April Fool’s Day is a content marketer’s dream, but when financial services brand SunLife launched a social media campaign offering to insure men’s beards from £3 a month it did not expect 25,000 people to take its offer seriously.
The fact the mock video ad was viewed more than 50,000 times on Facebook and had 6,000 likes and shares plus hundreds of tweets demonstrates the power of rich content in engaging consumers on social media. Indeed, it is fast becoming a channel where brands need to invest in high-quality multimedia such as images and videos in order to have a hope of standing out.
As beard wearers uploaded photos of their whiskers, SunLife reposted them, along with an insurance quote. The campaign ticked many boxes. It was engaging, humorous and incredibly cost-effective.
“Rich multimedia content is vital in social media campaigns where you cannot just talk about your products,” says SunLife’s marketing director David Brooks. “It has helped us relaunch the brand to younger people as we try and democratise financial services and talk to a mass market.”
The brand has already enjoyed about 2.5m exposures on social media in 2015 which complements its traditional direct marketing activity.
At the start of the year Lucy Hawkins was appointed the brand’s content and social media manager to source and exploit different content. “Great ideas can come from anywhere – internally or from one of our many marketing agencies,” says Brooks.
What SunLife and other brands are discovering is that multimedia content raises brand awareness among millions of people in a way basic text updates with web links cannot. Rich content creates a visual storyboard which enables advertisers to develop a bigger picture around their narrative. Just as importantly, as the use of images and videos becomes increasingly pervasive on social networks, failing to maintain the same standards as other users is likely to lead to lower conversion rates.
The social networks themselves are certainly well aware of the power and revenue-earning potential of high-quality visuals. Programmatic video advertising has become a lucrative area because marketers want to exploit opportunities as phone screens get larger and consumers have unprecedented access to high speed internet. Both factors are encouraging them to watch more video on mobile devices.
According to a recent IAB/PWC study, digital advertising spend rose 14 per cent in 2014 to £7.2 billion and nearly four in 10 UK households bought a tablet. Mobile accounts for 23 per cent of digital advertising spend and 56 per cent of social media budget. Smartphones are the most common internet-enabled device with 1.7 per household, followed by laptops (1.3) and tablets (1.2). According to the IAB/PwC data, tablet-dedicated advertising spend alone grew 118 per cent to reach £87.4 million.
The huge promise of mobile content consumption is perhaps why Twitter has placed a strong focus on video streaming directly from tweets, through its acquisition of the Periscope app. Technology blog Tech Crunch also reported last month that Twitter is trying to dissuade celebrities from using rival streaming app Meerkat in favour of its own offering. Twitter has also developed an offering called Amplify that allows content producers and brands to produce video-based promoted tweets, which will be seen by audiences beyond the advertiser’s own followers.
New social content platforms are catching marketers’ imaginations all the time. In April, live video platform Grabyo launched a sharing app that lets media publishers, brands and celebrities publish unlimited-length native video ads on Facebook and Twitter. Grabyo’s CEO Gareth Capon formerly led the apps team at Sky.
The onus is now on brands to continually develop rich multimedia content that will repeatedly engage consumers. Of course it is difficult to be persistently creative, and so many brands are investing in recruiting content managers and brand journalists. Ministry of Sound head of digital Melissa McFarlane is developing a content team as well as a digital marketing team and the brand has tested both Meerkat and Periscope.
“It is important my teams experiment with different social formats and technologies. You cannot wait for others to tell you what the next big thing in social media is,” she says. “When I came to the company a year ago I explained that the teams needed people who really understood dance music so I brought in a journalist from the dance press and someone from MTV.”
McFarlane says the brand is now looking to recruit a full-time video producer rather than rely on freelancers. “We want someone who is visionary but who can also do the filming,” she says. “It might be that we recruit more than one person, but I want us to be able to react quickly if, for example, we are at a festival.”
The growth in demand for rich content in social media is even prompting media brand owners to launch their own content agencies.
Bauer Media, which owns radio brands Absolute Radio and Magic as well as a host of magazines from Classic Car Weekly to men’s title Zoo, has launched a cultural creative agency called Adventure. It works across all Bauer’s editorial and commercial teams to promote its own as well as external brands.
Adventure is led by Bauer’s executive creative director Lucy Banks, who points to the work the publisher has already done on creating shareable multimedia content with brands such as O2, Cancer Research UK, Matalan and Channel 4.
