Earlier this week, a crowd gathered at our TriBeCa offices to talk about content marketing. In 2012, “content marketing” was one of the most used buzzwords, yet many marketers admit they don’t quite understand what it means or what they should be doing about it. While content strategies should be unique to brands, factoring in challenges and business objectives, there are a few things that apply across the board.
Before jumping into practical applications, we talked about the line distinguishing content from commercials, which can be tricky. I’d argue that all commercials are content, just not necessarily good content. Though the reverse isn’t necessarily true: good content doesn’t have to resemble what we traditionally think of as commercials. I’m a particularly big fan of the “do something cool and then talk about it model.” While most people at the Social Media Week session agreed that Red Bull’s Stratos was content, many also counted the commercial (it ran on TV) created from footage from the Red Bull Stratos Jump as content as well.
So what is content? We define it as assets and experiences that, in aggregate, form pieces of your brand story. It can range from apps to ebooks, from infographics to transmedia experiences, from tweets to filtered photos. And content marketing is really just the organization, creation and distribution of these assets in order to better connect with consumers or potential consumers.
With the rise of self-publishing, consumers have become both competitors and collaborators for brands. Some consumers are outperforming brands with content they’re uploading from their cell phones, yet others are partnering with brands to gain larger influence – while brands are getting borrowed credibility and relevance.
And let’s not forget the rise of curation, another popular buzzword from 2012 whose relevance will likely continue over the next few years. In the early days of publishing, the focus was on content creation but with so much content out there, filtering and surfacing content has become its own trend. Average monthly unique visits on curation sites like BuzzFeed, Tumblr, Pinterest are steadily increasing, so content definitely isn’t something that will go away anytime soon.
What can marketers and brands do? The three key pillars of content marketing include content development, syndication and distribution & optimization. To bring these to life, brands and marketers should:
- Listen. It doesn’t have to be in-depth social listening (though that will definitely help), but you should be able to articulate where your consumers or fans hang out online and what kinds of content they like in addition to what they think about your brand. Even if you find out something negative, it’s better to understand challenges prior to planning. If you don’t have a big budget, consider going scrappy… Even paying attention to product reviews or competitors pages can help you better understand the landscape.
- Plan. Put a plan on paper. For real. Determine who should be involved at each stage of the planning, production and approval process. Figure out key content themes or buckets. Develop your social tone of voice and make sure the team is properly trained.
- Be Nimble. Rules are for breaking, but you have to make them first! The best way to plan for real-time content marketing is to have a system in place so you know the strengths and weaknesses of the system and where you might be able to speed things up in special circumstances. But beyond real-time marketing, you’ll likely want to change your team up depending on the types of content you’re producing.
- Measure & Showcase Success. One of the double-edged swords of digital is measurement. There are so many data points available, but rarely are they all needed to tell a story. Start with what you want to know and then figure out which data points will help you paint the clearest picture.
You can access the full Content Marketing Report here.
Cover photo via Flickr