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Episode 8: “The Brandwagon Interviews” Podcast with Rand Fishkin of SparkToro

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From tactics to taglines, Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage, chats marketing with the brains behind successful brands on our new video series, Brandwagon. Last week, Chris sat down with Patrick Campbell, CEO of ProfitWell, to talk about why the B2B SaaS company shifted its content strategy to create binge-worthy shows that build an engaged audience for their brand. Today, we’re excited to share our extended interview with this week’s guest, Rand Fishkin, CEO and Co-Founder of SparkToro.

Check out the episode to hear Rand talk about content creation and his advice for today’s marketers who are trying to get started with building brand affinity.

Or listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

Before sitting down to chat, Savage and Fishkin went head-to-head in a push-up competition for charity — whoever guessed closer to how many push-ups the other person could do would get to decide which charity they would give money to. Initially, we thought this was a great way to support a cause (Savage and Fishkin both ended up donating $300 to givedirectly.org).

However, as we were filming, we also quickly realized that a push-up competition was pretty off brand for Wistia. And while we were well-intentioned from the start, it ended up being too misaligned with our brand to feature in the episode in full, so the segment was left on the cutting room floor.

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Watch the actual Brandwagon episode to hear the valuable lessons we learned from this failed face-off!

Rand Fishkin is the CEO and Co-Founder of SparkToro, a new software company that makes it easier for you to connect with your audience in a less expensive and more effective way. Previously, he was a co-founder at Moz where he built an iconic brand around their “White Board Fridays” video series. In addition to knowing the power of video, Fishkin is simply one of the world’s foremost SEO experts, and he says Google isn’t just a search engine anymore — it’s one of your competitors.

On this episode, Rand explains why it’s more important than ever to make deep connections with your audience and shares his thoughts on successful launch events, convincing your boss to improve your content strategy, and investing in one marketing tactic over the long term.

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“I think that a ton of early stage folks get overwhelmed by the number of channels they think they have to invest in — and they don’t. You can really kick butt with one! Literally, just one.” On this episode of The Brandwagon Interviews, Rand Fishkin shares his advice for marketers who are just getting started with building brand affinity in this challenging landscape.

Here are some of the lessons learned throughout the episode:

  • Practice, practice, and more practice will help you get comfortable on camera
  • Effective launch events generally tie into a bigger idea than just the release you’re working on
  • Convince c-suite staff to invest in brand by showing value early and showing how competition is winning
  • Don’t underestimate the power of investing in one channel

Short on time? Check out some of our favorite moments during this interview between Chris and Rand.

3:23 – Getting comfortable on camera

Chris kicks off the conversation by pointing out how Rand seems really relaxed on camera — he’s a natural! He asks Rand how he gained the confidence to speak naturally on camera. Fishkin opens up about being an introvert and explains it took a ton of practice to become “good on camera.” Here are some tips Rand offers for folks looking to up their on-camera look and feel:

  • Even if it’s uncomfortable, watch yourself on video! Take notes on what you felt you did and did not do well.
  • Consider your delivery — are you happy with the cadence of your speech? How might you improve how you deliver information on camera?
  • Consider getting a speech coach to help with your presentation skills.
  • Take a look at your wardrobe — does it look good on camera? What can you build on and what needs to change?
  • Make sure you’re talking about something you already feel comfortable — or even better, passionate — talking about.
  • Practice, practice, practice. A surefire way to not get better at being on camera is avoiding shoots. Get out there. Make videos. Review them. Make better videos.

9:07 – Advice for launch events

Here at Wistia, we just launched some new product updates we’re really excited about. What advice does Rand have for launch events? He suggests that effective launches generally tie into a bigger idea than just the release you’re working on. If a launch can tie to a bigger idea or a broader conversation already taking place in the market, your release will feel like a natural part of that conversation. Additionally, it can be very effective to take a controversial stance with your release. By creating some polarity in your space, you have a greater chance of amplifying your message and starting new conversations in your industry.

