At UNIFY 2014, our content marketing forum in New York last October, we heard Ken Blom, BuzzFeed’s Director of Social Discovery, muse that content marketing is like poker. With every hand, and every content play, you have the opportunity to build intuitions and figure out when to go all in, when to double down and increase distribution and when to fold. Famous poker guru Andrew Robl asserts that there are six things that make a great poker player, and every single one can tie back to a key strength as content marketer.
- Experience: A poker player with millions of hands played will fare better in the game than a novice, but there are tricks, like playing online poker, to help him get there faster. You may not need decades of experience as a marketer to win big, but the digital space will allow you to learn quickly and gain insights on how to play better when it comes to content. All the same, getting a royal flush with your first hand at content is going to be near impossible, so make sure to put in the effort before going all in.
- Intelligence: At the top tiers, poker players start levelling out when it comes to knowledge and experience, but the very best have the ability to adapt to their opponent by reading their adjustments. As even the most elite marketers still struggle with measuring content effectiveness, we can be sure that programs will require more than hunches and broad strokes to truly succeed. Lean on data to see what works and shift budgets to the most effective activities.
- Social and Networking Skills: Poker players get better by connecting with the right people and making their way in to the right games and marketers need to take a similar approach. The most experienced and intelligent marketers will agree that there’s no way one person can go the distance alone. The most successful individuals know that connecting with the right professionals is integral in building and maintaining a strong team that will help develop and execute the best content for your brand.
- Willingness to Learn: Professional poker players see every game as a lesson to learn about themselves and their opponents, using those insights to hone their skills and improve over time. To be truly successful as a content marketer, you need to pay close attention to your audience, collaborators, competitors, comrades and the perennial trifecta of paid, earned and owned channels. There is no such thing as a practice hand.
- Ability to Control One’s Emotions: Poker is defined by probability and randomness, requiring logical reactions even when the chips are down and emotions run high. While emotional connections are integral to building a committed and impassioned audience, marketers have to keep an even keel as learnings come in throughout the life of content. Patience and resilience are key in building the best and most engaged audience for your brand.
- Having a “Sick” Amount of Gamble: Even with the best plan and most seasoned team in place, winning big in content marketing sometimes means being willing to take a huge risk and let the chips fall where they may. For some brands, gambling may mean opening up to user-generated content. For others, it may mean stepping away from blatant brand messaging altogether. But embracing uncertainty in the digital space can allow content marketers to either bounce back or make the most of their unexpected success when the idea is a long shot.
The best poker players, like the most adept marketers, understand that their games are about more than luck. They require a level of skill and perceptivity that can only be gained over time and a number of losses. But the beauty of each lies in the thrill of big win and the possibility of discovery.
“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done…”
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