How to Make Sure Your Branded Content is Actually On Brand

At a time when engagement marketing has quickly overtaken interruption marketing, branded content is one of the most effective tools for marketers to connect and engage with people. But just because your brand creates content doesn’t mean it’s properly branded. We’ve seen marketers across the board miss the mark in all sorts of ways, which is why we’re here to help you do it the right way. Here, we’ll cover why branded content matters, along with the simple steps you can take to make sure your branded content hits the mark.

Why Does Branded Content Matter?

Your brand identity is communicated through every touchpoint, from your product design, to your sales material, to your homepage. That’s why it’s important to present a cohesive, unified identity through all content, whether you’re creating an annual report, infographic, or video. Branded content isn’t about slapping your logo on something; it’s about creating a brand experience that reflects who you are and what you do.

Luckily, in a crowded space where you have to fight for attention, branded content gives you a leg up in many ways.

1) Appeal

Well-designed content intrigues people and entices them to interact with your content. This helps you grab their attention before your competitors do.

2) Communication

Branded visual content is easier to synthesize than plain old text, simply because our brains process visual information faster. The more effectively you apply your visual identity, the easier it is for people to consume, comprehend, and recall your content.

3) Consistency

The more consistent you are, the more people see you as a credible, reliable source for content. This is the key to building trust and, as a result, a long-term relationship with the right people. If the content you create is segmented, siloed, or scattershot, with no thought to design or presentation, it’s much harder to nurture that relationship.

4) Connection

Branded content elicits stronger emotions than a traditional 30-second advertising spot, according to the 2018 study The Emotional Impact of Branded Storytelling by Realeyes/Turner Ignite.

When compared to traditional advertising, the study found that branded content made viewers:

  • 62% more likely to have a positive reaction
  • 31% more emotionally engaged
  • 17% more likely to buy

If you’re looking to make meaningful connections with the people who need your product or service, branded content is the way to go.

How to Ensure Your Branded Content Reflects Your Brand Identity

Good branded content serves both your viewer and your brand, but doing it well requires some balance. Unfortunately, much of the branded content we see falls into one of the following categories:

  1. Overbranded (branding overload)
  2. Underbranded (little or no branding visible)
  3. Misbranded (inconsistent branding)

To make sure your branded content works the way it should, follow these 5 steps.

Note: If you have multiple content creators, this can serve as a helpful checklist to ensure your team always creates cohesive, consistent content.

1) Choose the Right Subjects

No matter what your brand does, the type of content you create should always be relevant to your brand. (Translation: It should relate to your field or area of expertise.) Identify topics that you can speak authoritatively about, then focus on how you can provide value through content.

2) Use Your Voice, Tone, and Personality

The way you speak, write, joke, etc. are all unique to your brand. Whether it’s an e-book or a tweet, inject your brand personality into every piece of content. This helps you humanize your brand, and become an accessible resource.

3) Clarify Your Messaging

Beyond your voice (the way you say things), you need to make sure that what you’re saying is aligned to your brand goals. Everything from your value prop to your CTAs should tell the right story.

4) Design According to Your Visual Identity

From your products to your website, the way your brand “looks” tells its own story. (Good design isn’t just a differentiator; it’s what people expect these days.) Make sure you have a comprehensive, cohesive visual identity that includes all of the elements designers need to create branded content, including:

  • Logo
  • Color
  • Typography
  • Data visualization
  • Photography
  • Illustration
  • Iconography

5) Create a Style Guide

The easiest way to ensure your branded content accurately reflects who you are is with a brand style that includes examples, tips, and guidelines for applying your brand identity. This type of resource provides a guide for all designers and content creators working with your brand, empowering everyone in your company to produce more effective content.

Written by Katy French for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Oliver Buchmann

What Is User Generated Content And How It Is Relevant?

With 50% of consumers saying that seeing user-generated content would increase their chances of buying products, it’s no surprise so many companies are getting into it.

