Ashley Zeckman

The Future of Content Marketing: Integration, Optimization and Participation


In 2015 the world celebrated the 126th birthday of Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower. This important piece of history is comprised of over 18,000 individual pieces and was built by nearly 300 people participating in the project.

Developing content for content marketing programs can be approached with a similarly participative framework and in a way that satisfies some marketers’ top needs. According to Altimeter Group, 60% of surveyed marketers said that content creation was a top need while 53% named distribution. That means it’s time for organizations to begin looking outside of their marketing teams for content co-creation partners and to improve content promotion at the same time.

But how does an optimized, socialized and co-created content program work?

CMW Lee OddenHere’s the good news! In September, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden will be presenting at Content Marketing World on the the benefits of using a participative and integrated approach to content creation and promotion.  As a preview, I interviewed Lee to get his insight into the future of content marketing as well as some sage advice for marketers that want to explore the benefits of participation marketing with content.

[Be sure to stay tuned at the end of this post for an opportunity to win a free pass to Content Marketing World]

#1 – What are some important changes on the horizon for content marketing, and what can marketers begin doing today to prepare?

To prepare an effective content experience, marketers will need to emphasize their ability to understand customers.

Mobile – Google says if you only have one site and that site is mobile, you should do fine in both mobile and desktop search results. 61% of US consumers search and 56% use social networks on Smartphones daily (Google – Our Mobile Planet).

To prepare, it’s essential that content marketers plan, create, promote and optimize performance specifically for the mobile experience, because that is where customers are discovering, consuming and acting on content.

Focus on Content Experiences – From personalization to omnichannel coordination of content and visual assets on and offline, marketers will need to focus on content as an experience vs. simply providing information.

To prepare an effective content experience, marketers will need to emphasize their ability to understand customers. Brands need to forego lip service to customer segmentation and use of personas as tools to represent true customer interests. It’s more important now than ever to evolve understanding of what really makes customers tick – their goals, their aspirations, their pain and what role content can contribute to the best possible solution experience.

Importance of Influencers – Working with industry influencers will increase significantly as companies learn how to attract, engage and activate relationships with authoritative “brandividuals” and niche influencers alike.

Everyone is influential about something and people are now empowered with technology to discover, consume, interact and publish anytime, anywhere. Anyone with an internet connection and an active passion for a topic can become influential.

To prepare, brands need to understand that influencer marketing will be as much about working with established influencers as it is about helping up and coming talent become influential will hold a competitive advantage. The time to start growing an influencer network is long before you actually need them, so it’s important for brands to start nurturing relationships immediately – but guided with a solid long term strategy.

Participation Marketing – Democratization of content creation across organizations and communities will increase as more companies implement targeted crowdsourcing of content and user generated content (UGC) programs.

Preparation for participation marketing means breaking free of siloed content development within marketing and creating the framework for an ecosystem of content creation amongst internal and external sources. Guided by a solid strategy, content co-creation with internal and external audiences supports numerous marketing and PR goals as well as reinforcing and growing relationships with current and emerging influencers.

#2 – Do you have some examples of some of your favorite and impactful participation marketing programs?

Parents are always proudest of their own children and I am very proud of the work we’ve produced at TopRank Marketing when it comes to co-creating content for marketing.

Content Marketing Wonderland eBooks


In fact, the “Content Marketing in Wonderland” campaign we co-created with industry influencers to promote Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing World conference last year won a DGR Killer Content Award and is a finalist in MarketingProfs Bright Bulb Awards.

View the full case study here.

#3 – How do you think that your experience in SEO has helped you become a more effective content marketer?

When innovation and adaptability are the norm for a marketer, it creates a great foundation for being competitive in today’s fast-changing digital marketing environment.

Great SEOs are out-of-the-box lateral thinkers. They are capable of both left and right brain solutions to moving target problems presented by changing search engine algorithms. When innovation and adaptability are the norm for a marketer, it creates a great foundation for being competitive in today’s fast-changing digital marketing environment.

SEOs are also driven by observable results and data informed strategies – characteristics that are highly valuable with scalable digital marketing programs that need to integrate across tactics.

I think those perspectives have been highly transferable for me and have contributed to being more effective.

#4 – What are some of your go-to tools for influencer discovery?

  • BuzzSumo alerts and trends
  • Influencer tracking with Traackr
  • Several niche email newsletters about content, social, PR and search marketing
  • Bookmarked queries on Google News for various marketing topics
  • Various bookmarked digital marketing resources ranging from to the very funny

#5 – Your Book “Optimize” is still regarded as one of the top books for digital marketers. What do you think has made this book stand the test of time in a quickly evolving industry?

Optimize is about empathizing with customers and creating a great experience through integrated content, search and social media.

While the name “Optimize” makes the book seem to be about SEO, it’s really about empathizing with customers and creating a great experience through integrated content, search and social media. I think the book continues to be popular because the importance of buyers in marketing will never expire.

Optimize takes a strategic approach to understanding a target audience and use insight about how content is discovered, consumed and acted on to inform a digital marketing strategy.

#6 – Your session at Content Marketing World is titled “Participation Marketing: How to Co-Create, Optimize & Socialize Content with Influencers”. What are three things you want the audience from your session to walk away understanding about participation marketing?

  1. What brand & customer interests can you align with co-creators in your network?
  2. Incorporate search & social topics into the fabric of your co-created content
  3. Make content creation, promotion and success a community effort

Enter to Win a Ticket to Content Marketing World 2015


Content Marketing World will be here before we know it. If you’re pining for a spot at the conference but haven’t been able to make it work, we’ve got something special for you. TopRank Marketing is giving away a pass for Content Marketing World’s Main Conference and Industry Lab.

In the spirit of participation marketing, we’re asking that you submit your most pressing participation marketing question to [email protected] to enter to win your free Content Marketing World conference pass. Please include your name, best email address to reach you, twitter handle and question in your submission. We only have one to give away, so make your question count. We will announce the winner just one week from today on Monday August 31st, so send your submission soon.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Image via Shutterstock.

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Ashley Zeckman About Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy for TopRank Marketing. In addition to finding innovative ways to showcase the exceptional work of her team, she is also responsible for creating digital marketing programs that drive customer acquisition and growth for the agency. Her background includes expertise in everything from content marketing strategy to branding, account management and social media.

Outside of her role at TopRank Online Marketing, Ashley prides herself on being a great home chef, painter, prankster and dog mom.


  1. We have created a service that you can use for facilitating crowdsourced content creation by collecting files from anyone directly into your Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. With you can generate an upload website and share the link or embed the file-upload form into your own website (we have created two widgets that you can integrate into your website: and Files that are uploaded by your readers are directly transferred into your preferred cloud storage.

    Thereby, you can collect content from your community and work it into new articles, videos, etc. We have seen our users create YouTube videos from video clip submissions that they collected through our service, flower shops that let their customers send flower arrangement pictures through CloudWok, etc.

    Let me know what you think about using CloudWok for content marketing.