In a world where the amount of digital information created and shared has escalated by more than nine times since 2005 -- with more than 27 million pieces of content being shared every day, according Nielsen -- the bar has been raised for branded content experiences to capture consumers' attention and resonate. Content can have massive reach and the power to influence purchase decisions. But too often marketers try to create content without taking the foundational steps first.
Good content marketing isn't a one-off. It takes strategic rigor and organizational alignment to achieve the speed, scale and continuity to be successful. If you are going to invest in content marketing, invest in the right way of doing it.
Here are five best practices -- from A to E -- that will consistently deliver valuable content and drive business results for your brand.
Content must be applicable to your audience's behaviors and interests. Good content marketing should create currency, or a meaningful value exchange with your audience. To get to the right approach, ask yourself these two questions: Why should people care and will they be inspired to share? Quality content marketing will move consumers to take the next step.
Nivea Sun (not a 360i client) won big in Cannes this year because it took the idea of protecting children at the beach to a new level. The innovative branded content campaign demonstrated Nivea not only offers protection from the sun's harmful rays, but the magazine-ad-turned-wristband could also be used by parents at the beach to keep their children within a safe distance using their mobile devices. By considering what parents care for most -- the safety of their children -- they were able to create applicable branded content that promotes the idea of giving kids more protection than ever while giving parents more peace of mind.
We are in an attention economy. Your brand message is competing for attention, and you're not just competing with other brands. You're competing with world news, Red Bull Stratos, cats and babies. Brands can no longer count on a "Happy Monday" tweet to resonate, or a stock photo of Mount Rushmore to say "Happy President's Day" in an original and compelling way. Create really breakthrough moments by surprising and intriguing consumers. Don't sacrifice quality for quantity, though. It's better to have fewer, higher-impact pieces of work than diluted content that turns into background noise.
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Through 360i's strategic partnership with Mashable, we're seeing first-hand through its Velocity technology what makes content resonate and go viral. This past winter, Velocity alerted Mashable's editors to some video content that was quickly gaining momentum. The video featured Canadian airline WestJet (not a 360i client), surprising harried holiday travelers by transforming the airport experience into a Christmas miracle. Mashable was the first to cover this breakthrough content marketing idea, driving one of the outlet's most shared stories to date.
There is a huge misperception that content marketing and social media marketing -- or even digital -- are synonymous. Yes, there is overlap, but your content marketing strategy should work across channels to connect the dots and develop a cohesive brand voice and story.
By working cross-platform, content can inspire cultural movements. For example, 360i's recent campaign for Oreo, #SnackHacks, started as a consumer-inspired social media post showing how to dunk an Oreo with a fork -- no more dirty fingers, "Problem solved." That post quickly became one of Oreo's most popular, inspiring the brand to build #SnackHacks into a robust content series about innovative ways to play with your food, including live events with celebrity chefs, fan hacks and more. By taking cues from the Oreo community, Oreo has been able to transform that one post into a much bigger movement that continues to grow across channels.
How do we get content the visibility it deserves? Understand the role of every channel across paid, earned and owned. Search marketing, paid social, traditional advertising, PR and influencers are important drivers of your content. You can't just build an architectural wonder for people to discover. More people will find it if you give them a map.
We're seeing that search, paid social and traditional advertising have a more important role in surfacing and amplifying content at a time when organic reach is on the decline and there is increasing competition for consumer engagement. Most notably, YouTube is making its internet celebrities and content creators such as Bethany Mota and Michelle Phan more discoverable with a traditional advertising push that is raising the profile of these influencers through TV, print and OOH advertising.
The only constant thing in content marketing is change. We can't control the rapid shifts happening in technology and consumer behavior. Marketers can no longer afford to take a wait-and-see approach. Every great content strategy should have room to pivot when needed.
So get experimental and tell great brand stories by rethinking how you organize, invest in, integrate and measure to get to great content marketing.