4 Spooky Marketing Lessons from Classic Halloween Monsters

Halloween is objectively the best holiday of the fall-winter season. You don’t have to go broke buying people gifts. You don’t have to cook an enormous meal (then pass out after gorging on turkey). The only obligations for Halloween are to play dress up and eat candy!

Not to mention I’m somewhat partial to the holiday’s aesthetic. Give me skulls and bats over tinsel and garland any day of the week, and twice on Friday the 13th.

Sure, there’s a horror/scary element to Halloween. But it’s a fun, safe kind of scary. If you’ve spent an hour on social media recently, you know there are scarier things than ghoulies and ghosties.

But Halloween isn’t just fun. It’s educational, too! I realized this year that some of my favorite Halloween monsters are hiding valuable lessons for marketers. For example

#1: Dracula Rules Influencer Marketing

Count Dracula is often romanticized as a solitary figure, brooding in his castle. That image couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s constantly making new friends-and making those friends into vampires. The way Dracula builds a relationship is a solid lesson in influencer marketing.

Drac doesn’t just meet someone and immediately offer to make them immortal. He starts by getting to know them socially and paying them visits. Then he invites them to become a thrall, feeding on insects and getting a taste of the vamp life. Finally, when the relationship is mature, he converts them into full-fledged creatures of the night. It’s an easy sell by then, because he didn’t skip any steps in the relationship.

I don’t recommend making your influencers eat bugs, of course (unless they happen to enjoy doing so). But you should build relationships with influencers over a series of small, incremental steps. Start by socializing and promoting them, then ask for a small content contribution, and finally move on to co-creating together.

#2: Dr. Frankenstein Is Great at Repurposing

If you ask me, Dr. Frankenstein (the scientist, not his monster, of course) gets a bad rap. Yes, he took his research a little too far. Sure, he was a bit of an amoral lunatic. Okay, so he tampered in God’s domain a little. But you can’t deny that he got results!

In real life, after the hullabaloo died down, scientist would be scrambling to corroborate and replicate his findings. Frankenstein’s monster 2.0 and beyond would be far less shambling horror and more hey, we finally beat death!

Where others saw a pile of discarded body parts, Dr. Frankenstein saw the potential for new life. When we’re looking at a content calendar, we should be following in his footsteps. Repurposing content-up to and including stitching parts of old posts into a new one-can bring your old content to a new audience with a minimum of effort.

#3: The Wolfman Is a Content Strategy Object Lesson

Quick: What’s the wolfman’s biggest problem? No, it’s not that he’s vulnerable to silver. It’s not even that he turns into a brainless monster every full moon.

No, what always gets the wolfman in the end is his failure to plan ahead. He always ends up roaming the countryside chowing down on rabbits, and then someone sees him, and then out come the silver bullets. If he were to approach the problem strategically, he could spend each wolf session safely locked in a basement somewhere. He could live a full life 28 days out of the month, and no one would ever know he had a lycanthropy problem.

If you’re creating content without a content strategy, you’re practically begging the townsfolk to load up on silver buckshot. You may score the occasional win-like the wolfman gets a rabbit or two-but on the whole, it’s counter-productive. Plan your content in advance, with a rationale, research, and an amplification plan, and your content is far more likely to have a long and prosperous life.

#4: Dr. Jekyll Is Extremely Empathetic

Just how far would you go to get inside someone else’s head? You might walk a mile in their shoes, as the clich goes. But honestly, how much can you know about someone just by borrowing their footwear? By that logic, every time I went bowling I’d learn about hundreds of people.

Dr. Jekyll takes empathy to the next level. He transformed himself into Mr. Hyde to learn exactly how a monster thinks. Granted, the experiment didn’t end well, but the lesson is still valid.

Marketers don’t have to undergo a monstrous physical transformation to feel empathy, of course. But we should be striving to learn as much about our audience as we can. That means learning about them beyond their interactions with the brand. The more we can use data to truly know our customers, the more relevant our content will be.

Practice Frighteningly Good Marketing

Sociologists and anthropologists would say that the monsters we create in folklore and fiction survive because they are a reflection of our deepest fears. For example, the wolfman is about loss of control, fearing the beast within us all. Dracula is about the fear of death and disease-and of creepy old guys lurking in castles.

I would argue that these monsters have such enduring power because at the heart of each story is an eternally relevant marketing lesson. Stay tuned for my next horror story, The Beast that Wouldn’t Stop Sending Boilerplate Sales Emails.

Is your skill at creating awesome content almost paranormal? Are you terrifyingly good at account management? TopRank Marketing is hiring.


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Be the Best Answer: 5 Steps to Grow Influence for Your Brand

Be the Best Answer Grow Influence

Be the Best Answer is an expression my team and I have used many times in client strategy planning, training,presentations, webinars, blogging,and in my book Optimizeabout the intersection of search with owned, earned, paid and shared media.

Being present in a relevant, credible and useful way on all the channels where buyers are looking is a powerful (but often difficult to execute) way to provide the kinds of customer experiences that greatly differentiate one brand from another.


Influence plays an important role in a Best Answer marketing strategy.

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Influence plays an important role in a Best Answer marketing strategy as buyers pay less attention to ads and brand content, and more time listening to peers and industry subject matter experts.

While many companies are experiencing increased competition and waning interest in their marketing, brands that infuse influencers into their marketing initiatives do not suffer this decline of attention.

For example, Adidasmaintains command of customer attention by boosting credibility with advocates via dark social. Our client SAP grows their influence and reach in specific areas of interest by co-creating content with industry experts in a variety of formats including video, blog posts, ebooks and interactive experiences.

Both of these brands build their own influence with audiences they’re trying to reach and engage by partnering on content with influencers that already have customer attention.


Brands can build influence by co-creating content within influencers that customers already trust.

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So how can your company take advantage of growing brand influence by working with industry influencers?Here are 5 guidelines for building brand influence you can follow:

1. Audit your brand’s influence, advocates and influencers

Establishing a benchmark for your brand’s current level of influence is essential. But you must first ask, what are you trying to be influential about? Whatever idea pops into your mind needs to be reconciled with what customers actually care about.

