James tells stories for a living. Sometimes they are true. Always they are crafted to help brands delight, educate and funny-bone-tickle their audiences into coming back for more. He’s super passionate (read: obsessive) about ecommerce content marketing. James is dedicated to teaching ecommerce brands how to create their own repeat-customer-generating media empire. Keep an eye out for his online ramblings - you can expect a generous helping of lightbulb moments and cheeky guffaws.
LinkedIn is commonly known as the professional social network, and it’s obvious that its users are serious. Sixty-four percent of social referrals to corporate websites come from LinkedIn, compared to 17% from Facebook and 14% from Twitter. A glance at the demographics demonstrates that LinkedIn has the greatest percentage of college-educated, higher-income users of all the major social channels.
Since its launch in 2014, Peloton has grown at a staggering rate and revolutionized indoor cycling by bringing it directly into people's homes. In four short years, the company has raised $450 million from investors and now employs more than 700 individuals across the United States, thanks in no small part to what The New York Times calls "a fanatical fan base."

But Barclaycard isn't stopping there. This past year, it launched The Fast Track, an impressive, interactive online course for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Each of the five learning modules spotlights a local business, plus video, audio, written content, and downloadable guides. Module 3, for instance, is on "Building profile and customer loyalty," featuring the owners of Blok London, a boutique class-based gym, and how it's competing in a saturated fitness industry.

“I’ve always liked to share with others what I have learned. That’s why I wrote my first book, to correct what I saw as an incomplete understanding of what was possible with concrete as a design element. Everything I’ve done has been a product of not trying to start a business, but just trying to improve the design environment. The whole motivation was not to make money. Just the opposite.” 

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

My husband was in this camp until he told me about a newsletter that covers trends affecting financial markets. He looks forward to receiving it each day. He explained that the newsletters didn’t have anything to do with the funds the broker was selling, but the information was solid and valuable – and it was useful research for the investments he makes.
It’s for this reason that we don’t recommend you spend too much time analyzing the many data points you may be able to surface on your competitors. We encourage you to experiment with various tools for competitive data analysis. Just don’t make it a focal point of your content strategy. Your energy is best spent on your unique connection to your best customers.
EXAMPLE: Sony’s Alpha Universe is a content platform dedicated to photography professionals. While its purpose is to drive product sales for Sony’s Alpha line of cameras, the content focuses not on Sony products but on providing information the audience will find educational and helpful. After starting as a blog, the brand diversified its content into a podcast and a training program.
In the latter category we also find platforms that are closely connected with, for instance, marketing automation platforms. The industry of content marketing software is growing fast but also evolving fast, with some players being acquired by large marketing software vendors. At the same time, we see several marketing software vendors but also content management firms and others including content marketing features.
This past year, First Round launched First Search, which curates the best advice from technology thought leaders. "It's a database of extremely high-quality, curated advice about all aspects of building companies, pulled from across the web and organized to help you find exactly what you need when you need it," explains Maddie Hall, First Search's Product Manager, in Medium. The plan is that First Search will evolve into personalized discovery experience for every user – which will further help First Round achieve its content marketing goals.
7. New York Times: Journalism virtual reality. If you’ve followed journalism at all over the past five or ten years, you know the news industry is constantly looking to revolutionize itself to stay relevant and, of course, profitable. (Watch the movie Page One if this interests you.) NYT experimented with virtual reality (VR) in 2015, launching an app you can use on Google cardboard (ideally) or your smartphone. The app fully immerses you in news stories like never before. I recommend you check it out and ponder the implications for all-immersive content marketing in 2016.
While the goal on social media sites like Instagram or Snapchat is to connect more intimately with your audience, your goal on platforms like Facebook and Twitter is to expand that audience, drive traffic toward your website, and start conversations in your industry. Do some basic market research to discover which platforms your buyers are on, and mold your content to their expectations.
Makes sense, since the company produces 12 hours of live video per day, streaming real-life classes to homes across the country, on-demand. It’s how it keeps people coming back for more, by consistently providing something new to look forward to and actively engage in. With close-up videos of instructors – many of whom have risen to fame and actively promote the brand on social media -addressing at-home riders by name while calling out personalized encouragement, the content is nothing if not engaging.
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