Content isn’t just a trend, it is a total rethinking of how you communicate with your clients and customers. Brands that accept this paradigm will find themselves uniquely positioned to excel in their industries while competitors watch in dismay.
Why is Content Superior to Ads?
Content marketing is taking your company’s message and putting it in the format people want to consume the most. Some people want infographics, some people prefer short videos, some like long-form informative articles, and a lot of people really enjoy podcasts. Every year, these preferences change. So do the platforms, and so do the media formats.
It’s like websites, if you can recall what they looked like 5 or 7 years ago. Compare the mobile-optimized single-page sites of today with big, showy, gaudy websites of yesterday with intro pages, frames, and music. Those who want to communicate effectively with their audience must change with their tastes.
Don’t Fall Out of Focus
There are three mindsets people are in when they’re out in the world: busy, open, and searching. Traditional ads have staked a strong claim in the busy mindset, where ads are designed to interrupt or otherwise disrupt someone while they are doing something else. What we will show is that a network of content – or what we refer to as a content ecosystem – is the best solution for all three of these.
Firstly, we must ask ourselves: what is the environment we are operating in? The short answer is: cynical. It is possible to make advertisements that people will fall in love with and even want to tell their friends about. However, the aversion to sales-like, click-bait style advertising has people paranoid and reluctant as ever to engage with any sort of promotional material online. We know this from the prevalence of ad blockers (25%+ in Canada) and how eye-mapping software tells us how the average user avoids areas where ads are likely to propagate. Even ads for when people are on the hunt for information – think search engine marketing and Google Ads – are defined by very low clickthrough rates.
Additionally, the very platforms we advertise on are trying as hard as they can to service this reluctance and make it harder for people to be sold to. For instance, Google continues to update and improve their standards of ranking content to ensure that only the most relevant content reaches their results page. Facebook also continues to update their algorithm for paid and organic content, making it so the content you post must be boosted and targeted to even be seen. To put it simply: it’s getting harder for ads, and easier for content.
Content excels in these areas because a genuine piece of content that has been crafted with care can still get traffic years after it has been created, especially blogs and video. In this sense content is a product in itself, designed to delight and engage people on a topic. It is not just a more stylish ad, it’s a completely different way to present yourself to the world. Think of it as a sales representative who tries to get to know you, engage with you, and entertain you vs. someone cold calling you.
Ads still have a place in the marketing mix, we’re not saying otherwise. But if you think they’re the whole picture, you’re not thinking big enough. You don’t just create one ad, one piece of content, or one campaign to succeed. You need an ecosystem of content, with each level designed with a different purpose.
Now what the hell does that mean?
Understanding the Content Marketing Ecosystem
Whenever you develop a piece of content ask yourself if your content meets the following standards:
• Production Value:
The content you create has to not only line up with your brand voice, but it needs to be well made. If it’s a blog, make sure you edit and re-edit it so it isn’t a jumbles mess. If it’s a video, make sure the audio and video quality is top notch. And then watch it, and then re-watch it again later before you make it live. You don’t want to give people any reason to ignore you and little things like typos and poor audio quality chase people away very quickly.
Tip #1: Producing high quality content less often is preferable to low quality content more often. Remember: you are creating digital investments that pay off over time.
This is where storytelling comes into play, and storytelling is important across all content types. You could also think of this as how everything flows together and makes people want to consume it all the way until the end, which is more difficult than people think. One way to do this is to make it entertaining, and the other is to make it inspirational.
Ultimately what you want to do is make sure it connects with people on a human level and it’s not something a robot wrote. You need to convince the viewer that you care about what is being said.
Here’s something to get you started: think back into your own experiences, can you recall a time when you or someone you know shared a piece of content you found online? Was it funny or exciting? That storytelling sophistication is not beyond your reach, you can imagine right now at least a couple times where it has worked.
Tip #2: Think about the last great piece of content you came across online, and what made it stand out to you.
• Brand Identity:
This is where brand truth comes into play, and it’s the most important element once you begin building momentum with your creative output. Basically, you need a style and personality to give your audience something to rely on. Think of yourself as any other artist: what tone, themes, and energy can people expect when they come back to you?
If people decide that they like you and are interested in what you have to say, remember they like you for a reason and you betray it at your peril. Stay within your area of expertise, stay consistent with your tone, and establish a personality that people associate with you and nobody else.
Tip #3: Consider: what sets you, as a person, apart from your competitors?
If you’re trying to get someone to pay attention to you, you need to offer something interesting and unique. If you are trying to encourage a purchase, you need to make your content relevant to the mindset of someone searching for a solution. Both of these examples are very different, but the lesson is the same: make yourself the thing that person wants to see at that time and place.
Tip #4: Start by designing a conventional ad like you would normally do, with service offerings and everything else. Now, expand it into a three sentence story.
Congratulations, now you’re ready to start creating content. If you still have questions, we love talking to informed people.