In terms of content marketing, we are great at telling stories in the traditional media such as print, radio and TV – South Africa punches above its weight when it comes to advertising and media awards. But because internet use at any kind of scale is only a recent development we are still adapting this storytelling ability for a digital audience.
How can we adapt our creativity to create stand-out content campaigns encompassing both traditional and digital channels?
Understand why people consume content, and why they share it. The reason why digital and especially social media is likely to be around for a long time is that it fulfills a very basic need to check in with your social group. People on social media are like meerkats chirping at each other – Twitter is therefore a very apt name! It’s about signalling how you want to be seen in your group. You’re reading this story from The Economist, so you’re intelligent. You’re sharing pictures from Vogue, so you’re stylish.
Social media is very addictive – you are always after that quick little fix, constantly checking to see what’s next, and what you can share. And then most people also want to learn useful things that they can apply to their own lives. Understanding human behaviour when it comes to digital media is an essential first step before putting together a strategy for your content campaign.
If you can’t say it in a tweet, don’t do it. If you can’t get your message across in 140 characters, it is not a simple enough idea that will be easy for people to understand and share. Truly amazing pieces of content can always be conveyed in little more than a tweet. We are living in an age in which we are bombarded with content and people have very short attention spans. If you can’t get your message across in two or three seconds, you’ve lost them. They will move on to the next interesting thing.
The trick is to provide content in layers. The basic message should be very simple and punchy, but it must provide layers for people who want to dig deeper. There should be some substance if you want people to go beyond the headline and the basic story. For example, from a tweet, you could lead your audience to a short Youtube video. If they are still interested, they should be able to read in-depth online or print articles or see a great infographic. The idea is to take people on a content journey – as they consume one piece of content, you offer them the next step. This is how you build momentum and an audience. So try and avoid providing once-off content items – you need to have to have a long-term strategy of producing your content.
Guard against a cookie-cutter approach to content. You need to think of different ways of getting your message across on different channels. What ‘integrated’ often ends up meaning is a brand producing an amazing TV ad, putting that same ad on Youtube, and then taking a still from the ad and putting it on a billboard or on a Facebook ad. So the content is essentially the same throughout. It adds very little to the consumer experience – if people have seen one piece of content, why should they want to see the others? The trick is to offer fresh ways of viewing and engaging with your content by telling different aspects of the story on different channels.
Timing is crucial for maximum effect. Your campaign is much more likely to be successful if you’ve tapped into or added to current public conversation, especially that which is ‘bubbling under the surface’ and has not yet started to trend. You want your content to be highly relevant and spark interest and conversation, not something that’s already been done. You need to know what will get people going – what is likely to dominate the conversation for at least 10 minutes at your next braai?
Resist the temptation to push product into everything. Brands are often tempted to slip a product message into everything. But some pieces of content are more about how people feel about the brand and what it stands for. If this is what you’re trying to communicate, don’t refer at all to products. There are other ways you can lead people to your brand’s products. This is not to say that products don’t have a role in content, but they shouldn’t become the default. People tend to ‘switch off’ if they think you’re trying to sell them something. Content should never be an infomercial – a piece of advertising loosely disguised as a piece of content. There are so many media players out there whose only aim is to produce great content, and you need to be able to compete with them.
Know what you aim to achieve with your content. Apart from your messaging, you need to know your target audience. Do you want to reach 10 people, or 10 000? Also, each time you produce a piece of online content, you need to review and look at the analytics to determine what worked and what didn’t, what you can learn, what your audience is interested in, what you can build into the next piece of content, and how you can adapt your campaign as you roll out your content. Flexibility is key.
Insights are from the teams at Atmosphere Communications
Atmosphere Communications is a creativity-led PR agency based in Cape Town and Johannesburg. We create integrated communications campaigns for some of South Africa’s leading brands and companies by mixing traditional public relations, social media and creative ideas for consumer and corporate clients. Atmosphere was named as PRISA Best Mid-Sized Consultancy 2014.
Check out some of their most recent campaigns!