11:07 – White Board Fridays

When it comes to Brand Affinity Marketing, Rand has a serious knack for creating content that helps build his brands. Rand’s White Board Fridays created a ton of brand affinity for Moz. Chris asks Rand how he decided to create the video series and why he decided to invest in a show-like format for the long term. The secret? It was a way for Fishkin to quickly make content that would give him a day off from his daily blog. Instead of writing the night before, he’d just take a half-hour to make a video. While White Board Friday posts were originally the worst performing content on the Moz blog, it became the company’s most important and most-viewed content after years of consistent posts.

16:32 – Advice for today’s marketers: Don’t bid on keywords. Be the search term.

In a world where competition is fierce, and it’s harder than ever to get noticed, many marketers tend to look for hacks and quick fixes to see results fast. Savage notes this method of marketing is risky. One way to overcome market trends and create a lasting business is to build a great brand. What advice does Rand have for marketers in today’s challenging environment? He offers some great advice for marketers who need to convince their managers and c-suite staff to invest in brand:

  • Show value early — make one small investment you think will serve as a proof point you can use to justify another small investment. Taking small wins and showing value quickly can convince your directors building your brand is important.
  • Show how your competition is winning — if your competitors are already ahead of the game when it comes to brand affinity, put together research and present it to your superiors to show how your brand is at a competitive disadvantage. Then make suggestions for the next steps to level the playing field.

Savage and Fishkin also explain how building your brand affinity can help your business have much more impactful launches. When you build up demand for your brand, you become the search term. Instead of bidding on keywords, your aim should be to influence the market’s preference for your brand so that your company becomes the search term.

22:45 – The problem with Google

As one of the world’s foremost SEO experts, Rand is pretty interested in Google. And, he’s got some pretty strong opinions about how Google operates. Fishkin talks about problematic ways Google has changed their product(s) to favor their own businesses. Digging into the current Google investigations, he says you’re no longer just competing with your traditional competitors, you’re competing with Google. What can brands do in a world where Google owns most of the search traffic and clicks? Rand suggests that brands continue to build up their email lists as much as possible. Businesses should also bring their audience to their own properties as often as possible. When you put your content on “rented land,” your brand can suffer when the landlord changes the rules.

36:09 – The transparency of Rand Fishkin

Savage is consistently impressed by the level of transparency Rand offers his audience. From his “painfully honest” book, Lost and Founder, to his blog posts, Rand shares a shocking amount with his readers and viewers. Rand talks openly about the reason for being so transparent, and he and Savage discuss the benefits of putting it all out there. Plus, Savage offers up something he’s scared to admit: he’s not that into sports.

51:19 – Get to know SparkToro

Chris asks Rand about his latest venture, SparkToro. SparkToro is a “search engine for audience intelligence.” Speaking about how the company got started and what they hope to achieve, Rand wants to help you get in touch with your audience without needing to pay for expensive, saturated, and questionably effective advertising space on Google and Facebook. With SparkToro you can discover podcasts, influencers, and other outlets that may be more effective in spreading your brand’s message organically.

57:46 – The power of one channel

The one piece of advice Rand offers for folks who are just getting started is not underestimating the power of a single channel. With so many platforms to build on today — from LinkedIn to Instagram, Google AdWords, Facebook, YouTube, your company blog, and so many more — it’s easy to get overwhelmed by trying to market effectively on every channel. So, Rand suggests investing in just one channel and putting your absolute best work into it. Giving some examples of how that’s working for him at SparkToro, he encourages new business owners to find the channel that will work best for them.

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Video Marketing

How to Build Hype for Your Video Series: Lessons Learned from Two Super Popular Shows

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Today, marketers not only battle for the attention of a distracted audience, but also of a skeptical one. According to Social Media Today, only 4% of consumers believe marketers practice integrity. As a result, the standard email and social media marketing campaign can only take you so far. However, with Brand Affinity Marketing, marketers are able to cut through the noise and make people love their brands — all thanks to the help of binge-worthy content.

Unfamiliar with Brand Affinity Marketing? Check out our new four-step playbook that covers everything from finding a niche audience to measuring resonance over reach.

