Ian Cleary on Content Marketing, Social Media, Marketing Technology and More

Ian Cleary is a leading digital and content marketing expert, credited with having helped many organizations make the best use of advanced marketing technologies and tools to achieve their goals in the quickest possible time. The founder of RazorSocial, a reputable provider of digital and social marketing services, Ian has unrivaled experience in providing high quality consultancy, training, and executive coaching in the area of marketing.

Ian is also an internationally acclaimed thought leader on social media and content marketing and has profound understanding of marketing technology and how to leverage its powers to drive a business to growth and success. He has a brilliant record of providing smart advice for helping businesses achieve their goals. Many B2B businesses have been able to achieve increased traffic and enhanced sales by implementing the inbound and outbound marketing strategies recommended by RazorSocial.

This Dublin-based marketing genius is also a much in-demand keynote speaker and is a popular face at marketing conferences around the world. He was listed as the 8th Most Influential Person in Social Media by Onalytica in 2016 and ranks among the top 100 Online Marketers of 2018. He is also a contributing author to Digital Marketing Superstars, an Entrepreneur.com publication. He is the winner of the Best Social Media Blog Annual Blog Award from 2013 to 2016, given by Social Media Examiner.

Ian Cleary’s blogs have been published in Forbes, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur.com, Huffington Post, Social Media Examiner, MarketingProfs, and many other popular publications. 

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What inspired you to pursue content marketing as a career?

I had a background in technology of about 15 years, and I was looking to do something internationally. I had no ideas whatsoever, so I decided to start a blog because I thought I could grow an international audience because I’m based in Ireland.

I looked at all the top social media and content marketing professionals. Most of the top ones were based in the U.S. and so I focused on the U.S. market. I thought that the content side would be an opportunity to build my brand, build authority, learn more about content marketing and social media, and yeah, it really worked.

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You’ve been listed on CMWorld’s Hall of Fame, a top global marketer by Brand24.Which content marketing thought leaders and professionals have inspired you through the years?

There’s a collection actually. Mark Schaffer would be one among those. I think he’s a really smart guy. I love his vision of where things are going in the industry and I actually like him as a person as well. He gives a lot and, for him, it’s about educating an audience and not getting anything in return. He just likes writing and creating content.

I really like Jay Baer because he’s a super nice guy and a great business guy as well. He’s got a constant stream of new ideas all the time and is always moving the industry forward.

I’ve followed Kim Garst through the years and have admired what she has done on her own and as part of her company. She ran a conference and has done online events and is always on the forefront of new things. When social video came out, she was one of the first people to jump on it. We always keep an eye on what Kim is doing.

What is Razor Social all about? And what are you, and your team, currently working on and developing there?

Razor Social is an agency. We provide a mix of consultancy services and training services, and I speak at events as well. We work with a range of brands. A lot of them are big brands. We’ve ended up working with because of our blog and because I speak at events. They’ll actually approach us and ask if we’ll work with them.

I’ve worked on some influencer programs. Recently, I’ve done some retraining programs for a company – running communities. Also, we started managing some large digital projects because I have a technical and a marketing background. I’ve tried to explore further and leverage that because I have more experience in technology and marketing. Speaking leads to more business because I get profiled at events. You build your brand, and then on the back of that, you get consultancy and training. You build those connections up.

In the last ten months, I’ve been busy developing a software tool. It’s an email outreach tool called Outreach Plus. When I was building the business, I was reaching out to a lot of people and I wanted a tool that would enable me to reach out and make it a lot easier to track correspondences and see what people are opening and responding and replying to. We built Outreach Plus as a solution and we’ve spent the last ten months working on that.

What are some of your favorite social media channels to use?

To me, my favorite is Slack because you can join various communities. I’m a member of a few good communities on Slack and they’re really enjoyable because they’re interactive. Rather than interacting on Facebook, more interaction should be on Slack.

I’m also a member of a few WhatsApp groups. To be on a WhatsApp group, you want to have a small group of people that you want to interact and hear from on a regular basis.

Do you think there’s a real future for AI marketing integrations? 

Yeah, I’ve actually just seen that Christopher Penn is doing a session on how to optimize your content and get better results through the use of AI.I think there’s going to be massive developments around AI. The challenge I think at the moment is that every software company is going to put AI on their list. Whether people are going to want AI or not, it’s really getting some building in some really smart tech into the current software. There is actually real intelligence in it but I think there’s definitely a future for it even for figuring out what content to write about, what content to rank, and how to promote that content. I think there are loads of opportunities for AI, and there’s going to be a real thrill for it in the industry for sure.

What other content marketing trends worked this year?

AI is probably the biggest one. Also, video just keeps growing and growing. I think that a lot of video will fail and we’ll eventually figure what’s going to work in terms of video. We look at a lot of Facebook channels. The average viewing time is only a couple of seconds.90% of people don’t switch on the sound, and so you can’t say video is working for most people.

If you had a TV channel and the average viewing time is two seconds and 90% of people don’t switch on the sound, you’d say, “Oh that doesn’t work.”I think that video is going to continue to grow but in the right areas. I think there need to be changes on Facebook and eventually there will be videos that are separate from the news feed. On the news feed, you’re just flicking through and you don’t necessarily have time to watch videos as well.

Ranking content has always about link building and I think it’s gradually moving away from that. SEMRush did a report recently and said that the number one factor for SEO was direct visits to the website. People are typing in your name and going to the website because nobody types in the name of a spam website. If it’s a popular website, you’ll type in the name. I think that over time the importance of that link building stuff will reduce and go further down the list and building your brand through the likes of content will become increasingly important because people will need to know who you are, recognize you as a brand, and that’s going to have huge implications in the SEO industry and how we optimize content. I think that’s an area that’s going to change a lot this year. 

