Welcome to the 1st interview of the series of interviews we’ll be conducting on E2M blog. To learn more about the different approaches of various experts, we will interview Entrepreneurs, Small Business Owners, Large Organization Workers, SAAS Marketing Experts, and CMOs to name a few.
Our first guest for this series is Scott Cowley.
About Scott Cowley:
His research interests include social media, online search, word-of-mouth, and content marketing strategy.
Prior to starting the PhD program at Arizona State University, he was working as a Head of Search Engine Optimization at ZAGG, Inc. and as a SEO Manager at SEO.com.
Here we go…
Q) How was your experience working at Zagg and SEO.com? How did both the companies help you grow as a good marketer?
A: Both companies had things to love that helped me grow professionally. In effort to share something that others may be able to apply, I’ll say that SEO.com was highly experiential. I learned by doing a wide variety of tasks and seeing the effects. I was exposed to a lot of different approaches to accomplishing the same objective, and it was helpful to have peers and leaders who demonstrated that the wisest marketers are those who don’t take off the “marketing hat” when they go home, but continue to experiment on personal projects.
I moved from SEO.com to ZAGG because while I hadn’t reached the ceiling in my SEO knowledge, I felt a little siloed; like there was no way to break out from the label of pure SEO. Even though I continued as an in-house SEO lead at ZAGG, understanding how my efforts integrated into the macro direction of the company was important. I contributed to strategic decisions for e-commerce and I felt I was really able to respond to marketing opportunities much more agily as an in-house marketer than an agency contractor.
Q) What influenced you to become marketing strategy instructor and a Marketing PhD Candidate?
A: I was at a conference of academics this month when Leigh McAlister, a marketing scholar of the highest degree, told the audience that marketing has been overrun by economists and psychologists. Relatedly, there continues to be a gap between what companies need and the questions academics are trying to answer.
So part of my return to the halls of higher ed is rooted in a big need for people with experience who can ground that experience in theory and who can translate theory into workable skills and strategic decision-making approaches for students and businesses. It’s a pretty awesome gig.
Q) As you are actively researching around digital content strategy, can you share your thoughts around how to create actionable digital content strategy?
A: Always have a plan and an expected outcome. Becoming a good strategist is about getting calibrated to what your decision options are, what the outcomes are likely to be, and the variance between your expectations and outcomes.
I witnessed this firsthand when I had my students write content for BuzzFeed, create a promotion plan, and execute it in an effort to get 1,000 views each. Most of them fell short of the goal. But just getting the experience was a huge step forward for them in calibrating their actions and outcomes. And it was important for me as a strategist because I learned from their individual experiences and saw how I needed my own calibration as a trainer of future strategists.
Q) What will be your approach to maintain long term value of the content produced?
A: Content, like food, has a shelf life. And in order for our content to be relevant and actually used, we have to understand what that shelf life is in the mind of the target audience. This month, I listened to Mariano Moro, Digital Marketing Director of Coca Cola Latin America, talk about major shifts taking place in how the company approaches real-time marketing.
At the same time, I listened to Andrew Stephen, marketing professor at the University of Pittsburgh, talking about crafting a social media course curriculum that, at its core, will not need to be revised for at least 2-3 years. We have quite a bit of control over the shelf life of our own content.
Just as it’s unhealthy to subsist solely on a diet of food storage or rapid perishables exclusively, a focus only on “timeless” content or only “relevant now” content makes us myopic to the opportunities to cultivate a content portfolio that will result in a healthy diversified customer portfolio.
Q) Do you use any content strategy tools? If yes, which are they and how you use them?
A: If you think of your content like a digital product, then you can think of content strategy as product development – opportunity identification, design, testing, launch, and life cycle management. For some of these functions, I like to use:
- TweetDeck – I have customized monitoring that allows me to process news, be part of relevant conversations, even maintain relationships. Twitter is my window to the world (or at least the side of it that people want to publicize).
- Keywordtool.io – Google Keyword Planner + Google – When you cross-reference a keyword idea generator like Keywordtool.io with known search volumes from Keyword Planner and actual search results in Google, you can map out a pretty nice set of low-hanging opportunities to optimize without needing a lot of extra outreach or link infrastructure.
- Canva – I’ve been playing with Canva as a design solution for about six months and I’m hooked on how easy it is to make things look good and with the right sizing. I’ve used it for web design, social media, banner ads, and more.
- Buzzsumo – This is a stellar tool I’ve been training my students on. It provides a comprehensive view of content popularity at the topic or domain level. Beyond that, it provides insight into the individuals helping drive content popularity. It’s a great resource for promotion management.
Q) Hashtags are becoming popular on social networks, what are your views on it?
A: The data I’ve seen is pretty clear about the benefits of using hashtags when it makes sense. For example, I can use analytics.twitter.com to see that my reach per tweet may be 10X greater than average or more by including an established hashtag. If the content is relevant to the tag, and the tag has wide usage, then it makes sense to capture a wider audience that way.
Thanks for taking part in this interview, Scott.