What makes a good piece of content? Is it creative resource, celebrity endorsements, big budgets? Humour, kittens or a catchy soundtrack? Great content might have a combination of any of these elements, but in a space where the success of a piece of creative might be over in a thumb-scroll, the true test of a piece of content is ultimately its staying power.
How Long Is A Lifespan?
“Good content doesn’t get tired. It’s either interesting or it’s not,” says Michael Scantlebury, Founder and Creative Director at Impero. The real judges of a brand’s content are the consumers engaging, and hopefully buying the product. Characteristics such as entertainment factor and relevance are the real drivers that will see your content shared and talked about for months at a time. “The main thing to keep in mind is whether you are consumer-centric or not. If you are making content that is designed to be entertainment over advertising, or if it’s designed to be more for a customer than for a brand, it should never really get tired.” Good content continues to serve the customer with something that they want for an extended period of time, and this is what drives campaigns to long-term success or failure. “It doesn’t just mean that by being consumer-centric you are going to get the execution right,” says Scantlebury. “You need a great concept as well. But it’s really hard to get great execution and results from something people aren’t engaged with in the first place.”
Playing The Right Notes
But how can marketers be sure that their content will hit that sweet spot between relevance and value? Is there a formula that brands should be working to in order to give their creative the best possible chance to win over their discerning audience? “Great drama is built on great emotion,” says Scantlebury. “Brand managers and brand marketers should be the best people for knowing which emotion suits their brands. Maybe humour would work for you, or you might have a narrative that people are interested in?” While emotion is a much-used tool to direct engagement, savvy marketers are quickly awakening to the fact that when it comes to driving engagement, there’s no better tactic than reaching out to the consumer’s own ego. “The ego is a powerful thing,” says Scantlebury. He notes that this formula is one that Buzzfeed have made exemplary use of. “They have millions of people clicking links to quizzes that tell them how creative they are, or how skilled they are at something. Those types of questions, where you get the consumer to think and talk about themselves, are a powerful tool for your brand.”
The crux of this concept then, is that brands should be working out what role they have within the lives of their users. From this, marketers can figure out how to communicate in a way that is relevant to their audience’s needs and prompt the consumer to think about themselves in line with the product. “The truth is that people love to talk and think about themselves,” says Scantlebury. “So when it comes to social, we should always ask ourselves how we are using the consumer’s ego to get their attention and start to engage them with the content in the first place.”
Finding A Niche
Once a brand has identified the content that best engages its users, how does it go about distributing it? And how much can one piece of content be expected to achieve? “To be honest, you can’t argue with the numbers, and I think the numbers show, especially on high-speed platforms like Twitter, that you might be able to post the same content two or three times a day without saturating your user base,” says Scantlebury. Being transparent about the content being promoted is also key, as this ensures that users feel that the brand is trustworthy. “When you try and repost something as if it’s brand new, that’s when there’s a problem.” Being aware of the relevance and value of their content will allow marketers to make an educated decision about reposting and repurposing; identifying which platforms can benefit, and the amount of repetition needed to get the best effect.
This also applies to the subject matter of a brand’s content. Scantlebury suggests that the most successful content producers have found an area that they can own – and become known for. “If you were to go to Lady Gaga or National Geographic’s Instagram channels, you’d find one key similarity tying them together. They are doing the same thing over and over again.” Successful brands identify an area to inhabit and produce content which satisfies that particular customer need. “You have to find a role for your content in people’s news feeds,” says Scantlebury, “and if your content constantly changes it’s very hard to find a role. I know that if I follow National Geographic I’m going to get a beautiful picture of wildlife every day, and that fits within my newsfeed. So although there is a place for recycling content, there’s a real winning formula in doing one thing online perfectly, rather than trying to be everything to everyone at every touchpoint.”
Who’s in control? Probably Not You…
The fundamental development content marketers have faced in the past few years is the shift from owning the consumer’s attention to earning it. Consumer control over what content they see and the brands they hear from has marked a decisive change in the way marketers are able to communicate with potential audiences. “In the old world marketers owned the media space and we served the adverts we wanted,” says Scantlebury. “Now it’s very much about having a role within the consumer’s news feed, and if you can’t articulate what that role is, then it’s impossible for a consumer to ever want it.” This, he states, is the difference between content and advertising: one of them is a choice. In order for a consumer to actively choose their brand, marketers must be sure that their content is worth their time, and adds sufficient value to their product.
This might mean that the conversation a brand is trying to have with its audience is not the natural fit it is intended to be. This is where the delicate balance between brand and consumer-centricity is so important. “People don’t tend to want a mechanic. They need a mechanic,” explains Scantlebury. Content, therefore, needs to be geared to that purpose. “We have to get back to that model where a brand doesn’t need to be friends with their consumers, where what the consumer needs and wants is to be impressed and inspired.” Content production is a process that requires so much time and creative energy, and Scantlebury reminds us that using that effectively is the answer to making content that your consumers really want to connect with. “Instead of forcing yourself to find a new topic to talk about, go out and find something you can supply that your customer hasn’t realised they want. From there that will give you the process and the mutual inspiration to move to the next one.”