Attending a conference can be extremely beneficial when it comes to growing your business. The opportunities to network and connect with influencers are endless, and the benefits of solidifying a business relationship in person far outweigh the types of connections you can make online. But the unfortunate truth is that many people do not take full advantage of what a conference has to offer and end up returning home with no new contacts, and hardly any new valuable knowledge.
If at the end of a conference you find yourself with hardly any new leads or new relationships, don’t fret. Here are a few ways that you can make the most of your next conference and boost your networking potential.
The number one mistake people make when going to a conference or a networking event is attending it with their whole team. For some companies, this doesn’t prove to be a big issue because everyone in the team is independent and uses a divide and conquer strategy. In many cases, however, it’s easy to get trapped in the comfort of your own friends and coworkers. Rather than going to networking parties, you go out with your own team. Instead of doing the morning group walks, you sleep in with your team.
By sending only one person to a conference, or by attending alone, you have no option but to converse with others and learn about their business strategies. The benefit of attending a marketing conference, is that the vast majority of people there are outgoing by nature and are looking to meet new people as well, so you shouldn’t hesitate to approach them.
Make a Game of It
Nervous about walking up to a stranger and putting yourself out there? It’s normal. In fact according to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 18% of the population actually suffers from social anxiety.
Made with chart maker Beam
The fact is, introducing yourself to someone new can be a very daunting task. I like making a game of the networking process. Give yourself a quota of business cards you need to collect every day. I usually give myself a goal of 20, but that can be a bit much. Start by challenging yourself to meet 10 people on the first day, 15 on the second and 20 on the third day of the conference. You can also invite others to participate in this challenge with you, inspiring them to have fun with the networking experience as well.
Many conferences, such as the Inbound Marketing Conference hosted by Hubspot, or the Social Media Marketing World conference hosted by Social Media Examiner have an online schedule that you can access from your mobile device. Usually, these apps also list all of the confirmed attendees, or they at least have a Slack group to promote conversation among attendees.
Use these groups as tools for scheduling meet-ups and meetings with multiple people. The meetings don’t always need to be professional in nature. Chances are many attendees come from around the world and will be looking for an opportunity to sneak in some sight-seeing.
There are usually a couple of networking parties scheduled for attendees as well. Make it a point to attend these (and don’t be afraid to have a couple of swigs of liquid courage to make it easier). Find opportunities to talk to people about their work, and learn if they would be interested in any future collaborations or co-marketing initiatives. Ask people about past successes and fuel their egos a bit during these meet-ups.
Don’t Always Talk Business
Naturally at a conference your go to strategy is to talk business, but keep in mind that a lot of the individuals you meet have been networking all day and learning about various companies and business strategies. Instead, differentiate yourself from the crowd and steer away from the work banter. Legitimately try to get to know some people and build a friendship with them. After all, who are you more likely to trust and work with, a friend or a stranger?
Some of the best professional partnerships I’ve formed at conferences came from getting to know people on a more personal note. Don’t hesitate to ask individuals about their interests outside of the workplace. You might find out you share some common hobbies.
Although many conferences offer a wide selection of great breakout sessions, the fact remains that a lot of that information and guidance offered can be found in blog posts, podcasts and videos online. The best thing you can gain from an event is the networking possibilities. Take advantage of the opportunity to market yourself. No relationship is as valuable as one that has been solidified in person. When someone has met you and remembers your face, there is a much better chance that they will choose to open your email over the hundreds of faceless contacts in their inbox.
Are you struggling to market that project and get people excited about it?
Well, lately a lot of my friends in other professions have been asking me for tips on marketing their own businesses and personal ventures. They’ve seen that I’ve managed to get a decent amount of press on my side-project called Chez Lisgar, a trade-based dinner party I host in my own apartment, and I’ve even helped increase blog traffic for Venngage (my day job) by over 400% in less than a year.
Many of them congratulate me on the spontaneous attention and success I’ve seen. They think that I was “discovered” simply because of the idea of Chez Lisgar. But the truth is that I didn’t just get press for my underground supper club. I had to do a lot of initial outreach and pitch the idea to various websites and newspapers. I had to sell them a story.
