Every brand is feeling an increased pressure to become a content publisher — to share blogs, make videos, host podcasts or do whatever it takes to connect with consumers.
Unfortunately, not all of them have the time or resources to execute content well, and many question whether they should focus on doing what they can or if they should outsource to a third party.
Cofactor CMO Jeff Fagel headed to South by Southwest (SXSW) for a special panel discussion at the Contently House. Moderated by Peter Loibl, VP and publisher at Content Marketing Institute, Fagel was joined by Alexis Anderson, head of partnerships at Barkbox, and Adam Weinroth, CMO at OneSpot, for a panel discussion entitled: Audience: To Rent our Own, that is the Question?
Below are three key lessons shared by the panel.
LESSON 1: Identify shopping behaviors before you pick content tactics.
As the lines between owned, earned and paid continue to blur, it’s easy to fixate on tactics that seem to solve for all three, such as native approaches. Marketers who want to succeed today must understand the individual motivations, behaviors and varying paths to purchase of consumers first. From there, it’s up to marketers to provide locally relevant, contextually targeted experiences and advertising that are native to the user experience. If they don’t, consumers will quickly move on to competitors who do.
“Start with what you are trying to accomplish and worry less about the channel,” Fagel said to open the discussion. “The challenge starts with how you get consumers to pay attention, then care and, most importantly, act, whether it’s visiting your website, sharing through social media or buying in your store. Consumers don’t have a channel strategy, so we need to think channel-less and focus instead on the real business outcomes of what content can or is driving.”
LESSON 2: Good content puts the audience to work
Brands spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out what channels work best for reaching their target audiences and new consumers. When done right, your content sells itself and your audience will do most of the work if the content is relevant and worth sharing.
Anderson shared some examples of brands that are building highly relevant and shareable content, including Mashable, The Onion and The Weather Channel. In the case of The Weather Channel, Anderson noted that the network rarely shares a post on its social channels that doesn’t include an image and they often post videos of extreme or rare weather phenomenon that drive up retweets and sharing.
Fagel mentioned a popular Canadian brand, Herschel Supply Co. as an example of a brand that is thinking differently around content on social networks, specifically Instagram and Twitter. On their Instagram and Twitter pages, the company showcases customers who hashtag the brand including recent campaigns with #citylimitless, #herschelsupply and #welltravelled. This content approach is a great way to connect with key value prop — travel, experiences — while driving user-generated content and brand advocacy and integrating seamlessly into consumers’ social channels.
City Limitless ends tonight at midnight PST — Tag your best urban photos with #HerschelSupply #CityLimitless for a chance to win. Link in bio for full details. Photo: @evolson #Chicago
A photo posted by Herschel Supply Co (@herschelsupply) on Mar 16, 2015 at 4:00pm PDT
LESSON 3: “Going native” is not a strategy, “offering substance” is.
Native advertising is doing well for many brands. Weinroth cited that Huffington Post recently shared research that for every 1.2 seconds spent on editorial, 1.2 is spent on native content.
But to be clear, he stressed that native advertising is not a strategy. It’s a tactic.
Brands should first be thinking about how to build an audience and then speak to their specific needs and shopping behaviors with native. Anderson added, “When native works really well, it must be authentic.”
But what does “authentic” mean? Something flashy may grab attention, but Fagel asked the panel’s audience to consider instead what is going to resonate with consumers lives — what will have substance and meaning to what they want from the brand? What’s authentic is what is on-brand and relevant to consumers; what’s substantive is what will inspire them to shop.
Personalizing and localizing content are two ways to achieve this, and they’re no longer an insurmountable challenge for a national brand thanks to advances in programmatic targeting, buying and content creation. In fact, localization can establish an immediate connection to the consumer’s “personal” environment — whether it’s price and item information for an offer available at a nearby location or a geofence-triggered coupon on a mobile device.
In summary, the Internet is disruptive; consumer and media behavior has changed drastically. And although consumers are different, in many ways they are the same. It’s less about owning or renting audiences; ultimately success comes down to customers building relevant content.