Different Works: Why Creating Custom Content is Critical

By Patrice Meadows — Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 at 11:00am

Content marketing is a relatively new phenomenon. Although the phrase is everywhere, it is actually less than a decade old and refers to using video, blogging, and social media to entertain, inform, and increase brand awareness. Content marketing as a concept, however, goes back hundreds of years. Using entertainment or information to generate excitement about products is not new—even if doing so hasn’t always been called content marketing.

New or not, content marketing’s popularity has made reaching audiences more difficult. Content production online has increased every year since 2014, making for stiff competition for shrinking attention spans.  This is such a major issue that prominent marketing strategist, Mark Schaefer, dubbed it “content shock”. Content shock explains how an oversupply of content lowers demand (and engagement) among audiences.

Personalization, anyone?

To increase the chances of your content actually being consumed by your audience, write specifically to and for them. It is that simple. Getting this right means focusing on the interests, motivations, and needs of your audience as individuals.

The craze behind targeted content, content personalization, and dynamic user experiences is real. To win attention (and shares) in today’s digital economy, marketers must create uniquely authentic content that speaks directly to users, not only as loosely-defined personas but also as real people that exist outside of the purchase-cycle.

Three principles for custom content:

Don’t rely solely on search. Many platforms have stopped awarding top rank to sites with the most keywords and started rewarding those that also provide utility. Create content that answers what your audience should do, how they should do it, and why. Similarly, if you’re looking to entertain, use affinity categories to determine the appropriate focus of your piece.

Focus on people, not personas. Naming personas in titles or social posts is a tactic that grabs attention. While this can drive web traffic, it’s unclear whether it keeps readers engaged. I know what you’re thinking, ‘but clicks measure content reach’—and it does, it’s a vanity metric. Counting clicks can estimate audience size, but it does little to demonstrate engagement. Review quantitative (time on page) and qualitative data (user feedback) to determine how users engage material.

Solicit regular communication with stakeholders to gain insight into their desires, interests, and motivations. Use this information to make your content stand out. These conversations should shape your editorial calendar, collateral, and strategy.

For more information on measuring content effectiveness, read this blog post.  

Don’t market for the moment. Trends are everywhere; in your feed as viral video, in emails warning of coming change, and center-stage at conferences making you feel like you’re falling behind. Chances are, you’re not. If your marketing is falling flat, it is probably due to a lack of strategy rather than the failure to leverage the latest trends. In fact, a well-researched strategy can help you avoid marketing for the moment. That doesn’t mean using a trend or two is wrong, it just means that you should think before you do it.

A couple things to consider:

  1. Where did this trend come from? Sometimes seemingly innocent content has unsavory beginnings or associations. Evaluate whether a potential spike in traffic is worth linking your brand to a potentially toxic trend.
  2. Is this the right fit for my audience? Content is all about the audience. If the trend won’t work for them, it shouldn’t be an option for you. Plenty time, energy, and budget is wasted pushing programs that shouldn’t have launched because they’re a poor fit. Here are a few recent examples.

How do you ensure that your content resonates with your audience? Share your strategies for success below or tweet us @hannon_hill.

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