Creating and distributing content using real-time intelligence

Let’s say you know what type of content your audience likes to consume, and you know what they’re interested in right now. Once you have those insights locked down, what types of actions should they trigger on your part?

Happily, brands have more tools than ever before to become effective publishers. With the relevant real-time insight at your fingertips, it’s now easier than ever before to know what to say.

Two ways to think about your content approach

1.Tent pole. There are a number of marquee events throughout the year – holidays, major industry events, and your own product releases – which you can anticipate well in advance. How do you maximize those opportunities to be a part of a larger social conversation, and to vie for attention when many other players will be doing the same? These events can congested, and thinking of something relevant and unique to say can be difficult. Staying on top of real-time social conversations will help you find the conversation entry-points that let you distinguish yourself.

2.Evergreen. While tent pole events can make it tough to get attention, figuring out what to say during the in-between time can be even tougher. For everyday engagement, it can be immensely helpful to think of social media as the place to either discuss how your product or service affects your customers’ lives, or to speak to the interests and lifestyles of your audience. There’s an entire constellation of recommendations, tips, guides, and other relevant content you can create or share based on the answers to a couple of key questions:

  • How can people use my products and/or services?
  • What problems can my products and/or services solve?
  • What does my audience care about?
  • What brand personality am I trying to convey?

You’ll find that a mix of topical and news-based insights is helpful for triggering content ideas that answer these questions. Both will help you understand the overlap between your core product or service and the other things your audience generally cares about. Both will help you understand what matters to your audience, so that you can create content that appeals to them.

Using publishing tools

Once you get a handle on your approach, you’ll then publish content. Remember, publishing can include a wide breadth of activities, from a short tweet to a comprehensive article or well-produced video. There are the obvious environments:

Social media. Your social media accounts are a great way to add quick context that gets you into the conversation, without requiring lots of overhead. Once you secure a content alert system, adding a word or two or commentary – or simply sharing out a link if your brand personality is well-enough defined – is another way to keep yourself in the mix and make yourself useful to your audience.

Inbound. With the proliferation of social media environments (and given the failure of the microsite movement), websites might seem a bit quaint these days, but they’re making a comeback. With great content, your website can be an effective content hub. Companies like HubSpot and Red Bull have built serious equity in their sites, making them valuable publishing properties in their own right.

And then there are the new guys. As the content creation imperative has become more urgent, a couple of innovative companies have created tools that offer solutions for brands’ content creation and presentation needs. Consider:

RebelMouse. The social CMS enables online publishers to build great-looking pages out of their social media content, and to automatically curate content using everything from handles, hashtags, and keyword phrases to items the brand likes on Instagram.

Branch. This forum platform lets publishers host real-time conversations, then publish them afterwards. These are a way to provide context to real-time content, and to add value to that context by having it come from multiple voices, whether hand-picked or from your broader community.

SpreeCast. Like Branch, the video conversation platform provides a way to generate real-time content about a topic. It also adds a collaborative and multimedia element to the mix, making the content that much more engaging.

By staying on top of real-time intelligence about your audience, you'll find that you have all the publishing environments and tools you need to respond effectively to the things your audience cares about now. 

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Posted in Blog Posts, Real-Time Data Intelligence

4 ways to identify and leverage online conversations

What exactly are the "online conversations" you should be tapping into, and how do you find them? Read on for specifics.

In a nutshell, online conversations include what people read, share, and talk about online. Mining these conversations gives you the best insight into what your audience cares about, which is the crucial first step in building a resonant content strategy. To be effective, you need to identify the conversations that are relevant to your audience, and then provide context to those conversations, quickly.

Why the time element? Because relevance depends in large part on how quickly you react to the things your audience is interested in at a given time. Once your audience has moved on, you're no longer in the conversation that matters. This fleeting consumer attention span is one of the distinguishing features of social media, and all of the noise it generates.

Here are four types of conversations you can tap into now.

1. News. One of the best ways to stay in relevant conversations is to keep current with what's breaking right now. Doing so enables you to provide unique context to news your audience cares about, and to show how your product or service solves a new problem, or helps people take advantage of new trends. To participate in the news conversation, be prepared to act fast. Remember: you have to first consume relevant news content yourself, then generate the original content or commentary that's in conversation with it.

keep calm batman

2. Memes. Sometimes they're pegged to a news event, sometimes a pop cultural reference. In addition to demonstrating your general cultural currency, referencing memes is a great way to generate repeat content quickly (for as long as the meme resonates) and to use the reference as shorthand for your own brand positioning. The watchword for taking advantage of memes: sharp execution.

3. Topics. Understanding what general topics your audience engages with lets you do longer-term planning, and lets you produce content they care about outside of the news cycle. This is the difference between producing content about your brand's general take on the topic of "big data", versus content about – to cite a breaking news example – the relationship between big data and the recently disclosed U.S. surveillance programs.