If you’re looking to dive into the world of Brand Affinity Marketing, chances are you’ve already started to produce your first video series. That’s great! But now that you’ve got a few episodes under your belt, how do you go about getting people to know your series even exists? What tactics can you employ to get that precious word-of-mouth marketing to flow organically? In this post, we’re going to look at two of the most popular shows in recent history — Game of Thrones and Stranger Things — to give you some ideas for where to get started!

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To generate buzz for their highly anticipated final season, Game of Thrones partnered with Aaron Rodgers, a superstar quarterback and super-fan of the show, to create a hilarious video series post on Twitter.

Sitting on his throne as the Lord of Greenwater Bay, Rodgers boasts about the Green Bay Packers’ enormous success and shows his love for Game of Thrones, helping the iconic show rack up over 5,500 favorites and retweets, proving that even the most famous celebrities bow down to the throne.

Partnering with influencers to promote your own video series is a great way to provide the social proof necessary to pique your audience’s interest and convince them to watch it. However, just like Game of Thrones did with Aaron Rodgers, it’s best to partner with influencers who actually support your brand. Audiences can sniff out an ad masquerading as a genuine shout-out faster than they click “Exit” on annoying pop-ups.

So, before you badger every influencer in your space to promote your new video series, ask the folks on your team if they’ve developed any authentic relationships with thought leaders in your space that might be willing to advocate for your new show. If so, get those conversations started and brainstorm some of the compelling content you create with them ahead of your pitch!

In Stranger Things 3, two of the main characters work summer jobs at an ice cream shop. Naturally, Netflix saw this sweet opportunity (see what we did there?) and teamed up with Baskin-Robbins to launch Stranger Things-themed ice cream, like the “Upside Down Sundae” to build hype for their upcoming season.

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Image credit: Baskin Robins

Stranger Things 3 is also set in the summer of 1985, when Coca-Cola infamously altered their flagship soda’s classic formula. Netflix didn’t skip a beat and ended up joining forces with Coca-Cola to release New Coke for a limited time to add to the hype.

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Image credit: Coca-Cola

At first glance, Baskin-Robbins and Coca-Cola have nothing to do with parallel universes or telepathic teenagers. But since ice cream and New Coke play big roles in Stranger Things 3, Netflix’s collaboration with these brands made complete sense and, in turn, could cleverly grab their target audience’s attention.

If you decide to collaborate with another brand to promote your video series, be strategic like Netflix and work with one that has an audience with similar interests as yours, rather than the largest one. You’ll reach less people, but you’ll resonate with more of the right people.

A week before Stranger Things 3 debuted, the show took over attractions at a Santa Monica Pier and Coney Island amusement park. By rebranding rides, a fair, and an arcade, as well as bringing in a slime-filled dunk tank, the Hawkins High cheerleaders, and 80’s cover bands, they made people feel like they were actually in Hawkins, Indiana, which helped to skyrocket anticipation around the show’s third season.

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Image credit: The Brooklyn Reporter

Hosting an interactive event is a surefire way to generate buzz for your video series. Studies show that people value experiences much more than material objects, and when your fans can engage with your brand in-person instead of through a computer screen, they’ll feel more connected to you and will value your brand more.

Having a hard time imagining what this might look like on a scale your business could actually afford? Check out this blog post we wrote about the time we rented out a movie theater here in Cambridge, MA to screen our first-ever original series, One, Ten, One Hundred, for some inspiration.

With over 63 million views on YouTube, the trailer for the final season of Game of Thrones is one of the most-watched trailers … ever, and for good reason.

By structuring their trailer so that the moment everyone is waiting for — the final battle between the Army of the Dead and the Army of the Living — is at the very end, their audience realizes that they’ll finally get to experience the show’s climax.

Stranger Things 3’s trailer, which has over 35 million views on YouTube, relies on a similar structure to generate excitement and buzz for their latest season. They deliver a suspenseful, action-packed preview of the season that also introduces some new villains, monsters, and storylines, getting their fans just as excited for what’s in store.

When crafting your video series’ trailer, consider taking some inspiration from Game of Thrones and Stranger Things by structuring it after your plot. This will give your audience a sneak peek of your video series’ concept, characters, and story, heightening their excitement for what’s to come and increasing the odds that they’ll share the trailer with friends and colleagues. To learn how we crafted the trailer for our new talk show, Brandwagon, check out this blog post.

