Carter Hansen

Head of Marketing at Step

Carter Hansen on the Intersection of AI and Content Marketing

Join us for a fascinating discussion with Carter Hansen, an expert in content marketing. In conversation with Prasad Shetty, Sales Manager at Pepper Content, Carter Hansen, Head of Marketing at Step, explores the vital role of technology and human creativity in building successful marketing strategies. Hansen shares intriguing ideas about how a harmonious blend of human creativity and advanced AI tools can supercharge growth.

He emphasizes the enduring value of human input, even as AI advances, and underscores the importance of efficient tools and resource management. Drawing inspiration from creative influencers shaping the future of marketing, Hansen offers insights that will resonate with experienced marketers and newcomers alike. This conversation delves into the exciting possibilities of AI while cherishing the essential human touch.

1. What led you to content marketing?

My career began in the entertainment industry, where I worked on various film and television development aspects. Collaborating with creative individuals while producing movies and TV shows was a thrilling experience. Over time, my role evolved significantly.

A pivotal moment came with my involvement in the rise of YouTube and the creation of Awesomeness TV, which has since become a significant success under ViacomCBS. I transitioned from creating original content for shows to working closely with brands seeking entry into the digital media space.

Our target audience was Gen Z, and we aimed to connect brands with this engaged demographic. This led to innovative solutions, integrating brands into our content without compromising originality.

My journey, starting in film and TV and moving into digital media, shifted my focus from content creation to branded content and marketing. Here, I honed problem-solving skills and mastered crafting brand narratives, bridging the gap between storytelling and brand promotion.

"The one thing that I urge people to do is not to lose the human element and not to solely rely on AI."

2. What content marketing aspect do you enjoy the most, and which one you find challenging?

What I truly love about what we do in content marketing is its profound emotional impact on people. It connects, resonates, and forms lasting bonds. It fosters brand loyalty and, more importantly, human connection. Often, we find ourselves buried behind computer screens, but the magic happens when you're out in the real world, meeting someone whose life your work has touched. Hearing them talk about it naturally, without any prompting, is incredibly powerful. It reveals that our work can potentially move people unexpectedly beyond our initial imaginings.

Another aspect that resonates with me is the ability to create campaigns that give back, transforming lives and livelihoods. Content isn't just about driving acquisition or moving the needle; it can force positive change. Ultimately, content is a form of entertainment, and there are countless ways to entertain and evoke emotions. If we can brighten someone's day, make them happier, or even improve their financial literacy, that's immensely fulfilling. I'm fortunate to work for a financial services company that allows us to do precisely that, combining entertainment with education to improve people's lives and financial well-being.

However, with these rewards come challenges and frustrations. There's an insatiable desire to do more, go more significant, and exceed expectations. The world moves at a breakneck pace, and while we strive to adapt, we often feel like we're playing catch-up. Maximizing the opportunities before us and utilizing our resources effectively is an ongoing challenge. The landscape evolves rapidly, and we must stay current and consistent while navigating external changes beyond our control. It's a fast-paced environment where staying at the forefront requires constant effort and adaptability.

3. Amid economic turbulence, as marketers shift to organic strategies, what KPIs do you prioritize? Is it top-of-funnel engagement, thought leadership, or another focus?

Our journey at Step is relatively short, spanning just about two years. As a security startup headquartered in Palo Alto, we're in a significant growth phase, prioritizing customer acquisition. While top-of-the-funnel metrics are important, our approach is rooted in guiding users through the entire customer journey, ensuring they find real value in our product.

Our focus extends beyond performance-based strategies and content promotion; it's about embracing a holistic approach. This means excelling in paid advertising and cultivating a strong presence in organic channels. Take our TikTok channel, for example—many of our videos garner over a million organic views. However, our goal isn't just brand visibility; it's about fostering brand affinity.

We aim to be more than just a financial tool; we want Step to be a companion that assists users in various life situations. Whether providing life hacks or engaging with our community on platforms like Discord, where we have a vibrant and engaged user base, we're all about creating meaningful connections. Our strategy revolves around diversifying our engagement points.

If I can draw someone in through a social channel, nurture their loyalty within our community, and convert them into passionate advocates, we're not just acquiring customers at the top of the funnel but nurturing genuine, lasting relationships. This holistic approach ensures that not only do we guide people down the funnel, but they genuinely want to be part of our Step community.

4. In the recent social media discussions, the quality-versus-quantity debate is buzzing. What's your stance on it?

I find it intriguing, mainly reflecting on my time in the entertainment industry before my current role. We used to churn out content at an astonishing pace – 35 new episodes every week. But then, we deliberately decided to scale back and reduce the volume of content we produced. Surprisingly, right from the outset, we noticed something remarkable – our viewership didn't decline; it increased.

This pattern repeated itself more recently at Step when we decided to cut back on the quantity of content we were pushing out. We observed a boost in viewership and saw a significant improvement in our user acquisition channels. It became clear that when we focus on quality, our efforts become more efficient and yield better results. Quality has always been my top priority, and it should never be compromised, regardless of the quantity.

We don't need to inundate our audience with content every single day. Instead, we have the luxury of letting our creations breathe, ensuring that what we produce is not just content for the sake of it. Throughout my career, I've realized that, more often than not, the quality of what we offer genuinely matters, surpassing the mere quantity.

"I don't think that you need a million tools at the same time. It's about having the right tools."

5. Amid the multitude of content tools, what's your take on a unified platform like Pepper for content management and analysis? Is it something you'd consider, or do you have a different approach?

For our startup, efficiency is critical, given our small yet powerful teams. We're always looking for ways to streamline our operations. That's where practical tools come into play – those encompassing platforms that handle publishing, management, analytics, and competitive research. The more robust and efficient the device, the more it helps us conserve time, energy, and resources, allowing us to focus on creating engaging content and educating ourselves effectively.

In my view, it's not about having many tools; it's about having the right ones. We've conducted thorough audits of our tool stack to ensure it provides us with a competitive edge. Often, this means freeing up our talented team members' valuable time and energy. Our most vital assets can then do what they excel at: creating and marketing content, unleashing their creativity, rather than being bogged down by day-to-day metrics as we used to be before these tools came into play.

6. Regarding AI's rise, especially ChatGPT, how do you see it impacting content creators and marketers?

AI, like ChatGPT, is a valuable complement. However, it's crucial not to lose the human touch. We incorporate AI in several aspects, such as copywriting and design, and it's astounding how it can assist with just a few prompts. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, it's vital to remember that AI lacks the human element. We must ensure that our brand maintains a distinct voice and tone that resonates with our audience.

AI's rapid proliferation is fascinating, offering substantial time savings for various roles. Embracing these efficiencies is essential, but we should always strive to maintain a sense of authenticity. We must strike a balance, as companies risk losing their way if they rely solely on AI without preserving the human touch.

7. Who are your top inspirations in the content marketing or marketing field?

My inspiration comes from content creators and influencers grinding it out daily. It's not just about explaining products; it's about creators who thrive for over a decade, adapt to changing platforms, and even build brands from their content. People like Mr. Beast, Emma Chamberlain, and Jules Leblanc inspire me by diversifying and evolving their work.

As marketers, we watch how they adapt to new platforms and learn valuable lessons from their strategies. It's not about prominent marketing leaders but the daily practitioners who teach us how to stay current and emulate their success within our brand's voice and perspective.

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