4. Domains. If you see that your audience frequents certain websites regularly, you can put yourself in conversation with its audience by contributing guest content or doing a branded content deal.

The key to being effective in the brand conversation is to understand what the people who are engaging with your content engage with elsewhere: the stories they read, the topics they care about, the domains they frequent, and the keywords that pop. Get a handle on this, and you'll have won half the battle of executing an effective content strategy.


Bitly helps connect brands to potential audience members out on the social web. To learn more, visit our product page, download our product sheets [PDF], and schedule a free consultation with one of our experts.

Posted in Blog Posts

How to choose publishing partners using real-time data

How can real-time audience data inform which publishing partners you choose to work with?

My first job out of college was as a traditional digital media buyer, and our engagement with paid publishing partners was fairly straightforward. We considered the target audience for the brand. We put out an RFP to the publishers and networks that met our vertical and audience criteria. We awarded budgets based on CPM proposals and relationships (fancy dinners and overflowing gift baskets helped). We repeated the process at renewal time.

Some years later, I moved into programmatic buying on the ad exchanges. Mostly gone were the relationships and RFPs. Now, the practice was all about direct response goals, customer modeling, and algorithms. We defined campaign goals in terms of quantifiable metrics, set up basic campaign parameters, selected audience data we thought would zero in on the right users, and set our algorithms loose on unsold inventory across a wide breadth of publishers, large and small.

Now, online users are increasingly blind to banners. Adapting to this reality, more brands are considering customized content with publishing partners, creating branded experiences on sites. Exactly how should brands select the appropriate publishing partners? Real-time audience data can help brands pick the right opportunities. Here are the questions you should consider.

  1. What mood is my audience in? Does your audience consume mostly light fare, serious content, or a mix? The same underlying content can be customized to a BuzzFeed list or to a Huffington Post sponsored page. Understanding your audience's orientation will help you frame the content, choose the right partner, and create resonance.
  1. What does my audience like to read? There are more format possibilities than ever before. Understanding your audience's habits can inform whether your content will be best received as a list, prose, interview, infographic, or some combination thereof.
  1. What topics does my audience care about? Consider a personal finance brand. It can create content that applies personal finance advice to a host of sub-topics. Knowing whether their audience is mostly interested in content about entrepreneurship, travel, skateboarding, composting, or politics enables that brand to create custom content that can find a home in publications about said topics.
  1. How is my audience distinct? On a related note, understanding your audience's idiosyncrasies – how they're distinct from the audiences of competitive brands – can give you particularly useful insight. Going back to our personal finance brand, understanding the cross-section of your audience's various interests enables you build out an audience persona that lets you blow out a strategy for PR, content partnerships, social media, and creative.

In this new content-focused paradigm, choosing great content partners is a quick way to put yourself in the right context for an audience whose attention you'll have to fight for. Understanding what they're engaging with out on the social web is key for making informed decisions about what those partnerships should be, and the type of content you should create within them.

Posted in Blog Posts

That audience data you rely on? It’s obsolete in the age of content.

What is your audience paying attention to online right this minute? If your answer is “I don’t know”, you’re missing information critical for building audience relationships in the content age.

More brands than ever before are leaning into content creation. After making the initial commitment to content, though, brands must do the tougher work of figuring out how to do it well at scale. Building a strong rapport with audiences is crucial for creating content that people will actually be excited about and engage with, which in turn helps further solidify the audience relationship. In order to do this effectively, brands need to get a handle on what makes their audiences tick.

But if you think this is a do-it-and-done process, think again: your audience’s profile is a lot more layered than you might think, and your audience itself changes more often than you might imagine. Although many brands already use audience data, most of that data doesn’t uncover the behaviors that are crucial for brands to understand in order to create content that connects with today’s online users.

Exactly what is that crucial insight? In a nutshell, it’s knowing what content is capturing your audience’s attention online…right now.

Remember, brands have to compete for users’ attention with more voices – on social media, from publishers, and across devices – than ever before. This means that effectively building lasting, trusting relationships with audiences on today’s highly fragmented web requires brands to provide context to their users: they must reach the right audience with the right content, on the right channel, and at the right time. When you remember that there are lots of possibilities for all four of those elements, you can start to appreciate how tough it is to hit the mark on all of them time and again. Yet doing so is the only way to create content that has a fighting chance at winning your audiences’ attention.

What standard audience data won’t tell you

While brands have relied on several categories of audience data for insight in the past, those data aren’t ideal for delivering the most pivotal insight for content creators: information about what other content is capturing users’ attention at a given moment.

