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Published September 12th 2016

Content Marketing World 2016: 30 Tips & Ideas From Experts

When professionals from all over the world gather to talk about their craft, they create a tremendous number of ideas for themselves and their colleagues. That’s exactly what happened this week at Content Marketing World, the annual conference presented by our friends at Content Marketing Institute.

Set in Cleveland, it wasn’t hard to believe that for these few days at least, Cleveland was, as Joe Pulizzi, has envisioned, “the Content Marketing capital of the world.”

The Content Marketing World Speakers blew us away with the depth and breadth of their presentations. Their ideas ranged from futuristic, philosophic, and disruptive to classic, actionable, and bottom-line focused.

Here are our 30 top takeaways from our time at the conference, with special thanks to other attendees who answered our call for help in providing you with the best summary possible. 

Top 30 takeaways from Content Marketing World 2016

  • “Mediocre content will hurt your brand more than nothing at all.” Joe Pulizzi.
  • Customers should be center-stage, not the brand.   The patent on Legos ran out years ago, and the brick itself is a relatively generic design. What makes Lego special is the content that has grown up around it. “Content sells the brick,” said Lars Silberbaurer, Global Director of Social Media and Search Marketing, LEGO company. The company builds its strategy around user-generated content. Instead of simply putting a message into the company-created content, Lego works hard to set the scene for its audience to engage with the product. “We want to be very understanding of our consumers,” Lars said. “That’s how we create a connection…then we stick to it.” His advice: Be the best in the world at adapting to the consumer’s needs, not the needs of the social platforms.
  • Concentrate on strong opinions and research.   If research leads to links, then opinions lead to shares, said Andy Crestodina, strategic director of Orbit Media. He suggested two ideas for identifying opinions that will get shares: What do you believe that most people disagree with? And, what questions is your industry afraid to answer?
  • HOW-TO TIP: Target the topic, not just the phrase in your content SEO.   Use Google search to find terms related to your keywords and phrases, Andy said. Then, do the same with keyword.io. Find the words that are semantically related to your content, then use those in your writing. Make a list. Check it off.
  • Keyword search is, well, key. If you aren’t doing keyword search and if you are not trying to find what people are actually searching for, it’s not worth writing content, said Venngage’s Nadia Khoja. Andy’s emphasis on SEO and writing was a confirmation of this principle for her. –Thanks Nadia!
  • You have to give away all of your best advice.   The pages on your site where you give away great bits of content marketing strategy give you a search, social and email bump, Andy said. That bump is necessary to get people to your transactional pages. Andy’s talk was jam packed with great advice. (And, he gets the BuzzSumo prize for effort in creating the birth of a lead visual — mapping out the path of a conversion through Google Analytics. We’re also happy he didn’t live tweet the conversion!)
  • Publish content that your audience feels compelled to share on Facebook.  The key to doing this, said Facebook expert Mari Smith, is to make your audience look good in front of their audience when they share.
  • Super-short videos that deliver value from the very first frames are today’s most effective tool, Mari said. Four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, and Facebook is committed to the expansion of video capability within the platform, Mari said. Videos get more engagement on Facebook, but they are underutilized. She suggested Animoto as a way to create high quality sound-off videos that display well in newsfeeds. Videos should evoke emotion; they should make people laugh, cry, or go “awwww.”
  • HOW-TO TIP: Use custom audiences to re-target people who watched a certain percentage of your Facebook videos, Mari said.
  • HOW-TO TIP: When boosting posts on Facebook, don’t begin the paid promotion until your post has been online for 1-24 hours, Mari said. The goal is to ride the wave of organic and paid reach. After the initial organic shares have accrued, boost posts from within ad manager, but not by using the “Boost” button alongside the post. The button itself is a signal to the Facebook algorithm that the advertiser has chosen a “lightweight” option, Mari said. Let the post sit again, accrue more shares, then come back to add a second paid lift.
  • There is value in slowing down, being deliberate.  Developing empathy with your customers by constantly asking why customers would care about your product or service is a good example of beneficial slowness, said Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs. (And, she gets the BuzzSumo prize for product development with the boyfriend pillow!) Content marketers need to create audience-centered content, not brand-centered content.
  • Keep your writing centered around one idea that matters to your audience.  Ann continued the theme of audience relevance in her packed session devoted to better writing. Your readers are looking for a reason not to read, she said. Don’t give them that reason. Toward that end, lead with your best bit of writing. Keep your writing revolving around the “screw” or central idea that matters to your audience. And be ruthless in your self-editing.
  • HOW-TO TIPS: Become a writing idea-hoarder: jot down 5 ideas a day. Experiment with writing tools like the hemingway editor, and ILYS.
  • Content network and distribution is the future.  Mitch Joel, President of Mirum, said that he no longer believes the idea that your own site is the hub to which all of your content points and flows. If you are thinking about building a distribution network, everywhere you connect with your audience online is a hub.
  • “If you understand your ‘why,” you have a lot of options for your ‘what’.” The most thought-provoking and powerful idea at Content Marketing World came from a stand-up comedian, said Ann Gynn, editorial consultant at Content Marketing Institute. Michael Jr. shared a profound concept that works on a personal and professional level. It is also the key to finding success in content marketing.       –Thanks Ann!
  • “Killer content — meaning, insanely profitable content — doesn’t need to be slick, sexy, or polished,” said content strategist Aaron Orendorff. “My big take away was from Drew Davis’ ‘Killer Content: How brilliant brands create less content and deliver bigger success.’ You don’t need to create a lot of content. But what you do create MUST be niched and helpful as hell!” –Thanks Aaron!
  • The audience is the value. Of all main media types — paid, earned, shared, and owned — only owned media, content marketing, is a long-term investment, said Robert Rose. The asset is the audience that consumes the content.

