The majority of marketers have made content marketing a pillar of their marketing strategies, and for good reason. Brands can point to strong ROI after building their content strategies and many have been able to keep growing audiences engaged.
If you couldn’t sense it, there’s a “but” coming.
When everyone starts doing something, the game changes. Consumers are inundated with content everywhere they turn, and a lot of it contains cheap attempts to win page views or likes. In other words: it’s boring, it’s self-serving, it’s not thoughtful and it’s not helpful.
On the flip side, there are the brands that are getting content marketing right: they understand it’s a long-term game; they write for their audiences, not themselves; and they dedicate adequate resources. And—they’re still seeing the results.
Here are some of the masters we can learn from:
GE has emerged as a storytelling brand. The company is driven by all the possibilities afforded by its technology and the stories it has started to craft align perfectly with its “imagination at work” slogan. GE takes complicated, technical ideas and manages to tell cool stories (often through video, another win) that resonate with the nerdiest geek to the average viewer.
Its content ranges in form, publication channel and target audiences. Take its “Breakthrough” series with National Geographic and Hollywood stars, which shares scientific breakthroughs from GE’s labs and compare it to the “Fallonventions” series with youngest viewers of “The Tonight Show.” Meanwhile, GE’s “Unimpossible Missions” series is a great demonstration of creativity, debunking idioms like “a snowball’s chance in hell” and “like talking to a wall” using GE technology. Ad Age reports the videos are published to YouTube, Vimeo, GE's owned and social channels, and in paid channels. GE also launched a live mission on Periscope.
Speaking at Inbound 2016, Ed Heil, president of video production agency StoryTeller, said videos – or any content – must be informative, helpful, entertaining or engaging to keep viewers’ attention. GE couldn’t do this better.
Created four years ago, iQ by Intel has quickly grown into a popular tech magazine. Luke Kintigh, global content and media strategist at Intel, says that success is owed to Intel’s focus on content distribution. He says, “It doesn’t matter how good your content is if you don’t have a strategy that’s distributing it to the right audience.” After the team refocused away from churning out more and more content to getting fewer quality pieces in front of their audience, it saw visitor growth.
Kintigh stresses in many interviews he gives how important it is to build loyalty and give people a reason to come back. The only way to do that is carving out your own niche and telling unique stories. iQ by Intel nails this. The content is varied and interesting. On a recent visit, I was drawn into stories about bike tech gifts, pet prosthetics (just watch those videos!) and IoT for winemakers. Intel’s writers not only describe the tech – it is a tech company after all – but, like GE, they know how to craft a larger story that draws readers in.
The first thing I have to commend the Drift team on is that it runs a considerate marketing practice. By that, I mean the team respects its audience. It killed its content forms, any ask for an email sign-up is a polite one, and the team consistently puts out valuable, usable content and resources.
Drift uses a casual, relatable tone in everything it writes. The focus remains on building an audience and forming a relationship with that audience – the team writes as they would speak to a friend or colleague. Through all of this, Drift has established itself as a resource for marketers and other SaaS executives (for example, check out this post for bonus content marketing lessons).
4. First Round Review
I know when I get an email from First Round Review, I’m going to want to read the article it features. Every piece interviews a compelling person and the magazine features founders, executives and generally smart people from all facets of business. I know I’ll get an insightful piece that will inspire me or make me better at my job. When you hear someone say long-form content is what makes great content marketing, First Round is an exemplar of that success. Camille Ricketts manages the Review and her journalist background shines through.
She stresses the importance of knowing their audience as a key factor to success: “For us, that’s seed-stage entrepreneurs. So regardless of what we’re writing about or who we’re interviewing, we always ask ourselves whether the story would be enlightening for that group of people. Once you’ve nailed down your core reader, you’re much more likely to appeal to and reach adjacent audiences.”
There are a few common themes between these brands:
They understand content marketing is not about them. No one cares about your brand until you give a valid reason to do so. You must understand your audience and create content specifically for them.
Take a journalistic approach and learn the art storytelling. This is what will make your content interesting.
Find ways to draw people in and keep them coming back. Clickbait headlines annoy people for a reason. You may get some extra clicks, but you’re not building a relationship with your audience. Is the traffic really going to improve your business?
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