TCMA16: The Content Tsunami is Coming

3 Jun 2016

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With all the online buzz and emotional outpourings (yes, really!!) about the TCMA conference in Edinburgh last week, I am sure you are probably fed-up hearing about it if you didn’t manage to make it to the event, but there were some really important learning points that I wanted to share with you.

Some of what follows is content from the presentations, but I’ve also included learning points from discussions that I had with the speakers and what these insights might mean for businesses. I’ll also include links to articles from other people (like this one from Roger Edwards and this one from Col Gray) who were also at the event, to give you a broader perspective of what went on.

Okay here goes, fingers poised on keyboard…actually I’m not really sure where to start, there were so many value-bombs shared over the two days, but I guess I’ll just start typing and see what happens.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 10.42.09

Speakers and Partners at TCMA Conference

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The Tsunami is Coming

In the title of this post ‘The Tsunami is Coming’, I am alluding to what Mark Schaefer calls ‘Content Shock’. Content Shock basically means that it is getting harder and harder to be visible to your target audience because of the sheer volume of content that is out-there, and with brands planning to increase the amount they are spending on content marketing over the next few years, there is predicted to be a massive wall of content that will be online very soon, and there are only so many hours in the day where our audience can consume media, so it becomes more expensive to reach these people.

Mark explained that having good quality content is no longer good enough to win in this post-apocalyptic world of content overload and diminishing attention spans. Having good quality content is only enough to get you to the races, but it’s no guarantee that you are going to win. To combat Content Shock businesses need to ‘ignite’ their content by developing a BADASS Strategy:

  • Brand Development
  • Audience and Influencers
  • Distribution, Advertising, Promotion and SEO
  • Authority
  • Social Proof and Social Signals
  • Shareability of the content

“When I realised I’d come up with a badass strategy, I nearly retired.” Mark Schaefer

‘Igniting’ your content refers to unlocking your content by making it as shareable as possible and getting it out there!

Unfortunately time does not permit a more lengthy explanation of each of these 6 components here, but if you are interested in reading more you should grab a copy of Mark’s latest book ‘The Content Code‘, which I am re-reading at the moment.

In a similar vain Ann Handley encouraged us to create Bigger, Braver and Bolder (Highlander) Content in order to stand out.

Another important nugget that Mark shared was that a lot of businesses have got it wrong when it comes to measuring their social media return on investment. The problem occurs because a lot of the benefits from social media are qualitative in nature, not quantitative and so are therefore not as easily measured. As a consequence many businesses become obsessed with the wrong metrics such as ‘reach’, when in fact they should be attempting to measure ‘trust’, through metrics like ‘shares’ and ‘retweets’.

Mark suggested that a better way to measure social media activity was to break down objectives into three distinct phases along a time-line. At the start of the time-line you find ‘Awareness’, then ‘Reliable Reach’ and ultimately ‘Return on Investment’.

The idea is that your social media metrics need to reflect the stage that your business is at in the time-line. For example if your business is new to social media, instead of focusing on sales as a measure of success, initially you should track things like audience growth, web traffic, publishing goals and engagement.

Be More Human

A central theme of the conference was the loud and clear message from many of the speakers to ‘Be More Human’. People are more likely to create an emotional connection with your business, when they get to know you. Don’t hide behind your logo and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.

This is certainly true in my experience, some of my best performing emails and social media posts have been when I’ve told a story about my struggles and related them to business. The newsletter that I wrote about what running 5K has taught me about business, was my most commented on newsletter Ever. Why? Because I was vulnerable and I let my personality come through (something I am personally working on at the moment) in my writing. None of us are perfect, and it can be easy (and I’ve been guilty of this in the past) to hide behind professionally polished text, but that’s just ‘vanilla’ and no different to what your competitors are doing.

This idea of being more human and the effect this can have on your audience was never better illustrated than when Kevin Anderson of The Story Edge got to the stage at the conference. On the surface of it Kevin’s talk was about the importance of story telling and writing content even if it is just for your own benefit, but as part of his presentation he told the story about his mental health issues.

This was not a ‘poor me’ story, it was funny and emotional in equal measures, but above all it was honest and authentic and it was him. You can read Kevin’s own recount of the experience here! The effect that Kevin’s talk had on the audience is hard to describe adequately to someone who wasn’t there, but I’ll do my best. During his talk there were laugh out loud moments and there were tissues, but something amazing happened when he had finished his talk (I’ve got goose-bumps now just thinking about it).

Everyone in the room stood up and clapped wildly. To say he got a standing ovation is a bit of an understatement. There were queues of people lining up to hug him as he came off stage. There were grown men wiping their eyes, trying to hide the tears. I have never experienced anything like it in my life and I feel very privileged to have been part of it.

Anyway, the funny thing was that this was not Kevin’s original talk. After attending a recent communications workshop with the legend that is Marcus Sheridan, Kevin threw away his original script and started again. Now I’ve no idea what the original script was like, and knowing Kevin I am sure it would have been entertaining too, but I am glad he decided to ditch it. Marcus had encouraged Kevin to be authentic to who he was. In his excellent blog article about the event ‘From Sales Lion to Lion’s Den‘, Kevin recounts that in the past he used phrases like “suffering from anxiety” but before his talk at TCMA, he had not used the words ‘mental health’.

Continuing the ‘Be More Human’ theme, another speaker at the conference (sorry, I can’t remember who it was) advised us to be more congruent in our marketing by being the same online as we are in real life.

It Takes Time

Another theme from the conference was that success in content marketing is not an instant thing. Amy Schmittauer of Savvy, Sexy Social shared that it took her about two years before she really started to get traction with her YouTube channel, but she knew video was an extremely powerful medium for creating an emotional connection, so she persevered.

Amy opened the conference with the amusing story of how she started using video, when she was a stand-in for the last bridesmaid at a friends wedding. Although picked last (well not even last as she was a ‘reserve’ bridesmaid), she was determined to make an impression by being the best bridesmaid ever. She did this by recording short snippets of film of family and friends of the bride and editing it all together in a montage and adding a musical sound-track. The effect this had on the guests at the wedding was overwhelming (remember, this was in the early days of video).

A similar story was told by Kate Mcquillan from Pet Sitters Ireland. Kate is an avid blogger and can attribute the success of her business to the content that she has produced over the years. Kate lives and breath’s Marcus Sheridan’s philosophy of ‘they ask, you answer’ in her blog posts, by answering all the frequently asked questions that people have before doing business with them. But success did not come over night for Kate either. Kate estimated that it took her about two years before she started to see real business benefits from her efforts.

So content marketing is a journey, not a get-rich-quick marketing strategy. It takes time but in the end the business benefits will come and I believe that we don’t really have a choice. If we don’t embrace content marketing Now, we will lose out in the battle for trust.

We just need to get started!


If you are gutted that you missed the conference this year, the dates you need to put in your diary for next year’s event are 8th – 9th June 2017. The first Keynote speaker to be announced is Chris Ducker. Click here for more information!

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