Content is by far the most valuable asset businesses can use, to not only engage and inform customers, but to increase traffic to their website and dramatically improve search rankings.
If you have ever wondered why world class content marketers place so much effort into content marketing, it is because they find it a critical part of the marketing mix to help a brand be found among the 170 million-plus websites around the world. At our company, content marketing has been the most effective tool for us, helping drive feature stories and exposure of our brand in more than two hundred publications, radio and television programs such as Consumer Reports, USA Toay, CNBC, and ABC News.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 86% of B2B businesses and 77% of B2C businesses incorporate content marketing into their marketing mix. In fact, more than 70% now create more content than what they did in the previous year, and the volume of quality content produced continues to grow. Businesses rely on content marketing for both lead generation and brand building. Content marketing was named as the top digital priority for both B2B and B2C businesses in 2013, outperforming the previous front-runner (social media engagement) as a means to support search engine optimization (SEO) and to convert online readers into potential customers.
In findings provided by AOL research, the data suggests around 27 million pieces of online content are shared every day in the U.S. and 60% of the content specifically mentions a product or brand name for promotional purposes. Consumers trust and rely on quality and authoritative content to form brand impressions, and ultimately purchase decisions. Studies also indicate 90% of customers find custom content useful, while 78% believe brands creating custom content do so to build customer relationships by sharing valuable information consumers can use.
Content marketing and big brands
Considering these statistics, it comes as no surprise that “76% of marketers are increasing investment in content marketing,” according to a 2014 study by Curata. In fact, many big brands already prioritize content marketing over paid advertising initiatives. Coca-Cola, for example, spends more money on creating content than on its television advertising. The company has a few full-time employees and several other freelancers to make its Content 2020 advertising strategy a big hit.
It’s not just Coca-Cola; Kraft too, leverages content marketing. According to the American manufacturing and processing conglomerate, it generates almost 1.1 billion ad impressions per year. However, its ROI from content marketing is around four times better than its targeted advertising.
Whether you have been doing content marketing for years or are just now adding content marketing to your overall strategy, it is crucial to examine the tactics used to get the most value from your investment in creative content. The investment does pay off if your strategy aligns with creating high-quality, engaging and valuable content positioned to build online community and strong customer relationships.
Every successful content strategy requires a creative team to produce content that is valuable to consumers. It also requires developing a schedule to ensure content is not repetitive, but produced as part of a holistic marketing strategy. We share four routine methods used by top marketers on a weekly basis to both optimize the discovery of a company’s content online and continually build its brand.
1. Don’t shy away from over-investing in big content
Rand Fishkin, the former CEO of Moz once said that over-investing in big content has been a philosophy of the company. There is no questioning Moz’s content strategy, given its success, massive online audience and engagement. But if you do, consider this: Content marketing adoption is growing at a rapid rate and to leverage it, businesses must be prepared to invest in it.
So if your focus is in creating smaller, less valuable content pieces or rely only on social media as your content funnel, your promotional strategy will not keep pace with other businesses who heavily invest in the production of interesting multimedia content adding value to the reader or audience.
What is changing quickly is the way brands move away from the trifecta of “blog + social + email marketing” as the holy grail of marketing engagement and SEO. Blogs remain one of the most powerful assets in the arsenal of brand marketing, but diversification is needed in the type of content you share. Augment your blog content with embedded videos (live production or animated video graph styles are highly engaging if kept under two minutes in duration). Adding a photo gallery to a post is a great way to share images of a corporate charitable events or the launch of a new product, demonstrating the key consumer benefits.
There are many different types of software that can convert a PowerPoint presentation to a SlideShare or an animated flip book, which can be embedded in a blog and shared on social for mobile viewing. This is also a great way to add new life to a monthly or quarterly newsletter, by turning it into an interactive “look book” of products, rather than a static email flyer.
We experimented with video at iSeeCars.com using a few different topics and formats. We created mobile-friendly videos in a cost-effective manner by appropriating existing video collateral with short slideshows on popular topics. In one test study, we are already approaching 135,000 views for the simplified content video format, which demonstrates that the strategy is worth investing in (even if new video production is not in your budget). You may be able to successfully use what you already have in a new way.
Since audiences move at the speed of mobile viewing, infographics remain a popular delivery method. But what is better than an infographic? A videograph, which is animated content easily viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile phone. Videograph content does not require reading; the audience simply presses play, and they are entertained and informed.
2. Find your ideal customer persona & connect with them emotionally
All brand conversations are tooled to a target audience. You need to take time to evaluate your target customer, and understand their priorities before designing strategic content tailored for their consumption. Content marketers need to be adept at developing a persona that is representative of the people who are most likely to consume your content, and convert the engagement into a favorable brand impression and ultimately a purchase decision.
