“Key Elements for Building a Content Strategy” points out the sadly indisputable: Many companies are throwing up “content” just hoping it will stick.
Report coauthors Mat Zucker, a partner in Prophet’s digital practice, and Omar Akhtar, an analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet company, start by differentiating between two terms that should not — as they often are — be used interchangeably: “content strategy” and “content marketing.”
“A content strategy is a plan for how a company will use content to fulfill a need, or solve a problem for its customer, while simultaneously helping it achieve a business goal. Two executional arms, content development and content marketing, then implement that content strategy,” they write.
Among other useful information, the report identifies five archetypes for marketers to choose from to help develop a content strategy — always, of course, with customers’ needs at the forefront:
Zucker and Akhtar single out REI as a company that has successfully executed the Content as Community archetype, by positioning itself “as simply another content contributor in a closely-knit community of outdoor enthusiasts.” But social media can play a key role in any of the archetypes.
I asked the two to clarify a question I had and to elaborate on a couple of their observations.
How can you have a content strategy for something that’s as inherently unruly and unpredictable
as social media?
Social media is exactly the place a company needs a content strategy. By itself, social media is only a channel for delivering content. It becomes unruly and unpredictable when brands try to do too much — disseminating too many different types of content with disparate objectives.
This is where the content strategy archetypes from our report are so useful. A brand first needs to decide what its social media identity should be, based on what it wants to accomplish on the channel. Is the brand trying to build a community? Is it primarily acting like customer support? Based it on that decision, the brand can then identify the right type of content to share.
Taco Bell and Denny’s share funny and entertaining content on their social-media space (which fits into the Presence archetype); IBM and GM share informative and thoughtful content (Currency archetype). Ultimately, the channel for the content doesn't matter as much as the overarching goal. That's why brands need a clear content strategy before they create output for social media or any of their digital channels.
Community is the most likely bucket to explore. REI is a good example. What other companies are doing it well?
American Express’s Open Forum is a great example of content serving a community.
Petsmart is another good example, with their Parent Resource Center — a content hub with all types of information for pet owners.
PayPal’s “Meet Halfway” used learnings from the social-media behaviors of PayPal and AirBnB consumers to create an online tool that helps connect people with their friends in real life.
Social media was specifically cited as a tool for the Content as Presence bucket, but your example leaned more toward advertising (Red Bull). Could you delve into this regarding social?
If a brand is using content as part of the Presence archetype, social media and advertising channels can both be helpful. But social media is ideal for newer brands with smaller advertising budgets. They can produce content that engages their audience and builds awareness for the brand at a lower cost.
A good example of this is Plum Organics. They created the “Parenting Unfiltered” video, which portrays parenting in a more realistic light than most depictions in the media, and shared it across social media, asking influential parents to share it in their networks. too.