If you are new to content marketing planning an effective strategy might seem like a daunting task. Below are three basic principles that will help you build a successful campaign.

Make your Content Relevant to your Audience, not to your Business
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Content marketing is a subtle game. Your objective is to create interest in your brand and to subsequently increase sales and profit but you have to achieve this without direct pitching or selling. Individuals do not like the one-way system of being advertised at, as demonstrated in a recent study by Nielsen where only 10 percent of OECD customers interviewed said that they trusted messages from display advertising. The appeal of good content marketing is that it acts as a refreshing antidote to the more invasive nature of outward broadcasting models. By creating compelling content and by telling a story you can entertain or inspire audiences and win over their loyalty to your brand.

It’s therefore important that your content is not overly focused on the brand itself, otherwise your audience will feel like they are being pitched to. Instead, pay meticulous attention to market research and consumer behaviour and really try to get inside your target audience’s head. Refine your editorial and media content to their particular interests and worldview. Distillery history and new trends in Gin Culture might not be of interest to everybody but this is exactly the sort of editorial content that Sipsmith’s target audience would find exciting. Their blog on these topics has built them a cult following and a great deal of commercial success. Their articles are aimed at quite a narrow margin but they have managed to build up a core audience demonstrating the importance of personalised content rather than a mass market ‘one size fits all’ approach. Their success came from their content being relevant, fresh and related to their brand instead of centred on it.

Encourage User-Generated Content and Feedback

It is important to ensure that your content is shareable and likely to generate interest and discussion. A high amount of earned media and user-generated content can drive up SEO and has the potential to produce free brand exposure. The Mo Farah Foundation’s ‘Do The Mobot’ campaign attracted user-generated content by encouraging people to film their own versions of the Mobot dance. Hundreds of homemade videos were sent to the charity’s website and shared across social media. This created a sense of community and participation and as a result the campaign delivered on 127% of its target number of clicks and its promoting headline ‘UK’s hottest dance craze inspired by Olympian’ gained 4,136,566 impressions. Importantly content marketing can also allow for a two way conversation between a brand and their customers. The Co-Operative Food Magazine achieves this through features such as reader’s letters and reader’s recipes. These receive a great deal of user-generated content which has driven engagement and provided them with content that resonates with other readers.

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Feedback and user-generated content can come about through competitions, discussion forums and apps. Comment boxes and ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons linked to the biggest social media sites are also absolute essentials for making your content accessible across multiple platforms. User-generated content is a long term form of engagement between brand and buyer. For this reason it is necessary to pay careful attention to the overview of online conversation when measuring return on investment. Analyse the positive and negative sentiments and the range of feedback concerning your content. A wholly statistics based assessment based on the amount of hits, likes and shares fails to consider the long term interaction between brand and buyer and the potential for future user-generated content.

Exploit the Power of the Visual

In a fast paced information age attention spans are short and buyers are more likely to be drawn in by an interesting infographic, photo or video than they are by a written article. Facebook statistics show that the vast majority of posts being liked and shared contain video content and a study completed by Abode found that there was a 300 percent increase in users viewing videos on social media and tech devices in 2012. Our own research at digifi.it™ shows us that magazine page dwell time is five times the average dwell time for pages that contain video.

Video can be expensive to make but many companies have worked around this by exploiting the opportunities offered by Twitter’s new app Vine, which creates six second long videos. Far from being restricting, the time limit can actually inspire creativity and companies like Marketo and Vogue have demonstrated that Vine is a fantastic platform for creating humorous and memorable content. Emerging technologies such as HTML5 have also opened up new ways of producing engaging visual content through the use of animation and media files. With their online magazine Dream, Honda use the digifi.it platform to create a predominantly visual layout with an emphasis on striking photography, subtle animation and layered content. The layout has been optimised for digital devices with a focus on interactive multi-media features. Heavy editorial content is broken up either in pop-up or scrollable layers of the page, articles are enhanced with high quality videos and animation designed to lift the visual reading experience.

To Conclude…

Ultimately then, the key to great content marketing is to make sure your content is a refreshing alternative to traditional display advertising. Do this by really trying to appeal to your target audience; always think about what they find exciting, humorous or inspiring and in doing-so, satisfy their needs and wants. Ensure your content is visually immersive and interactive; make it a two-way conversation between brand and customer. If you do this you can create a community and win over customers’ loyalty to your brand by providing them with valuable and relevant information that assists them in the buying process.

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Social Media Today eConsultancy The Guardian 1 2 3, Content Marketing Institute 1 2, Tech Bubbles Kissmetrics Walkmag JoyDeepDebFast Company.