Assess your brand’s share of voice for the topics you want to be influential about on social channels, in search and anywhere else customers discover, consume and engage with solutions content. These are the places where you’ll be co-creating content with experts to be the best answer and build your brand’s influence, as well as grow leads and sales.

Identify the gap between the quantity, quality and sentiment of conversations happening around your brand and the topic currently and where you want to be. Closing that gap will be a key driver for your brand influence program.

Determine who is already advocating for your brand in relation to the topics you have in mind. Whether those fans are customers, partners or users, they can be activated to be advocates. They can also help define an advocate persona for recruiting more advocates.

Who are the best influencers for your topics? For your industry? For your brand? Identifying potential influencers to collaborate with takes time, technology and expertise. Leaving it to anyone with an opinion about who is an influencer could create some major mis-steps. Influential experts are not the same thing as influencers, for example.

It can seem overwhelming, but there’s good news: there are specialty influencer marketing tools and platforms you can use for auditing your share of voice, identifying advocates and finding influencers just like there are experts (like TopRank Marketing) who can be your guide.

2. Identify internal influencer candidates

Growing brand influence from the insideis often forgotten with campaign driven influencer marketing. Besides industry influencers, customers and community members, one of the most significant and powerful sources of growing brand influence can come from within. Everyone has some degree of influence from the CEO to front line employees interacting with customers on a daily basis. Especially front line employees.


Someone with expertise is not automatically an influencer. Influence is the ability to affect action.

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Influence is the ability to affect action. Many internal subject matter experts can have credibility and respect but not have any idea or interest in behaving like an influencer. Developing SMEs into influencers takes time, but it can be well worth it.

Some companies already have internal influencers to work with. Being an influencer means creating and sharing content amongst an interested network that engages and takes action. Brands that can effectively connect to relevant internal influencers can create a symbiotic relationship and value exchange of exposure.

Internal subject matter experts and established influencers are valuable. Both need to be approached differently. Together, they can amplify brand influence in meaningful ways at scale.

3. Map topics of influence to content marketing and communications plans

Content is what closes the influence gap using the right topics, resources and industry/internal influencers. Once the influence topics are identified, they can be incorporated into content marketing plans.

A best answer strategy maps a connection between influence topics and content for PR and media relations as well as marketing tactics like content, social, SEO, advertising and influencers. Information hungry customers interact with numerous touch-points, ignoring overly salesy content and advertising, so including credible voices in marketing and PR communications increases reach and engagement.

By mapping the internal and external voices to collaborate with in marketing and PR content, you can facilitate the credibility of your brand as the best answer for the topics of focus.

4. Build executive influence with content and influencers

Executives are not automatically influential at least not in a useful way. It is often assumed that company executives are influential by the nature of their position. To some degree that is true, but those senior business executives that create content and engage with industry influencers become far more influential. That influence can be leveraged for more significant media coverage, more credible engagement with customers and employees.

Operationalizing influence best practices amongst brand executives can be very rewarding for all. Recently I’ve observed companies make organized efforts towards building their executives’ profiles through content, social and events as well as by interacting with industry influencers. The boost in credibility and top of mind consideration as a result is impressive.

5. Build influence of internet subject matter experts through brand channels

Investing in influence can be more powerful than renting it through association. Besides identifying external influencers and advocates for content collaboration and building executive influence, there is an opportunity for brands to grow influence in a way that is almost counterintuitive.

Brands associating with known industry influencers gain influence themselves. It is also very powerful for the brand to help up and coming influencers grow. When brands can help their niche subject matter experts transition from simply possessing influence to learning how to behave as an influencer, the resulting content, reach and engagement can outperform the effect of external celebrity influencers, or brandividiuals.

Our client LinkedIn Marketing Solutions does a great job of showcasing their employees in marketing materials as well as co-creating content with their internal subject matter experts. By doing so, LinkedIn provides more credible content and builds the credibility of their team members at the same time. More credibility can translate to more reach, engagement and sales.

By incorporating these 5 stepsyour brand can begin to benefit from being a source of content that customers actually want to consume and from the people they trust and want to hear from. In the process, your brand will earn credibility and trust points that can extend influence to the brand, but only if the brand learns from why customers favor creators and adapts those practices itself. At the same time building internal influencers while helping external micro-influencers build their influence will result in even more influence for the brand.

Are you ready to get started?

Be sure to check out the influencer marketing services we provide at TopRank Marketing. Hey, that’s what makes this blog possible and if we can help your brand become more influential, everybody wins!

Of course we’re also hiring talented influencer marketing professionals with community management, content marketing and social media experience. So, be sure to check out our careers page as well.

Upcoming Influencer Marketing Speaking Events:

Nov 7: Dreamforce, San Francisco

The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success

Nov 9: Pubcon, Las Vegas

In Search of Influence

Nov 15: SMXL, Milan

Content Marketing & Influence Integration


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Digital Marketing News: Pinterest PPC, Facebook Sets, Online Beats Offline Shopping

Understanding Machine Learning Infographic

Need help understanding Machine Learning? We now live in an age where machines can teach themselves without human intervention. Sound scary? It should. Scary amazing that is. Applications for machine learning extend from marketing to medicine to interstellar space travel. Find out what Machine Learning is, how it works, and how it will change the world. Infographic.

