The online marketing world is expanding – having the biggest bullhorn isn’t enough to dominate the conversation anymore. Instead, the most interesting voice prevails in attracting an engaged audience. Social media provides a low-cost, attainable channel for small business marketers to take advantage of in order to compete with the big brands in the content marketing sphere.
The Small Business Content Marketing Trends & Insights Report for 2013 found that SMB marketers use an average of five social media platforms, while enterprise peers use an average of four platforms. Many small business marketers have been early adopters in the social media game, leveraging this effective business and marketing tool in order to extend their reach. Social media has provided SMBs a level playing field to reach audiences and attract interest through focusing on content. By using an average of five platforms, SMBs are ensuring that their content isn’t caged into one insular group, lending more opportunity for it to spread to engaged audiences.
When managing social media channels, it is important to set a goal for your content. What do you want to achieve from with each post? Lead generation? Thought leadership? Brand awareness? Define your goal, adapt your writing and choose the social channel that will reach the right audience at the right time.
Creating content is the most labor-intensive task when executing a content strategy. Social media in particular burns up a lot of content quickly due to the quick pace of content published per minute. In order to stay top of mind (and top of news feed), repurposing content is key. It is important to keep in mind that “repurposing” and “reposting” mean two different things. While “reposting” allows a piece of content to appear on a news feed more often to increase impressions (that may not lead to consumption), “repurposing” adds a new value with a fresh perspective that can generate new appeal for new audiences. Schedule different posts to varying social networks of your repurposed content using social media management dashboards like Tweetdeck, HootSuite, and Sprout Social.
Before creating content, small business marketers should be aware of the types of content that draw in their most engaged target audience. Know who you are writing for, which channel they’d like to be reached through, and how they like their information represented. Written posts are great, but multimedia content can often be better. Get creative and produce an infographic, 6-second Vine, or podcast to allow your audience to consume your content in different ways.
As social media begins to take a larger role in the content strategy of small businesses, blogs still remain the most important social media channel, supported by others. SMBs now have access to thousands of people they were unable to reach before, sharing their voice, experience, and what they can offer.
As the discourse around content marketing builds, some of the most visible, influential brands in the world are diving in head first with some very creative applications of their own.
According to this Forbes piece, top marketers are finding that content is key in creating engaging experiences for consumers.
“Scaling our content isn’t just about expanding the size of our social reach across news platforms,” says Ron Faris, Head of Brand Marketing at Virgin Mobile. “It’s also about deepening the level of engagement we have with our fans in the social communities they hang out in.”
Music, video, and mobile content increasingly play a role in content strategies as brands explore ways of reaching consumers through their preferred channels of engagement. And it’s not just millennials – that dream demographic – brands are considering, either. American Express and Marriott, brands not typically associated with popular entertainment, are finding content useful in rewarding their current customers.
“Content for us lives first and foremost in the offline world through our hotel guest experience,” says Dan Vinh, VP Global Marketing, Renaissance Hotels. “This is how we ensure that what we do and say is authentic. Then we extend it to online to continue the dialogue with existing guests and their network (our prospects).” Renaissance Hotels, Marriott’s lifestyle brand, have launched two discovery platforms to help their guests get acquainted with the local city they’re staying in and find nearby entertainment.
Each brand must design and execute their own winning content strategy that works well for them, but in each instance, some vital points of consideration apply to any player in the space.
“An amplification strategy should be a key tactic in a content strategy,” says Lisa LaCour, VP Marketing at content discovery platform Outbrain. “Once the content is created, search and social networks can be used to distribute, but you should also make sure to distribute it out to others who may not know it exists.”
As brands continue to explore their respective strategies and tactics, one thing seems clear: content can cover many bases.
“Focus on existing customers as well as prospects,” says LaCour. “Content marketing is a great tool to create brand affinity but can also be powerful in building a new audience of potential customers.”
The brands featured in the article will continue their discussion on content marketing at Brand Innovators Content Marketing on December 6, 2012.
