In recent years, there has been so much discussion about content marketing. For some people, statements like “content is king” and “content is extremely important” are nothing but clichés.
The importance of content marketing in the world of business cannot be overemphasized. Whatever image is projected about a product or service would go a long way in sealing customer loyalty or raking in profits.
Over ninety percent of what is published online provides little or no valuable information. There has been a flurry of content across the Internet, adding little value to the reader.
Despite the abundance of content, Mark Schaefer, who coined the term ‘content shock’ believes that for consumers more content is a good thing.
As an author and a columnist, I have had several debates with editors. I have always had editors vouch for the reader and what they derive out of my content.
It is the dream and ultimate goal of every writer to want to have their contents published online.
The most basic and fundamental questions that would help govern the writer are sometimes skipped.
Questions like “why an individual should read my work” and “what’s in it for my readers” are vital to the writing process.
As we interviewed customers of several successful brands, we saw that clarity preceded content.
Successful brands were the organizations that rallied as a unit with a clear answer to the kind of content they needed to produce.
Clarity on–If they were the story or the storyteller?
Every company has a story. The uniqueness of one company from another lies in the sometimes subtle yet obvious differences in their stories.
This means that there is no “copy and paste” formula for great storytelling.
Instead, you need to sit and take a good look at your company or your personal experience, decide what sets you apart from the crowd and tell that story.
I recommend you carry out a SWOT analysis (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats). Besides helping you connect more deeply with your customers, this process will help you understand your brand better.
In one of our conversations with Jayan Narayanan, CEO of “Toss the Coin,” a marketing process outsourcing company based in Chennai, he said, ‘as long as there are people, there will be stories, and the stories that engage are the ones that connect with people on an emotional level.”
He further added, ‘It is always good to share the story with the authenticity of who you are. For example, if you are a person who is naturally humorous, it can very much be your way of storytelling. And mind you, as ironic it may sound, humor is a serious business.’
So what is “storifiable”? While your customers may want to hear who you are and where you’ve come from, they probably don’t want to listen to what you had for breakfast.
People want to hear your story as long as there is something interesting for them, something that concerns for them. While customers may want to know about your company, ‘the connect’ always happens on a personal level.
Why did your company form?
What problems are you trying to solve?
Why you resonate with them?
Simon Sinek put it brilliantly in his infamous TED talk titled ‘Start with why?’. He explained using Apple as an example why their story was able to connect with its audience.
He said, “Apple starts with “why.” It is the core of their marketing and the driving force behind their business operations. To help illustrate this point, imagine if Apple said – We make great computers. They’re user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”
He further continued, “While these facts are true, it is not interesting and doesn’t give me a reason to connect with them. Now look at their actual story:
“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
People associate with your brand for a reason.
They associate with the story and the personality of the brand that the story conveys. Beyond that, they would also want to relate the “whys” in their lives to the “whys” your company is trying to answer.
Some people use content to share their story, while some others use content to evangelize a concept and content can be used in anyway. The point is content medium or a channel and not the product or service that is marketed. Hence the term “content marketing” might not be the right term to use.
Just because you want to focus and reach the people who watch the TV Series “The Big Bang Theory” and you choose to place your products as props in the show or invest on a TV Commercial when the show is aired, does not make it TV marketing.
Similarly, no one ever asks –“what’s your TV ROI or telephone ROI.” Content is the message that is getting communicated across online and offline channels. So, we need first to understand that content is an integral part of channels, but they are not channels themselves. Other channels include Facebook and search engines are channels too.
Content consumption has become more interactive over time.
No one wants to be told things; they want to take part, be considered and discussed with.
A few months ago, I had a written a piece on social listening. It covers how brands can understand the expectations of their customers and prospects and improve the customer experience. It will be the biggest differentiator going forward.
Here are few things on how content has changed over time:
Say less, listen more: Quality of your content is becoming more important than ever. It is moving away from communication to conversation.
This is where you would have to use good listening skills and listen twice as much as you would want to speak.
It is important for brands to personalize content and keep the conversation as crisp and interesting as possible.
You can open doors to start building meaningful relationships and improve customer experience.
It’s not about information, but how you enable.
Your content has to be more deliberate than ever. Anybody can whisk up and put together a write-up on the features of a product and the “how-tos”.
But they might not necessarily provide contextual answers to the information they are looking for.
Hence your content needs to become enabling and facilitating.
How content may evolve in the coming days
You cannot continue your business with the understanding of yesterday’s market and expect to be in business tomorrow.
The need of the hour is to adapt continuously and be in sync with how your target audience is consuming content and also know their response to it.
Here are a few things that are expected to change in the way content will shape up in the coming days.
1. Interactive Content
With the explosion of information across the Internet, people have so many options and so little time.
