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3 Trends that Define Content Marketing in 2018

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These are the questions every digital business is desperately trying to find answers to today. But as anyone who works in content marketing knows, it’s never that simple. There are no quick tricks or insider shortcuts; to achieve sustained traffic through organic search, you simply need to be in it for the long haul.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to get ahead. Providing you already follow the bible of content marketing — regularly publishing high-quality, valuable content for your readers — then there are more opportunities than ever to break free from the crowd and get noticed.

Successful content marketers keep one eye on the present and one eye on the future. They know there’s never one ‘right’ strategy that will always lead to triumph; just a set of continually changing principles and methods that need to be tested, used, and thrown out, tested again, used again, and thrown out again.

Here are three of the big emerging trends that are already making waves in content marketing and will help place you one step ahead going into 2018.

#1 The Rise of Machine learning

Machine learning, a subset of AI in which algorithms continually learn from inputted data and information, is changing the way we work, and at the same time, putting many folks out of business.

From automatically generating email content to curating content for social media, there’s little machine learning can’t do. And come a few years, when the full potential of the technology is realised and made more affordable, there’s little it won’t be doing.

In fact, by as soon as 2018, it’s predicted 20 percent of all business contentwill be authored by machines. Content like quarterly reports, profit/loss summaries, and real-time stock insights that follow set patterns and structures.

It’ll be a while yet before machines are producing creative content like opinion pieces and niche ebooks, though. In 2018, machine learning will begin its gradual takeover by securing its place as a content marketer’s best friend: helping them to create the right content, for the right audience, at the right time. This is data-driven marketing, and it’s arguably the biggest differentiator between an expert content marketing push and your bog standard everyday strategy.

#2 Co-creating the content world

The days of creating and promoting content as an independent marketer and being successful are dying. To make an impact today, it’s all but essential to forge partnerships and collaborate with others who can offer you and your audience something you don’t have.

More often than not, brands who execute winning content strategies today are working with influencers or bloggers or some person or another outside of their network. It may be to harness expertise and create content that can’t be found anywhere else, to expand reach to a broader segment of their audience, or simply build valuable relationships that strengthen their brand.

Everyone always has something someone else needs, so opportunities for co-creating or co-promoting content are huge. And with double the benefits from half the effort, so are the potential results.

#3 Personalisation is the new quality

Big brands are investing heavily in original content. Google is purchasing original content from media companies to fill gaps in their search algorithms. It’s clearly what the people want; but what exactly does it mean to make something original today?

It’s no longer enough to just put words together in an order they haven’t been before. Original content is content that resonates with a particular audience and is delivered from a place of authority. It offers new insights, preferably based on primary data, is trustworthy, i.e. thoroughly researched and referenced, and above all, is highly personalised for its readers.

Personalisation is becoming most important of all as today, 74 percent of online consumers get frustrated when content appears to have nothing to do with their interests. Expectations are higher than ever, and with many brands embracing dynamic content, if readers don’t get a customised experience from you, they’ll go get it elsewhere.

With advancing technology and growing demand for superior experiences, content marketing is getting smarter by the day. This makes it even more crucial for businesses to keep on top of the latest trends and be the ones to make the first moves. In 2018, it will be the brands that are bold enough to jump first and make the biggest splash who get the greatest results from their content efforts.

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This article was produced by Connected, U.K.’s first specialist WordPress development company. see more.

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Startups

The Most Important Tech Job that Doesn’t Exist

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Yesterday I asked a prominent VC a question:

“Why is it that, despite the fact that so many successful startup ideas come from academic research, on the investment side there doesn’t seem to be anyone vetting companies on the basis of whether or not what they’re doing is consistent with the relevant research and best practices from academia?”

His response was that, unlike with startups in other sectors (e.g. biotech, cleantech, etc.), most tech startups don’t come out of academia, but rather are created to fill an unmet need in the marketplace. And that neither he nor many of his colleagues spent much time talking with academics for this reason.

This seems to be the standard thinking across the industry right now. But despite having nothing but respect for this investor, I think the party line here is unequivocally wrong.

Let’s start with the notion that most tech startups don’t come out of academia. While this may be true if you consider only the one-sentence pitch, once you look at the actual design and implementation choices these startups are making there is typically quite a lot to work with.

For example, there is a startup I recently looked at that works to match mentors with mentees. Though one might not be aware of it, there is actually a wealth of research into best practices:

  • What factors should be used when matching mentors with mentees?
  • How should the relationship between the mentor and mentee be structured?
  • What kind of training, if any, should be given to the participants?

That’s not to say that a startup that’s doing something outside the research, or even contraindicated by the research, is in any way suspect. But it does raise some questions: Does the startup have a good reason for what they’re doing? Are they aware of the relevant research? Is there something they know that we don’t?