Unfortunately, most people who do not have any experience working in tech or in the online space will have some difficulty figuring out how to market themselves. It’s not necessarily an intuitive process but it’s also not a very complicated procedure once you get the hang of it. I’ve decided to put together this basic resource to help non-marketers, market their own brands.
To give you an idea of the type of projects I’ve been approached to help out with, here is a list:
- Musicians looking to launch their first EP
- Theatre majors and actors looking to promote a web-series
- Food and beverage startups looking to get press
- A modeling agency trying to boost their web traffic
- A designer trying to master social media conversions
Now I’m going to walk you through step-by-step exactly how to get your personal project off the ground and into a business that people know and love.
Step 1: Make a Website to Market Yourself
You’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now because this seems like the most obvious thing anyone could say. But the sad truth is, many of you guys reading this right now probably don’t have a site at all, let alone a decent one. If you are one of the few who does have their own site, give yourself a pat on the back.
For anyone trying to make a name for themselves, it’s absolutely crucial that you have a website. In 2016, the vast majority of individuals look to Google when trying to find a resource. In fact, 67% of individuals use Google for all their search queries.
That’s a huge percentage of the market!
Looking for some new music to listen to? You Google it. Looking for a new place to eat? You Google it. Wanna find a new TV show to watch that has good ratings? You Google it.
By creating a website you open up thousands of doors for yourself. If you’re worried that you know nothing about hosting and setting up a site, don’t worry. There are hundreds of choices that are also very affordable. I recommend finding a hosting platform that supports WordPress since it will make your life 100 times easier and you won’t need to worry about learning and mastering too much code.
Here are a few that I suggest looking into:
This is a good choice, especially for beginners. It costs less than $4.00 a month and you get a free domain name included in the fee. This will host your site for you for up to 10,000 visitors a month. If you’re new and not established, I can guarantee you will not need more than that. If you do need more bandwidth as a new company, give me a call. I want to learn what you’re doing that I’m not.
BlueHost is another great hosting site starting at $3.50 a month. It basically includes all the same features as SiteGround and has 1-click WordPress installation.
I use GreenGeeks and haven’t had an issue. The setup process can be a little complicated, but they have great support to help you if you need it. It may take some messing around with to figure out exactly how it works, but they also support 1-click WordPress installation.
When you finish setting up your website and installing WordPress, it’s easy to pick out a free theme for your site.
The next step is optimizing your site for SEO and installing a few Google Webmaster tools. This will basically tell Google that your site exists so they can keep crawling it for new content. You’ll also want to set up Google Analytics so you can track how many visits you get, and where traffic is coming from. This might not seem as glamorous as you hoped, but gosh darnit it’s important!
First things first, get Google to know that your site exists. How do you do that? It’s very easy. Just follow this link and submit your site’s URL. It looks like this.
You’re done. Easy, right?
Next, you need to create a Google Analytics account.
Once you’ve made an account, go to your Admin Panel. It looks like this:
Under the drop-down that says “Account”, create a new account and add all of your website information.
Then when that account is created, select it and then create a new “Property”.
What this will do is provide you with a very important tracking number. You will need that tracking number to add to your site.
When you get that tracking number, download the WP Google Analytics Plugin onto your site. Go to the “Settings” section of your dashboard and simply add the tracking code. This will install analytics to your site. That way when you log into your Google Analytics dashboard in the future, you can see how many people are visiting your site, and where they are finding it. This could be through a referral from another website, or from organic traffic. But we will get to that in more detail later on.
Now that your site is all set up, it’s time to start creating killer content!
Step 2: Create Killer Content for Your Site
What exactly defines killer content? Well, it’s content that follows the rules of P.E.A.C., which stands for Practical, Entertaining, Awe-inspiring and Credible.
Whether you choose to blog, start a podcast, or produce a web-series, if you want it to stand out from the rest of the content out there, it has to be P.E.A.C. content.
