Gilad de Vries, Senior Vice President of Strategy for Outbrain, was our keynote speaker at Triangle AMA’s August luncheon at Brier Creek Country Club in Raleigh, North Carolina. Outbrain is a New York-based technology company that specializes in online content recommendations.
Gilad gave us a primer on content marketing, which he defined as the creation and delivery of original content that provides an audience with informational or educational value. According to Gilad, content marketing is the fastest growing portion of marketing budgets today, with 75% of marketers allocating 25% of their budgets to content development.
Content marketing represents a shift for many marketers because it does not focus on product features, editorials, or advertising. Content marketing, above all, is about trust. It all boils down to trust. A 2009 Nielsen survey shows that our most trusted source of advertising is word-of- mouth, followed by online consumer reviews and brand pages.
Create Rich, Easily Shareable Content
If Colgate publishes content, we tend to view it as accurate. The brand’s high profile assures its audience that there are enough people looking at it to call out any misleading information. Other brands create trust by different means. Kraft, for example, allows its community to post 20,000 of the 30,000 recipes on its site, granting publishing opportunities and promoting home-cooked meals overall, instead of meals made only with Kraft products.
Content’s importance is elevated when we consider “banner blindness.” Some time after hearing dozens of claims that we can make $10,000 a week working from home and seeing flashing banner ads asking us to claim the grand prize, we stop paying attention. Try as they might, companies will be hard pressed to build brand affinity similar to that of Nike or Apple through banner ads.
Furthermore, Google’s new algorithms, Panda and Penguin, are forcing us to revisit our search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. Panda and Penguin reward pages that contain quality and highly shareable content. Instead of SEO targeted at machines, the new algorithms focus on what appeals to humans. Great content that is shared often via reputable channels is rewarded with high SEO rankings.
Many marketers spend time building social media movements, but now that the audience is here, it’s time to communicate. Let’s do so with rich, easily shareable content.
Provide Value First
Gilad said that agencies would do well to recruit and support editorially- and content-minded individuals. That’s not to say that we should skimp on design. If no one wants to read a blog post because it has a funky layout, then the layout does not bode well for content strategy. We should be kind to our readers. Our content pages should read like a magazine, with a bold title and subtitles if necessary, as well as a visually-compelling 5-paragraph style. Gilad added that our images should have a 16:9 aspect ratio. Because of the ratio’s association with high-definition screens, the viewer sees images as high quality and the content as high quality by extension.
Gilad also said that agencies that use only direct marketing will fail. Direct response vehicles, specifically search, cannot develop the emotional connection that produces brand loyalty. Branding can be done online, but through content. For small businesses especially, content is a must have, as it allows for greater discoverability. Our task then is to create an archive of content and try not to outthink the audience. Instead of building a funnel and telling people what to do, we should simply provide value first and extract revenue later.
As marketers, we should not restrict ourselves to one type of content, but create different types for different audiences. Audiences will self-identify with the content, whether it’s text, images, or video. We just have to make sure we give them a strong call to action, as well as many options to share their content.
This blog represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer and/or any references quoted, not those of the Triangle Chapter of the American Marketing Association.