Are there misapplied tactics?

People have jumped onto the new platforms far too quickly. You can see platforms disappearing. For example, Snapchat was a platform that marketers felt they should be on but most people didn’t want to be on it. They just jumped onto Snapchat and I think there’s a lot of time wasted in that. There are other platforms like that as well. I think jumping on these new platforms too quickly is not the way to go. People need to sit back and think about their strategy. They should concentrate on their audience and focus on that instead of spreading themselves too thinly across too many platforms and channels. I think people are realizing that you just can’t be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat… all those channels.

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Don’t you think that today the mechanism and infrastructure for a small company trying to do is marketing specifically when an influencer like you comes in and says I use a particular app/tool? Don’t you think there is a need to simplify it to an extent today? Aren’t we getting caught up in the business of marketing and isn’t that to some extent another layer?

Yes, I talked to entrepreneurs recently regarding whether we should be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all those channels. I say, just go back to the basics in terms of marketing perspective. You know you want to engage with your current and potential customers. So what’s the best way of having a conversation with current potential customers?

Suppose you’re not on Twitter or Facebook or any of those channels, and instead,you might just have a Slack group. Let’s say, well, my audience is used to Slack, they like engaging on Slack. And so I’m going to build a small interactive community on Slack rather than getting $10,000 on Facebook.

I think those days are gone, the big numbers are gone. You need get a smaller, more interactive audience and that becomes a group that supports and helps write your message. So, if you’ve got a good group of a hundred people and everybody supports each other when you have a new release or a new product or something, there will be a lot of people that are prepared to help out. They’ll share with their private groups as well. I guess there’s a lot of dark social too, so where people are sharing a private group you won’t be able to see it.

So, if you want to get stuff shared, you need to build relationships with the right people. That’s where you found your own communities and then they’re part of bigger communities and they’ll help share the message on dark social channels.

We get caught up with all these channels and all these tools and stuff, like the basics of you know you want to your customers and potential customers are online we know that online we know they’re interacting with other talking on the all the different channels but how do you get them to engage in conversation. Helping you build a small community of highly interactive cup in community rather than your ten thousand pounds and nobody’s seen content you know so.

Do you have any tips for marketers looking to start a blog for the first time? 

It goes back to quality content. You know that you’re much better off writing less quantity of higher quality content than churning out regular content.

I need to start a blog and so I am going to need content. I’d the first thing you do is build your strategy first. Invest a significant amount of time in building up strategy and look what people are searching for or what a lot of people interested in. Then, start building up your content and spread it out over a couple of months. Also, look in terms of what’s your normal day’s content and what’s your strategic contact point. That can be a bigger piece of content, such as a video research report, which will be a big piece of content. So, a lot of work goes into it which will help bring lots of value. 

I would say, overall, let’s build out a strategy, have a document of plan, plan the content and then add higher quality content. So, don’t publish unless you are actually proud of the content. If in doubt, don’t publish it. 

Quality over quantity - that kind of is like the name of the game. It's so true but a lot of people just forget that. Click To Tweet

When people are searching, they might come across a blog post on your site. If that’s not good quality, there is a potential customer rating that content. So, you need to look at your own content to make sure to update the older content. So, whatever content you have on your site is always good quality. 

What kind of concert promotion tools would you recommend? 

First of all, any blog post in need of good social sharing and welfare plugin has a social sharing plugin called social welfare. That’s really good because when you’re sharing content out, you can actually tell if there’s a specific image that you want to be shared with Pinterest, with Facebook, or with Twitter, and any specific text you want shared.

So, when somebody clicks that Pinterest share button, you get a really good image and you get the right text for Pinterest. That means that when people are sharing content from our site, it’s actually going to look as if it’s according to that platform and will have the right message.

For paid promotions, I use Facebook ads. If I have a blog post I know will actually bill subscribers and generate potential sales, then I invest in Facebook ads to drive more traffic.

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Facebook had a bit of a rough year. User faith is down. Stocks are down. So do you think marketers should use it?

I think from a Facebook business page point of view or for a new business starting up, you’re not going to get traction. It’s like the effort you put in is not going to be worth it. Suppose you’ve been in the entertainment industry, you might have a much better chance of getting engagement on Facebook. So you have a Facebook page and a Facebook group. These are good interactional Facebook groups. But, Facebook is going to start charging for these groups and eventually people will see less content on Facebook groups. So that may not be the best way to go forward.

I still use my personal profile because that’s where it connects me to a lot of friends, and I need it for events and stuff. That’s where you have got lots of engagement interaction. I really like that but if a new platform came along and my friends moved to that, I’d move quickly enough. I don’t think we are loyal to Facebook. We just go with our friends where they are at the moment.I mean you can’t guarantee that Google will be around forever or Facebook will be around forever. Facebook is not even that old, it has been there for just ten or eleven years.

So, last but not least, do you have any upcoming projects or speaking engagements that you’re working on? Is there anything you’d like to announce? 

I suppose one part of the service we’re trying to explore is more towards marketing tech or marketing knowledge of both. So, we’re looking to build services around that in terms of helping Brown’s with digital projects, kind of like the whole project management area. I will be speaking about that in social Travel somewhere in the next two weeks at Belfast.

Right, well, those are all the questions I have for you today. Thanks a lot.

You can follow Ian Cleary on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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