Google’s New AI Is Better at Creating AI Than the Company’s Engineers.Google CEO Sundar Pichai says his team has achieved AI inception with AutoML. AutoML is an artificial intelligence that can assist in the creation of other AIs. By automating some of the complicated process, AutoML could make machine learning more accessible to non-experts.Futurism

Survey: 37% of online retailers started holiday preparations earlier this year. How early you ask? 1 to 4 months earlier than 2016 according to a survey by BigCommerce. Along with early, retailers are optimistic. 88% expect an increase in holiday revenue.Marketing Land

Oh joy (sarcasm) Facebook is bringing paywalls to Instant Articles in your mobile feed.Since more people than ever before are getting their news from social media, it makes sense that Facebook wants to help publishers by introducing subscriptions for content on its platform. And it’s starting on mobile.The Next Web

Digital Video Marketing Is A $135 Billion Industry In The U.S. Alone, Study Finds. Video capturing, creation, hosting, distribution, analytics and staffing is big business! In contrast, advertisers are expected to spend $83 billion on digital ads and $71 billion on TV commercials (a total of $154 billion) in the U.S. this year.Forbes

Businesses can now sign up to add booking buttons to their Google local results.Google has finally added a feature to let you easily add a ‘book online’ button to your local business on Google Maps or Google Search. Soon, some businesses might not even need a website.Search Engine Land

Snap is turning to programmatic ads for Snapchat shows.Advertisers can make programmatic buys on Snap Ads – 10-second vertical video units – across the app’s public user stories, Snapchat-curated live stories and Discover publisher channels and Snapchat shows.Digiday

News Banner

As Amazon Prime Hits 90 Million, Online Holiday Spending To Surpass Brick-And-Mortar.Deloitte predicts people will do 51% of their holiday spending online, making it the first time it may surpass in-store spending. Among high-income families that number jumps to 57%. Headed to the mall anyone? Pass.MediaPost

Facebook officially rolls out its discovery-focused ‘Explore Feed’. The Explore Feed is now fully rolled out on mobile and beginning to show for desktop users.In case you didn’t know, the Explore Feed is to help Facebook users discover more content across the social network, beyond posts from friends and Pages you already follow. TechCrunch

Google Attribution Rolls Out To Thousands Of Marketers.Google is rolling out an attribution model it introduced in May, powering the platform with machine learning. Google Attribution is to help marketers analyze how top and middle funnel clicks and interactions impact conversions across channels. MediaPost

Facebook Is Testing a Pinterest-Like Feature Called Sets.Oh look, Facebook has taken a break from imitating Snapchat and LinkedIn to imitate Pinterest. Facebook is now testing Sets, Pinterest-like themed collections that include status updates, photos, videos and links, and that can be shared with all friends or specific friends.AdWeek

Snapchat dangles referral traffic with link sharing from other apps. This is such foreign territory for me, but go ahead, read on anyway:You now can share links from other apps via the iOS share sheet, allowing you to send a private message with the link to one or several people. And rather than just turning live location sharing on or off permanently, you now can opt to hide in Ghost Mode for 3 or 24 hours.TechCrunch

Pinterest moves into paid search: What you need to know.Pinterest Ads Manager is now open to all businesses who have opened an account and uploaded at least one Pin. It’s time to fire up those experimental paid search budgets.Search Engine Watch

The B2B CMO’s Growth Strategy Turns Audience-Centric Over Product-Centric. B2B CMOs around the world are focusing on new buyers and new markets over new offerings when it comes to their growth strategies, a new study from SiriusDecisions has found. An enhanced customer experience is seen to have the biggest influence on growth strategies in the next 2 years.MarketingCharts

SMBMSP100

This morning I will be joining a sold out crowdto celebrate the 100th Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis St. Paul (SMBMSP #100) event. The plan is a panel with Greg Swan and Jennifer Kane moderated by Mykl Roventine. We’ll be talking about what has changed since the event started in 2008 (founded by Rick Mahn) and what lessons we’ve learned as well as thoughts looking forward. I have a feeling it will be a great collection of stories about successes, failures and the crazy world that social media has become. If you’re reading this post early on Friday, you can follow the event from 8-10am CT on Twitter with the hashtag#smbmsp100

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

Be sure to stay tuned until next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary with Tiffani and Josh on YouTube.


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Content Marketing Tactics for Search Marketers International Edition #SMXLmilan

SMXL Milan Content Strategies

Content is both king and kingdom in a digital world full of stories. Brands and consumers alike are experiencing and publishing content on a daily basis. Between information overload, increased complexity of search engines and changes in consumer search behaviors, many marketers are less than confident about how to optimize their content marketing.

How can marketers best use content marketing to improve search marketing? How does search inspired content affect content, PR and marketing programs across channels?

At SMXL in Milan, Italy this November 15th, that’s exactly what a panel of experts will be answering. I will be moderating Content Related Strategies for Search with Ken McGaffin, Lexi Mills and Jey Pandian where we’ll be discussing strategies to help identify new opportunities to develop content based on business intelligence, competitive research and historical performance.

As a teaser for the panel, I’ve asked each speaker to share a preview of their talk with practical insights and tips.

Ken McGaffin

Ken McGaffin@mcgaffin

Online PR and Link Building Strategist at Audiential

4 Rich Sources of People Stories

If you’re reading this at 3 am, chances are that James Proud wants to put you in a deep slumber.

That’s a great opening to an article on insomnia in the NYTimes.com. It paints a vivid picture, intrigues the reader and draws them in.

That’s the power of story it elevates your content and makes it unique.

Content Marketing is a competitive business and your pitches have to be top notch to succeed. Stories make yours stand out to the delight of your target publishers and their readers. Here’s some things we’ve discovered at Audiential:

  1. There’s no such thing as a ‘boring’ industry every business involves people and people are inherently interesting.
  2. Don’t expect your clients to give you stories they rarely know what makes a great story. You’ve got to seek stories out and polish them into inspiring content.
  3. You only need 4 sources to systematically mine for stories:

    customers

    staff

    founders

    influencers

4. You must encourage people to open up and that means you have to listen. There’s an old saying, We have two ears and one mouth, and we should listen and talk in the same proportion.

Lexi Mills

Lexi Mills @leximills

Managing Director at Marquis Communications

Design for Trends and Play the Long Game with Research Content

Many media are using new technology to tell them what subjects they should be covering. In some cases over 50% of the content they produce has to align with the trends these tools show. Making sure you are designing your content inline with an anticipated trend or pitching it in a way that allows them to cover a current one will significantly improve your media relationships, coverage and inbound link profile.

Don’t plan to win on round one. Media are so busy these days that the likelihood of winning on the first point of contact is significantly lower than ever before. I have a strict rule with my team that they are not allowed to send an email or make a phone call without pre-planning what their follow up will be.

