What should be the guiding pillars for brands when it comes to content strategy? That is a loaded question. No doubt that we are living in a fast-moving “tech-savvy” era where people have unprecedented access to information in a rapidly changing landscape. As a result, people have become more demanding and perhaps less patient with people (aka brands) to whom they give their hard-earned dollars. A brand can be destroyed with a single tweet about factory abuses in a remote country or a Facebook post depicting a deficiency with a product. It is equally easy for brands to self-destruct in the same media by tweeting or retweeting something their customers object to, or because they put something on their Facebook page that offends.
While the digital world contains many traps and unforeseeable quagmires, brands have no choice but to aggressively incorporate social media into their content strategy – and this includes all media from Tik Tok and Youtube Videos, to podcasts, to Facebook and Wechat, Instagram, Twitter, linkedin, Snapchat and more. These days, a digital media strategist has to think like a scorpion and sink his or her claws into multiple targets at the same time or risk irrelevance.
There are so many different types of content that brand marketers could employ. What will be the building blocks of their “content strategy”? Social media is one obvious place to start but it is only the beginning point. Brands need to brainstorm both from a short and long term perspective when building their content strategy because customers change over time and so brands will have to able to adapt.
Some key considerations and questions:
DO WE HAVE A PROTOTYPE OF OUR IDEAL CUSTOMER?
The key to creating the right content strategy for the right product for the right customer at the right time is to first know who the target is, to have a prototype. Who is their “ideal client”? What does the prototype of this person look like, sound like and think like? What are the things they value and how does this line up with what we offer as a brand? What are their needs and wants? What or who is their moral compass and in what direction is it pointing? What do they look for when they shop? Social advancement? Prestige? Comfort? Utility? “Self-differentiation”? These are some of the preliminary things that need to be sorted out before an effective content strategy can be drafted and implemented.
DO WE REMEMBER THAT FUNDAMENTALLY THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT?
Effective content strategy always has the end user in mind because it is the end user who will use the product and it is they who will do the final evaluation of the brand and the product. More than ever, brands need to keep their customers happy because happy customers leave good reviews and good reviews are increasingly becoming the tipping point for whether a purchasing decision is made or not. It has never been easier for customers to give their feedback and reviews of brands and products. These can literally make or break a brand.
An added layer of complication is that customers today care about more than just the product. They also care about how the product was made, by whom, where and what impact all of that has had on the environment. If a product is packaged in the most beautiful packaging but one customer who is an animal rights activist discovers that animal cruelty was involved somewhere in the supply chain to make this product, a Facebook post could snowball and force the brand to stop production and do a mea culpa, for example. Depending on the situation it could even put the brand out of business.
So, brands are in the not so enviable position of having to use the right medium to deliver digital content that will answer all their customers’ question, assuage all their concerns, inspire them and just as important, not offend them. For all their troubles, they are hoping that consumers will patronize their businesses and buy their products and services – the obvious end goal–and stay loyal to the brand.
None of this is easy to do or manage. But nobody said it would be easy.
WHAT INFORMATION DO WE SHARE WITH OUR CUSTOMERS?
As a digital media consultant, my job is to help my boss to figure out the best way to communicate with customers in the digital space. What kinds of information do we disclose and when and how and why? How do we respond to negative information such as reviews, for example, floating around the digital ecosystem? How do we police information that we did not create but which by association could have a detrimental impact on our brand? What platforms are best to reach our targets? Who even are our targets and what are their stories? What is it that we should say to them? What do they want to hear? What don’t they want to hear? These questions can be a tough thing to figure out for brands. Really, really tough.
Customers would obviously always be interested in learning more about our products, our processes and our story as a brand. They want to know how our brand, as compared to others, improve their lives and give them the lifestyle they desire. In the end, really, they want to know how our story and theirs intertwine.
