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How To Create A Social Media Calendar

Initially, creating and managing a successful social media account for a business or otherwise seems like a relatively simple task. The reality is that it’s a much bigger mountain to climb than you might think. And, managing multiple social media accounts can be a beast. How do you ensure likes, followers and comments to your account? Well, just like with most things: Plan it out! Creating a social media calendar can save you time, energy and money.

Before You Create A Calendar
The trick to social media is treating it like a personal account. In order to create a calendar, you first need to have a few steps solidified. Primarily, what’s your brand? And, what’s this account about? After you’ve thoroughly answered those questions, you can create a calendar. The question is: How do you fully answer those questions? Let’s take a more in-depth look.

Pinpointing Your Brand
The number one mistake people and companies tend to make when they plan a social media strategy is not identifying, classifying and pinpointing their brand. Social media is the place to execute marketing on a relatable level. The smartest and most successful social media accounts focus on relating their brand to their audience. Treating social media like a platform for commercials and ads is an enormous faux pas that will cause you to struggle in your attempt to gain followers.

Pinpointing your brand is really about deciding on a particular lifestyle. This process starts with asking the question: Who is your audience or who do you want to be your audience to be? It’s crucial that you know whom you’re speaking to. This will greatly affect how you advertise. Being precise about your audience requires that you be specific on what it is that makes them like whatever you’re offering.

For example, if we labeled the audiences that the following three companies want to cater to in the most broad, unspecified manner, they would be:

Brandy Melville – wants their audience to be girls who like fashion.
Walmart – wants their audience to be people who shop on a budget.
Starbucks – wants their audience to be coffee drinkers.

If we became more specific about the audiences from a lifestyle vantage point, it’d look more like this:

Brandy Melville – wants their audience to be women ranging from their early teens to their mid and even late twenties. These women like a hip style in a too-cool-for-school way and semi-casual, affordable fashion.
Walmart – wants their audience to be middle to lower income families or people who shop on a budget.
Starbucks – wants their audience to be people who enjoy the luxury of pricey coffees and teas that come in a variety of options and consumed in a place with the atmosphere of a coffee shop.

It’s important to know what your audience likes so you know what to give them. This still applies even if you aren’t offering something tangible. Let’s say you have a consulting firm. One likely scenario would be that your audience, or your clients, are mostly high-income people who own businesses and enjoy the luxuries of life that come with their career. Your social media accounts should cater to what this audience wants, needs and enjoys in life. So you could pinpoint your brand to be the consulting firm that catapults businesses to their greatest heights.

This step may not be easy. It can take some real consideration and strategizing to elicit the best branding option.

Deciding What Your Social Media Account Is About
The next major question is: What is your social media account about? Say you own a clothes store. In that case, the answer is simple – this social media account is about your clothes store. But then you need to ask, what’s the lifestyle of the people who wear clothes from your store? What lifestyle do you want to portray on this social media account?

One of the best examples of a successful Instagram account for a clothes store is Brandy Melville. This Instagram account focuses on portraying the lifestyle of people who wear these clothes. It’s not a place for advertising directly, but rather, advertising via being relatable to their customers. All of the photos fit seamlessly in an Instagram feed without seeming like ads. At the same time, it also makes the audience think, “That’s so cute. I want that shirt.”

An important thing to consider in this step is recognizing what each social media platform is primarily used for. Many companies tend to connect Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They’ll post on one platform and share the same post on the other two platforms. This isn’t recommended or ideal for your audience. Why? There’s a reason these different platforms simultaneously exist – users get something different out of each one. Examine what’s most popular on each platform and focus your social media for that platform to that style.

For example, Instagram is about pictures. It’s a place to visually showcase whatever you’re offering with the ability to include a tidbit in the caption and a link in the bio if people want to see more than a picture. Twitter is a little more word-heavy, but with limited characters – it focuses on the highlight of information. Facebook is a combination thereof. Research shows that visual media is most popular on Facebook compared to mere text, but, unlike Instagram, it allows for more explanation and people do more reading on this platform.

Take all of that into consideration when determining what you are making that social media account about and when writing your posts!

Crafting Your Calendar
Now that you’ve pinpointed your brand and you have decided what your social media account is about for each platform it’s time to start planning. The next step is creating actual content ahead of time. You can’t have a calendar without content.

Create A Ton Of Content
Start with the basics. You already know what your brand is about and you’ve already decided on a lifestyle. Write down all the content you can create related to the brand and lifestyle.

How much you plan to post and how complicated your strategy is will affect how early you need to have your content already completed. It’s more stressful and difficult to create the content the day of or even the week of. Create as much content as you can in advance! And take serious care in every word choice, every character space and every picture you choose.

Create A Calendar
Now you can start your basic calendar. There have been studies done trying to pinpoint when the best times to post are and they always differ with each social media platform. The chart below details posting data for Twitter and Facebook:

++ Click Image to Enlarge ++
The Science of Social Timing Part 1: Social Networks
Source: The Science of Social Timing Part 1: Social Networks

When it comes to Instagram, the Huffington Post shared the details of a study conducted by Latergramme. In it, they found that posting at 2 am and 5 pm EST gave the best attention from followers, with Wednesday being the best day to post. Check out the full article for a drop down menu detailing the best results for every day of the week (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/25/get-instagram-likes_n_6751614.html).

Based on whatever research you listen to, decide how many times per day, week, month and year you want to post. From there, categorize the different content you’ve come up with and lay it out in your calendar however you strategize it’ll be most popularly received.

Once your basic calendar for posts is up and running, you need to ensure those posts are ready by their deadline. If your strategy is complex, you may want to create a separate calendar with deadlines for content set in advance of their posting date.

Fill In Your Calendar
Post on Trending Topics
It’s important to have that solid base calendar with content that is forever related to your brand. But you’ll additionally need to post on trending information and topics to make your account more popular. Don’t rely solely on trending topics or your account will merely be chasing trends for all of its posts. However, keep up with the trends and add those topics to your calendar as they arise. Be ready. You’ll need to come up with a spontaneous post related to something newsworthy.

Post About Holidays and Events
Another way to fill in your calendar is to post about popular holidays, events and celebrations. This connects your account to another topic, garnering more views, and also keeps your media relevant to what’s going on in the world and not just with your brand. But, be careful not to steer away from your brand. Make sure all of your posts consistently uphold the lifestyle you’ve been portraying.

Post About Causes
Supporting causes is also an excellent way to give a humanitarian edge to your account that reminds your audience actual people are posting all of these things. A great example of this would be decorating something related to your company in pink and posting it for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Post About Your Personnel
Showing personnel is another way companies make their social media relatable. Posting pictures from the office reminds your audience that real people work at this place and makes them feel like they’re getting an inside look by following your account.

Post Contests and Giveaways
These are tricky, but can be a great way to engage with your followers and the fans of your brand. The last thing you want is for your account to feel like spam or in any way gimmicky so be sure to create contests and giveaways with as much good taste as possible. Stick with the lifestyle brand you’ve showcased throughout your posts.

Your Calendar Is Ready
Fortunately, many social media platforms allow you to time posts. This means you can insert all of this content you’ve already created for your calendar and plan to release it at a certain day and time. That saves time and keeps you organized.

Having a social media calendar will allow you to breathe through the messy tangle of posts, likes, stats and follows. And, as your content is released, keep track of what does well and what doesn’t so you can adjust your calendar accordingly. Pinpoint your brand and get planning on your social media calendar today!

7 Breakthroughs for Content Marketing in 2016

Content marketing reached the tipping point a few years ago, with more companies starting to appreciate content as a major facet of their marketing strategies and fewer companies choosing to not implement content as a core tactic. This year, content has become the most dynamic and engaging aspect of any marketing campaign.