This can be anything from new images, interview slots becoming available to book or highlighting an emerging trend or event that the content fits in with. Not only does this ensure that they follow up in good time but it also feeds into the structure of campaigns.

Instead of releasing all research in one go we might decide to release it in phases or at a time when we know there will be a relevant event this allows for a more constructive follow-up. It also helps eliminate anyone tormenting a journalist with their pet hate..an email that says I just wanted to check you received my press release.

Jey Pandian

Jey Pandian @jeypandian

Chief Digital Officer & Founding Partner at ONWARD Agency

Storytelling in the Age of the Omnichannel

Since the internet first started, the way people communicate has continuously evolved. Within each Search vertical, there are different types of content that need to be built out in order to meet customer demand. Jey will present a content framework that goes beyond search content to help lay the foundation for an omnichannel content play.

1. Analyze Identify out where your audiences spend their time online on Social Media Platforms and Search Engines on a 24-hour timeline to figure out moments of receptivity and to ensure that content will be built and surfaced at the right time and place, in the right context.

2. Design Study UX design patterns against each Search Engine design feature; whether infinite scroll, voice, mobile, and/or swiping patterns e.g. scrolling up and down or sideways to figure out how to design your asset for optimal consumer consumption.

3. Create Understand your algorithmic limitations as it pertains to content consumption across each Search Engine; whether image, video, voice search and/or virtual reality to help figure out how to design your asset for optimal search visibility and in turn, consumer consumption.

audience SMXL Milan

This will be the second time I’ve presented at SMXL Milan. Last year I gave a keynote presentation on influencer content collaboration. There were several speaker dinners and I think we counted 15 different countries represented at one of them. This really is an international search marketing event.

Whether you’re simply trying to increase organic search visibility for the great content you’ve been publishing or if you want to create an advantage in a competitive market, leveraging search data can produce insights that are impactful for everything from storytelling, to media relations to omni-channel marketing. This panel with Ken, Lexi and Jey onContent Related Strategies for Search Marketing is ambitious and will cover many of these topics with plenty of time for audience Q and A.

I will be giving a solo presentation about content marketing at SMXL Milan on November 15th:

Lee Odden SMXL 2016

Photo of Lee Odden via Laura Caldarella @LaSagitta

How to Be the Best Answer for Customers with Content Marketing Integration Without content, there wouldn’t be any search engines and yet most marketers treat content as if it were simply a tactic for SEO. Content is the fuel that powers all forms of media on all digital channels where customers engage. The most successful marketers approach digital marketing with a customer and content-centric approach that integrates with SEO, social media and industry influencers in a way that helps the brand become the best answer wherever customers are looking.This presentation provides an overview of how to plan, produce, promote and optimize influential content as a marketing approach that works with or without search engines. But definitely better with search engines. <img src="https://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/2.3/72×72/1f642.png&quot; alt="

How 7 Brands Connect With Audiences Through Long-Form Video Content

Content comes in many forms, including social media messages, blog posts, video, and more. But video is largely ignored with only 30% of B2B marketers believing video will be critical to their content marketing success.

Considering video accounts for 74% of all internet traffic your brand cannot ignore video marketing. With audience’s having an average attention span of only eight seconds it’s one of the best ways to hold attention and increase audience engagement. This is especially true for long-form video-videos that are roughly 10 minutes in length or longer. In fact, audiences engage in more long-form videos accounting for 63% off all time spent watching videos across devices. Long-form video is a proven and effective way of capturing and engaging audiences, but where do you begin?

To help inspire your own long-form video content ideas and drive audience engagement, we gathered seven leading examples from leading B2C and B2B brands.

#1 Patagonia

Core to Patagonia’s mission is to use their business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. One of the ways they do this is by encouraging their own customers to hang on to their clothing for as long as they can and to pass them on to loved ones. It’s a message you wouldn’t expect to hear from a clothing brand, but Patagonia is passionate about the environment and created a special program that enables customers to purchase recycled and reused Patagonia gear. To generate awareness for the program and discourage throwing away clothes, they created the short film, Worn Wear.

In Worn Wear, Patagonia shares the story of several Patagonia customers and the stories of their clothes. Ranging from 11 to 30+ years old, each vignette features a well-loved, well-worn Patagonia item and the experiences the clothes have held. Patagonia’s message is clear throughout the film, saying, The most responsible thing you can do is buy used clothes. It’s an inspirational thought that resonated with their audience, collecting over 800,000 YouTube views to date and climbing. But most impressive of all is how the video has changed their audience’s perception of clothes with comments like, I truly believe this film has influenced the way I look at clothing specifically, material goods, and what is actually necessity. Thank you!

The Final Take: Use your company’s mission or purpose to drive long-form video content and connect with audiences on a personal level.

#2 Chevrolet

As a car company, Chevrolet helps you get from point A to point B. On a deeper level, cars help you get to where you want to go and help you achieve the goals you’ve set your sights on. That’s the message Chevy wants to instill on their customers, but with strong competition and a recovering American car industry it was going to take more than a mission statement.

To illustrate the importance of reaching your dreams, overcoming challenges, and rising to new heights, Chevrolet created a documentary highlighting baseball superstar Mo’ne Davis. Mo’ne was the first female pitcher to have a shutout game in the Little League World Series, an accomplishment that would make her the first female baseball pitcher to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Chevrolet’s documentary interviews Mo’ne, her family, and friends to share what makes her unique both as a daughter of America and as a person in general. The end result is an emotional film that leaves the audience inspired to accomplish the impossible.

The Final Take: Evoke emotion within your audience by showcasing inspirational people and life stories.

#3 GE

General Electric (GE) has a wide range of products and services, making it a challenge to market them effectively. And given the name, many people may assume that GE is simply a power company. In reality, GE has segments in aviation, healthcare, lighting, transportation, and more. So how can they educate the masses that they’re more than a power plant?

