Started with the novel concept of sharing ideas on public platforms, TED has over the years amassed a cult following with a league of legendary conferences and keynotes. It surely occupies a place as one of the most influential think tanks of our times. TED’s core belief lies in the power of ideas to change the world, and this reflects in its selection of elite speakers and the thoughts and perspectives they bring to our screens in an easy, engaging style. So when these speakers talk about social and digital marketing, we have no choice but to sit up and take notice.
At a time when the rules of social and digital marketing seem to be changing every day, we have compiled a list of inspirational TED Talks for timeless lessons in digital marketing:
Digital and social marketing, or even marketing in general, has the art of communication design at its heart. Whether it is the digital creatives of your Instagram handle or that video you’d love to see go viral on Facebook, design aesthetics and storytelling play a crucial role. That is what makes David Carson’s talk on communicating ideas, understanding the audience, and human-centric UX so relevant for digital marketers. He rightly says that design and storytelling in communication are timeless arts, despite the constant evolution of technologies and platforms.
Kevin is the head of culture and trends for YouTube. So when a video goes or is about to go viral, he is usually one of the first people to know. Naturally, he is an expert in a space where a lot of work is trial-and-error. In this talk, Kevin shares from experience the four key reasons behind and elements present in all viral videos. He also showcases real-life examples of how these elements have been engineered in much of YouTube’s viral content. Kevin’s talk is a must-watch for content creators as well as marketers who try day-in and day-out to match the now-clichéd briefs of “making videos go viral”.
A lot of numbers, jargon, and science are attached to digital and social marketing in workplace discourse, which is all very well given the need to drive ROIs and reach. However, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that a lot of marketing itself is an art. It is where ideas and data sciences come together to tell compelling stories – they are both equally important. This is where Steven Johnson’s talk holds importance. He speaks of creating environments that encourage the brewing of ideas, and he likens these environments to those of coffee shops, which are often perfectly designed for collaboration, conversation, and creative thinking.
Part of Steven’s message is also on shaping our own minds in order to think creatively. He says that being open and connected gives new perspectives to our thought process, which is crucial for creative ideation.
The clamour for use of videos and similar creative elements is growing massively within the ambit of digital marketing. But they are just one part of the digital marketing game, the other being the power of words – in Instagram captions, tweets, video descriptions, blog posts, newsrooms, newsletters, and Facebook updates. It’s a given that social and digital marketers have to write a lot, hence every word and punctuation can make your content more compelling or less. That’s what makes New Yorker Copy Editor Mary Norris’ TED Talk relevant to digital marketers.
In work circles, Mary’s almost-eccentric approach to language and punctuation is very well-known, and she is often known as the “Comma Queen”. The most interesting part of the talk – especially for digital marketers – is when Mary speaks about the fluid nature of language and how conversational language affects the written word. We suppose that’s how “googled” became a real word too!
For language purists, writing fiction on Twitter can sound blasphemous. Yet, that’s exactly what Andrew Fitzgerald speaks of in his TED Talk. The erstwhile editor of Twitter Moments, Andrew dives deep into the way online platforms, especially ones like Tumblr and Twitter, are changing how stories are told in our times. The talk is educational for social and digital marketers who are often adapting to new formats, like six-second videos that disappear in 24 hours and 280-character-press releases on Twitter.
At first glance, “losing control of one’s brand” sounds like every digital marketer and PR professional’s worst nightmare. However, the very concept of a tight control on messages and content is old-school in the age of social media. Conversations and comments ensure that if a marketing message is actually relevant or persuasive, there will be constant chatter about the brand that its marketers have no control over. Tim’s talk provides an antidote to it – if you can’t control the narrative, you might as well design your communication in a way that sharing and conversation only regurgitate your core messages.
Tim calls for co-creation and collaboration with the brand’s audience. It is clear from the talk that an open world means that more empowerment for the audience is the only tool for brands to empower themselves.
Much before we started documenting every little life moment – on Facebook check-ins, in Tweets, and in six-second videos on Instagram and Snapchat – there was one woman who revolutionised the idea of sharing. Mena Trott believed that common people sharing their life stories in blog format had the power to change the world. With her husband, Mena founded Six Apart, the company responsible for Type Pad, LiveJournal, and Vox, which revolutionised how the common people document their life and times online. In this talk, Mena speaks about the early days of blogging, when sharing was the key to a friendlier, more connected world.
A lot of this talk is a lesson in telling authentic stories because that’s what actually connects people and creates open, positive conversations. Such deep level of honesty has the power to redefine brand communication at a time when there is significant trust deficit in brands as well as media around the world. That’s what makes Mena’s talk that much more relevant to digital marketers of our times.
Seth Godin is one of the most successful independent digital marketers of our time and his TED Talks are always relevant and educational. In this talk, he says that social and digital platforms have ensured the coming together of humans in a way that went out of fashion years ago. He likens these social units to tribes that are founded on shared ideas, goals, and values. According to Seth, years ago these tribes formed the basis of the way we live. Internet tribes or communities have the same power. They give ordinary people the support system they need to bring real, positive change. The lesson in this TED Talk for digital marketers is that the promise of positive change is the most crucial element of getting people together and building strong communities. That is why brand social media pages must speak of powerful positive ideas and change, such as Nestle’s strategy of focusing on nutritious eating on their Facebook page.
Yet another TED Talk by Seth that has lessons for digital marketers, this one is all about capturing the interest of your audience despite their increasingly cluttered social media feeds. Seth speaks of unique ways in which brands can stand out in their marketing. He says that a good idea is not enough – it should be unique. The talk also focuses on the importance of constantly listening to your audience, knowing what they want to hear and then telling them exactly those stories. In conclusion, an engaged audience is the hallmark of great digital marketing and marketers must do everything they need to in order to achieve that.
Although this talk is almost a decade-and-a-half old, it just keeps getting more relevant as consumers become more and more focused on not just pricing and products but experiences and brand personalities. Now more than ever, consumers are interacting with brands as they do with peers, in conversation on social media, calling them out for mistakes and lauding them for a job well done. According to Joseph, authenticity and positive experience have become the hallmark of great brand communication. This is an important lesson for digital marketers and social media community managers who are usually now the first point of contact for consumers.
Joseph also adds that even as brands and their product offerings evolve, thoroughly understanding the brand’s legacy is key to being consistent, authentic, and engaging on social media.
These TED Talks have the potential to raise the bar of the kind of conversations, experiences, and content digital marketers produce because they are shaping brand reputations by the minute. Ultimately, the idea is to move away from clichéd click- and engagement-baits on social media and instead focus on honest, meaningful, and engaging conversations with your brand’s audience. All recent algorithm changes point in this direction and it is about time digital marketers read the writing on the wall.