Here’s what you can do.
Start by creating a list of possible content ideas. These should be topics that you personally would benefit from learning about. What are you struggling with or what is your audience struggling with? Find the answers to those questions.
Why did I choose to write this guide? Because I knew that my friends, some of which make up my audience, are struggling with the basics of marketing. By acknowledging and answering these questions, you are providing practical value to your readers, listeners and/or viewers.
The next step is ensuring that your content has an entertaining tone to it. There are about 3 million blog posts written a day! That’s a hell of a lot of content. If you are just following the same boring recipe that everyone else is using, you’re quickly going to get drowned out.
You need to engage your audience. One way to do that is write at a 6th grade level. A study that was conducted which analyzed What Makes an Article Popular on Medium found that easy to read sentences resulted in 43% more recommendations. So forget everything you learned about writing essays in school. Most people don’t actually enjoy reading highly academic papers. The truth is, most people like reading magazines, or Buzzfeed. Why? Because it’s easier and more natural to read!
And you know what else?
When an article is easy to read, it usually flows better. You don’t need to stop and go over the same sentence twice. And when something typically flows better, it holds onto your attention longer!
It’s usually more entertaining to read. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to inject your personality in the content you produce.
Jonah Berger is an author who wrote a book called Contagious. In this book he analyzes what makes something go viral. One of the elements of virality according to his findings, was to make the content awe-inspiring. Essentially, does the article or video make you want to say “Wow”? Is there an “Aha” moment?
I’m going to use Harry Potter as an example because it is one of the most viral forms of content this world has ever seen. One of the reasons for this is because the world that J.K. Rowling created was so awe-inspiring, but also very relatable. She took a normal boy- someone each and every one of us could identify with on some level, and placed him in an unlikely situation. This is one of the fundamental aspects of storytelling that so many great authors implement. How does your content, or your story evoke this same sense of awe? Are you addressing a problem that many people identify with, and are you offering an unlikely or unique solution to that problem?
Lastly, is your content credible? Is what you are saying valid, or backed up by reliable data in any way? Or are you making it all up? Part of the reason that bloggers link to content in their articles, is to reinforce those points as credible. Unless you are, as an individual, a credible source for the information you impart on the world, you need to reinforce what you are saying with concrete data.
If you can manage to create something that follows the rules of P.E.A.C., you are one step closer to getting your stories heard.
A great guide I recommend for scheduling your content and boosting your site’s traffic is this one by Nat Eliason, a former SumoMe Content Marketer.
Step 3: Optimize Your Site’s Content for SEO
Once you’ve decided on what content to produce, and you have it scheduled, it’s time to create it. While you are producing your content, it’s extremely important to ensure that you optimize it for SEO.
What does this mean?
The whole point of creating content is to get people to see it, right?
Well if you’re not optimizing your content for search, it’s going to be very hard for it to rank on Google. And if it doesn’t rank on Google, you’re going to have a hard time getting it seen organically.
I can talk about SEO all day, but instead of going into too much detail right now, I’m just going to cover the basics.
1. Deciding on keywords
The first thing you need to do is decide on a keyword you want to rank for. I’ll use an example from an article I’ve written.
My article is about “Increasing blog traffic”. I wanted to target the keyword increase blog traffic. All this means is that when people are Googling the term, “increase blog traffic”, the goal is for mine to appear.
You can use Google Keyword Planner to figure out which keywords have a high search volume and which one’s are a relatively low competition.
2. Headers and URL
Once you’ve figured out which keyword you want to rank for, you need to make sure that you include that term in the title of your blog post (preferably early on in the title). With my article it looks something like this:
You also want to make sure that the keyword appears in your subheaders:
What this does is help Google figure out what your article is really about. If it sees the keyword filtered throughout your blog post relatively often, it will know what your article is about, and make it easier for you to rank higher on that term.
You should also make sure your keyword appears in the URL of your article:
This will probably not boost you right to the top of Google for that term, but it will give you an initial boost, and make ranking a little bit easier.
