Most people don’t realize that I started my career in the music industry. Prior to my ventures in the digital marketing industry, I founded and managed a couple of independent labels and also ran a division of one of the larger independent distributors in the US. I learned many valuable lessons about business back then, but the one lesson that has best stood up to the test of time is that content can be a currency. This was is true for music, and it is true for web-based content today. But just what do I mean by “Content is Currency”?
Content in the Attention Economy
As marketers, we must understand the attention economy. As media fragments, attention becomes scarce. Content becomes the conduit to earn consumer attention – it becomes the currency, if you will, that creates the marketer’s side of the value exchange.
The cries of Content is King have reverberated through the halls of agencies and media companies forever. However, sometimes, content value seems to be misinterpreted by marketers as production quality, clarity of the marketing message or brand voice. At the very least, the definition of “high quality” content has become such a given that it is not properly planned for, thus resulting in content that can easily have little relevancy or value to the consumer.
While compelling content buys attention in all media, digital media presents the opportunity of discoverability, one of the unique and most valuable attributes of the web in general. Most notably, search and social media play the largest roles in consumers discovering brand relevancy and value via content. Search explicitly matches consumer interest and demand with content and products. Social media on the other hand implicitly facilitates discoverability via sharing. Social media both further fragments attention and facilitates discovery of relevant content through the social graph at the same time. When consumers find content relevant and compelling, the psychology of human interaction and the mathematics of network theory facilitate sharing. At a certain scale the content “goes viral”. Folks, viral is a result and not a tactic, but the goal should always be to produce compelling content that consumers value.
Do You Have a Content Strategy?
When planning your company’s content strategy, here are a few vital elements to not forget.
- Frequency: if content is a currency, you might as well have a lot of it. More importantly, develop an editorial calendar for your different types of content across owned, earned and paid media.
- Relevancy: for content to be compelling it has to be relevant to the consumer. Content should also be somewhat related to your product category or the lifestyles in which your product is used. Don’t forget that for some channels, like email, elements of relevancy come in the form of personalization.
- Voice: without getting into the specific type of content (videos, blogs, tweets, mashups, or any other experiential content type), every brand needs to develop a voice beyond that of the brand voice. Are you going to be funny and witty, serious and informative, irreverent and unexpected? A little of each? This will tactically drive the content. Of course, there are some givens – like, humorous content often facilitates sharing. But it all has to be on strategy.
- Authenticity: consumers want to see the personality behind the contrived brand voice. A little human authenticity goes a long way. Marketers are human too – at least most of us are. There is a place for the brand voice – know where it belongs and where it doesn’t.
- Transparency: Consumers want to feel like they can trust your brand. They want to know more about the inner workings of the companies they chose to support. Consumers know that they are being marketed to in all facets of media, don’t hide the fact that you still want their business, but prove that you are willing to earn it. We all make mistakes, consumers want to know that you acknowledge that when necessary and that you learn and apologize. They’ll support you, within reason.
- Immediacy: consumers expect an immediate response to negative news, as well as rampant and even individual customer service inquiries or complaints. The immediatecy response plan needs to include all owned media (ie: your website or blog, social spokes like Facebook or Twitter, and CRM channels). This is a prime example of how PR, customer service and general marketing communications have all merged.
- Discoverability: take the time to map out the distribution channels of your content and optimize the discoverability of each channel. Blogs, for example, provide excellent search engine visibility; Facebook’s open graph and api’s from all of the popular social platforms make sharing easy; while a recruitment and engagement strategy for specific social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube build a base of consumers with an interest in your brand who are potentially willing to share it across their social graphs.
From a strategy perspective, prioritizing content just may be one of the most cost effective, albeit unsexy, line items on your next marketing plan, if it is not formally there already. Content as a currency creates the value exchange for consumer attention, which marketers spend billions of dollars for otherwise. Social media and your content strategy are not replacements for advertising and promotions, but part of a holistic marketing mix, boosting brand perception and trust, which doesn’t come easily these days. Additionally, the discoverability of valuable content can help reach consumers who are light users of other media.
So does your brand have a formal content strategy?
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