What is user generated content?

User Generated Content (UGC) or as some call it User Created Content (UCC), refers to any type of content information created by users. This can be in the form of videos, digital photos and other types of media belonging to an online platform which is made available to other end users.

Examples of campaigns that worked

A good example of one such campaign was done by the Coca Cola company. The famous brand introduced personalized Coca Cola bottles that had names of consumers. This was received better than expected as the whole world took part in the campaign.

Coca Cola customers from all over the world were requested (and did so willingly without being asked) to share their pictures while carrying the personalized bottles on common social media platforms. This resulted in customers taking up the advertising of the company.

This user-generated campaign made millions for the company only showing just how powerful such campaigns could be.

Burberry’s trench coat campaign

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In the year 2009, brands began taking up the idea of customers promoting their brands and businesses. This is because marketing experts believe that word of mouth is still considered as one of the best marketing strategies for businesses. During this year, Burberry decided to do something new. The brand requested some of their loyal customers and fanatics to post photographs of themselves and their friends and relatives wearing their famous trench coats.

All that was left to do by Burberry was to choose the best pictures and upload them to their website and Facebook page. This campaign was well received by their fans who are mostly fashion lovers. They raked in millions of shillings from increased sales as a result of this marketing strategy.

How does UGC help your brand? Why is it effective?

User-generated content campaigns produce satisfactory results making them a key player in the marketing of products and services. Established and well-known brands continue to consider this type of marketing strategy as it has proven to be effective in achieving targeted goals. However, studies showed only 16% of brands have a system in place to launch and manage UGC.

UGC is customer based

Businesses that consider customer input is becoming a popular practice nowadays. Digital marketing has become very competitive and businesses are continuously coming up with ways that will put their business ahead.

Customers who receive a positive experience for your organization will be the source for getting more customers. Treat your clients poorly and they will go elsewhere like to your competition.

UGC is an effective strategy because potential clients get an opportunity to know the business through already existing customers.

Marketers are no longer trusted

Traditional methods of using marketers to bring in more customers are behind us. Marketers are perceived to be untrustworthy as their only goal is seen as wanting to make sales and bring in leads. Business owners want their products to be viewed as the best in the industry. And unfortunately, marketers usually try to avoid revealing details of the products that might have negative results to the end user.

A survey conducted by Brightlocal in 2013 shows that about 73% of consumers perceive ads to be highly exaggerated to convince the buyer to choose a particular product or service. Meaning consumers are becoming reluctant when making a purchase decision based on the ads.

On the flip side, UGC posts that are shared to social channels see a 28% higher engagement rate than standard brand posts. With ad blockers on the rise, marketers are turning towards organic search (SEO), social media, content, user-generated content, and referral programs as their methods to gain more customers.

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UGC takes into account product authenticity

As we have mentioned, the marketing industry is changing. A potential client would rather trust a low-quality YouTube video of a referral, rather than a multi-million-dollar advertisement. This is because authenticity is much more valuable as consumers want to hear from people who have already tested and used the product or service rather than the people trying to sell it.

User-Generated Content offers proof

UGC is effective in marketing as it provides proof of the quality of products and services for customers. When you see content from a real consumer, then there is increased credibility that clearly shows the company’s promises in action. Providing evidence that the product actually serves its purpose makes potential consumers more interested in your product.

For example, the Ovolo Hotel located in Sydney had renovations made to increase its customer base. The hotel gave invites to several members of the public to visit the hotel and take pictures that will be uploaded and shared online.

Ovolo Woolloomooloo Boutique Luxury Design Hotel in Sydney using user generated content
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The hotel improved their designs and décor to make it the most preferred place for taking snapshots suitable for social media uploads. The user-generated campaign involved inviting guests to the venue and allowing them to take quality photos from different parts of the ovolo hotel. The social evidence showed that they would follow up on their promises.

In this case, using UGC as their marketing tool shows that they are open to talking with their customers and understanding their wants.

