Interview with Neil Gladstone: real-life content marketing tips and hands-on experience from top-tier professional

Neil Gladstone is a successful businessman and recognized marketer, his rich marketing experience includes position of Director of Content & Programming for MTV, editor-in-chief for AOL’s & Lemondrop, and Vice President’s position of Content for Dailymotion. Neil is currently busy with up-and-coming social network CraftFoxes, which he is a co-founder of. In the interview which Neil kindly agreed to give us, he talks about future of social media content, shares experience of starting a new project, and gives tips on how to approach big-name publishers. Read on to find out about lots of interesting and useful things and draw inspiration for your work.

Hello everyone, my name is Anna Korolekh, I am an International marketing manager for Promodo company. Today I have Neil Gladstone for Skype interview, Neil has just left the position at Dailymotion to go back and concentrate on his project CraftFoxes. So thank you so much for joining us today, Neil. Can you please introduce yourself in brief?  What you do, how did you get there, what are you enthusiastic about at the moment?

Sure, I have worked for AOL and MTV, and I recently was dealing with Dailymotion, blog sites for several companies including ones I mentioned. What I am enthusiastic about now is CraftFoxes which is a social network and ecommerce market place for crafters. One thing I really enjoy about working on the site is that it gives people who are incredibly talented a platform to celebrate their creativity. I think that there are a lot of people who are very talented in this world whose work never sees the light of day. The thing I like about platform is that CraftFoxes gives people a chance to show up what they have created with their hands and really be noted for it.

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What was the history of the project? How did the idea come up?

So when I was working at AOL about five years ago, I was working on the site for people in their twenties and thirties and noticed that we are writing a lot about crafts. But it wasn’t really a social network that was inclusive for different types of crafting. There are some great social networks for knitting and crochet, and broidery. There are some great sites like Martha Stewart which does well to extend the brand online. But it wasn’t really an inclusive crafting site that celebrated someone who might do origami or celebrated someone who might make jewelry. A lot of crafters do different types of crafts, so I wanted to be able to have a place for people who would show up with everything they have made. They may have sown a pillow one day, and they may make the jewelry next day and then show off in their profile, share what they learnt and, ideally, teach others as well.

That is nice, and how did you make the project popular? What was your strategy as a start-up? 

I think that a lot of people know this, but it definitely very important to create partnerships with larger sites, partnerships with similar size sites. You really need to focus on what you want to win, and it is important, and by win I mean that what terms you want to do well for. If you can get attention of editors of another site or like-minded person on another team and realize there are ways to collaborate. It is really important to share links to each other, share content, if it makes sense. Obviously, you do not want to share too much content, so it looks like you created content for the search engines. But if you can share enough content and adjust it a little bit, or maybe you write around a certain article you did. For example, in the case with something like CraftFoxes. Let’s say we featured about how to crochet a particular doll, and it is a free pattern. So for another site we might do a round-up article, let’s say “9 great different free crochet patterns”, and we mentioned the one free pattern we have on CraftFoxes as one of those nine. But we will also point to a lot of other places with free patterns as well. That is one of the ways you can create kind of partnerships that works for everyone. This is one of many things that a lot of sites do to spread traffic around to quality content.

Yes, this is smart. And when was that moment when you realize that you reached the success? Maybe you remember this turning point, the particular thing you have done that gave great results?

I think when you starting getting response from readers, that is small but great sign of success. And maybe they will have a question about how something works, or a comment about particular pattern in case of CraftFoxes, and they want to get answer about how to do something. This is a sign you are providing a value and getting a response. And then, ideally, people would grow, I think you have to look at success in gradual levels. That is, probably, the first step, and then the step is to start looking at numbers. The numbers are getting bigger and bigger, ideally, you get more response from not only other sites but companies as well.

And did you change your strategy when you realized that now it is much better than it used to be?

I knew we had ideas to do a lot of different things, and we chose some of them and chose not to do others. There was something we launched and it didn’t succeed or didn’t have so much popularity as we expected. I don’t know whether we can completely change our strategy, but we are certainly focused on certain things. For example, knitting, crochet, sewing and jewelry making are definitely popular on the site. We’d love other crafts as well, we want to see crafts for everyone. But when it comes to what we are focused in content or when it comes to SEO terms, we realize we can’t go after everything and anything, we kind of have to be focused on certain verticals, so that was a complete change, a focus in our approach.