“We have been learning over the past decade how the rich media landscape is constantly evolving and that social channels cannot operate in isolation,” she says. “There must be cohesion and a strategy in place to ensure different channels support each other and there is not a jumble of platforms.”
She is referring to the need for consistency but, as SunLife demonstrated with its ‘beard insurance’ stunt, making content fun is often just as important when trying to maximise engagement levels.
As a gambling brand, bookmaker Coral must always tread carefully in this space, but it was keen to produce entertaining and shareable content around the Cheltenham Festival. It staged its own version of the event by racing miniature pigs. The aim was to engage online racing fans and appeal to people who are not ardent race-goers or gamblers.
The idea was devised and shot by digital and experiential agency Space. The activity included pig-mounted ‘Ham Cams’ and expert racing commentary to create more drama. People could place ‘fun’ bets on the pigs to win actual bets for the real races at the festival. There was even behind the scenes footage of how the pig race was put together.
Coral’s head of social marketing, Tania Seif, says the campaign was a success because the brand and Space developed the content purely with the end-user in mind.
“Smart phone penetration is so high among younger people and video provides them with a more immersive experience. The problem with just using text [updates on social media] is that it is much harder to get such high levels of engagement,” says Seif. “We wanted to get mass audience appeal and be fun and charming but not controversial. It is crucial to get the tone right. On social media rich content is in demand because people want to interact with you and not be sold to.”
As well as boosting its presence on Twitter Coral also saw conversion rates in terms of shop visits and betting app downloads rise.
Rich content on social media is also being used to complement TV advertising. Health and fitness brand Fitbit invested in Twitter Promoted Video (TPV) to raise awareness of its products in a campaign created by digital agency Jellyfish. It meant interactions on Twitter peaked whenever a TV commercial aired.
Gareth Jones, vice-president and general manager EMEA at Fitbit, calls social video marketing “a highly potent” form of advertising. Using TPV returned an engagement rate of 4.7%, defined by the proportion of people exposed to a tweet who watched a video/TV ad, retweeted, ‘favourited’ or replied. There were 2 million impressions overall and 12,000 visits to the Fitbit website.
The Content Marketing Association says the results being seen by many brands are not surprising. It claims that about half of people will engage with a piece of visual content they see on social media. Tweets with images are 35% more likely to be re-tweeted.
“Humans are visual creatures so it makes sense that images and video are more powerful than simply using text,” say CMA managing director Clare Hill. “What is good about content marketing and social media is that brands do not have to spend a lot of money to get great engagement levels, although the tone of the content must be right. You must take a journalistic approach, which is why there is a trend towards recruiting more chief content officers.”
This is a sector which is certainly moving fast. According to a study by market research firm TNS, a growing number of senior marketers now have content budgets worth more than £5m, and the number will only continue to rise.
The importance of quality content for travel brands
Social media is vital to Contiki Holidays, which targets 18- to 35-year-olds and, as a travel brand, has endless opportunities to produce rich media content.
Group marketing director Alexis Sitaropoulos says young people’s eyes are naturally drawn to images and video but they need to be engaged quickly.
“Social media audiences want to be entertained and not just informed, and rich imagery is an excellent way of doing both. You just need to create content that grabs them,” he says. “A user is much more likely to look at and subsequently share an image or video which resonates strongly with them, and if a brand can create something which is promoted via social advocacy that is very powerful.”
Contiki showcases real images and videos from travellers’ recent trips, and shares these to inspire other potential customers. “A traveller could be videoing their exploration of Australia and just a few seconds later a social media user in the UK could be viewing it.”
The company uses the Stackla content marketing platform to fine-tune its content aggregation by keyword, media type, user influence, sentiment and location. The technology enables the brand to group its content by themes and products with intelligent tagging and filtering and it can be moderated manually or automatically.
“This technology helps us to extend our reach beyond just social networks and pull-in user-generated content from multiple data sources,” says Sitaropoulos. “It allows us to offer a richer experience than we could through just one platform. Content can, for example, include a selfie snap shared to Twitter by a Contiki traveller. We can combine this with our owned content to really paint a strong picture of what travelling with Contiki is all about.”
He also takes measurement seriously, setting objectives around topics such as accommodation quality to generate new business, and there are direct response measures to assess conversion rates from a piece of content.
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