I chuckle every time I hear someone utter the phrase, “Content is King,” (capital “C” and capital “K” both mandatory). It’s always said with such reverence—and just a little bit of defensiveness, as if someone has suggested that content is unimportant; as if we are all operating in a world in which technology reigns, making content the woeful step-child in the war for human engagement; as if content is nothing but an afterthought, a pretty font to fill up space.
Oh, wait… to a certain extent that is exactly what’s happened over the last decade. We have somehow become so enamored of what our technology can do, that we often forget that it is a means to an end.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Luddite. I love my iPhone, my iPad and the Internet. I yearn for a Nest. The things my entertainment center can do with the touch of a button Blow. My. Mind. And some of my best friends are even developers.
At the end of the day, however, all of our technological know-how serves one purpose: to make us feel something, something human, something real. It’s not the technology that creates those feelings; it’s the content. The role of the technology is to facilitate the creation, consumption and sharing of that content in the easiest, most user-friendly and engaging way.
Steve Jobs, that master technologist, understood this. It’s what gave his inventions such juice. As a content strategist and digital producer, I work on a computer screen with a dog-eared Jobs quote taped to the top of the housing:
“Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”
Content creators take note: “A result that makes our hearts sing.” More on that in a moment. First, however, let’s celebrate the content revival.
Thanks to lightening-fast advancements in mobile technology, and the advent of the cloud, (oh, cloud, how I love thee), we are now the Internet. We are no longer tied to our desktops or laptops by some sort of cabled umbilical cord. We take our online experience with us from PC to tablet to anywhere our smart phones will travel.
This mobility, and our likelihood to share content via a myriad of social channels, is driving content consumption like we haven’t seen since the early days of the Internet, when website owners realized that they needed to actually provide something on their URLs. Users today, however, don’t need to travel to a brand’s website for information. They only have to open up Facebook to see what everyone is talking about, and use social crowd sourcing to make their next purchase decision.
Smart brands understand that in order to stay relevant on today’s social web, they need to provide these conversations with brand-relevant fodder. That’s why so many have become publishers and creators of content, content meant to spur sharing and drive potential customers to their websites: for a purchase, to sign up for an email newsletter, or to become a brand ambassador in some way. Think Red Bull’s supersonic free fall. Over-the-top content? Yes. Effective marketing? You bet.
These brands-as-publishers are pumping out content at an extraordinary rate, and ushering in a content renaissance. While that is good news for content creators, (yay content!), content strategists understand that this increased interest in content marketing makes it more challenging than ever for that brand video, eBook, or infographic to stand out from the competition and be effective.
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Okay, the bad news: Much of the content marketing that consumers encounter is crap. It’s created in haste, with little strategic planning, and written without the end-user in mind.
The good news? Much of the content marketing that consumers encounter is crap. Wait, what?
The Internet is full of keyword-stuffed content sporting snappy headlines and little merit. In addition, there is so much content being created every day that consumers are experiencing content shock. Chew on this: IBM researchers estimate that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, and that close to 90 percent of all the data in the world has been created in the last two years alone. No, that’s not a typo: 2.5 quintillion bytes of data¬ a day—including weather forecasts, social media posts, videos, photos, the GPS map of the run you just clocked, and that email from Zappos confirming your order. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry.
That’s your brand’s opportunity, however. If you design thoughtful brand content, and launch it in a strategic, measurable way, it will bubble to the surface of the social web, leaving the flotsam your competitors create to wash ashore the digital reject pile. That’s when you win in the war for human engagement.
Thoughtful content depends on knowing your audience, understanding the needs of that audience, and then developing entertaining, informative and/or utilitarian content that addresses those needs. One of the biggest (and, frankly, the most exciting) challenges for content creation is translating a business objective into content that inspires people to take an action, one that will deliver against that business objective.
For example, a hammer company doesn’t sell hammers; it sells the dream of a home. Certainly the business objective may be to sell more hammers, but the way to do that starts by empathizing with the needs of the buyer, and then developing thoughtful content that tells the story of how the right hammer will help create a place called home.
Let’s say that a hammer company decides that they would like to expand the category by marketing their best-selling hammer to women, who so frequently represent the heart of interior home improvement. The company has narrowed their target audience down to Millennial Moms, who*:
Our fictitious hammer company—let’s call it A-1 Hammers—now has to discover where Millennial Moms go to get their home-improvement needs met. Are they busy on Facebook? Is Twitter their channel? When those would-be home improvers start with a Google search, how can A-1 ensure that their Millennial Mom content ranks high in the search results? Thoughtful content creation and strategic distribution rely on answers to these types of questions.
The A-1 team does a little research and discovers that, according to a 2014 Pinterest study by Ahology, the most active users on Pinterest are Millennial Moms with young kids in the house. The study also indicates that Pinterest users are significantly more likely to try new projects and products, than non-users. Based on this research, the A-1 marketing team decides to launch a Pinterest page full of Millennial Mom home-improvement projects created with the HeftyHero, the company’s #1 selling hammer. The images on this Pinterest board drive back to an A-1 Hammers campaign-landing page, where the HeftyHero stars as every woman’s handy man. Thoughtful. Strategic. And very, very shareable.
Ensuring measurability is key to assessing the success of your efforts, and will also provide tremendous insight into whether or not your content is resonating with your audience. Prior to going live with any content marketing plan, smart marketers will:
Now, more than ever, quality content (and content marketing) is the key differentiator for brands. Content that makes the user feel something meaningful, respond to a CTA, and allows for easy sharing, can be the most cost-effective and efficient way to resonate with your customers. Technology may make it all possible, but it’s great content creates makes your efforts effective.
So, go ahead. Make their hearts sing.
*Source: Weber Shandwick/Digital Women Influencers: Millennial Moms