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Content Marketing 2016: Discoveries and Key Takeaways

In 2016 content marketing reached its peak and brought many unexpected discoveries to marketers. We asked a few entrepreneurs and marketing experts to share their views about content marketing, and how they used content for promotion throughout 2016.

Our experts represent various companies and business areas: IT, entertainment, startup consulting, and production centers, among others.

They told us about:

  • How they use content for promotion;
  • What results they’ve already achieved or expect to achieve;
  • What metrics they use to measure effectiveness;
  • How they changed their content marketing strategies throughout the year.

Alexey Karlov, CEO at Angels Relations Group.

Business: Public relations and communication, design and development. Clients located in: America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Tell us a bit about your content marketing strategy. How do you promote your and your clients’ services?

First, you have to choose the platform where your audience is. Only when you define your target audience does inbound marketing work. There is no other way. In 2016 we made our own framework for creating different kinds of content.

However, the more we used this framework, the more we noticed that all content creation activity that is undertaken should take an audience in particular into account.

A few more life hacks:

1. It’s important for you to be easily found on Google, Bing, Yandex or Baidu.

Defining the platform your audience uses is not enough. Search engines may not index it. Thus, your audience depends on the number of users of a given platform in particular.

For example, it’s good to have a channel in Telegram with 10,000 subscribers. You can even get media references to it. However, only Telegram users can read you; no one will find you in a search.

2. Discoverability, as the set of activities to make platforms recommend you and your publications to your target audience.

SocialMediaToday has a great post about it.

It includes platform recommendations on how to use them. Just like in Apple Store — those who use features properly get more advantages from it.

SocialMediaToday recommends improving your photos on Instagram. In doing so, the platform will recommend your photos to others.

Three main conditions for Discoverability: regular posting, variety, and the use of platform features and novelties.

For how long have you been using content marketing?

In our company, we mostly focus on B2B. That’s why we consider important not only the company brand but the personal brand of the company’s CEO and of the sales team.

We started to use content marketing for promotion about seven years ago. We paid attention to our text style on the Web, discarded FLASH in favor of more light technologies etc.

What results do you expect from content marketing?

It’s a long-term game, just as modern PR is with respect to media publications.

Actually, we have two goals: the boost of discoverability and the opportunity to show something interesting about the company to clients.

What metrics do you track? Page views, likes, reposts, etc.?

If it’s a blog post, then we track backlinks to it, reposts and citations on other platforms. However, we consider it more important to have the list of those who reacted to your content and the history of their relationships with your brand. It’s a type of social CRM if you will.

What are your main takeaways of your content marketing strategy in 2016?

The more versatile the forms you use to present your content are, the greater are the chances to succeed. Any news can be offered in the form of photos, videos, podcasts, articles, etc. The primary task for a manager is using different formats for different pieces of content.

Formerly we were eager to try every new feature that appeared on the market — from a new app to various gimmicks other companies used in their strategies. Today we still keep an eye on new things but treat them more like interesting experiments, not as must-haves.

We discard formats that we might like but that our users dislike. You know, when you create an infographic — it’s easy to fall for a beautiful design and cool effects instead of falling for simple and clear solutions. Sometimes it’s good to limit content marketers a bit, like designers.

We set up social media promos across the world: in Asia — from India to Vietnam; in Africa — from the southern to the central African countries; in Europe and the USA.

We also provide content marketing services for companies in the USA, primarily to IT companies based in NY and Silicon Valley.

Dasha Bednaya, head of marketing at Radario.

Business: Cloud IT solutions development for the entertainment industry. Offices located in Russia, Portugal, and the United States. Franchises in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Central America.

About content marketing in 2016

Our company is focused on the development of dedicated cloud solutions for the entertainment industry: organization of concerts, festivals, theater, sports, and other events.

We create platforms for the automation of sales, marketing and sponsorship processes — not the easiest and clearest of products. That’s why our company chooses content marketing as one of its promotion instruments. We started applying and working with content marketing at the beginning of 2016 when we launched the corporate blog.

We aim to reveal to both our loyal and potential customers all the advantages that modern technologies bring. We show them real case studies that can be put into practice.

Explaining why customers may need a product is one of the major tasks for B2B companies. Especially in the IT industry. B2B companies should also explain how the product can be used, but this is a bit of a different task that we shall discuss separately.

About promotion and results

We have been running the corporate blog for less than a year, but we have already noticed some results. We have a pretty simple approach to blogging: twice a week we post original articles or translated content from foreign blogs and media. We announce our publications on the company’s page on Facebook, which is our major channel for the promotion of blog posts.

Our target audience on Facebook is the major players in our industry. We post catchy and informative articles and news about our business niche, not just our own publications.

We also aim the majority of our blog articles at our potential audience with the help of Facebook advertising tools. We work with different business niches. That’s why our content can reach out to only one of the niches (e.g. concert, sports events organization), or to all of them. We use the individual approach as one of the best instruments in the lead generation process. We send users to our blog to show them useful content that solves their issues. From there, we can redirect users from the blog post page to our registration form.

About Results Tracking

As for statistics, we track the number of views our blog receives and the overall number of visits to it. We have doubled the number of our visitors from the first day of the launch of our blog until today. The number of new visitors is also an important factor. We get about 50% new visitors every month. That means we are capable of attracting a new audience. It’s not the easiest task for our relatively small market.

About Ideas

We have reframed the way we present our content this year to a certain extent. At one point, as I already mentioned, we started posting content translated from other languages. The truth is that with respect to the entertainment industry and the event market Russia falls behind the US and Europe by a couple of years. Thus, the trends they use in their work would not have soon appeared in Russia in a natural course of things. We try to have our finger on the pulse and bring the most popular world trends to Russia, e.g. we shift our focus toward big data analysis technologies.

With content marketing, we pave the way for the new products we are to bring to the market. Articles from foreign blogs help us with that. They already have case studies on the use of big data analysis in the event industry. We simply bring this information to Russian event providers.

If we are to speak about the changes to our blog in 2016, they were mostly about the content and topics we have presented. As for the formats of our content, we try different ones from our first publications: longreads, storytelling, lists, infographics, and so forth. In the future, we might use formats of different types such as podcasts, videos, e-books, in addition to others. Moreover, since we are going to conquer the market in new countries, we are to pay more attention to the development of our English-language blog.

Stanislav Romanov, Head of Promotion Department at Startpack.

Business: Startup for cloud services comparison.

Our content is closely connected to the functions of the search and comparison of cloud services for businesses. I can’t imagine Startpack without content. It’s the first and the most important level — service pages, ratings, feedback, and so on. After a long discussion the team selected three more content types in addition to the traditional ones:

  • News from partner services on a home page and in social media.
  • Case studies on the same platforms — interviews with entrepreneurs about their work with cloud services.
  • Content for media.

Interviews with businesspeople are widely used on our website. They provide other people with useful information, share their knowledge, and give advice. People like to read user-generated content, even if it’s related to complicated solutions such as cloud services. People share this type of content more willingly. We even had such cases when popular groups in Vkontakte shared links to our content.

We have already published 32 case studies, conducted two system redesigns, and changed the interview presentation format. We always search for new experts that can tell others about us. The main challenge here is finding business people who are ready to spend some time for an interview.

A short time later, we added a Service News category to our website. It’s kind of a page for press releases, but we usually turn them into short (or long) posts or “How-to” articles. Since the website receives a far greater amount of such content, we started to limit these types of posts on a greater basis. They are less effective than case studies. We haven’t discarded press releases in full. They are not as effective as they were a few years ago, but they still pay off.

We’ve started writing content for columns in various media sources. We don't expect a bombshell effect, but we receive enough feedback from these articles. We’re still searching for the golden medium. The main challenge here is the time we spend to find a really catchy topic for the next post.

On the website, I track the number of likes, reposts, click-through rate, and the quality of the audience that reads our content. A quality user is one who has performed useful activities on the Startpack website.

__________

In the long term I see the creation of content for media columns as the most effective instrument for us.

__________

Today we can say that direct advertising is neither useful nor necessary. We cannot discard the tracking of results, but we should also consider the long-term effect. In the long term I see the creation of content for media columns as the most effective instrument for us.

Alexey Pospekhov, CEO at ICONIC.

Business: Mobile apps development. Offices in London and Moscow.

I guess there aren’t too many interesting content marketing cases in the mobile and digital industry.

Most of the brand stories, blogs and articles in our industry are extremely boring and depersonalized. No one in their right mind will waste their time reading this stuff.

We always wondered why companies prefer to talk shop — like discussing their niche-related interests such as a banking app redesign, for example, or a discussion about technology or other particular marketing mechanism — instead of discussing other, more fundamental business matters and strategies, such as business experience, perspectives, and future development.

We have been using content marketing since the day we created our company. We especially like scandalous content, when ambiguous and slashing reviews hit the headlines.

I guess our breakthrough is related to the message we provided. Many companies supported our ideas, but no one dared to acknowledge them publicly. We based our content decisions on such scandalous messages.

We don’t track any metrics. Except, probably, new leads and orders. ;)

Our Discoveries in 2016

The audience is tired of scandals. There were too many of them in Russian media, so users won’t pay attention to another one and will simply scroll down the news feed instead.

You should inspire users to act. The article is good, ideas are great — OK, what’s next? Encourage your audience to act!

We use personal approach in our content strategy. For example, I, as the company’s CEO, combine the text about startups on SLUSH Conference 2016 in Helsinki with a funny story about how I was looking for the best bars in northern Europe. The audience takes up first-person stories much better than dry facts.

Tanya Smaylina, CEO and producer at Beautyverse.

Business: production center for hair stylists and makeup artists.

When I realized the power of content management, I immediately changed the focus of my work. First, I closed my beauty events organization business. The content we produced there was focused on announcements only. It was neither interesting nor profitable.

I started my business over keeping in mind that people are tired from the information overflow. The new beginning is the content and its management.

  • Content is everything that reflects me and my activity. Through it, the communication and sales are performed. I create a content plan for my personal and business social media accounts. I take up video content seriously and understand that communication is extremely fast today. That’s why people focus on the quality of the information they get.
  • I have been using content marketing for the last three months for promoting my business, and I am now seeing the first results.
  • I expect to get a high engagement rate from my audience. With the help of content marketing, I hope to minimize my efforts towards clients’ engagement to certain offers.
  • I track the coverage of my posts, engagement of the audience, the number and quality of comments, likes, reposts, views, followers. I also analyze the traffic to the website.
  • I redefined all the activities related to promotion, and I can assure you that your old techniques for sales and promotion are not effective anymore. Readers won’t buy from you if they are not interested in your ideas and personality.
  • I used to believe that event announcements with beautiful posters were the things that attracted users, but I now see that insights, videos, and communication are far more effective.
  • Previously I thought that it was enough to create posts and describe the process. However, I now know that you need to make the audience want to leave a comment. And you should work really hard on it.
  • I used to publish my posts in a non-systematic fashion. Now I create a content plan, and I can track what really works.
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