What I Learned at Content Marketing World

Awesome (4)

Things I knew about Cleveland before Content Marketing World:

  1. Liz Lemon loves it.
  2. Cleveland’s main export is crippling depression. (And every other “fact” that’s shared in this “hastily made tourism video” and this one.)

Things I know about Cleveland after attending Content Marketing World:

  1. It’s very warm in September (when you’re not in a heavily air-conditioned conference center all day.)
  2. The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame is awesome.
  3. Umm… see above?

So, yeah, the time I spent in Cleveland didn’t taught me too much about this city. But, on the plus side, my time at Content Marketing World has helped me learn a few things about content marketing and conference-going in general.

Here are my observations:

  • Personal connections matter

I observed this through my own experiences and the point was hammered home in Mark Schaefer‘s presentation on making Twitter your content marketing’s best friend. (In case you missed it, Mark talked at length about how Twitter is best used as a method for being authentically helpful and building real relationships.)

I’m new to the world of conferences (this is only the third that I’ve ever attended), and naturally shy, so I’m still trying to figure out the best way of making connections.

I’m slowly discovering that it’s helpful to have at least a few people you’d like to meet at a conference ahead of time. It makes it a little less intimidating if you set some specific goals.

Because I’m new to this, I set the bar pretty low—I had two San Francisco-based content marketers I wanted to meet (Is it silly that we had to wait until we were across the country to meet in person? Maybe a little, but hey, it worked…) and a few presenters I wanted to speak to at least briefly.

This helped take some of the scariness out of those empty blocks of networking times.

… but social media can help you be more social

I had contact information for one San Francisco content marketer, but only a Twitter handle for the other. So when we made plans to meet up, Twitter helped me get in touch and make sure everyone knew where to be and when.

It was also fun to see how everyone tweeted about our little meet up before and afterwards. So social media helped us connect, then meet in person, and then affirm that connection afterwards. I can also see us staying in touch via Twitter until the next content marketing event draws us to a new, exotic destination.

One of the speakers I was hoping to connect with was Ann Handley. I saw her present at the Copyblogger Authority Intensive back in May and started reading her latest book, Everybody Writes, so I was hoping to meet her briefly and get her autograph. (Yes, I’m a big nerd that way. Deal with it.)

Because I follow Ann on Twitter,  I saw that she was handing out goodies at Content Marketing World, so I tweeted to let her know that I was hoping to get her autograph.  She replied and we exchanged a few tweets, so when I actually met her in person, she kind of knew who I was! Social media helped me feel more comfortable being social in person.

If you’re shy like me, social media can be a great way of overcoming that initial hurdle and establishing some common ground with strangers so they don’t seem so… strange.

  • Don’t rely on the internet (always have a back-up)

Oh, boy, I’m going to do my best not to turn this into a rant. Let’s just say that the internet connection both at my hotel and in the conference center was… less than ideal.

There were numerous occasions where I just couldn’t get my phone or my laptop to connect to the internet, which meant that I couldn’t access email, Twitter, or Google docs.

I’m still trying to figure out my optimal note-taking and simultaneous social-sharing strategy, but I find that it’s easier to be more thorough with everything when I’m on my computer. And while I love Google docs when the internet is flowing smoothly, they make me want to pull my hair out any time I get that “Reconnecting” box (you know, the one that’s the color of a wan banana). I also kept getting a “Twitter has failed” message on my phone, which was painfully accurate.

Thank goodness for my local version of Evernote on my desktop, which pretty much saved the day. Every. Single. Time.

What am I trying to say here? Always have a back-up.

  • It’s a big, bad world out there, and I only understand a sliver of it

I’ve been working as a content marketer for a year and a half, so this is a field that is still relatively new to me.

Some of the sessions felt a little too large for me—either the speakers had bigger budgets, more buzzwords, or heftier teams to handle all the tasks and initiatives they discussed.

Copyblogger‘s Brian Clark and Jerod Morris used the analogy of TV/film and expounded on the importance of having a producer, a director, and talent to lead your content marketing team. This was both inspiring and intimidating.

