Tumble & Riff, Internet Marketing’s Jazz


Content Riffs

Miles riffed by using a composition’s outline to create boundaries for improvisations. Content marketers riff too.

Great Internet marketers like fellow New Media Leaders (Mark Traphagen, Phil Buckley, Amy Lewis) know how to riff content like Miles played jazz. They improvise inside of a piece of content’s borders.

They may find and create new associations and leaps of brilliance and faith, but they know their content’s borders. They bend those borders as they create new ways of thinking, writing and curating.

G+ A Riffer’s Dream

The best tool for riffing content is Google Plus. G+ is conversational and so easy to build up a conversation. Twitter takes work to stop the ensemble (those you follow) long enough to even hear the solos.

Facebook has its moments, but your Facebook audience isn’t as singular as G+’s circles can create. Many of my Facebook friends don’t care about Internet marketing, so friends may drop off my page. Nothing hurts SEO and personal branding as much as Facebook churn.


Facebook’s ad engine may be a powerful instrument to riff content, but I haven’t used Facebook that way yet (has anyone?). The power of all that FOCUSED data seems to promise finding an appreciative audience and fellow players is possible and even easy.

LinkedIn also feels like riffing content should be easy. LinkedIn came up in Atlantic BT’s top 10 referring websites for last year and for first quarter 2013 (I’m Atlantic BT’s Marketing Director). Presence in Atlantic BT’s Top Referring websites is somewhat miraculous considering what we’ve done on LinkedIn (nothing), so Linkedin earns a campaign soon.

If anyone has experience prospecting with Facebook or LinkedIn please comment in, or Tweet @NewMediaLeaderz with #RiffTumble or comment below.

Scoop.it is another favorite content marketing instrument. Scoop.it’s immediate feedback loop shares views and Rescoops in close to real time making it invaluable in what the Expion team defined as “Real Time Marketing” at SXSW.

Tumbling Content

When a curated post gets an immediate response on Scoop.it or any other social net I double down. I move the content through my social networks (5 blogs, 4 Twitter accounts, 5 Facebook pages, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tumblr and other social nets such as StumbleUpon and Delicious).

“Doubling down” tumbles the content. Tumbling most content quiets it right down (lol).

This “quieting” is similar to the old “stop, drop and roll” advice from when we were children. If your pants catch fire, “Stop, Drop and Roll” to put them out. Tumbling most content puts out the spark, the precious viral ember.

Tumbling curated content isn’t a huge investment. Writing content or hiring writers to create content is expensive. 95% of the content you tumble will become less viral. Content that becomes less viral after being tumbled, at least in its present form, has gone as far as your curatorial care can take it.

goldcoinsstackBut there is a very special 5% of content every Internet marketer / content gold miner lives to find. When you tumble these magic coins the tumble gets stronger faster as powerful forces sign on and support your tumble with shares, comments and tumbles of their own.

Strike this iron just right, tumble hot topical content in just the right place at the right time and the magic dryer exponentially produces gold coins. We Internet marketers are secret magic dryer junkies. We spend hours analyzing patterns to understand the magic dryer. We dream of gold coins cloning and reproducing themselves at ever faster rates of speed.

Riff and Tumble

Explaining content marketing to my brother over dinner recently I noticed he had that look, the one I used to give my father when he tried to explain what he did for a living. “Do you create the content,” my brother asked and I knew he was lost. “Sure,” I explained, “but we see curation as an important alternative”. I went on to explain how content marketers play for authority inside the largest content network the world ever imagined.

Problem is the network isn’t sitting waiting for ME and MY CONTENT. There are existing “authorities” who jealously guard their industrial sized magic dryers. Disruption out in the “long tail” is the only rebel tactic capable of generating return.


“Rebel tactic” got my brother’s attention. He asked for an example. I told him about 5 Magical Do More With Less Curation Tools. I knew tools reviews achieve a high number of social shares. I knew every Internet marketing team feels under resourced and overwhelmed because I used to manage one. I combined those two ideas to riff a piece of content that tumbled so fast it now has a potential audience over a million thanks to ReTweets, G+ Shares and Rescoops.

“So you play for The Share,” my brother asked. Sort of I explained. Shares confirm the riffed or tumbled content is hitting a nerve. To PLAY FOR shares reduces chances of getting any. That statement produced a huge, “huh?” Miles didn’t improvise to promote himself but to encourage a journey inside the music. Content marketers riff and tumble content to create conversations with other marketers.

We create content marketing out of LOVE and passion.

A great content marketer’s involvement and care is easy to see and feel. It is easy for other marketers to pick up lines of thought and tumble or riff on top of existing content. I called this “sum is greater than the parts” collaboration The Commons Revolution a few days ago on Atlantic BT’s blog.

Seeing my brother’s thousand yard stare again I promised to discuss The Commons Revolution at our next dinner. “So what you do is like Jazz,” he said as I nodded, smiled and smacked his shoulder a little. “Yes, what I do is like jazz,” I said.

Follow New Media Leaders @NewMediaLeaderz

* Cover of Milestones on Columbia Records, gold coin stack is creative commons, Jazz picture from Creative Commons Flickr Fabio Venni



  1. says

    Great post Marty. But I’m wondering if you could elaborate (in a comment or perhaps a future post) about what you see and experience in the jazz as it’s playing. In other words, you’re doing this for some purpose (marketing), so what does the “tumble” show you? How do you make use of it?

    • says

      Tumbling is a piece of content’s solo. Tumbling becomes the true test of content’s viral legs. Most content we tumble doesn’t have legs. The solo isn’t picked up, expanded and added to by other players. Some content shows potential for a tweak here or there making it more viral and some rare content goes like a rocket.