In case you missed it, there was a great article on Nielsen Wire yesterday about the lack of trust consumers have for paid media — particularly text, display and banner ads, which performed the worst among all advertising channels in terms of consumer trust. The article argues brands should be working toward a more holistic union of paid, owned and earned media by leveraging paid media to drive the other two forms of advertising. While I generally agree with the article’s assertion — a mixed approach works better than a paid-only approach — I’d like to make two important points, mainly with regards to how easily and foolishly we’ve accepted the power of social recommendations and paid advertising.
For years now, the advertising industry has been touting the importance of social recommendations and reviews for selling products and services. The premise has been: If John sees that Jack likes (or “Likes”) a product, he is much more likely to purchase that product. I agree that honest-to-goodness product recommendations are incredibly valuable. If I ask friends in my social network to recommend a product and they do, that’s plays a humongous role in whether or not I buy the product. However, it’s important that we as an industry distinguish between honest recommendations and a simple Facebook “Like.” Think about how often you “Like” something half-heartedly only because it gives you access to a sale or promotion. Think about how many “Likes” you see each and every day. Back in 2008, when your Facebook friends were 200 of your real friends, and not a collection of the thousand people you’ve met once over the years, “Likes” actually meant something. Now, when you see that your friend “Likes” something, you’re more likely to skip that post on your way to baby photos and links to honest-to-goodness content (more on this a little later). That isn’t to say that “Likes” are totally worthless. In fact, a “Like” is an important way for brands to connect directly with consumers to share (valuable) content. However, our industry has lumped “Likes” in with consumer testimonials, and we’ve lazily accepted these casual clicks as honest praise. Take away casual “Likes” and shares and I’m positive that the amount of recommendations brands are getting on social networks don’t hold as much weight as the industry thinks they do.
A major point of contention I have with the piece is that it accepts as gospel that paid advertising can’t be given up, and it doesn’t even make the argument that paid should be scaled down. “For most brands, [giving up paid media] isn’t really feasible given both the broad reach and historical success associated with paid media.” Look, you won’t ever hear me argue that paid media should be done away with completely, but I don’t think “want[ing] more earned and owned” media is good enough. If people don’t trust your paid ads — but they do trust your editorial content and branded websites to the tune of 58% — then why should you maintain your paid media budgets? Shouldn’t someone come right out and admit that it’s time to scale back your TV ad budget, especially since only 47% of people even trust your message? Shouldn’t someone snatch the checkbook out of your hand as you try to buy more banner ads, mobile display ads and mobile text ads? Of course! Especially when you consider that only 33% of people trust online banners, 33% trust mobile display and a measly 29% of people trust mobile text ads. I would argue that merely supplementing these untrusted tactics is a huge mistake. Scale back on your paid ads dramatically and give the people what they’re looking for and what they’re responding to.
What are consumers responding to? According to the research, people trust earned media and branded websites above all forms of advertising other than consumer recommendations. What the research doesn’t ask is whether or not branded content is trusted. That’s because content isn’t a form of advertising — it’s a way for brands and publishers to educate, engage and entertain consumers without a hard sales push. If asked whether or not they trust honest, editorial-style content from brands and publishers, I’m positive consumers would overwhelmingly say that they do. And gaining consumer trust should be top-of-mind for all businesses, above and beyond generating awareness and making sales. As anyone at Outbrain will tell you: If you provide valuable content and services, you’ll undoubtedly generate awareness and make sales.
You’ve become an expert at connecting with your customers on Facebook. You are now a master at Twitter. But lately, you’ve been wondering if you should add Pinterest to your content marketing strategy. The answer? Probably.
Pinterest is the virtual version of cutting out pictures from a magazine and hanging them on a bulletin board. The social media site allows people to create boards and “pin” images to their board that they want to share with others.
As simple as the platform sounds, Pinterest has become the latest buzz and it was recently ranked as the 5th most visited social media site for the week ending March 24, ranking above Google +, according to Experian Hitwise.