Companies who (wisely) choose to implement content as a prominent force in driving sales to their brand will find that content is an ever-evolving entity that must be tracked, updated and nurtured for optimal effectiveness. With shifts in technology and the collective consciousness surrounding digital marketing techniques, brands will find the need more than ever to produce quality written content. Keep your audience engaged and connected with your content by being sure to hold the following breakthroughs for content at the top of mind.

1. Detailed Personalization
With the proliferation of accessible content available to viewers with a simple swipe or click of a button on their mobile devices, consumers are getting increasingly talented at weeding out information that does not apply directly to them.

Info overload is a real-life symptom of 24/7 access to digital avenues, and consequently people tend to gravitate naturally toward content that speaks directly to their individual situation, needs or interests. Success in content marketing will bank on having a deep understanding of your customer’s journey, speaking to their purchasing process at every step of the way, and nurturing these relationships in the long-term.

2. Promotion-Driven Content
As we all know, content marketing is a long-term strategy, and there is not much that is going to change that. However, there are certain tools that you can use to help promote all that quality, written content you have painstakingly created. In addition to promoting your content via social media channels such as Google+ and Facebook, social media management tools are a great way to organize your online presence.

Sprinklr, Hootsuite and Traackr are all valuable tools to help you analyze the performance of your posts, enabling you to see what content works best where. Paid promotion tools, also known as native advertising, like Taboola, Gravity and OneSpot, will ensure that your content is advertised across a wide range of websites.

To best utilize these helpful tools, B2B content and marketing teams will need to work on producing content that is 80% educational and value driven content and 20% promotional material. Additionally, quoting influencers within your niche in the body of your content will help to build an audience by funneling their respective following to your brand.

3. Educational Content
As the main purpose of content is to build brand/consumer relationships through a tight-knit web of information and trust, content that identifies a problem or concern and follows through with a solution will always be successful. If your content is top-notch and provides an optimal answer to an ever-present problem, it will be sure to gain a significant amount of organic traffic.

To produce quality content, brands must invest in hiring great writers to produce articles and blog posts. Put the old strategy of utilizing high-traffic keywords on the back burner and opt for targeting long-tail search traffic. With poor-quality content being the majority, producing quality, standout content is your brand’s best shot at rising above and shining as a source of reliable information. Furthermore, avoid dishing out regurgitated content and strive for providing your audience with new and unique information.

4. Getting Mileage Out of Repurposed Content
Reimagining and reusing content is one surefire way to stretch your content marketing budget. Extend your brand and reach the consumer without breaking the bank by reexamining successful content that your brand has already produced, revamping that content and reusing it in a new way, or finding ways to emulate it for future success.

Improve on items from your content library that you have amassed, refining articles so that they appear more readily in Google search results. Spawn ideas off of old content by identifying interesting leads and expanding on ideas to create a foundation of interrelated content.

Audio and video content can also be repurposed and reimagined into written content. Transcribe webinars and podcasts to transform them into blog posts and social media posts for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. These tactics will not only keep your content relevant and current, but they will also inadvertently weave a thread of thematic consistency throughout your materials.

5. Maintaining an Authoritative Voice
Maintaining a thought-leader position within your niche will go a long way, as brands will need to consistently find ways to make themselves be heard above the noise of digital advertising. Anyone who is anyone is producing content nowadays, and knowing whom to trust becomes increasingly difficult with the proliferation of information.

Build a sense of personal authority and platform for trust by providing your industry with reliable, quality information on a consistent basis. Consumers no longer have faith in faceless marketing campaigns. Therefore, your content strategy should include quotes from well-respected authorities within your niche to create trust and behind-the-scenes glimpses of your team. This will give a face to your name. Last but not least, produce quality content to convert leads and bring prospective clients to your brand.

6. Specialist Content Marketing Agencies
While traditional creative or media industries are skilled at driving push-advertising results, they are not as adept at adding value to a campaign through quality storytelling.

Traditional advertising techniques aim to interrupt the flow of everyday life and persuade the consumer to convert to a specific brand, whereas content marketing is at its core about reaching a target audience through pointed and captivating storytelling. Content agencies excel at reaching the consumer on an emotional and intellectual level through targeted quality written content, allowing for an enriching brand/consumer relationship. Content is a long-term strategy for most companies, and quality content marketing agencies will ensure that it is one that provides optimal results.

7. Tailor Content to Fit Specific Platforms
As brands continue to diversify their content strategy, brand managers and COOs (Chief Content Officers) will discover the need to tailor their content to fit the spectrum of powerhouse platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+. Each social media channel necessitates a different style, format and tone of content, requiring companies to adapt their voice and type of information they present on each platform.

Additionally, the content produced for a blog will differ from that included in an email marketing strategy, which will be different from content featured on Snapchat or Instagram. If you refer back to point four, however, you will see that one piece of content can get a lot of mileage by being reimagined and repurposed for several channels. Each platform will garner unique support from the consumer and will be seen to exact a different effect.

As the tools used to monitor and gauge the effectiveness of content marketing continue to diversify, and as more and more companies choose to implement content strategies in their marketing campaigns, brands will find the need to keep up by continuing to produce quality, reliable content that their audience can trust. Build long-term relationships with your consumers by remaining a trustworthy thought-leader within your niche, maintaining continuity across your marketing platform and implementing promotion tools to drive business to your brand.

Creating Content to Reach Your Target Audience

Content is only as effective as the audience it speaks to. For content to go viral and drive conversion rates and sales it needs to be directed at the right people. Once an audience has invested their time and built a connection with your content this effect will only extrapolate over time. Here’s how to ensure all the effort that’s put into content marketing yields profits.

Determine Your Audience
The first step to making awesome content is targeting the content. The most important aspect of inbound marketing is determining the target audience. This will provide a direction for all the content ideas that are brewing.

Before creating content, decide whom it’s meant to reach and be very specific. The audience should be as easy to describe as a close friend or family member. Here are some basic questions to kick-start the narrowing process:

Demographics:
· How old are they?
· What type of home do they live in?
· Where do they live?
· Are they single or married?
· What’s their typical income range?

Psychographics:
· What are their top three favorite interests and hobbies?
· In their free time are they relaxing or trekking through the wilderness?
· What’s their first pet’s name or at least what kind of pet do they have?
· What’s their fashion style?
· Do they keep up with current events?

This list can extend well into the inconceivable abyss of the human mind, which is a good thing. The more we know about an audience, the more we know what interests them, inspires them, makes their life more enjoyable and, truly, why they should care about your content versus the rest.

Once all the information is gathered and questions answered, create a brief customer profile. Then ask one more question before moving on: Does the product still have an appeal to the target market? The answer must be a resounding yes.

Ensure the Topic is Specifically Geared to the Proper Audience
Once the target audience is confidently established creating content is much easier. Every time there is a proposal for new content simply evaluate its relevance by using the customer profile.

For example, let’s say the goal is to reach conservative urban-based millennials with disposable income to invest. It’s proposed to create content based off a new study published on the effectiveness of an S&P 500 Index Fund. While the topic has an overall connection, the customer profile can be used to determine if that investment follows their values. With the information it’s easy to determine if the audience would prefer to use their income in a higher risk higher reward investment or something fairly risk averse.

Even manipulating content for existing customers plays a large role. Consider a $50 vacuum and a $500 Roomba. They’re both vacuums but the information the owners of each one find valuable are highly distinct. An audience who does their own cleaning compared to an audience that has a robot do it for them won’t have the same interests. The benefits of cleaning versus the benefits of cleaning a certain way may seem trivial and highly specific, but it’s a paramount distinction in reader interest.

To stay true to the product and market, you should always use the customer profile as a standard of content value.

