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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.

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 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 (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.

10 Ways to Make Your Content More Shareable

You’ve invested in a solid content marketing strategy. Now what? Content is only as good as the number of people who read it, so take the steps to make sure that your well-crafted content reaches as many consumers as possible. If you are going to spend your precious hours crafting content to attract attention to your brand, you will have to do better than simply posting and hoping it goes viral. Follow these steps to ensure that your message reaches the masses.

1. Invest in Quality, Informative Content
We all know by now that not just any content, but quality content, is king when it comes to creating an audience and maintaining followers. Great content will be picked up on by prospective clients, and they will be more likely to share it if it provides entertainment, useful information or a tempting promotion.

Create content that taps into the usefulness of your product, but also tread beyond those walls and offer posts that provide solutions to problems or concerns relevant to your industry. Offering tutorials, user guides, how-tos and FAQs will create a useful database of information for the consumer, and will direct them to your site.

2. Involve Your Audience
When it comes to content marketing, your audience is the wave that your success rides on. Gain momentum through social sharing by mentioning and tagging individual clients in your social media posts, making sure to be personal and friendly and address one prospect or loyal customer at a time.

Consumers love to see their interaction with brands produce an effect and thus appreciate participating this way in marketing campaigns. You can use this process over time to convert prospects into loyal clients, build your follower base and drive more people to your business.

3. Encourage Revisiting
Social media, by nature, conditions consumers to expect meaningful relationships to blossom rather quickly. Take advantage of the ubiquitous nature of social media, and connect easily and rapidly with people by sharing relevant and engaging content that your customer will want to revisit again and again.

Ensure your content speaks to this need for digital intimacy by remembering that marketing is about more than just creating a promotional message. By creating compelling content that speaks more about your customer than it does about you, you’ll witness your brand following grow.

4. Capitalize on Native Sharing Buttons
Market reports show that social sharing buttons are significantly more effective than the tried-and-trusted forward-to-a-friend marketing method. In fact, according to findings by e-mail service provider SilverPop, recipients use social sharing buttons five times more than forward-to-a-friend.

While there are no guarantees that shared content will go viral, take the necessary steps to ensure that your content gets noticed and shared across multiple channels. Use a website plug-in such as ShareThis or AddThis to place social icons on the sidebar of your blog or at the start of your article.

Without sharing buttons, the process of sharing content is time consuming. Streamline the sharing process with native sharing buttons, making the act of sharing content as easy as clicking a button. This allows your consumers to curate their social media feeds, with your content becoming a part of their personal message to the digital world.

5. Create Value-Added Content
Value-added content intends to teach the reader something, or is useful or entertaining in some way. Consumers, in particular millennials, tend to gravitate toward content that contributes to their intellect or know-how, and they are apt to share that information with their peers.

Don’t try to directly sell your product within your content, as today’s tech-savvy consumers will read right through it. Instead, share relevant, quality content that communicates the lifestyle and/or message that your brand is trying to market. If you are able to teach your consumers something new, they will keep coming back to your site as a credible source of information.

6. Network With Your Influencers
Influencers are the superheroes that can bring the success of a company’s content strategy to the next level. The terms influencer marketing and content marketing can be seen to consistently overlap, and you would be hard pressed to find an article in which one is mentioned but not the other.

Quote a savvy, well-known and respected figure within your industry in the body of your article. Influencers will potentially share your content with their followers, thereby opening the door for prospective clients. These industry powerhouses have the ability to inspire, amplify, critique and collaborate on your content—all of which will drive more people to your brand.

7. Adapt Your Content for Mobile Devices
With the number of global smartphone users surpassing two billion in 2016, companies will do well to adapt their content for ultimate mobile readability. Keep in mind that smartphone users are always on the go, so avoid long-winded and excessive posts and articles in favor of “snackable” content that the viewer can easily consume and digest.

If your content is long, make sure to make it more accessible by breaking it up with images or breaks in the text. This type of mobile content can also be translated easily to desktop users for ultimate shareability.

8. Become an Authority in Your Niche
Thought leaders are communities, sources or individuals that provide valuable information on a topic. To become a thought leader within your digital community, you must produce quality, relevant content that answers questions, provides in-depth information or explains an important concept.

