Organised by Kelvin Newman at Rough Agenda, the twice-yearly event examines the good, the bad and the ugly of content marketing in rapid-fire sessions delivered by professionals drawn from across the media industry.

The core theme underpinning the show was the human aspect of social media. Captured succinctly in the form of an infographic produced by Clicky Media, it was brought to life by Axonn’s Fergus Parker in the Content Marketing Yearbook 2014: Highlights and Low-lifes – an irreverent look at those that succeeded and those that didn’t quite pull it off.

Personas featured strongly, with Tanglewood’s Raph Goldberg delivering an interesting take on using archetypes in video marketing strategies, and a brilliant presentation by Andrew Tipp at Suffolk County Council as to why thinking like a poker player will make you a better content marketer.

Goldberg explained how the types of person and stories hardwired into our minds act as a kind of filing system that enable us to quickly identify new characters or stories without really thinking about it. The same mechanism, he argued, applies in video, where brands can employ archetypes to instantly identify and resonate with their target audience – an essential aspect given that people decide whether they’re going to watch a video within the first 10 seconds.

Similarly, Tipp took the audience through the typical personas usually found round a poker table – and how content marketers must avoid the tactics of the reckless cowboy and look to the example set by the analytical maverick by creating an original strategy for every single game and not relying on branded templates. Most of all, he concluded: don’t persist with content ideas that aren’t winning. In other words, know when to hold’em and when to fold’em.

The most powerful session was delivered by Ketchum’s Stephen Waddington, who began the show by asking whether brands can be social as media shifts from mass forms of communication to social forms of communication. He argued that this shift has created an awkward disconnect for brands looking to get involved in the conversation. Comparing the social web to a party, where brands are the guests, he drew some telling character analogies:

  • ‘Nice but dim’ – e.g. those brands trying to get involved with the World Cup but who have nothing to do with football (trying to be cool but just not)
  • The ‘nutters’ – brands that appear almost psychopathic in their attempts to insert themselves into the conversation but lacking any form of empathy
  • ‘Auto mate’ – brands wedded to content calendars and robotically pushing out content with limited engagement

He warned against attempts to ‘automate the conversation’ using industrial-scale tools, and urged brands to be brave and recognise that social media is intrinsically human.

Waddington also drew on a deeply personal experience of how he used social media to carefully manage communications with friends, family, and his Facebook network after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, his wife is well on the way to recovery, but it was an incredibly powerful way to illustrate how social media can break down barriers and bring people together.

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