A year before the last season of Game of Thrones premiered, Emilie Clarke, who plays one of the show’s main characters, Daenerys Targaryen, raffled off an opportunity to watch the final season premiere with her and attend an after-party in New York City on an online fundraising platform called Omaze. Within hours of the announcement, the site crashed.

Running some sort of contest or raffle on social media that’s tied to your video series is the perfect way to get people talking about your content. Plus, by limiting the number of winners to a small handful, you’re able to leverage the scarcity principle, which taps into your audience’s desire to attain rare things. Don’t be afraid to get creative with the items you give away, too.

For our latest video series, Brandwagon, we ran a quiz on Instagram Stories and gave away Brandwagon-branded t-shirts to the first three people to get the most questions about the show correct. And while this is certainly less glamorous than attending a fancy party in New York City, to the fans of our show, this was (hopefully) an exciting way to get some free swag!

Nowadays, consumers trust people much more than they trust businesses, so why not use your fans to your advantage and build more hype around your video series? Their display of love for your brand and excitement for your upcoming show is what will persuade others to hop on your bandwagon. So, get creative and generate word-of-mouth for the series you worked so hard to produce with these tips from some of the most-watched shows in the business!

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Video Marketing

How to Nail Your Video Series’ Concept With a Show Positioning Statement

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Creating an original video series is an exciting endeavor for marketers. But, since it’s also probably a brand-new endeavor, you may not have a process in place for vetting show concepts. Fortunately, one of the most effective ways to create a concept worthy of loyal followers is to root it in your brand’s existing values.

That’s because people buy what you stand for as much as what you sell. If they can connect with your brand on a personal level through your values, they’ll want to spend time with your content and eventually, do business with you.

Writing what we call a Show Positioning Statement will guarantee that your video content is grounded in and reflects your company values. Here at Wistia, doing so has helped us drive the concepts and creative direction of our Webby Award-winning docuseries One, Ten, One Hundred, and our talk show for marketers, Brandwagon.

Learn how to write your own in this post to ensure that your idea for a video series is as reflective of your values as it is binge-worthy.

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Your Show Positioning Statement describes who you’re creating your binge-worthy content for, what message you’re communicating, and why your audience should care. It’s the foundation of your video series and the compass for its creative direction.

For every show you create, you should have a unique Show Positioning Statement, which should include three core elements: audience, insight, and theme. Once you identify each one, frame your Show Positioning Statement like this: “We connect with people who [audience], but [insight], by [theme].

Below are some examples of Show Positioning Statements that a B2C and B2B brand might write (they’re totally hypothetical, mind you). Follow these examples and then get started on your very own!

Audience: The subculture you’re targeting

The first step to crafting a Show Positioning Statement is identifying your target audience — ideally, a group of people outside your existing audience who share a unique belief. You might call this group a subculture or niche audience.

For a company that sells cold-pressed lemonade made without any added ingredients and believes that food and drink should improve people’s lives, their target audience could be people who strive to live a healthy, additive-free lifestyle.

After identifying this target audience, the lemonade brand’s Show Positioning Statement starts to look like this: “We connect with people who want to eat and drink more healthily.”

Insight: The unique problem your audience grapples with

The next step to crafting a Show Positioning Statement is uncovering an insight about your audience. As one of the most frustrating problems your subculture faces and is constantly trying to solve, the insight highlights the gap between their aspiration and their current situation.

For the lemonade brand’s target audience — people who want to eat and drink more healthily — one of their biggest challenges is differentiating between food and beverages that are nutritious and the ones that claim to be. This is a prevalent problem in the lemonade industry, where an overflow of brands mass-produce their beverages by mixing powder with water but still claim they’re natural and healthy.

Locked onto this insight, the lemonade brand’s Show Positioning Statement could look like this: “We connect with people who want to eat and drink more healthily but don’t know how to identify packaged food that is actually nutritious.”

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Theme: The solution to your audience’s problem

The final step in crafting your Show Positioning Statement is picking a theme, which offers a solution to your insight. As always, make sure it aligns with your brand’s values. Otherwise, your audience will perceive your brand as disingenuous and might disengage from your content.