The more credible, educational, engaging and prolific your content, the more you will be seen as an authority in your niche, and the more apt viewers will be to share your content. When it comes time to purchase, consumers will flock to your website as a trusted source and encourage their peers to do the same.

9. Hire a Guest Blogger
When it comes to guest blogging, pay attention to the hype. Featuring respected writers and marketers on your site is an excellent way to grow a following by pulling in traffic from their usual channels. Your company could also guest blog on another site within your industry, tapping into their repertoire of clients as well and driving traffic to your brand.

Guest blogging creates a tight-knit community of thought leaders, encourages consumer participation and makes your content highly shareable. It is a powerful tactic when it comes to setting brand value, making professional connections and of course increasing your SEO.

10. Remain Socially Active
It is just not enough to sporadically post content and cross your fingers that it goes viral. Consumers crave consistency and you must continually deliver quality content if you want to see results.

For a real world example, people won’t go to the same restaurant over and over again unless they know that they are going to get exactly what they are craving. Apply this theory to your content. To create content that is shareable, maintain a consistent presence across all your social media channels. Keep the timing of your content as well as the messages behind it consistent, and you will see an increase in the sharing of your content.

Avoid the one-hit-wonder syndrome of sunken stone content. Make sure to constantly re-promote old content, bring in guest bloggers and maintain a consistent message to build a loyal brand following. People will flock to your content again and again if they know they can find valuable, relevant information, so remember to never sacrifice quality.

10 Commandments of Content

Content marketing is key for many companies these days, but it means nothing without stories. Gone are the days of a business being able to be self centered and demanding, now companies have to move and adjust in real time with their client base as the distance between the two has been shortened by social media. Scott Donation shared some of his wisdom on this topic with Fast Cocreate, here are some summaries of what he had to say.

1. Find Your Why

The best brands focus on why they’re doing it as opposed to what they’re doing or how. The why holds the story which gives something life. People connect with brands when the brands tell stories that adhere to their values about life and feel like something that they understand.

2. It’s Not (All) About You

Brands used to be able to “talk” at consumers by saying who they were through marketing and leaving it at that. This model doesn’t work anymore however since people can communicate back, go find other options, or spread word good and bad online. Content must be entertaining to people as well as efficient, or at least educational, for people to want to trust you and keep coming back.

3. Insights Inspire Ideas

It is crucial to know your consumer as well as you know yourself, because they are your livelihood. Data driven insights can spark creativity and make sure that the shared data is actually relevant to the consumers.

4. Go All the Way

Fearlessness is an important element of storytelling. Stories should not be randomly thrown in to your marketing or added on at the end, they should be the heart of the whole process. It should then be amplified across all of the channels you use to reach your consumers.

5. Be Social At The Core

Putting your story out there is not the end of the process, since the consumers want to be able to play a role in your story too. In this way the story is actually just the beginning of the process, and it should be treated as so. Allowing the consumers to connect and get involved is going to be invaluable to creating a loyal following.

6. Don’t Post and Just Hope

No matter how good your content is, you can’t just put it out there and hope and pray that people will find it. You need a clear distribution strategy in place involving what you say, who you say it to, where, and when you say it. Content and distribution must be a balance.

7. Be Authentic

If your brand has a personality you’re going to have to deliver on it, not just pretend that you do. People are better at spotting fakers than many other things, so don’t go turning off any of your consumers if you can avoid it. Be yourself.

8. Be the Expert

This has to do with the education part of the process, your brand knows something that the people don’t so tell it to them. When the content is relevant and clear people are happy to learn from you.

9. Loosen Your Grip

Your brand image is going to be influenced by a wide variety of sources, so you might need to give up a bit of the control you want to hold on it. Trust the process.

10. Expect Results

At the end of the day, if you’re investing in content that is truthful and that you believe in, everything should work out. There’s not one single way to get everywhere, but an authentic story is the way to get there anyway.

Do these storytelling in content tips seem relevant to you? Let us know if this is something new you’ll be implementing or something you’ve intuited all along.