Style To Meet Style
The next step beyond honing in on the target audience is styling the content to their personalities and backgrounds. Tone, grammar and word selection play huge roles here.

The content should be distinct and recognizable. Depending on the reader, they may enjoy content that grips them with a relatable story or prefer a jarring fact to kick things off. The audience should feel it’s written for them. Basically it needs to appeal emotionally to readers in order for them to keep coming back for more.

There are a few general styles to follow, similar to holiday decorations. Some people may prefer a very simplistic traditional layout like white icicle lights. Others might like to see a few bold highlights without the fluff such as a few blow-up characters in the front yard. Finally the extravagant detailed décor that leaves no stone unturned appeals to the critical analytical mind that starves for detail.

How the content is consumed affects the structure and layout of articles as well. Using phones instead of computers and reading at home instead of on the subway are important factors to consider.

Evaluating and Aiming Content Reach
The target market has been well developed, the right content is appropriately styled and now comes spreading the content to make sure potential customers see it. Aside from the home site and search engines, social media has become the most prolific way to spread content.

Knowing the audience plays just as much of a role here. With the profile, determine which are the most appealing platforms, the times to share content and how to grab attention. Using visual and infographic content has been shown to be very effective. Visuals are making up a huge percentage of posts and are more likely to be shared by your target audience to your target audience. Social media also tracks the reach and spread of your content, even breaking down the type of people that engage in it. This makes an excellent tool for constantly evaluating if the content is reaching the right people and engaging them.

Content shouldn’t solely be judged by the amount of people who read it, but by who reads it. Reaching 5,000 readers that fit the target audience and will continue to click through content is much more valuable than 15,000 readers who only spend 20 seconds on a page before closing it.

To make the most of content, you should develop a specific target market, mold the topics and style it to their personality. Then spread the content through specific mediums in a thoughtful manner and watch the fruits of your labor grow.

 

 

By Raphael Konforti MS

How To Make the Best News or Lifestyle Video on Your Phone

Photos and videos are crucial to garnering attention on the Internet today. Many have firsthand experience taking thousands of pictures on our smartphones to post on social media, but videos are another beast entirely. Do you need fancy equipment to make a good video? What exactly makes a video good?

First off, with today’s smartphones you don’t need fancy equipment. You can record a stellar video and edit it all in the palm of your hands. You can even buy extra lenses to attach to your iPhones on Amazon. It’s pretty amazing how small and portable everything is getting.

Secondly, there are some common ways to make a great video. You don’t just want to record it, you want to record it well so people want to watch it and share it. What follows are five essential components to making the best video on your phone!

1. Planning and Choosing Content
Write down the plan and plan good content. The worst thing you can do is press record, sit in front of the camera, and repetitively say “uh..um…and…” It looks unprofessional and it appears as if you aren’t taking it seriously, so neither will your audience.

If you’re planning to do something unplanned on purpose, such as taking a video of someone’s reaction to something, then you should still plan the steps. What happens before the reaction and after? How will you record the reaction? Where will you stand? Videos become much easier to make when you’ve got a real plan.

An important component of planning is choosing your content. If you plan to talk about something, have a general script (be careful not to memorize lines though, as non-actors tend to look stiff and unrealistic when they do this). Pick your content wisely, considering audience reactions and ensuring that your message is clear.

2. Visual Aesthetic
A few quick tips on creating a great visual aesthetic are to:
· Hold the camera landscape – this looks the most professional. Although, with Instagram and Snapchat that doesn’t work so well. But if you’re doing a regular video for YouTube or something similar, go landscape. Don’t shoot video vertically. Turn your smartphone sideways. In other words, when filming, position your smartphone to mimic the look of a television.
· Keep the camera steady – even with handheld, try your best to keep it steady. No need to nauseate your audience.
· Use your best settings – If possible, always use a 60 frames per second (60 fps) setting, especially when filming anything with significant movement. Anything less than 60 fps produces a film-like look, which can be very unnatural and off-putting to many viewers. And, in the off chance that you need to, you can always very easily convert 60 fps to a lesser frame rate while the reverse isn’t true. Filming with a higher frame rate is also an excellent way to ensure your content stays relevant as more and more places, most notably YouTube, are now offering video uploading at 60 fps and viewers are increasingly expecting and appreciating the stunning visual difference. Remember: The types of videos you’ll be producing will likely have a dated look with anything less than 60 fps and you want your efforts to have long-lasting value.
· Ensure you have ample lighting – people often undervalue lighting, but with a phone camera you definitely have to prioritize it. The better lighting you have, the more pixels your phone will pick up. Essentially, more lighting means better video quality. So filming in a dark room with one lamp is not going to show up very well, but filming outdoors in direct sunlight will give you a crisp and clear image. It’s important to keep the subject’s face well lit. When it comes to recording on your phone, you want all the light facing the subject so stand at an angle where the light is shining down on the front of whatever you’re recording. Do not have your subject standing with the light shining behind them. This happens a lot on places like balconies because you’re facing a certain direction to get the best background shot. But if you’re recording on a balcony, you have to determine when the sun is in the best location prior to deciding what time to shoot. Essentially, as the person holding the camera, the sun should be on your back. And if you’re indoors, you’ll need more lighting than is probably naturally found in the room. Grab some extra lamps from around the house and set them up around the subject. The more light, the better!
· Frame the content wisely – use well-liked photos on Instagram as a miniature guide to framing aesthetics. Attempt to frame your videos with just as much finesse. Framing is all about what is inside the frame of the video (as if it were a picture frame). What can the audience see and what angle do they see it from? This subtlety takes practice to envision, but take note of what makes pictures look more artistic. Think about what you’re cutting out of the shot. For example, if you’re taking a picture of a pier jetting out into the ocean. How much of the pier will you show? Just the portion over the water? Or will you also show some of the beach? Will you stand far away from the pier or close to the pier? Will you include those palm trees on the far right? If you decide to show half of the pier, what point will you cut off exactly? Perhaps you’ll cut off right before a post, or maybe you’ll use a post to line the side of your frame. There are dozens more choices to make in framing than people realize and it’s those purposeful choices that make a photo more or less visually pleasing. All of these rules apply to videos, but there’s even more choices to make. Will you keep the camera in the same place and just let it record as people walk by? Or will you walk towards the subject, giving an immersive feel to the audience? When you’re recording a subject, will you just show them from the waist up? Or will you show their whole body? All of these questions are about framing the camera and you should consider them carefully!

When it comes to news and lifestyle videos, the visual aesthetic is often forgotten. The camera is set on a tripod or table and the person merely sits in front spouting out information. But before you press record, turn on the timer and take some pictures! Change the angle and record the entire piece from those different angles. Take some videos far away and some close-up.

You should also always take what the industry calls B-Roll footage. These are any extra shots. It could be close-ups of items that you’re discussing or camera pans of the area you’re in (which is a great idea if you’re in a pretty place). When you take videos of people, ensure they have enough “head room” (don’t frame the camera so that the top of their head is too close to the top of the frame) and ensure there’s enough light on their face (find the light!).

3. Sound
The biggest rookie move in the film industry is giving zero attention to sound quality. When you’re recording on your phone, the mic will pick up all the noise around you. So if you’re speaking to the camera, you’re best choice is to record in a secluded area with the least amount of background noise. You’ll also get the best sound the closer the camera is to the person speaking.

If you have video that’s mostly visual and you plan to record a voiceover, then make sure you record that voiceover in a completely quiet area with your mouth relatively close to the mic. You can record audio tracks on your phone and then lay them on top of the video.

4. Editing
You may hear a joke on set that “we’ll fix it in editing” because editing can honestly do a lot for you. It can help you cut out anything unnecessary. It’s important to keep your videos as short as possible because nobody likes to sit through unnecessary silence or repetitive talking.