Judging by your career, you always gravitated to social in content. Do you think social in content trend will dominate marketing for long?

You know, I think that you have to say it probably will.  It is a good question because sometimes you see  reports that certain generations, like teenagers, are less interested in Facebook, but older generation are more interested in Facebook. But then again, you know, teenagers may be on a different platform. They may be doing more chat or texting. And the question is how exactly do you find the platform that everyone goes to or is it much more metrics for lack of better description. Is it much more spread out, is it one person talking to another person taking to another person and then is it much tougher for  someone who want to socialize content to get to all these people. And it is still social and it is still potentially content, because content could be anything, from an article or a quiz to someone talking about what they did in class on a particular day. So it is still social and it is still content whether or not it easy to promote content through different platforms.

And do you have any particular predictions as for social platforms and particular social platforms maybe?

 So I definitely see a lot of interest in Instagram which was growing over the past year, I imagine, it will continue to grow, Pinterest is doing more with brands and I am interested to see how comers kind of weaves into Pinterest, those two platforms we definitely have an eye on. There are certainly other ones, Vine is still kind of a curiosity for a lot of people and folks are figuring out whether they can or cannot get their message out, be in Vine, and how Reddit is probably more important than it has ever been. But it is very difficult to put your message on there and hammer through. It is probably good thing for that platform.  It is very true to keeping the voice of its community strong, so I think all the platforms that I mentioned, probably, will continue to be relevant in the next year. It will be interesting to see how they will change, whether it will be a business model or their desire to grow audience, and what they do to increase on both of those metrics.

Are any of those social platforms like your favorite for marketing, for marketing of your project?

Pinterest definitely does very well for us. We have partnered with other sites to create community boards and it helps increase followers on both sides. So for us at the moment Pinterest is extremely important. Instagram we are also very interested in, we are going to do a lot more in the next year, and Facebook continues to be a relevant platform for us. So I think those three are probably the most important in the coming year.

Getting back to CraftFoxes and Dailymotion. What inspired you to work for that company?

So what I thought was really interesting, I was approached by representer of Dailymotion to work for them, and I was really glad I worked. We got a chance to work for them. It opened up an opportunity to work internationally, to do deals internationally, look at the scope of business on a global level. So all that opportunity with something I didn’t want to pass up. I already was working on CraftFoxes and then this came along. I was definitely curious to what it would look like to work for a company that was based in another country, particularly I this case, France.  It was a lot of fun, got to take trip to Paris; it was enjoyable to build the team there. We had a lot of great success to get to do deals with companies such as CBS and Conde Nast, I am very glad I did it.  Then I realized if I ever was going to get a chance to give CraftFoxes a serious opportunity to succeed, I was going to focus on it. So that is what I am doing now, focusing on growing the business.

What is the Dailymotion project about?  You had to compete with YouTube, right?

Yes definitely. When you are going up against a huge successful company, such as YouTube, you really have to picking shoes where you want to succeed. You cannot potentially win on everything, but what you can do is to choose certain demographics or certain types of content that you really want to focus on and promote and be known for. You have to kind of compare where your wins are, where your numbers are not going to be quite as high, but you have to look towards certain those videos that do well and kind of build on their success. This is very simply how you can go about when competing with any larger company when you are in the same space. It is just smart to pick certain sections, demographic to focus on.

Yeah, it makes sense. As a person, who works and worked a lot with content, can you give some advice on how decide yourself into creative mood?

I would say bored to 10 cups of coffee is a good start, and then cranking as much music as you can on Spotify walk around room 12 times, and you should have a creative idea. But it is very tough to be consistently creative and one of the ways to do it, particularly if you are online and you have specific goal, is to, ideally, get a few people or several people in the room and look at what you need to accomplish. In some cases it may be trying to focus on a particular keyword, or maybe we are trying to work on having a great piece of content, then you have to think about how people are going to find that content. Sometimes it just by clicking on a headline, sometime it is through Google, SEO,  and if you can look at the technology and everything, and then on top of it, put a frosting that makes it fun and creative – that is always a good challenge. Usually a common issue is gathering people in the room together, seeing what they succeeded with other companies, and hopefully just being well rested is great for being creative. Some people have more fun with creative projects than others. But it is just a start, I am sure there are many things I can say, but I think it is different for every person.

