This is a continuation of a series of posts sharing my thoughts on the various components of a digital marketing stack. The series stared off with a post: “What does your digital marketing stack look like” and was followed up by posts on CRM and Marketing Automation.

There is a lot of buzz about content marketing today, and as we speak content marketers are flocking to Cleveland, Ohio for a week-long extravaganza this week at Content Marketing World 2014! In this post I will share my thoughts on content marketing and how social media can help with personalizing content at ‘scale’.

Content Marketing Today

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of people would rather learn about a company via an article than an ad. Content Marketing has enabled marketers to create strong brand identities at a fraction of the price of traditional marketing tactics, and in less time. However, with the ever shrinking attention span of customers (with the average attentions span of less than 8 seconds), we as marketers face the challenge of creating content that is compelling and relevant for them. As the internationally recognized analyst and strategy advisor Michael Krigsman quoted in his blog “Content is King but Context is God”. The question is ‘how do you get the ‘context’ and know what your buyer really is interested in’?

It’s about ‘Context’ and ‘Social’ is a Gold Mine

With the ever-increasing amounts of information that people are sharing on social media, there is an opportunity for companies to actually listen to what their prospects and customers are saying and use that information to do a better job of providing them with relevant content. However, this is easier said than done. With the huge amounts of information (including ‘noise’) and large number of users on these channels, how do you scale the process of listening and engaging with personalized content?

Here are 3 steps to hyper personalization at scale:

1. Listening: You are listening to the conversations on social channels in order to (a) Find out more about your existing leads and (b) Find out what all these leads are talking about

What do you start listening for? Start with terms related to your products or services, your competitors’ names and generic discussions about the space that you play in. To begin with, it is fine to use a static list of these terms and fine-tune them over time. As you get more sophisticated, you will find that due to the very transient nature of social interactions, it is easy to misjudge what it is that you should be listening for. This requires ‘adaptive listening’ at scale which is where predictive analytics capabilities come into play.

2. Analyzing: You have now collected a tremendous amount of data related to profiles and social interactions (‘Big Data’ to use a cliché). If you want, you can analyze this information to find out what are the specific topics that each of the leads is interested in, what his or her network of connections looks like etc. However, as a Demand Generation professional, you would not be interested in each lead in individual detail – hence you should perform this analysis at a segment level where data is collected across multiple leads at a time.

As an example, assume you have a segment (or group) of leads that belong to the Pharma Industry. You can now get a better understanding of what all of the leads that belong to this segment have in common (their size of networks, who they connect with on social channels as well as the topics that they are interested in).

3. Nurturing leads with relevant content: This is where the rubber hits the road. All of the work you have done in the first two steps is meant to ensure that you do a much better job of targeting your leads and personalizing the content during this step.

You now have a list of leads and detailed analysis of who they are, what they are talking about, who they are connected to etc. Use this wealth of information to more accurately determine which content in your marketing repository is most appropriate for each of your leads. You can also personalize the text of your messages out to them a lot more than just ensuring that their names appear (either on social media or email). Based on the analysis that you have done, you could adapt the text to refer to a key topic that that each lead is interested in.

Use the data gathered about leads to ensure that your messaging and ads are personalized enough without appearing to be creepy and tools to ensure that you can repeat this process many times over without needing manual intervention.

We are just in the initial stages of hyper personalization (the clichéd ‘target group of 1’), and brands which leverage this concept will benefit from unfair competitive advantage, higher click through rates, more engaged audiences and increased conversions.

Want to learn more about social and content? NextPrinciples is a Gold Sponsor of the ‘Social & Content’ track at Marketers First Virtual Event this week hosted by Marketo. Join us to learn more.

Have you tried to personalize content at scale? I would love to hear your thoughts on what worked and what did not.

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