A good window for your video length is the one-minute to three-minute mark. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to micro videos you’d see on Instagram. In that case, you’re stuck with 15 seconds and you really have to stick with what’s most important. Videos that go past three and a half minutes tend to have audiences fast-forwarding and either waiting too long or losing interest. Remember to start your video off strong – give the audience a great visual or topic to make them want to keep watching.

Text overlays look impressive when they’re placed well and not overdone. Also, if you can figure out how to do this, put your logo, website or handle in the bottom corner of your videos – branding 101. Editing can give you several ways to share your brand besides your logo. Opening title sequences or closing sequences of even three seconds can help give you a continuous look throughout your videos.

Of course, if you want to step up your editing game you should download your video file to your computer and edit from there. iMovie on a laptop or desktop offers more than on your phone and the more industry standard programs would be Final Cut and Adobe Premiere.

5. Consistency
When you’re making more than one video, they all need to follow the same style. Consistency makes a brand, even if you’re making news videos. CNN and FOX both keep a certain style to all of their TV material. You’ll want to keep a consistent camera style, editing style and color scheme at the very least. You should also consider adding something to your videos to make them unique, something you can put in all of the videos. This really helps your brand, as people will recognize it as your own.

To ensure consistency, you’ll need to go back to essential component #1: Planning and Choosing Content. Before you embark on making videos, plan your style. Do some test shots and practice editing just to get a feel for your options. Whatever you do for your first video, you’ll need to follow the same style for your second – so be sure you like it!

Ultimately, anyone can make a video. Just take out your smartphone and press record. But making a great video takes true intention and finesse. People respond to careful selections, visual aesthetics and well-chosen content. So make sure you’ve covered all your bases and go above and beyond. Don’t just make a video – make a great video!

The five essential components summed up: Plan and choose your content wisely, create an appealing visual aesthetic, be serious about sound, go for exceptional editing and consistency makes a brand. Also, don’t forget to charge your phone and bring your charger with you!

Five Dangers to Content Marketing

The time has come for companies to face the true effectiveness of their content marketing campaigns. At this point, the general population is absolutely inundated with content of all forms, with the ability to grab people’s attention becoming the foremost concern of every proactive marketer. The question then becomes, how does a brand cut through the noise and reach their target audience?

The shortening of people’s attention spans, the proliferation of available content and the diversification of mobile devices all do no favors to strategists when it comes to putting together a reliable content marketing strategy. Don’t worry – this list is not meant to scare you away from investing in a solid content marketing strategy. If anything, it is intended to encourage you to go full-force and to treat new industry developments as exciting challenges. The following are several such challenges of which to make yourself aware of when developing your content marketing strategy.

1. Poorly Written Content
We will start out with a painfully obvious yet integral hurdle that has always existed in the content marketing game, and that will only continue to prove essential when reaching your target audience. Listen up: No SEO tricks, no fancy GIFs and no distribution plan can redeem poorly written content.

The quality of your posts is the foundation that your content strategy builds upon, and if it is not rock-solid, your entire structure will crumble to the ground. If your content creators are inexperienced, unmotivated, uninspired or have been stretched too thin, it will, without a doubt, display itself in their writing. Unfortunately, what shreds of good content you have will undoubtedly get swept into the corners along with the bad, resulting in diminished returns from your content marketing initiatives.

Once you have built yourself a strong team of content writers, make sure they are all on the same page (yours) when it comes to how they address your prospective clients. Ensure that your content is written to speak to your target audience and avoid using language that alienates them.

Content sprinkled with five-dollar words and abstract language may do a solid job at inflating a writer’s ego, but in the end all it really does is distract your audience from your brand’s true message. On the other hand, content that is full of grammatical or factual errors will lower a prospective customer’s opinion of your reliability, and they may look elsewhere.

2. Inadequate Distribution
With a dizzying array of social media platforms and websites, it may seem intimidating to even begin thinking about tapping into the potential powers of each one. But the hard truth is that if you are not distributing your content widely, then it will simply not reach your target audience.

The types of media that you can take advantage of in 2016 include owned media such as websites, social media pages and blogs, earned media such as guest posts and product reviews, and paid media such as display ads. According to an article on Forbes, only 26% of marketers invest in content distribution. Wouldn’t it be great to be ahead of that curve?

In 2016, strategic distribution will set businesses apart in the hyper-competitive landscape of content marketing. This includes but is not limited to mobile search optimization, building relationships with publications and networking with influencers and thought-leaders in your niche. The next point addresses a particular aspect of distribution that will gain considerable importance in 2016.

3. Importance of Social Media Distribution
According to ABC News, more and more consumers are relying on social media as go-to sources for information and news, with less people visiting homepages. This change has been progressively facilitated by the increased presence of mobile platforms, with more and more people getting their information and news on their phones.

As we are all aware, websites don’t perform as optimally on phones as they do on laptops or desktops. For this reason, it becomes easier to access information on platforms that are inherently designed to perform optimally on mobile devices, such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

Consumers are visiting homepages less and less for news. Instead, they follow eye-catching links that people post on social media that then lead them to specific articles. As a result, most sites will depend on a strong social media presence for increased site traffic in 2016. Companies will have to continue keeping up with the changing tide and adapting their content for mobile viewing, in addition to maintaining a consistent presence across all social media channels.

4. High Demand for Visual Content
As consumers’ attention spans continue to wane, desensitized by the omnipresence of digital information, visual content has stepped into the spotlight, as it is more easily digestible than lengthy articles. Pictures, infographics, videos and GIFs are slowly beginning to dominate the content marketing scene, and, according to The Guardian, by 2017 video alone will account for 69% of consumer Internet traffic. As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words, but a video is worth a million.

More content will have the appearance of being user-generated even when it isn’t, lending a feeling of authenticity to a brand’s campaign. This is a tactic borrowed from written content marketing strategies, which aims to garner a sense of trust in the reader by addressing consumer-specific concerns.

Faster Internet and wireless connections additionally will allow people to seamlessly view images and videos any time of day, even when they are on the go. To combat this trend, brands who still wish to focus their energy on written content will need to continually produce engaging, educational and entertaining content that can compete with video.

To pack a punch and reach the consumer in a concise yet intriguing way, brands will need to cut down on wordiness, break up the text so that it is easy to read and weave image and video throughout the article to maintain the viewer’s attention.

5. The Rise of Wearable Technology
Just when marketers thought they had mobile optimization down pat, along came the advent of wearable technology. Wearables are pieces of clothing that also have technological capabilities, such as Google Glass or the Apple Watch. According to Business Insider, the use of wearables is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 35% between 2014 and 2019.

Companies now have to find innovative ways to adapt content to these new technologies and microscreens, shortening their articles and making them increasingly readable on these particular devices. This new listicle format will be increasingly favored over the traditional article format.

If someone can’t even be bothered to pull their smartphone out of their pocket to look something up because they are wearing an Apple Watch, the new challenge becomes keeping your content sharp and engaging on this new, minimalistic device. Brands will need to readapt their content for on-the-go readability, and will also need to look into making their articles more searchable via voice commands. Marketing teams will need to adapt new ways to make the transition from mobile to wearables content seamless and consistent if they hope to keep up with the competition.

Marketers have a whole host of new challenges. Technology is developing more rapidly than ever, consumers are becoming more proactive and aware of their involvement in the marketing process and the demand for quality content has never been more pressing. For your content to succeed, it must be constantly attended to and adapted for the changing tides of consumer and market demands. Invest in a solid content marketing strategy, starting with strong written content and finishing with a healthy distribution plan and platform optimization strategies.

Why Content Marketing is the Best Long-Term Marketing Strategy

A solid content marketing campaign featuring high quality, relevant content is your best bet for solidifying long-term success. Content is something you should nurture and treat as a living, breathing thing. For your brand to thrive, you must put in continual effort to ensure that your content is current, informative and searchable.