Do you have specific recipe for a catchy content, potentially very successful piece of content?

When I was at AOL, they talked a lot about what makes a good headline, and a lot what they said was definitely correct. If you can create a compelling headline in six or so words that picks someone’s interest, tells them something about the story, but doesn’t tell them everything. You may notice that even today AOL’s headlines, Yahoo’s headlines, and a lot of other headlines from other sites, kind of follow that model of a short, catchy headline, that has a little bit of mystery into it. Usually the article will pay off on that headline. Maybe something as simple as “Do you know what Brad Pitt did last night?” or “Can you believe what Brad Pitt did last night?” – that is kind of the cheesiest example of it, but it gets people clicking, and when you say, everyone rolls their eyes, and maybe they should but that still works.

So that ability to put out an idea that leaves something unanswered is often the key to getting people share your content. It doesn’t necessarily work for sites like CraftFoxes, because we are more about how-to, we are  more about providing a service, we might do something fun like “9 easy beautiful crafts you can make with toilet paper rolls” which kind of picks your curiosity well factor, but also works to get people curious about seeing the list. When it comes to paying off a lot of the content, sometimes it is just being straightforward and explanatory, so people find answers to the questions that they need to get answered.

And do you think there is a chance for small and unknown brands to reach huge publishing houses like  Huffington Post or something like this?

It is definitely possible, you may need to connect with certain people in Linkedin, you may need to hunt around to find the right email. I think when you do find a right email, it is absolutely necessary that you approach them professionally, and you try to understand what they need. Because a lot of editors are looking for new content but they don’t want to have to work too much to get you understand what they need. If you understand what they are looking for, for example, what Huffington Post is looking for is going to be slightly different from what another site might be looking for, Just Jared or numerous other sites, and the glam network for example. You have to understand what their audience is, what their voice is and if you prove that you understand their audience, their voice, their tone, then maybe suggest a few story ideas, you go a lot for getting their attention. So they probably take good content for publication from companies of any size, but you definitely have to prove that you understand what they need and can provide something for them.

Since you used to be an editor for quite a while, what are those signs that editor picks from email? How can you create a perfect email that can catch the editor’s attention?

It starts actually before the email. It starts with the subject line. If you can explain what you are trying to accomplish, ten words in the subject line that prove that you have certain command of language –  that will interest them. And you may even say like “Story pitch for partnership” and then put the headline, the story idea in quotes. And ideally you subject can be read quickly as more editors are looking at hundreds of emails today. So then you have to have a first sentence that says here is what , very professionally, you don’t want to pitch so much that it looks like you are selling like in commercial, but very professional, like “look, I want to do something for your audience”. Usually, by the first paragraph they know whether or not it will be a worthwhile partnership or whether or not the person on another site of email is professional. Most people who receive the emails, they understand what a good pitch email is as well, because you respond to better pitch email, when it seems more personalized and it speaks to the voice of publication, but also it is possible to what the editor is interested in.

Does the size of the letter matter then? I mean does it happen when you open the letter and you see like how the page is written and “Oh my God, this is too much , I am not going to read it”

Yes, definitely, I would stick to keeping it to three paragraphs, that is probably all that necessarily. And if you link to some articles you have written, that show the quality of your work that is great. If to include two or three links; I don’t open an email if someone puts fifty links there, it seems overwhelming. So a few ideas, a few links,  and if it catches, it is great if not, then you whether follow up them in week or two or you move on to another publication. Not everything is going to work out. The other side of that is that the publisher should be discouraged if you have your hopes set on working with one publication, and it doesn’t click. There are so many reasons why the thing might not click on a particular publication. You may pitch them an idea, and it is so perfect that they are actually already planning to do it with someone else. That happens all the time and you can’t take it too personally. And you just come back with other ideas or you move on to another publication.

Thank you so much!

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Interview with Neil Gladstone: real-life content marketing tips and hands-on experience from top-tier professional

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