Almost 30 million pieces of content are shared online each and every day. And frankly, much of it is garbage. Which is a pity because we all know that killer content not only achieves phenomenal reach but it has the genuine power to influence purchasing decisions. Why then do so many marketers try to create their own content without focusing on the basics first? I discussed this question on a client / agency / vendor panel last week at the Festival of Media Asia with Billy Lagor from Hasbro and Stephen Haines from Facebook.
The panel were unanimous in their assessment – most great content doesn’t just happen by accident. More often than not it requires the same rigorous attention to detail, understanding of the audience and flawless execution that a more traditional advertising campaign often entails. There is no point playing at it. Either invest in it properly or don’t bother doing it at all.
So where do you start? Well according to a recent feature in AdAge, you begin with your ABC’s…
A is for Applicable and Authentic. What does that mean in reality? Well the content has to be appropriate, interesting, relevant and engaging for your chosen audience. So before you begin to create your content you need to ask yourself a very simple question – will they care and share? It’s a cast iron guarantee that if they don’t care then they certainly won’t share. To put it into popular parlance, they need to be picking up what you are putting down!
The PepsiMax Test Drive is a superb example of how content resonates with it’s audience. The premise is very simple. The audience for PepsiMax love excitement, sports and fun (like most young guys). So Gifted Youth, the producers of the clip, gave them just that in the form of a 3 minute hidden camera recording of a fake test drive with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon on an unsuspecting car salesman.
Result? Almost 50 million views of the original content on the dedicated Pepsi Youtube channel and millions more shares, likes, comments on a whole host of other platforms.
B is for Breakthrough. It’s difficult to compete with the steady stream (or should that be raging torrent?) of content all vying for the attention of the consumer. How do you compete with that overwhelming avalanche of content on grumpy cats and dopey dogs? By offering something that can break through the clutter of course. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be entirely unique or innovative. Sometimes it just means taking an existing idea and doing it better (after all Apple didn’t invent the mobile phone but they created something iconic with the iPhone).
GE are renowned within the industry for its groundbreaking and consumer-friendly campaigns across multiple platforms such as Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Pinterest.
A regular winner at the Digiday Content Marketing Awards, GE have mastered social storytelling through visual channels. Campaigns such as ‘6 Second Science,’ ‘3D Print My Gift’ and ‘Badass Machines’ have enabled GE to successfully shed its reputation as simply a household appliance company and reposition itself as an innovative and competitive science and technology leader.
And it’s not all about original content either. You can achieve breakthrough by simply harnessing the power of brand evangelists. According to Dave Rosner, SVP of marketing at the video rights management experts ZEFR: “90% of brand activity on YouTube is invisible to brands because it’s not the official content – it’s from people sharing. Most brands don’t have the tools to unlock that”.
C stands for Cross-Platform. One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make is simply trying to produce the ubiquitous 30 second TV commercial as a piece of viral content. And that is why most of it fails. The best pieces of content live and breathe across every dimension of the clients marketing plan. All channels should be considered as long as you (and more importantly the consumer) can connect the dots. Every touch point has to be considered and evaluated.
Jay Baer, author of the book Youtility: Why Smart Companies Sell More by Selling Less describes why the “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign by McDonalds in Canada is one of the best examples of content marketing ever. Basically consumers can ask any question about McDonalds food via Facebook, Twitter or their dedicated site and McDonalds will answer it. They are receiving around 400 questions a day and have already answered around 10,000 queries. Baer admits it’s a brave move by McDonalds: “Historically, companies would do whatever possible to put as much distance as possible between themselves and that line of inquiry. But the rules are changing.” And they are making a virtue of this transparency by ‘marketing their marketing.’ As Baer puts it, McDonalds have supported the initiative with “an innovative and interesting mass media campaign that includes TV, radio, print, and a variety of outdoor executions driving awareness of the website and its contents.”
D denotes Discoverable. Linked into the previous point about the connectedness of your cross-platform approach, you need to make it easy for your consumer to discover your content. PR, search, social, traditional advertising, key influencers etc. are all vital drivers for finding your content.
It’s also vital that you consider basic factors such as when your message goes out. What time zone are you targeting and what time of day will your message best be received? If possible, create content for each stage of the buyer journey to try and convert your viewer into a customer. And don’t forget how you are going to monitor and track your content marketing performance in terms of both growth metrics (e.g. call to action conversions, form submissions etc.) and engagement metrics (e.g. page views, social shares, bounce rate etc.).
The use of some simple tools will also assist in establishing your strategy. Google Analytics is an absolute must according to Entrepreneur magazine but you should also be considering the use of Content Score, Buzzsumo and Buffer to help you help you make better, data-driven decisions on the direction of your content strategy.
And to end, E is for Ever Evolving. Accept the inevitable, most pieces of content have a relatively short shelf life in our increasingly morphing digital world. The one constant in our industry at the moment is that change is inevitable.
Firstly consumers change. That’s why we have ‘consumer fads’. According to Marketing magazine, research suggests only circa 20% of all branded social media posts elicit some sort of reaction among consumers. According to them, the only solution to this is to create content that is purposely disruptive, shocking, amusing, or controversial.
Secondly, technology changes. Anyone who has kept up with the bewildering array of gadgets associated with the Internet of Everything (IoE) launched this year at CES, MWC and SXSW will know that the way we can capture data from wearable tech will transform our lives in ways we haven’t even imagined yet.
And social media itself changes. How much has it transformed in just the past 10 years? From Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to Snapchat, WeChat and Line to who knows what in the next 5 years…
What this does mean is that your social media content strategy must also change to adapt to the evolutionary (or should that be revolutionary?) nature of the medium.
And finally, accept that if your content is lucky enough to be successful then it may burn out and fade away as rapidly as it initially caught on if you don’t continue to adapt it.
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