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Are you distracted by what’s trending?

In 2018 I stumbled across the content marketing arena with a thirsty curiosity to understand how to emotionally engage with others through video.

As I scrolled through the likes of Instagram and Facebook feeds I would occasionally halt my thumb at the bottom of my screen to investigate, but only for a moment, how a popular video was driving real discussion.

In most cases the videos I investigated weren’t of much interest to me which made me wonder if perhaps the machine learning got something wrong more than once.

What intrigued me in particular was how commonly, at least conceivably, great performing content was linked to some form of ‘motivation’ or ‘these 3 things will make you a global success’ - a Gary Vaynerchuk style content asset.

Having been through some trenches and growing up with a very realistic mother, I didn’t quite pander to this type of content which was being fed to me but I did study it.

However, I knew that my isolated studying alone would not give me a thorough understanding of and appreciation for the complex adaptive nature of effective content marketing so I decided that I needed to conduct a test.

At the time, my work was predominantly focussed on less marketable things like analysing the profitability of operating models and uncovering the root cause for data discrepancies caused by API issues.

So, arguably humorously, I thought that there must be no better candidate than myself to test video based content marketing.

With 5 siblings and a social media active mother I decided I needed to test on a channel where they wouldn’t see me because I felt that would’ve been awkward.

My LinkedIn profile had been half created some 5 years earlier albeit it was as good as an API issue.

When it came to my first video, I had absolutely no idea what discussion I wanted to contribute to. From memory, I shared a less than 90 second point of view on a key takeaway from a Farnam Street blog I had recently read - it might’ve been something relating to mental models.

Of course, I was second questioning the rationale of my test following the engagement, lack thereof, feedback I received from that first video.

But, particularly because my family weren’t watching, I decided to continue with my test.

I can not recall what my second video may have been about but I will certainly never forget my third video.

Within 48 hours it had amassed more than 124,000 views organically and a sea of comments. I was so frightened I recall standing on my balcony and saying to a friend “maybe I should delete it [question mark]”.

Looking at the heavy Sydney harbour water sway aggressively against the edge of the building around 11PM at night with no boats in sight I wondered how it was possible to feel like 124,000 people were staring at me when in fact my friend barely was, exhausted by my clueless confusion about how everyone who commented could expect me to have the time to reply to them at the rate the comment tally was growing.

Being the self-proclaimed logically analytical person I am, I started to contemplate how many days it would likely take me to respond to the existing and anticipated new comments relative to the limited time I had available in my, then, current schedule.

18 months later, on LinkedIn I had organically connected with more than 80,000 unique followers from across the world (c5,622%+ growth from day one), was being frequently invited to events as a keynote speaker, was providing LinkedIn coaching and consultancy to countless individuals and organisations plus had a LinkedIn unread message tally 10x that of my email inboxes combined at the time.

What I learned throughout those 18 months is enough to fill a book.

Although a couple of things remain front of mind today, three and a half years after starting, including:

  • People hear the popular but listen to peers

  • People want to consider discussion from real people who mean what they say, not told what to think

  • People will believe you if the way you make them feel is the same online and when they courageously pull you over to introduce themselves as they notice you on the sidewalk of a busy CBD street

  • People will rave about you if you believe that better is possible and they believe you

  • People will gift you emotional equity if you offer it to them unconditionally

  • People will have vulnerable conversations with you if they believe you actually care

I set out to understand the art and science of effective video based content marketing and learned that it has little to do with camera quality, editing software, publishing time, animations, scripts, hashtags or frequency.

It has more to do with humanness.

Whilst marketing trends will evolve and the tactics required to access and engage new audiences will change often, humanness will remain a constant fundamental to effective marketing.


Sally A Illingworth

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