Bolt Bio: Ethan Thomas
This is our third year attending Content Marketing World in Cleveland, and every year, different themes emerge. Here is what our team learned from Content Marketing World 2018.
We’ll be diving deeper into these topics over the next few weeks, so check back in.
We hear constantly how attention spans are shrinking, seemingly by the minute. You know, the goldfish report.
This shows up in the rush to pump out short form content, in ads that are 15, five, three seconds long. Vine, Snapchat, Twitter. Microblogging. Fleeting content to catch (a tiny fraction of) our fleeting attention.
But does it have to be this way? Are we really all regressing back to our un-evolved, watery roots?
The answer, thankfully, is no. Long form isn’t dying by any means. Look at the number of white papers, ebooks, and webinars that land in your inbox every month. Or those unwatchable IKEA ads everyone watched. Long form content is here to stay, or, at least, quality long form content is here to stay. Quality content requires empathy, creativity, and a wonderful thing called curiosity. And, best of all, quality long form content might be the key to driving lasting engagement from your audience.
And for the record, you don’t actually have the attention span of a goldfish.
User generated content informs tomorrow’s trends.
Taste has been democratized. It is no longer dictated by magazine editors or big media. Social media and technology has enabled people to discover their own sense of taste, and in 2018, taste is extremely personal.
Influencers or self-made “taste-makers” are producing and curating content that shapes tomorrow’s trends. Interpreting those trends in a timely manner can — and should — inform your brand’s content planning and creative.
There are lots of tools out there that provide audience insights. Brad Spychalski, Head of West Creative Strategy at Pinterest helped us understand how Pinterest analyzes its data into “taste graphs” which are readily available online and you can use to connect to over 200 million pinners.
Consumers have become more aware of marketing from brands. They are so savvy that traditional advertising sometimes doesn’t work. Storytelling through immersive experiences is becoming an effective way to reach audiences.
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to do this is to create something that consumers want to interact with that is simple, quick, and “Instagramable.” Netflix and Visit Indy have both created interactive experiences that are fun and effective and have generated significant social media traffic. Brands can make lasting impressions by adding a compelling narrative to Instagram-friendly spaces. Spaces like Escape Rooms have become more popular by immersing people into a unique story that they can experience with others. This can also be done through VR. "The Meg Submersive VR Experience" combines a VR encounter with a prehistoric shark while viewers are submerged in real water. These experiences are not only likely to be shared on social media, but will leave lasting impressions on visitors that will be spread through word of mouth for some time.
User intent matters online — keep this in mind when writing content.
There are really two types of intentional website visitors that we should care about as marketers: informational and commercial. Are they consuming your content to learn about your product, brand, process, or the industry? Or are they on your website to make a transaction or complete a purchase?
Understanding that difference in how those individuals consume your content can help you tailor your content to meet the visitor’s need and (more importantly) answer their question.
They call him “Lazer.” They, as in his colleagues.
That beginning to Joe Lazauskas’ presentation caught my attention. And for good reason. It was the start of a story — something interesting, compelling, and comical.
“Storytelling has been the buzzword off and on since the advent of advertising. It keeps rising to the top of the pile because it’s timeless,” Lazauskas and co-author Shane Snow write in The Storytelling Edge. They go on to say, “Good stories surprise us.”
Everyone knows this because it seems so simple, but for many marketers, it’s not easy to tell a story. We write blogs that bore. We write bland billboards and dull digital ads. As I sat there in his session wondering why it seemed so difficult to write a good story, Lazauskas answered my question immediately.
Tension. A good story has tension — among three other key components he outlined. If there’s no gap between what the reader knows and wants to know, there’s simply no tension, which means readers don’t have a reason to read anymore. Video viewers don’t have a reason to sit through your customer testimonial, your homepage video, or your YouTube bumper ad. Listeners don’t have a reason to listen to your podcast episode because you may have already told them too much, too fast.
In their book, Lazauskas sums up tension like this: “The greatest stories in history have it: the emotional tug, the mystery, the what-if, the ‘I can’t believe this!’ This element is what keeps us glued to our seat, no matter how badly we have to pee.”
I highly recommend checking out Lazauskas and Snow’s book, The Storytelling Edge.
“Give your customers a story to tell because word of mouth + content = your customers grow your business FOR YOU.”
In today’s hyper digital age, oftentimes people get excited solely about the sexy martech tools, sleek targeting capabilities, and digital tactics and channels to reach consumers. But marketing was founded on fundamentals, one being that word of mouth marketing is still the single most powerful form of marketing. In Jay Baer’s session, he discussed the importance of defining and amplifying talk triggers which he states are “strategic, operational choices that compel word of mouth.”
As marketers, it is our job to ensure that we are focusing attention on these talk triggers (by developing an actual word of mouth marketing strategy) and telling stories that highlight what we, or the brands we represent, actually do versus just what we want to say. Success emerges when we not only define these talk triggers, but when we ensure they are remarkable, repeatable, reasonable, and relevant to our audiences.