Let’s get vertical, vertical!

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“People just don’t rotate their phones… who can be bothered?”

This ‘revelation’ from Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is the driving force behind the latest digital trend marketers are having to contend with, or risk getting left behind; providing vertical video and image content.

To those of us who aren’t millennials, this may seem like exaggeration. But Troy Young, president of Hearst Digital, supports Spiegel’s thinking, saying: “Mobile phones are vertical devices… turning it sideways is a lot of work.” What’s more, Darren Tome, VP of product management at Mashable, believes that “phones are the dominant device for content consumption with the young, digital generation” so it’s vital that marketers heed the lessons shared by those platforms which are proving so successful with the younger generations; ensuring that content is created “in an aspect ratio that’s native and natural for mobile”.

The statistics show that there is some truth in these claims: on the Snapchat platform, vertical ads are viewed to the end nine times more frequently than horizontal ones, and this is on a platform which is significant in reaching millennials, boasting 35 million daily users aged 13-34 in the U.S. alone. What’s more, as mobile increasingly becomes the primary device for accessing the internet, having accounted for more than half of e-commerce transactions for some time now, it may not just be those marketers catering to millennials who need to invest in vertical content.    

Snapchat isn’t the only platform to focus on vertical content. Meerkat and Periscope, both of which stream live video, are also configured for vertical content.

Acknowledging the trend and being keen to adopt vertical content, however, is only the first hurdle in the race to ‘go vertical’. Unless you are in the same position as Snapchat, Meerkat or Periscope’s content teams, which only have to provide content to suit their vertical display channels, you almost certainly will need to produce horizontal content as well. The majority of outlets are set up to display horizontal content, whether this is a brand website, most social media channels, or mainstream advertising channels. So in practice, to incorporate vertical content in to your strategy, you are most likely going to need to create two distinct pieces of content if you’re to continue sharing on existing channels while also investing in vertical channels. It’s not as simple as repurposing horizontal content for vertical distribution, nor is it easy to repurpose vertical for traditional horizontal distribution. Twice as much work often means twice as much budget.

Some brands and publishers are beginning to show vertical content within special vertical display boxes on their sites, for instance Mashable recently shared its first piece of cross-platform vertical content, on desktop, mobile and iOS, to some extent negating the need to duplicate content. We would have to question whether this could go too far though, as our wide screen televisions, laptops and desktops clearly benefit from wide angle filming; you can experience more from your content when it’s wide screen! Furthermore, TV advertising, cinema advertising, and horizontal billboard advertising are going to continue to require horizontal content.

It will be interesting to see how far vertical content reaches in ‘cross platform’ distribution. We would much prefer to see vertical content prioritised for mobile, but horizontal content retained everywhere else. It’s just a question of time and budget, versus optimal user experience which varies from platform to platform. We wonder which will win!

Break through the noise

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The digital marketing landscape is more crowded than ever before; it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd – and most importantly your competitors. 69 percent of marketers are creating more content in 2015 than last year and are using an average of seven social media platforms for marketing purposes.

To increase audience engagement you need to create compelling, meaningful and timely content. Here are our top 10 tips on how to break through the noise:

1.     Understand your brand position and audience – this is easier to get a handle on for B2C businesses but is equally important for B2B companies. Try creating audience personas for target customer groups – this can help you identify content topics that are engaging for users.

2.     Always put your reader first – it’s easy to post content that you are interested in but what about your readers? The only way to attract potential leads is to think of your audience’s interests first.

3.     Be unique – no one wants to read regurgitated content.

4.     Be selective – avoid publishing the same content but with a different title. Do not post content for the sake of it, make sure you always have something interesting to say, otherwise don’t say anything at all.

5.     Avoid over publishing – once you have mastered selecting golden nuggets of content, make sure you give your posts time to breathe, or your audience may miss them.

6.     Keep it simple – it’s tempting to attempt perfection when creating content but a good rule of thumb is: don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. Content that is relevant, timely, unique and important has the most chance of creating an impact on your readers.

7.     Be the first – say it before it’s been said.

8.     Try to make your audience smile – balance your content with a mixture of light hearted and informative posts.

9.     Be creative – when developing your content be original, think about unique layouts and styles of posts. Be imaginative and create your own infographic or make a word cloud. There are some great free tools out there to use. Our personal favourites are canva.com and piktochart.com.