Kingman Ink provided live hand-drawn summaries from individual Content Marketing World Speaker Presentations[/caption]

  • Set KPIs to measure PR and the growth of content — YOU need to justify your campaign.   Ayat Shukairy, Co-Founder of Invesp Consulting, pushed one theme of the conference: Content marketers need to take responsibility for measuring the results of their work–even if those results aren’t immediate. Embrace the idea that measuring ROI can be a long term process, a long term commitment, Ayat said. Break key performance indicators into quarterly goals and meet them. And, use your analytics questions to drive actionable insights.
  • The marketing machine age is now.   Although algorithms and artificial intelligence already play key roles in numerous industries, their application in marketing is just beginning, said Paul Roetzer, Founder of PR 20/20. Now, both the potential for disruption and the reward for disruption have aligned in marketing. Machines will help marketers to create better content, more quickly, and less expensively. Check out Roetzer’s Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, launching in September 2016, to stay on top of the ways machines are changing marketing.
  • Look for ways to enter the conversations you find via trends.  Marriotts’ MLive monitors trends online all the time, then works to connect those trends with the particular Marriott brand that best fits the trending story, said David Beebe, VP, Global Creative and Content Marketing. MLive connects the dots between trending stories and brands. For a fun example, read more about Elizabeth Gallagher. 
  • Overcome the force of no.   You have to be willing to hear “no” 450 times to get the “yes” you need. Believe in yourself and never give up, said Mark Hamill, award winning actor, famous for his role as Luke Skywalker. –Thanks to Bob Girolamo from sourc’d for this takeaway.
  • Our job is to make the content that accomplishes our organization’s goals.  Rand Fishkin summarized a list of the worst marketing advice by reminding practitioners to apply advice carefully within their own unique context, learning from others’ experiences, but testing the application of those experiences in context before jumping on any passing bandwagons. Use marketing tactics that align with your organization’s goals, not simply the latest marketing advice, Rand said.
  • Distinguish between citizen influencers and power influencers.  Building an engaged audience requires intentional relationship building, said Ian Cleary, founder of Razor Social. In thinking about your audience, it’s helpful to distinguish between citizen influencers–people who use and love your product and participate on social media and power influencers — people who drive conversations on social media. In both cases, relationships are key. Build relationships with citizen influencers through content and connection–answering questions, acknowledging comments, etc. Build relationships with power influencers over time by offering them something of value, being consistent, and seeking in-person connections.
  • HOW-TO TIP: In developing relationships with influencers, offer video reviews of their books on Amazon, Ian said. This is especially effective if you would like to gain a speaking role, as the influencer is able to get a feel for your ability to present. (Ian also wins the BuzzSumo Arts in Action prize for his Irish dance imitation. Thanks to Nicole Shedden, of Corporate United, for her quick camera work!)


  • HOW-TO TIP: Use the goals section of Google Analytics to identify the content on your site that is driving the most traffic, Ian said. Take the top performing landing pages and leverage them for e-mail subscriptions. Then take a look at the people who were on your product page, but didn’t buy. Use re-targeting to give them another chance to close the deal.
  • Create content that shortens the sales process by aligning it with key questions.   The #1question asked by decision-makers is: What problem does it solve? And why do I need it? The #2 question asked by decision-makers is: What are the likely results of using your product?
    The #3 question asked by decision-makers is: What are alternatives? Address these three in your content for faster sales, said business strategist Ian Altman. —Thanks to Michelle Emmons from ihire for this takeaway.
  • The number one thing you need to do is figure out the “WHY” for your company. I’ve heard it from 5 speakers already, said Rachel Mann, Digital Content Strategist at American Fidelity. WHY does your company do what they do? If you don’t know, continue to ask until you distill down to the core purpose. Your company does not sell something just to sell it – you sell it to solve a problem for your customer, to make their lives better. –Thanks Rachel!
  • Research is the key to building a successful overall content strategy, and that strategy includes promotion.   Content marketers should not ignore the earned media channel, including classic PR tactics like pitching stories to journalists, said Chad Pollitt, Co-Founder of Relevance. Content, especially data-driven, original research, is particularly suited to this use. For a hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark example read more about President Obama’s visit to the Rodon plastic plant which came about after the company released a white paper explaining how their process was “cheaper than (outsourcing to) China.”
  • Only promote your best performing content on social.  Citing power influencer Larry Kim, Chad suggested taking only your best 1-2 posts from the week and paying to promote them on Facebook. (The spend doesn’t have to be high–think $50 or $100, not $50,000 or $100,000.) Remember that you only pay for the first wave of shares when you boost a post. If a paid share creates a secondary share (someone sees the post that was shared via paid and then shares it again), the second tier is free–A classic example of paid media creating earned media.
  • Don’t lead with KPI’s and content. Instead, ask yourself if your target audience wants or needs content, said Cameron Conaway. Then ask if the heart of your company is aligned with those topics. Finally, decide if you are capable of delivering value.

With 225 speakers, 123 hours of presentations, and it’s own game show


we weren’t able to cover every great tip from Content Marketing World 2016. We’d love to know what you took away from the event. Let us know in the comments!

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