To start with, here’s a peek into how TechCrunch’s Travis Bernard thinks about data, storytelling and promotion.
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What if you could peer into some of the top minds responsible for creating content that is rocking their space? Those folks appear to have it all figured out. From what content types their audience find most engaging, to how to place that content exactly where customers will find it: They seem to know it all.
Go to Instagram, for instance, and three minutes in, you’ll be seeing the exact type of skits you like to see. These connections don’t happen randomly. There are people behind every piece of content you consider amazing who make sure they’re putting out the best content their customers — yes that’s you — will love. In the end, they’re massively boosting their revenue and bottom line.
This is the first in a series of interviews I’m doing with content experts from Netflix, TechCrunch, Outbrain, and other brands, who are clearly making their prospects happy with content. So, without further ado, let’s meet the first of the content marketing experts making the best content from big-name brands: He’s Travis Bernard, director of audience development at TechCrunch, with whom I shared an email exchange last week.
Here are the nine questions I asked about the making of content at this tech-industry news publishing site …
1. What’s the one thing brands need to know to attract your target audience?
Travis: “The most important thing is having good audience data. Bad data is worse than no data. Too often we have bad data and it causes us to make poor decisions. Good data is always worth the extra money.”
2. What kind of audience data is good data, and how do you get it?
Travis: “We get our data from a variety of different sources, including Parsely, Google Analytics and a few in-house tools. The important thing is to make sure you are tying the metrics to your business goals.
3. Will content marketing continue to be relevant as technology advances?
Travis: “Yes — content has always been king, and it will continue to be king in the future. People want to be entertained or educated, and they love stories. Technology might change the way the stories look and feel, but at the heart of it all is the same thing.”
4. What types of content perform best for brands?
Travis: “The best content sparks conversation with users. You need good storytelling. You want content that a user is going to tell their friends about because it was entertaining, thought-provoking, etc.”
5. Storytelling is a big focus now. Which stories make an audience pay attention?
Travis: “My point is that users remember compelling stories better than just messages. Humans naturally like stories. We’re a storytelling culture, and there’s a reason for it. Stories are easier to remember, and it’s how our culture passes along information.
“Marketers need to find creative ways to tell compelling stories that audiences will love and share with others. Stories that teach things or have a lesson are particularly useful because users love to share this knowledge with others. You should be asking, ‘What would be useful for my audience to learn?’ and ‘How can I package this lesson or bit of information into a compelling story format?’”
6. What are the best content promotion tactics you’d recommend?
Travis: “I like to see how content performs organically before putting any money behind it. Sometimes, that can help you fine-tune your creatives or adjust messaging to make sure it hits the hardest when you scale the campaign.”
7. You’ve talked about spending a lot of time on headlines. What can you add?
Travis: “My best advice for headline writing is: a) Keep it as short as possible without sacrificing meaning. Remove necessary words, and aim to get your headlines under 75 characters. One of the most unnecessary words used in headlines is ‘just.’ It almost never makes sense to use this word in a headline. Headlines under 75 characters will work well on Facebook Mobil [meaning they won’t get cut off]. If you can get a headline under 65 characters, it will also be optimized for Google.
“b) The best headlines have strong arousal words, but it doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative arousal. That said, don’t be hyperbolic. Hyperbolic headlines might work in the short run, but too many can cause you to lose user trust. Getting user trust back can be one of the hardest things to do, so make sure you only use strong arousal words when they make sense.
“c) I’m a big fan of using scientific language when possible. This often gives the headline more power and authority. An example would be [to say]: ‘X proves Y’ or ‘New research suggests X.’
“d) Organize thoughts into numbered points. This one is pretty well known, but if you can numerically convey to users exactly what they are going to get, it works well. An example would be, ‘The 5 biggest takeaways from Apple WWDC.’”
8. Do you have any favorite content marketing tool?
Travis: “I’m a data nerd, so I love tools that help readers better visualize information. We use a tool called Infogram [owned by Prezi] at TechCrunch for data visualization. It’s super-easy to use, and you don’t have to be a data analyst or graphic designer to use it.”
9. Anything else you’d like to add, Travis?
Travis: “Brands need to think more about being a media company. Red Bull has really blazed the trail here, and I think more and more brands will follow.”
Related: The 4 Laws of Content Marketing
From tips on creating the best headlines to what types of content to create, you’ve just read the thoughts expressed by the man in charge of building TechCrunch’s audience. Watch for more in this series, coming soon.