25+ of The Best TED Talks for Bloggers and Digital Marketers
Technology, Entertainment, and Design. These three categories are meant to encapsulate the future, of tech, of creativity, and of human thought. The TED organization set up this conference all the way back in 1990, and has been delivering annual events ever since. A huge array of different people from Stephen Hawking to Jane Goodall to Dolph Lundgren have spoken at TED, and more besides.
TED Talks run a wide range of different topics, depths, and levels of entertainment. There are talks on music, talks on psychology, talks on emerging technology, and so much more. Trust me, if you wanted, you could easily spend days lost in the interlinked network of talks and presentations. I know, because I have.
And now I’m going to sentence you to that same fate, by giving you 29 excellent talks you can watch. They aren’t just my favorites, they’re a range of useful talks that can teach you something about marketing, about blogging, about content production, or something related enough to still be useful.
Note that some of the videos below may be from TED offshoots, not just from the core TED itself. TEDx, for example, is an independent system that can be licensed from TED and run as a non-profit conference centered around whatever the organizers want it to cover.
They’re all good, though. Give them a look!
1. Simplicity Sells
While this talk is focused more on tech than on content, and it’s from all the way back in 2006 so it’s a little bit dated, but the core message is relevant beyond the tech industry and beyond a decade and a half later. Keep it simple. The more complex you try to make something, the more points of failure you cross and the more likely you are to falter.
2. The Tribes We Lead
Seth Godin is one of the world’s foremost marketing personalities, and practically everything he says is golden. This talk is from 2013 or so, but it dives deep into how the internet has fractured people into tribes, small groups in the wider sea of people, and how marketers can take advantage of that to lead the tribe that develops around them.
3. How to Start a Movement
“The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.” This brief and bite-sized talk from Derek Sivers uses a meme video from a decade ago to showcase how a movement starts, how it grows, and how the dynamics of a group can make it take on a life of its own. It’s important to recognize as a marketer that, even though you want to be a leader the way Seth Godin says, it’s not just about you; it’s about the people who choose to follow you.
4. Treat the Tech You Use at Work Like a Colleague
One problem that businesses the world over constantly encounter is poor adoption of new technology. Businesses spend hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars on new technology, only for it to never be adopted. This applies to everything from a data entry job to marketing to blogging. Nadjia’s talk helps people adopt new technology rather than wasting it, and the money spent to obtain it.
5. What Physics Taught Me About Marketing
Dan Cobley is a former marketing director for Google, so you could say he knows a thing or two about the world of digital marketing. This talk draws parallels between concepts in physics an concepts in marketing. For example, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which states that it’s impossible to measure both the position and velocity of a particle, because the act of measuring it changes it. In marketing, the act of watching consumers changes their behavior.
6. Where Are Our Digital Ads Really Going?
This talk is more in line with what you’d expect out of a marketing-focused talk. Kristi directly addresses two facts that run counter to each other; that the average user hates ads on their mobile devices, but that ads on mobile work to raise brand awareness. How do marketers straddle this line, making effective ads without irritating users? You’ll have to watch to see what she has to say.
7. Building a Dystopia to Make People Click on Ads
Machine learning and observation control ever-increasing amounts of our lives. Massive forces beyond the understanding of any one person – developed by huge teams at huge companies like Facebook and Google – drive and control our lives, all with the one goal of getting people to click on ads. It’s an undeniable dystopia we live in, but what can we do about it? This is an important talk to watch for marketers who might question their role in the ethical progress of culture, or who just want a glimpse into what the big players are doing that we never can.
8. How Influencers Have Transformed Modern Marketing
Rachel David discusses the disruption social media has had on marketing over the last several years, and how marketing has shifted from a focus on mass marketing and unified messaging to influencer marketing. These days we all kind of know what influencer marketing is, but the in-use concept we put to work and the reality of influencer marketing are surprisingly different. There’s more to it all than you might think.
9. Life Lessons From an Ad Man
There’s not really a great way to describe this video. Rory Sutherland has been in marketing for a very long time, and has racked up a ton of valuable insight in a wide array of topics. Watching his content is about the next best thing to talking to him as a mentor, and you can learn a lot just from his anecdotes and his experiences throughout his career.
10. 404, The Story of a Page Not Found
One semi-common piece of advice for bloggers is to customize your 404 page. It’s a page a user was promised, and it’s an opportunity for you to provide value through an unexpected venue. Taking the advice as a rote rule is one thing, but this speech helps you understand precisely why it’s a good idea, what the user experiences when they land on a broken page, and gives you some ideas of how to capitalize on it as an opportunity.
11. The Puzzle of Motivation
One of the most popular TED Talks of all time, this is a speech from career analyst Dan Pink addressing the concept of motivation, and how people are motivated from within and without. Incentivizing even simple actions may not be as effective as you might want, and understanding what motivates your audience is crucial for any marketer.