Businesses that use UGC from their customers usually cultivate a healthy relationship that is deep and authentic. Customers will only agree to take part in the process if they feel like they are appreciated by being involved in the marketing campaign.

Recent statistics from a study conducted by a bazaarvoice indicate that about 64 percent of consumers (millennials), wanted more platforms that will provide them an opportunity to share their views about the brands they used.

Benefits of User Generated Content

What are some of the benefits of using user-generated content?

UGC is less expensive

Marketing strategists believe that it is cost-effective to make several types of user-generated content than to create just one advert in house. This form of marketing allows the consumers of your products to create assets for you as they bring to the table their own audiences from the social platforms.

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An example is what the ALS Association did back in 2014. They conducted one of the largest not to mention successful UGC campaign. It was called the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign that allowed many people across the globe to participate in.

The challenge required individuals to upload videos online of someone pouring ice cold water on you with a bucket. One would then challenge his/her friends to repeat the same thing or offer a donation to the association.

The challenge (easy enough) quickly picked up and became viral, raising awareness for the charity and introducing almost 3 million donors. It helped that the challenge begun with pro athletes.

Expanding social media reach

UGC and social media go hand in hand. The strengths of each concept create a powerful social media reach and create amazing brand awareness. Some of the strategies you can use in encouraging UGC on social media include:

  • Creating a hashtag or a simple picture contest on a platform like Instagram.
  • Creating a new challenge on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Launching a video request.

Examples of campaigns that took this strategy are #RedCupArt by Starbucks

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and #AerieReal campaign that was famous on Instagram.

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It is important to react to user content. You will have to acknowledge the customer’s efforts after requesting their input. Such types of interactions mutually benefit both brands and consumers. It helps social media to drive word of mouth marketing, building your brand reputation, and integrating referral marketing to your UGC campaigns. A survey by Sprout Social showed that almost 75 percent of people will most likely share a pleasant experience on their social platform!

Social media inspired UGC campaign leads to an increase in social traffic which in turn results in:

  • Increased following base
  • Extended social reach
  • An increase in brand awareness
  • Increase in social metrics like retweets, shares on Facebook, comments on Instagram and likes on most of them.

Building Search Engine Optimization value

There are various ways in which UGC helps in boosting SEO efforts. If your customers are posting content on their different blogs, then backlinks to the company’s website are able to improve their SEO ranking. When you analyze the most used words and terms that are used by your target audience then you will be able to develop your research on word optimization.

Gain audience information

UGC can be a well of information. This benefit is often unnoticed but can play a key role in boosting your business. Through analysis of content shared by your customers, you as a business owner can gather key information. You will be able to understand your audience by discovering what different things they find engaging. This comes in handy when you apply the marketing strategy to produce leads and increased sales. Probably the most important part is learning how to build relationship marketing.

You can observe the content being shared by your customers and noting down if they take part in review writing, complaints of past experiences as you come up with ways of improving. Watch out for photos being uploaded on twitter and try to see how your business is perceived.

Consider unique content

Your customers will be able to provide you with a new kind of content that is different from your organization’s marketing team. This means that you will have a fresher approach toward trying to identify a new point of view. This allows new customers to join a group of loyal customers.

Increased personalization

This is yet another benefit of UGC. The Marketing Insider Group states that when it comes to knowing what your target audience is interested in, then the only way to go about it is through UGC. Try and understand your audience. Find out what excites them. This will help improve SEO and increase your efforts in lead generation.

Challenges faced when creating UGC

Dealing with user-generated content comes with some challenges, here’s a few of them:

Moderation of content

This is known to be one of the most leading challenges faced when using UGC online. Organizations that seek to promote their products and services give their customers permission to upload content on the company’s website. The posted content might not be screened and this can lead to uploads that might tarnish the brand.

