In this edition of our bi-weekly Engage column, we continue to share our views about the four cornerstones of a successful content marketing strategy. While the last post we published focused on the Creation and Distribution of content, we’ll now turn our attention to the two remaining cornerstones: Engagement and Amplification.
As our readers may recall, a successful content marketing strategy requires targeting the right platforms for content Creation vs. Distribution; different channels are optimized for each, and should be used in concert. The next step is to consider designing your content so that your audiences engage, and share, which in turn increases the reach of your material.
In terms of engagement there are a few things to consider. Your goal is to develop content that stimulates a response among your audience – a phrase we like to use at Southwark is ‘write for reaction’. Of course, stimulating a reaction first requires that your audience is drawn to your content and actually reads, listens to, or watches it first. The main way to generate that initial interest is to utilize smart headlines, especially those that create curiosity. While we’re not necessarily advocating that institutions of higher learning adopt a Buzz Feed style of ‘click bait’ headlines, we do think there is a great deal to be learned from looking at the kind of content headlines that generate the most engagement. An easy way for one to do this is to simply study your personal Facebook or Twitter feed and take note of the headlines that seem to be grabbing all the attention (via likes, favorites, retweets, etc.).
Once you have tackled the task of ensuring that your audience takes that initial step with your content (by clicking on your headlines), you now want your audience to react to the information you are sharing. It goes without saying that stimulating emotion increases the likelihood of engagement. Images also tend to engage more so than plain text – they are easier to interpret, easier to recall, and they tend to catch the eye in a busy newsfeed. Quizzes and questions can also be effective as they fall into the category of content that asks for direct responses.
Content that is relevant to a current newsworthy issue or in sync with your audience’s state of needs will be more engaging than great content that is out of context. For example, when oil prices drop and garner nonstop media coverage, writing a piece that ties your own institution to that trending topic offers the opportunity to illustrate thought leadership and spur engagement from a wide audience. While it may seem challenging to tie trending topics to your institution, there are usually more ways that one might think. For instance, with the oil markets example above, perhaps a marketing professor at your university has published a piece on what the falling price of oil means for everyday products beyond the gas pump, or maybe a student-run investment fund is has shifted course in light of the lower cost of oil. The piece is more likely to be read, commented on and then shared, than a piece on the hiring of a new faculty member.
Comments, likes, and shares signal engagement for the content. With Facebook, more engaging content also helps with content distribution; Facebook’s algorithm rewards engaging content by showing it to a higher proportion of those who follow a page. Designing content for engagement also means that it is important to follow up with the content, and participate in developing discussions spawned by the content.
This is no longer a ‘top down’ model for content distribution, but a conversation with your audiences. That conversation should also include engaging with others content. This provides potential goodwill, while also moving your brand into other communities.
Amplification of your content is an important outcome of engagement. In short, when your audience comments, likes, shares or retweets your content, they are amplifying your reach by moving that content out into their own personal networks. This not only broadens the exposure of your content, but does so with an implicit endorsement from someone with whom the new audience is connected. There are long-term benefits to amplification as well, since a portion of the ‘new audience’ you reach will typically decide to subscribe to your channel – thereby growing the reach of future content your publish.
It is worth noting that amplification can also be purchased, via “native advertisements” on Facebook and Twitter. This may be a useful tactic in order to begin developing a robust content marketing program, or for a re-branding campaign.
Developing a robust content marketing program requires a very strategic perspective, and is becoming more and more important; studies show that we are getting more of our information through our social networks. Southwark’s next edition of “Engage” will explore, more deeply, the importance of considering two distinct audiences: those already currently engaged with your channels, and those who are not.
This post is part of Southwark Consulting’s blog series, “Engage”, which examines the new social media and mobile environment and offers case studies and advice on how to navigate this evolving landscape. These stories are published every second Thursday.