To fully wield the possibilities of content marketing, it’s important to get the fundamental basics right. Way too often, content strategy, paid amplification and social (earned) interaction are not, or badly linked from the very beginning.
To maximize return on investment, it is crucial to start with clear definitions in this online, interactive environment. Definitions that might be different from the common use or understanding.
Owned: is your complete online powerhouse, ranging from your website and your blog to your social channels: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, Meerkat etc. Creating successful content begins with a basic insight: what does the consumer want from your brand. Most often brands know what they want from the consumer, and build their content strategy on that. A deadly and quick recipe for failure.
It is smarter to concentrate on the expressed needs and expectations of the consumer. Once you have identified these needs and expectations, you can create story-lines that bridge the gap between your brand-essence offering, and the expectations and interests of your target audience.
Reaching out with pieces of content that answer the well-defined needs and interests of your consumer is an ideal starting point for a long term mutual understanding, and a foundation for future interaction and conversation.
Most of the best practices presented at #SxSW show how a strategic view on the owned ecosystem consists of the owned website and/or blog in the center of the content-solar-ecosystem. The owned social presence gyrates around this, and sparks the ecosystem with clever inbound links, SEO references and visual snacks that guide the consumer to the center of the system.
Paid are the purchased media actions you take to get people to your content, or content to the people. Content that is not noticed and not found is like the sound of a falling tree in a desert forest: one might argue it did not happen. Paid enables the communications architects to drive tailored traffic to every single bit of the content ecosystem, or to launch any piece of content in an orbit towards any place an identified target might be. The rocket-fuel is advertising money, pure and simple.
The cleverest paid strategies are carefully plotted to get the targeted consumer (identified and relevant) as deep in the owned ecosystem as possible. They have also one other thing in common: reach is less important than relevance and accuracy.
Strategic masterminds reduce the avalanche of mostly useless big data that results from everything is measurable in true actionable intelligence that fine-tunes the tactical plan, and re-adjusts the efforts permanently. The ability to shift from carpet-bombing to sniping is often the result of a critical factor: true intelligence.
Earned is how your content gets spread, distributed and published on places you do not own, and that you did not pay for directly. People coming to your content-ecosystem, and sharing your content on theirs. Influencers mentioning your content in their ecosystem. Your content being discussed in comments, on news-sites and influential blogs. Your products being used and mentioned by your consumers on their owned and social channels.
To realize this, the credibility and the authority (aka influence) of the brand must first be established. Secondly, the content must be appealing, relevant, interesting, catchy… and easily shareable. Content-ecosystems with content that is not one-click-shareable, deal with locked-in content syndrome and will never foster, or live up to their expectations.
The best-in-class examples of earned all show a clever way of linking the attention back to the core of the own owned ecosystem… a true gravitational pull to the center.
Through the earned part of content marketing, a big portion of the true engagement can be realized. Conversations, remarks, comments, references, word of mouth and back-links provide an in-stream of attention that has a unique quality: it is earned.
The fact that Facebook, Twitter and others increasingly claim their business model has nothing to do with earned (and organic, and viral) does not mean this earned section does not provide value, or is not important.
United it conquers, divided it fails
The value of return on investment of a good content marketing system, can only be established by measuring the performance of the Owned/Paid/Earned system as a whole. The three components need to be carefully aligned to work, much as a DJ masters multiple tracks to create the one sound that makes the crowd go bananas.