The web has changed many things, disrupting and reorganising the distribution of information for good. As with any major structural shift, it has created real opportunity in the way businesses reach their target market and is revolutionising every facet of the marketing mix, from the ground up.
While for some those abrupt shifts may have come as a shock, in reality the internet is simply following the same evolutionary process that every other major media platform has followed before it; one of an initial obsession with technology, followed closely by an eventual march towards content.
It is, after all, the only tool we have to create and sustain audiences of value.
However, it presents a challenge that has never before been tackled; how to create a team capable of maximising value from the channel. Why?
Simply because the web gives us both the platform to create every kind of content imaginable and the key to unlock the distribution channel.
Whereas in previous incarnations mass-media platforms separated the creators and the distributors (think cable companies and movie-makers or newspapers and their distributors), digital is different. We can do it all. Now.
With such power, however, comes many questions. How do we choose what content to create for our brand? What content ‘types’ are suitable for us? Where do we put it? How does social fit in? And the biggest of all: how do we ensure the right people find it?
These are the questions we have been tackling for the past four years, highlighting the need to build a process and a collection of talent, able to execute what really distils down to a quasi-publisher/PR service. Or, more succinctly put, the ‘new PR’.
The question is: ‘How do you begin to unpick that challenge and create a team capable of reinventing such a mature service for the digital age?’
To answer this, we must first understand why marketing content, or messages, is any different online than it is above the line.
Why is digital content marketing unique?
Many are attempting to service their newly sourced content marketing budgets by leveraging existing search engine optimisation agency relationships or in-house teams. While skill sets from that profession add value they are far from the complete answer.
In reaction to this, some have gone the other way by deciding to bring print thinking to the web. While the content created is usually of a high standard, it often sits unread. The distribution piece is missing.
The answer to solving the digital content marketing conundrum lies somewhere in-between. A 360-degree content plan requires a team that balances left-brain logic, detail and development ability with right-brain creativity and social skills.
The right people
Unsurprisingly you need the right kind of people to make this work. Culture is important and an insatiable lust for knowledge is indispensable in such a fast-paced and ever-shifting digital world.
Above and beyond that, however, is the need to amalgamate the right skills to ensure you can create the content types and ideas that fuel their success.
Right and left brain skills
With access to the connected distribution channel and the platforms on which to create your own audiences, the digital world offers unique challenges. To solve them requires creativity and data science.
Why? Simply because it is possible to work smart online and specifically target those people that have the maximum likelihood of sharing your content and advocating your brand.
That tactic requires an understanding of how to successfully mine both search and social data to uncover those with the greatest potential affinity with your brand.
Often this work requires web development and data science or analysis skills, more closely related to banking than marketing. Get it right however and the web becomes a goldmine of information.
In a recent piece of work we carried out for a prominent alcohol brand, we mined its Facebook page users to discover that they were 12 times more liable to also follow a skincare brand page. That affinity would never surface with traditional marketing research and can inform content strategy and help you create a much richer picture of your audience and customers.
Those same ‘developers’ can also help create processes to mine key influencers from the web; able to pull out contact details from very specific sites based on keyword search strings and preset metrics, leaving you with a simple list of those able to reach the majority of your ideal audience.
In doing all of the above well, you create a system that equals a print run of thousands of newspapers and magazines and huge advertising costs. You become publisher and distributor.
Of course, distribution is nothing without something of worth to shout about. Influencers will not share or feature your content unless it is truly invaluable. With so much else vying for their attention you have to stand out.
This is where traditional publishing skills stand the test of time. Well-structured content still wins hands down and ensuring that you have differentiation and structure is the difference between success and failure. It is that simple.
How do you do that? The answer lies in the execution of a solid idea creation process and the creation of an editorial planner.
While the latter is simple enough, actually consistently delivering amazing, on brand ideas is a tougher challenge than you think.
To get around it we now segment our regular client brainstorms into different areas, see (1) above.
Each specific area allows us to ensure that our ideas are tailored for audience personas across many content types such as blogs, infographic, video and so on. The output of idea brainstorming is placed into an editorial calendar that ensures we deliver content that entertains and informs in varied ways to keep the audience engaged.
Engagement is the key to long-term content marketing success. The calendar we use is above (2) and you can apply for a copy by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, amazing content is nothing without visibility and the web offers you the ability to target specific people, be they existing evangelists or yet-to-be-converted influencers.
By refining that process you can become hugely effective and efficient in promoting any content deemed powerful enough to warrant it.
And with 70 per cent of brands planning to spend more on content marketing in 2013 and 90 per cent agreeing that it is becoming a key component of the marketing mix, according to an eConsultancy report, knowing just how to structure that process is perhaps the key challenge for the modern marketer. l
Zazzle Media is a UK digital content marketing agency specialising in content creation and targeted distribution. You can follow Simon Penson on twitter @simonpenson
T 01778 382713