Content marketing that drives engagement

As the marketing world gets more complex, there are a number of approaches that can be employed in order to increase engagement with prospects and customers. Some companies use Sureshot to help create more data-driven marketing campaigns, others are looking into how AI can help improve their customer service and a few are being left behind because they are still relying on traditional marketing methods. Let’s face it, the future is digital. If you talk to a professional SEO organization that understands SEO in Adelaide, for example, could provide insight into how to grab audiences in that area for your appropriate demographic. In particular, if you’re responsible for driving higher engagement with your brand through online channels, items such as content lists, photos, surveys, stories and personality are items that should be in every marketers toolbox. Even looking into a content marketing funnel guide will help advice you on how to track your audiences blogs, photos etc. too!

Content lists

Increasingly, easily-digestible articles with lists of content (now going by the unfortunate name of “listicles“) are a growing part of the content marketing landscape. Sites such as Buzzfeed have driven millions of engagements on the back of this strategy. The rise of mobile devices, in particular, has been a key contributing factor to this trend. Short, snack-sized bits of content can be easily consumed on smartphones and tablets.


If your community connects on services such as Instagram or Pinterest, photos are de rigeur. Additionally, photos are becoming increasingly critical for Facebook engagement as well. Facebook seems to give preferred exposure to images, especially on mobile (for example, check out tip #8 here from our friends at HubSpot, which notes that according to an internal Facebook study, “posts including a photo album or picture can generate 2X more engagement than other post types”). As such, if your community is on Facebook, relevant, eye-catching imagery is required.


One thing that we’ve found is that short surveys such as this one from Care2 and this one from BlogHer can be highly engaging for readers. In fact, in both of these cases, the engagement on the Swipp surveys was significantly higher than other types of engagement such as Facebook likes, Twitter shares or even comments. (In the BlogHer case, they received 80 engagements with the survey vs. a total of sixteen Facebook and Twitter engagements combined).


People tell each other stories, and brands can have stories too. At the recent Blogwell event in Santa Clara, CA, Coca-Cola’s Ashley Callahan shared Coca-Cola’s strategy for turning their corporate site into a story portal that shares the history of the brand. Stories bring humanity to the conversation (and they are more interesting than product feeds and speeds, anyway).


Most importantly, however, choosing to infuse personality into your brand and communications is the aspect that will drive the most engagement. A great example from Twitter is the @daily_kale handle. An example:

Daily Kale

Twenty-six words (the right twenty six words) yielded over 8,000 interactions with readers, either through helping to spread the word via retweets or favoriting that post.

What’s worked for you to increase engagement with your prospects, customers and community?

Transcript of my presentation at HubSpot #Inbound13 – You Must Be Present To Win



You Must Be Present To Win

Christopher Carfi (@ccarfi)

Presented at HubSpot #Inbound13

August, 2013

I am about to commit an act of blasphemy. I know we’re all marketers. I know we’re all connected. I know that most of us when we go to conferences are taking notes and snapping photos and tweeting the hell out of the conference hashtag.

I’m going to ask you not to do that.

Please close your laptops. Please pocket your phones.

Please be here in the room, just for ten minutes.

Introduce yourself to the person on your left. Introduce yourself to the person on your right. Let’s just be here for right now.

Being present and mindful reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and has host of other benefits as well, according to research from the Mayo Clinic. There are many ways to be present – from meditation and disciplines line qi gong, to simply being mindful of what’s in your immediate environment.

It’s possible to be present, really present, when we’re in conversation. When we’re driving. When we’re at dinner.

Even when we’re in a room like this.

There are things we can all do, exercises we can all try, to develop this “presence” muscle. Here’s one. It’s called the “ten meter challenge.” Perhaps some of you have done this, especially if you’re photographers. At any given time, no matter where you are, there are a host of really interesting things within ten meters of you. Always. The ten meter challenge is an exercise to take ten photographs within ten meters of where you are. It’s great because it causes a change in perspective. To find ten interesting photographs, you need to really look, you really need to be present in order to succeed. There’s no right answer to the challenge, other that focusing and dropping the filters and distractions that we normally have. There is interestingness everywhere, but you have to seek it out. Maybe it’s looking more closely than you typically would. Maybe it’s taking a different perspective. Maybe it’s capturing a shadow or a reflection or an insight you wouldn’t typically notice that is usually lost in the noise of one’s thoughts being elsewhere.