And finally…

10.  Don’t forget to put the word SOCIAL into social media – always remember you are trying to engage your audience in conversation.

Our copywriting team develops marketing strategies that utilise original, curated and repurposed content to conscientiously promote its clients as thought leaders, while building engagement with their business and consumer audiences, stakeholders and influencers, via traditional media, digital and social media, blogs, websites. To find out more get in touch via info@consciouscomms.com.

Content marketing – today’s once upon a time

Content marketing is set to be the single biggest area of increased marketing spend this year.   But content marketing is not new, it’s simply the evolution of something communications professionals like us have been doing since time began – writing and telling compelling stories. 

Effective story-telling is the basis for all good public relations, marketing and brand development activity.  Content marketing combines this skill with the concept of traditional media relations, where the value of editorial is far greater than that of paid-for advertising.

The fact that we now work in a world where there’s a frenzy of content generation, everyone can be their own publisher, and there are more free channels for dissemination than ever before, doesn’t diminish the value of traditional media and journalism.  There is still huge inherent value for the marketer in achieving editorial coverage, with its perceived editorial endorsement, through well-conceived, written and pitched news and feature materials. 

More than ever, consumers are looking for reliable sources to inform and validate their decisions and purchases – editorial endorsement is still powerful and can be a valuable education tool. 

In fact, good old-fashioned media relations is still the service that the Conscious Communications team gets requests for most frequently, except that these days we also include social media engagement in the mix of course.

So we find ourselves with three main options for dissemination of our content, each of which has its   own merits and offers varying levels of control:

1) Owned media where we have total control in the form of newsletters, whitepapers, websites, blogs – brands that create 15 blog posts per month average 1,200 new leads per month;

2) social media where we can control our own messages but also invite conversation and engagement with audiences – according to the Content Marketing Institute, the average B2B marketer engages in content promotion on 6 social media platforms;

3) traditional media – print, broadcast and on-line, where editorial control is in someone else’s hands and, therefore, still has greater perceived value for the reader. 

Conscious Communications believes that the best content marketing strategies utilise both traditional and new media channels to disseminate original, repurposed and curated content to achieve optimum engagement.  In this way, a good content marketing strategy can engage with audiences at every stage of the buying cycle through initial awareness generation through engagement and lead generation, to loyalty, effectively supporting other marketing and sales activities.

There is one other option too, which spans all of the above, and that is the ‘peer review’ which, again, is now more easily achieved than ever.  Much like the traditional case study published in a business or trade journal, customer and supplier reviews, guest blogs and endorsements can be effectively utilised within a content marketing programme to promote products and services and reinforce prospective customers’ reasons to engage. 

The really exciting thing about content today is that it doesn’t need to be static and can be delivered easily through moving image, audio, animation, graphics, text and a combination of all of these.    Just imagine, a massive two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2017.

Content marketing is also a hugely valuable component of any effective internal communications programme and should be viewed and managed with the same care and attention it commands for external marketing. 

Again, this is nothing new, but internal audiences have become more sophisticated and demanding, and content needs to reflect this by inviting and encouraging contributions, promoting successes and best practice. 

Employees can be a company’s most effective ambassadors and the company that successfully involves its staff in generating and disseminating content on the company’s behalf, has a lot to gain.   However, involving individuals in content generation is a great motivator as long as it doesn’t become a burden.  So make sure to set out clear guidelines and ensure individuals keep to agreed timelines so that content is topical and maintains momentum.

And, if you’re still not sure of the value of content marketing, it is a fact that well-constructed content, that resonates with audiences and achieves recommendations, will gain attention from search engines, pushing you up the search rankings.  Google values in-depth and lengthy (1,500+ words) technical articles, white papers, study reports and so on, so a good smattering of longer pieces to complement your curated news and repurposed views content will help ensure you’re appealing to all potential audiences.

If you’re thinking about developing a content marketing programme and need some creative inspiration, www.businesss2community.com published 57 ideas – some insightful, some obvious, all worth bearing in mind: http://goo.gl/H5Y4VX.

If you need help with constructing your content marketing programme, please give us a call on 01223 393 812 or email alison.taylor@consciouscomms.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @Conscious_comms or visit our website: www.consciouscomms.com

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