Other presenters talked about their comprehensive, all-encompassing content and social strategies or the projects they’ve accomplished with tens of thousands of dollars (or more).

And others just baffled me with terminology and concepts I’d never heard of before.

But I’ll take a cue here from Jerod and his concept of “Primility” (pride + humility). At this stage in my career, the whole point of attending these conferences is to learn, so I absolutely should find myself experiencing moments where I feel out of my depth. That’s why I’m there—to expand my mind (or melt my face, as Jason Miller so colorfully put it).

I’m happy I had the opportunity to see so many talented presenters (and watch adorable kitten videos—thank you, Shafqat Islam for introducing me to BuzzFeed and Friskies’ Dear Kitten). And I feel both humbled and inspired by all the sessions I attended and people I spoke with.

Were you at Content Marketing World? What were some of the lessons that stood out to you?

Or, do you have any tips on how to make the most of your time at a conference? Drop me a line in the comments!

Why Start a Company Blog?

If you associate the term “blog” with some ’90s era hacker, like Keanu Reeves’s character Neo in The Matrix, it might be time to reboot and reconsider. Blogging is no longer just for authority-questioning individuals—it’s become a legitimate form of communication for all types of people, and now for companies as well.

I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half on behalf of my current employer, AfterCollege (I manage the student-facing AfterCollege Blog and the university recruiting focused Employer Blog), and I’d like to share a few of the benefits I’ve observed so far.

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is blogging?

To put it very simply, blogging is writing articles that are published online (rather than in a print publication). Blog posts are usually arranged in reverse chronological order, so the most recent content is at the top of the page and you scroll down or back to see posts that were written earlier.

Blogs cover everything you can imagine (and probably more). Nail art? Yep. Expat life in Paris, Paraguay, and everywhere in between? Absolutely. Hula hooping? You bet.

Some blogs are purely passion projects and don’t lead to any sort of money-making, while some are used by small business owners and “solopreneurs” to help get their message out to a wider audience.

And nowadays, most companies have realized that blogging is an excellent way to build brand recognition and a key component of their content marketing strategy. (For more on content marketing, check out my previous post.)

Do your eyes glaze over any time you hear someone use the phrase SEO (search engine optimization)? I won’t go into too many of the gory details here, but let’s suffice it to say that you want to be the answer to the questions people are asking when they use a search engine, and one of the best ways to make that happen is to create a regular stream of fresh, useful content.

HubSpot published the results of a ContentPlus report claiming that company sites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages than sites without them. Indexed pages lead to higher search engine rankings—and to more traffic to your site.

Google recently did away with the cute little photos they were publishing next to an author’s name when they showed up in search results, but Google still gives preference to people who have established Google authorship. If you regularly update your blog with high-quality, useful content by writers with Google authorship, you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to coming out on top of search results.

But if all that sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo, here are a few anecdotes to illustrate the power of starting a blog for your business.

  • Blogging helps you find quality applicants for open positions

AfterCollege helps students and recent grads discover entry-level jobs and internships through the Explore feature on our website (students tell us their school, major, and graduation date, and we generate a list of positions, companies, and industries that we think would be a good fit). We’re a pretty small company, but we do occasionally hire people to join our own team. When we were looking to hire interns this summer, we naturally posted openings on our own site.

Something interesting happened when I interviewed one candidate who had applied for the Editorial & Social Media Internship position. It turned out that this candidate, a recent graduate who had received a few offers but hesitated to accept any of them, had not found the position on our site initially. The candidate had done a quick Google search for “alternative things to do after college” and found the AfterCollege Blog (and the post advertising our open positions). The time the candidate had spent reading the AfterCollege Blog meant that this applicant was already familiar with our company, our mission, and our values, so it was easy to tell from our conversation that this person would be a good fit at our organization.

  • Blogging helps you establish yourself as a thought leader

Having a company blog also gives us the opportunity to share our knowledge and establish ourselves as thought leaders. This might seem like something that’s a little hard to prove (and it is), but occasionally it pays off in a major way. When our CEO was at a conference a few months ago, he met another thought leader in our industry, who knew all about us because of our blog and the content that we’ve been creating and sharing. I’ve also reached out to people to request interviews and been pleasantly surprised when they are already familiar with AfterCollege because they have read our blog.

