5 ways TED catapulted into a global brand (and how you can, too)

TED’s executive producer explains how TED became a household name.


For something to succeed online, it doesn’t need to just be good, someone has to want to share it, according to June Cohen, executive producer of TED Media.

Cohen discussed TED’s evolution from a single conference into a global media platform at Mashable Connect recently. The key has always been inspiring and innovative ideas.

For TED, it discovered early on that the nature of its content created scores of like-minded individuals eager to spread ideas themselves. Cohen outlined its strategy towards taking these “ideas worth spreading” and inspiring a community of discovery and change.

1. Feed the hunger for participation.

People want to be a part of something bigger. For TED, the desire to scale to a global level was enabled by an empowered community who were ready and willing to translate talks into different languages.

To date, TED Talks have been translated into 86 languages through volunteer efforts.

2. Encourage sharing.

There are 1,200 TED Talks online that have been viewed collectively more than 800,000,000 times.

Cohen explained that the widespread use of social media naturally played a part in this process.

“Online users are exquisitely vulnerable to distraction” Cohen said.

With a rise in mobile, TED embraced the trends of its community and purposely designed its online talks to be optimized for the small screen, cut long introductions and started videos strong.

TED also made sure videos were framed close to the speaker’s face. That allows mobile phone viewers to see the emotion of what’s being communicated.

TED videos can also be watched through many devices, embedded, downloaded as free podcast, etc. By embracing open (free) models it aims to reduce the barriers between the ideas and its intended audience.

3. Listen to your users.

Your users will usually be the ones to give you your best ideas. They’re the ones interacting in the space in ways a brand may not have imagined unless they actually listen.

“We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas,” Cohen said.

Many of the best ideas for TED and its expansion have come from how it listens to requests from the community.

Ask yourself, what do you really need for your company? What do your users want?

4. Reach people everywhere (not just online.)

How do you engage your community beyond a piece of online content?

The success of TED talks fueled a demand by individuals to have their own TED talks and bring the positive message to their part of the world. Instead of allowing it to happen on its own, TED embraced this desire and created the TEDx platform.

This TEDx umbrella gives individual communities the power to come together and host their own TED-like events. For TED, this ensures its message continues to flourish in the way it intended.

5. Don’t forget to tell a story.

At the heart of great media are great stories.

Compelling and diverse content presented in a variety of interesting ways keeps people engaged. What are you creating for your brand’s audience? Does it provide some value that warrants their time?

Cohen cited presentations from Wael Ghonim and Hans Rosling as a sample of these truly moving presentations that strike a chord and spark conversations worldwide.

Nick Cicero is a social media strategist with On Ideas. A version of this article about TED social media first appeared on Social Fresh.

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