One of the stumbling blocks of branded content has always been discoverability. Brands put on their creative caps to think up inventive, informative, spectacular content, only to find that it’s going unseen by their target audience. By placing it on their owned media properties, where a fan base hopefully already exists, and by paying for ad placements to connect with new users, they’re doing everything right. Why, then, aren’t they getting the traction they need?
Modern content discoverability is about leveraging all digital media channels for maximum coordinated and integrated exposure and reach. While it’s possible to use each in isolation, combining them with others strengthens their impact and creates added value for consumers. Delivering your content isn’t just about ensuring that it’s viewed. It’s about placing it where consumers have occasion to interact with it in their preferred environment, and then share it with friends.
Branded content can take many forms: blog posts and sponsored articles; brand stories and videos; photos; animated GIFs; webinars; white papers… you know the drill. So long as the content you’re offering is smart, unique, strong in point-of-view, relevant, and adaptable, a host of channels and content strategies stand at the ready to help activate and engage the users you seek.
After placing your content on your owned media properties (e.g., your brand site, mobile site, email newsletter, etc.) and arranging for paid placements, like search and display ads, the obvious next step is to target social media. You probably already have a presence on sites like Facebook and Twitter, but do you have a YouTube channel? A Tumblr page? Instagram and Pinterest accounts? Leverage all of these by reformatting your content to fit each unique set of platform specifications, and turn a brand message that’s already available elsewhere into something unique that can draw consumer attention.
For example, if you’re promoting an online video, grab a few frames to create an animated GIF that you can post to Tumblr. Snap some still shots behind the scenes at your video shoot and turn them into a Pinterest page linking to the video itself.
Additionally, if your content is interesting and provides value to the viewer, he or she is likely to be interested in what went into making it. Publishing bonus material like this can garner just as much attention as the original content, and double or triple your potential for shares.
Social discovery sites
So much of being “connected” online is about community, and the concept of social discovery is explicitly intended to help internet users provide one another with some digital direction. Sites that curate content from around the web have always been prime resources for users, but they’re also useful for brands, as they allow you to submit your work for inclusion in their ever-evolving collections of great digital projects.
Among the best options for upping your social discovery quotient are Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Digg. You can submit a link to your content at each one by completing a brief online form (though you’ll have to set up a free account with the sites first).
You might have a blog of your own on which you place your branded content, but it’s also a good idea to reach out to third-party bloggers to tap into new user bases.
Canadian apparel brand Roots was recently featured in a blog post on fashion and arts blog Textstyles.ca, in which the blogger visited the brand’s factory. The post focused on the craftsmanship and heritage of Roots products, and showcased the factory through photography and brand history facts.
Bloggers are constantly looking for fresh, intriguing content, and many will be open to a pitch of this nature — particularly if you’re willing to provide exclusive photographs or an interview. Just be sure you have a unique story to tell, and that the blogger’s voice, the blog’s theme, and its user base don’t clash with your brand image or campaign objectives.
For branded content that’s particularly visual, such as microsites and videos, consider submitting your company’s work to an award competition.
Many digital media contests now offer multiple branded content categories — including the Content Marketing Awards, Appy Awards, the OMMA Awards, the W3 Awards, and the Webby Awards. But take care when planning your entry efforts: These kinds of competitions can come with long lead times, and by the time you find out whether you’ve won, it’s possible your content will have lost some of its momentum.
In the interim, focus on “site of the day” competitions, like the one found on DesignLicks, or the UK-based Awwwards and Favourite Website Awards. Most submissions require a small entry fee, but being showcased as a feature project can deliver decent exposure — and lead to media coverage, along with an influx of new shares.
One of the newer trends in branded content distribution is the concept of “social newsrooms” that represent an online hub for all things related to your brand. These aren’t to be confused with social command centers or “war rooms,” the likes of which Gatorade and Oreo have been known to employ.
Social newsrooms aren’t the physical locales from which you manage your social media accounts, but rather a resource for the press; think of them as souped-up digital media press kits devoted to your brand. You can build your own, or enlist the help of a company like Cision, which offers a customizable social newsroom product.
For example, international fashion brand H&M has a social newsroom that delivers everything a member of the media could possibly need to know about the company. Integrated into the brand’s main website, its newsroom page provides links to media mentions, corporate news, a global calendar of events, press contacts by country, and quick company facts.
By assembling all of this information in one place, brands can point reporters to their latest and greatest content, rather than relying on them to seek it out on their own. H&M, for example, links to a Fashion Update autumn preview that includes product shots and a branded video. If you can get this kind of digital material into the hands of journalists, they’ll do the rest by bringing it to your customers.
Creating branded content that strikes a positive chord with consumers is only half of the digital media success equation. Don’t overlook the value of a strategic plan that will help them discover it.
Looking for more tips for getting your content found across multiple channels? Read CMI’s Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples.
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