3. Use a plugin
The easiest way to make sure your content is fully optimized for search is by using a plugin. I recommend downloading the Yoast SEO plugin. It will automatically scan your article and provide you with a list of tips for better optimization. On top of that, the UX is very easy to follow. If the red light comes on, your content needs more work, if it’s green, you’ve done a pretty decent job getting your article ready for SEO.
Step 4: Pitch Your Content to People
Once your killer content is produced and published, you can just wait for the traffic to roll in, right?
If you don’t tell anyone about the content you just created, it’s going to be very hard for anyone to see it. This holds true especially if you are a new site with very little street cred.
You have to pitch your stuff to people who care.
So how do you find these people? And how to you frame your pitch so they care?
I’m going to tell you exactly how I managed to get Chez Lisgar featured on sites like CBC News, Global News, The Huffington Post, Blog TO, Toronto Star and a ton of other sites!
1. Find the right writer
You can’t just reach out to info at huffingtonpost dot com and hope for the best. No, you need to find the right writer. That means doing your research.
For Chez Lisgar, I wasn’t just pitching any old restaurant. My restaurant had a few unique characteristics that others don’t:
- It started out on Bunz Trading Zone
- I traded people for dinner instead of charging money
- I only hosted dinner once a week
- My dinners took place in my apartment
- I only invited two guests at a time
The next step was finding authors who have written about similar concepts, or who might be interested in writing about similar concepts. First I made a list of potential sources I hoped to be featured on.
Next, I simply Googled “Bunz Trading Zone”. I figured if people had written about Bunz already, maybe they would be interested in writing about something that started on Bunz. I copied these links and put them into a spreadsheet. I then looked at who wrote these specific articles and reached out them specifically.
For some other sources that hadn’t covered Bunz before, I tried to find writers who had written about the “sharing economy” or food related startups.
Once I had compiled a list of writers who could be interested in my concept, I started emailing them.
2. Sell your story
The news covers stories that sell. Meaning, your pitch needs to be compelling. You have to position your business or product at an interesting angle.
The subject line of my email pitches was: A Restaurant That is Only Open Once a Week And Doesn’t Accept Cash.
Naturally the initial reaction to this subject line was, HUH?! Remember what I talked about above in terms of creating content that is awe-inspiring. Your pitch needs to make people go wow.
You also need to show the person you are pitching to that there is a lot of interest surrounding your business model. For me, it was the fact that we had been booked solid for the next 4 months, and the fact that all of our open slots were filled in less than 2 hours. What this does validate your idea, and presents it as a necessity. If so many people want in on what you are offering, clearly it’s newsworthy.
Ask yourself how you can present your idea in a way that begs attention.
3. Keep it short
Lastly, when pitching a writer, keep in mind they get pitched left, right and centre. They don’t want to read a novel. All they care about is your idea. Try to keep your pitch to a few sentences.
Just make sure you:
- Say hi.
- Comment the writer.
- Compliment a previous article they have written.
- Present your project.
- Show them why it’s a great story.
If you don’t hear back from the writer in 3-5 days time, I recommend sending a follow-up email to ensure that you are still on their radar. Like I said, they are busy and get tons of emails so it’s important to remind them that you are serious about being heard.
Marketing Yourself Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Remember that just because you don’t have any formal education in digital marketing, business or computer science, doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for it! If you’re just in the beginning stages of getting your project up on its feet, chances are you can’t really afford to hire external help. You’ve got to hustle and figure out how to market yourself. This guide is in no way a masterclass, but it does provide you with the basics. If you are interested in a one on one consultation or sitting in on a webinar just enter your email here and I will be in touch!
If you haven’t attempted taking advantage of SlideShare’s 70 million monthly visitors, then it’s about time you stopped wasting time and get on it!
SlideShare is a segment of LinkedIn, and if you know anything about LinkedIn, you know that the most active members are business people. For an online marketer, this group is of extremely high value, because they are the most likely to engage with your “boring” marketing related content.
Let me give you an example of the vast potential you are missing out on by not publishing content to SlideShare.