Think of it like going to the gym. Hitting the abs machine once a month is not going to give you the washboard stomach you crave, but putting in half an hour at the gym a few times a week will give you results over time. The same goes for content. If you can show your readers that you are a credible source of information by constantly delivering quality content, they will continue to come back to you.

While the standards for quality content will continue to evolve over time, content will never go away in the world of marketing. Brands will always need to find new ways to engage their consumers and to establish themselves as reliable industry experts. Not only can a quality strategic content marketing campaign increase the value of your landing page through Google search results, but it can also be used and reused again as material for social media marketing campaigns. As a relatively inexpensive marketing strategy, content will continue to reward your brand over and over again if properly produced.

Here are just a few reasons for you to consider keeping up with your content marketing campaign for long-term success.

Increase Your Online Visibility
Content influences all other online marketing strategies and specifically improves SEO by creating more online real estate. Every piece of content that you publish carves out a permanent niche for you online, making you more visible and establishing a larger online presence for your brand. This evergreen content lasts forever.

Unless you change the URL or delete your post, every piece of content that you publish is valuable and permanent web real estate that never loses its value. Every new URL is indexed by Google and can be found in organic search results. And this permanence does not mean that you will be stuck with old blog posts haunting your marketing strategies, as you can always go in and spruce up your articles with new and relevant information.

Google needs quality content to thrive, and being on good terms with the search engine should be a priority for you when investing in quality content marketing. Google wants its search results to be as helpful as possible for site visitors, and if your content generates enough recognition and praise, over time you will become a valuable source of information.

Build Your Reputation
If done well, content created through a marketing campaign will establish you as an expert in your respective industry. Well-written, quality content creates brand exposure, converts leads and helps to widen your clientele base.

If content is informative and encourages trust, it can help to secure visitor confidence in your brand, helping you to grow relationships not just with consumers, but also with other brands and industries online. These positive relationships can also help to widen your online visibility. When other brands (not competitors) see that your content is generating attention, they will link to your site, exponentially increasing your online real estate.

Fresh content that is updated on a regular basis will keep visitors returning, especially if you continue to prove to be a reliable source. Being an industry expert is valuable not only in the eyes of your peers—it is also extremely desirable for the effectiveness of search engines. The more content you produce on a particular subject, the higher up you move in organic searches.

This online exposure is key to improving your brand’s reputation in your respective industry. Through social media, content is also readily shareable over avenues such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, lending exposure and diverse visibility to your campaign. Millennials in particular treat content they connect with as an extension of their personality and as a way to communicate their value to others. Gain their trust by consistently delivering quality content and you will see a rise in your reputation over time.

See An Increase In ROI
A long-term investment in content marketing will ensure continuous returns, adding value to your business. One of the key elements of content is the value in its compounding returns.

If you publish twice a week, for example, you will have 110 pieces of content under your belt in the first year. The second year, if you produce the same amount of content, you will have 220 pieces on which to garner results, and so on. The longer you have been publishing content, the more people will have seen your name, and the more people who read your content, the greater the effect you will see with every new piece published.

Content is more than a simple inbound marketing strategy, which generally focuses on establishing initial brand awareness. Content marketing also nurtures leads, which are then converted into sales. As well, it continues to nurture those customer relationships and thus secures future sales. Remember the gym metaphor suggested earlier? This sort of momentum is key when it comes to seeing an improvement in your ROI.

Become A Reliable Source Of Information
Consumers actively ignore ads, yet they continually seek content. Content helps a user increase their knowledge about a topic, measure a brand’s credentials and validate purchasing decisions.

Particularly in the B2C sphere, users crave content that helps them make informed decisions when it comes time to spend their hard-earned dollars. Quality content allows brands to engage with consumers in a way they crave to be engaged. And it shows. According to an analysis by Search Engine Watch, websites that have weak online content see a 19.5% reduction in organic traffic, while websites with strong online content see a 42.6% increase.

Content marketing allows brands to serve as their own publishers, making them responsible for all the information they produce and enabling them to personally tailor their brand message. With great power comes great responsibility, and with that responsibility comes the potential for valuable consumer relationships.

The more time your consumers spend interacting with your content, the more educated they become, and the more they see you as a credible resource. Content marketing may take longer to convert leads, but over time it significantly drives conversion costs down. Unlike traditional advertising, which typically aims to cultivate positive brand associations, content marketing also holds the power to develop brand advocates.

Make your content last longer by staggering your distribution, serializing your story, updating your content yearly and continually finding compelling ways to repurpose information you have already shared. If you continue to nurture your content and keep it fresh and relevant, the returns and benefits of your efforts can produce endless results.

Top Content Verticals On The Web

The Internet passed through a time when it was riddled with incorrect and unreliable information. But today, audiences use the Internet so frequently that it has evolved into being a real source of credible knowledge. People say it all the time: “You can find anything on the Internet.” There’s endless content swimming through the web being accessed by the billions of people on the Internet. So what content is relevant? What content is most popular? Here’s a list of the top content verticals on the web today.

1. Fitness And Health
Since this is a category that anyone can relate to, it never gets old. People are always looking for updated information about how to stay or become healthy and fit. Over time, this topic has actually increased in popularity; these days, healthy and fit is “in.”

The content for this category ranges anywhere from how tos, dos and don’ts, workout routines to reach your goals, nutrition advice, lifestyle advice, to research and studies. No matter what the approach, whether there’s pictures, videos or words, ultimately people need that written and researched assurance.

Audiences want to feel informed and have the knowledge to share with others and their credibility is much greater when they read it, especially when the articles provide actual research or expert advice.

2. Business And Finance
Money, money, money. Obviously, this topic really never gets old. Everyone has a relationship with money and there are millions ready to read about it. Endless avenues, approaches and topics can fill articles abound in this category. Business encompasses infinite topics as it is diverse, has many components and is constantly evolving. The millions of employees and hopeful entrepreneurs are constantly on the lookout for updated information.

Written content is absolutely essential in this category. Readers are looking for concrete advice and information. The approaches range from research and statistics to advice based on personal experience. While most content categories rely heavily on facts and science, business often boils down to experience. The marketing advice that comes from someone who has actually run a successful campaign is more invaluable.

Since culture constantly evolves, the market fluctuates and peoples’ preferences vary, business is an ever-changing category that can be written about until the end of time. In relation, finance is directly related to business and just as people want and often, need, to stay informed on business trends, they also want to keep up with finance.

3. Nutrition And Diet
Everyone eats! Therefore it should come as no surprise that dieting is one of the most popular content categories around. With society yearning to reach their ideal shape and size, audiences are constantly looking for nutritional advice.

But, people don’t just want to see recipes. That alone would yield a lower traffic rate at a shorter duration. People use the Internet to seek out knowledge. Audiences crave more than a recipe. They love details.

Research and expert testimonial in regards to nutrition is particularly beneficial, especially for any diet or cleanse. Content that includes real data and well-written information is spot on and most highly desired. After all, no one wants to be told what he or she should be eating without the reasons why. The research is what separates the valuable content from everything else.

4. Travel
The world is a very big and diverse place. There are endless aspects of travel to be discussed – starting with locations alone. Not only are there copious amount of countries to cover, every country has different cities (or sights, if the country is tiny) to be explored! The activities people can do vary incredibly and traveling is something that practically everyone would care to at least try.

Pictures and videos are excellent visual aids for travel writing, but people really get the thick of the information from written content. It’s definitely important to include the visuals because that’s an enormous allure for travel, but audiences want written advice, lists, suggestions, interesting history tidbits and cultural nuances.

