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Circus Street

Understanding content marketing

How can brands make sure their content is relevant, engaging and timely enough to cut through the noise consumers are simultaneously trying to negotiate and contribute to?

We are knee-deep in content. More than 250,000 status updates are posted to Facebook every minute. More than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube in the same time. Twitter personalities, social-media influencers and consumers are creating content. On top of this, brands, publishers, media-owners and agencies are adding even more, producing never-ending posts, blogs, newsletters, videos… but how often is this done with a clear understanding of what matters most to those we assume will read, watch, or listen?

Figuring out the right content marketing strategy for a specific business is now one of a marketer’s biggest challenges. The recent Content Marketing Institute report found that the proportion who are clear on what a successful content marketing programme looks like dropped from 45% in 2016 to 41% in 2017. The remaining 59% are unsure how to define success. It is easy to see why. For instance, how do you choose the right channels in which to invest?

Treading the fine line between editorial and commercial opportunity is a constant struggle, and without real and consistent definitions of where advertising ends and content begins, sizing the market is hugely challenging. Then there’s the million-dollar question: how do you measure the financial return of the content distribution efforts when you don’t know what success looks like? 

There are examples where brands have managed to cut through the clutter. Lidl UK made a brilliantly timed price reduction on a One Direction-branded Easter Egg, when Zayn quit the group. It slashed the price of the egg by a fifth, from 99p to 79p. This social-media content got global media coverage and more than 20,000 retweets within a day. Then there is Intel iQ, a content-marketing "experiment" that started five years ago when Intel decided to tell its story "beyond PCs and processors". With nearly three million unique monthly visitors, Intel iQ — seen by many as a tech culture magazine — is now the envy of many. 

What are marketers to do?

1. It is not about volume
Content creation on its own is no elixir for customer engagement. To break through, create authentic, effective and creative content valued by the consumer. 

2. Think about the reaction
Before creating a piece of content, simply ask: what are my goals, and what do we want our consumer to do next?

3. Power up your teams
Educate yourself about the different types of content, the means to create them, the guidelines around native advertising, and the challenges surrounding the measurement of success. 

Success will hinge on your brand’s ability to add value to your consumers’ lives. That will come from understanding the platforms they use, the content they create and consume, and the brand’s role in those conversations.

Richard Townsend is CEO and co-founder of Circus Street

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