We can practice being present as marketers, too. We can always get better at being present, and we can always try harder to look at things from the customer’s perspective. It’s engagement, but not in the form of “here’s a cute cat picture” or in putting out yet another lame listicle. Presence is connecting with customers and coworkers in mindful sense; it’s asking them “what do you think?” and listening to what you hear. It’s asking your customers “what do you think about _our service_” or “what do you think about _this feature_” or “what do you think about  this topic ” and deeply absorbing the answers you receive.

Being present in this way puts us, as marketers, in listening mode, not talking mode. It puts the customer first. When we listen, we have the opportunity to engage in real real-time marketing, vs. pre-canned B.S.

The challenge – and the opportunity – we have is that we need to be present – and be present – in all channels. It’s email. It’s web. It’s mobile. It’s at point of purchase. It’s on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram and wherever else our customers are.

It’s hard. But it can be done.

One of our designers is a brilliant guy. He’s a stellar designer, a helluva soccer player and fluent in multiple languages. That said, he is always trying to listen and improve, even in the emails he sends around the office internally. Here’s what he did.

Yes, he includes a one-click, “How was my grammar in this email?” signature block in every one of his emails. I found this amazing and wonderful for a number of reasons. First, just the simple fact that he thought to do this; I love it. Second, that it shows a level of interest and presence and transparency that most brands, let alone most individuals, shy away from. It also causes the receiver of the email to think about something in a new way, to think about things from a perspective of “how can I continually improve what I’m doing, even at the level of every email I send?”

He even shows the results to everybody who is interested as well, which I think is kind of cool.

So, one last story.

I was divorced about a decade ago, when my son was just a little guy. (This is actually a picture from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2002 or so.) Now, since the late 80s and early 90s, I’ve been doing ski trips to the mountains. These trips started out as guy trips with a buddy of mine from university, which then turned into guys and girlfriends trips which turned into guys and wives trips which eventually turned into family trips with kids by the time the early 2000s rolled around.

The 2003 trip was the first plane trip that the little guy and I took alone together after his mom and I split up. We met all the other folks up in Montana and had a great week. Now, it’s important to note that at this point in time, there was very limited jet service into the airport in Kalispell, Montana, which is the nearest airport to Whitefish, Montana, which is where we were skiing that year. So, it was usually a jet into Helena or Missoula, and then a little puddle jumper into Kalispell.

We had a great week up in the mountains, which was a blast. At the end of the week, we were flying out, and caught our puddle jumper flight for the first leg, which was fine. However, there was an issue with our connecting flight in Missoula. It was not leaving for a long time. A very long time.

Yes, we’d had a good week, and I was also quite ready to get home. I was a little tired, a little strung out from a week of solo kid-wrangling and was looking forward to a smooth trip and a quick trip back home. Like most of us, I’ve traveled a lot, but at the time, I was not the most patient of sorts. We had a schedule. We were supposed to be going. This trip was supposed to take four hours at the most. That was my expectation.

The reality was different. There was a delay and, when all was said and done, were delayed for the better part of the day. The trip that I had expected to take four hours ended up taking about thirteen hours, end-to-end.

Now, I’ve been through a lot of airports over the years. I had the studied, thousand-yard-stare of the experienced business traveler down cold. When one gets delayed during air travel, you get frustrated because of the waste of your time, and you sigh and clench your jaw and you count the minutes, you count the seconds, until you’re moving again. And here I was, by myself, with a toddler, in the middle of an airport, in the middle of Montana, in the middle of winter, with hours upon hours of waiting in store.

Toddlers don’t think this way. Heck, toddlers don’t know what “time” is. At that age, everything is new. Everything is in the moment.

Everything is present.

Over the course of that day, I learned an immeasurable amount from my little guy. I learned that the big stuffed grizzly bear is really exciting (if a little scary). I learned that if you push the silver button, the water squirts out of the little hole in the water fountain. I learned that you can stack coins up, and then unstack them, and then stack them up again, and then unstack them again and then put them into the little slot in the big machine with bright colors and if you push the buttons with the letters and the numbers on them on the big machine with the bright colors, the part of the machine that’s behind the window that looks like a snake will turn around and around and the pretzels (pretzels!) will fall all the way down from the top of the machine to the bottom and then you can push on the door and get the pretzels out.

That day, my toddler taught me how to be present, because it was the only way he knew how to be.

So here comes the ask. My ask of you is this: for a few minutes today, and a few minutes tomorrow, and a few minutes the day after that – give yourself the permission to really be in the moment and listen and hear and feel and see what’s really there, and clear away the fog and the noise of the worries and distractions that normally conspire to drown out the now.

Because you must be present to win.

Chicago trips!


Going to be in the homeland twice in the next couple of weeks! This weekend I’m representing Swipp speaking at the World Future Society annual conference on Rateocracy: When Everyone and Everything is Rated with esteemed colleague Bob Moran (@robertpmoran). Will be in town Saturday night 20Jul if anyone is interested in getting together.

And then, will be back again next weekend for the 9th(!) annual BlogHer conference, which is taking over the Sheraton and McCormick Place with over 5,000(!!) attendees.

Let me know if you will be around!

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Wishful thinking

It’s funny. People who do dangerous things are often said to have a “death wish.” Skydiving, whitewater rafting, building dangerous contraptions, playing with fire…all often invoke the “death wish” turn of phrase. That’s completely wrong. Those things are signs of wanting to live life to the extent it can be lived. That’s not a “death wish.”

That’s a “life wish,” don’t you think?

Understanding what customers really care about

When I was invited to join Swipp earlier this year, I was blown away with the opportunity. I’m fortunate to be part of an experienced team that’s working on a tough, interesting problem – creating a new way to answer the age-old question of “who cares?” (Not only that, but it’s a blast getting a chance to help build an entire platform and ecosystem, not just another app.)

We launched our consumer offering back in January and have been receiving great feedback. Since then, we’ve been heads-down making sure that our business customers can tap into the platform as well. To that end, we announced Swipp Plus, with a host of tools that enable marketers (especially social media marketers) to better understand what customers care about across a variety of channels. We’ve put together a quick presentation on what’s in the new offering.




Street Use


When do we lose our creativity? At what age do we stop seeing possibility, and start only seeing what’s being shown and fed to us?

I was at a neighborhood park today and it was packed. The swings were swinging. The teeter-totter was teetering and tottering. The jungle gym was…jungling.

The water fountain had a line of kids filling up water balloons. They were filling them up, inventing games and having a great old time. The buzz was palpable.


I looked a little more closely, and realized the water balloons weren’t actually water balloons. They were plastic bags. They were these weird, green plastic bags, and all the kids had them. And then I realized what they were.

photo 1

Some kids were using them as water balloons. Some kids were using them as makeshift water-transfer devices, to carry water from the fountain over to where they were making dams and rivers. Some kids were chasing each other with them. One little girl was using hers as a Zen paintbrush, the small leak in the bag drizzling out a small stream of water, with which she was drawing ephemeral pictures on the sidewalk.

Note to self: Remember to look for opportunities that are possible, but not obvious. Remember that because something has an “intended” purpose, that doesn’t mean that it’s its only purpose. Remember to create new things out of old.

The Top Five Superbowl Ads (2013)

The top five SuperBowl commercials, according to the Swipp community:

(All commercials ranked by their Swipp Index -5 to +5, +5 being the best)

Tide Stain Saver (+4.6)

NFL: Leon Sandcastle (+4.0)


Budweiser Clydesdales (+3.9)


Gopro (+3.5)


Dodge Ram: Paul Harvey (+3.4)


Rounding out the top group were Mercedes, Oreo, Audi, Taco Bell and Kia.

Mercedes-Benz: The Devil (+3.2)


Oreo (+3.2)


Audi – Have Fun Tonight – Black Eye (+3.2)


Taco Bell – Live Mas (+3.2)


Kia Forte: Respect The Tech (+3.2)


You can see all the results here: More commentary on how social was integrated into the game here.


In looking through the results, one very interesting one was the Calvin Klein – Concept ad, which came in with a Swipp Index of +1.4, which put it in the middle of the pack. However, and perhaps not surprisingly, we see a pretty significant split down gender lines. The ladies liked it. The dudes, not so much.

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 6.44.40 AM

The Alex and Ani spot confused the heck out viewers, which was reflected in the commercial’s low Swipp Index (key comments included “Clothing line or jewelry? WTF?” as well as “Wha?” and the ever-telling “?”). Alex and Ani came in at a -2.7.


So, what did you think of the commercials? The SwipperBowl site is still live, if you want to see the rest of the results and share your thoughts.