From the December 2013 issue of Entrepreneur

Marketing

The new word in content marketing is small. Increasingly, brands are marketing themselves via short-form social media like Vine, Twitter, Instagram, Instagram video and the newer platform Snapchat--not by broadcasting their silly old messages but by treating their prospects and customers with respect, engaging with them directly through brief snippets of conversation, personality and humor. But it's not just for fun: Consumers who engage with brands via social media demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to those brands and spend 20 to 40 percent more than other customers, according to a report from Bain & Company.

Taco Bell has been killing it on Twitter, creating a hip, fun presence to turn customers into evangelists. Based in part on its snappy, very human interactions, the fast-food giant generated enough early buzz to make Doritos Locos Tacos its most successful product launch to date. (Taco Bell reportedly sold 100 million in the product's first 10 weeks, and its parent company, Yum Brands, registered a 15 percent increase in profit during the launch quarter.)

So how does a corporate entity create a fun personality in just a few words? By starting conversations that have a human voice, an immediacy--a layer of excitement that transcends, say, a boring e-mail, or just about any other long-form medium. After Men's Humor tweeted, "This morning I gave birth to a food baby, and I think @tacobell is the father," the restaurant responded with a tweet of its own, demanding a DNA test. More recently, Taco Bell extended its small-but-smart content strategy to become one of the first brands to embrace Snapchat (a mobile platform in which messages disappear within 10 seconds), sending its followers there a picture previewing the reintroduction of its Beefy Crunch Burrito. Lowe's, Dunkin' Donuts and Target are other big brands that have embraced the trend successfully.

But the opportunity is equally rich for smaller companies. During New York's Fashion Week in September, designer Rebecca Minkoff previewed her new collection via Snapchat, giving fans a 10-second glimpse of each of her new looks. Virginia Beach, Va., coffeehouse Cafe Moka uses a short-form video to show how baristas create that leaf design atop a latte. FMW Fasteners in Houston manages to engage customers despite the fact that it sells decidedly unexciting, impersonal items such as nuts, bolts and rivets: "Nothing says 'I Love You Dad' like drill bits … just sayin,'" the company tweeted for Father's Day.

David Armano of global social agency Edelman Digital calls mini content, like the six-second video platform Vine, "the second coming of YouTube." He notes how a job applicant impressed him with a Vine video: "It told me a story about wanting to meet me in six seconds, which is tough to do." Such platforms are suited to this age of ADD, he adds, when the best way to reach someone is in those "in-between" moments when they're flipping through content on a mobile device.


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