What makes content great? This is a question you are likely to ask yourself when you sit down to launch your next campaign. Before you begin to type, take a second to consider some larger aspects of content strategy, and let some new research to be your guide. As we strive to create honest and authentic content, there is now new data pointing you to the specifics of what really makes your content more authentic, honest, and credible, helping you to break through the digital noise and drive the results you’re looking for with your content.
The new data also can help you prove the value of certain distribution models, bring to light the need for new tools, and show the value of content marketing over a longer time frame. So as you try to fight writer’s block in the coming months, ponder these seven data-driven points to help you create better content, distribute it more effectively, and be better able to prove the lifetime value of your content marketing efforts.
1. Primary Data Is More Trusted
Pardot research published in 2014 asked 400 B2B buyers about their content experience and found 61 percent of the B2B buyers said content that shares primary research is more credible than content that does not. This is an easy thing to understand, yet when we are tasked to produce lots of content we may put this aspect aside due to the costs of research. But readers say they find it more credible, so it is something we should strive for. There are different ways to obtain primary research, and it doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money.
Consider doing primary research in three ways:
- Survey: This is the best for answering tactical questions. Tools like SurveyMonkey will help you create a survey, and find the exact audience for a reasonable amount. In the past I’ve done a highly targeted survey using this tool to 400 to 500 people for about $1,000. This may be out of your budget, so consider other research options.
- Observation: This is the easiest and by far the least expensive of acceptable research methods. Consider creating benchmark studies by observing a specific set of criteria each year and write up how those data points change. I did just that in this article for ClickZ where I observed the use of a new marketing technology and the article was one of the most read articles on the site.
- Internal Analysis: This can be one of the most powerful studies, and lasting pieces of content. One of my favorite examples of this is the Email Performance Benchmark report from MailChimp. They show the average email open, click, and bounce rate for every vertical market they serve. The data come from its service and is anonymized for privacy. It is a go to resource and pure SEO gold.
Although conducting primary research proves to be more credible, it is only one factor in making the full experience helpful, authentic, and credible. How you say it and how it is found are the next two major aspects to creating great content.
2. Looks Are Important
The look and presentation of the content has the highest impact on making your content more authentic. In the same Pardot report, they found 70 percent of all survey respondents agreed the look and feel of the content is very influential in their view of content authenticity. The next biggest factor in a buyer’s perception of authenticity is the quality of the writing. And 62 percent of buyers feel the quality of the writing to be very influential in determining if content is authentic.
In Ann Handley’s recent book, Everybody Writes, she talks specifically about creating better content by being better writers. If you are not a particularly good writer there are books such as Handley’s and other resources to help improve your writing. Consider taking courses to improve your writing, as writing well is crucial to content marketing success in 2015 and is a simple way to quickly improve your content.
3. Halo Effect Plays a Role in the Content Experience
The “Halo Effect,” per Wikipedia, “is a cognitive bias in which an observer’s overall impression of a person, company, brand, or product influences the observer’s feelings and thoughts about that entity’s character or properties. It was named by psychologist Edward Thorndike in reference to a person being perceived as having a halo….If you like one aspect of something, you’ll have a positive predisposition toward everything about it. If you dislike one aspect of something, you’ll have a negative predisposition toward everything about it.”
Content must be distributed, yet we very rarely consider distribution as apart of the content experience, yet new data shows it can have a significant factor in the experience. How people come across your content can significantly affect their perception of it, which means it can create a positive or negative bias before they even begin to read it. Consider this – people now can search, discover, and find things online at any moment. They know they have this power, and they trust things they find. They do not trust things put in front of them nearly as much as things they find on their own. This is why creating content, which gets shared, is so important. Not just because it increases your reach, but also because if it is shared it is far more likely to be trusted by those with whom it is shared.
Of different distribution methods Pardot found 44 percent of B2B buyers perceive content that is shared by industry thought leaders as the most authentic of all content. This means having your content distributed by trusted industry thought leaders will give your content an impact other distribution channels will not. Give your content the best chance at reaching its goal by ensuring you include a way to use organic distribution by industry thought leaders as a part of your content strategy.
4. Authentic Content Has Value Past the Download
Jeff Rohrs published Audience in 2014, which has been named by some as the best social media book of the year. In Audience he describes the need for proprietary audiences, which allow brands to have push button access to their fans. Creating and maintaining a social audience takes content, but not just any content. When looking to use content to increase your audience, data published by Pardot found 80 percent of those who are likely to share your content say the “authenticity” of your content is the most influential factor in their decision to become a subscriber, fan, or follower of your brand.
The surprising part about building an audience isn’t just that you have fans to talk to, but that these fans have real tangible value. The research further found that 80 percent of all B2B buyers surveyed said they are more likely to evaluate solutions from the brands they follow on social channels. So creating authentic content not only is going to provide a better experience for the reader and be more likely to win them as a fan/follower, but also help convert them into actual revenue for your organization.
5. Great Content Increases Lifetime Value
The lifetime value of a lead is something brands are beginning to measure. Tools such as marketing automation allow brands to follow leads across the full lifecycle and shed light on to new ways of proving value on marketing activities. If you want to be able to prove a longer-term value on content marketing in 2015, consider its effect on the full value of a client. Pardot also found in its research that delivering “authentic content” to a current customer is two times more impactful on their decision to stay with you than their “trust in [your] brand’s employees.” It’s also three times more important to them than your “perceived position in the marketplace.”
When deciding whether or not to stay with a vendor, 25 percent of respondents say “trust in a brand’s product” is “extremely important,” and 23 percent cite the “helpfulness of content” as the second biggest factor in their decision to stay with a vendor. Content is playing a much larger role in a customer’s lifecycle than we may have realized before, so it’s now even more important to understand how to show the value of your content efforts to your organization so you can allocate marketing resources correctly. In 2015 it may be better to spend money on internal content, rather than the analyst report you were planning.
6. Bad Content Erodes Trust
The majority of content marketing is measured by an engagement metric and mostly downloads. It seems to be the standard measure for the effectiveness of content. Did it evoke the action we wanted, yet we are not considering what the impact of the content had on the consumer. Pardot took a look at this as well with its research and found 71 percent of those likely to share had engaged with content they found disappointing; 25 percent of those who were disappointed also said they would never read content from that brand again, and 39 percent said they are only slightly likely to ever read content from that brand again.
7. Ghostwriting Kills Trust
Many companies do not have the luxury of dedicated thought leaders, or dedicated writing teams, and use their executive teams as their thought leaders. With the demands placed on their time, writing is usually left to others while their names still end up on the final document. The term ghostwriting refers to an article that is penned by someone other than the author. This practice has been used for years, and has different view points from many different people. Pardot followed up in its research study to see how consumers felt about the practice of ghost writing and found 83 percent of those surveyed said if they found out content wasn’t written by the persons whose name is on it, it would negatively affect their level of trust with the brand in a significant way. It is unlikely the readers will know if you are using a ghostwriter but from the standpoint on ethics, we should consider our readers feel it to be unethical.
The value of creating great content can easily extend past the download, but it takes time and data to understand what should be created, and how actually create good content experiences. New data is coming out all the time that helps us to show the value of great content is much deeper than just in the download, and the measure of great content is in more than just the piece itself. The full experience around the content is now what we are being judged on, and hopefully you will be able to take these new data-driven lessons back to your content team and build better content experiences in the coming year.
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