How Your Brand Can Create, Track, And Learn To Love Big Content

Because without Big Content, there is no Big Data.

In my last column, I discussed the single most important factor in generating Big Data: creating Big Content that is then widely distributed and deeply engages consumers. Without Big Content there wouldn’t be Big Data.

Major marketers such as Coke and Red Bull have made content strategy a priority and are charting a bold path in content creation across a vast online and offline ecosystem. A content strategy is now a critical part of every marketer’s short- and long-term planning process.

Every marketer should understand how much content they have, what type it is, where it resides, and how it is performing. A detailed content-mapping exercise for your brand and key competitors is a must.

Big Content and the Agency Model

Are traditional agencies or digital ones better equipped to help clients deliver on big content? One could argue that they are not, especially if a brand is looking for something similar to the Lowe’s example mentioned in my last column. Content in this sense is much more complicated than finding new channels for a TV ad. A great deal of content strategy and expertise is required to deliver on a Lowe’s-type program because it requires a different staffing model, creation and delivery approach.

Some large digital agencies have content strategists but their numbers are often not sufficient to continually feed the diverse channels and touch points that comprise big content. Having a content “ninja” on your agency team may help create a content strategy but then the question is who will populate, maintain, and refresh it? Lowe’s, for example, employs a team of content specialists who function more like magazine writers and editors than traditional ad-agency copywriters. While this approach may not be right for every marketer, it does point to a need for new, evolving content-creation solutions.

Tracking and Measuring Big Content

Brands must track and manage all of their content and apply detailed attributes to each piece. The two primary attributes of content are “descriptive” and “performance.”

Descriptive attributes require an understanding of discrete pieces of content. Obvious attributes are content type, format, size, etc. More sophisticated attributes include mass, density, and the number or variants within the overall ecosystem.

A four-minute video has significantly more mass than a 30-second video. An email with an embedded video, four articles, and eight links has more density than an email with two articles and three links. We can add various meta-data descriptors to boost SEO performance and sharpen content mapping. That’s not to say more “mass” or “density” makes for better-performing content. Content relevance is what determines success.

Performance attributes require an understanding of the number of exposures, shares, and other engagement measures. We can calculate the acceleration of a piece of content because of how we defined our descriptive attributes. Content-acceleration measurement provides unique insights into how quickly content spreads. To calculate content acceleration, apply this formula: Force = Mass x Acceleration.

This equation means it will take less force to create momentum behind a small vs. a large piece of content (assuming both pieces of content are of comparable quality and relevance), such as a tweet about Oreo cookies during the Super Bowl versus a two-minute commercial. Relevance is the biggest driver of content quality, so strongly relevant content requires less force to distribute because audiences will likely share it.

Another performance measure is engagement. But again, relevance drives engagement. Marketers must define and aggregate performance measures to accurately ascertain engagement. Calculating content ROI is much easier if a solid methodology is in place for measuring engagement. Ongoing ROI measures are critical to determining future content investments in your media ecosystem.

Big Content = Big Budgets? Not necessarily

Marketers have increased budget allocation to content creation in order to keep up with increasing consumer demand. The growing use of social media has also increased the need for original content even though many consumers are themselves generating original content.

Marketers used to dedicate a large percentage of their budgets to broadcast media. Increasingly, some of these resources are shifting to digital content. In digital, however, marketers must spend to create rich destination experiences that can be dispersed to other channels. Additionally, CRM communications are increasingly personalized and vastly increase the amount and variety of content needed to support sustained engagement.

Creating digital content has gotten much cheaper and in turn, has increased content creation and boosting the potential ROI across more channels and touch points. Fewer brands can afford a robust network TV plan so media dollars have shifted to fund growth in digital. It makes more sense to spend money on a piece of content that has a long shelf life and is part of an efficient “pull” ecosystem than one that has a one-time use as part of an expensive media buy.

Method, a maker of natural soaps and cleaning supplies, is a great example of a small brand that successfully created a large content ecosystem. Method does not have the large marketing budget that competitors like Clorox or SC Johnson have. Yet Method has created a content ecosystem with rich experiences on its brand site, YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook and blogs. I especially enjoy their fun-filled videos.

How To Approach Big Content

The concept “content is king” has changed. We are better served by saying the consumer is king and that content is the coin of the realm. Getting started with Big Content is not as overwhelming as it may seem. In fact, many marketers are already operating in this world and just don’t realize it.

A good place to start is by conducting a content audit of your brand and key competitors. Looking at existing efforts against a new paradigm will clearly identify content gaps. If your content doesn’t have appropriate descriptive and performance attributes, then create them immediately and begin tracking engagement across all touch points.

These initial steps will put your brand on the path to structured content and perhaps even to content modeling. While we are all contemplating the future of marketing with Big Data let’s devote a little time to thinking about Big Content, how one drives the other, and how this new paradigm can help us to better connect and engage with consumers.

[Fish Bowl: Designs Stock via Shutterstock]

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7 Comments

  • Mindjuicer Nervecentre

    Content is no king. In fact without an idea to make it noticeable and relevant, content it's just, what?…. Content only serves the Consumer, the real king. Understand his/her needs, fears, desires and dreams and create a fully interactive experience that goes beyond digital. Long live the Customer, the rightful king! Down with impostors!

  • Ray

    ** sorry in advance for typos -- this site does not work well on mobile **
    I think you are I are on the same page, but I disagree with how you frame a few concepts. The first being that content is no longer King. I guess this understanding depends on what you think of monarchy. I think that content is still the most important part of communicating a strategy.

    The second thing I diagree with is how companies are rrameasuring the effectiveness of their content. Things like page views, shares, etc., are not as great of tools as people think they are. The rearason why is that they can be maniupulated. One can easily buy 50,000 followers or split their content into pages for more clicks, but who is that helping? I think a better measurement is the ratio of time spent on content creation to the amount of conversion you receive.

    I predict that the best types of content strategies in the future will be the ones that combine people from a variety of backgrounds that are able to work effectively as a team. Addiotnally, content is no longer about sending just information, it has to have an emotional appeal to it.

  • Kathryn Nudelman

    Loved this. The current emphasis on big data has obscured the importance of content strategy and that's a disservice to CMOs who are trying to do right by their brands, but have forgotten that consumers are moved by stories and ideas, not statistics.

  • Mrigasha Patel

    Hi Steve, great article. I especially liked your discussion that big content does not necessarily need a big budget. Quality and relevance are key factors in creating large content. 

  • Justine Ragany

    Fantastic article. Love the update to  'content is king' and completely agree with 'Content relevance...' line.
    Steve, when you ask who the brands should be hiring to do their content, what about content marketing agencies who are completely fit for purpose? Staffed by editors, writers and digital content strategists they do what they know best - tell stories. Which, I believe, is just what brands need

  • Steve Kerho

     Justine - the idea of co-opting a editor like talent base to help generate relevant content for brands is excellent.  Engaged story telling is critical, especially for earned media :=}