The holy grail of content marketing

How to leverage an unused potential

If you’re creating content for your brand or clients, big chance you’re missing out on some huge potential. In my environment I see an increasing focus on content marketing from big brands through a mix of owned channels (blogs and others); third party sites (publishers, online magazines and blogs) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc). But most brands forget to grab the unused potential that lies in all these activities — audience data.

Successful content marketing starts with a good story, supported by excellent content. In the optimal mix, you use your social media profiles, influencer endorsement and your website to attract a relevant audience. With a mix of ‘always on’ communication and campaigns you increase your visibility and interest from your target audience. But why stop there? Why not have all these activities lead to ever more relevant and smarter communication? This is where an accompanying data strategy comes in.

Having a data strategy might sound like a scary thing when you’re creating engaging stories, but is an essential component to creating even more engaging stories. By data strategy I do not solely mean creating insights, but rather setting up an infrastructure for storing actionable data — (re)targetable audience groups.

How to do this?

This is best explained through a fairly simple model (I call it the 3E model, but that’s just being fancy). Note that this is mainly tested with promoting content through Facebook and Twitter.

1. Establish

This first step is all about ‘setting up’. If you’re already sharing content through the aforementioned channels, but have not set up proper tagging and tracking; do so. Use any preferred web solution for this; we use Google Tag Manager to handle all our tracking. In this phase it is important to know what you want to track and how you want to store the information. I advise always categorising your content. Categorising your content makes it easy to build, find and enrich targetable audience groups. If you don’t think your content falls into some clever category, don’t worry, there’s always something you can relate it to.

Let’s say you write blogs about smartphones and in one post you’re all cheering for iPhones and the other for Samsung’s Galaxy; you should categorise accordingly as ‘iPhone’ and ‘Galaxy’. This helps you understand your readers better and create appropriate audience groups. Anytime you share content related to one of these topics, your readers will end up in the corresponding ‘bucket’.

2. Enrich

Now it’s time to grow your audiences by ‘enriching’ your databases with more people, and more information. What exactly do your iPhone lovers crave? Create deeper levels of information when sharing new content. At this point you have an audience that showed interest in iPhone related content, but do they engage on all iPhone related news or are they interested in its speed, apps or camera? Sharing more news related to these subjects makes you learn more about your audience. Also try diverging from the subject and add more diverse information to your audiences; for instance by finding out which music or series they engage with.

Polar makes a great product when it comes to evoking very low effort interactions. Their simple question mechanism gives you quick insights into people’s opinions; one problem: you don’t own that valuable data. When people share their opinions, you are not able to re-engage with them on a more informed level, which is crucial to creating rich audience profiles. If you are serious about your blogging and content creation, consider developing a low effort interaction machine like Polar to enrich your audiences with highly relevant information.

3. Engage

This step closely follows with step two but focuses solely on telling a better story; it’s the action taken based upon the information. Getting to know your audience better enables you to share more relevant stories. It also helps you rule out previous assumptions about your audience. Engaging on a deeply informed level and sharing with a highly targeted audience makes you a best in class marketer. The most interesting things happen when this information is used for engaging through different content strategies, i.e. always on or campaign related. Campaign related use of audiences will quickly grow your audiences in a more aggressive manner; ‘always on’ does so on a longer timeline.

Remember that the most important part of this strategy is still to share high quality content, but with a more informed mind, engagement will spike and your value will increase.

Bonus: Monetise

Let’s say you are, or promote, a telco brand. Imagine an audience of 50,000 potential customers engaged with your brand one way or another; all known to be iPhone lovers; music fans, interested in dance music (prefer the indie type artists over the bigger rock stars), and currently thinking about switching to a new telecom provider. You take this information and set up a meeting with the product manager, marketing manager and communications specialist: “Hey guys, i’ve got this audience of 50k, interested in x,y,z; let’s do something to get them on board.”

What evolves is a campaign, offering a new subscription with iPhone and free Spotify, promoted by- and with Flume through banners and exclusive content directed at 50k people (and beyond). Now tell me you’re not winning…

To wrap things up: if you’re an agency, brand, or publisher; it’s time to work together and create more lifetime value for all campaigns you run or content you share. Let information flow through your company and get everyone involved, from product to marketing. Next time someone asks you why do you do all those things with content; tell ’em this.

Have your own view on the topic? Hit me up on Twitter or email, or write them below.