To educate their audience on how GE powers everything from cities to jet engines, GE created a video series Into the Wild. The series follows former Mythbuster Adam Savage as he endeavors to understand the mechanics behind GE’s many products and services. Through expert interviews, animations, and easy to understand explanations, Adam (and the audience) learn just how GE helps power the world.

The Final Take: Long-form video is a great opportunity to educate your audience with visual learning tools like in-person interviews, demonstrations, diagrams, and more.

#4 Cisco

Cisco, one of the world’s largest networking giants, is well aware that cyber security is one of the most important things they can offer in today’s hyperconnected world. Without a strong and secure network, businesses, markets, and people’s personal information is at risk. Recognizing this, Cisco created Ransomware Defense to keep hackers at bay.

To generate awareness for their new security product, but also for ransomware itself, Cisco made a video that highlights exactly how a hacker completes ransomware. The video itself is very informative, but what makes it so effective is the suspense they created. By creating a mini-movie that follows a hacker performing a successful ransomware attack, the audience is left feeling vulnerable and in need of protection or further information. Given this feeling, it’s no wonder that it is one of Cisco’s most watched YouTube videos to date.

The Final Take: Grab your audience’s attention through a suspenseful storyline that leaves the audience needing more.

#5 REI

REI stores are rooted in community given their status as the nation’s largest consumer cooperative. Starting as a group of 23 mountain climbers, the brand quickly grew to become a community of active people who love the outdoors-it’s part of what makes REI a unique brand. To highlight their unique communities and the camaraderie that can be found in the outdoors, REI turned to video content.

The most powerful piece of video from REI is their documentary titled Paul’s Boots. After hearing about the death of Paul, a man whose greatest dream was to hike the Appalachian Trail, REI and their partner The Dirtbag Diaries reached out to 400 hikers and asked them to carry Paul’s boots the entire length of the AT. This documentary follows Paul’s pair of boots through the eyes of each hiker that offered to carry them, showing how one community came together to help Paul achieve his dream.

The Final Take: The most incredible stories can come from right under your nose. Take inspiration from your customers-do something special for them and share their story with the world.

#6 IBM

IBM is all about innovation. And one thing they realize is that it is the people who work at IBM that power innovation. To help them recruit leading minds and progressive thinkers, IBM decided to highlight the teams that are behind groundbreaking innovations. Not only would the video showcase their incredible work, but it would also showcase the makeup of the team.

Through exploring the team that created their most recent breakthrough in polymer bonds, IBM showed how a strong team bond with a diverse background can power innovation. And by focusing on the people and allowing them to share their backgrounds, it humanized IBM while establishing their credibility.

The Final Take: Humanize your company and show your expertise by highlighting the personalities that make your brand exciting to work for.

#7 BMW

Believe it or not, BMW has been making films since 2001. A pioneer of long-form video content, BMW has been using online video to engage audiences in their brand and foster brand loyalty since before the creation of YouTube. The original films follow actor Clive Owen as a driver for hire who encounters several unique challenges while on the job, showing off the capabilities of the car along the way.

Most recently, BMW Films released The Escape, a new short that revisits their original Clive Owen film series. Not only does the film showcase the performance of their new 5 series sedan, but it also embodies their tagline The Ultimate Driving Machine with Clive Owen using speed, torque, agility, and wit to escape his pursuers.

The Final Take: While the production value of these films are obviously high, the real reason they captivate audiences is the action-packed story that breaks the norm. Don’t be afraid to get creative with an exciting narrative that showcases your brand, values, or products as well.

Form Meaningful Connections With Your Audience

Long-form video is an enormous opportunity for content marketers to connect with audiences on a new level. Find out how to get started in video content marketing with our own video tips or check out our interview with comedic genius and Cisco Creative Director of Marketing, Tim Washer.


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B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks: How We All Can Do Better

B2B content marketing is having a moment-a moment that’s rapidly becoming a movement. We’re finally breaking free of the idea that professional means boring. Transparency and authenticity are becoming more than just buzzwords. Unique, emotionally compelling content used to be the outlier; soon it will be the norm.

It’s thrilling to see B2B content marketers find a new groove. As a creative, comedic weirdo myself, it’s a great time to be in the business. However, these industry-wide changes do come with significant challenges. As B2B marketing evolves, we need to continually adapt our procedures, KPIs, even our philosophy of marketing.

The whip-smart marketers at Kapost just published their 2017 B2B Content Strategy & Operations Benchmark. They surveyed hundreds of B2B marketers in diverse industries, from small businesses to enterprise organizations. Here are the challenges their research identified, and how B2B marketers can adapt to thrive.

Challenge: Lack of Communication/Alignment

You can’t score a touchdown if you don’t know where the end zone is. Unfortunately, it looks like a great deal of B2B content marketers are lost in the field. Kapost found that 22% of content creators didn’t know if their organization set lead generation goals, and 32% weren’t sure if they were meeting revenue goals. Perhaps most troublingly, 60% said they didn’t have visibility into how their content aligns to organizational priorities.

Solution: Clear Goals & KPIs

Content creators need to fully embrace their role as content marketers. It’s not enough to get a work order, fill in the appropriate number of pretty words, then release it into the ether. That’s commodity work, and it results in commodity content.

Everyone responsible for creating content should have a working knowledge of the entire process, from strategy through amplification to measurement and optimization. Every piece of content should have the following:

  • Proof that it serves an existing search demand
  • Specific target audience
  • Rationale for why this content will appeal to that audience
  • Amplification plan
  • Specific next-step goal (CTA) that maps to organizational goals

Content creators and management need to share responsibility for communication. Ideally, the whole team should be working on content strategy (including goal-setting) together.

Challenge: Organizational Silos

When teams and departments are isolated from each other, efficiency takes a hit. Marketers estimated that around 25% of their content is duplicative work, a troubling statistic in its own right. But it gets worse: Only 44% said they have complete visibility into other departments’ campaigns and content. The real amount of duplicated effort could be far higher.

These organizational silos are not only inefficient, they encourage over-specialization and information hoarding.

