Recently Scott Brinker, editor at the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, updated its Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic to feature 3,874 companies -- twice the number of companies just from last year. From this landscape, it's clear to see that marketers increasingly have access to emerging technologies that can help them personalize and enhance their content programs.
What can marketers do today to improve how they plan, execute, and optimize brand content? As one can imagine, it's still no easy feat to navigate through the dizzying array of tools in Brinker's landscape. However, there are specific strategies that digital marketers and content creators should use as guiding principles with any initiative. Here are my top five based on years of experience being responsible for launching and optimizing content programs.
Grab consumers' attention within 8 seconds
According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the average consumer's attention span has declined from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015 -- that's less than the attention span of a gold fish! When it comes to email, marketers face an even greater mountain to climb -- they have less than 3 seconds, or approximately 12 words, to capture readers' attention.
These startling stats are exactly why content creators need to spend painstaking time to ensure that content delivered in the beginning of a branded content execution -- from the preview image to the initial seconds of an in-feed video -- grabs readers right away. Otherwise, up to 38 percent of users will stop engaging, and up to 35 percent will abandon the content and switch devices altogether.
Mix it up!
As Ben Plomion, SVP of marketing at GumGum, acutely pointed out, "The internet is undergoing a visual revolution" where images are increasingly becoming a central part to users' experience of the web. He further reveals that in a recent survey, "88 percent of marketers in the U.S. placed sight highest among human senses most important for influencing consumer behaviour. And nearly every marketer, agency and publisher surveyed saw the visual web as important to the future of digital marketing."
As the visual web matures, marketers can no longer rely on traditional forms of content to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences -- they need to integrate different formats to keep consumers engaged. The rise in native advertising is just one channel that has amassed shining collaborations between publishers and brands to create branded content that employ mixed media to beautifully tell striking stories on substantive topics. Look no further than The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal's partnerships Netflix: Women Inmates and Cocaineomics prove how the combination of editorial-quality copy, well thought-out visual graphics, and long form videos can dance on a page and take readers on a journey.
Adjust visual graphics and copy according to user attention
The balance between art and science remains an ongoing challenge for web publishers and marketing teams responsible for creative and branded content development. As attention-based measurement progress in the market, it behooves both publishers and advertisers to take advantage of these more advanced analytics. They can surface new insights where consumers pay attention -- and, even more importantly, where they don't pay attention -- to different elements of branded content. For example, while a humorous, unexpected picture of a family laid out above a less prominent text-based message may appear more aesthetically entertaining, attention metrics may tell an entirely different story: consumers might actually be disengaged from the photo or miss the key message completely because it is overpowered by the image.
Attention behaviors may also change across platforms and devices. For example, research by YuME and IPG Media Lab found that smartphones have the biggest influence on attention, followed by tablets, and then PCs. By better understanding consumer attention, publishers and marketers can develop content that resonates and engages with consumers at much deeper emotional levels.
Consider how long it takes for people to read and process words and images
With ongoing pressure to deliver ambitious content executions, marketers can easily forget that consumers are only human. Studies tell us that the average adult reads approximately five words per second. So unless your target audience consists of world speed-reading champions who can swift through words 15 times faster at 78 words per second, marketers need to reign in their expectations considerably and take a more methodical approach.
Before, marketers could only guess how long consumers engaged with a piece of content and which words they paid attention to. But increasingly sophisticated analytics have opened up new possibilities for marketers to gain more granular insight into content engagement across different platforms. For example, we now know that branded Instagram posts generate a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent -- 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter. Additionally, Facebook users in France can spend up to four minutes and 40 seconds reading Libération's Instant Articles.
Marketers should leverage these new types of insights and apply them methodically to content development and optimization by testing and re-testing engagement against consumer norms. In doing so, they can significantly maximize success.
Adopt new ways to measure content and establish accountability
Peter Drucker's famous quote, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it" rings increasingly true with digital content. Now that marketers have access to a growing wealth of content analytics, they can continue to unravel content's impact on the entire funnel. To take it a step further, organizations need to establish accountability. For example, who will be in charge of optimization, how frequently will data be reviewed, and how will teams collaborate to ensure maximum content performance?
While there is no silver bullet to crafting and optimizing branded content, adhering to these top five principles will bring you closer to improving engagement with your consumers.