12. Glory of The New Yorker’s Comma Queen
Mary Norris has been among the best of the best editors for high-visibility content for over 30 years, and she has extremely valuable insight into how simple usage of simple grammatical devices, in particular the comma, play a role in making content readable and acceptable. I can tell you one thing for sure; she would demolish my content, and probably that of everyone else reading this as well.
Kevin is the head of culture and trends at YouTube, and so he has one of the closest possible perspectives to see what makes a video trend and go viral compared to any other. While the cynical among us might say it’s just what YouTube thinks will pull in the most advertising money, there’s more to it, and it’s worth a watch to find out what.
14. We All Have a Voice
Have you ever been in a room with a nine year old and felt like they were smarter than you? Tobias was only nine when he gave this speech, but it’s a surprisingly powerful talk about finding your voice and making use of it.
15. The Art of Asking
Amanda Palmer is first and foremost an artist, and she has known both struggle and success. This talk discusses her time as a street performer and explores the relationship between performer and fan. It’s a good reminder that as marketers, we don’t always need to try to trick people into purchasing; sometimes all we need to do is ask.
16. Your Online Life, Permanent as a Tattoo
One thing that is becoming increasingly clear in the era of doxing, digging up the past to cancel celebrities, and the Internet Archive is that nothing is ever gone. You can’t post a tweet without someone screencapping it just in case, these days. Making a mistake means you can’t just brush it under the rug or forget about it; you have to deal with it in a modern, new way.
17. In Defense of Emojis
Jenna’s talk here, in partnership with UPS, defends the humble emoji. Our current world has a love-hate relationship with the pictographs, often viewing them as immature and childish, but brands that have learned to effectively use them in social media and other marketing channels can find they produce a lot of value beyond the basic Facebook reaction.
18. The Security Mirage
Bruce forces us to acknowledge that security – from physical security to digital threats – is made up of both the impression of security and the reality of security. Running an online business means needing to confront the reality of online security, when customer information and your own livelihood are on the line.
19. Meet the Founder of the Blog Revolution
This talk is quite old, but it’s worth watching for a historical look at the origin of blogging and the influence it has had on commerce from all angles. Blogging wasn’t always a business strategy, but even from its early days, businesses needed to be aware of it, because it was a massive vector for circulating knowledge about products, for good and bad.
20. The 3 As of Awesome
The key to living an awesome life is distilled down into three words, three concepts, by the blogger Neil Pasricha. This talk doesn’t have anything to do with blogging directly, but it can be a huge help for acknowledging and improving on the things that make a life well lived, like appreciating the world around you and maintaining a work-life balance.
21.How to Get Your Ideas to Spread
Another talk from Seth Godin, this time focused on the biggest problem marketers face with the internet: everyone is spoiled for choice. There are more options for everything today than there were a year, five years, or ten years ago, including competition for everything you offer. How do you overcome this competition and be the one to catch attention?
22. 3 Ways to (Usefully) Lose Control of Your Brand
Your brand – as a business and your personal brand as a blogger, entrepreneur, and owner – is only ever partially under your control. Businesses and individuals who try to tightly control their brand find it difficult to do, and this talk covers why it’s not a great idea in the first place. Lose control in a purposeful way and let that brand flourish.
23. Try Something New for 30 Days
People often have a laundry list of things they wish they had time to do, but you know what? There’s no better time than now to give it a try. In some of his non-Google content, Matt Cutts discusses the joy of setting a small goal and achieving it, and how it can change the way you live your life.
24. How Web Video Powers Global Innovation
These days we know video has had a huge impact on marketing and other industries around the world, but back in 2010 it was still on its way. Chris’s speech showcases the role of video in the cycle of innovation that drives a lot more than you might think behind the scenes of society.
25. The Greatest TED Talk Ever Sold
Spurlock is an interesting filmmaker with a varied filmography. This TED Talk was an interesting experiment in sponsorships and sponsored content, and how commerce can shape the way a message is delivered and the content of that message.
26. How to Build Your Creative Confidence
There’s a lot that goes into any creative endeavor, and we all at some point suffer from imposter syndrome. Building up your confidence in your ability to be creative is a huge part of successful marketing, because after all: if you don’t believe in yourself, who else will believe in you?
27. How Great Leaders Inspire Action
Successful blogging is all about leadership, specifically thought leadership. Being a leader means taking action, but it also means inspiring action in your followers. Simon’s talk discusses the “why” behind great leaders of the past and present, and tries to help you figure out how to find the “why” behind your own leadership.
28. Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe
This talk is something of a companion piece to the previous one, which is why they’re listed back to back. While the first one discusses the reasons behind leadership and inspiration, this one discusses how a great leader can make their followers feel safe and secure in their choices, and how that becomes more than just inspiration, but a responsibility as well.
29. Listen, Learn… Then Lead
In a final video to round out this list, a four-star general shares his experience with leadership in the military. The key takeaway here is applicable in many areas of life; listening to what people are really saying is what gives you the information you need to lead.
Did these videos inspire you? Do you have one you really like and would want to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!