Solution: Centralized Content, Multi-Disciplinary Teams

If your organization has multiple marketing teams in different departments, it’s vital to centralize content strategy to a platform that everyone can access. Breaking down silos and working together will eliminate that redundant content and help departments find new synergies together.

TopRank Marketing recently restructured our teams. We used to have a content team, an SEO team, a design team, etc.-organized according to specialty. In the restructure, we formed pods across disciplines. Each pod has content, SEO, and design experts, and we all work together. Reaching across silos has helped our teams cross-train, learn from each other, and produce more strategic content.

Challenge: Calculating ROI

Measuring the impact of our marketing efforts continues to be a top concern for marketers. In Kapost’s survey, 54% of marketers listed proving ROI as one of the greatest barriers to success. Yet nearly half of respondents said they use vanity metrics like web traffic to track ROI, and a full 25% said they use no ROI-tracking metrics at all (Somewhere, Joe Pulizzi is weeping).

Solution: Get Serious about Revenue

Just as content creators need to learn the entire content marketing process, marketers need to learn the entire revenue process. We can’t skate by on nebulous metrics anymore. We’re living in the age of data, and we have to take control of that data to prove ROI.

It’s not enough, for example, to measure web traffic. Where is the traffic coming from? Are they in your target audience? Does an increase in traffic lead to an increase in conversions? What’s the monetary value of each conversion?

All of this data is available to us. We just have to use it. We can determine what percentage of traffic downloads an eBook. We can see how many who download a gated asset do a demo, and how many who demo ultimately make a purchase. Working backward, we can put a dollar amount on each micro-conversion.

All of this means dipping a toe or diving headfirst into what we previously thought of as the sales department’s responsibility. But it’s necessary for marketers to understand and own a piece of the entire revenue process, if we’re going to help meet revenue goals.

Challenge Accepted

B2B content marketing has done a lot of growing up in the past few years. But it’s clear that we can be more sophisticated in our efforts. For content creators, that means a greater understanding of strategy and goals, more communication with leadership and between teams, and a renewed focus on metrics that prove ROI. If we can overcome these challenges, we can exceed the benchmarks for 2018.

Ready to get smarter, more creative, and more focused on results? We’re here to help.


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The State of Minnesota Marketing: Insights from 6 Minnesota Brands

State Minnesota Marketing

Minnesota is home to numerous nationally and internationally known brands, ranging from household consumer names like Target and Best Buy to giants like Cargill and United Healthcare. Given their broad focus, their home state isn’t a singular marketing focus for these big companies. But what about brands where the state brand plays a part of the company brand? What impact does that have on marketing?

That was the topic of a brand panel at the recent Minnesota Marketing Summit in Minneapolis.

Moderated by Nicole Shannon, Executive Director, Advertising for Star Tribune, the session opened up to a standing room only crowd. Panelists were on-hand from Minnesota brands including Explore Minnesota, Minnesota State, Sunrise Banks, Sun Country, Children’s Minnesota and the Minneapolis Downtown Council to discuss: What is the Minnesota brand and how does it relate to marketers and brands of companies operating here?

Takeaways from the panel about the relationship between the Minnesota brand and Minnesota brands included everything from customer targeting to balancing in-state and out of state advertising. Of course, there was also an emphasis on Minnesota pride. Here are six nuggets of Minnewisdom that could be useful for you whether you’re marketing in the Bold North or in your local state.

#1 Sometimes harder is better.

Leann Kispert, Director of Brand Marketing for Explore Minnesota Tourism, said that 70% of Explore Minnesota paid media has to go outside of the state of Minnesota. With that advertising, they have to deal with outside perceptions of Minnesota and it can be harder to convert visitors. But they spend more money and often become brand advocates.

#2 Creativity + Unified Message = Win.

Noelle Hawton, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Minnesota State, shared that the vast majority of Minnesota audience or prospective students didn’t know what MnSCU was, the 37 state colleges and universities in Minnesota now named Minnesota State.To reach potential students, an illustrated poster map of the state of Minnesota highlighting features has resonated well by sharing information in an info-taining way. Also, by promoting a unified message on behalf of the individual schools, while also encouraging the schools to use that unified message in their own marketing, has helped create a more effective message.

#3 Building Minnesota pride builds business.

Kelsey Dodson-Smith, Vice President of Marketing for Sun Country Airlines, declared that advertising is focused locally since that is where customers are. They also emphasized inclusive home state pride by commissioning a local artist, Mark Herman, to create custom illustrations for each plane that was named after Minnesota lakes as part of the#hometownlakesproject.

#4 Build a great brand by doing good.

Becca Morris Hoeft, Chief Brand Officer for Sunrise Banks, talked about what it means as a business with B-Corp status to truly serve its customers. As the urban core has changed, our brand has become more of a belief system, an opportunity to be more than a bank.

#5 Focusing on the why rather than the what.

Katie Sowieja, Director of Brand Strategy forChildren’s Minnesota, offered a compelling explanation of Children’s focus on building connections based on beliefs and the why at the values level, rather than focusing on what the hospital does and how they do it. The why for Children’s are the kids they serve. This is why the name was changed from Children’s Hospital of Minnesota to Children’s Minnesota, which has also reinforced their mission to reimagine healthcare for the most amazing people on earth.

#6 Help customers own their brand experience.

Leah Wong, Vice President of External Relations for theMinneapolis Downtown Council,talked about how their 60th anniversary served as an opportunity to evaluate the brand and value proposition. This resulted in a rebranded approach: Your Downtown as a place to participate in and also contribute to. The focus was to help people own their experiences downtown, helping the brand stay relevant and to help people feel empowered.

Minnesota Marketing Summit Audience

As I hinted to earlier, there was also a lot of Minnesota pride in this discussion, with observations like, Minnesota is happiest state in the United States,and the often cited claim that there are more theater seats in Minneapolis per capita than any U.S. city outside New York.

Flyover country is a challenging perception to get over and the Minnesota marketers recommended that we should be proud of the distinctions. Also, with the greater diversity of people living in Minnesota, brands are making more efforts to help people see themselves in the marketing Minnesota brands do.

