What happens when you discover that the audience you were originally targeting isn’t the audience that’s engaging with your content?
Our main focus is to follow the audience and be where they are, and provide them with content that they’re interested in. Sometimes that doesn’t always go as planned, and we have to adjust. For example, we may start out targeting millennials, but find that boomers are the ones who are most engaged with our content. There’s nothing wrong with engaging an audience that we weren’t originally targeting. It just means that in order to engage the millennial audience, we have to change our strategy and adapt our content. As long as the changes we make drive our KPIs (key performance indicators), which are determined by our business objectives, adapting the strategy or content is key. It’s pretty much impossible to ‘get it right’ the first time, and every time after that.
Can you talk a little bit about the role that business objectives play in a successful content strategy?
No two industries, companies or brands are alike. Even the definition of ROI can change across each client. As a result, insight will vary (and may do so widely), which is why there isn’t and will never be one way to ‘do content marketing’ that can be applied to every brand across the board. Our job is to figure out how to evaluate the success of a content program in terms of each individual brand.
We tie everything back to business objectives, which take into consideration what the brand wants to achieve, as well as what their target audience wants. Not what the brands hope the audience will want—what their audience actually wants. Is the audience looking to learn how to do something? Are they interested in doing something different, or improving the way they already do something? Are they looking for a brand like yours to help them with these things, or do they just want your brand and others like it to leave them the heck alone? Understanding the target audience’s needs, habits, priorities, values, lifestyle and more helps shape the business objectives in a way that ensures it’s not just a one-sided list of stuff the brand hopes to achieve through content marketing.
Once business objectives have been determined, they’re used to inform the KPIs. Our measurement plan is based on the KPIs, and insight is pulled from the measurement plan. Insight then drives us back to our strategy to meet those business objectives. It’s a cyclical process that is repeated over and over throughout the lifetime of the content program.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Sometimes I have to make a decision even when I don’t feel like there’s enough data to support it. In situations like this, I think back to something my strategy professor at Wake Forest used to say: ‘You can’t not do something.’
Analysts will tell you, ‘We don’t have enough data! We can’t make a decision based on what we have.’ At the end of the day, I have to make that decision. But it’s much easier to do so when all the decisions and choices made up until that point are in support of the content strategy, which ties back to the overarching goals and business objectives. So even in times when there isn’t enough data, I can use what I do have, and take it into consideration with the goals of the content program, to make an educated recommendation.
What’s your opinion on the value of brands posting organic social media content, if “pay-to-play” is now the name of the game?
First of all, there is still value—lots of value—in creating organic content for a social media audience. Just because brands have to pay to get their content seen now more than ever before doesn’t decrease the value of creating highly sharable, engaging content for your social audience and posting it organically.
Social media users don’t want content to be stuffed down their throats. They don’t want to be sold to, or told over and over again why they should switch detergent brands, take advantage of an ‘exclusive sale’ on a clothing website or ‘click to learn more’ about a product they’re not currently in the market for.