TEDTalks for content marketers

If case you haven’t heard, TED is busy celebrating a massive milestone: over one billion TEDTalks have been viewed around the world.

That’s one billion “ideas worth spreading,” and to mark the occasion TED has teamed up with Mashable to host TopTED, a series that invites top visionaries, celebrities, and innovators to share their own lists of the must-watch videos that have impacted and inspired them.

So far the series includes curated favorites from the luminaries such as Tim O’Reilly, TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen, JESS3 co-founder and COO Leslie Bradshaw, and Peter Gabriel, too.

A big fan of TEDTalks, myself (who isn’t?), I couldn’t resist diving into these lists and revisiting a few of my own favorites, as well. Below are five TEDTalks for content marketers, offering insights on what it takes to connect with your customers, become a key influencer, and create content that becomes part of something big.

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit on making a splash with social media

The tale of Mr. Splashy Pants, a humpback whale propelled to fame and saved from harpooning thanks to the efforts of Greenpeace and Reddit users, is an incredible example of what’s possible when your audience is engaged.

What’s the recipe for engagement, you ask? In this very funny (and brief) talk, Ohanian explains it’s a winning mix of a) being genuine with your campaigns, and b) encouraging your audience to take ownership and run with them.

Key takeaway for content marketers:

“You no longer control the message. And that’s OK.”

Seth Godin on the tribes we lead

At its core, what Seth Godin’s classic talk (closing in on 1 million views, itself) captures is the major shift in marketing from traditional, mass push methods to a more influencer-based approach.

As Godin points out, while some believed the internet would make us more homogenized by enabling us all to be better connected, what’s actually happened is that individuals are now able to better connect with others who share their specific passions and interests — resulting in the formation of a myriad of distinct silos or tribes — than ever before.

The message for marketers is this: the key to connecting with today’s consumers isn’t about trotting out a product and its features, it’s about tapping into what specific groups of people are passionate about and helping them connect with one another. In Godin’s words, it’s not about mass production or mass selling, it’s finding the true believers.

As an example he points to TOMS Shoes, which for every pair of shoes purchased donates a pair to someone in need. With TOMS, you’re not just buying shoes, you’re buying the opportunity to share the story behind the shoes, Godin says. And you become part of that story. You join a movement.

Key takeaway for content marketers:

Before launching a campaign ask yourself three questions: Who are you upsetting? Who are you connecting? Who are you leading?

Morgan Spurlock on brand marketing & branded content

In typical Spurlockian fashion, this talk utilizes a mix of witty humor and playful snark, and the documentary filmmaker’s examination of branding is just thoughtful enough to win you over (even if it doesn’t compel you to watch the full feature film that it promotes).

While attempting to sell the branding rights to his latest documentary, Spurlock examines what it means to give products and companies a sense of identity, and what goes into establishing and shaping perception around a brand.

Key takeaways for content marketers:

1) When you actively avoid taking risks you’re steering yourself toward failure; 2) If you’re in marketing and you don’t have a quick, clear response to, “What are the words you use to describe your company? Your company is _____,” you probably have a branding problem.

Kevin Allocca, YouTube’s trends manager on why videos go viral

If it’s insight into what makes a video go viral you’re looking for, you simply can’t beat a guy who watches YouTube for a living.

For Kevin Allocca, the secret recipe for viral success can be boiled down to three things: 1) Tastemakers; 2) Communities of participation; and 3) Unexpectedness.

Like Godin, Allocca stresses the importance of the role leaders and influencers play in making their followers aware of content. Paul “Yosemite Bear” Vasquez may have uploaded his now infamous “Double Rainbow” video in January 2010, but wasn’t until a tweet from Jimmy Kimmel later that summer that the video caught fire and received over 23 million views.

Allocca also calls on everyone’s favorite 8-bit sugary breakfast snack/feline hybrid, Nyan Cat to make the point that it’s not the content, itself, that drives its popularity, but rather the participation it inspires in the form of parodies, remixes, and repurposing. In that sense a video can go from being a stupid joke to something we can all be a part of.

The final element in a winning viral mix is unexpectedness. After all, with 48 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, how else do you expect to stand out?

Key takeaway for content marketers:

Whether it’s the most bizarrely entertaining music video of all time or an unexpected (and surprisingly catchy) twist to a local news story, the content that breaks through is most often the content that takes us by surprise and compels us to respond.

Dan Cobley, marketing director at Google, on marketing lessons from physics

Who knew Newton’s second law, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and the second law of thermodynamics were really all about branding?

Okay, maybe they explain some other things, too, but as Cobley reveals in this video, physics actually can shed surprising light on some of the fundamental principles of marketing.

While it may remind some of us why we avoided the subject in college, Cobley’s talk also reminds us that the best insights often come from unexpected places. By drawing clever connections between two seemingly disparate subjects it encourages us to step outside our comfort zones and individual expertise to broaden our understanding and perspectives.

Key takeaway for content marketers:

The biggest marketing insights may hit you when you aren’t thinking about marketing.

Do you have a favorite TEDTalk? Please share it below!

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