In the next few weeks, companies will be working on their marketing plans for 2013 and, for many of them, content marketing will play a part in those plans. If you are involved in planning those content marketing efforts, you will likely need to consider a few important changes in online consumer behavior.
Research agency InSites Consulting, data and sampling partner SSI, and translation agency No Problem! recently conducted a global consumer survey to better understand the consumer. Based on this research, we were able to draw five key conclusions that content marketers should take into account as they start to plan for 2013.
1. Pinterest offers more potential for content marketers than Instagram
A lot of content managers are not sure whether they should invest time and resources in these two photo-sharing sites. Considering the growth potential of both sites, image-based content is certainly worth at least a look.
Consider these study findings:
- About one-quarter of the online population knows about both sites, though their adoption rates are still very low: 3 percent use Pinterest and 4 percent use Instagram.
- Half of Pinterest users log on daily, as opposed to just 31 percent of Instagram users.
- 60 percent of Pinterest users intend to use the site more often in the future, whereas for Instagram users this is “only” 40 percent.
In addition, our survey found that Pinterest probably holds the bigger promise for brands. For example, 41 percent of Pinterest users are currently sharing brand-related content on the site, compared to 35 percent of Instagram users. Both sites do well in this regard, but just as with the overall stats, Pinterest scored better than Instagram.
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2. There is only a small window of opportunity for your content to engage an audience
Our study found that an average consumer is linked to 11 brands on social media and follows seven brands in an active way. In general, people engage with an average of five brands. So in order to reach consumers on social media, the challenge is to be one of the 11 brands the average consumer follows. And when you want to have an engaging relationship, you need to be one of the five brands your consumers choose to interact with. Knowing there are a large number of strong brands out there (including the usual suspects: Coca Cola, Apple, Disney…) there is only a small window of opportunity for other companies out there to get that coveted audience. Of course, relevant content is the key to grabbing this opportunity. The smartest way to make sure your content is relevant, is to involve the target audience in the content creation process. Ask people what they want, and ask what would add value in their lives.
3. Social advertising is necessary for increasing reach
As I mentioned above, consumers are cutting back on the number of brands they interact with on social media. And as a brand, you are not only competing with other brands for the attention of the consumer, you are also competing with the consumer’s friends. On a Facebook timeline, consumers like to see updates from their friends. Of course, they appreciate a few updates from brands they love; however, once the amount of branded content becomes larger than the content of real friends, consumers don’t like it anymore. This makes it a difficult battle. Brands should consider promoting their story in order to improve their odds of getting the greatest share possible of that attention.
To be heard, your brand needs to buy attention span. Certainly when the online reach is still rather limited, it really helps to promote your content. I think it is important to advertise with your content — and not with a direct promotion. By promoting your content, you increase the reach with relevant people, whereas with a direct promotion (such as an ad or offer), you will likely only attract “bounty hunters,” who will be less valuable to your brand in the long run.
4. Fans are not seen as a credible source
Other internet users consider brand fans to be unreliable. In our study, we asked consumers the following question: “In your opinion, how reliable is the information posted on social media by each of the following persons?” “People we know personally” received the highest score by far. In other words: The most important “influencers” are those closest to us, regardless of the number of followers they have. This means that instead of “influencers,” we should be looking at “influence,” and that is something everyone can have.
What really struck me was the extremely low influence of “brand fans” (“politicians” was the only category to do worse). Information presented by staff, or even the company CEO, is seen as more reliable than information coming from a fan. Remarkable, isn’t it? An “ordinary” customer and his feedback and conversations, therefore, have more influence than feedback from a brand fan.
In general, this may be because consumers view brand fans as biased, so their recommendations may have a limited impact. This implies that our content should reach out to the average consumer, as well — not just those that have identified themselves as fans.
Yet, targeting fans is still ideal for kick-starting your content and getting it to spread to other consumers. The quality of the content will determine to what extent the second layer (after the fans) will share it as well. This concept of “layer sharing” is becoming more and more important as a content KPI. Further, brand fans can be “used” by companies in different ways.
For example, I still see a number of aspects where a fan represents an added value for a brand:
- A fan is quick to share content: By sharing brand content, the brand’s reach expands. Once “ordinary” consumers also start sharing that content, its impact increases significantly.
- A fan is usually also of financial importance to a company: It’s wonderful to have a place (e.g., Facebook) where you can strengthen the relationship you’ve built with your fans on an ongoing basis. This makes them more likely to stay and, therefore, more likely to keep buying.
- Fans are clamoring to be involved in co-creation projects: Non-fans may consider them to be unreliable, but they are often intimately familiar with the company’s range of products and services. By using their knowledge and fandom to improve existing products and services, companies can make the most of excellent content opportunities.
5. Consumers want to be involved in the creation of content
Consumers are clear: They want to collaborate with brands they like. In our study, 80 percent of consumers stated they would love to be involved in co-creation projects of brands they like. And specifically, most consumers reported that they prefer to take part in improving existing products.
Yet, many brands often overlook this opportunity in their content marketing plans. Our B2B study, “The 4 Cs of the Conversation Company,” showed that less than 1 out of 5 companies are actually involving their consumers in their marketing planning. To take advantage of this, select a small group of relevant consumers and involve them in product improvement, development, or broader strategic questions. The use of key consumers as consultants should be part and parcel of a conversation strategy.
If you would like to see more results of this global consumer survey, take a look at our free research report.
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