Everyone wants information that they are exactly looking.
Such people do not have the time to weed through the fluff to get to the precisely sought after information. Interactive content is the need of the hour.
Precision is the key, you have to be exact, have to have a bull’s eye delivery of information and allow readers to click on what they are interested in.
Singapore’s Changi airport has recently taken a step towards this. It launched a content marketing platform called ‘Now Boarding by Changi Airport.’
The platform shares useful and customized tips on travel, along with the information on what one can get at the airport and the news.
The format of the content shred combines articles, videos, and info-graphics.
It creatively tells stories of travel and exploration without wasting the reader’s time with unnecessary details.
2. Data will be a key driver
In one of the surveys that we at MarketingSync conducted, we understood that one of the major factors that drove the time spent on content was its authenticity.
With the amount of user-generated content on social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others, the need for backing up your content or claim with authentic data is more critical than ever.
Data visualization will also be the key driver for marketers to understand the kind of content preferred by their different customer segments.
With the help of analytics, you can keep track of customer online presence, purchasing trends and also keep track of sales.
Here are some tools that directly contribute to the kind of content you generate:
Trendspottr can help you monitor trends on the web and social platforms.
By receiving early signals on the rising topics, you can offer useful information for your prospects. Thus you become a reliable source always to turn to.
Google Trends can help you specifically understand your prospects and their preferences.
Also, it would give you an insight into how prospects seek information in your area of expertise. It will help you speak their language and resonate with them.
Trends Map can help you map trending Twitter hashtags in your area and worldwide.
3. Usage of videos is set to increase
There are over 1.6 billion people on Facebook, and it is noticed that on an average, each person on Facebook watches a little under five videos daily. The number has doubled since April 2015 and all this without having to click the play button.
The rise of videos is not just with social media but has also shown incredible results on websites and landing pages. Thus changing the content marketing landscape.
With more people looking for consumption of astute information on the go, the role of video in content marketing is expected to increase.
4. Horses for courses
Generic content targeted at the mass is on the demise, and you need to be generating content targeted to specific segments.Every piece of content that goes out on your brand must bear in mind the following:
What are your ideal clients’ business objectives?
Who are their competitors?
What market are they serving?
Who are their customers?
Why should they seek your help?
Another important change is that you cannot be repurposing the same content for different platforms such as blogs, Slideshare and social and expect to remain relevant.
It is important to focus on your niche though they are small because the engagement would be higher.
5. Clickbaits will be dead
Clickbait refers to the phenomenon that says something catchy enough to encourage a reader to click on the topic and read on but does not deliver the actual sought after information.
This breaks trust and offends readers especially when the information needed is quite crucial and hence this kind of content often have a high percentage bounce rate.
One of the trend indicators towards the demise of clickbaits is that Facebook recently announced a crackdown on it.
The audience of today is well informed, and fewer people are expected to click on these baits going forward. Be straightforward and be precise.
Some point to consider, as you set up your marketing organization for the content transformation include:
a. Consider your demographics
Some social platforms are more popular with users from certain demographics than others. For example, only 9% of Periscopes regular users are more than 45 years old. With this in mind, Periscope may not be the best platform for you if your target audience is between 50-65 years of age.
Demographic information for social platforms is readily available online, and taking time to look into it when making decisions about your social platforms of choice is entirely worth the effort.
b. Know your social media platforms well
Different social platforms are ideal for various forms of content. Take Pinterest, for example, which excels in the world of health and culinary content, but might fall short for marketing content.
If your content is highly visual and interactive, a visual-rich platform like Instagram or Pinterest is ideal.
If you specialize in text-heavy content, though, you may be better off on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.
Keep in mind that the most successful content strategies employ a mix of visual and textual content, so it may be wise to develop both types and utilize various platforms to push it through to your audience.
c. Customer service too is a content form
As social media becomes ubiquitous among consumers, more companies are moving their customer service and support efforts to social platforms.
In addition to providing faster response times and more practical support, this often results in more satisfied customers and higher retention rates.
If you carry out customer service on social media, it’s critical to think about where your customers would most like to see your brand maintain a presence.
According to one JD Power study, 67% of customers prefer to use Twitter and Facebook for customer service support, complaints, and inquiries.
Because this number is so high, it’s wise to build and maintain profiles on these sites and branch out as your service and support need change or shift.
I look forward to reading your thoughts on the forms of content that you have been using and how you see content evolve!
Yaagneshwaran Ganesh is a marketing enthusiast, speaker and the author of "Is your marketing in sync or sinking?". His mission "One globe, one experience" is to explore marketing practices at organizations of different sizes, industry and cultures across the globe and help align marketing operations to organizational strategy. He has an MBA from Jansons School of Business and a certificate in strategy management from Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode.