Wednesday 07 December 2016

Adopting a Data Driven Approach to Content

A version of this post was originally published on Ben Cotton’s blog Social Web Thing.

Content is everywhere and as digital communicators we know that when optimized for search and executed flawlessly, it can compel people to begin talking, thinking and enthusing about a brand. It’s the currency of the web.

This presents a fantastic opportunity for organisations, and every company now has the chance to become a media company by using content to tell its story. Text, infographics, video, images and slides are the tools which bring this concept to life; helping to drive awareness, engagement and traffic.

But standing out amongst all the content is difficult. Content, just like real currency, is everywhere and ensuring it grabs people’s attention is tough. These challenges are juxtaposed by the fact that social media has low barriers to entry, making it easy to publish content but difficult to ensure it cuts through the noise.

Occasionally, you will see wonderfully designed content make an impact due to its beauty, but to increase the chances of success, content needs to be underpinned by a strategic and data driven approach.

The creative process has to be guided by insights gleaned from quantitative and qualitative data, as a result of primary and secondary research. An exceptional idea can come from anywhere, but the creative process deserves to be based upon principles unearthed in data, not grounded in Groupthink. Such an approach ensures brainstorms and the subsequent content strategy retains the correct foundation, parameters and focus. It is all too easy to overlook this and opt for the most ‘creative’ idea, rather than the most appropriate one.

At Edelman Digital we help organisations understand the topics and context in which they are discussed and appear online. This gives us the basis to develop topics that clients should design content around.  Then we try and hit the content sweetspot. By this I mean identify topics which are ‘ownable’, resonate with the audience, have a sufficient number of participants and are aligned with the brand. For instance, a B2B client may try to reach a large number of people to raise awareness of a CSR initiative. In oversimplified terms, it could achieve this by identifying broad, popular topics that are ‘ownable’, resonate, sizable and aligned and begin creating appropriate content around them.

The opposite may be true if the organisation is trying engage a small-number of B2B product end-users. In fact, it may need to identify ‘hyper-niche’ topics; those with a small number of often high value participants and create appropriate content just for them.

The content sweetspot is unique for each organisation and dependent upon communications objectives, but can be better understood by conducting research to understand the online landscape.

We are naturally drawn to focus on the visual aspect of content, as this is what first grabs our attention. Indeed, without fabulous design, nobody will give content their valuable time and attention. However, it’s equally important to recognise successful content is overwhelmingly the result of collaboration between analytical and creative teams. Such collaboration is easily overlooked; so too is a data driven approach.

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