Jack Ma is quoted as saying “It doesn’t matter if I failed. At least I passed the concept on to others. Even if I don’t succeed, someone will succeed.” We can get caught up in looking at best practises rather than learning from mistakes made along the way and taking lessons from those valuable experiences.
Below are some shared learnings from past successes and failures when it comes to content marketing.
Think about your content marketing plan
Don't: Have a silver bullet mentality without a solid plan.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Brands and agencies often overlook the importance of planning and setting up your content up for success. There is often a lack of a longer term scalable plan, a lack of thoughts around distribution beyond social or influencers, a lack of clear measurement of success and too many cooks in the kitchen.
Do: Think Audience
The starting point of your planning cannot be your brand, it has to be your audience. Get to know them and get to know them really well. Who are they? When are they consuming content? What do they like? Who do they follow? What do they do when they are online? They are only interested in what your brand has to say if its relevant and contextual to them. Piece your first-party data together with second-party and third-party data to identify and engage these audiences, and create lookalike audiences to broaden your reach.
Do: Think content strategy
By studying the user journey and how consumers discover and consume content, you can then choose the best channels of distribution for your marketing message. Having a clear strategy per channel will go a long way towards generating and building interest.
Think about how your content can be created. Created content would refer to content produced by the brand (either in-house or through agency content studios), curated (UGC, licensed content) or co-created with the right partners (publishers, content producers or influencers).
Remember your content marketing competition is not just other brands in the same category - you are competing with everyone. It is also important to think what short term and long term success looks like. Creating evergreen content that can be reused and would have longevity and reusability ensures scalability.
Create your content
Don't: Create and blast
Are you producing content for content sake without a clear objective and strategy? There are many options outside of repurposing a TV ad for video ads or adding on subtitles to a global creative to localise content.
Do: Use the right format for the right platform and market
It’s imperative that the content is right for the audience and right for the platform it is being consumed on. Marketers need to take into account elements such as screen size and shape, vertical and horizontal formats, subtitles and captions for sound off videos and length of creative.
Newsfeed pitch is the new elevator pitch on steroids. Taking into account of how fast users scroll through their feed, experiment with your content by making your impact within three seconds or less.
No two markets are alike and localisation is not just about translation. Keep abreast of hyperlocal nuances, tactics, trends, events, platforms. Get local perspectives on your content and your content needs to connect in a personal, accessible way from Simei to Sukhumvit.
Operate your content marketing plan
Don't: Run without a test-and-learn approach from day one
A lot of time, energy and thought often goes into content planning and creation. However, time also needs to be invested into thinking around how best to test and learn once live. It is very easy to fall into the trap of focusing on KPIs that are defined for poorly understood outcomes without linking it back to business objectives.
An optimised site, information architecture and amplification strategy is just as important as content creation itself. When allocating your budget, ensure that you account for distribution costs as well to ensure that you maximize the reach of your content to reach the right relevant audience.
Do: Measure and optimise
Measure, optimize and review regularly against KPI’s agreed when putting together your strategy. Audience preferences and interest change and evolve regularly. There is a need to balance short term and long term objectives to ensure that you are measuring success based against business objectives.
The execution gap
'Think, create, operate' is a strategy which allows marketers to put their audience at the centre of content development, creation and execution. Whilst working within the framework, it is important to ensure that the execution fits within the budget and vision.
Keep an eye on execution from day one. There is no point in pitching Lord of the Rings if you have a handycam budget and expect the same level of production. It's also extremely important to note here that clients who say "show me the possibilities" can cause just as many problems as an agency over-selling 'the dream'. Have that conversation (i.e. budget) as soon as possible and let the numbers inform and inspire your creativity. A lot can be done on a shoestring.
Content is subjective; it's the nature of creative. What matters is how the audience react and feel about the content and its imperative to keep that at the heart of every content strategy. Identify two to three key stakeholders or decision makers internally and externally at every stage of the creative process and have these people give sign off at every stage. This should help to limit the 'design by committee' approach which oftentimes can derail a content vision with the audience at the heart of it.
Ultimately, a brilliant content strategy exists only in slides unless it provides clear direction to balance media, content and technology in the context of how audiences are actually going to see and reach to the finished work.
This piece was curated by IAB Southeast Asia and India’s content committee member Nicholas Pan, managing director of strategy & intelligence at VMLY&R, with support from the wider content committee.