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Don’t you just hate spending hours and hours creating good quality content, only for you to put it up online and very few people to see it? If it gets lost in the ether, it’s no use to anyone. So how do you make the world see your content?
I want to show you three successful content marketing campaigns that have truly taken the world by storm. However, more than this, using the key characteristics of these successful campaigns, you’ll see how these can be applied to real world content marketing campaigns that you and I can create for our clients.
Below you will find my slides from the #sotondigital event, and a writeup of my talk:
With recent search engine algorithm updates placing an increasing amount of importance on quality content, and the sharing of such content using social media; now is the time to be getting creative and actively engaging with your hungry social media audience.
Before we get into that, let’s briefly take a look at what Content Marketing is, and how it can benefit your own online marketing strategy.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of content to engage with existing and potential customers. When we speak of content, we’re really talking broadly, encompassing everything from blogs, infographics and whitepapers (such as our digital marketing guides) to videos, podcasts and webinars.
Whether you’re working on SEO or digital marketing campaigns in-house, or you’re an agency or consultant working on client campaigns, content marketing can help build brand awareness, enhance a website’s link profile, drive additional traffic and, if it’s particularly effective, it can even drive sales – that’s when you know your content marketing campaigns have been successful.
This makes content marketing appealing to businesses of all sizes, but those small to medium sized ones can take advantage too, whatever the budget at their disposal. That’s because the online world has created a level playing field; if you have a good idea, you can get people talking about your products and services overnight.
So now that we know what content marketing is, let’s see how some of the masters do it shall we?
This is the story of Samantha Brick and a piece she wrote for the MailOnline. Nobody knew who she was prior to her well crafted linkbait (or, perhaps more accurately, trollbait). Coupled with the might of the MailOnline (who are streets ahead in understanding online content) she wrote a piece titled, There are downsides to looking this pretty': Why women hate me for being beautiful. This was hugely successful, the MailOnline gained links and traffic, but most importantly, a lot of money too (which is believed to be in the region of tens of thousands of pounds).
Whether Samantha is for real or she’s on a wind-up, it doesn’t matter. The piece did what it was supposed to – their content marketing plan had worked. 5,725 comments, 218,000 likes, and a huge increase in search volume and mentions of her name. For the search engines, this amount of social interactivity is gold dust.
So what can we learn?
Well this isn’t anything new, we’ve seen it before. Columnists deliberately write provocative content, just to get a reaction. All Samantha Brick and the MailOnline have done is take this and applied it to devastating effect using social media.
Create something provocative, something that will get people talking and sharing. This piece of content was deliberately provocative, it set out to get under people’s skin, and it worked.
Know your audience. The content you create, who will it be aimed at? This piece fits perfectly within the Daily Mail’s own brand and objectives. They know this is not serious journalism, they know they are targeting (mostly) women, they know people love to hate them…and have embraced this accordingly.
The key source of pushing this story was through social media, twitter and Facebook in particular. It was such a successful piece that people naturally gravitated to social media to have their say and share it with friends and family.
This is the story of Blendtec, a relatively unknown small business in Utah. This is an excellent example of how a small business can use online marketing to increase sales. Blendtec create high performance blending equipment, but they had weak branding. Weak branding means weak sales. So they needed a big idea to get it the exposure it deserves.
George Wright, the VP of Marketing at Blendtec had set up a new marketing department and set about achieving this brand awareness. To cut a long story short, he thought why not just blend everyday items, to show just how powerful these things really are. Armed with $50, they set up their domain called www.willitblend.com, as well as their own YouTube channel. They bought some safety goggles, a lab coat and asked the CEO Tom Dickson to stand in front of a camera and blend these everyday items. Whatever you can think of, they made a video of them blending it. To date, the most popular videos are Tom destroying the iPad and the iPhone.
Was it successful? It certainly was. 400,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel, 190 million total video views so far. They achieved their primary goal of brand awareness. Importantly their sales increased by 500% in 2008 and 700% in 2009. Traffic increased by 650% and their online sales increased five-fold.
So what can we learn from #WillItBlend?
Create Content that taps into humanity. #WillItBlend taps into our human curiosity and emotions. This is incredibly powerful. For any business, look at the products and services that you offer and think of the human emotions attached to these products and services. If you can create content that will tap into humanity, you’re onto a winner.
Create actionable content. #WillItBlend built up its own audience through the success of their videos. Importantly though, they engaged with this audience to discover what next to blend. When they did so, they were creating actionable content for which their audience had asked. So in effect, their audience became their brand ambassadors and their key influencers.
The only way they could achieve such targeted content, was through engagement with users via social media. Source ideas, recommendations and questions from your audience. Find ways to engage the community in the process – either directly or indirectly. Blendtec does it directly through an online form, but indirectly by creating a social object that people can react to and re-create.