If the entrepreneurs have good answers to these questions then it’s all the more reason to take them seriously. But if they don’t then this should raise a few red flags. And it’s not only niche startups in wonky areas where this is an issue.

For example, I rarely post to Facebook anymore, but people who follow me can still get a good idea of what I’m up to. Why? Because Facebook leverages the idea of behavioral residue to figure out what I’m doing (and let my friends know) without me having to explicitly post updates. It does this by using both interior behavioral residue, e.g. what I’m reading and clicking on within the site, and exterior behavioral residue, e.g. photos of me taken outside of Facebook.

To understand why leveraging behavioral residue is so important for social networks, consider that of people who visit the typical website only about 10% will make an account. Of those about 10% will make at least one content contribution, and of those about 10% will become core contributors. So if you consider your typical user with a couple hundred friends, this translates into seeing content from only a tiny handful of other people on a regular basis.

In contrast with Facebook, one of the reason why FourSquare has yet to succeed is due to significant problems with their initial design decisions:

  • The only content on the site comes from users who manually check into locations and post updates. This means that of my 150 or so friends, I’m only seeing what one or two of them are actually doing, so what’s the value?
  • The heavy use of extrinsic motivation (e.g. badges) has been shown time and again that extrinsic motivation undermines intrinsic motivation.

The latter especially is a good example of why investing on traction alone is problematic: many startups that leverage extrinsic rewards are able to get a good amount of initial traction, but almost none of them are able to retain users or cross the chasm into the mainstream. Why isn’t it anyone’s job to know this, even though the research is readily available for any who wants to read it? And why is it so hard to go to any major startup event without seeing VCs showering money on these sorts of startups that are so contraindicated by the research that they have almost no realistic chance of succeeding?

This same critique of investors applies equally to the startups themselves. You probably wouldn’t hire an attorney who wasn’t willing to familiarize himself with the relevant case law before going to court. So why is it that the vast majority of people hired as community managers and growth marketers have never read Robert Kraut? And the vast majority of people hired to create mobile apps have never heard of Mizuko Ito?

A lot of people associate the word design with fonts, colors, and graphics, but what the word actually means is fate — in the most existential sense of the word. That is, good design literally makes it inevitable that the user will take certain actions and have certain subjective experiences. While good UX and graphic design are essential, they’re only valuable to the extent that the person doing them knows how to create an authentic connection with the users and elicit specific emotional and social outcomes. So why are we hiring designers mainly on their Photoshop skills and maybe knowing a few tricks for optimizing conversions on landing pages? What a waste.

Of all the social sciences, the following seem to be disproportionately valuable in terms of creating and evaluating startups:

  • Psychology / Social Psychology
  • Internet Psychology / Computer Mediated Communication
  • Cognitive Development / Early Childhood Education
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Sociology
  • Education Research
  • Behavioral Economics

And yet not only is no one hiring for this, but having expertise in these areas likely won’t even get you so much as a nominal bonus. I realize that traction and team will always be the two biggest factors in determining which startups get funded, but have we really become so myopic as to place zero value on knowing whether or not a startup is congruent or contraindicated by the last 80+ years of research?

So should you invest in (or work for) the startup that sends text messages to people reminding them to take their medicine? How about the one that lets you hire temp laborers using cell phones? Or the app for club owners that purports to increase the amount of money spent on drinks? In each of these cases there is a wealth of relevant literature that can be used to help figure out whether or not the founders have done their homework and how likely they are to succeed. And it seems like if you don’t have someone whose willing to invest a few hours to read the literature then you’re playing with a significant handicap.

Investors often wait months before investing in order to let a little more information surface, during which time the valuation can (and often does) increase by literally millions. Given that the cost of doing the extra research for each deal would be nominal in the grand scheme of things, and given the fact that this research can benefit not only the investors but also the portfolio companies themselves, does it really make sense to be so confident that there’s nothing of value here?

What makes the web special is that it’s not just a technology or a place, but a set of values. That’s what we were all originally so excited about. But as startups become more and more prosaic, these values are largely becoming lost. As Howard Rheingold once said, “The ‘killer app’ of tomorrow won’t be software or hardware devices, but the social practices they make possible.” You can’t step in the same river twice, but I think there’s something to be said for startups that make possible truly novel and valuable social practices, and for creating a larger ecosystem that enables them.

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This article was written by Alex Krupp. see more.

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Are You the Biggest Obstacle to Scaling Up Your Business?

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So you’re looking to scale up your business. This is a challenge for all companies and for many leaders it’s a befuddling experience. I’ve spoken to and helped those running companies with just two or three employees (in some cases it’s better to call them volunteers) as well as those who are trying to get their heads around the same issues but multiplied, where they’re dealing with several hundred people to thousands.

Within the massive web of questions, there are in my experience two major areas that tend to be the biggest headaches for leaders scaling up their business. The first is people, the second is systems. The two are often confused with each other and the first is fudged in favour of the second, because it can be seen as more tangible (but it isn’t because systems depend on people).

