At this point, I think we’re all familiar with bad content—it’s become part of our digital reality. The reason being is that "content marketing" has become such a huge push for advertisers in lieu of traditional ad models, as it is much more engaging. And because brands are hearing about how important it is for them to create meaningful content, how critical it is for consumer interaction and inbound marketing, among other benefits, brands are right to create content. It’s just that they’re going about it the wrong way.
Here are the five major mistakes brands are making, along with solutions. We’ve made all of these mistakes at our digital agency, Lucid Fusion, more than once. The important thing is to be aware of them, so you can work toward growing out of them.
1. Branding narcissism.
When most brands approach content creation, they pay too much attention to what they think is important and not enough attention to what really matters to the consumer.
The solve: Concentrate more on what your audience truly values and serve them meaningful content that is useful, inspiring and/or interesting to them. Jonathan Frazier, director of communication for non-profit To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), an organization focused on helping people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide, puts it this way, “As creators, pride and fear are always knocking on the door, offering things like fame and money, distracting us from the most basic of human needs -- meaning.” This sort of philosophy has helped TWLOHA attract a tribe of millions by creating meaningful messages of hope that comfort those struggling, like this one from Founder Jamie Tworkowski.
2. Feature fixation.
Consumers don’t connect emotionally with features; they connect with the impact they imagine a product will have in their life.
The solve: Think about where your customers use your product, when it has value, and how they feel when they are enjoying it. Give them insight and suggestions that can enhance their experiences in those areas. How can you make it easier for them to connect to those positive feelings? Think creatively. As Dario Meli, CEO of publishing platform Quietly suggested, “Explore as many of the lifestyle angles as possible, around people doing things with your product, and how those mesh.” Even if your product is a city, you can create content that invites your audience to get the most out of what you have to offer. The crew over at Vancouver-focused website Vancity Buzz uses Quietly to present some quirky and interesting facts to help people discover why they might love Vancouver.
3. Faking it.
Consumer bullshit meters are pretty finely tuned to reject content that is less than authentic.
The solve: Your brand has something of value to offer your audience. Be genuine with what you know and what you can offer, then create from that authenticity. Mazdack Rassi, co-founder and creative director at media company Milk Studios says, “You have to be in a very honest place and speak through content about what your brand stands for and why it matters.” Be real and your real audience will follow. Perhaps, that’s a small group to begin with, but they will be your most loyal evangelists. Milk Studios didn’t get over 100,000 followers on Instagram by tricking anyone.
4. Expecting too much too soon.
So many brands get discouraged when they don’t see an immediate correlation to their digital content and bottom line.
The solve: Content is at its best when it’s an offering in and of itself. It’s a way to show who you are and attract your audience to you. Stefan Merriweather, multimedia coordinator for Harveys Industries (the company behind the seatbelt bag), explains, “We infuse [content] with our company's personality and what we find cool and interesting. This enables us to not only discover common interests with our customers but also develop valuable interaction with them as well.” So when Harveys wants to run an idea by their fans, they’re only too happy to chime in.
5. Focusing on what you can get, rather than what you can give.
We naturally protect ourselves from brands who are only interested in what they can get. And react to them with unsubscribes, feed hides and snarky hashtags.
The solve: Think of each piece of content as a gift or token of appreciation. That will inspire a feeling that you want your audience to have. That they will be better off for having read, watched, or heard. Michael Dubin, CEO of Dollar Shave Club (DSC), advises, “Make sure [they] leave with something for them -- it can be as simple as a laugh. But don't make it all about you. You don't want to be the only one left satisfied after the experience." For their customers, DSC gives their more than 1 million members an eclectic and witty print piece each month called Bathroom Minutes. It’s funny, interesting, random, and highlights submissions from customers -- giving something fun, useful for conversation at parties, and totally unique to DSC.
Challenge your team to improve the quality of the digital content you produce. Remember that each piece you put out is an investment in creating a lasting relationship with your audience: to build trust, affinity and get to know each other better. That investment is what leads to connection. And that connection leads to everything that matters.