The Science of Great Content -- Think in Terms of 'AURA'

Focus on authenticity, usefulness, relevancy and action to increase the halo effect of digital marketing efforts.

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By Mel Carson

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Like big data before it, content marketing has become quite the buzz phrase for marketers this year. But the notion of companies creating great content to attract attention for and engagement with their brands isn't really new.

In 2006 while I served as the community manager for Microsoft's pay-per-click platform, adCenter (now Bing Ads), I and other staffers understood the need to use digital and social media for so much more than just telling customers that they should use a product.

We would scour blogs and forums to discover what customers were talking about, then create blog posts or videos based on what they liked of even disliked about the platform developed by Microsoft (now a client of my company). This content would then be discoverable through search engines and social media, helping users learn how to use the tool better or address and resolve issues they had.

Over the years, I have come to realize that the best digital content consists of four elements that help it become more discoverable and sharable: authenticity, usefulness, relevancy and action, which I refer to by the acronym AURA. Attention to AURA will help you polish your content, increase the halo effect of digital marketing efforts, bolster its reach and spur engagement.

Related: This Type of Content Gets the Best Marketing Results (Infographic)

1. Content should be authentic.

Consumers are becoming savvier and more discerning as Internet and social media use grows, allowing them to do their own research.

Any marketing for a business that doesn't come across as genuine runs the risk of being flayed on social media or turning people off. Stick to what you do best and have the confidence to be transparent on occasion to generate the kind of trust and makes people want to talk about your company.

Related: The 3 Myths Most Entrepreneurs Tell Themselves About Marketing

2. Try to be useful.

Digital and social media has given marketers a magnificent opportunity to have a two-way dialogue with consumers. If your business is not set up to listen to conversations online, then you will be left behind. Being able to empathize with customers or better still anticipate their needs gives you the power to create marketing experiences that offer real value beyond telling consumers that they need ar product or service. Lowes' #LowesFixInSix Vine videos spring to mind as an excellent example of this approach.

3. Stay relevant.

The speed at which information is conveyed by social media means some trends are out-of-date almost before they begin. Business marketers need to stick to a carefully thought-out content plan and calendar, but they should also build in the flexibility to react quickly to opportunities. The famous Super Bowl tweet, in which the creative team for the maker of Oreo cookies swiftly used levity during the 2013 power outage at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Superdome, is a great example of this. DiGiorno's recent hashtag fiasco, making light reference to domestic abuse, is not.

4. Encourage action.

If you've created a fabulous infographic or video and consumers become engaged with it, don't let that be the end of their interaction with your company's content. Inspire consumers to channel hop by giving them social signposts to click, follow, play, like, share and engage some more. Don't give them an excuse to leave your content and go elsewhere.

Keeping people absorbed in your company's content experience can mean they'll spend less time with the competition. I'm not suggesting a walled garden of content. Rather be sure you're taking every opportunity to have customers spend as much time as they can in your company's corner of the web.

With more and more companies vying for consumers' attention on the Internet, marketers and business owners need to stay one step ahead of others in their niche. A sophisticated content strategy that helps your company stand out in the crowded online environment will increase the halo effect for your brand and build positive equity for the company that will keep people returning to its content.

Related: Should You Market Like Chipotle or Be Conversational?

Mel Carson

Founder and Principal Strategist at Delightful Communications

Mel Carson is founder of Delightful Communications, a Seattle-based social-media-strategy, digital-PR and personal-branding consulting firm. He is co-author of Pioneers of Digital and speaks about digital marketing and communications at conferences globally. He spent seven years at Microsoft as its digital-marketing evangelist.

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