  • Blogging puts you in direct contact with your customers/clients

One of my favorite features on the AfterCollege Blog is the “I Got a Job!” series. Any time a student gets a job through our service, we get in touch to ask them if they’d like to be interviewed about their experience. It’s so much fun to hear the success stories and see how our service really does help students and recent grads with the job search.

Some students and recent grads have stumbled upon our blog, left a comment that sparked a conversation, and ended up writing guest posts for us. It’s rewarding to see your content resonate with your audience and to open up a dialogue in that way.

It’s not all sunshine and roses—sometimes people leave us negative comments, explaining their frustrations with certain features or functions of our site. But those are helpful, too. We use criticism as an opportunity to evaluate if there are changes we can make to improve our users’ experience.

We can even take those questions and frustrations and turn them into content for the blog. So for example when one student complained about the functionality of our Explore feature, we realized that we could write a blog post that explained how to get the best possible results. Or on the employer side, many organizations struggle to write job listings, so we wrote a post that offered some tips and best practices.

These are just a handful of the benefits I’ve observed since launching the two AfterCollege blogs, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. How has blogging helped your organization? Let me know in the comments!

I originally published this post on LinkedIn. Find the original post here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140830150100-29684472-why-start-a-company-blog

 

How I Landed a Content Marketing Job (Without Knowing What it Meant)

Back when I was getting ready to go to college, finding a job was admittedly not a huge thought weighing on my mind.

But at some point I did sit down with my dad and ask for his opinion about whether it made sense to go to the small liberal arts college I had my mind set on, or whether I should attempt to do something more “marketable” (though I’m sure at that stage I had no idea what that word even meant).

In his infinite wisdom, my dad said, “Melissa, most of the jobs that will exist when you graduate haven’t even been invented yet. So forget about training for a specific job.”

Now, my first real job after college was teaching English in Japan, which was not exactly a new profession, but flash forward a few more years, and, like always, my father was right.

My current job title is “Content Marketing Manager,” which I get a big kick out of, since when I started I had never even heard of content marketing before.

So what exactly is content marketing? And how did I get a job doing something I didn’t know anything about?

Let’s start with the definition: The basic idea of content marketing is that you create blog posts, infographics, videos, and other types of “content” to help educate potential customers. You share information with them freely to establish yourself (or the organization you represent) as an authority figure, educate them about the problem they’re experiencing, and present your goods or services as a possible solution.

And how did I manage to get a job in this field I’d never even heard of?

Well, it just so happens that I actually already knew a lot about creating content from my years working as a writer and editor.

It turns out that all those blog posts, articles, podcasts, and other things I’d been doing in my previous jobs were examples of “content.” And the journalistic training I’d received in interviewing, fact-checking, and proofreading helped to ensure that the content I created lived up to a certain standard.

I was also really lucky that the person who created my position and hired me (Teresa Torres) already understood that, so even though the job title was “Content Marketing Specialist,” she spelled out very clearly that it was a full-time writing position and used writing samples as the main way she evaluated candidates.

This is not to say that I already knew everything about content marketing—far from it! There’s always more to learn about analytics, headline writing, SEO, social media, and tons of other related topics. And I’m grateful to companies like Copyblogger for leading the way—not only do they write about content marketing in an educational and entertaining manner, but their entire business is built on content marketing, so they provide an excellent example to aspire to.

There are a few takeaways from this post:

  • Don’t assume that you’re not suitable for a job just because you’ve never heard of it!
  • If you’re the one hiring someone, be open-minded about the hiring process. Think about which skills the person will already need to possess, and which ones they can learn on the job.
  • Father (or at least my father) really does know best.

Thanks for reading! Have you been hired for a job you’d never heard of? Want to talk to me about content marketing? Feel free to reach out!

I originally published this post on LinkedIn. You can find it here: “How I landed a content marketing job (without knowing what it meant).”