What your audience says about their interests – the things they like, share, pin, follow, and so on – tells us a lot about the version of themselves they consciously present to the world, but potentially little about the content they’re actually engaging with. What they buy is a reliable indication of what their priorities are, but people’s interests are a lot more varied than their purchases. And demographic data, while useful in some cases, can actually confuse our understanding of an audience’s interests. There’s no need to guess people’s interests from their demographic profile when we can simply see what they care about based on their actions.

So what audience data can give you a high-fidelity view of what your audience actually cares about in real-time, enabling you to provide the all-important context necessary for building trusting relationships with them?

What your audience cares about right now

Knowing what content people are clicking in real-time, especially on social media, tells us what topics grab their attention, when they’re paying the most attention, and on what domains they interact with content right now, which is the timing that matters most for today’s content creation. Knowing what content people are engaging with, where, and when is critical for brands that want to understand their audiences, insert themselves right in the middle of conversations that matter to their audiences, and quickly build credibility and engagement.

Consider Oreo’s much talked-about “dunk in the dark” tweet (sorry, had to bring it up). The tweet referenced the Super Bowl, a major network television event watched by an estimated 36% of Americans. The sheer scale of the event’s audience all but guaranteed that the content would resonate with lots of people. But in most other cases, brands need to replicate that type of resonance with audiences who, instead of being captivated by one of the few massive television viewing events left, are engaging with content that is much more niche, much more varied, and holds their attention for a much shorter time before they move on from it.

The implication? Scaling an effective, resonant, relationship-building content strategy requires an “always-on” view of the content – the topics, the domains, and the specific pieces – your audience is engaging with. Doing so will systematize your ability to create the equivalent of “dunk in the dark” moments for your more niche audience, time and again.

And it will confer additional benefits. For publishers, there’s an opportunity to discover audiences you might not know you had, to make a data-driven case to advertisers that you share those audiences, and to shape custom deals – from standard banners to branded content – out of that insight. The same opportunities present themselves on the flip side, for brands that are in the market for great publishing partners.

Even if you don’t immediately react to your audience’s real-time actions,  understanding in aggregate what content your audience is engaging with on the wider web will round out your audience profile in a way that other audience data sources cannot. This will help you make informed decisions for longer-term content planning, creative, partnerships, and more.

So if you’ve gotten serious about content creation, congratulations on making the necessary first step. Now set yourself up for success by getting the click-based insight you need to understand and build relationships with your multi-layered, constantly moving, ever-changing online audience.

Posted in Blog Posts

Stat of the week: Mobile penetration among U.S. adults is…

Ninety-one percent – that's a 40% increase from ten years ago, and makes mobile "the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world", according to Pew Research. According to survey respondents, phones make it easier to keep in touch with friend, plan schedules, be generally productive, get health information, enhance TV viewing, and review prices and reviews while shopping in stores.

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Posted in Real-Time Data Intelligence

Real-time bus stop prank

As part of its Creative Days events in Europe in South Africa, Adobe launched a prank real-time marketing "campaign" at a bus stop in Sweden. Unsuspecting pedestrians waiting under a bus shed were shot, cropped, and dropped into a digital display inside the shed by top Photoshopper Erik Johansson. Probably not the best idea for a real campaign, but the victims seemed to take the prank in stride. Check out the full video below.

Posted in Real-Time Data Intelligence

Marketing to millenials

millenialsHaving grown up in the digital age, millennials are savvy, discerning and nimble with their use of both social media and hardware devices. How can marketers keep up with a generation that is so irreverent when it comes to where and how they consume media? Via Forbes, here are five things to keep in mind when marketing to the millennial generation.

Posted in Real-Time Data Intelligence

Stat of the week: Fastest responding brands on Twitter

response timeWe posted earlier this week about how social should be seen an effective channel for customer care, which in turn can help brands acquire new customers and retain existing ones.

So which brands respond to customers the fastest on Twitter? The number one responding brand according to a recent Social Bakers report is Halo BCA, at 3 minutes. Airline JetBlue is the only company with over a million followers on the list – its response time is 13 minutes. On average, the top 20 brands cited on the list take 13 minutes and 42 seconds to respond. How quickly do you respond?

For the full list, check out the Social Bakers report.

Posted in Real-Time Data Intelligence

Content marketing doesn’t end with publishing

B2C_300squareIn a recent post, Business2Community posits that closing the loop on real-time marketing is what separates the tactic from a stream of quick-serve billboard announcements. "Without an effective service process in place," they write, "real-time is nothing more than a flashing billboard or an announcement with 'no call to action'".

Read on for more of their thoughts on managing reactions to your content marketing strategy.

Posted in Real-Time Data Intelligence

Customer care as an engagement opportunity

Brafton offers a pithy video explanation for why you should apply content marketing to customer care, and how this can influence customer acquisition and retention.

Posted in Real-Time Data Intelligence