In my experience there’s one significant area that almost all leaders and entrepreneurs overlook in this, which is critical to the successful growth of the organisation.

It’s you, the founder or leader.

Now, I don’t mean this in a limited old-fashioned individualistic way. The business isn’t you, it isn’t dependent upon you, nor should it be. And this is the crux of it. For your baby to grow, to enable it to find its feet, you have to hand it over to others for its development.

These other people are going to come in to your company and their presence is going to change the quality of your business and how it functions. They’re not going to be as wedded to its idea and construct as you are. They’re probably not going to care very much about it as a living organism as you are. Many of them are simply going to view it as a job without the heartfelt investment in its future and success as perhaps you feel. Many of them won’t understand, or want to engage in your dreams and desire for your creation or your purpose in scaling up your company.

Getting the people right

The people you bring on board will think differently and they will behave differently to you and to be frank there are a lot of people that will not be able to think in the same way you do – neither do you want them to.

If you’re bringing in investment, or arranging a partnership, this difference may be even more stark because of their underlying interests.
All these people are, nonetheless, as important, if not more so to your business than you are.

So, you’re going to have to reach out into the world to find people who can relieve you of tasks you can’t possibly manage to do all on your own and you’re going to have to accept that they’ll be different from you.

When you seek these people, you may be tempted to do a bit of Googling to find some advice on who you should get in and how. Beware the propagation of tripe.

There’s a rising narrative about the ‘type’ you’ll want to get on board. Some call these people ‘A players’ who have the personality and drive to go places and benefit your business accordingly. How you go about finding these people, assessing their true capability and fit with your company, and actually whether you really need them is another matter.

The first step is really to do a bit of soul searching and self-assessment of you in relation to your business. This is number two on the list of overlooked. If you’re going to do this properly, get somebody to help you because you cannot do a full and honest self-assessment of yourself, and act upon it, on your own.

No quick solution

The next step is to understand that this is an ongoing process, not an event or series of events. As your business grows, it will, and should, change its nature on a daily basis. If you’re employing people, the human aspect is now going to be at the forefront of your mind forever – it is ceaseless but it’s just as much of an issue to global companies.

None of this should be seen as a negative. It can actually be very liberating for you, because hopefully it will give you a little more freedom.

A simple illustration:

Lets say you accept that whilst you might be a hot app developer with the creative skills to build a great, marketable solution that’s going make peoples’ lives so much better, you have a terrible telephone manner. So you determine that your priority for growth is someone to answer the phone to speak to your customers.
In this instance, it’s questionable that you’re going to need an “A-player.” In fact, that could be a mistake. At this point in time, you need someone who genuinely enjoys being on the phone and who is good at phone-based relationships. He could be a great receptionist who loves this kind of thing. And that is great for you and your company for now and it’s mutually beneficial.

The potential hiccup is you and how you engage with your existing customers about the changing nature of your relationships with them. They may feel disenfranchised because they’re no longer talking to the boss and thus their status has been downgraded in the client hierarchy. Their experience on the phone is better, but they want to speak to the boss because that gives them a certain satisfaction in the relationship. So this may need some tender care from your side.
You may also find yourself succumbing to this immediate pressure because your major concern is the monthly revenue and you’re afraid that you’ll lose clients. So you start taking the calls again and suddenly you’re worse off than in square one.

There are always ramifications to what are intended to be simple changes to the business and as your business grows, you’ll find they are almost always, fundamentally, down to relationships.

Understanding your strengths

A real world example is an entrepreneur client I have been working with who, when we started, was struggling to make ends meet. His monthly revenue target was a real stretch and stress for him. Our work has been on him understanding where his strengths lie in the business. These are in his personality which is enabling strong brand development. However, he is disorganised and when he gets into the back-office stuff he withers, so does the business drive and direction. We’ve also dealt with how and what he focusses on in order for him to personally add more value and secure longer term growth.

Since we started working together less than 10 months ago, he has managed to increase his average monthly revenue about 4 fold. Recently he wanted some time with me to get some clarity about some management approaches where he had brought someone new in who was good at management, organisation and systems. He was talking to me about how he needed to sit down with her to plan out and create the necessary organisation and systems they needed.

I asked him about her background and strengths and did she have the capability to pick up with it and run independently? If yes, why not just trust in her different abilities? Let her do her thing in her way (with communication and appropriate oversight of course). Then she can explain and share the systems with him and the others in the company so it’s not just all in her head.

The relief he felt following this conversation was palpable. He was released to carry on with what he is best at – developing the long term relationships for his business while getting out there to build the brand.

So whilst I’ve simplified this example conversation, it’s fundamentally down to a relationship and founder/leader giving others the freedom to change and develop the nature of his business. This adds value that he could never provide himself.

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This article was produced by Simon Darton. See more.

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