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How to create the 1% of branded content that engages

5 min read

Brands & Campaigns

Here’s a depressing reality for most marketers: 99% of brand-created content generates little to no engagement on social media. It turns out that most people have better things to do than like, share or comment on product-related posts, which means the vast majority of your social media and content marketing efforts are falling on deaf ears. So what’s a savvy marketer to do? Join the 1% of marketers doing well with social by following these six “newish” rules.

Don’t Try to Turn Social Into Direct Marketing
Content that you share on social channels or elsewhere becomes a lot more appealing to your target and a lot more effective to the marketer when the emphasis shifts from what you want to sell to what value you can provide. This means not trying to measure the effectiveness of (organic) social media on its ability to generate leads or close a sale, and instead focusing on metrics that primarily address current customer needs, and, secondarily, the interests of your prospects. As such, indirect metrics can chart meaningful progress. Shares, likes & positive comments can be bundled into a brand health metric such as “favorability.” Overall reach can be linked to awareness, while clicks on content are an initial indication of consideration.

Stop Looking at Content on a Post-by-Post Basis
Marketers have been trained for years to develop strategically sound, target-centric campaigns, yet these same folks allow content to be generated one post at a time, throwing grains of sand onto an ocean of mediocrity. Taking a campaign approach allows brands to focus on one meaningful theme at a time –themes that are relevant to the target and can be reinforced across multiple channels including events, research, PR, email, social and even advertising. Treating content as a campaign increases its potency, turning droplets into tidal waves as a few marketers like Dun & Bradstreet can attest.

Make all of Your Content Remarkable
With millions of pieces of branded content spewing out daily, prospects and customers are drowning in the drivel. The somewhat obvious solution here is for marketers to create content that, as Seth Godin puts it, is “remarkable.” That word is a great litmus test even if you take it on its most basic level—will my content generate remarks? On the highest level, it means that you’ve created content that is surprisingly interesting or entertaining and is worth your target’s time. This is hard for some marketers to do in-house, especially when it involves humor, which is one of the big reasons why agencies like mine are called in.

Get Smarter By Testing Along the Way
Marketers can often solve the problem of ignored content by testing their way to success. Every day, your fans tell you what content they’ve enjoyed (if any) based on the actions they take with it — content that is easily categorized into buckets like culture, events, product, corporate, etc. By examining the performance of content by bucket, you’ll quickly learn that 35% to 70% of your content is simply irrelevant to your target. Further testing can be done to refine headlines, formats (text, images, videos) and even by adjusting the time of day. Even remarkably engaging content can be improved by constant testing — just ask BuzzFeed).

Put Some Money Behind the Good Stuff
For too long, marketers have expected social media and content marketing to have an “organic” impact, only to be disappointed when their efforts don’t move the needle. Like it or not, the answer here is to relegate the word “organic,” along with its evil compatriot “viral,” to the Hall of Unreliability. To create reliably effective campaigns, brands should bolster content creation with some form of guaranteed exposure, such as paid media and/or through some combination of PR, events, email and website exposure. In sum, marketers need to put the media back in social media and the marketing back into content marketing.

Bring in Outsiders to Do a Social Media Audit
Over the last few months, my agency has seen growing demand for our Social Media Audit product. These requests are not coming from neophytes or start-ups but instead from sophisticated growth companies that have been doing social in-house and just want an outside perspective on what they could be doing better. These marketers seek our perspective on everything from process to tools, strategy to metrics, staffing to content and then appreciate the concise roadmap provided at the end of the audit.

Drew Neisser is the founder and CEO of Renegade, a leading-edge social media & content marketing agency in NYC. A long-time content creator and social practitioner, you can find Drew’s writings on Fast Company, MediaPost, Social Media Today and His monthly newsletter, The Cut, is prized among friends and clients.

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