This is branded content.
Digital marketing professionals love reiterating the importance of creating engaging content as if it's some magic elixir. For fairness sake, it's hard to blame them for portraying it as such. The world has never had so much content that's more accessible than in the past, and the current generation is using it - if not taking it for granted - for what it's worth.
While content's influence on a brand's marketing is undeniable, a more pressing matter lies with the word 'engaging.' To put it simply, what makes content engaging? Ask a dozen professionals, and you may get a spectrum of answers, from being relevant to the user to inspiring them to act.
The weird thing about this is that they're all correct. Engaging content is relevant to the reader's interests and created in a way that motivates them to take action, among other factors. However, relative to a business, the definition is narrower because every business is unique in its needs.
In that case, how can a business create engaging content? Fortunately, the following steps apply regardless of the short- or long-term goals set for itself.
Goalsetting should be the first step in developing a digital marketing strategy. In fact, industry experts like Pursuit Digital and others would say it's the first step in anything a business does. Not only do goals give you a bearing to head towards, but they also set the success conditions, typically in the form of key performance indicators (KPIs).
While dozens of KPIs exist, some of these take precedence over others, depending on the goals set. Most marketing goals fall under one of four umbrella groups:
For example, you want more people to be aware that your brand exists, hence the need to boost brand awareness. The ideal KPIs for this goal include the following:
Getting KPIs wrong can be dangerous, as countless stories on the subject have shown. Even the largest brands in their respective niches fall for this trap, ending up dead smack in a controversy that degrades their image and, more importantly, consumer trust. This misstep also applies to content creation, as ill-suited KPIs might produce ill-suited content.
With the internet, useful information is a few clicks or taps away. Search engines are at the helm, connecting users to the most relevant results to their queries. Nowadays, not one day passes for most users without firing up Google out of a need or want to seek answers.
That said, content creation isn't just about picking a topic randomly and hoping that users find it valuable. If a topic isn't a big deal to your customers, it shouldn't be a big deal to you. Determine the topics many people seek through keyword research, among other methods.
Analytics tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush already let you do that, showing raw data for potential keywords, though for a premium. But free options exist, including the search engine itself. For example, Google proliferates rich results in a growing number of queries, particularly the ones that show related searches and frequently asked questions.
These results are based on users' search data, so you can be confident in considering these topic ideas. Once you're satisfied with your ideas, develop each into a content outline based on what users expect to find in such content. A topic like '7 Streaming Shows That Went Under the Radar' should include seven shows on streaming sites that haven't gained much attention.
Other great sources for trending topics include Facebook Ad Library, blog comments and shares, YouTube channels, podcasts, and resource speaking events. There's no shortage of ideas on the internet; you just have to look in the right places.
Engaging content isn't just goal-oriented and crafted to the needs of many; it's also timely. Releasing a blog or video post about your Christmas deal when Christmas is more than half a year away doesn't seem sensible. Furthermore, even if you released Christmas-themed content close to the date, if something big overshadows the holidays, you'd want to plan around it.
Achieving timeliness with every content release can be easier by using an editorial calendar. In fact, the more types of content you release, the more reason to maintain one. This document (not necessarily in the form of a calendar) helps keep track of content, including the topic, writer and editor, release date and time, and call-to-action link.
Some marketing tools provide a free editorial calendar template for download or integrate one into their software. However, you can create your own with spreadsheet software like Excel or Google Sheets, which is ideal for businesses looking for more customisation.
Good content planning has a few months' worth of content planned ahead of time. This way, the responsible team can get their priorities straight and avoid running ragged during production. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, it takes one huge and unexpected happening to derail months of planning and hard work.
Think about it: people could no longer leave their homes due to the lockdown, and your content about an end-of-month sale wasn't relevant anymore. Businesses needed to revamp their entire content strategy around the then-new reality.
Pivoting from one strategy to the next is never easy, but it can make a big difference. Apart from a disruptive event like the pandemic, pivoting is also necessary if existing content hasn't attracted as much buzz over the past few months as intended. This entails pausing all content activity for a comprehensive content audit.
Whatever the reason for pivoting, the revamp should remain focused on fulfilling the audience's needs. Chances are that your customer base is just as affected by the disruption as your business. Conduct keyword research to look for opportunities for fresh content to rank and organise them into a revised editorial calendar.
Writers and other content creators understand the need for originality in their works, and this rule extends to marketers. However, in the general context, there's no such thing as an 'original idea' because a new idea is shaped out of other ideas. This article, for instance, is an amalgamation of numerous sources on the topic.
Yet, this doesn't imply that creating original content is pointless. Readers still want to understand topics from different angles and perspectives; that's why they get second or third opinions before buying something. To quote user experience designer and fiction writer Tarek Gara: 'Creativity is in uniqueness, not originality.'
It's normal for businesses to create content about topics to which there's an abundance of related content to go around. But to do this tip justice, consider putting your own spin, whether original research or personal experience on the topic. Add a bit of personality to the content to click with readers. After all, they prefer a business that talks like a human being.
The written word isn't the only viable form of content. The latest edition of The State of Content Marketing report by HubSpot reveals that more marketers are boosting their investment in video media, specifically short-form and influencer videos. Written content remains a major medium in digital marketing, but not as much as videos.
The trend makes sense when you consider that human brains are hardwired to obtain and process information from visuals more than text. Ever wonder why some people don't like reading walls of text in books or papers, or why others remember infographic details better than in articles? If content delivers more information with fewer words, it's nothing short of engaging.
Don't worry about losing out on SEO, as non-text content can benefit from it just as much. The processes are more or less the same, from keyword research to content quality. If anything, video and image SEO should be easier because there's no need to think about where to place keywords across blocks of text. Even better, these media can earn backlinks like articles do.
To understand what makes content engaging, it pays to get an idea of what 'engaging' means to your target audience. Will it educate them on the myths of taking ibuprofen? Will it inspire them to consider other gadgets aside from the one they just added to their cart? Will it entertain them to the point of sharing with their social circles?
Not all of these questions will apply to your business's needs, but they're questions that demand answers fast. As soon as you have your educated definition of 'engaging,' you can start drafting a plan based on the information. While studying the competition is a good idea, every business is unique in its marketing needs.
Take these tips to heart when drawing up your content strategy. Above all else, remember that content is king - and will stay that way moving forward.