A picture alone doesn’t immerse the website visitor quite like written information can. Travel writing is an art and the travel business literally sells happiness. And when you really think about it, what’s more enticing than a vacation?

5. Fashion
Here’s a multi-billion dollar industry that influences all of society’s appearance. The word “fashion” immediately produces images of runway models and rings your ears of designer names like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Dolce and Gabbana. The interesting thing about this category is that people who can’t afford designer clothes will still read and obsess over designer clothes. An interest in fashion seems to be all that matters.

Unlike other categories, such as music and movies, people don’t need to actually be wearing the clothes to like them and want to read about them (whereas people can easily listen to music and watch movies). The fashion industry is certainly more like art, and some say it is in fact, wearable art. You don’t need to own it, you just want to see it, talk about it and read about.

It’s difficult to discuss fashion without a visual aid. However, a picture, obviously, doesn’t actually discuss the fashion. Typically, videos are merely runway shows or in a music video style, which is great for the same visual aspect as photos, but written content provides actual information for the audience to digest. Similar to travel writing, people can’t feel included in the industry with mere visuals. Content for this category can range from discussing a designer’s aesthetics, fabric choices and changes from past designs to what’s in right now for the season, how tos (like how to dress preppy), career advice, fashion journalism and whether or not leggings should be worn as pants.

6. Pop Culture
Celebrities, TV shows, music and movies interest everyone. Pop culture is often an immediate go-to topic when people talk in person and that also makes it a popular category on the Internet.

Articles about celebrities are all over the web, reviews on anything and everything can be found in a Google search and flushing out your own opinions in a blog about anything in pop culture is practically like having an in person monologue, right? People watch the TV shows and movies and then they want to read about them on the Internet. Clearly, written content is essential here.

The whole idea is discussion, opinion, facts and everybody being a critic. Articles about pop culture tend to yield high comment rates because they’re relatable to the everyday person. People get invested in TV, music and movies and in those that provide these entities. And, this category is constantly shoveling out new material, as people want more shows and songs to enjoy, which means the content is never ending.

7. Politics
Any news outlet can tell you that politics is one of the heavy hitters on content. Political figures can literally shape our lives – they work with the law and the law is rather important to all of us (well, most of us).

Not to mention, there’s always a good counter-perspective story to be presented. With two primary political parties, there are two sides to be illuminated and this certainly piques audience interest. Also, politics is working its engines daily, and it can encompass one city, one country or the entire world.

Written content is key for truly providing insight into this category. Even with videos, audiences need a written component to elaborate on the situation. Politics is a continuous stream of events and often requires some background and additional circumstantial information. Articles can also discuss political moves, ideologies, tactics, policies, rivalries and affects on everyday people. Activism is also another prevalent avenue under this category that people may feel exceptionally connected to and want to read about.

8. Dating And Romance
Whether you’re single or taken, dating and romance advice never ceases to be missed. The immediate approach would be advice and suggestions, particularly from personal experience or perhaps a marriage counselor or sex therapist, but this category can also be explored as personal blogging and perspectives on partner lifestyle. Certainly, advice takes the cake on this one.

How to get a date, how to kick someone to the curb, how to be charming, the best Valentine’s gifts, the worst anniversary ideas, how to make someone stick around for good and the list goes on. Written content is certainly going to be preferred in this area as well because that makes it more universal to everyone.

Dating and partnership is an essential part of many peoples’ lives, and millions yearn to complete their life with that component. Naturally, those people are keen to read about what they want to have and what they want to keep.

All in all, whatever content you choose to have, quality is key. Researched and well-polished articles provide the modern angle of information audiences are looking for. People want real perspectives, accurate data and invaluable advice in the form of well-written content.

How and Why Video Teasers Work

While quality, written content will continue to shine in 2016, marketers will be well equipped to explore the potentially game-changing partnership between that content and video. No matter how great your content is on your website, blog or social media, it has virtually no effect if people aren’t reading it. With attention spans decreasing, web content continuing to proliferate and more brands jumping on the content marketing bandwagon, you need to make sure your content stands out and gets noticed.

One way to ensure your brand’s larger message gets across to your target audience is by providing a short, concise and informative video to serve as a teaser or recap for a more in-depth written article. Let’s look at how and why video teasers can help your written content boost SEO, build brand awareness and contribute to your brand’s overall success.

Video Content is Far-Reaching
Video content outshines virtually every other medium when it comes to simultaneously educating and entertaining a target audience. Small businesses that fail to incorporate video into their marketing strategies will do so at their own peril, as it is predicted that by 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer Internet traffic (according to a study by Cisco). By including short video teasers into the body of larger articles, brands have the potential to expand their page’s viewer base exponentially.

According to comScore data, 188.2 million people watched 52.4 billion online content marketing videos in the US alone in December of 2013. This statistic alone indicates a virtual goldmine of potential consumers and brand ambassadors in the video content sphere. And companies are taking note. A B2B Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report showed that 76% of businesses surveyed responded that video was a core element of their digital marketing strategy. Why? Video helps to generate leads and build brand visibility.

YouTube alone receives more than 1 billion unique visitors per month, which is more than any other online feed apart from Facebook. With options to share videos across multiple digital sources such as Facebook and YouTube, the shareability of teaser videos can help facilitate brand engagement and increase your client base. As 60% of site visitors will watch a video before reading the accompanying text, including a teaser video will ensure that your content gets across. It also gives you a chance to summarize your message and deliver the most important points to your target audience.

Video Content Humanizes Your Brand
What better way to reach your audience than by providing video evidence of the real people behind your brand? The main difference between marketing that we immediately forget about and marketing that resonates with us and which we remember involves an element of relatability and a humanistic spark.

A simple teaser video featuring a talking head explaining the gist of an article speaks volumes to the trustworthiness and humanity behind your company’s marketing strategies. This serves the same purpose as including a headshot of a writer at the beginning of an article—it gives the audience a face to put with a name and reassures them that whatever advice or information they are about to consume was produced by a real person.

Short teasers not only allow you to create a succinct message to get your point across, they also have a way of creating a much more engrossed experience. Keep in mind that content marketing is all about the audience, not about any individual piece of media. By regularly accompanying written content with teaser videos (instead of simply posting an occasional video and crossing your fingers that it will go viral), you can grow a dedicated audience over time by creating a sort of series of information. This commitment mentality (as opposed to a campaign mentality) creates a little, interactive world around your brand through visual and auditory storytelling, making video marketing a top priority for any company reaching for success in 2016.

Video Content Engages Millennials and Generation C Consumers
If you haven’t already heard, millennials love video. And if you aren’t already investing into video content marketing, you are missing an opportunity to target the generation that has marketers scratching their heads on how to next raise the bar when it comes to consumer engagement.

Research from Animoto shows that millennials are poised to spend more than $200 billion annually, and that video marketing is at the forefront of influencing factors when it comes time for them to purchase. A whopping 80% of millennials have been shown to reference video content when deciding which product to buy, and 6 in 10 millennials prefer watching a company video over reading a newsletter. When incorporating video into your content marketing strategies, make sure to listen to and get to know your audience, so that you may produce video content that speaks to them.

According to Oovala, a tenth of video play occurs on tablets and mobile phones, so also ensure that your video content is optimized for these devices. Video should load quickly, be easily shareable across multiple channels, and be easy to find. While millennials are most frequently defined as consumers born between the years of 1980 and 2000, Generation C is considered more of a psychographic group, whose members share the common characteristic of being digital natives. These consumers turn to the Internet when making purchasing decisions, and are apt to share appealing content (content that is funny, shocking, poignant, relevant, etc.) and that makes them look witty, savvy and cutting-edge to their peers. Producing written content and video that appeals to this mindset and that is easily shareable is key in engaging this complex demographic.