Eugene Cheng is what I would like to call a SlideShare pro. Over the past 3 years he has gotten over 2 million views across 16 of his SlideShare presentations. Just from SlideShare he gets 400 new email leads a month. Again, that’s just from one social platform.
Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I actually have no idea how to prosper on SlideShare. Apparently it doesn’t just come down to publishing a deck and waiting for the traffic to roll in. If you really want to make use of SlideShare’s organic traffic, you’ll have the best luck by getting your SlideShare featured on the homepage.
Another thing to keep in mind, is you get a lot of views from other people embedding your presentations on their own blogs, but how does that happen? Well you need people to see your SlideShare. How do they see your SlideShare? By visiting the homepage…
See what I’m getting at?
Rather than testing out the process for myself, and doing real work, I thought I would just ask people who have succeeded in the past.
Here are the exclusive tips I gathered from 13 SlideShare experts:
Infographic made with the Infographic maker Venngage.
Recently, I’ve been thinking–the time I spend online is perhaps only 50% productive. The remaining hours I’m either on Facebook, watching videos of cute animals on YouTube or doing a Buzzfeed quiz to try and figure out what food best matches my personality. It’s sushi, by the way.
As a result, I’ve come to realize just how monotonous my life has become. When I was younger I used to read all the time, or go outside! Now my weekends roll around and I have to force myself not spend half an hour reading about how an Instagrammer Matches Makeup To Snacks (which is actually pretty cool, I encourage you to read it).
My conclusion is that the many clickbait articles that exist now function as a drug. You can’t just stop reading them, or you might die. Rather than attempt to avoid the power of clickbait articles, however, I decided it might be best to understand them. That way, the next time I find myself trying to figure out what kind of grilled cheese I am, at least I can figure out exactly what elements about the quiz or article I find compelling, and use it against other people!
Analysing the clickbait title
So how exactly does one understand a clickbait title? What do you use to measure its clickbaitiness**? Well there are some tools that exist which aim to tell you just how clickbait a title is, but I found that they can be somewhat inaccurate and a bit too simple.
I started my research by using CoSchedule’s headline analyzer to assess the top performing articles from the past three months that were featured on 24 high-traffic sites known for producing particularly clickbait titles, such as Buzzfeed, Upworthy and Cracked.
Here is a list of those titles:
Some of these sites had as high as a million shares for a specific article in under 3 months! Surely the title should score 100% on the title analyzer, right?
Well, no. In fact it only scored a 23…
Clearly this title analyzer did not accurately reflect what kinds of titles result in social shares. The means of measuring how shareable a title can be is just too subjective, and has a lot to do with current affairs or what is being covered in the news.
In fact, the correlation between number of shares per article and the CoSchedule ranking was very random:
I used Buzzsumo to collect the data for analyzing the various titles and to see the number of shares the most popular article from each site received. My goal in doing so was to discover exactly what it would take to boost blog traffic with a single headline.
To analyze the titles of these articles, these are the questions I asked myself:
1) Was the title a list?
As might be assumed, a list-based article is something along the lines of 18 Photos That Won’t Make Sense To Sisterless Families, which is a common style for Buzzfeed articles and considered one of the most popular types of content on the internet.
2) Was there a mention of “You” or “I” or a personal story aspect to the title?
In his book Contagious, Jonah Berger expresses the importance of using stories to engage people with your content. Why do you think case studies are so popular? Because if something can affect another person, it means there’s a chance it can affect you too! Titles that mention or hint at a personal story get clicks.
3) Was there an animal mention?
I don’t know about you, but anytime I see or hear mention of a story about a dog or a cute panda sneezing or a hippo farting, I get excited and immediately need to read or see more. Chances are if the title mentions an animal, there will likely be a picture in the post. Cute animals get people excited. Look:
4) Did the topic receive recent media attention, or was it a news piece?
