8 Industry Heavyweights Weigh in on Content Engagement

Once upon a time, when I first entered the glamorous world of public relations, I worked in Miami on fru fru events and accounts that were very much like what you saw Samantha Jones doing in Sex and the City.

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I hated it.

I was exhausted. Overworked and underpaid. And exhausted. Exhausted from securing real live tigers for grand openings (yep that happened). Exhausted from begging local mayors to show up for ribbon cuttings just to get that one shot for the local paper. Exhausted from faxing press releases to hundreds of people (yep, that happened too!).

In Boston a few years later, I fell in love with PR again. Because I snagged a job at an agency focused on tech (I had no tech experience), and spent the next several years geeking out finally feeling in my element. And you know what I loved most? That I was surrounded by wicked smaht people. No tigers, no faxing. Just mind blowingly awesome co-workers and ridiculously smart clients all hatching technologies that I was genuinely excited to learn about and pitch the heck out of. 

Now, back in Florida and immersed in the world of content marketing technology, I am still learning every day from some of the brightest stars in the content marketing space. The media, analysts, customers and influencers I am exposed to are seriously top-notch and the best in the biz. I just had to tap into this high-caliber pedigree and grab some content goodness. So I did.

I made a short list of some content marketing hot shots and asked them what piece of advice they would give to improve content engagement. Why? Because engagement is crucial to content marketing, yet presents one of the biggest challenges to marketers. In offices everywhere, marketers are brainstorming ways to boost engagement with their content marketing efforts. Nobody is immune to this challenge and the ability to churn out awesome content that pulls your audience in, is something that can make or break your strategy.

The Content Marketing Institute & Marketing Profs reported that “Creating more engaging content was B2B marketers’ top initiative for 2014” and “The top 5 content marketing goals in 2014 are brand awareness, lead generation, customer acquisition, thought leadership, and engagement.”

Additionally, LinkedIn’s Technology Marketing Community reported that the “top 3 things that make content effective: Audience Relevance (58%); Engaging and Compelling Storytelling (57%); Triggers a Response/Action (54%).” 

The content marketing landscape has evolved, as have the expectations of your audience. Not to sound like a broken record, but effectively engaging them is a necessary component to every brand’s marketing strategy regardless of industry, and it affects all of us (yes, even you).

So get comfy, grab your coffee or matcha tea or whatever you’re into. And get ready for some advice from people worth listening to. And then, after you read and soak up these nuggets of wisdom, we would LOVE if you shared YOUR advice to improve content engagement.

The thing that has worked for me in increasing engagement has been taking a controversial stand on an important topic. For example, I have wrote a few posts such as Is The Corporate Website Dead, Banner Ads Must Die and Personas Are Great Except When They Suck. These posts have been really great at driving deep engagement in the form of shares and comments and time on page. However, I didn’t write them with the goal of increasing engagement. I was really just venting, or expressing frustration, or responding to an important customer question. I think the main point is to allow yourself, or your writers to express their opinions, even if they may seem a bit, well, opinionated.

Michael Brenner, NewsCred

@BrennerMichael

Focus on a content niche to a very targeted audience that you can be the leading expert in the world at. Truly valuable information. Then, produce it consistently over a long period of time so that you can build a loyal audience. Once you build a loyal audience, that’s when the magic happens.

Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

@JoePulizzi

Creating engaging content is top of mind for all modern marketers but it is easier said than done. Many of us get swept up in the notion of what “action” we want the content consumer to take next. We measure engagement by how many people liked, shared or commented on what we posted. While important indicators they provide a misleading view of engagement. What we really want to focus upon is our ability for content to leave a lasting mark. Before writing I like to consider how my content will impact the audience’s behavior outside of what I am producing. After watching, reading or listening to the particular piece of content I’m working on what would my audience do differently than they are doing before it is consumed? Have I inspired them to consider a new approach to a task? Will they add a new agenda item to their next meeting? Will they change how they design their next campaign? If I can’t figure out what my audience will change after consuming my content neither will my audience.

Samantha Stone, Marketing Advisory Network

@SamanthaStone

One way to increase engagement is to write well — with a distinct tone of voice.

Writing is the heart (and liver and lungs) of the content we produce — whether that’s an Infographic or a SlideShare or this blog post you’re reading right here, right now. And writing with a unique point of view and compelling voice is the secret sauce in your content BBQ.

Ann Handley, MarketingProfs

@AnnHandley

All content should be SHAREWORTHY. Don’t publish junk. Better to be quiet than to distort the signal-to-noise ratio with garbage.

Todd Defren, SHIFT Communications

@TDefren

He actually published a blog post highlighting 7 Principals of Content Marketing (which is packed with awesomness), but this is one of my faves.

Does your brand have a voice? If I was to read your content right now would I find you funny, serious, hip, academic? Or is there no distinct tone to your content? These are the questions marketers should be asking themselves, which all boil down to: how does my buyer perceive me? Your content voice can make or break how brand advocates and potential customers view and choose to engage with you. Content should be honest, educational and personalized for your buyer. But it all starts with your voice and how that is depicted through your content.

Rita Rosenberg, Crimson Marketing

@RitaRosenberg

If you want customers to engage with your content, make it, well, engaging. That is, create content that answers their questions and addresses their concerns, educates and entertains them in areas directly related to your offerings. Consider one simple example: Ask your salespeople for the five most common questions prospective customers ask them and then write five blog posts or create five videos that answer those questions. It’s virtually guaranteed that your prospects will consume that content, as well as potentially share it and look to learn more.

Ginger Conlon, Direct Marketing News

@CustomerAlchemy

Define “engagement” in a meaningful way. It’s a word that can mean everything - or nothing. Time spent, likes, and shares can have value, and can be defined as “engagement.” But all metrics should tie back to actual business results. If they don’t, “engagement” is not only a flabby term, it quickly becomes a meaningless one.

Rebecca Lieb, Altimeter Group

@LiebLink

Eight different perspectives on content engagement from people who know their stuff. So now I am going to shine the spotlight your way. You tell us what efforts YOU are making to improve content engagement? We’re all ears!