And if you’re not one to embrace the cold of Minnesota, Kelsey Dodson-Smith had some advice: If you don’t feel like embracing winter, Sun Country.


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Digital Marketing News: Twitter Video Ads, Livestreaming Rise, RIP Eric Ward

Livestreaming

The Rise of Livestreaming: Why People Watch, and How Brands Can Benefit [Infographic]. Facebook users comment 10 times more on live videos than on regular videos. Find out what people are watching, what their preferences and behaviors are in this infographic from Koeppel Direct. MarketingProfs

The four habits of successful data-driven marketers. Econsultancy invited marketing experts to discuss what they do, the problems they face, and how they overcome obstacles which revealed 4 keys to data-driven marketing success from data management, to testing hypothesis and proper attribution models. Econsultancy

Twitter introduces a new video-centric ad format. The Video Website Card starts out as an auto-playing video with a customizable headline, which then opens up to a larger video and website preview, and ultimately directs viewers to the advertiser’s chosen website when they tap on it. Will this format take off?TechCrunch

Facebook Live cuts out the middle man, adds its own screen-sharing feature.Now this seems like a great feature for educational content. Facebook has added an option to share your screen directly on Facebook Live, eliminating the need for other software for many users.TheNextWeb

Top Brands by Customer Loyalty 2017

Fall 2017 Taking Stock With Teens report reveals favorite social networks. 47% of respondents say Snapchat is their favorite social network, and 24% say Instagram is their favorite. Guess which network only received 9% of the vote? Face who?MarketingProfs

Somehow, this is news. Snapchat is selling an $80 dancing hot dog costume on Amazon. The costume is based on Snapchat’s new celebrity character: the app’s dancing hot dog filter that quickly became an internet meme sensation over the summer. Business Insider

Eric Ward

The Search Community lost the Father Of Link Building, Eric Ward, aka Link Moses. I met Eric Ward at my first Pubcon conference about 2004 or 2005, approaching him at a table to see if this SEO celebrity would be friendly to a nobody like me. Eric was the most generous, welcoming person I could have met and that openness is something that has stuck with me over the many years since. Eric was a really good guy and a true original when it came to search marketing and link building.

Like many in our industry, I learned a lot from Eric about low risk, high impact and high value link building and online PR. He used a photo I took of him in 2006 as his profile photo online and it always made me happy that he liked that image enough to use it. Eric will be missed and I wish the most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. See the outpouring of commentary on Search Engine Roundtable.

IBM Watson Webinar Lee Odden Michael Trapani

Save the date! Oct 26 I will be co-presenting a webinar: Connecting the Dots From Data to Better Customer Experiences with IBM Watson’s Michael Trapani. This is a free webinar and will highlight the new realities of the customer journey, obstacles caused by fragmented data and tools. We’ll also cover how a best answer strategy + cognitive marketing can deliver insights and context for creating conversations with customers that are relevant, personalized, meaningful and consistent across channels. Don’t miss it! More info here.

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

Be sure to stay tuned until next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary with Tiffani and Josh on YouTube.


Email Newsletter

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Online Marketing Blog – TopRank, 2017. |

Digital Marketing News: Twitter Video Ads, Livestreaming Rise, RIP Eric Ward | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post Digital Marketing News: Twitter Video Ads, Livestreaming Rise, RIP Eric Ward appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank.

How to Choose Dynamic Images for Your Blog Posts

I’m a content writer, not a graphic designer. My job is to make the words dance, to convey useful information in an entertaining way.

As such, for a long time visuals were just an afterthought for me. Yeah, a blog needs a header image. So after I’m done writing I’ll slap something on there, check that box, and send it off to the client.

As content continues to proliferate, though, that laissez-faire approach isn’t enough. Your potential audience has far more content available to them than they’ll ever be able to read. That means they’re actively looking for reasons not to read your content. A weak-or worse, missing-visual is a perfect excuse to move to the next thing.

The right visual does more than take up space. It captures attention, creates a little mystery, invites the reader to dig into your carefully-crafted text. Good visuals are doubly important for amplification, too: Your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn shares will all include an image. The visual alone can stop the endless, half-engaged scrolling people do on social media, buying you crucial seconds to compel a click or a tap.

I challenge any and all content creators to up their image game. Let’s stop with the schlocky stock photos and give people something that’s worth their attention.

Here’s how I find scroll-stopping visuals for my blog posts.

Ditch the Schlock Stock

It’s trendy to bash Shutterstock for schlocky stock photos, but that’s like blaming Netflix for your binge-a-thon of Fuller House. There’s plenty of great content available. It’s up to you to find and choose it over the clich stuff.

Whether you’re using Shutterstock or any other paid photo site, start by avoiding these clich photo types:

  • Minority Report Computer Displays. Seems like every B2B blog is required to use one of these nonsensical things at least twice a week.

  • Stark White Offices. It’s futuristic! It’s so clean! It looks like no place anyone has ever worked!

  • People with Arms Crossed. Do you pose for pictures like this? Does anyone? Then why are there thousands of these on stock photo sites?

  • Cupped Hands with Floating Icons. Sing it with me: He’s got the [abstract concept of my blog post] in his hands

  • Anything in front of a Chalkboard.STAHP.

I could go on, but you get the idea. These are the hoary clichs that give stock photos a bad name. They’re not unique; they’re not authentic; they’re not visually stunning.

To avoid the stock photo blues, I tend to start my search on royalty-free sites like Pixabay, Pexels, and even Creative Commons-licensed photos on Flickr. But even if the boss demands you use an approved paid site, there’s good stuff to be found. Here are a few ways to kick your visuals up a notch.

Make It Weird

For my blog post on mobile advertising strategy, there were plenty of obvious ways to go. Someone looking at a phone in a coffee shop, at an airport, at a concert people look at their phones everywhere, so there are no shortage of safe options.

So of course I went with this one:

Visual Content Marketing Dog with Sunglasses and Cell Phone

Why is the dog wearing sunglasses? What type of phone has a pawprint for the unlock button? Why didn’t he use the front-facing camera for his selfie? Any one of those questions is enough to give the reader paws. Er, pause.

