(Photo by Adam Jones adamjones.freeservers.com)
While making your content more engaging is an important step to staying on top of your lead generation targets, that strategy eventually plateaus. To bring your content marketing efforts to the next level, you need to make engagement a priority for your brand, not merely a feature of your content. What does that mean?
Engaging content = a graph, personalized brochure, industry report, etc. that both piques the initial interest of your audience and sustains their attention by hitting the sweet-spot of what they find valuable (whether informative or entertaining or a mix of the two)
An engaging brand = a company presence that encourages and successfully elicits participation from its audience, with interactions that go beyond one-way consumption of content
When customers and prospective customers think of your brand, you want them to picture a community or a provider/convener of a community that they see themselves as being a part of.
Some organizations have achieved this sense of “something bigger you belong to” through Twitter Chats (and in the case of Buffer, Slack channels as well), others through contests encouraging User-Generated Content.
Here’s a particularly interesting example in which Reese’s turned customer criticism delivered over social media into a Twitter campaign that positioned them to identify and activate more advocates for their brand. Rather than apologizing or remaining silent and swallowing a marketing failure, Reese’s put a little effort into engagement and transformed the reason for criticism into a marketing victory by creating a conversation that their audience wanted to be a part of.
But social media channels are not the only ways to elicit engagement from your audience.
Personalized Content is Actually About Contextualization
Personalized content can support this kind of brand-level engagement as well. By contextualizing the user’s results in terms of a type or community of people “like you,” you provide meaning both at the individual level and at the “something bigger you belong to” level.
You yourself likely went through sales or management training at some point in your career that created a similar sentiment of “belonging to an arch-type.” Whether that’s a Challenger or a Consensus-Builder or an Expert, the training created a framework and helped you identify your place within it.
In general, good marketing does this all the time, by helping your audience understand that in order to achieve their personal and/or professional goals, they need to be someone who uses your products or services. This too boils down to creating a framework and helping your audience identify their place in it.
When it’s done well, the message resonates with your audience. When it’s done poorly (i.e. you haven’t matched your messaging to your audience), the audience is left wondering at best ‘who is like that’ (because it’s not them) and at worst ‘how could anyone could believe such nonsense.’
One more example. Though typically not interactive or personalized, “State of the _____ Industry” post-survey reports can also be good at providing bigger picture context that translates into a sense of community and purpose for its audience. The next time you read one, pay attention to what the report is implying about who the audience is (community) and what that means they should be doing (purpose).
How Does Contextualization Create Brand Engagement?
It doesn’t, at least not automatically.
You need to encourage and facilitate conversation about the context you’ve presented- otherwise you’re not really engaging your audience.
In your marketing materials, for instance, introduce a point or resource by saying “based on conversations we’ve been having with many of you we thought it would be valuable to share the following” or “due to the great feedback we’ve received” etc. Be sure to include a means by which your leads or customers can engage with you, and when they do so be sure to thank them for their contributions.
The overall goal is to establish that your company:
- knows its audience (perhaps better than the audience members know themselves),
- has a well-informed stake in their success, and
- would be great to work with to solve whatever problem it is your company can solve better than anyone else.
Your Content Marketing Needs to Not Feel Like Marketing
Another important element to making your brand more engaging involves authenticity and/or respect. Generally people don’t enjoy feeling like they’re being sold at. Your content marketing needs to be created and promoted in a way that does not jeopardize your brand by how marketing-y it feels.
Examples of being authentic could include making gated content easier to access (and more obviously worth the “price” of access, i.e. filling out your lead form), distributing/promoting your inbound marketing efforts in a way that conveys trustworthiness to your target audience (e.g. avoiding click-bait titles), and using interesting media rather than harder-to-block media to overcome anti-ad sentiment and ad-block technology.
Interactive content is great at this, because lead forms can be structured as micro-engagements, the content can typically be embedded or shared easily, and by virtue of its interactivity it generally represents highly engaging content.
But transforming your content marketing isn’t about flashy content (though flashy content can certainly help drive the strategy).
Your brand needs to demonstrate to your target audience that you are offering a valuable community they should want to be a part of, rather than merely trying to create new communication channels for you to bother them through.
Copyblogger is attempting this with Rainmaker.FM, a big part of their content marketing strategy for their new Rainmaker Platform. In this instance, Copyblogger is using podcasts to build a community of like-minded listeners.
Content vs. Brand in Content Marketing
Content marketing entails thinking about the marketing materials you offer as valuable products in and of themselves.
Interactive content makes those products significantly more engaging.
Interactive content can also offer a compelling, personalized experience- but without an engagement strategy behind it, interactive content is unlikely to turn the context you provide your audience with into a sense of “something bigger they belong to.”
Contact us to learn more about how you can inspire your audience to both trust in your business and desire to be a part of the successful community your brand creates and supports.