I’m ready to call it. Content has unofficially won the buzzword battle of 2015. It’s in our conferences, our hashtags, our search boxes and strategies. It’s been crowned king, queen and is the answer to the question your client is about to ask. It’s a strategy, a service, a step in the search funnel. It’s, in one word, essential. But how do you do it well? Content that converts needs to be more than a buzzword or an infographic. It needs to think like the user, be where the user is, and speak users’ language.
It needs to be intelligent.
We can't continue to surge forward into the next new buzzword without looking at where we came from as content producers and creative people with different backgrounds. It’s time for digital marketing companies, with their big data brains and cookie pools, to step into the creative space. Not to overtake, but to help the creative minds find a clearer way forward. Often times, these "big data brains" also came from highly creative backgrounds—I can think of several off the top of my head here in iProspect alone. Let’s call off this odd war between art and science so we can work together. Let’s use the data we have to transform the creative strategy, so we can know what will work, for whom, and why.
As someone who bridges the gap between the art of writing a well-phrased paragraph and the data-driven world of SEO and analytics on a daily basis, I know that there are three desires a user has that we can easily convert into steps that inform a data-based strategy:
1Be personal—Understand me, speak to me, care about me and what I want.
2Be adaptive—Adjust to my situation, understand me and be relevant
3Be valuable—Make me care by creating something that’s of value to me
Put the science, the art, and the strategy in the users’ shoes. Build up the fullest possible picture of that user through the use of data you already have. Take your website’s data and assess what pages and topics users are looking at, and how often. Look at what type of user is downloading what, and which pages of your site are most popular with certain users. Match that data to any other sources you have, including in-store or CRM data.
image: Shenda Loughnane
Now think outside your website. We know that searches for “why” are growing 1.5 times as fast as “what,” and searches for “How to” have tripled. This makes data from Google, as well as the questions that are being asked in forums and search tabs around the web, a really powerful source of consumer insight. Take data from those forums to find out what questions users are asking and when. Determine what keywords your customers use to find you. Then translate those questions into keywords and possible topics for your content. In short, learn to speak their language.
Learning the language is one thing, speaking it is another. Anyone who’s learned a language knows that even if you are fluent, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you don’t get the accent right. As a content marketer you’ve got to get the accent of your creative content right, meaning you’ve got to dig deeper if you want to fully assimilate. It's great if you can create content that your users will care about, but you have to know where they live online and what they want to know when they're there. You have to adapt by speaking to them with their voice, where they live.
IMAGE: Facebook Audience INsights
This comes down to data. Beyond the tracking, metrics and trends we find in Google Analytics, Facebook also has an incredible database that allows us access to a different sort of data set that is based on audience likes and interests. And what’s the cherry on top of this social media sundae? Facebook has recently made access to their audience insights tool available to everyone, whether you have a Facebook account of not. This is one powerful way to find your audience, know your audience, and speak like your audience.
You’ve got to endear your audience to you by negotiating the delicate balance of adding value to their lives while getting your brand’s name out there. Nothing makes a user bounce faster than seeing overly-branded content that doesn’t inform or entertain them. They want an answer, insight, expertise—not necessarily to know who brought them that.
Centre your brand around content that users need and want. You’ll know this from your previous research. On a general level, we know that users respond best to content that inspires awe, laughter, amusement and nostalgia. These emotions translate differently in different industries, so you’ll need to know who your audience is and what medium is best to deliver it to them.
To convert, intelligent content needs to learn.
At this point in the process, we’ve got intelligent content that is personal, adaptive, and valuable. Now we need to apply that same kind of intelligence to the amplification of our content through tracking and measurement. We need to know what works well, what works hard for our investment and what can work better. These results will feed back to inform our next strategy or campaign, forming an infinite loop of adjustment and improvement that moves at the speed of our users.
This is an example of work from iProspect in Germany that was created with this approach for Mastercard
79% of global marketers see measuring content performance as their main marketing imperative in 2015. This means content creators who can measure and show how their work is performing will be ahead of the game. Measuring the impact of our efforts isn’t enough; we have to show how the first touch translated to a sale, or how our content contributes to our client’s bottom line. Data can do this, and it’s what will keep content relevant to our clients and their consumers.
A version of this article was recently published in the June 2015 edition of the Irish Marketing Journal.