What do you do in your free time? Watch TV? Read stuff on the internet? Hit Facebook?
Content marketing through brand storytelling is most effective when it’s an asset to users’ experiences, and when it resonates with customers’ needs. The online art of storytelling is one that some brands have had to master – albeit slightly on the fly – over recent years. But there’s another challenge some may not have even considered yet, and that’s finding a means of successfully occupying someone’s free time.
An asset to users’ experiences
Here’s a question to ponder: Why have 95% of Fortune 500 companies lost market share in their respective industries in the last two years?
According to social media investor and prolific entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s simple: every time a commercial comes on TV, you go for your phone. Rather than watch adverts on the bigger screen, you retreat to the smaller screen to look at absolutely anything but.
The value of our online attention
Every year, Gary mused in a recent Facebook video, $80 billion is “wasted” by the biggest brands in the world because of this behaviour. And it’s a question of when, not if, those brands decide to move that cash into areas like social media – particularly Facebook – that the value of our online attention skyrockets beyond that we devote to television commercials. As of yet, it hasn’t properly happened, and that’s where the opportunity arises.
I like Gary Vaynerchuk. He often talks in motivational-speaker-esque generalisms, but there are nuanced nuggets of value peppering all that, which the switched-on entrepreneur can actually make use of, and not just feel inspired by.
The growing dominance of social and content marketing over television is no new theme (we wrote about this back in 2015). But a couple of interesting stats that have emerged lately suggest Gary may be more on the pulse than one would initially think.
Firstly, recent research by social media analytics specialist Socialbakers suggests that Facebook has overtaken Google as the top source of referral traffic. In other words, more people are clicking through to links on the social media giant than via standard search.
This holds true with Gary Vaynerchuk’s analysis; when people do retreat to their phones, Facebook is the preferred destination and, indeed, starting point. That Facebook looks to be a wider gateway to the web than a search engine, a hub designed solely for that purpose, is significant.
What is successful?
“Successfully occupying someone’s free time” does not mean that you should try and supplement an advert they don’t want to watch with some other rubbish they don’t want to read. Free time isn’t wasted time; it’s time well spent.
Being able to craft content that is at targeted to your ideal audience, and won’t leave users feeling like they’ve been interrupted, is a skill. But it’s by taking the time to hone your craft, and by creating content that stands out for positive reasons, that you’ll be able to enhance a consumer’s feelings towards your company.
Choose to consume
Painting your brand message in a positive and engaging light is one thing. But doing that while creating something that someone would actively choose to consume isn’t easy.
Brands like Red Bull and GoPro come to mind, with their cavalcade of extreme sports videos – there are a lot of people who enjoy watching other people throw themselves off things – or perhaps even Netflix; as I mentioned in my interview on this blog last week, Netflix decided that there was a gaping opportunity in its business model to take creating content into its own hands.
Whether it’s a six-minute video of a skydive from a first-person perspective or a six-part TV series, it’s hard to argue this isn’t free time well-occupied. But of course, these are extreme examples – who, after all, doesn’t like Netflix?
All comes back to the customer experience
Other businesses, however, might have to be a lot more nuanced in their approach to creating content their peers would choose to read on their commute or during an ad break.
Getting ahead means providing something that actually differentiates you and answers your customers’ specific pain points. With that mind, it’s incumbent on marketers to have a persona-led strategy – we’ve created a guide on exactly this which you can download free, here – so you can visualise your audiences, empathise with their reasons for seeking you out, and put yourself in their shoes.
Again, this all comes back to the customer experience – as a marketer it’s not enough to appear to be providing value. You need to provide something original; you must offer content that doesn’t waste time. Sure, we can’t all write the next Stranger Things, but we don’t need to. We just need to start thinking beyond our brand – outside of the box, if you like – to create content that isn’t simply another advert in disguise. Ask yourself this about your next piece of marketing collateral – if I were my customer, would I want to read this?