The speakers at the 4th annual Digital Content Summit had plenty to say about creating effective content that stands out from the crowd but there were certain themes that emerged repeatedly. In this blog, I’ll summarise what I took away from the day. Even if you’ve heard some of it before, you’ll hopefully agree that it is still helpful to have it reiterated and hear other people’s experiences too.
Influencers Help Make Emotional Connections Between Brands and Audiences
Influencers at HelloSociety
Just about every speaker mentioned how they use influencers to leverage their content.
Steve Wind-Mozley from Virgin Media Business said they get seven times more engagement when influencers push out content for them, compared to doing it themselves. Raquel Bubar, Director of T Brand Studio International at the New York Times, agreed with the power of influencers. She cited HelloSociety, their network which connects influencers with brands.
Brands are using influencers who are already connected to the audience they want to reach. Ribena’s Content Marketing Manager Daniel Lee showed how they used influencers to transform their brand image in the eyes of their target audience. Influencers helped them build trust but to do so the brand was careful to pick the right ones. They wanted to work with people who would be truly engaged with the Ribena brand. They even met up with the influencers and spent time on building meaningful long term relationships.
Many speakers also mentioned that brands need to give influencers enough creative control to communicate with the audience how they want. Influencers know their audience really well and are in the best position to judge how best to communicate with them. They need to communicate in their own voice, not the brand’s, or they won’t come across as authentic. Adam Harris, Director of Customer Solutions at Twitch, stressed how important this was when they worked on an influencer campaign with Duracell. They agreed certain parameters within which the influencers could be creative.
There was also talk of the value of micro-influencers who have fewer followers but are very knowledgeable about their niche. You don’t have to use a big name, who costs lots to work with. Sometimes audiences want to see people like themselves, who they can relate to. This can help brands make an emotional connection with their audience.
Demonstrating the Value of Content Through Metrics Remains a Challenge
Many of the questions from the audience throughout the day showed that marketers are still grappling with the best way to demonstrate the value of the content they are creating. Many wanted to know how to show the monetary value it can give but were advised to think beyond how they generate sales directly. Gareth Cartman , Director of Digital at CLD, pointed out that even if a piece of content doesn’t convert it may act as a touchpoint along the way.
When measuring your success, you need to think about your wider objectives. For instance, are you looking to reposition your brand? In which case, you could look at your brand relevance scores. Brands also need to look at measuring the emotional impact of their content. This is not easy but you can garner some insights by monitoring the words people use to describe your brand.
You also need to be careful about how you interpret your data. You may generate lots of views but are they from the right people in the right channels? Do they really help you achieve your business goals? Bedir Aydemir, Product Marketing and Insight Director at Mail Advertising, warned that people shouldn’t be lazy when choosing which metrics to measure. Just because you can measure views or likes it doesn’t mean you should. You need to focus on metrics that are linked to your goals.
Bonny Dellow, Editorial Manager at Simply Business stressed that you need to have a KPI for every single piece of content you create. The KPI doesn’t necessarily have to relate to results either. You could focus on testing and learning from new ideas. At a time when there are so many channels to choose from, many of the speakers agreed you can’t be on all of them but you should at least test them. They agreed that the adage “fail fast” very much applies to trying out new channels.
Daniel Rowles, CEO of Target Internet, gave a talk all about effective content measurement and said he wanted to dispel the “the time on site myth”. He said, because analytics measure the time spent on a page by looking at when the user arrived and left, it doesn’t account for how long people spend on the last page they view before exiting your site. A better metric to focus on is the scroll events, which can be done by implementing a simple piece of code on your site.
Brands Need to Think Like Publishers
Users are spoilt for choice when it comes to content which makes it hard for brands to get noticed. Brands are competing with media companies to get people’s attention, so how can they ever win? They need to think like publishers and approach creating content like a journalist would.
Some brands who recognise this are working directly with publishers like Hearst and the New York Times to create native content. Hearst’s Commercial Content Director Victoria White spoke about how they work with brands. They offer their journalistic knowledge to help brands identify the stories they can tell. In return, brands share their expertise to help create content that offers information people will find valuable. She said younger people are not averse to branded content, as long as it is genuinely informative and entertaining.
In summary, many of the speakers said native content cannot be treated like advertorial. Native content is about creating what people want, in the way they want it, and giving it to them when they want it. Advertorial is more about what the brand wants to say. Native content can’t be plastered with logos but it should follow advertising guidelines and make it clear to the audience that it is sponsored by a brand.
The travel company Contiki transformed their content when they started to think like a publisher and steered away from constantly pushing their services. This resulted in them creating content their audience could connect with on an emotional level. Like several of the speakers, their approach was to find the crossover between what their audience cared about and what they wanted to say. They also stepped out of their comfort zone and took risks. Because they operate like publishers, they work three months ahead, so they can prepare to contribute to key future events coming up.
Storytelling Is at the Heart of the Most Impactful Content Being Created
The result of thinking like a journalist is that brands are focusing on telling stories. The British Museum is relaunching its website with a focus on making it content-led through telling great stories.
Raquel Bubar from the New York Times said a common mistake she finds brands making is that they fail to think of the story first, before deciding what medium to tell it in. They may decide they need to create infographics or videos before figuring out if that’s the best way to tell their story.
Ewan Turney, Head of Content at Rugby Football Union said they use video because they find it is better at making an emotional connection than words on page. They tell stories but rather than replicating what the media does, they focus on what unique value they can offer, like behind the scenes footage.
While focusing on storytelling, brands create assets they can repackage and reuse across multiple platforms.
Audiences Don’t Want to Consume Content Passively
Gone are the days when audiences were happy to consume content passively. They expect to be able to share and like content but also want to shape and even create it.
Adam Harris is the Director of Customer Solutions at Twitch, the world’s leading live video platform, where communities can interact with presenters in real time. He said younger people in particular want more active, authentic and unfiltered content, rather than highly polished edited content.
Ewan Turney from the Rugby Football Union said some of their most successful video content has been shot on an iphone and shared in its raw format. It has been hugely popular because it allows fans to get closer to the action on the pitch.
A lot of the brands we heard from are also using user generated content by allowing audiences to share their stories through competitions for example. They are also using Facebook live to involve the audience.
AR, VR and MR Are the next Big Thing but We Don’t yet Know Where It Will Take Us
Google’s Head of Design Patrick Collister explored the possibilities augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality may open up.
AR can be used to change the retail experience. Brands like Ikea are already doing this by allowing people to visualise how furniture will fit in their home before buying it. AR also opens up the potential for new brand partnerships. McDonalds has already partnered with Pokemon Go by hosting “gyms” for the game at their outlets. Ribena has also launched an interactive AR app called Doddle your world which is helping them drive deeper engagement with their audience.
We don’t yet know quite where these new technologies will lead but we do a little about what this means for brands. For example, they now have to think about optimising for voice search as people use devices like Amazon Echo. They also need to take tone of voice to the next level and consider how their content will sound when devices read it out!