– By Unmesh Lamture
When Bill Gates said – ‘content is king’ way back in 1996, the Internet was in its infancy. Nearly 20 years later, the Internet has morphed into a behemoth, and the statement is more relevant than ever.
However, it is obvious that brands will become major producers of content in the context of the digital age. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that consumers want content, and the Internet is an excellent and easy way to access it, when and where they want it.
Why is this important? Brands are moving beyond building fan bases and getting likes and recording page views. Yes, these are still very pertinent, and will be for some time to come. But moving beyond that, a brand must ask itself: how deep does my content engage my audience? Does it create an emotional connect, or is it merely data? How does it affect sentiment and, ultimately, conversions (which, depending on the nature of your business, can mean any number of things)?
Mobile and data speeds have propelled content to the forefront
The customer controls consumption of content
In Television’s heyday, the producers of content had a large say on what was consumed, because it’s not like people had a whole lot of choice except to change the station or turn it off. You were at the mercy of the content selected by TV execs and the timings laid down by TV programmers.
Today, in contrast, technology has given the consumer god-like control over the content they consume (they are spoiled for choice) and how they consume it (multiple devices). The proliferation of smart devices and lightning fast data speeds are major drivers of this phenomenon.
Think about it: More than half (56%) of online content is now consumed via smartphones (44%) and tablets (12%) compared to just 44% on desktop computers. 52% of the time, content consumption is through apps. It makes you wonder, did Bill Gates ever imagine this?
Now consider the following stats:
Worldwide smartphone usage grew 25% in 2014. Global smartphone users will approach 2.5 billion by 2015, according to the recently published report from Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) service.
Global mobile data traffic grew 69% in 2014, reaching 2.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2014.
Mobile video traffic grew to 55% by the end of 2014.
Mobile network connection speeds grew 20% in 2014. Globally, the average mobile network downstream speed in 2014 was 1,683 kbps.
In 2014, 4G connection generated 10 times more traffic than a non-4G connection, on average. Although 4G connections represent only 6% of mobile connections today, they already account for 40% of mobile data traffic.These factors come together to create a never before seen scenario: customers can consume whatever content they want (even heavy content, like video) when and where they want, as I said at the beginning of this blog. They only need to touch a button on a screen.
A paradigm shift in the role of content
Content will become a brand differentiator. We are standing on the cusp of a new era. Once all brands are more or less digitally equal, everyone will have the tools. The content they produce then will become one of their primary differentiators.
If your brand isn’t creating the content your customers want, you aren’t creating mindshare- and you can bet someone else is.
What constitutes “good” content will differ based on industries, brands, and target demographics. Maybe your content doesn’t mandate videos, perhaps a blog will do, or maybe your customers want to see case studies of your work. The point is to create content that they want to see in a compelling, consumable way. For example, shorter video clips are easier to consume on a mobile, whereas longer format videos are suitable to desktops, a fact that Netflix has made a note of.
NATURE OF CONTENT WILL NOT CHANGE; BUT ITS CONSUMPTION WILL
So what’s the point of all this content?
The main purpose of content is either to inform or entertain.If your company is a distributor for drill bits, your customers may want to know which drill bits would be the best for a particular kind of surface- and you might create videos of how certain drill bits stand up against certain surfaces. This lends credibility to the brand.
But brands will be forced to go beyond simple information and entertainment. They will need to plan content in a modular way. At any time, they should be well prepared with content ahead of its publishing date, and it should follow a narrative arc. The arc can cover your brand story or be an aid to
the customer journey, whichever suits your purposes. It is, in a way, like writing episodes for a TV series. In other news, TV viewing in America is on the decline, with 2.8% American households reported as being “broadband only” at the end of 2014 (double the amount of the previous year). However, 40% households subscribe to some kind of on-demand streaming service. It seems that “episodic content” will not wane; only the producers and devices will change. Well, perhaps it’s too early to say that, but like I said earlier, we are on the cusp of a new era.
Audience segmentation is another important aspect in the age of content marketing (possibly more so than in the TV age, for reasons already mentioned). Today’s marketing tools allow you to hyper-segment your audience into increasingly specific segments. Now you can hyper-target these microsegments. Gone are the TV days of creating one common production for the mass audience; brands must be more nimble than that, while still making considerations of resource allocation.
The challenges have gotten tougher, but for those who get it right, the reward will be great: the love and advocacy of your customers.
Now, where do we take it from here?
1. First and foremost, realize that your audience wants content related to your brand. Understand your audience and their habits first. What will they be most interested in, information or entertainment? How does your audience like to consume their content? Which device, which format, which times of the day, days of the week, etc? Do you have the marketing tools and/or the expertise to determine this? If not, perhaps it’s time to consider getting these capabilities!
2. Chalk out a plan for your content. Whether the primary purpose of your content is to inform or entertain (or maybe you have found a way to fuse the two), at the end of the day it must engage your audience. If it is engaging and fulfils their desires, they will come back for more. Hence, you must be ready with it. Gently guide them along a narrative arc and lead them to a conversion point. Plan your content before you start producing it. Measure twice and cut once to avoid wasting valuable resources.
3. Measure the effectiveness of your content. What works, what doesn’t? Which microsegments prefer video, which prefer text, which prefer mobiles, which prefer desktops? The questions you can pose to the final consumption of your content are endless, as are the insights you can glean and the improvements you can make.
Remember, the ultimate aim is making your customer happy. Your customer is your audience. Give the people what they want, and their mindshare will be yours.
Disclaimer: All company names, trade names, trademarks, trade dress, designs/logos, copyrights, images, content and products referenced in this blog are the property of their respective owners. No company reference sponsored this blog or the contents thereofSpread the word!
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