Darren Foong is currently the Growth Manager at ReferralCandy.
There, he grows and manages the ReferralCandy and Candybar blogs through regular blogging, content promotion, and SEO.
He’s worked for several tech companies, though he came into the field via a science degree, studying Chemistry and Business.
In this interview, we’ll cover some of his background, challenges he faces while trying to grow two blog properties, what he loves about marketing, and tips for how you can do content marketing better.
How did you get into content marketing? What’s your origin story?
Appropriately, I content marketed my way into content marketing.
After graduation, I really wanted to work in tech and digital marketing. I couldn’t find a job on the back of an internship in a startup and a Science degree. Frustrated, I wrote about my difficulties, and it turned out one of my readers worked at a PR agency who specialised in tech, and he was impressed enough with my writing to start my career. After a couple years I managed to sell my skills and experience to a startup, and started content marketing.
Is there anything particular to your background, personality or skill set that you believe makes you a great content marketer?
I’m not sure I’m a great content marketer yet; the more content I read, the more I’m convinced I can’t write well. The combination of feeling like an outsider and imposter syndrome means I will happily learn, steal, copy and replicate techniques, tropes and whatever works for other people, no ego at all.
What have you found to be particularly challenging about growing two different blog properties (ReferralCandy and CandyBar)?
I feel like a parent with two kids, both at different stages of development, both of them accusing me of favouritism.
The ReferralCandy Blog is like the college kid, with their own struggles but generally stable and established and capable of looking after themselves. We have a process for stories, and linking, and researching, and ranking for keywords, and so on.
The CandyBar blog is just a kid who needs attention all the time because they’re not quite there yet. You celebrate the small successes and milestones and maybe you know from experience what’s important and what you can fudge. But we’re also realising that CandyBar is growing up in a more competitive blogging environment and industry, and what worked before isn’t working now.
So, it’s like having two sets of different problems.
If you had to explain to someone outside of the content space, what would you say is the more rewarding or enjoyable aspect of your job in content marketing & growth?
Marketing is literally a job where you get paid to think of ideas that would be interesting to other people. It’s a combination of party planner, prankster, and the mischievous kid who gets other kids in trouble at the start of the movie. That is delicious!
What skills do you believe are the most underrated for content marketers? Are there any ways you know to learn or improve those skills?
I would say code is not intimidating, except that really, it is, and very complicated. I’ve found that if you stay humble, and speak to engineers as you would speak to wizards and sorceresses, they are more than happy to listen and even teach you some magic. Or react.
What do you think content writers get wrong about SEO? What’s the fastest way for them to learn the right way to do things?
What worked best for me was going back and searching and trying to figure out why Google was ignoring all of my changes, or what things Google paid attention to.
For example – this is weird – our app is called CandyBar. I wrote a blog about literal candy bars. Will it work? Let’s find out!
Are there any tactics in marketing you believe are overplayed or getting stale?
I think content marketing doesn’t solve marketing problems, unless your content solves problems.
I saw a scathing review of a book that said “This should have been a blog post.” I have read blog posts that should’ve been a tweet, or not published at all. I see plenty of articles that are thinly disguised sales brochures, and I was once offered an article that was just another article with words and phrases lightly rewritten with synonyms. Why? If the content doesn’t offer anything to readers, you’ve just written words that will have no effect.
Gimme three tips to improve my writing? Or rather, three tips anyone can use to write better.
- Read better writers and decide for yourself what ‘better’ means. Read everyone from the blogger at the bigger company to the guy who got that job you didn’t to Ryan Holiday and Neil Patel. Question why they write better, or why people prefer their writing to yours. Read Henry David Thoreau and question if it really is better writing or worthy of being a classic. You won’t agree with all the writing, but you’ll certainly start thinking more about ‘better writing’. Plus, you’ll have read plenty of what people consider good writing.
- Read something you don’t care for and surprise yourself with what you can learn. One of my favourite writers, Sir Terry Pratchett, spent time reading all kinds of random books, histories and trivia like Lacemaking Through the Ages and took inspiration from the strange characters, plots, and situations that were weird or plot-worthy but actually happened. Get out of your echo chamber and news bubble; surprise yourself with something you had little expectations of.
- Write shorter. Brevity is the soul of wit.