5 Reasons Your Branded Content Is Failing

Joseph Lazauskas | Mashable

You’re a brand (hello, brand!), and you’ve decided to invest in brand publishing. It’s the hot new thing, and you hear there’s serious ROI behind it, so you figure what the hell.

You tell your ad agency about your new interest in this kind of content. They rave about how they’ve invested in a team of editors and journalists in preparation for this exact moment. (Translation: they have a vendor in mind to outsource the work.) You start posting on your blog every day, but 60% of your traffic is coming from your own PR team.

Is this worth the investment? No. But it can be.

The fact is that agencies aren’t publishers, and getting people to watch and read things you make is a lot different than making a TV commercial or pushing a press release. It’s not really your ad agency’s fault. Publishing isn’t their chosen profession, and they often don’t know what they’re doing.

But don’t despair. Content marketing can pay huge dividends. Its ROI can blow display out of the water. To fix your strategy, you just need to figure out what you’re doing wrong. Here are five likely problems.

1. You Haven’t Developed a Voice

Brands don’t mess around with their logo, often conducting extensive consumer research and testing hundreds of variations. Yet a lot of brands dive into social media and content marketing, giving no real thought to something just as distinctive and important as their logo: their brand voice.

If your consumer target demographic is 18- to-24-year-olds, your posts can’t be written by a 36-year-old using outdated slang, idioms, and cultural references. On the other hand, if you’re trying to become a B2B thought leader, you need an authoritative voice. You can’t afford to sound like a recent graduate who’s in love with his own cleverness. Your posts need to be at once exceptionally smart and so accessible that readers feel an almost instinctive desire to share the wisdom you’ve imparted.

In other words, you can’t wing it. You need a skilled managing editor who can help you develop your brand’s voice, and help you find a writer who can make that voice pitch perfect.

2. You Focus on Self Promotion

A common concern from content marketing clients is that the product isn’t really being promoted. The reason, of course, is that if a product is explicitly promoted, few people will click on the content. And no one will share it. Even worse, no one will trust anything else the brand publishes.

Consumers are smart. They expect content that brings value to their lives, and you need to deliver it or else they’ll cast you aside. When your publishing strategy is working, your brand and products will benefit from the explicit association with fantastic content.

3. You’re not Guest Writing Anywhere

It’s not just what you publish but where you publish. According to The Atlantic’s analysis of a recent study on news popularity, “What led most overwhelmingly and most predictably to sharing was the person or organization who shared the information in the first place.” In other words, getting your content onto the right site can make all the difference.

You want to publish something on a site that your target audience loves so that you can take advantage of the publication’s brand equity. If you’re in B2B, this is fairly simple. The top new digital publications are always looking for good, free content. Every tech and advertising company should be trying to publish pieces by C-level executives on sites like Digiday, Mashable, and Adweek.

In the B2C realm, B2B-style guest posting isn’t usually feasible. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t sponsor a cool piece of content on a site that your target audience reads or, better yet, work with an innovative publisher like Refinery29 to create collaborative custom content. This type of content marketing is an effective and easy way to engage a locked-in audience and raise your own brand equity, as well.

4. You’re not Distributing Your Content

If you’re making high-quality content, you need to invest in getting some eyeballs on it. Unless you already have a massive social media following, you can’t rely only on your own blog and social media accounts for distribution. Creating content that people want to share is always critical, but unless you strike viral gold, sharing might not be enough. Alas, your 1,500 Twitter followers probably aren’t going to rally together to ensure that as many people as possible read your article.

A real solution: smart, managed distribution of your awesome articles and videos on a content distribution platform like Outbrain. You can target the audience you want, and the more effectively you distribute, the more cost effective your content marketing efforts become.

5. You’re not Using Your Content to its Full Potential

Content is the fuel that powers social, and brands worry about how much fuel it’ll take to power all of their different social platforms. But it really doesn’t take much if you’re smart.

For each platform, there’s a certain type of content that performs well. Text-only updates on straightforward news thrives on Twitter. Text-only iStockphoto, annebaek


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