Many different brands and types of businesses have already found creative ways to use Pinterest as part of their content marketing strategy, including creating boards showing creative uses of their products and also establishing their expertise in their industries. A real estate agent can create a board with different ideas for de-cluttering, while a fashion boutique owner can create a board of different ways to wear a scarf.
But before jumping on the bandwagon just because it is the latest “thing,” ask yourself the following questions:
Can You Visually Represent Your Brand?
Because Pinterest is a collection of pictures, you will need to be able to use images to showcase your products, knowledge and brand. A recent Content Marketing Institute article listed “high-end fashion brands and retailers, food and grocery brands with appeal to high-income shoppers, luxury or aspirational brands in the home design category, and travel/tourism brands” as industries where Pinterest will be of high value because their businesses easily lend themselves to visual representation.
But even if you aren’t in one of these categories, don’t be too quick to answer no to this question. Many different types of brands have found a way to establish a strong Pinterest presence. The Harlem Globetrotters have a board of the best Globetrotter gear and the U.S. Army has a board of photos of soldiers coming home. Even Mashable is on the site, with a pin board ranging from best infographics to favorite tech gadgets.
Spend some time browsing Pinterest to see how different brands are using Pinterest. Maybe there is a way to represent your product or service visually. Think outside the box.
Can You Use Pinterest to Drive Traffic to Your Website?
While pinning images and creating a unique board can be fun, the ultimate goals are to bring potential customers back to your website and strengthen your brand.
Not surprisingly, retailers are one of the highest users of the site and are having the most success with driving traffic to their website.
Spend more time on Pinterest and look specifically at how different brands in your industry use their boards to drive traffic back to their sites. Do they simply include the link to their site on all images or do they have other strategies? Brainstorm about how you can use Pinterest to increase traffic to your site and more importantly, convert those visitors into customers.
Is Your Target Audience On Pinterest?
Currently the majority of Pinterest users are female. Forbes describes the average user as “25-54 years old, female (up from 68%, now at 80%!), attends college, has a household income of $25-75K and lives in the Midwest.”
If your customer base is primarily teenage boys or another female demographic not currently on Pinterest, you might want to put more effort into other avenues that reach more of your demographic. Don’t entirely rule out Pinterest, however, as there may be some crossover.
Ask your current customers if they are on Pinterest. Look for people you know on the site. If most of your current customers and others in your target market are already on the site, then odds are that your brand should be also.
By Jennifer Gregory
Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience.
Content marketing continues to be one of the rising stars of the online marketing world as brands from American Express and Proctor & Gamble to GE and General Mills use it alongside more traditional strategies to reach their target audiences. Why? Unlike traditional marketing, branded content is engaging, provides value and adds to the online experience instead of interrupting it.
At Outbrain, we’re all about great content, which is why we wanted to get the scoop from some of the folks in the trenches. Earlier this year, we surveyed senior-level brand marketers and agency executives as they gathered to judge entries for the 2012 Effie Awards — a program that recognizes the most effective and impactful marketing and advertising communications. What follows is an insider’s look at the state of content marketing.
- 100% of brand and agency marketers surveyed utilize content marketing in their overall marketing strategies. At 87% of respondents, video is the most common form of content created.
- Social media is the most popular channel marketers use for driving traffic to content with 96% of respondents currently utilizing. Usage is up from 88% in 2011.
- Marketers employ content marketing efforts to drive brand awareness and target top of purchase funnel consumers rather than for generating direct leads or sales. Social media engagement is the most popular indicator marketers consider when measuring the success of content marketing efforts (89%), followed by views or content downloads (76%).
- Social media, video advertising and content marketing are viewed as the most effective tactics used for brand awareness, consideration and affinity.
- 82% of brand and agency marketers expect to increase content marketing efforts in 2012.
One hundred percent of the marketers surveyed utilize content marketing as a part of their overall marketing strategy and are currently creating digital content specifically for informational and/or entertainment value to consumers. Eighty-seven percent of marketers create video content, making it the most popular medium. Written content, such as blog posts (67%) and articles (44%), also has a place in content marketing strategies. Other visual mediums such as slideshows and photo galleries are used by 44% of respondents.