When a radio station wants to broadcast a program that reaches as many ears as possible-even remote listeners in the hinterlands-it amps up the signal. But when content marketers with branded content to promote seek to swell their audience, it's not as simple as cranking up a dial.
Wider distribution of content that's created to grow affinity and brand consideration-and not necessarily to hawk a product or service-requires careful research, planning, and execution to overcome the significant challenges today. Smart publishers, content providers, and marketers need to recognize these challenges and develop effective strategies to connect with the crowds in a landscape that's already overcrowded with competitors.
THE PENALTY AND THE PAYOFF
Why is it more essential than ever for content marketers to get their branded content out to wider audiences? First, they can't afford not to, and second, the rewards are plentiful, say the experts. "The long-term value of a customer is likely the best reason," says Matt Pfluger, VP of digital strategy for Garfield in Newtown, Pa. "One sale, enabled by one piece of content, is no longer enough to retain brand loyalty. If a brand isn't thinking of ways to extend a relationship with a customer post sale via content, then the likelihood of the brand being top of mind at the beginning of the next purchase process is significantly less. That's especially true in the
Additionally, brands are dealing with an increasingly distracted audience who is using multiple platforms. Some customers consume exclusively on mobile, some find most of the content they read through social channels, some search, and others get enough from reading the flood of email coming into their inbox, says Matt Kumin, founder and CEO of PublishThis in Los Angeles.
"If brands are not casting the net widely enough and often enough," Kumin says, "they will not connect with their customers, much less stay engaged with them sufficiently to close sales and keep them as customers." The end goal, most experts agree, is creating a more meaningful network of customers eager to engage and learn more about your offerings.
GAUGING CONTENT USEFULNESS
When planning, creating, and managing content on behalf of brands, Pfluger suggests following a golden rule: "Ask yourself, ‘How valuable will my customer/user/partner find this information?' If you can't answer this question quickly, rethink your content. Because if it's not seen as valuable by your audience, then it's not worth the time and resource investment needed to produce it."
Pfluger suggests a good way to gauge your content's worthiness is by putting it through the lens of Peter Morville's User Experience Honeycomb, which looks at the following aspects from a user's perspective:
- Useful-Does the content itself serve a purpose to the audience? Does it help them do a job, manage a task, or get more done?
- Usable-Is the content serviceable? Can your audience interact with it ?in a way they can learn without undue effort, or ?is it overly academic?
- Desirable-Is it content that the user is seeking? What makes yours different?
- Findable-Can the user visit your webpage and ?find the content in one ?or two clicks?
- Credible-In the case of research, did your brand partner with a reputable, impartial third party (e.g., Forrester Research or Gartner, Inc.) across a large sample size, or did you conduct it yourself with a small group?
- Accessible-Can your audience retrieve the content from mobile/tablet/desktop? Can they come back later and find it easily?
"Never create content for the sake of content. Each piece of branded content should be imaginative, helpful, and attractive to your target audience," says Nora D. Richardson, CEO of Spot-On Branding in Charleston, S.C.
Another way to determine branded content usefulness is to evaluate its ability to connect with users on an emotional level. "When you write about a perspective or take a stance, it means the authors care about something. And this comes across in the content. When written from the heart, it shows, and it becomes more relevant to the audience," says Lisa Gerber, blogger and founder of Big Leap, Inc. in Sandpoint, Idaho.
KEYS TO THE KINGDOM
There are many proven ways to build and execute a successful branded content marketing campaign for the masses. For David Leonhardt, president of The Happy Guy Marketing in Chesterville, Ontario, it comes down to three key elements: quality, quantity, and reach. "Quantity should always take a backseat to the other two. Better to invest the time in making the content amazing and making sure it reaches the widest audience possible than to worry about frequency," says Leonhardt. "And reaching the widest audience possible often means expanding the boundaries of one's topic so that it is relevant beyond just the target audience."
For instance, it can be hard to reach a specific target audience of young couples who are considering having children. But if you create content of interest to them that is also pertinent to a wider audience, the latter will share the content on social media and help you reach your target demographic.
As a general example, Matt Witt, executive VP and director of digital integration for TRIS3CT in Chicago, cites Volvo Trucks' recent Epic Splits video ads starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, which created a stir of conversation, mashups, and overall buzz. The spot appealed to more than action/martial arts movie lovers.
"The brand created several videos that were all over-the-top demonstrations of their trucks' technology and engineering. They kept at it and found a particular angle that resonated with people everywhere," Witt says.
Richardson says it's also important to be relevant, helpful, and engaging, and ask yourself, "What does my ideal customer really want to know?" "Above all, do not sell. People are sick of being sold to. Nowadays, consumers would rather engage with a brand over time through helpful content, which cultivates brand trust. Brand trust means loyal returning customers," says Richardson.
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)