A quarter of all content consumed has been produced by organisations as a way to add value to their customer relationships, and Mintel predicts double-digit growth for content marketing in the next five years.
But it is not only the quality of what a brand creates – whether it is a video, website, magazine or app – that is important. Getting lots of the right people to view or use it is equally important.
“Investment in the distribution and promotion of video content is as important as the creation and production in delivering reach – and our stats back this up,” says Kevin Sutherland, strategy director at content marketing agency Seven, which works with clients including Virgin and Sainsbury’s. “A video that has been supported with TrueView ad formats [where viewers choose which ads to watch] on YouTube can deliver 25 to 30 times the audience of unsupported video,” he claims.
In short, promoting content is about using both paid and earned media to complement each other and achieve reach. That said, Sean Collings, founder of Engage Publishing, says it is not just about achieving a huge audience. “It’s about ongoing engagement with the right audience. A common problem is that brands go for the maximum number of hits or views for example, but is it from the right people? Brands need to build a relationship by being in the right places, not just aim to get exposure.”
Anssi Mäkelä, digital marketing manager at Salomon, which works with agency 1000 Heads to monitor social media, agrees. “I hate the word viral. We are always trying to do something that focuses on the key audience and think about what they will appreciate rather than trying to do something amazing or incredible that will catch on.”
He adds that this philosophy is reflected in how Salomon measures return on investment (ROI). “We look at views, likes and comments but we also have an overview of conversation volumes and sentiment, positive or negative, and share of voice among other brands. We can also put sales figures on top of that and see if it has moved the needle.”
Housing and homelessness charity Shelter works with distribution company Outbrain to push targeted content across its network of publishers in the UK. “It recommends content where it will be of interest to specific readers at the bottom of other pieces of content,” says campaigns officer Emily Shipp.
“When users click on a link to our content, we pay on a cost-per-click basis and the reader is taken to the relevant content pages of our site.”
Confused.com also uses paid media to make its content go further, namely promoted posts on Facebook and tweets on Twitter. “They heighten awareness and drive people to the site,” says head of content and PR Sharon Flaherty. Confused.com saw a growth in social media traffic of around 140 per cent in the past year.
Aside from pushing content via paid media and earned space within Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, working with influential bloggers is also a growing trend. Sainsbury’s works with Great British Bake Off finalist and food blogger Holly Bell and also targets other influential bloggers with its video content. “It can significantly increase views,” says Sutherland.
The approach has also worked for Redwood. Last year, the publisher, which produces Zoom Zoom print magazine for Mazda, launched an online video to raise awareness of Mazda’s
‘Defy Convention’ brand message and to showcase the lightweight Mazda2 car. Redwood conceived the idea of driving the car on a Wall of Death, a stunt that was captured on video and seeded to key influencers.
“The bloggersphere generated a lot of traffic,” says Zoom Zoom editor Nik Berg. “We seeded it to the car blogs and it went from there.” In the first week it had more than 1,000 YouTube likes, 500 Likes on Facebook and over 500 tweets, as well as coverage in The Telegraph. Mazda measured ROI based on how much the equivalent advertising spend would be to achieve the same coverage.
Many brands are also finding that a combination of media is helping their content to go further. This month, Vue Entertainment launched a free monthly film magazine that will use augmented reality to drive traffic to its website, while Swarovski has created a new website featuring fashion and travel content. Clare Hill, managing director of The Content Marketing Association (CMA), says: “With such an array of platforms made available to brands, the possibilities to create meaningful consumer engagement are endless.”
Sainsbury’s has also found that those who watch multiple content have higher brand consideration than those who only see a TV ad. It developed a video strategy to help bring its brand promise ‘Live Well for Less’ to life, and in January its Make Your Roast Go Further campaign used videos and shopping lists online and tried to encourage social media interaction.
Collings at Engage Publishing says: “Don’t be afraid to tell the same story via a number of formats and platforms, allowing readers to consume the content in the way they want to, using video, editorial, blogs and brief summaries. It offers choice to the reader and delivers greater impact but in a joined up way, ensuring brand consistency.”
This approach is realised in Sandstrom Style, the online lifestyle magazine it has created with Dixons for its Sandstrom brand; the community has grown around 300 per cent since launching just over a year ago. “The blog style personalises the site, while Twitter feeds, blog posts, videos and pins keep it fresh and dynamic,” says Alison van Veggel, senior marketing manager at Dixons Retail. “We’ve got a high return rate of over 25 per cent, so we know we’ve successfully tapped into this segment of the market.”
This approach is echoed in what Sutherland calls ‘360-degree commissioning’, to describe the process of planning and creating content. He cites Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research, which estimates that the average consumer decision includes reference to over 10 different channels or sources of information.
“You can’t control where or how the consumer encounters your brand but you can ensure that your messaging is consistent across all channels – including paid, owned and earned – and you can aim to give people a consistent experience of your brand wherever they are.”