Video Content Boosts Brand Awareness
If viewers find video content engaging, particularly millennials and Generation C consumers, they are likely to share it with their friends and family, thereby increasing awareness of your brand in their local or digital community. Video is one of the more digestible forms of content, and investing in this form of content marketing can help explain in-depth topics that take longer to communicate via text.

According to Forrester’s researchers, if a picture paints 1,000 words, a minute of video paints 1.8 million. By the power of word and image association, good video content can create an endless bank of references to your brand for a viewer, making them think of you the next time they are reminded of your content by outside stimulus. While you are striving to provide a teaser video to a written article, the viewer is more likely to create an emotional, psychological attachment to the content within the video.

According to Axonn Research, 7 in 10 people view brands more positively after watching video content from them that they find engaging and/or interesting. An Unruly report reveals that enjoying a brand’s videos increases purchase intent by 97% and brand association by 139%. Not to mention, when it comes to SEO, incorporating video into your content marketing strategies improves your ranking in Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). A seamless combination of written and video content will reach all corners of your consumers’ attention and ensure growth in brand awareness.

Video Content Creates an Immersive Experience
Video has the power to transport audiences and gives them an up-close and personal experience of a brand, one usually reserved for team leaders and company employees. This feeling of VIP, behind-the-scenes access has significant power in building momentum and creating hype around a subject.

Teaser videos spark an initial buzz for the information contained within the larger article at hand, tapping into your reader’s insatiable search for knowledge. By giving the viewer sufficient information about what the article is about, but without giving away the main secrets, you can successfully entice the reader into perusing the contents of the written article.

According to Sierra Media, a video production and creative marketing firm in the Greater Seattle Area, immersive video production is the secret to corporate brand story marketing. Take a cue from the movie industry when making your teaser video by giving your audience just enough information to get excited, but not too much so that the article can stand as the main event. One of the more nuanced mediums, video is ideal in providing a first chance for you to reach your target audience and promote your brand. It is the answer to how your business can better involve your customer. Video is an ideal medium for your brand to tell its story, and can survive across multiple social media channels, as well as living on your website.

According to an article on Forbes.com, 2015 was “The Year of Video Marketing,” and so far 2016 doesn’t look to be much different. The naturally immersive experience that video provides is less overwhelming to many casual website visitors than the task of consuming lengthy text, with a consumer being able to learn everything they need (or more importantly, want) to know about a topic in less than 30 seconds. Combining that brief teaser video with compelling, researched and informative written content will ensure that your business has a successful content marketing strategy.

Five Companies That Are Playing the Content Game Right

While a whole host of companies are reallocating their advertising funds to custom publishing and content marketing, there are a few shining examples that really hit it out of the park when it comes to quality of content, consumer engagement and alignment with corporate objectives.

These multinational corporations know that if you publish quality content, consumers will flock to you. Great storytelling, customer involvement and visual appeal are all hallmarks of the following companies’ content marketing strategies. Are you thinking of new ways to incorporate content marketing into your brand’s business plan? Look no further to find examples in how to do it right.

1. Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola is definitely a pack-leader when it comes to doing content correctly. Their digital magazine entitled, Journey, gets 1.1 million visitors per month and their blog, Unbottled, demonstrates how visual, shareable and interactive content can align with a company’s corporate objectives.

And it seems to be working well for them. During the testing phase of Coca-Cola’s website redesign, which featured over 60 tweaks, the company noticed a 106% increase in page views and a 1,247% increase in home page visits.

The blog features content ranging from career advice, brand history, recipes and details about Coke’s alliance with their wildlife conservation partners, the World Wildlife Fund. One thing Coca-Cola is extremely successful at is using their blog as a platform to reflect the company’s global marketing strategies by balancing their business objectives with their worldly humanitarian efforts. The blog is also highly interactive, featuring clickable maps demonstrating how Coca-Cola gives back by strengthening communities and funding goodwill missions.

Another post gives readers the opportunity to click a hyperlink that brings them to a page where they can customize their own individual or 6-pack of glass bottled Coke featuring their name, part of their #ShareaCoke campaign. Demonstrating the place of company-specific content in marketing has also been a major pillar in Coke’s content strategies. Detailed posts about employees, the history of their company and background on campaigns give consumers backstage access to the inner workings of this huge company, creating a feeling of intimacy between brand and consumer.

2. Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Today, the retail corporation’s title blog, humanizes this well-known company by creating emotional storytelling, providing behind the scenes access to marketing campaigns and by allowing the consumer to get to know Wal-Mart employees.

The content on the blog is inspiring, with beautiful images and innovative ideas, strategically positioned to fill in the gaps where customers may have questions, problems or ideas. These questions could be about Wal-Mart employees, how the company gives back to the community or how the consumer can save even more money by shopping at a Wal-Mart. This type of content instills confidence in the consumer and puts them on the right path to purchase.

Wal-Mart is also a master at selling ideas that translate into the need for a product, by featuring recipes, entertaining ideas and DIY projects. The company has long been a player in the content marketing game with Creative Director of Content at Walmart.com Donata Maggipinto asserting that because consumers appreciate and trust editorial-style content, that type of content now sits atop the marketing throne.

This element of trust pervades Wal-Mart Today’s human-interest stories, company history and seasonal features, with the majority of posts being written by actual Wal-Mart employees. Articles are headed with the writer’s name, job title and the store number indicating where they work, painting a picture for the consumer what the Wal-Mart lifestyle is all about. One such story details how a Wal-Mart Training Coordinator lost weight and improved his daily life through the company’s ZP program, a weight-loss support system for Wal-Mart employees and associates. By bringing a huge brand like Wal-Mart down to a human level, the company’s content marketing campaign succeeds in creating a feeling of accessibility and closeness.

3. Whole Foods
Whole Foods’ blog, Whole Story, is jam-packed with posts written by countless people involved in the healthy lifestyle movement. The blog is easy to follow, concise and clear, with posts organized by categories such as Back to School, Beer & Wine, Dairy Free and Healthy Swaps. This allows the reader to tailor their individual experience of the site.

In addition to their blog, Whole Foods markets their image through a variety of other channels. Three different email companies direct traffic to wholefoodsmarket.com (Yahoo, Google and AOL) creating a hotbed of behavioral data that allows analysts to see the impact of content marketing strategies. Whole Foods also puts power in the hands of the consumer by allowing them to tailor their own email subscriptions through filters such as product preferences, dietary concerns and lifestyle interests. Their recipe site helps to promote new or unique products and encourages and inspires consumers on different ways to use them.

In a somewhat risky move, Whole Foods partitioned their platforms into region specific content marketing strategies, tailored to the specific needs and personality of each location. This is akin in appearance to the company’s multitude of Twitter accounts, individually dedicated to promoting and discussing meat, cheese, etc. respectively. This has proved beneficial to the company and has allowed them to better customize their content and to make it more engaging by discovering what people are passionate about through these region-specific and ingredient-specific categories. This push and pull keeps the relationship between consumer and company dynamic and engaging.

4. Home Depot
The Home Depot Blog is an outstanding example of a company using what is called hygiene content correctly. Hygiene content is the type of content that shows up in a search result most readily and is aimed at getting the customer involved and connected with a brand. Inspiring posts centered on home improvement, seasonal projects and DIY projects are neatly categorized and easy to navigate, so that the average at-home DIY-enthusiast can easily find a project perfect for them.

The blog features style challenges in which the consumer is encouraged to take on a project, most of which are seasonal or holiday-oriented such as “Fake a Fireplace Mantel.” Who doesn’t love a good challenge? They also have a category of non-seasonal projects that are geared toward particular areas of the home, such as “Learn How to Retile a Bathroom” or “Storage Solutions for Small Kitchens.”