In order to build brand loyalty, consumers have to feel like they know the brand and in order to know the brand, they need as much information as possible about the brand’s story and the place they are most likely to search for that information is online in the digital space; and so brands have to make sure that the right information is in that space. Sometimes, brands cannot control what is in that space because the digital ecosystem is so vast but they have to do their best to control the narrative.
WHICH MEDIA DO WE USE?
There are many different methods and media at the disposal of content strategists including social media but certainly not limited to it. Many brands successfully leverage newsletters, for example. Others use celebrity endorsers, brand ambassadors and influencers to get their message across. Then there is the blog. Having a blog that is considered an authority in its respective domain can be a powerful way that a brand holds its own in a competitive industry and differentiate itself from competitors. In addition to blogs, brands can pay for, or solicit content, start a Youtube or TikTok campaign, or even start a podcast. A brand can choose to do all the above or only some of the above depending on its audience and its specific niche. The key is to keep it fresh and interesting and relevant. Don’t bore your targets. Understand most people have a short attention span and a 2-second gif could be too long. KISS it – keep it short and simple as much as you can.
Choosing the right media to deliver the brand’s message is necessarily going to be a trial and error process. A lot of study and research and investment must go into analyzing the target and once that happens a brand can begin to tailor its content. Luckily, with artificial intelligence now a reality, there is a lot of help for content marketers to sustain an effective content strategy. Artificial intelligence can help “optimize content.” Consider, for example, this statement from Marketing AI Institute:
“AI can help optimize content before and after it’s published, reducing the manual work required to get the most out of content investments. AI systems can handle key optimization tasks like:
- Content research
- Topic suggestion
- Brand compliance across assets
- Search engine optimization
- Content alignment with user intent”
Brands need to incorporate AI in their content strategy, for sure.
As noted, consumers are demanding transparency, authenticity and accountability from the people they patronize. They are demanding to be entertained, taught, nurtured and finessed. They want the best and most for their money. And they want to know that when all is said and done, the people they buy from are do-gooders who care about the environment and sustainability and stuff like that.
There is no such thing as too much transparency these days. It is all but impossible to give too much information because the customers will find out anyway by searching online. So, brands must be both proactive and reactive. They must get ahead of negative media with the right information in the right media and they also must respond when necessary also in the right media and with the right information. Customers musts know they can trust a brand – even if one is talking about an apology from the brand. They need to know the apology is sincere.
Transparency itself is like currency because the more transparent a brand is, the more likely it is to attract consumers who agree with its philosophy and who like its story, and this translates into revenues for this brand. The less transparent a brand is, the less trustworthy it would be for many consumers and the less inclined consumers may be to become loyal to said brand. Consumers, logically, are more likely to become loyal to brands that they love and respect.
More than ever, brands have access to a lot of data from its customers (in some cases perhaps too much access) and thus can use this information to tailor its content strategy. Data is indispensable to help brands understand “underserved niche” groups for example. And the good thing is that there is a staggering amount of available data for content strategists to glean information from. But this could also be the bad news because how does one even begin to narrow it down? According to Marketinginstitute.com:
“Let’s think about the amount of data that is created on social media channels alone. According to an infographic from Domo, every minute 100,000 tweets are sent, 347 new blogs are posted on WordPress, 48 hours of video are loaded to YouTube, and more than 680,000 pieces of content are shared on Facebook. In addition, data from your website analytics, CRM, and marketing automation tools also add up to Big Data. In fact, according to IBM, we are creating an astounding 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day.”
This is a lot of fucking data. The key to using this effectively is going to be understanding analytics and interpretation. For example, things like conversion, backlinks, time on site, comments, engagement, click through rates are very telling according to various reports including the above-mentioned article on marketinginstitute.com.
IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS
Digital marketing professionals therefore have their work cut out for them because their job is to figure out not only the prototype of their ideal customer, but what kind of information to disclose to this prototype as well as how the information be dispersed and through which channels they are most likely to get the brand’s message across. And on top of that, they have to be versed at keeping it all fresh and interesting.