Telling the same story across different platforms and formats is an approach that also works for Confused.com, which has invested in a team of journalists to produce branded content, led by Flaherty, a former journalist at the Financial Times. “The type of content I create is exactly what I would have done if I had had the budget at the FT. Its purpose is not to be ‘salesy’ – it’s about being entertaining and informing.”
In January, Confused.com used Facebook and Twitter to appeal for people to be monitored over a 500-mile drive to see how the genre of music they listened to affected their driving. The activity supported the company’s launch of a telematic app that monitors driving behaviour.
“We had a psychologist who analysed the results, concluding that 80 beats per minute was the safest speed of music to listen to while driving,” says Flaherty. “We compiled a driving list on Spotify and also included the findings in our customer newsletter. It is a good example of efficient use of content.”
Strong content can also be effective simply by being relevant. Collings says: “Identify a core reader from your target audience and write for them, not for your business.” Charity Shelter uses two main types of branded content – news stories to highlight specific issues, and advice articles – both aimed at raising awareness of the charity’s work, engaging people and offering advice and support.
“Everything we do comes under key strategic themes which reflect our core values,” says Shelter’s Shipp. “We work to make our content timely, relevant and straightforward, using examples and case studies to illustrate our point.” She adds that while an advice article may be relevant to a small number of people, its potential effect, for example helping someone keep their home, can be huge.
Confused’s Flaherty agrees that if content is relevant to the audience, it does not have to be sexy. “One of our most consistently popular content over the past two years has been our guide to the no claims bonus. That informational item is helpful and it gets lots of views but it isn’t entertaining – different content have different purposes.”
Getting users to create content
Getting people to act after they have watched a branded video, read a magazine or used a brand’s app can boost the effectiveness and reach of content. “The paradigm has shifted,” says Viola De Girolami, social media and digital marketing manager at Carphone Warehouse. “It is a two-way communication and you want consumers to take action off the back of the content.”
Carphone Warehouse has been working with Adjust Your Set to launch its Smarter World campaign, aimed at inspiring people to explore the full capabilities of their smartphone. The campaign comprises documentary films alongside user-generated content (UGC), which De Girolami says is key to the campaign.
“When you speak about digital content, especially video, I think the ‘second click’ is becoming more important: you don’t want people to just watch your video, you want people to interact with the brand and they can do that by uploading their own picture or video.” She adds that this is also a key measurement metric for Carphone Warehouse, in addition to the number of UGC views and dwell time. “It gives us learnings about what is really relevant to people.”
Unilever’s Dove brand also put UGC at the heart of a recent campaign to relaunch Dove Body Wash in Japan. The campaign centred around Dove’s Nutrium Moisture technology, talking about the feeling of a body wash that lathers while moisturising the skin. It worked with the agency Evidently to create a film showing Japanese women composing a Haiku (poem) to relay the scientific story back to the brand in their own words.
“The message resonated with its audience and encouraged them to participate and
share the video,” says Marcela Melero, global brand director, Dove. “As well as achieving a huge amount of views and shares, consumers began to contribute their own Haikus and share these online. Any campaign offering the opportunity for organic sharing and personalised responses will always gain the desired result of advocacy.”
Commercial director and co-founder
The lines between disciplines such as search, social, PR and display have blurred. To fuel all aspects of marketing, you have to have a content marketing strategy and deliverable plan in place.
Each area has its core skills and your display agency isn’t going to run your PR for you, but there should be a joined-up plan – and content has to be front and centre of that plan. You need to be consistent in your messages, tone and story and use all distribution points to add to the conversation, not disrupt it.
When formulating your content strategy you should be thinking about who you want to engage with and where they will engage with it. Plan, brainstorm, be creative and agile and forge a meaningful dialogue through your content. Don’t adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach if you want to engage with a targeted audience. Your Pinterest user is not the same as your LinkedIn user, for example.
Ensuring that the content you create can be shared easily and broken down into the most digestible form for those channels is also key. We find one of the best ways to amplify content is through blogger engagement and outreach. We find the key influencers and engage with them in a way that is good for them and for the brands we represent.
User-generated content (UGC) is another important area. Creating content that sparks conversation and intertwines you with your audience can be so powerful. Research what users are talking about and where, and seed content that is useful, informative and fun where possible. Of course, UGC needs to be properly moderated by brands for success.
Content marketing isn’t pay-per-click or display that can be broken down into a cost per click or cost per thousand, but that isn’t to say that it can’t be measured effectively. Be realistic and honest about what you want to achieve but also push yourself and don’t be satisfied with average. Set targets and key performance indicators.
Do I want to have five blogger brand advocates in three months? Do I want to increase my Facebook likes and Twitter followers tenfold? Think about the benchmarks that will work well for your strategy, but also be fluid, both in the content you are tracking and delivering. If you can do this, you will make your content work hard for you and do the best it can for your brand.