The term content has been bandied around for decades by those of us in the media, marketing and entertainment business. Most recently, it has become a marketing category as brands use ‘content marketing’ to leverage the burgeoning digital and social platforms they now own.
This trends towards using ‘owned media’ (or the company brand as media channel) has been around for a few years now. Long enough, I would argue, to more critically evaluate some of the impact of these channels.
Before diving into that debate, it’s worth looking at the macro-trend behind the content evolution. The traditional owners of the word ‘content’ were the TV and entertainment networks. Over the past decade, the expression “content is king” has been a rallying cry by networks to invest more heavily in local and offshore content to hold and build media audiences.
As a result of this investment, TV entered what has been described as a ‘golden era’ of premium content, with some of the most high quality and popular television content ever emerging over the past decade – including A list acting talent, script writers and directors attaching themselves to television audiences.
Phenomenally successful shows such as Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and in Australia premium local productions such as Offspring, The Kettering Incident and Top of the Lake have demonstrated time and again that whatever the chosen viewing device, quality content wins every time. Audiences naturally gravitate to content which has been richly invested in by world class entertainment talent.
This incredible investment has lifted the bar enormously when it comes to what people are (and aren’t) prepared to spend their time with online. After expensive trial and error, many brands are now figuring out owned media assets, in particular video content, needs care, resource and attention.
Aside from the important question of objectivity, expertise and corporate bandwidth, there is also the issue of the resourcing and skill required to actually engage and entertain audiences. Audiences are swimming in a sea of content, how do you make yours stand out?
Here’s six things we now know about content marketing, which should guide our efforts moving forward.
1. Make it good, or go home: Invest in great storytellers and skilled producers and reap the rewards. Audiences aren’t fooled and won’t waste their time on poorly produced video, disguised as entertainment.
2. Augment your distribution strategy with influential distribution channels: When you get the content quality right, peer-to-peer distribution can be one of your most powerful weapons in getting your content distributed. Lock in your influencer programme early and well.
3. A one-size-fits all approach to video content won’t work: Video content marketing is not the same as TV advertising - it’s more about engaging customers through a narrative, than entering an overt sales conversation. For this reason, if you start having conversations about including price points, just stop, you’ve lost.
4. Thought leadership is easier than entertainment: Entertaining audiences is a skill few perfect – which is why network professionals continue to lead the way in this area. If you don't have a track record in entertainment don’t try and make people laughs, instead focus on providing sector information, customer insights or how-to content. And don’t forget to enrol the support of genuine experts to deliver authentic, engaging customer insights.
5. Views can be a false metric. It’s not always about volume. Achieving outcomes for your brand using content marketing is more likely to be about influence. The smartest content will often engage a smaller, smarter audience; one that follows up for more.
6. Video wins the day. Every day. Video views online far out-performs any written or other graphic based medium – and video is the medium of choice for the socially active. Make sure your brand has a video strategy built into your content marketing and social plan.
Paul MacGregor is national director - client solutions, marketing and production for Multi Channel Network.