The Horses-for-Courses Approach to Content Marketing
April 1, 2013 by Brand Algorithms
An earlier blog of mine, on content marketing, talked about the importance of content in digital marketing, and the difficulties in generating content and ensuring that the content engages intended recipients.
With the focus, amongst brand-owner's, now on multi-channel (digital) engagement, there has been talk about making content marketing more efficient, by reusing content across the different online channels: social networking sites like Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, and YouTube; blogs; microsites; eNewsletters; etc. The reusing-content approach may address a brand-owner's problem in generating content, but it will certainly not address the problem of generating engaging-content: and content that does not engage is probably worse for a brand than no content at all.
I believe brand-owners have to take a horses-for-courses approach to content marketing. By this, I mean that a brand-owner has to create content specifically tailored for the channels the brand-owner is active on. The reasons for the horses-for-courses approach are:
The demographic profile for each social media channel are different. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in late-2012 on the use of the Internet in everyday American (USA) life. The results reveal the demographic profile for each of the social media platforms surveyed (Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook) as significantly distinct. The fact that 79% of LinkedIn users are 35-or-older years of age and that 79% of Pinterest users are women, against the Facebook figures of 65% and 60%, respectively, should indicate that content created to appeal to the average Facebook user is unlinkely to appeal to either a LinkedIn user or a Pinterest user.
Consumer Objectives and Expectations
Consumers use different social media channels for different purposes and have different expectations from their presence in the channels. A woman user on Facebook uses the platform to contact and keep in touch with friends, and when following a brand expects to receive product promos every now and then. The same person, on Pinterest, uses the platform to create, as well as view, boards of aesthetically pleasing objects and products built around themes, in the company of similarly-interested individuals, and does not expect to come across an in-the-face promo when following a company page.
Each social media channel has its specific strengths, with respect to the way it is organised, the type of user interaction, and its preferred content formats. Facebook does not discriminate between intensities of friendships or between groups of friends, unlike Google+, which recognises that a user could have several groups of friends, for different interests. LinkedIn is professionally orientated, and is designed around connections (a virtual old-boys network) and business-centric content. Instagram, on the other hand, is exclusively image-based and is designed to facilitate the uploading of UGC (User-Generated Content). A post on the brand-owner's brand page on Facebook will attract comments, while on Instagram it would attract user-modified uploads.
As a result of the differing demographics, consumer expectations, and platform characteristics, the list of the top brands in each of these channels is different, with no brands being represented among the Top 10 across the top social networking platforms: Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter. The following inforgraphic summarises the gender and age distribution across these five social networking platforms, and the corresponding Top 10 brands.
Brand-owners looking to implement a horses-for-courses approach to their content marketing should not make the mistake of shifting from one end of the spectrum (reusing content across all channels) to the other end (creating bespoke content for each channel, each and every time). Instead, the objective should be to create content that can be shared across all or several channels, while packaging it so that it is optimised for each channel. How does a brand-owner go about it?
Match Channel's Characteristics to Brand's Profile
An exercise every brand-owner would find useful participating in, is to match a channel's characteristics (Content Format, Content Tone, Content Packaging, User-Engagement Model, User Expectations) with the brand's profile (Target Group, Purchase Behaviour, Perceived Image, Communication Tone, Price Perception), so as to build a template for the type of content that needs to be generated for that channel.
This template can be used to generate most of the content for the channel, with the odd content being experimental in nature, to ensure that follower-fatigue does not set in, and to experiment with new content ideas.
Analyse Successful Brands on Each Channel
It is always instructive to look at what successful brands are doing (content-wise) on each channel, with the express objective of gaining insights into what has succeeded for them; insights that can then be applied to the brand-owner's brand. Such an analysis can also assist the brand-owner, with respect to matching channel characteristics to the brand's profile.
Parent-Offspring model to Creating Content
Having matched channel characteristics to the brand's profile, for each channel of interest to the brand-owner, and having analysed successful brands on the said channels, the next step is to work out a Parent-Offspring model to creating content. The model entails creating parent-content, consisting of modules (offspring) that are optimised for each of the targeted channels. Once the parent-content is generated, the modules can be posted or deployed to their respective channels.
For example, a brand-owner may decide on a blog to carry the parent-content (although it is not even necessary that the parent-content be deployed in toto, at all), and the blog may include an image that is Pinterest-optimised; a video that is targeted at the brand's YouTube channel; quotations that will serve as Twitter-feed; and content that can be reworked as posts or polls or contests, for Facebook.
The advantages of the Parent-Offspring model are that brand communications, across targeted channels, at a point in time, reflect an underlying theme, and that the effort required to create content is not so onerous as to dissuade the brand-owner from pursuing a multi-channel digital brand-engagement strategy.
Content is king in the online universe, and it is only right that a brand-owner puts a lot of thought into its content marketing strategy. A word of caution, though: a recent Forrester report titled "How To Build Your Brand With Branded Content", reported by Forbes, reveals why it is important for brand-owners to fight the temptation to convert content marketing to a sales pitch.