21 October 2016

Building A Content Marketing Program

Content marketing programs... are like trees.

Exactly two years ago to the day I wrote a content marketing cheat sheet. Sometimes your strategy should be "just fucking start already". Other times you need a more considered, comprehensive approach. You could call this post its sequel.

The easiest way to build a content marketing program is with a series of IF THIS THEN THATs. For example, if someone indicates they're a warm lead by browsing a section of your website, trigger retail message via display. If someone watches an awareness video, trigger educational infographic on Facebook. If someone doesn't open an email, trigger another one.

If behaviour occurs, then trigger content (and a means of distributing it).

Every IF THIS THEN THAT is built around a consumer's action and steers them toward a goal - signing up to newsletter, consuming more content, using a financial calculator, etc.

It's not too dissimilar to Google's Micro Moments where a real world action triggers an online search (my son wins his hockey game so I search for ice cream in the area). Ultimately it should work across more channels, integrating with not just search but social, display, web, email, video, etc. It's very easy to forget that distribution is just as important as the content.

Over a period of time, you steer people down the funnel, helping them convert when their ready. With the right message to the right person at the right time. Kinda like Advertising 101.

Eventually you end up a tree diagram made up of a series of IF THIS THEN THATs.

This can get complicated. Especially when you add the marketing tech requirements to build a single customer view, automation, asset creation and programmatic media buying (what a lot of buzzwords!).

But you can start with a single branch. Make an assumption about the current customer journey, and attempt to influence it with a single IF THIS THEN THAT. If you see a measurable improvement in their likelihood to move further down the funnel, add more branches. Or strengthen existing ones by testing different messages or formats or executions or means of distribution.

And watch your tree grow.

16 October 2016

Content Hubs Are Broken

We've all become pancakes, with interests wide but not deep.
Years ago I sat in a session 'Where Have All The Rebels Gone?', a piece of research on young Australians by Junkee Media.

A key finding was what they called becoming the Content Generation - "content" as in a state of complacent satisfaction, not the thing you watch on YouTube (that gag works better when you present it out loud).

They described a generation of people who value experiences over things (think #fomo). Combined with the lack of housing affordability means they're living at home longer. They hero their parents more than any previous generation. They've grown up comfortably where everyone gets a participation trophy and been told everything will be okay all their life.

As a byproduct of technology, they've never had to wait in line. And lines are where passions are formed. When you camp overnight for front row tickets to David Bowie, you meet others fans who love Ziggy Stardust just as much. And that's when you decide to start the David Bowie fanzine. Interestingly the guys who started Junkee Media met while waiting in line at a record store.

We're becoming pancakes - with a wide variety of interests but none of them very deep. We don't have to know much about anything because we can look it up on our mobile, and when we do we only go so far as the Wikipedia entry. There's no hierarchy to our news because it's delivered in a newsfeed by an algorithm. Politics, health, education and finance sit right next to photos of cats and foodporn. And when we do see the important stuff it's summarised in 140 characters of clickbait.

The opportunity, Junkee Media said, is for brands to connect people with their passions.

Of course, that's a fairly pessimistic take on a whole generation (of which I am a part). My sample of one likes to think he has more ambition and passion. And would argue the internet allows for greater connections among like-minded people by removing the barrier of geography.

But what I find most interesting is how this impacts content strategy. Specifically, the premise and role of content hubs - a common strategy many brands invest in (and I'll put my hand up to say I've been involved with a few myself).

The thinking is to build a 'sticky' environment full of relevant, regularly-updated content. People (not "users") discover this rich content, browse thoroughly in an 'experience' and love it so much they want to return and/or share.

But this approach is broken. And not just because most branded content sucks either.

We consume media on the Buzzfeed model. If 62% of adults get their news from social media it means not only are we not picking up a newspaper (which we've known for ages) but we're not even going to publisher homepages. The notion of browsing dies. People want their content served directly to them, one piece at a time. And once it's consumed they'll spit it out and bounce (and that's okay).

Distribution becomes more important than the content creation, yet is often the most overlooked.

The role of a content hub should just be a container, not a destination. Don't advertise the fact you have content, push the content instead. Your content becomes your advertising.

In some cases people may not even need to hit your content hub. Instant and formats like Canvas mean you can create a valuable, immersive experiences without ever needing to leave the Facebook environment.

In many ways Facebook Pages have also fallen into the same troubles. People don't visit Pages for content (it would appear they only visit for customer service). Likewise distribution remains hugely overlooked, with either no spend behind posts or a media strategy which is too simplistic (it has never been easier to be more sophisticated with your targeting and ability to steer consumers down a funnel).

That feels like a really long-winded way to say if you're investing in content, especially a content hub, ensure you have a clear distribution strategy. And align your objectives to how people actually consume their media.
The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Also ponies are evil.
Pigs Don't Fly © Copyright Zac Martin