Content marketing should be an integral part of any brand’s social media strategy. Without a steady stream of shareable videos, blog posts, infographics and images, then your social channels will fail to capture the imagination of your audience and will soon grow stale. You’d be faced with the digital equivalent of talking to yourself.
But what makes a good content marketing campaign? Jonathan Krantz, a judge for the Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing Awards, has highlighted five factors that he believes are key to content marketing success.
1. Serve the user, not the brand
Content steered by sales and PR might give a product or service maximum exposure, but users will be less tempted to share content that is clearly delivering a commercial message. Address the needs of your audience, their concerns or desires. Empathise with them and present solutions without being condescending.
2. Take an original idea and run with it
Content is so ubiquitous these days there is barely a topic that hasn’t been covered by someone somewhere. But where the best campaigns stand out is their willingness to laser in on a topic, digging deep to get to the core of a subject rather than trying to cover too much ground. Says Krantz: “Here’s a fictitious example of different approaches: A Homeowner’s Guide to Lawn Care vs. 3 Things Massachusetts Gardeners Must Do Before Winter. The former is too broad to stand out; the latter promises something precise enough to attract urgent interest.”
3. Don’t be afraid to go off piste
The best content takes risks. As Krantz says, “If an idea doesn’t make you at least a little nervous, it’s probably not worth pursuing.” He goes on to cite a video by technology firm Cisco that pitches its new high-powered router as the Valentine’s Day present all women would love…
4. It’s all about production
Rehashing tired cliches and using stock footage will leave your content facing an uphill battle. Use talented photographers to capture original footage and brief writers to navigate uncharted territory to surprise and delight your audience. As Krantz says, “If you want to create champion work, you need to work with champion talent.”
5. Money can’t buy success
You might think that the best videos come from the biggest budgets, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Production values clearly have the capacity to impress, but original ideas and a clear vision can be more important than $$$. “The best content made me laugh out loud, want to try out a new idea, or nod my head in empathetic understanding.,” says Krantz.
6 great content marketing campaigns
Describing itself as ‘America’s healthiest grocery store’, Whole Foods positions itself as a lifestyle choice as much as a grocery store. Food and recipe videos are big news on Facebook, and Whole Foods has tapped into this trend by regularly publishing recipe videos on the platform, as well as linking to recipes on its website.
Healthy, responsible eating pervades every corner of its social media presence, while tips on how to save money but still eat healthily address a key issue of successful content marketing: tackle a common problem and provide a solution. This approach has earned Whole Foods a large following that taps into an increasingly popular lifestyle choice.
In an era when price is more of a priority than brand loyalty, airlines face a significant challenge. Where British Airways succeeds (similarly to Whole Foods) is in selling a lifestyle, in this case an idealistic image of travel.
The airline’s website is slanted heavily towards booking tickets, but its social media channels position the brand as an authority on global travel. Combining celebrity British contributors such as Bear Grylls, Hugh Laurie, Benedict Cumberbatch and James Cordon with UGC campaigns such as #FlyBA2016 and 360 photography, BA celebrates travel rather than the brand.
In 2016, BA’s reach increased by an average of 10 per cent – an increase of almost 1.5 million people.
Another brand that addresses a need in its content marketing, Halfords has positioned itself as the go-to channel for tips and advice on a range of outdoors issues.
The British company specialises in cycling, motoring and camping, and its social media channels are full of content providing solutions to common issues relating to its core products. Animated videos on child’s car seat safety, infographics offering advice to new drivers and suggestions for keeping kids entertained on long journeys are all part of its content arsenal.
The brand embarked on a change in strategy in late 2014 by surveying thousands of customers on how they perceived Halfords in relation to other high street brands. Marketing director Karen Bellairs said the new approach was a concerted effort to develop a relationship with customers.
“Customers all know Halfords, it has been on the high street for 100 years,” she said. “But they didn’t know exactly what we offered. We want to help them understand why Halfords plays a role in their lives, we want a relationship with them. What this means is we can talk to customers with relevant information and targeted communication rather than a blanket one size fits all approach.”
John Deere is widely credited with being the first company to engage in content marketing – many years before the term was even coined. The agriculture specialist published a magazine called The Furrow way back in 1886, with a view to educating farmers on how they could use the latest tech to improve production. The magazine is still in production today, proving its effectiveness as a content marketing tool.
Other brands have mimicked the approach, with technology firm Lenovo being a recent success story. The Chinese company was looking to build stronger connections with its B2B audience, and to that end developed a range of websites called Think Progress that would host content aimed at driving lead generation.
The websites (10 across 16 markets) address a number of customer pain points, providing advice and solutions to common problems. A number of industry experts were drafted in to lend an air of authority to the content.
The strategy paid off richly. The sites generated 450,000 page views and 300,000 users, with an average B2B lead value increasing by 63 per cent helping Lenovo to exceed its sales target.
Online gambling may not be commonplace in the US, but in the UK it is a huge market worth more than £10bn annually. With such riches available the competition is intense, with some of the leading brands spending hundreds of millions annually on marketing – usually featuring men drinking in pubs.
Unibet opted to take a more sophisticated approach for the European football Championships in 2016, producing a video campaign called #LuckIsNoCoincidence that drew on expert knowledge from within the worlds of betting and football. Customers were asked to consider a range of factors before placing a bet, such as the weather, red cards and home advantage.
This novel approach – aimed at actually helping their customers to win – was a significant success for the brand. The videos were viewed more than 18 million times for a total viewing time of over 48 million minutes. Most importantly, the number of accounts opened during this period more than doubled.
Volvo Trucks vs 750 Tonnes
How do you inspire an audience to engage with the launch of a less-than-exciting product? That was the challenge facing Volvo and their content agency Spoon when the Swedish motor firm released a new automated transmission truck gearbox.
Focusing on the gearbox itself was not really an option, so Spoon devised a film that would focus on an attempt by a Volvo truck to pull a 750-tonne container road train. The event took place in Gothenburg harbour and was hosted by Swedish Strongman Champion Of The World Magnus Samuelsson and renowned truck journalist Brian Weatherley.
The film generated 1.4m views on YouTube and 3.5m on Facebook in the first week of release, gaining 52m new followers on Volvo Trucks’ Facebook page and 11,500 new followers on their Instagram account. The campaign won a Gold award at the Content Marketing Awards, with the judges saying: “This took a potentially dry subject and made it into a superbly rich and engaging event. A fantastic response on social media too.”