As you probably could have guessed, trending topics in the media gain a lot of attention, so if your title mentions a recent event, you will likely see it receiving a lot of attention. This exact thing happened with a few of our blog posts at Venngage. When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was coming out, we did an infographic about the movie. When there was a lot of media coverage about the Syrian refugee crisis, we created some data visualizations to comment on the subject. Both were very popular!
5) Was there a pop-culture or food culture reference?
Have you ever watched any of Buzzfeed’s Tasty videos? They’re addictive, right? Sometimes I watch my roommate spend hours on Tumblr just looking at pictures of food. This was her Facebook cover photo for over a month.
Food is simply irresistible and so is pop-culture. As of late I can’t seem to get enough of 90s throwback references! The fact that Netflix decided to remake the show Full House as Fuller House should come as no surprise. Anything older than 10 or 15 years suddenly becomes iconic and novel, and thus evokes from people a strong desire to click.
6) Was there an unknown or new concept mentioned in the title?
Introducing a new idea or suggesting an element of mystery makes it very difficult to resist clicking on a title. Here’s an example: between the following two titles, which are you more likely to click?
You probably chose the second. Why? Because who wouldn’t want to know why the duck crossed the pond? The answer is unrevealed and as a result, you can’t help but wonder what it is.
7) Was there an element of shock or excitement?
Shocking and exciting your reader is another powerful method to convince them to click. Let’s go back to the example with the duck crossing the pond. The first title example might actually work in this case if we rephrased the end result. So instead of the title being This duck just swam across this pond to get to the other side, it might be more shocking if the title was This duck just swam across this pond to save a man from a burning building!
It’s shocking because it’s highly unlikely that a duck would be able to save a human from a burning building. If your title contains an element of shock to this extent, you will peak the reader’s curiosity.
Also here’s a video of another cute dog:
The results of my labor…
So after many grueling hours of calculating the data (it only took this long because I suck at math), here is what I learned:
Made with chart maker Beam
Of the top performing clickbait articles:
- 17% were listicles.
- 29% of the most shared titles mentioned “you”, “I” or hinted at a personal story.
- Only 8% mentioned an animal.
- 63% made a pop-culture reference or mentioned food.
- 63% also mentioned recent events in the news and media.
- 67% contained an unknown or new concept.
- An overwhelming 79% of the articles contained an element of shock.
Made with chart maker Beam
Of the articles analyzed, this is how many contained more than one of the clickbait factors listed above:
4% of the titles assessed contained only one of the 7 factors.
8% of the titles contained two clickbait factors.
46% of titles contained 3 of the factors.
42% contained 4 of the clickbait factors mentioned in this article.
None of the articles assessed contained 5 or more of the factors. Of all the titles, the majority with more than 200,000 shares contained exactly 3 of the 7 factors. Shock value was the highest performing factor.
So now what?
Do you ever find that after you study a subject in school for very long time you can’t help but analyze everything about it for the rest of your life? I’ll give you an example–I did my undergraduate degree in theatre and now every time I go to see a show I can’t help but speculate on the production choices, the blocking choices, the design choices and the transitions.
The reason this happens is because once someone brings a fact to your attention, it’s almost impossible to unsee or unhear it. Like if someone points out to you that your girlfriend has a lazy eye, you may have never noticed it before, but once it’s pointed out to you, that’s all you see. What I’m getting at is by reading this recipe about the factors that make for a perfect clickbait title, you will become better at spotting them on a more frequent basis. As a result, when it comes down to forming attractive headlines for your own content, you will face zero struggles.
As a conclusion, I leave you with a challenge. Everytime you come across a new article, whether it’s one on your own blog or one that someone shares with you, analyze it and track whether it contains any of the factors listed above. As you continue to produce new content, aim to reach that target of hitting three of the seven factors. Hopefully you’ll notice a massive jump in social shares and become a millionaire overnight (well, the first part, at least)!
If not, keep hustling.
**Clickbaitiness: Defines to what degree an article is considered clickbait on a scale of 1 to 10. This does not include articles which are not deemed clickbait at all. Lastly, this is a word I made up, but feel free to reference it.
Article originally published by me on Venngage’s blog.