Understanding Content Strategy: What Resonates with Real Users

Content marketing has been around for over a century now, but as a focused discipline it has only gained traction in marketing circles in the last five years or so.

One of the prime reasons for this sudden spotlight content marketing is the rise of consumption of digital content by users and consequently, the explosion in digital marketing during the same period. From lowly single digit spends, digital marketing today accounts for over 25% of global media spends among the top 100 brands in the world.

The cost effectiveness of content marketing or inbound marketing (as it is sometimes referred to) makes it a favorite of marketers. According to a study by the CMO Council,

The average cost to generate a lead through inbound marketing ($143) is less than half the average cost per lead for outbound marketing ($373).

Defining Effective Content Marketing

How does one know whether one’s content marketing strategies have worked or not? From the numbers of course! While not every type of marketing effort can be linked to a direct numerical co-relation, tons of them CAN be.

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Content marketing has different objectives based on the life cycle stage of the user and on the marketing strategies of individual brands. From creating brand awareness to generating leads to growing traffic; content marketing fulfills different roles at each stage of the customer acquisition funnel.

HubSpot explains the various types of content that work at different stages of a users’ life cycle as the customer moves from being a virtual stranger to the brand to being a visitor to being turned into a lead to being converted into a paying customer who keeps coming back over and over again.

Types of Content


As we see in the figure above, content marketing does not just aim at sales as its only objective. The 4 key content marketing objectives include:

  • Attracting a user’s attention and creating awareness about your brand
  • Making the user positively inclined towards the brand
  • Convincing and converting the user from a lead into a buyer
  • Grooming a one-time buyer into a loyal brand evangelist

These results materialize in many ways that can be directly measured – traffic, clicks, views (in case of videos), shares, likes, comments, purchases and sustained engagement.

The effectiveness of content marketing is measured using these indicators that stand in for the objectives that content marketing hopes to achieve.

Here we’ll take a look at content marketing’s report card –results that make the entire process of content marketing worth its while.

Who Shares Your Content & What Do They Share

According to research by AOL & Nielsen; 27 million pieces of content are shared every single day in some form or the other. Another study by Ipsos states that 70% of internet users share content on a regular basis.

Sharing content from a brandis equivalent tosaying ‘I like this brand and I share its beliefs’. This is the stage of the user’s journey that comes typically after brand awareness, i.e. brand preference. Users that tend to share content easily are the ones who are more receptive to brand related messages.

While most content marketers have clear user personas in their minds while creating, publishing and promoting their content, the actual consumption of the content by real users is not entirely in their hands.

Expectedly; women are more active sharers than men, with 74% women claiming to share content online as against only 69% of men. Younger users under the age of 35 are also more enthusiastic in their sharing patterns (81%)  as compared to older ones.

Users have differing reasons behind sharing content. Motivations behind sharing content ranged from the content being interesting, funny, important and unique to simply the desire to share with friends and family what they were doing or to let them know one’s strongly held beliefs.

Apart from self-generated content like status updates and their own opinions, the top 3 types of content that users like to share on social media include:

  • Pictures
  • Links to Articles
  • User Recommendations



Marketers’ Takeaway

To positively reinforce your brand’s image in a user’s mind make sure your content fulfills the user’s basic motivations for sharing content. Some of the key things of your content need to be include being interesting, funny and unique. Both quantity and quality of content matter. Create a variety of content that revolves around your brand and the industry you operate in. Create and publish fresh content on a regular basis. Old content does not have share-worthiness and comes across as stale to users.

Stay on top of your content creation, publishing and promotion by picking a robust project management tools like WorkZone, Basecamp, Zoho etc. That way you’ll have a clear handle on what content is being created, who is working on which piece and when is each piece due for publishing.

It helps if the content is in the form of images, is a URL that can be easily shared or is even an unbiased user review that helps the user develop a brand preference.


While there is no silver bullet that will give you the one correct answer, to judge how well or otherwise your content will perform, use the Coca Cola test for great content that Ashley Callahan talks about here:

  1. Does it answer the “Why Should I Care” test?
  2. Does it surprise you?
  3. Is it compelling with universal appeal?
  4. Is it being measured systemically?
  5. Does the topic generate interest?
  6. Is it new — something you haven’t seen before?

If your content looks like it’ll ace this test, then it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t wait to publish that gem right away!

  Discuss This Article

Comments: 2

  • Meghan says:

    This article is one of the better articles on content marketing that I’ve seen. But, I have a couple thoughts.

    1) I do not believe that sharing content is the same as saying “I like this brand and i share their beliefs.” There’s no way to measure a person’s brand affinity with views or shares. I’d venture a guess that much of what gets shared doesn’t even get associated with a brand in the sharer’s or the sharee’s minds.

    2) I spend a lot of time trying to get my clients to prioritize their audiences. Their audience is not everyone. So, I don’t think that asking whether something has broad appeal is the right question. Does it appeal to the people who are most important for us to reach?

    3) The checklist of questions leaves out the most important one: Does it make sense for our brand to talk about this and are we a credible voice on this topic? Without asking that question, valuable marketing dollars are wasted on content that don’t boost the brand and just clutter up the content “marketplace”.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Meghan,

      Re #1 – I guess when a brand shares meaningful content, educating and helping users to research the subject, it evokes a huge positive response which gets associated with brand at some point, don’t you think?

      It was great to see “smart content” mentioned in the “delight” part of graphics. I really like the fact that marketers start thinking it’s a way to go. It combines marries marketing with education, the link which I think is more natural than it sounds, and it we lost it a long time ago.

      Think Nike educating people about latest developments in smart fabrics technology or Tesla about environment friendly engineering. I’d love to see this stuff around more.

      Shameless plug – we at filtr8.com make such kind of engagement really simple – we love smart content and want it to rule the web ;)

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