Everything You Missed at Confab Central 2016

Timing, context, delivery methods and aligning content with your brand's tone and voice are all essential to creating good content and engaging your audience. On May 19-20, I attended Confab Central 2016 in Minneapolis, MN, the premier content strategy conference for marketers, user experience professionals, product designers or technologists whose discipline includes strategizing around content.

I am a senior product designer at Urban Airship, and since our products include content delivery tools — namely Engage and Wallet — I wanted to share the major takeaways I gathered from the conference for both colleagues and our customers.

Create Trust in Onboarding

One of the most important content pieces for connecting with new users is a good onboarding process. Airbnb’s Content Strategy Manager, Joscelin Cooper presented a session entitled, “Creating trust and belonging for onboarding.” She compared onboarding to courtship, and says “You don’t want to lay all of your baggage out right there on the first date, you kind of want a progressive reveal of information.” Cooper suggests using animations and warm and inviting language in onboarding flows. The onboarding flow can be the very first mobile experience the user has with your brand, so the goal is to make this experience as delightful as possible and to build trust instead of overloading them. So even though you have a lot of great content to share with your users, it’s important not to dump it all on them at once.

For example, when you’re onboarding new users to an app, use short sentences that have a simple structure and meaning. Initially, make the experience as easy as possible to understand, and then, as the user gets deeper into your app or has completed the first or second acquisition step, give them more. People can only absorb content when they are ready for it — cut out unnecessary words so that your users can digest it easily and focus on the activity that takes them deeper into your app.

Make it Personal

Personalization is key! By personalizing content, you create experiences for your customers that they can identify with and that make them feel understood by you. The first step is to define the data that will help you better know and understand your customers. Through seeing their behavior online and in your app, and also by talking directly with them, you are able to define their interests and better deliver relevant content. Without a tagging / categorization system in place, it is difficult to understand customers and they have to do all the work themselves to make a decision.

Netflix’s Director of Enhanced Content Mike Hastings presented a session entitled, “Better suggestions through tagging: How Netflix deconstructs Hollywood.” He focused on the system Netflix has in place to create a taxonomy of movie categories. Think “Strong Female Lead” or “Romantic Comedies based in San Francisco.” Netflix hires people to watch and tag the movies using an internally-developed objectivity model. The results are sent through a syntax engine which knows what categories to put together based on business rules. This all allows Netflix to deliver even more personalized experiences based on their customers’ watching habits. Netflix has even released a “secret codes” that let you mix and match the categories. See how Stephen Colbert framed them up.

Urban Airship senior product designer Andrea Burton with copywriter Amber James at Confab Central 2016.

Become a Digital Storyteller

Good content strategy comes from being an effective and engaging storyteller. If we, as content creators, can weave narratives our customers can relate to, then we can show that we understand who they are and what they want. We must provide utility to the end-user and help them meet their needs, whether their need is to make their connecting flight, get that breaking news story or buy a new outfit for their sister’s wedding.

Anil Dash, an entrepreneur, activist and advocate working to make technology and the tech industry more humane, inclusive and ethical, presented a keynote called “Toward Humane Tech.” He believes that those in content creation professions are storytellers and that we need to tell the stories of what is possible online. He spoke about why telling stories of online experiences matters, and how these stories can affect us. He asks, “What are the obligations, responsibilities and also opportunities of being the storytellers who represent what digital technologies in the web and apps are doing to everybody's lives and transforming everybody’s lives?” He wants us to really think about the potential impact of the tools we make.

Constantly Evolve and Optimize

At Urban Airship, our business is mobile engagement, and I think there are always strides that we can be making towards using content to help our clients achieve greater success. As a product designer, I am constantly thinking about how to make the best possible experiences for our customers. We build the tools that allow you to speak directly with your users, and we want to help you tell your story.

If we’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to discuss anything further, please feel free to reach out and say hello! For a more in-depth look at Urban Airship’s content, check out our Content Library, technical documentation and our support knowledgebase.