Look Inward to See Everything Out There
It’s about time content marketers found their inner Zen. Content marketing is so crowded with the unrelenting churn of social media, overhyped SEO strategies, and hackneyed branding platitudes about authenticity and transparency that it is unsurprising so many companies are experiencing an existential content crisis. To reconnect with the truth, however, many savvy companies are turning inward.
Instead of extrapolating tenuous conclusions from prevailing cultural trends or squeezing insights from debatable economic forces and consumer proclivities, inherently data-rich companies are becoming more introspective. They’re digging deep into their greatest content asset: themselves.
Eat, Pray, Data
Expedia, for example, self-hacked value from its own content to help customers understand the data behind the chaos of Labor Day holiday travel, how to avoid the stresses of traveling Labor Day weekend, and even how to take advantage of the end-of-summer traveling madness. Hint: Stay away from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; it sounds like a nightmare. Consider a trip to London instead.
And then there is Netflix, the company that brought society the latest binge-tastic series “Stranger Things” and forever altered our lexicon by having its brand name turned into a verb. Sure, you may think Netflix is privy to your viewing habits and knows when you quit watching a series, or click away as soon as the credits start rolling, or decide to dump the service altogether — which they do — but you may also be impressed by how granular their research goes. It’s down to milliseconds, actually. We know this because Netflix turned its own research into compelling content meant to educate, and not scare, customers regarding the company’s data-driven business decisions. How else would you explain this quote from its tech blog? “Neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain can process an image in as little as 13 milliseconds, and that across the board, it takes much longer to process text compared to visual information.”
At Outbrain, we’ve also discovered that looking inward offers content opportunities that reveal unexpected, and sometimes uncomfortable, truths about ourselves. For example, in a recent post , we revealed that despite all of the collective bone-bending training, disciplined physical grit, and extraordinary spiritual efforts from thousands of the world’s most talented and passionate athletes, the topic that dominated U.S. narrative of the Olympics in Rio was about mosquitoes and the Zika virus. Even Michael Phelps lost the spotlight to golf and basketball athletes who opted not to participate. (Though it appears Ryan Lochte may just surpass everyone for media attention no one received, or wanted.)
- You Know More Than You Think
While content marketers often scour the cultural landscape for ideas, trends, and events that help provide context and a profundity to their brands and business, some of the most engaging insights can be drawn from data collected from internal analytics. Look closely. You know more than you think.
- Data Is Meaningless Without Context
Though data can be intimidating and require hard work to make sense of and contextualize, it is worth the effort. Those numbers, percentages, and graphs are intriguing representations of actions taken by human beings—who are actually customers or potential customers. Give data the time and thought it deserves by putting those human beings, and their behaviors, into context.
- Your Customers Respect Your Transparency and Digital Acumen
Embrace the numbers. Modern consumers understand their decisions, routines, and preferences are being tracked by numerous data collection techniques. Own up to it. Write about it. Tell people what’s going on. Customers will reward honesty with loyalty. It’s a dynamic that has always been proven true.