Matthew T. Grant is director of content strategy at Aquent, a global staffing firm focused on placing digital, creative, and marketing professionals. You may know Matt as the former host of Marketing Smarts and managing editor here at MarketingProfs. 

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I invited Matt to Marketing Smarts to talk about how Aquent is developing massive open online courses ("MOOCs") as a form of content marketing. In Aquent's case, the intent is to attract job seekers as well as potential employers of those job seekers.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Knowing what makes for an effective content strategy and implementing one are two different things (03:12): "It's relatively simple to say how a content strategy should be developed and implemented, and it's relatively challenging to do that in a real, living organization, where things are already happening. Aquent's been around for 27 years, so we have clients, we have business, we have operations happening. Coming into the middle of it and trying to set a course when you're also just trying to do the things that need to happen right now can be very challenging. I think it's made me appreciate much more the challenges faced by anyone doing content out there at any organization."

Having content go viral only works for marketing if the content aligns with your business objectives (7:30): "There's a guy named Greg Savage who for many years ran Aquent's Asia Pacific business...and now Greg is off doing his own thing [in Australia]... He wrote a post about three years ago about people being rude. It wasn't about recruiting, it wasn't about his business. It basically said 'your'e not running late: you're being rude and selfish'.... Someone from the Huffington Post saw it on Facebook...asked if she could put it on Huffington Post, and...this post that he originally wrote in 2010, when it went on Huffington Post, had 350,000 likes and had been shared 50,000 plus times on Facebook. But the interesting thing was, it was getting a ton of traffic on Aquent's blog... But when you're doing content, you have to think...not just about getting the buzz, but what can with the buzz? What's interesting from Greg's perspective—he's in Australia and he's building his business in Australia—because [his post] went insanely popular through Huffington Post, he's getting all these calls from North America and Vancouver, saying 'hey, we'd love to have you on our show talking about this.' It was mentioned on the Today Show...but he's turning all these media opportunities down.... He's not really trying to build profile in North America. It doesn't really benefit him. It's kind of funny where you can get something that has pretty long one forum, but you really do have to ask yourself, 'Is this going to benefit my business at all?' Even those 350,000 people there, how many of those people are actually recruiters who want to know how to be a more effective recruiter? I would say maybe a thin fraction of them." (Note: Matt wrote a blog post about "How to Create a Viral Blog Post" based on Greg's experience.)

The standard isn't "really useful content": it's "content that gets used." (19:50): "For me, blogging, doing podcasts, being involved with webinars, producing whitepapers and things like that...even video, too, I'm pretty comfortable working with that stuff. But...I saw Tamsen Webster speaking at a conference...and she said something really interesting. She said 'the standard isn't really useful content: the standard is content that gets used.' I've really been thinking about that...because...when I joined Aquent, it was to focus on this one initiative that we have called Aquent Gymnasium, which offers free online courses for designers and developers.... We know from talking to our clients and running focus groups what specific skills our prospects are looking for and the specific kinds of skills that they have a hard time filling.... We've always been involved in this kind of training and teaching and tying it to specific, marketable skills. Now...massive open online courses (MOOCs)...are supposed to be a very disruptive technology that's supposed to change higher education.... We decided to use that technology for our own content marketing purposes.... Interestingly enough, we had about 18,000 people who register with Aquent Gymnasium. We've had a very good response, and I think the beauty of this is that it is true, pure content marketing. The courses we produce...are the kind of thing people charge for, but we're giving away for free, and the way we've designed them [is]...very practical, so by the end of the course, you should be able to do something you couldn't do before.... From a content consumer's standpoint, we have produced something people can use. To go back to Tamsen's standard, this is usable content."

For more information, visit, or follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTGrant.

Matt and I talked about much more, including how I measure up as a podcast host, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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