Use content to develop deeper emotional connections with your target audience through storytelling. One of Coca–Cola’s content strategies is to leverage storytelling to connect with social values and relationships. Stories, as the company points out, are “the heart of all families, communities and cultures.”
Coca-Cola’s “Content 2020” vision has subsequently been followed by many other brands. It is symbolic of the shift most brands make during the holiday seasons typically, but now this deeply emotional type of marketing is prevalent throughout the year. Brands want to make customers feel that the connection is deeper than the next product purchase and appeal on a personal level.
Ikea, for example, embraced storytelling to develop deeper emotional connections with its audience to promote the opening of its Malmo, Sweden store. The company used a Facebook campaign to showcase images of its new showroom. Using Facebook’s photo tagging function, Ikea connected with people on an emotional level. It rewarded them; the first person who tagged a name to a product shown in the pictures won the item. The result? The news of Ikea’s Malmo store opening grew exponentially through personalized viral sharing on Facebook.
3. Share consistently on social media
It is no secret content marketers use social media to promote content. It is crucial, however, to do it on a regular basis to cultivate its full potential.
As part of your content marketing strategy, do not rely only on your own “shares”, but inspire the action of sharing through your audience as Ikea did. Consumers will no longer share content when you ask them to, there must be a strategic incentive offered to motivate the action. But when you provide an incentive, the strategy works quickly and very well, providing valuable word of mouth advertising.
Does your brand reuse content? While sharing duplicate content across multiple blogs can net a content penalty from Google, you can successfully repurpose content on social media. In fact, evaluating the most popular social posts and content and re-sharing them is a valuable and important part of content marketing. Check out what Buffer has to say about reposting the same content on social media.
There are three reasons you should be re-sharing successful brand content:
- You get more traffic; each time you repost content, more people will share and consume your post’s content.
- You can cover multiple time zones. In fact, this is the reason why Guy Kawasaki is in favor of posting the same content multiple times.
- You can reach new followers who missed the original post.
Does this mean you should repeat the same social post verbatim? No. Consumers dislike what they perceive to be “automated posting”. Create a new social post linking to the same content, leveraging key hash tags and repurposing successful evergreen collateral in an interesting way. Relatable and useful content never goes out of style.
4. Develop a mobile-friendly content strategy
If you are not optimizing and creating content for mobile sharing, you miss a big opportunity to reach a bigger audience, and to influence purchase decisions while your audience is mobile. Content marketing for mobile has the ability to be promoted in a geo-targeted method that can essentially drive regional foot traffic to your store, leverage events such as sporting events or holiday celebrations, and influence the purchase decision of consumers.
According to Pewinternet.org, “Smartphones are used for much more than calling, texting, or basic internet browsing. Users are turning to these mobile devices as they navigate a wide range of life events.”
By making a few changes to your existing content, you can make your content available to those who prefer mobile content consumption. A Nielsen and Google study suggests 77% of total mobile searches are made from places like the home or office, where consumers are more than likely to have access to a desktop computer.
Mobile phones are used on lunch breaks, or sometimes during the workday off-network (it’s hard to explain shoe shopping to your boss on the corporate network). However, given the portability of the mobile browser, views are shorter in duration versus audience views on desktop. The bounce rate for mobile visitors is also 9.56 percent higher than desktop visitors on average, which tells us a lot about content designed for mobile marketing.
- Mobile content must be able to be read quickly as the viewer is “on the move”.
- Incentives must be easy to enroll and register for. Most brands now use a login with Facebook feature to circumvent detailed form fields that are often difficult to fill out on a mobile device. If you have to use forms, keep them simple and the buttons larger with more space between them for use on small screens.
- Video advertising for mobile is the preferred method of engagement. Whether it is using Vine on Twitter or short 15 second clips on Instagram; video works.
- Length matters. The shorter the better.
Many leading brands leverage mobile into their content marketing strategy. Coca-Cola, for example, made a major commitment to mobile content marketing by providing “right-time” content rather than real-time content. They leverage mobile-based advertising on the preferences of each market, making mobile content highly personalized and relevant. It is no longer just about creating good content, it is about delivering it at a time when the audience is most receptive to it, in the natural flow of the consumer’s day in order to optimize engagement and memory retention of the advertorial content.
When it comes to digital strategy, use cues from large brands: Diversify your content channels, and make sure the content design is effective for mobile consumption. Time your content sharing at relevant days and holiday’s to strike a personal chord with your audience, and re-purpose evergreen content that works.
Whether you develop an internal creative content team or outsource your content needs, factor original, useful and entertaining multimedia content into your schedule to improve traffic and targeted reach online.
Guest Author: Phong Ly is the CEO & co-founder of iSeeCars.com, a car search engine using Big Data to help users find great car deals and save money. He has more than 15 years of high tech and business experience spanning large companies and the start-up world. Before iSeeCars.com, Ly was an executive at SAP, leading strategic initiatives to expand the company’s reach into new markets.