What these projects are especially successful at promoting is confidence in the mindset of the consumer that he or she can take on these seemingly difficult tasks, made easier with the guidance, expertise and products available from Home Depot. This simultaneously does the job of getting the consumer involved with the brand by grabbing their attention with the challenge of making something themselves.

The blog also has a section devoted to Top-Pinned Products, so that visitors to the site can see what are the top-trending items. Their contributors’ page allows people to meet the DIY experts and see the faces behind the articles, creating a familiarity between the company and consumer. The blog serves as an inspiration board for Home Depot customers while at the same time promoting their products.

5. General Electric
As the third largest company in the world, GE is a spearhead in the content marketing revolution. The quality of the writing on their blog, GE Reports, is superb and makes the multinational, conglomerate corporation feel intimate and accessible.

The posts about digital news, innovations in technology, medical imaging and more make science feel cool, with lighthearted storytelling and moments of scientific awe. Their top-notch talent runs the gamut from Pulitzer Prize winning photographers to Forbes journalists, with writing that can appeal to both the tech novice and expert simultaneously. Beautiful imagery threads itself throughout their blog posts to keep the eye moving and to stimulate you to look throughout the entire website.

The breadth of article topics and the amount of ground they cover helps to transform the image of GE, widely accepted in the mainstream mindset as a lighting and appliances company, into that of a leader in innovation and high growth industries such as health, transportation and energy. The blog is particularly successful in bringing all of these titanic topics down to a human level and helping the consumer identify with a somewhat lofty and inaccessible brand.

These five companies hit the mark when it comes to building a community of consumers around a topic and letting their brand be the host of the community that develops. Rather than creating content that directly focuses on shameless self-promotion, companies with successful content strategies promote a lifestyle that aligns with their respective corporate objectives.

7 Reasons Why Quality Content is Worth the Investment

Ever since Google’s search engine took over the Internet, SEO, website design and loaded content have become more important than ever before. Just getting traffic to your website is a hurdle of its own. Amidst all the potential scams and bogus information piling up in the World Wide Web, people are incredibly skeptical and, as such, search for reliable sources. Whether they search for actual information, entertainment or for products, people don’t want to visit websites they feel could harm their computer security or that are full of useless and unhelpful advice and info. This is where quality content kicks in. What follows are seven of the top reasons why you should only invest in quality content.

1. It Performs
There’s no doubt that quality content performs better. Like well-trained athletes, well-written content rises to the top. It outshines the under-researched and under-developed content.

Quality content actually provides value. This simple and underrated statement is what some businesses overlook. With the ever-changing pace Google works at, SEO and keywords will soon be even less important. While they’ll still be necessary to consider, actual content is becoming increasingly important.

Google is attempting to create a search engine that is more useful to Internet users, rather than marketers, so SEO and keywords won’t suffice. You’re going to need actual, valuable information and insightful, compelling content to provide real returns in search results and website traffic. That’s why quality content performs and why it will perform exponentially well over time.

2. The Long-term ROI is Definitive
Probably the most important reason quality content is worth the investment is that with content that performs, the long-term ROI is virtually guaranteed. Readers will return to read more from a source they feel actually helped them the first time.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Whether Oscar Wilde or Will Rogers said it first, it bears the truth. For decades, people have been loyal to newspapers and magazines that have provided them with quality content. If they find a website gives them valuable information the first time, they will consistently reference that website again and again.

Quality content assures your readers won’t feel cheated and will return. As a result, the long-term ROI is there. Building a readership comes from building a returning audience. No Internet outlet can rely solely on first-time readers to keep their visitor count up. It’s vital to build an audience that continuously comes back for more, and they’ll only keep coming back if they find quality content waiting for them. Your investment in that quality content is the only way to build a real audience that won’t dissipate.

In an article for Forbes, Stephen Diorio wrote, “The quality of marketing content impacts the ability of marketers to drive top line growth with digital, social, native advertising, and mobile channels. And salespeople need insightful content to help open doors, start meaningful conversations, and sell value.” He continued saying, “The bar on content quality is rising.” This illuminates the multiple ways in which quality content can be utilized. From advertising to the sales force, quality content is necessary to create a meaningful relationship between your company and the consumer. So whether you focus on providing articles and information or selling a product, quality content is relevant and necessary for your success.

In another Forbes article, Daniel Newman wrote that “Brands Will Realize It Is SEO AND content, Not One or the Other.” That’s why it is important that you don’t fall behind the pack and fill up on low-quality content when the saturation of low-quality content is about to spread across the web in absurd volumes that nobody will pay attention to. Focus on providing quality content that people will look for and count on.

According to statistical data from the Content Marketing Institute, 75% of B2B small business marketers are producing more content than they did one year ago and 60% of B2B small business marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months. Writing and design are the functions that B2B small business marketers are most likely to outsource. To be more specific, 61% said they outsource writing. Clearly, the need for content in general is rising and the need for written content is rising the most. Consistently coming up with new ideas and valuable information is a tall order, which is why companies frequently outsource their written content.

A study done by Kapost and Eloqua revealed that content marketing ROI garnered three times more ROI than a paid search. If you want to keep up or stay ahead of the pack, you need continuous quality content to provide that ROI you’re looking for.

3. It is Evergreen
Quality content lasts forever. Well-written and researched articles can be used years, even decades down the road after they have been published. Information is forever relevant, especially good information. And, published content never fades away – it stays out there forever! Information never goes out of style and for that reason it will keep generating traffic to your website. People will always have access to your premium content, which means your content will forever be useful and available to readers and consumers.

4. Builds Authority
Providing quality content asserts a position of authority. Consistently showcasing knowledgeable information shows you’re a source readers can trust. It makes you an authority on information.

Showcasing quality content related to your product, elicits feelings of trust from consumers. Reading about your product develops their sense of knowledge, understanding and appreciation of your product. This authoritative position allows you to influence readers and consumers to better their lives with your valuable information.

As well, when reading your content, audiences are developing a relationship with your company and that makes them feel more tied to you, as they have in some fashion invested their time. It can even play into the Law of Obligation. They could conclude that because you have provided them with valuable information, they have almost an obligation to support your website, your information or your product. By doing this, they make you an even bigger authority on the subject.

5. Increases Backlinks
Any content can increase backlinks, but quality content increases the right type of backlinks. Google will actually remove your website from their search results if they find your website is loaded with garbage or spam links. Additionally, Google will penalize you for any attempt at black hat or backend techniques.

In 2011, Google penalized Overstock for offering discounts to schools that put anchor specific links on their website. For this, Google removed Overstock from their first page search results for two months, which cost Overstock a 5% decrease in revenue. Investing in quality content will keep you in the clear, keep you in the search results and keep your reputation unblemished.

6. It’s More Secure
Low-quality content is often loaded with harmful backlinks and, as mentioned, that can really hurt your chances of being found on a Google search. Not only does it hurt your chances of website traffic, it also hurts your potential customers who will almost certainly never return to your site. Building a returning audience is out of the question with garbage links.

7. Enhances the Power of Your Website
Let’s say you sell a product. If you haven’t caught on, many upcoming products and start-ups are including a blog with on their website. This increase in quality content is increasing the backlinks and volume of information provided on their website to boost their chances of being found in a search. It also keeps Internet users on their website for a longer period of time.

A key component to marketing success is branding your product and having a blog with quality content shows the lifestyle of your product. That lifestyle is essential in the branding of your product. If you had a blog with low-quality content, this would merely indicate that a low-quality lifestyle is associated with your product, thereby discouraging shoppers.

However, by providing quality content that your users read and relate to, you are providing them with yet another reason to purchase your product. The more content your website provides, the better chances it will show in search results. The better the quality of that content, the better the odds that people will actually use your website and continue to use it.