      So there are three things I look for when tumbling or moving content across social nets:

      * If there are no long viral legs to be had the piece is shelved.
      * If a tweak might produce a viral effect I make the tweak and watch.
      * If the content is part of the rare 5% with “viral intent”, a lucky viral rocket.

      This may seem cruel, but content marketing is the most Darwinian of sports (lol). We tumble content to discover its inner beauty or lack of same. This means judgement is a waste of time. It never ceases to amaze me how content I am sure will go to the moon sits there mocking me while content I think little of other than it is consistent with my curatorial themes and so deserving of a share with friends springs legs and runs around the world.

      Each time this happens, when it appears my content marketing vision is so dull, so poor, I think of Taleb’s book The Black Swan and realize so much of the content creation we Internet marketers do is back fill anthropomorphizing we humans love so much. Some things are just serendipity while others are magic. After years of doing this and millions earned the hard way (by digging one ditch at a time) I believe in both and try to not be quite so hard on my dull vision (lol).

      Thanks for the question Mark. Not sure I answered it, but birds are chirping outside and the rain forecast didn’t fall and we are here to fight another day, to pick up our instruments and tumble and riff, riff and tumble :).

      • says

        You answered it well, as I knew you would Marty, which is why I asked it ;-) (Kind of like one soloist creating a riff that he knows the next soloist will be able to expand upon.)

        At the risk of over-extending your metaphor…I’m thinking about your concept of tumbling. In soloing, sometimes the soloist hits upon a “hook,” a distinctive bit of melody or phrasing that connects with the audience and perks sudden interest in the piece.

        In content tumbling, exploring for hooks may involve experimenting with titles and teases. On Twitter, obviously title is everything, as you have so few characters in which to create the hook. So when the post title doesn’t grab, perhaps retumbling with a different tweet title will.

        In extended formats, like Google+ or Facebook, that technique can extend to things like the “blurb” you include and/or the image posted with the link.

        • says

          Yes I ALWAYS tweak tittle first. Tittle is the “grab ‘em” hook you note. Many great titles aren’t supported by the actual piece – the audience goes in but they don’t share.

          Sometimes I rebuild the content, if I am curating or creating in a area near and dear and love the title, but great title riffs that can’t be supported by the subsequent link is another large group of “non-viral” content and so an important thing to know.

          I have to be careful since tumbling content is a permission based activity. If I tweak a title and make it more cool and interesting than the payoff a “bait and switch” feel can result and my trust as curator eroded. This is why I NEVER tweak titles for content that was on the bubble in the first place.

          That “on the bubble” statement makes it sound like I set out to curate or create average content and that is NEVER the case but it is the relentless FACT of what we do. Greatness is the aspiration and we reach it, at least partially, by being in the game. If we could KNOW greatness a priori then we would be on a beach somewhere having a cold beverage.

          Our CRAFT is in the strange art and science of Internet marketing. The truth is our intent and search for greatness over and over, the addictive drug is finding it and then wanting to find it all over again faster and more. This is why content marketing is like jazz.The moment we play our content marketing is floats away and teases our senses with memory and promise.

          And so we tumble and riff again with friends.

          • says

            I understand what you’re saying about being careful about not baiting and switching when re-titling a share post or tweet. But sometimes I find that a piece of content is great but has a crappy title (or just a title I know wouldn’t click for my audience). Or sometimes there is a buried lead. They titled the piece one thing, but I think the real interesting nugget (at least for my audience) is something deeper in the piece that their title doesn’t cover.

          • says

            You are hitting BIG content marketing nails on the head. If I had to identify one problem as the most pervasive and common it would be burying the lead.

            This piece is a good example. I’ve tested Tweets focusing on IM (the jazz comparision), the intimacy of being let in on a conversation with my brother, and the “inside baseball” aspect of using jargon (tumble and riff) and then linking it to something of mystery (what Internet marketers actually DO).

            Each of those riffs is an attempt to find the lead, the compelling lead that launches a thousand ships.

            Great titles are strange brews of cliche, cultural happenings, buried but present knowledge (like those Shakespeare references I love), mystery and enigma.

            This is why I am relentless about testing titles (usually on Twiter). I have gone back to posts and changed the title (though this is SEO PAINFUL) based on tests making it clear I missed the lead.

            Do this kind of testing often enough and some universal though not immutable laws begin to form such as:

            * 7 word rule (same as billboards on highways, 7 words or less if you can).
            * Riffing in existing brands or cultural reference can make title more viral (or overwhelm it).
            * Love asking a Question and leaving it open. Human mind begins to answer the minute they read the question.
            * Love asking a question and closing it with a supplied answer since it feels less like the reader has to do the work.
            * Love a little shock value since content comes at all of us via a daily fire hose now.
            * Love HUMOR though humor can be very individual so use carefully.
            * Love to comment on what is happening now, if something is exploding I note it and it makes the explosion bigger.
            * Love self fulfilling prophecies.
            * Love secrets.
            * Love exclusive, first, best, top as they all create self fulfilling prophecies.

            I could go on but you get the idea. That matrix is firing when title is the task. Within the matrix some things are more important than others in certain situations. If something is HOT and BRANDED I do as little as possible since any manipulation LOWERS the heat and reduces the brand impact.

            I’ve also found including keywords such as VIDEO and STUDY and INFOGRAPHIC can significantly impact the value of all the words that precede the keyword. The key is to curate a lot of content across many different social nets since each has quirks and secrets.

            Just about the time you feel comfortable curating content into Scoop.it then, before you can take a breath, it is time to learn how to use LinkedIn or G+. Some title lessons are universal, but each tool has a preference and we ignore those at our Internet marketing peril. Marty


Leave a Reply