To offer a solution to their audience’s pressing problem, the lemonade brand could show their audience how to identify nutritious food and drinks by examining the ingredients. They could also recommend certain brands from each food and beverage group.

With their theme determined, this brand’s Show Positioning Statement might end up looking like this: “We connect with people who want to eat and drink more healthily but don’t know how to identify packaged food that’s actually nutritious by exploring what ingredients actually make them healthy or not.”

Audience: The subculture you’re targeting

For this example, we’re going to talk about a brand whose software connects companies with freelancers. To attract the best customers, they need to attract the best freelancers, as the talent of the freelancers ultimately makes or breaks their product. With a target audience of people who want to build a successful freelance career, this brand’s Show Positioning Statement could look like this: “We connect with people who want to build a successful freelance career.”

Insight: The unique problem your audience grapples with

Being a freelancer is one of the toughest gigs around. You’re constantly hustling to finish projects, market your brand, and, toughest of all, close more deals. Given how prevalent this insight is in the freelance industry, this brand’s Show Positioning Statement could be: “We connect with people who want to build a successful freelance career but struggle to thrive in a cutthroat industry. ”

Theme: The solution to your audience’s problem

To help solve this problem, this brand could inspire their audience to persevere and find success as freelancers by creating a documentary about how some of the most successful freelancers have built their careers. After selecting this theme, this brand’s Show Positioning Statement could be: “We connect with people who want to build a successful freelance career but struggle to thrive in a cutthroat industry by inspiring them to persevere and find success through true, motivational stories from successful freelancers.”

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As you can see, by running these hypothetical businesses and their brand values through the Show Positioning Statement framework, we could easily generate a relevant, emotionally-resonant concept for their next video series. And at the end of the day, the most important part of crafting a video series is creating a compelling concept. Just think about your favorite shows and films. Do you love them and keep coming back for more because of their actors, cinematography, or special effects? Or do you love them for their stories? In most cases, it’s the latter. And that’s exactly why you need to invest time in perfecting your video series’ concept.

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Video Marketing

Why Your Content Strategy Should Target a Niche Audience (Not Potential Customers)

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As Raymond Williams once said, “There are no masses, but only ways of seeing people as masses.” As marketers, we tend to look at the world as three distinct masses:

  1. Existing customers
  2. Potential customers
  3. People who will never be customers

However, outside of our own lens, there’s usually nothing that unites the people within these groups. While, as a business, we tend to think of our potential customer base as a homogenous group of people who we can and should market to, this is rarely an accurate view of the world. In reality, those that are likely to buy our products and services are usually a hodgepodge of individuals from different communities and interest groups.

Marketing best practice engenders this skewed perspective. By doing keyword research, user interviews, and creating buyer personas, we’re building up a picture of the world as viewed by a fictional cohort.

“By doing keyword research, user interviews, and creating buyer personas, we’re building up a picture of the world as viewed by a fictional cohort.”

In the world of content marketing, we’re then tasked with the challenge of creating content that appeals to the interests of these people. But how can you create content that appeals to a group of people who don’t really identify as a group of people?

Let’s take a fairly straightforward example — the equally fictional musical instrument repair shop, “Don’t Fret,” run by our very own creative director.

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The potential customer base for Don’t Fret is people who need instruments repaired in Somerville, MA. There are probably two characteristics that unite this group:

  • They own musical instruments that need repair
  • They spend time in Somerville, MA

Other than that, everything else will be varied. Some of these people will be musicians themselves, some will have children who play, and some will be restoring antiques or family heirlooms. Some will have guitars, some will have cellos, and there might be the occasional oud in the mix. Some will be professionals who need a set-up to withstand regular touring, and others will be hobbyists who mostly play at home.

In short, even for a small local business like this, there’s not a whole lot that unites the entire customer base. If my task is to create content that will appeal to all customers, I’m stuck with a fairly narrow brief: I must create something that will appeal to harpists and lutists, amateurs and professionals, collectors and layman i.e. everyone, and therefore, no-one.

