We all know that content marketing can bring significant success to a business, but alas, that’s only the start of the story. In recent years, numerous brands have tried to crack the “branded content” code, but not many have got it right. Surprisingly so, even marketing agencies struggle to produce high quality content that yields positive ROI. If I get a penny for every time I come across some "content marketing" work produced by my peers..
Anyway. Today let’s take a look at the most common foxholes in producing and promoting branded content. Or, in other words, why that piece of content – which you spent so many hours to craft - is not getting any views.
Starting with Mistake #1..
Mistake 1. Defining “branded content” incorrectly
Let’s get this straight.
Branded content is any content that can be associated with a brand in the eye of the beholder (according to this research project). Thus, it’s not limited to just a blog article, a downloadable checklist, a 60-second spot, a native ad, or a promoted tweet.
Branded content could be anything, produced by anyone, at any point in time. As Peter Minnium, IAB’s head of brand initiatives, put it, “from a consumer’s perspective, they are going to care less who is behind the content. Instead, they will apply the filter of quality”.
Content should be considered as the essence of your marketing. It drives the right people to your website, it keeps them engaged, it motivates them to share and to come back, and ultimately it sells your products and services. There should not be a line between “branded content” and “content”.
I set this to be a separate point, but you will come to see that in many cases it can be the root problem that causes mistake #2 and mistake #3.
MISTAKE 2. Great premise, terrible execution
This is possibly the biggest let down of all branded-content promises. Your audience is drawn in by a great topic, a great headline, and even a great opening. You have pointed out an issue that they are facing, you have set up to assure them that you have a solution to fix it, and then.. they click through to see a 400-word article with a 300-word byline and call to action. SAD FACE! 😢
You are not delivering. You attract people here solely to do a sales pitch, and that hurts your brand. People want to be educated or entertained or both, and not to be sold to.
This is extremely disappointing for your readers, as they are not getting what they have come here for. Granted, we are in an attention economy, but brands need to understand that by producing these low value, clickbait-type pieces of content, they are doing more harm than good. People can smell a sales pitch a million metres away.
How to fix it: add more substance. I know, right? Research have then and again shown that long form is the best way to go about content – as they are so useful, people not only share it but also bookmark it for future reference.
You can still do bite-sized content (which, by the way, is the perfect choice for social media) but each of these pieces still has to be a gold nugget. Case in point: see the fantastic work by VaynerMedia. Something that actually adds value: you are giving them tips, advice, or a unique perspective.
The 80/20 or 90/10 rule should apply here: 80% or 90% of your content should add genuine value and only 20% or 10% should be self-promotioned.
MISTAKE 3. It’s all about you.
Brands do this all the time. They go on and on about their new features, about their solutions.. I’m not saying that these are not needed (they are useful, at the right stage of the buying process), but unfortunately, the readers at the top of the funnel don’t want to hear about you – they are here to hear about them: about their problems and challenges, about how they can save time or money or effort.
“this is what we do.”
“what does our audience want?”
“what would they find really useful?”
Because it is not about what you want your audience to want, it is about what they actually want. Great brands create content that delivers ample value from the customer’s perspective. Create something that your audience wants to consume.
And on that note, it is also a good idea to focus on other happenings in your environment: new legislations, what other people are doing, what your partners and even your competitors are doing,.. A lot of great content pieces can be generated from interviews with other people, instead of just you yourself and you again. Involving your audience in the production of content is also gaining momentum in this space. It’s a smart strategy as not only you make the experience more fun and immersive for people, but it also saves some resources in the production and promotion process as well.
Here are some very good tips on how to take the ego out of your content marketing.
MISTAKE 4. Keyword keyword keyword content keyword keyword
A common problem, especially if you are outsourcing your content production to an agency that cares more about “SEO performance” than real value-adding content.
I constantly getting pitches from PR firms with articles that go like this: "Topic KEYWORD sentence KEYWORD sentence KEYWORD KEYWORD whatever bullet point KEYWORD". It's irritating, and it doesn't work. This is not how normal human beings speak. We don't keep repeating our full names every single sentence.
Yes, it is important to be found, but when people are at your party, you want to be able to say something intelligent and in their language.
Great content marketers understand that when the content strategy is on point, your SEO will more or less take care of itself. Content is what ranks, not keywords. Keyword research is a crucial part of the planning process. People will search more and more using phrases, instead of a single keyword; and search engines are getting smarter and will be able to disregard the irrelevant flimsy PR article, because these engines are geared to serve people. Stuffing keywords in every single line is not, I repeat, a good tactic.
A great marketer will write for humans, instead of search engines.
MISTAKE 5. Inconsistency
You send out a newsletter. Then 6 months later, another one. Then a week later, another. Basically whenever you have the time and/or when you want to drum up some new leads. Does that sound familiar?
The idea of content marketing relies on consistently providing extra value to your audience: giving them more information and insights on something they are interested in, in a consistent manner.
Hubspot’s recent research shows that brands that published 16+ blog posts per month received 4.5x times more inbound leads than companies that only published 0-4 posts a month.
Brands big or small have all face this problem, as it is difficult to allocate the right resources and/or follow a real plan.
The ideal execution of content marketing is supposed to make your audience go: “wow, these guys just want to make life easier for me!”. And not “wow, these guys just want to make a sale!”. So invest some time to draw a well-defined strategy for your business, and stick with it. Don’t let the short-term objective of gaining more email addresses or making sales ruin your hard work.
A robust content plan and an editorial calendar will prove extremely useful in keeping things on track as well.
MISTAKE 6. One piece of content gets blasted to a hundred different platforms
I know it took a lot of time to write that article, to film that video, or to make that infographic. But that doesn’t justify why you are Buffer-ing or Hootsuite-ing it on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and for good measures, Snapchat. It’s actually doing you more harm than good.
Each platform requires a slightly different type of content. Research has shown that the same person has a very different mindset when they are on Facebook compared to when they are on LinkedIn.
Brands need to invest more time in tailoring these content pieces to suit the platform, and refining as they go. Hey, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing PROPERLY.
Additionally, platforms such as Canva are making it easier and easier to produce customised content for different platforms.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to marketing, and especially content marketing, is that less is more: if you have limited resources, focus on only one or a few platforms that work for you, and scale the effort when there are more resources available.
MISTAKE 7. Not measuring the ROI of your hard work
Don’t let anyone say that your job is “fun” because “you get to be on Facebook and Twitter all the time” but “it’s not quantifiable anyway”. Earn your seat at the table. The digital era is making our marketing efforts more trackable, testable, and measurable than ever. 13% of marketers in Australia admitted that they simply had no idea if their content marketing worked or not – because they didn’t track the results.
Your SlideShare presentation has 1,000 views in the last month. How did it affect your follower base, number of inbound leads, and ultimately revenue?
Starting with a purpose-driven strategy, brands should be able to develop content that ties directly to different parts of the marketing and sales funnel. Ensure your editorial and content plan is mapped out to show how each piece of content drives transactions and user acquisition – and not just increasing brand equity.
To sum up, follow these steps:
· Sit down and map your content strategy, based on your goals, your capabilities and capacity, your brand persona, and your audience’s needs
· Identify the audience personas and stages of the buying funnel
· Create a content plan / calendar that is mapped to specific ROI measurements
· Create content with a human voice, for humans
· Optimise, promote, and repeat
· Measure and refine as you go