While a good idea constitutes the starting point for any working content marketing campaign, it is but one aspect which partially influences the potential success of a campaign. There are quite a few obstacles to be overcome along the way in the process of creating and executing a campaign: calculable and incalculable risks, proper timing and random variables. The amount of control to be gained over these aspects is limited. The following aspects, however, can be controlled and contribute quite substantially to the success of a content marketing campaign:
- Format: Am I creating a text, a video or a podcast? Which kind of structure does suit my content best?
- Platform: Is my content going to be presented on Facebook, Twitter or on a blog? When and where is my content going to be viewed? On smartphones and tablets? On a desktop system at home or on the go?
- Target audience: Who is my message for? Where can I reach my target audience best?
The thought that the medium substantially impacts upon the message isn’t new. Marshall McLuhan stated his widely publicized claim “the medium is the message” in 1964, hinting at the fact that the influence a message takes on a recipient does not end with the content of the message. In fact, the medium itself already is both, an expression of and the reason behind the mode of perception within a society.
In 2016, the gravity of this claim has reached new heights: The channels on which information is presented have become incredibly specific and target-driven, rendering a pre-selection based on the demographics ever more important within the process.
Important factors to consider while creating content are:
Texts are still the most important carriers of information within the Internet. When creating textual content, it is best to opt for short sentences and paragraphs. Simple, short sentences are easier to read on mobile devices as well, which have already grown to be as relevant as desktop systems.
Videos are the format of choice, whenever something needs to be expressed visually. When creating a video, the right aspect ratio is of key importance. For example, portrait format for content targeted at mobile devices and landscape format for content for desktop systems and TVs. The audio track should be recorded in decent quality so speaking voices can be understood easily and clearly. Videos, which are to be viewed on smartphones should also come with subtitles, so they can be viewed without relying on the audio track. For a podcast, the file format needs to be compatible with as many devices as possible, and, for longer podcasts, markers should be set to facilitate skipping.
The platform, i.e. the device or medium through which a specific content is presented, defines how a message needs to be prepared in order to work. Additionally, it is worth noting that the channels of information vary depending on the chosen platform. With WhatsApp and Snapchat, for example, new, relevant channels are emerging which are almost exclusively viewed on mobile devices. Consequently, content needs to be created with these channels in mind: Short video clips, which convey a message in a concise form through picture, sound and subtitling. Content for Facebook on the other hand needs to be optimized more broadly: A video, for example, ideally is posted along with a concise, textual description. This enables users to grasp the message without actually watching the video.
Because smartphones are multi-purpose devices and features are constantly added through apps, the form a message takes within a specific app needs to be considered as well. In the special case of emerging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat, it is good practice to create content specifically for these apps (e. g. formats like the Austrian news broadcast ZIB100).
Ideally, the question “who am I creating content for?” should be posed early on in the conceptual process, because it defines the creation on many levels. The demographic composition of the user base varies depending on the social media channel. On Pinterest and Instagram for example, users are predominantly young and female, whereas Facebook’s audience also expands into the age groups upward from 50. The target audience thus defines the information channel, while the channel in turn determines the formal conception of the content. A campaign for Pinterest or Instagram needs to be visually engaging – a strong visual anchor with an engaging caption for example can work well. Conversely, a video which is also geared towards an older audience requires editing with smooth cuts and appropriately displayed screen texts. It can be worthwhile to create multiple iterations of the same basic message in different formats, geared towards the specific channel.
Not everything can be planned
The quality of your content isn’t the single variable determining the success of a campaign. Sometimes factors like the right place at the right time, the ideal timing for a specific message, or even just mere luck can be involved. By properly pre-selecting your content and considering format, platform and target audience, most common mistakes can be prevented. A well thought-out communication strategy helps create the basis on which relevant content with great longevity can be built.