2014 is the year of content marketing. As the hype behind social media begins to die down, marketers are focusing back on the core of the online medium – content. Content marketing is the crux of inbound marketing, social media and “viral” PR programs. The industry has recognized for years that companies, no matter their industry, are becoming content publishers. But what does that really mean?
At Renegade, we put a lot of stock into content. In the social media world, content is the voice of the brand. It’s what carries the message to your community and, furthermore, to prospects. While we don’t believe that every company needs to invest an entire editorial staff to keep up with large content producers like IBM, who is producing content on an online publisher level, we do believe that quality content goes a long way in connecting with your audience.
Before diving into the creation of content, let’s first define what good content is. There are three ingredients that, when combined, make content powerful. The first is worldview. Your content should speak to your audience’s worldview (how they see the world and their values). This can be anything from political leanings to simple ideas like viewing a vegan diet as healthy living. Keep in mind that your audience may have multiple worldviews. The second variable is brand values. These are the values that your company holds dear. They affect how you run your business and your relationships with customers. Zappos’ dedication to customer service, for example, is the epitome of brand values. The last ingredient is relevance. This is the key ingredient, as it is the final filter to keep your brand from making major content blunders. It also helps you maintain diligence and avoid stooping to the level of sharing cat memes for the sake of engagement. If you’re not a pet brand, why are you posting cat photos??
Any piece of content that doesn’t support your customers’ worldviews, your brand values or is irrelevant to both your customers and your business should be reconsidered. Quality content adds value to your community and drives your business story (more on that shortly). It ties together all the moving parts and ideas around your brand, strengthening existing relationships and creating new ones between customers and your company.
Tell the Story
A good piece of content doesn’t just stand on its own, it also pushes the brand story forward. Look at Jimmy Kimmel’s fake twerking videos. Now that was quality content! The YouTube video spoke to the core Jimmy Kimmel audience, supported the comedic values of the Jimmy Kimmel brand and was extremely relevant at the time. In addition to being great content, it was deployed as part of a larger series of content that Jimmy Kimmel Live used to promote viewership and drive earned media. Other parts of the series included extensive fake commercials that aired during the show and a “wolf” prank during the Winter Olympics. Jimmy is a prankster, and much of his content supports that story.
Even if you have a firm understanding of what quality content looks like, you still have the challenge of producing it. Online content can come in a number of different forms and iterations. Images (and its many subcategories, i.e. infographics or memes), videos, text, or even microsites are all variations of content. Then comes the challenge of individual network constraints. For instance, users tend to engage more with images on Facebook, while Vine limits video content to 6 seconds and loops content automatically.
Designing your content requires that you understand the constraints and natural user behaviors of your distribution channels. Additionally, your company may not have the creative staff to produce quality videos, infographics or more intricate microsites. The bottom line is that you need to formulate a workflow that works within your abilities as a company.
A Few Extra Points
The most successful content uses emotion. Try to evoke an emotion in your audience with your content. A recent study by BuzzSumo looked at its top shared blog posts. While the ideal length of content is still up for debate, it is important to note that emotions played a large role in whether the BuzzSumo community shared its content or not. Not all communities are the same, however. Another study recently published by University of Pennsylvania professors analyzed the top shared stories on Reddit.com and found that the images that evoked anticipation and surprise were the most-shared images from the site. The study also examined The New York Times and found that its strongest content evoked anger or awe. Test a variety of emotions to find the most powerful one for your audience.
Lastly, don’t forget to have a point of view. Mediocrity won’t get you anywhere, and neither will trying to please everyone. Remember that your audience has its own worldview, and the common thread among them is typically driven by a strong feeling about a specific topic. This does not mean that you need to be controversial, but it does mean that your brand should stand up for its values.
As you continue into the last half of the year, take a look at your content. How does it all tie together? Does it evoke emotion? Are you supporting your community and brand values? There is a big opportunity to make your online presence a powerful one, and it all starts with what you’re saying online!