Make It Beautiful

Instagram is a social media network that’s almost entirely visual. It was designed for image sharing, boy howdy, do its members share. There have been over 40 billion photos posted on Instagram since it launched 7 years ago.

So it makes sense to take a few design cues from Instagram when you choose your photos. Find something beautiful, striking, and with an evocative filter. Like this image I used for my comedy in content post:

Visual Content Marketing Clown in Forest with Instagram-Style Filter

Find a Metaphor

Get a little creative with your content, and you can get more creative with your visuals. Introduce a metaphor in your opening paragraph that will unite your content and give you more options for a header image.

For a recent content marketing tips post, I could have stuck with a generic businessperson or office header image. Instead, I added a personal note about Lego in the beginning, and found a dynamite visual that helped introduce the metaphor:

Visual Content Marketing - Colorful Assortment of Lego Bricks

Take Your Own Photos

The best way to ensure your header is original, authentic, and eye-catching is to take the photo yourself. Last year, Jason Miller held a photoshoot with his LinkedIn Marketing Solutions crew. They captured a ton of wonderful moments that the team used as header images for months:

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Team around Laptop

I love that even though this image is a parody of a stock photo, it’s undeniably original. You can see the cool art in the office. The people are actually the folks who create content for LinkedIn. The laptop is a well-loved machine with a LinkedIn sticker on it, not a pristine stainless-steel model. Unlike a stock photo, this picture actually tells you about the people behind the brand.

Even a cell-phone quality image can get the job done. When our team covers marketing events, we always take a candid photo of the presenter as the header image. My colleague Caitlin took it a step further for her Ann Handley roundup, with this adorable selfie:

Visual Content Marketing Selfie with Ann Handley

It’s genuine, it’s unexpected, and it’s a photo the reader is guaranteed to be seeing for the first time.

As with Written Content, It’s about Personality

It used to be that all B2B marketing content had to be professional, interpreted as impersonal, flat, and unemotive. Old-school stock photos are a perfect match for that kind of content. Here’s a guy in a suit standing with his arms folded. Here’s our white paper written like a software end-user license agreement.

Now we know better. Readers want content that has warmth and personality. They want to feel that another human being is communicating with them.

Visuals need to evolve in the same way. If you’re writing great content and still using stiff, stock images, you’re doing your content a disservice. Make sure your visuals are every bit as distinctive and authentic as your writing is, and you can earn your reader’s attention.

Do you love to create great content? Do you excel at eye-stopping imagery? TopRank Marketing needs you on our team.

Disclosure: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions is a TopRank Marketing client.


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Online Marketing Blog – TopRank, 2017. |

How to Choose Dynamic Images for Your Blog Posts | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post How to Choose Dynamic Images for Your Blog Posts appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank.

Digital Marketing News: Twitter Video Ads, Livestreaming Rise, RIP Eric Ward

Livestreaming

The Rise of Livestreaming: Why People Watch, and How Brands Can Benefit [Infographic]. Facebook users comment 10 times more on live videos than on regular videos. Find out what people are watching, what their preferences and behaviors are in this infographic from Koeppel Direct. MarketingProfs

The four habits of successful data-driven marketers. Econsultancy invited marketing experts to discuss what they do, the problems they face, and how they overcome obstacles which revealed 4 keys to data-driven marketing success from data management, to testing hypothesis and proper attribution models. Econsultancy

Twitter introduces a new video-centric ad format. The Video Website Card starts out as an auto-playing video with a customizable headline, which then opens up to a larger video and website preview, and ultimately directs viewers to the advertiser’s chosen website when they tap on it. Will this format take off?TechCrunch

Facebook Live cuts out the middle man, adds its own screen-sharing feature.Now this seems like a great feature for educational content. Facebook has added an option to share your screen directly on Facebook Live, eliminating the need for other software for many users.TheNextWeb

Top Brands by Customer Loyalty 2017

Fall 2017 Taking Stock With Teens report reveals favorite social networks. 47% of respondents say Snapchat is their favorite social network, and 24% say Instagram is their favorite. Guess which network only received 9% of the vote? Face who?MarketingProfs

Somehow, this is news. Snapchat is selling an $80 dancing hot dog costume on Amazon. The costume is based on Snapchat’s new celebrity character: the app’s dancing hot dog filter that quickly became an internet meme sensation over the summer. Business Insider

Eric Ward

The Search Community lost the Father Of Link Building, Eric Ward, aka Link Moses. I met Eric Ward at my first Pubcon conference about 2004 or 2005, approaching him at a table to see if this SEO celebrity would be friendly to a nobody like me. Eric was the most generous, welcoming person I could have met and that openness is something that has stuck with me over the many years since. Eric was a really good guy and a true original when it came to search marketing and link building.

Like many in our industry, I learned a lot from Eric about low risk, high impact and high value link building and online PR. He used a photo I took of him in 2006 as his profile photo online and it always made me happy that he liked that image enough to use it. Eric will be missed and I wish the most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. See the outpouring of commentary on Search Engine Roundtable.

IBM Watson Webinar Lee Odden Michael Trapani

Save the date! Oct 26 I will be co-presenting a webinar: Connecting the Dots From Data to Better Customer Experiences with IBM Watson’s Michael Trapani. This is a free webinar and will highlight the new realities of the customer journey, obstacles caused by fragmented data and tools. We’ll also cover how a best answer strategy + cognitive marketing can deliver insights and context for creating conversations with customers that are relevant, personalized, meaningful and consistent across channels. Don’t miss it! More info here.

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

Be sure to stay tuned until next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary with Tiffani and Josh on YouTube.


Email Newsletter

Gain a competitive advantage by subscribing to the

TopRank Online Marketing Newsletter.

Online Marketing Blog – TopRank, 2017. |

Digital Marketing News: Twitter Video Ads, Livestreaming Rise, RIP Eric Ward | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post Digital Marketing News: Twitter Video Ads, Livestreaming Rise, RIP Eric Ward appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank.