Community-First Content Tips from 6 Storytelling Experts

Mariah Obiedzinski

Mariah Obiedzinski

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In May 2022, I attended the first Creator Economy Expo (CEX) in Phoenix, AZ. This new event was a hotbed of ideas for content creators in a variety of spaces to maximize the value of their communities.

The brainchild of serial entrepreneurs and content marketing experts Joe Pulizzi (The Tilt) and Brian Clark (Copyblogger), CEX focused on how successful content creators—from YouTube personalities to TikTokkers and Twitch streamers—embrace and empower the communities of people who love their content and build genuine connections through storytelling and unique applications for new content offerings, such as NFTs.

“Communities”—not followers, users, or audiences—was the top conference conversation. Listening to your community is key, and these takeaways from six content marketing experts reaffirm that giving the people what they want and need remains the core element in successful storytelling.

1. Create ad content that speaks your community’s aspiration—not what you’re selling.

Content expert Ann Handley understands that successful ad content focuses on what people want instead of what you want them to want. Your brand should stand on its own—the story and the feeling should be the attractor.

Handley put it bluntly and best: If your logo disappeared from your website, would people still be able to tell that it’s you? Universities, for example, should describe how their degree programs can give people a brighter future—a coveted job, the chance to travel, fulfilling a family dream—rather than saying, “We offer this BA or MS.”

How many alumni get promotions after attaining a master’s degree from your institution? What percentage of graduates found a relevant career within six months of graduating? Provide tangible results instead of brand platitudes to drive enthusiasm in your current and prospective community.

2. You don’t have to do everything your community says, but if you listen, they’ll tell you a lot.

Communities thrive when they know they’re being heard, said New York Times best-selling author Daniel Pink. Even if you don’t make every change an audience suggests, you might be surprised by the amount of goodwill you can earn by taking their concerns into consideration for today or in the future.

Not sure where to start? For many of our clients, direct feedback is the best way to find out what is and isn’t working. But it’s not just about offering surveys. There’s no shortage of channels to figure out what your audience views as important. Social media is a constant source of feedback, and chatbots can provide a tangible channel for questions you may not have considered.

From a data perspective, look at your website’s analytics to see what pages are viewed most and for how long. Work with a strategic partner who can help you understand gaps in your current content strategy so you can publish the information your community is seeking.

3. Build relationships before trying to sell. Make connections that last.

The best way to build a relationship isn’t to immediately reach out with a pitch. It’s to be curious and do the hard work of making connections, says Twitch streamer Leesh Capeesh.

Before launching her video game streaming business, Capeesh spent six months getting to know the community members who play her favorite games: what they enjoy watching, how and when they watch, and who they are offline by starting one-on-one conversations.

Think about the last LinkedIn connection or invitation you received. How long after the initial connection did that person try to sell you something? What was your first interaction like? Just connecting with a bunch of people in your space probably won’t yield the results you want.

But being curious about their challenges, asking detailed questions, and learning the ins and outs of a space can help you build relationships that lead to mutually fruitful conversations.

4. Remember: Not every change is progress to everyone.

Self-proclaimed lifelong social distancer and author Chris Guillebeau understands that friction comes with growth. Guillebeau’s session reminded us that just because you’re excited about a new strategy or campaign doesn’t mean your entire community will share your enthusiasm.

Sometimes internal stakeholders don’t understand the goal, and we as marketers must provide data to secure their buy in. External community members want to know what’s in it for them—their needs and desires should be driving our initiatives rather than us creating in a vacuum.

Using new marketing tools or switching gears for our own sake won’t go nearly as far or be as well received as helping key team members get on board through understanding the method to the madness. Bonus: While sharing your strategy and ideas, your community likely will give you ideas and insights for delivery that you might not have considered on your own.

5. Leverage existing content elsewhere. Think big. Think YouTube.

One of my favorite takeaways from CEX reconfirmed what Stamats content experts consistently recommend to our clients: Content is made to be repurposed, and if you’re not leveraging YouTube for added impact, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

This gem came from YouTube creator Roberto Blake, who did a keynote, led a session, and sat outside for hours in 90-degree heat to talk with attendees about omnichannel content growth.  

Google and YouTube are the top two search engines. Publishing relevant, entertaining visual content to YouTube on both feeds those engines simultaneously, especially when you craft SEO-rich descriptions and headlines.

And you don’t have to be a video expert to make YouTube work for your organization. Blake discussed how creators can share all different types of content on YouTube: slide decks, podcasts, blog stories, infographics, and just about anything else that can pair audio and video.

On the flipside, think about how you can repurpose the great video content you own. Video transcripts can be transformed into longform blog pieces for people who prefer reading to watching. Soundbites and clips can work as social media posts or on-page content on your site.

At the end of the day, your owned channels are a valuable resource. Remixing your content to work harder for you creates new opportunities to connect with your community.

6. NFTs can be a great way to offer community perks and access to community members.

NFTs—non-fungible tokens—are assets minted on the blockchain that can be purchased exclusively with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Etherium. Most people look at NFTs as pure collectibles or status symbols, but creators like Jerod Morris are increasingly using them as a perk for their most loyal community members.

NFT ownership isn’t easily replicated, which means it can be used as a keycard or ticket for subscriber-only events, like some of the VIP sessions and areas of CEX. Exclusivity is a tenet of marketing and can be a great way to excite current and prospective community members about your product, service, or organization. Unique perks can create a sense of urgency around becoming a more active community member.

Successful marketing revolves around community connection.

Having authentic conversations, engaging with your audience, and making them feel like they have something to contribute—and nurturing the growth of those contributions—can go a long way in building your community. Publishing responsive and community-driven content is a gateway to reaching new members and keeping long-time fans engaged.

Ready to build your community through content? Schedule time with Mariah Obiedzinski to learn how Stamats can help you leverage new and existing content assets to make lasting connections.

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