Since 2016, content marketing has been growing at about 16% per year and is projected to be a $412.88 billion dollar industry by the end of 2021. How do we as publishers, brands, and agencies create content that rises above the noise?
We attended a Content Marketing Forum from Digiday x The Foundry to understand what we should be paying attention to in the space and ultimately, how to tell better stories. Here are the five most important trends outlined by Digiday’s Editor-in-Chief Brian Morrissey and the panelists that spoke about each of these tactics.
Community is the ultimate platform
We first heard from Greg Gittrich, Chief Commercial Officer of SoulCycle. The world of SoulCycle is centered on community and creating a unique experience for their community members. Their content focus is on telling stories to bring people in, particularly where their instructors, whom they refer to as the “talent” are concerned.
They’ve sent writers to travel with the talent and create stories about the classes they teach, what music they select, cementing the key point Gittrich emphasized, “You can’t be in charge of, oversee, creative and content unless you really personally identify with the brand.” In taking the classes and meeting with his team, the content team is able to understand exactly why their audience loves the community and chooses to return.
ROI is King
No longer are we preaching that content rules all, you can’t continue to fund content marketing if you don’t understand why it matters. Consider what success looks like for your content team and whether or not it is the same standard communicated across multiple teams working on the same campaign. Cricket Wireless CMO Tiffany Baehman outlined how some of their most engaged campaigns were born from collaboration between teams that had previously been overlooked.
Her goal was to reevaluate what success looks like for them and came up with three questions to answer before proceeding with a campaign:
- Is the content ownable and authentic to the audience?
- Does the content change the perception of the brand in a positive way?
- How does the content drive business results?
With this as their guide, her team went on to produce one of the most successful holiday campaigns they had ever seen because ROI was clear.
Later in the day, Diane di Contanzo, VP, Editorial Director of Foundry 360 said, “Do you understand what you’re trying to do with content?” prompting teams to do some self-reflection. If you don’t understand the end goal or what you’re trying to achieve, how will you ever know if you’ve made an impact?
Organizational dynamics make a difference
In the same vein, is everyone on your team aligned on the goal? Is everyone on the multiple teams it takes to create content clear on expectations? For Cricket Wireless, while everyone was aligned on the message for their campaigns, multiple teams were proposing varied strategies and content that would drive different outcomes. What Baehman decided was to make sure ROI was defined before diving into content, and chose to run with campaigns that measured the impact on the brand.
We later heard from Paula Ersly, Senior Social Media Manager at Glow, who added some helpful questions to consider before launching a cross-team campaign, “Does this add value? Does this add to the story we’re trying to tell?”
By answering these simple questions, you’re able to create a structure for your team to operate in and further communicate these goals to the agencies and partners you work with.
Influencer marketing can work, but consider new strategies
A hot topic throughout the day, opinions were split among panelists as to whether influencer marketing is officially “out.” Some mourned the days when only a few key influencers were able to really make a measurable difference for brands, while others championed that partnering with someone who is acutely aligned with their mission has worked well for them.
Jeannin Irons, Director of Brand Marketing & Audience Insights at IFC and Paula Earsly spoke about their strategy for working with influencers and targeting a niche audience. What is key for them is clearly identifying who they are looking for. IFC’s tagline is “Always on, Slightly off” and they choose their influencers and who they partner with based on this clear insight into their audience. They know who they’re trying to reach, what types of shows they watch, and partner with influencers in unique ways.
They spotlighted a campaign where they asked illustrators on Instagram to draw scenes from the show Baroness Von Sketch. These influencers had smaller followings apart from one more well known illustrator, but the images were completely in line with what they would normally post. IFC was able to spread awareness of the show, while the illustrators were paid to create their art.
When asked how they find these smaller, much more targeted influencer accounts, Irons mentioned that they genuinely already followed many of these artists and just dm’d them. Being dialed in to the people that would resonate with your audience takes a lot of the legwork out of finding these small, more niche influencers that would make a difference for your brand.
Key Influencer Takeaways
- DO be dialed into the communities your consumers are interested in
- Follow people that would resonate with your brand no matter the follower count, i.e. would you rather be someone’s third post of the week to 100k people who don’t engage, or an incredibly engaged post for the month to a very interested, genuine group of 5k?
- DO allow them to create content for you
- These campaigns were particularly successful for Glow and IFC because they let the content creators do what they do best and received higher engagement for it, plus residual engagement asking for posters or swag with the influencer’s art
- DON’T get caught up in follower count
- Does their engagement reflect how many followers they have? Consider how engaged their audience actually is and understand what impact it may have on your brand’s exposure
Creativity isn’t about budgets
The final insight from the Content Marketing Forum was that budget doesn’t have to determine how well something performs on social. Alisa Gammon, Director of Performance Marketing and Miaken Christensen, In-House Producer at Purple showcased how a scrappy video could do really well for a brand.
They showed two campaigns, one video was highly produced, expensive, and planned. The other happened because two days before May the 4th, their CEO asked if they had any video content planned. While the highly produced bit has been viewed more times, the reaction they got on their May the 4th video was more positive.
They reiterated that they were scrappy and resourceful, used their own designer to star in the commercial and were able to pull together something really great.
Further, Purple has carved out a niche in the “bed-in-a-box” space by really leaning into humor and building out their identity that way. When sizing up your competitors (in their case, 226 different options for “bed-in-a-box”) consider what unique perspective you can bring with your storytelling and don’t be overwhelmed by budget. Authenticity is what matters.
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