Content marketing has reached a point of maturation. Last year, 76 percent of B-to-C marketers in North America were using the tactic, according to the discipline’s Content Marketing Institute. But how well are they doing? While the same proportion say they will produce even more content this year, unfortunately, only 38 percent believe they are effective at the tactic.
Content marketing mistakes are commonplace, but hard to see when you are in the throes of a failure. What do they look like? If you are doing the following, you know you should be trying harder.
1. Taking Too Long
Comparing someone’s attention span to that of a goldfish isn’t fair — chances are, it’s much worse than that. On average, consumers’ attention spans have now declined from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.25 seconds in 2015, according to research from Statistic Brain — much less than the fish in your tank.
People live in a fast-moving world of constant stimuli and rapid-fire judgements about the value of content. For marketers, the problem is more pronounced — they have only around three seconds, or about 12 words, in which to capture readers’ attention.
That’s why you no longer have the luxury of stringing out a carefully-crafted narrative. To win readers’ attention, cut to the chase immediately, whether it's a preview image, an article intro or the first few seconds of a video.
2. Sticking With Text
A picture tells a thousand words. The Internet that began life in the 1990s as a low-bandwidth, text-only medium is now a rich, visual one. A recent GumGum survey found 88 percent of marketers in the U.S. believe sight is the most influential of the human senses when it comes to influencing consumer behavior.
When brands think “content marketing," many imagine articles, blog posts and social status updates. But the demand now is for so much more. Marketers can no longer rely on traditional forms of content to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences. Modern audiences expect photos, videos and even interactive landing pages to keep themselves engaged.
Netflix’s sponsored content partnerships — Women Inmates with The New York Times and Cocaineomics with the Wall Street Journal — show how a text producer fired up to add in dynamic creative for dramatic fiction can bring a campaign to life.
3. Relying on Gut Instinct
In the old days of Mad Men, marketers tended to rely on a deep, hubristic feeling about what kinds of creative would best resonate with a target audience. Today, we no longer need to rely on this hocus pocus, so toss out your gut feelings. Advanced analytics can surface new insights about how consumers pay attention and, even more importantly, where they don't pay attention, to different elements of branded content.
A warm and fuzzy photo of a family may resonate with some of your customers, but analytical insights may show you others may be put off by the approach.
Reception also depends on device. Research by YuME and IPG Media Lab found that smartphones have the biggest influence on attention. By better understanding consumer attention, publishers and marketers can develop content that resonates and engages with consumers at much deeper emotional levels — based on data rather than your gut.
4. Being Overly Verbose
You wouldn’t recommend War & Peace as someone’s introduction to the French invasion of Russia. Likewise, you don’t want to slow consumers up with content that is too long and cumbersome. Your audience members are only human, so empathize; understand they have a busy day, just like you do.
Studies tell us that the average adult reads approximately five words per second. Unless your target audience consists of world speed-reading champions, marketers need to reign in their expectations considerably and take a more methodical approach.
Respect your audience by being brief. This places a premium on stellar communication — on the copywriter who can tell a story succinctly, the videographer who can distill a whole company proposition into 30 seconds.
5. Not Measuring Your Content
You wouldn’t spend and spend without knowing how much was left in your bank account. So why wouldn’t you monitor your content marketing campaign to check on its health?
Peter Drucker once famously said: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.” In digital content, that has never been truer. The wealth of analytics tools on offer mean we can truly understand content’s impact on the entire marketing funnel.
Once you have the numbers, what do you do with them? Put some accountability into your account. Charge a team member with optimizing results, reviewing data and set up collaboration procedures across your department to maximize results.
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting your branded content. But, by avoiding these five pitfalls, you can come a step closer to improving your overall consumer engagement.