Brewing up content marketing success

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If you’ve drunk the content-marketing Kool-Aid, you might be feeling a bit perplexed right now. It’s a confusing time for content marketers: the social landscape is shifting ever more heavily to social ads. But organic posts seem to drive a different kind of result, one that is strictly focused on the quality of the content, based on the actions it drives and the conversation and targeted sharing it generates. How can the two types of content marketing be effectively bridged?

This is a growing issue because organic reach is slowly, and not so slowly, being eaten away. Facebook is down to between 2% and 4% organic reach. Twitter and others aren’t throttling fan and social following access yet, but it’s likely only a matter of time. Indeed, the rise of social media and much-vaunted “authentic conversations” with customers ended up being little more than new ad formats for people who are increasingly attention-challenged.

Or did it? Two things about the slightly cynical but understandable conclusion: it’s both true and it isn’t. One of the most astounding revelations of the dawn of social media is that, despite what they say, people like advertising. And why not? Ads are clever, engaging, commerce as entertainment, even an art form. They are also a part of an established behaviour pattern that people understand. There’s a reason why many people don’t get how to interact on Twitter but do understand ads on Twitter. Twitter as an organic experience is confusing; nothing else like it exists. An ad on Twitter is comparatively easy to understand.

That does not mean there is no role for organic interaction on “owned” properties like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. In fact, the economic value of organic and paid, when optimized, is fundamentally linked. Here’s how to realize it:

Testing

If you test content organically first and pay attention to what performs organically and doesn’t, you can make significant media-optimization decisions quickly and less expensively than with live tests. You need to have a critical mass of relatively engaged followers for this to work. Publish four or five types of content over 48 hours and see what your audience responds to. Then apply those lessons to content, creative and budget decisions on paid networks.

Feedback

Directly ask organic followers which ad they prefer. These mini focus groups can be extremely insightful and have a lot of impact, since they are part of the audience most likely to see your ads.

Support, service and communications

You’ll have noticed the celebrity trend, where everything from weddings to babies to starring roles are now announced on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Companies and brands can learn from this. Everything is a narrative about your brand or company, even your ads and campaigns, so telling that story in an integrated and compelling way will keep your audience informed, engaged and active on your behalf.

A reasonable testing cadence is four hours in a high-volume environment and 48 hours in low volume/B2B. That should be sufficient time to see which organically-deployed assets are performing where and start making decisions to invest in scaling attention. It will help make better use of your ad budgets and allow you to test without any spend initially. Just make sure you have a critical mass of organic engaged followers on social networks (1000 for B2B, 5000 for b2c is basic critical mass) or you’ll struggle to get meaningful data for your tests. And be prepared for surprises: assumptions will get thrown out the window, and it’s a great mechanism to evolve conversations around creative from solely opinion-based to data-driven.

This article originally appeared on the Association of Canadian Advertisers blog 

Photo via Flickr, Creative Commons

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Jennifer Evans

Jennifer Evans

President at B2B News Network
President, @B2BNewsnetwork (launched Nov 2014). Content, community and analytics obsessed. Inventor @squeezecmm. Past chair, @itac_online @whiteribbon