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Ghostwriting, Specificity and Social Proof in Content Marketing

Aubrey Beck

Checking in from the Digiday Content Marketing Summit in Park City, Utah! You can Twitter and Insta-stalk the event at #DigidayDCMS


"You can't ghostwrite expertise."

I love this line. It sounds like something the lead in a blockbuster drama might say in one of those Jerry Maguire-esque ‘drop the mic’ scenes… But that’s not where I found it.

I stumbled across it while skimming an ebook that Influence & Co produced regarding content marketing and it does a great job of succinctly speaking to two factors that are key for ensuring that people will (and will want to!) engage with your content. These two factors really distill down into one great piece of advice:

Don’t Be #Basic

It's pretty straightforward here. Being boring will get you nowhere in the content game. No one wants to read another Marketing 101 style blog post crammed with past-their-time marketing buzzwords. Not even one person.

Seriously. I mean even my grandfather knows about social media best practices and it would surprise me all the way up to level zero if I were to hear him casually drop the phrase “Content is King” in an everyday conversation.

So “don’t be boring” is a pretty easy piece of advice to offer, but how do you actually in real life increase the chances that your content won’t be #basic?

An easy place to start is by keeping these content marketing pro tips top of mind when strategizing content:

Specificity is Engaging
People want to hear/read/see real life stories involving other people. So avoid strategy that relies on generalizations peppered with industry cliches dressed up with clever wordplay. Pretend you’re at a party and re-telling a funny story in a group of people. You wouldn’t say, “I have these two friends who did this crazy thing and it was really wild.”

No. Of course not. That’s just begging for a sarcastic “Cool story, bro.”

You’d probably tell it more like this,  “My friends Sarah and Tom are so crazy! Last weekend they got engaged while bungee jumping! The video was awesome!”

And then you'd pull out your phone for a quick video show-and-tell.

It’s the same with content marketing. If you try and produce a piece of content from a broad idea in your mind, it has a high chance of sounding overly general. We all have access to Google and can find out anything we need to know with a simple search. So personalizing your content with specific stories is vital in helping your content gain attention of the people you're looking to connect with.

A good place to start is to actually talk with real people—your clients, customers, experts in the field—ask questions and listen. Then write a story that incorporates their personal stories. Use direct quotes and real life examples to tell a story in concrete terms.

Outbrain hosted a delicious dinner last night at Grappa here in Park City, where we had the pleasure of speaking with Nicole Smith, Dell's Global Digital Marketing Strategy Lead, to dig a bit deeper into a content marketing strategy she'd addressed during her presentation earlier that afternoon.

Smith had answered an audience question by advising that when strategizing content, Dell focuses more on use cases than verticals.

This makes perfect sense and ties in with the advice to be as specific as possible in your content efforts. Focus in on your personas and what makes them tick. Uncover their specific pain points and then relate with stories that speak directly to them in a more personal way.

Our Managing Partner, Mike Skeehan, wrote a great post on driving consistent inbound marketing success stories that exemplifies this advice.

Take the time to interview people related to what you’re writing about. Quotes and real life stories add depth to your content pieces and by including elements that add specificity to your content, you’ll have a unique angle on whatever it is you’re talking about.

Influencers Stack Social Proof
The second reason that ghostwriting line struck me was because it really digs into influencer marketing and the whole social proof phenomenon.

If you’re interviewing real live people for your content and incorporating highly personalized information and a unique tone into your pieces, you’re already halfway done with this part.

The other 50% comes from trying to line up interviews with the people who stand out as influencers in your space. This extends the reach of your content efforts when the influencer winds up promoting your content (that also serves to promote them!) and leads to a stacking of social proof for your organization.

The folks at Tap Influence, while discussing the power of influencer marketing in a recent ebook, say it with perfect clarity… (Quote below is condensed.)

“Influencers are the fuel of the new influence economy and can carry the same weight as peers or “people like me,” which is among the highest forms of influence cited among consumers in study after study. They reinforce social proof, also known as informational social influence: a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”

There you have it. It’s science, folks. And you cannot beat science. Not even you climate change deniers.

So, that’s that. Two tips for your content marketing pleasure. Nothing Earth-shattering, but hopefully the thoughts shared here will trigger an idea or two for your next piece. And if they haven’t and you’re sitting bored at work, stalk the #DigidayDCMS feed to see people doing content market-y things in Park City this week at the Digiday Content Marketing Summit (The shot below is from yesterday's stunning lunch spot at the Stein Eriksen Lodge.)


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