer retention. (Which is silly when you think about it, since it costs so much more to obtain a new customer than keep an existing one.)

Cam Brown (@CamBrown1), CEO at King Fish Media, noted that the reason for this (as usual) is that it’s so difficult to measure the success of content strategies for existing customers (where as measuring success based on the number of new customers is obviously much easier). Some of the metrics he uses to determine content value include things like increased cart size (“Did we get them to start buying more?”) and the rate of product returns.

The panel also included content guru and author of The NOW Revolution Jay Baer, who shared his own recommended metrics:

  1. Consumption metrics (readership measurements)
  2. Sharing metrics (social media, backlinking)
  3. Lead generation metrics
  4. Sales/retention metrics

He added that companies that are just getting started with content marketing should start with a focused approach to ensure they get the most value and best results. “What I find with companies that haven’t historically embraced content, they typically fall in the trap of, ‘We got to be publishers!’ So they end up putting all their eggs in that one basket,” Baer explained. “But no one wants to read your giant whitepaper and stuff like that. Content success isn’t about thinking big, it’s about thinking small.” Loved this quote, as it echoes the same theme many have argued this week —  do one thing really well first, then move on to the bigger stuff.

He continued by citing the importance of getting your content out there on other sites, since more popular spots like SlideShare or YouTube certainly have a greater reach than your own blog. “Don’t be a content Grinch,” he said to those folks who get queasy at the thought of setting their content loose outside of their own sites. I’ve struggled with this myself, but from a pure branding perspective, I’ve grown to accept that sharing is critical. Just be sure to institute strategies for getting people to come to your site eventually, even if the first thing they see from you is hosted someplace else.

9:36 a.m.: I’ve been to a lot of events like these, and attendees are always dragging a little bit on Day 2. CMW ’11 is no different, as many of the folks here are struggling to match the enthusiasm of Day 1 after a long day of sessions (and an even longer night of partying, for many). The sluggish start was not lost on our host Joe Pulizzi as he welcomed the attendees to the first panel of the day. “Congratulations all of you for getting up so early to see this awesome presentation!” he hollered to the sleepy eyed masses.

Fortunately, the opening panel was a good one, featuring Brian Clark (@copyblogger) of Copyblogger fame and Michael Stelzner (@smexaminer), founder of The two chatted about some of the strategies they’ve used to build successful businesses on the back of content. When asked about their formula for success, Brian stressed the importance of staying “reader-focused and reader-friendly” when putting together your content roadmap.

“We’re in an attention war,” he explained, citing the need to study reader behaviors and eye studies to help keep that attention focused on you. Brian noted the low-attention spans of readers, which is why usability is such a critical part of the content creation process. Michael agreed, saying that a quality visual design and layout is essential to their strategy as a means of helping the content, site and brand stand out and attract readers and potential customers.

The concept of design has actually come up quite a bit at the event, as many session leaders have pointed to the importance of being visually appealing when competing for attention. This certainly pertains to site design, but from a content perspective, creating articles that are easily digestible often comes down to the use of smart layout and design practices. Brian mentioned how simple tactics like subheads and bulleted lists within the text go a long way toward making your content simpler to consume. It also helps to avoid what we former journalists refer to as “too much gray” on the page (i.e. big blocks of text with nothing to draw the reader’s eye – kind of like this diary entry).

The two also discussed some of the strategies they use for deciding what to write about. Brian made the case that social media is one of the greatest marketing tools at our disposal when it comes to learning what people are interested in. Michael discussed his team’s preference for reader surveys as a means of generating ideas and topics. For those interested in surveys, one tip both panelists recommended was to include open-ended questions – a much better way to learn something new about your readers than if you simply provide multiple choice answers for them.

It was a good start to the day from two of the best in the biz, and Online Marketing Institute’s Aaron Kahlow (@AaronKahlow) did a fine job moderating for a crowd that was clearly in need of a second cup of coffee.

For a breakdown of yesterday’s high points, check out my running diary of Day 1 at Content Marketing World.

You can find more information on content marketing and editorial practices at the OpenView Labs website. You can also follow Brendan on Twitter @BrenCournoyer and find more from the OpenView team @OpenViewVenture.

Content Strategist

Brendan worked at OpenView from 2011 until 2012, where he was an editor, content manager and marketer. Currently Brendan is the Vice President of Corporate Marketing at <a href="">Brainshark</a> where he leads all corporate marketing initiatives related to content, creative, branding, events, press and analyst relations, and customer marketing.