2014 is the year in which considered, strategic content marketing will grow from a ‘should do’ activity into a ‘must do’ activity for credible brands intent on building meaningful engagements with savvy customers.
2013 was a big year for content marketing. Conceptually, at least. Content marketing became a ‘must investigate’ factor on many businesses’ ‘to do’ lists. We were overwhelmed with attempts to rebadge various forms of digital marketing activity under the umbrella of ‘content marketing’, with a range of approaches – from a concerted brand narrative to a deluge of crap. Marketers developed a plethora of output from infographics to video underpinned with storytelling concepts, on a sliding scale of audience relevancy and quality.
Here are four tips for resolving the challenges ahead:
1. Create content that does more
Although there’s evidence that in the business-to-business online space, creating more content does work (in terms of traffic and SEO), creating content that does more should be your working mantra.
Aim for quality over quantity, with the caveat that not every single one of your genius articles or videos will get the attention it deserves. Be prepared to experiment and try out different platforms, media and approaches to see what leads to results.
One solution we have used with our clients is to co-commission: commission print and digital brand stories at once, commission your writer to produce a web article, email copy and social media updates which build both consistencies of tone of voice, and can (depending on your structure) simplify the production, speed and cost of cross-channel content.
2. Making your content work harder
However lovely your beautifully-crafted blog post, painstakingly-researched white paper or epic #LOLZ video, your content won’t achieve its full potential without an approach to activation and engagement. The ‘noise’ of content out there means your single post is but a drop in the ocean. And that ocean is full of sharks!
If it’s good enough to be read and shared, you should invest fair efforts in finding an audience. Take the owned, earned, paid media approach:
Owned – Are you using your content across all your channels effectively? Are web articles used as ongoing fuel for your email and social channels, with multiple posts per article where the different twist, take or relevancy can add value to a different audience at different times? Is your latest in-store print brochure available as a digital edition to reach a different audience or the same audience at a different touchpoint?
Earned – Reaching out is the principle of PR, and online it can be done even without a bulging little black book. Use Google and Excel to start to build up a network of contacts with like-minded bloggers, journalists and media titles who may be eager for news and story ideas. It works best when two worlds come together, like this post by a craft mummy blogger about a political campaign to improve social care.
At the most basic level, set up a Twitter list of people to tweet for the different topics you’re posting about. Don’t forget your own readers: give them a special offer (competition, code or kudos of being the first to know) so they want to share your content. Let them do the hard work for you.
Paid – Quick hit content advertising networks like Outbrain place your stories seamlessly within relevant news websites (the new wave of advertorial), along with Facebook and YouTube sponsored videos. This has transformed advertising from a high spend activity to something within the grasp of a small business. Trial and test networks to see not only what readers you get, but the return-on-investment of these additional viewers (who come with the caveat they have been ‘bought’ and will often be less engaged). Spend 5-10% of your production budget on either advertising or outreach to gain the best exposure.
3. Create a strategy the whole organisation can buy into
Creating a full content strategy can be a damning task and one which may duplicate other marketing, digital or other strategies that have already been well established. The audit alone can be intimidating before different partners, internal teams and agencies all start wanting to muscle in on protecting their aspect of the delivery.
I recommend taking both a light touch and holistic view: create a simple editorial plan for the year which all teams can buy into, to bring together how their different work strands are contributing to a whole from the outset.
In the planning stage, use solid data on return-on-investment to determine what’s worked to date. Your goals may not just be financial. For example, video may allow you to a reach a different demographic, albeit one that’s further away from the sales pipeline. Then think about minimising, or dropping, what hasn’t worked.
Only audit at the point of need (for example a website refresh – be prepared to drop a large quantity of pages if they are not being read, nor are relevant to your current approach) and govern your editorial plan with a Board or Editorial Group encompassing key stakeholders and actual on-the-ground producers. Next, use their wider network to capture where stories are being produced within the business to fuel your editorial plan. Launch events and international trips to suppliers can be rich opportunities to bring back photos, stories and videos. Have some flex to incorporate trends and unexpected stories that fit the overall narrative.
4. Mobile by default
Mobile and tablet usage is on the rise, with 20% use recently reported for eCommerce, and it can be far in excess of this depending on your audience. Even if your audience is primarily desktop now, they will soon be heading to mobile. So to future-proof your online activity, consider any new projects from a mobile-first perspective:
- Is my website and email design responsive to allow for all device types?
- Have we considered the context of my messaging – is this understood for someone in the office, on the bus, and in the bath?
- What’s my ‘mothership device’ – the device I believe the majority of my users are likely to have – this becomes the starting point of the design process.
Use your analytics to determine which devices people are already using, with the caveat that the very existence of a mobile or tablet app or edition will skew these figures towards mobile/tablet in a positive direction, and vice versa.
Measuring your content marketing efforts
To avoid the cliché “half of my advertising is wasted, but I don’t know which half,” be more savvy about tracking content. If you don’t have a smart marketer in-house who understands your various analytics tools, bring someone in to set up your systems and reporting tools and hand over reports and templates to your internal team to complete.
Measure only what counts (i.e. what contributes to your KPIs), and spend time looking at cause and effect when things do work: what was the source of inbound traffic? The time of day of post? What was the mood or approach that captured people’s imagination? If you can determine what people want, and what people will share, you are already capturing engagement, which can be converted into next stage results.
2014 is the year to refresh and rethink your brand’s content approach and content marketing strategy. Contact River for a chat to see how we can help.