I want to stress that we’re talking about the lessons learned from Old Spice’s viral marketing campaign that was launched off the back of the success of the, now famous, television advert. This case study is social media interaction at its finest. Via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, Old Spice said to their followers that the Old Spice Guy would answer any questions they had. From the Old Spice Guy’s ‘bathroom’, he answered the best questions in the classic style of his machismo character. The team created 180 videos in just under two days, here’s just one example:
The custom content resulted in over 35 million views of their videos in the first week. Their Believe in Your Smelf YouTube channel boasts more than 280 million video views. From a social media perspective, they increased their number of Twitter followers by 58,000 and their number of Facebook followers by 29,000. Importantly though, they boosted their sales of over 100% in just one month.
So, what can we learn?
This showcased the power of creating actionable content, and in addition this content told a story. His responses had a beginning, a middle and an end. This helps to make your content memorable.
Actionable content is targeted. This means that Old Spice created content in context of community. You can’t assume that your prospects, customers, influencers, and the public will look for your information. You must also engage with your audience, this is the only way you can create targeted actionable content.
Applying key characteristics to real-world content
So, now we’ve established the key reasons behind content that goes viral. Let’s take a look at how you can use these characteristics to create your own viral content.
Create something provocative, humanistic, or actionable. That’s what we’ve learned so far. A word of caution when it comes to creating something provocative or controversial; make sure it still fits within your brand values. This worked for the MailOnline, but it might not necessarily work for your brand. Creating something controversial will only get you so far, in SEO there are people that deliberately create negative linkbait for that reason, for example, “SEO is dead” articles.
But not all linkbait is negative. Positive linkbait can be useful, engaging and actionable. Just like the following infographic, created by our Online Marketing Manager Mike Essex, titled How to Learn SEO.
The content is useful, it’s interactive and it’s targeted. By including influential figures, you are drawing on their social networks too, which means even more people will see your content. In effect, this is drawing on what’s known as egobait – the targeting of content to influential people within your industry.
The stats show just how well received this piece was, and continues to be within the industry. 54 Facebook Likes, 585 Tweets, 83 +1’s, 84 LinkedIn Shares and over 6,500 page views to date.
So think about creating something that’s useful to your industry and actionable for your audience. Also, consider what human emotions are associated with the products and services you offer. And finally, if you do want to create provocative content, make sure it doesn’t compromise your brand values.
How do you target content to your audience? Think about the places to where your audience naturally gravitate – the websites, blogs, publications and resources they read on a regular basis. What I’m alluding to here is guest blogging. If you build it, they won’t always come, so look to go to where your audience’s eyes are.
This video explains the virtues of guest blogging and how crucial it is to the SEO industry.
The best example that I can give is a guest blog post that I wrote for a client of ours called Text Marketer. The five best practice tips for business SMS campaigns was featured on the Marketing Profs website, a very well known and respected publication.
Crucially, it’s a strong authoritative website, so a link achieved from such a site will help with any optimisation efforts. This also helped with our client’s brand exposure, but in addition, this piece had a lot more views and social shares, which we know are increasingly important. 223 Tweets, 7 +1’s and 57 LinkedIn shares to date.
I highly recommend guest blogging as an excellent way of getting the world to see your content.
As mentioned, engaging with your audience will help you create actionable content. As an example of how we’ve engaged with our audience to create content, I recommend viewing the following the content:
How did you get started with SEO or Digital Marketing? Arnold interacted with key influencers and used the principles of egobait to get his content seen by the world. He has achieved 800 page views to date.
When did we become the bad guys? Mike started a debate within our industry. This is something to note when looking to create content that’s a bit controversial. As opposed to #Brickgate, one could pose a question or suggestion, rather than a blatant attempt to get under user’s skin. This will get people interacting. To date, this piece has received over 1000 page views.
Anna had a question posed to her via Twitter from an employee at SEOMoz – How can you use Analytics to monitor your brand? She created a video which has subsequently been viewed over 600 times. This is a perfect example of creating highly targeted actionable content which gets you interacting with other brands.
Through interaction on social media, we’ve sourced our own guest writers. How to get Known in the SEO industry is from an upcoming SEO called Jon Cooper, and this piece has had over 1000 views and over 100 shares – impressive stuff.
Your New Content Marketing Campaign
So the keypoints are to create, target and engage. However, this should form part of a larger overall content marketing campaign. So to get the world to see your content, look at the following:
1. Identify key influencers and communities (engage with them!)
2. Research title ideas (make sure it’s targeted!)
3. Research competitor’s content (don’t reproduce what everyone else has done)
4. Create compelling content (provocative, humanistic, actionable)
5. Promote (to your key influencers and brand ambassadors)
6. Analyse and measure (Google Analytics will tell you what’s worked and what hasn’t)
If you have a good example of a content marketing campaign that has been incredibly successful, or would like to add anything else to the discussion, then please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Technology in the hands of businessmen via BigStock