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It’s easy to see how trying to be all things to all people, even for a local business with a clear audience and value proposition, often leads marketers towards creating uninteresting and uninspiring content.

Target customers, so defined, are not a group of people you can create content for. It’s a made-up group of people, an abstraction that can be helpful for you in categorizing users and interactions, but one that typically doesn’t reflect anything tangible in the real world.

While it may be incoherent to think of potential customers as a group of people to create content for, there are invariably plenty of very real interest groups that can meaningfully be served by great content marketing.

What makes them good targets are a clear shared interest that spurs a great deal of conversation, with desires and challenges related to that interest. These groups will tend to coalesce around things that significantly contribute to an individual’s identity — subcultures, passions, culture, vocations, and causes.

“These groups will tend to coalesce around things that significantly contribute to an individual’s identity — subcultures, passions, culture, vocations, and causes.”

Our challenge, as marketers, is to identify these niche audiences by finding extremely active and passionate interest groups that are tangentially related to our customer base i.e. communities that a substantial number of our existing customers are a part of.

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For the “Don’t Fret” guitar shop, we can see how different communities based on professions and hobbies can intersect with the customer base to provide niche audiences that have clear desires, needs, and challenges as communities.

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Now, there are some fairly straightforward ways of discovering these types of niche audiences for your business.

Interview your customers

Rather than just asking for their opinions on your product or service, use this opportunity to find out what makes them tick. Ask them how they spend their free time, what kind of websites they regularly visit, what organizations they’re members of, and what communities they consider themselves a part of.

Mine subreddits

If there’s a subculture, there’s usually a subreddit. Explore the depths of Reddit to discover what kinds of topics your potential customers are regularly talking about.

Explore Twitter data

Use tools like SparkToro and Followerwonk to find out what topics and content your existing customer base are most readily engaging with on Twitter. Discover if there are any trends in how people identify themselves in their bios, and look at the content of tweets to determine the topics that ignite passionate reactions.

Increasingly, effective word of mouth distribution is not only a “nice to have” that can help things go viral, but an essential ingredient in ensuring any successful content marketing campaign. Unless your content is being shared organically, both on private social networks (e.g. Slack, Whatsapp) and public ones (e.g. Twitter, Facebook), then it simply won’t be found. Both search and social are becoming “winner takes all” games, and the winner is the content that secures the most organic interest.

Word of mouth is fuelled by conversation, so the crucial first step in securing word of mouth distribution is picking a niche audience that talks to one another.

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Unless you represent a sports team, your customers probably won’t talk to each other on a regular basis, so this necessitates moving as far away from this broad, all-encompassing audience as possible and towards a very focused target group.

The more niche your target audience, the more likely you are to be able to create the best content in the world for that community. There’s a wealth of content that’s created to loosely appeal to broad demographics and industries, but very little that’s made for the communities of a few thousand people who are super-passionate about specific things.

You create word of mouth by finding your nerds. Take again, our creative director’s fictional repair shop, “Don’t Fret.” We could create content about how to restring a guitar‚ which would appeal very loosely to most of our customers. But, there are a million and one tutorials online that explain how to restring a guitar, and ours would be adding nothing new to the pile, meaning very few people would care, and the content likely wouldn’t get found.

“There are a million and one tutorials online that explain how to restring a guitar and ours would be adding nothing new to the pile.”

However, if we decide to create some content about how to reduce humidity fluctuations in a dive bar, aimed at sound technicians, we’ll be creating genuinely unique content that’s extremely interesting just for the small subset of people who manage live sound at neighborhood bars and clubs around the world.

Because it will appeal to those folks specifically, this content will stand a better chance of being shared, and these sound engineers will grow an affinity towards our brand because we created something genuinely useful and interesting for them. They might then recommend us to the people they speak to regularly (musicians), who in turn discover and recommend us to those they influence, and so on.

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This content will then eventually lead to awareness and affinity amongst our target audience, even though the content is far too specific to be of interest to the vast majority of people who need an instrument repaired.

This is why, paradoxically, targeting extremely niche audiences, and making the best content in the world for them is the most scalable way to increase affinity amongst a broad base of potential customers.

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