Andy Reed, the first head of content at Dorm Room Fund, joined the organization as a University of Michigan student.
Through a social media post, he heard about Dorm Room Fund’s new content role. With interests in startups and entrepreneurship, he wanted to get his feet wet in the world of venture capital without taking on a full-time job.
“I was really interested in joining from the content side of things and doing something I was comfortable with but also being able to glean information about the venture capital world,” Andy said.
When Andy joined DRF, the HQ team had already started working remotely and had already been operating for a couple of years. But without someone leading content efforts, the DRF brand had relied on word of mouth and campus representatives, which lacked a digital footprint.
Over nine months, Andy launched a newsletter and blog. The snippets, he said, summarized key tech events and targeted college students, who weren’t always interested in long form pieces. He also added startup and venture capital jobs in the newsletter and used the blog to expand on topics and improve DRF’s SEO.
In this Q&A below, which was edited lightly for clarity, Andy shares some of what he learned as the former head of content.
What tips do you have for a person wanting to launch a blog?
The big question is “Why are you launching a blog?” There’s a lot of reasons to do it, but most times, it’s because other people are doing it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly value in having a blog for SEO purposes, but what’s your goal? Is the goal to educate customers or add transparency to your building process? Or just because everyone’s doing it?
There’s also potential for your first product to be your content before you even launch your intended product. You can build a community around a newsletter, and as long as your content is something that’s providing people value or entertainment on a regular basis, you can use it as a way to measure interest for your actual product.
Channel strategy is super important as you look to grow your audience. There are a million blogs out there. Everyone wakes up and gets half a dozen newsletters in their inbox and probably just deletes most of them without even thinking about clicking “open.” Everyone is on social media, especially in the midst of a pandemic where we can’t necessarily be together and the communication has largely moved online. Think about where your customers are spending time and the value you want to provide to them, then decide if a blog or newsletter is a good fit.
How do you measure the success of your content?
The simplest way to measure is your page views, shares, and other top-line stats from Google Analytics. If you start with a Substack newsletter, it’s very easy to see the overall open rate and conversion rate for every link you include in each post. When we first launched the Dorm Room Fund newsletter, we had a 50% open rate, which, in the world of email marketing, is very good. If people are clicking through a news story, that’s great, but if they’re clicking through the jobs or the articles that you’re posting on your blog, that’s where you want to boost your own offerings.
People toss around this idea that Slack has killed email, but there’s always money in email. A great indicator of someone’s interest is whether or not they’ll sign up for your mailing list and give you their email after reading your content. It’s great if someone is willing to read your blog or article, but it’s even better if they get to the end and they were so impressed with the content that they are willing to give away their personal information.
What’s the role of social media in content?
Twitter in venture capital is a big brag fest with every fund and investor retweeting and congratulating their companies that just raised or exited. But that’s not to say that you can’t stand out. One way to differentiate your content from clout-chasing investors is through creating Twitter threads. There are twitter personalities who post threads about industry trends or things they learned from building or evaluating companies. Everyone’s looking to improve as an investor or founder, so if they can read the first tweet of a thread knowing that they’re going to walk away with helpful information, they are more than likely going to read the rest of your posts.
Also, think about your audience. For DRF, we were marketing to 18-23 year olds. What type of content do they want? What’s their attention span? College students don’t have the time to read long-form blog posts, so we moved to Instagram and considered TikTok. Short form stuff is great and the video is massive now.
What’s the value of content?
Content is more than just a means of marketing. Your overall content strategy is not just the blog or newsletter that you put out but it’s your whole brand’s tone and voice. What I focus on in the content strategy realm is making sure things are clear, compelling, and consistent. For early stage companies, think about each part of the overall system. It’s one thing if you have a cheeky copy on your website, but it doesn’t make sense if the content you put out on social media and blogs is super stuffy. Think about what you’re building, who you’re building for, and the best experience that you can provide to them. Then make sure you’re being consistent across the brand, regardless of what content you’re putting out.