Websites receive offensive and inappropriate content that is damaging to the brand. Customers have the freedom to express their personal opinion and upload the contents of their choice. Online discussions sometimes turn ugly.

Legal matters

User-generated content is mostly owned by the individual who uploads it online. It is therefore essential that one understands the legal aspect associated with UGC. As a brand, you will need the permission of the user if you want to post their content on the company’s website and social media platforms. As a business, you are required to make available direct acknowledgment clearly indicating the original owner of the content. Many businesses will use a platform to find content creators beforehand to work out the ground rules and expectations in such cases.

Fake users

UGC campaigns provide a certain level of control to customers. Unfortunately, fake user accounts usually find a way of sneaking through online platforms. This, in turn, creates a great risk of receiving false information from untrustworthy sources. This lowers the authenticity of your products as other customers doubt the validity of those uploading content.

A great way to handle this is by sending invites only to those who are found in the company’s database and email list. You can also provide badges to the users so that you can differentiate the real users from the fake ones. Popular websites have adopted this mode of verification by approving badges.

Needs marketing support

Business owners need to understand that in order for them to receive high-quality ads that are authentic, they may receive a large amount of content of poor quality. Marketers, however, hope that users will be able to upload content that is original and very useful to the company. This means that you have to review all the submissions made to the website. Marketing support is also required to boost the campaign through advertising and creating exciting tasks for users.

Ethical issues

Ethics is another key issue to consider when discussing the challenges of UGC. Unethical behavior can be a huge blow to a brand and might lead to loss of customers. Internet-related issues can be as a result of privacy issues. Other ethical challenges include: unreported endorsements where a given organization endorses a customer to give information about the brand without disclosing the information to relevant people is unethical.

In conclusion

UGC has come a long way in content marketing. It has been used continually by well-established brands to promote goods and services. The challenges faced by UGC campaigns can be fixed using appropriate methodologies. The benefits of using this campaign strategy far outweigh the number of challenges faced. Marketers continue to come up with ways of making UGC work best for different organization types for the benefit of both the user and brand.

Written by Jay Kang for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Business2Community

How Often Should You Update Your Website?

Your business’s new website has been up and running a few months, and you’ve started noticing that certain descriptions are no longer accurate. But you just did a website redesign—do you really need to update your website already?

The most simple answer to the question of how often you should update your website is: as often as it needs updating. Minor website updates might be made every day, whereas a full website revamp might come every two to three years. As long as your answer to this question isn’t “never,” you’re off to a great start.

Website updates come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on your goals or priorities, updating your website might be as simple as optimizing some of your historic blog posts for featured snippets or listicles—or it could be as comprehensive as a complete rebrand.

No matter the scope, each update you make to your website should be an improvement and work toward the goal of bettering the user experience.

How Do I Know if My Website Needs to Be Updated?

Technology moves fast.

Google is constantly changing and updating the way its algorithm works to improve search results. What was considered a modern and cutting-edge look and feel for a website two years ago is completely different today.

Information changes, employees change, business goals may change, design trends change, everything changes.

If you’re not sure whether your website needs an update (whether that means a minor tweak or a complete revamp), here are a couple of key indications that you could benefit from updating your website.

5 Signs That It’s Time to Update Your Website:

1. Your Website Is Missing Information

When visitors come to your website, they should be able to find all of the information they are looking for and then some. If your current website is missing the mark in this area, it may have a negative impact on your business.

Your website should be an accurate reflection of your business and serve as a resource for users at all stages of the Buyer’s Journey. You want to make sure every user that comes to your site has a great experience and walks away (or clicks away) with all of the information about your company that they need.

2. Your Brand Has Evolved

Whether you’ve recently gone through a company rebrand and want to show off that amazing new logo, or you’ve expanded your services and product offerings over time, your website needs to reflect that.

Your website is similar to your personal style. Over time, it evolves, and you figure out what trends suit you best, what works for you, and what doesn’t work.

3. You Aren’t Excited to Show Off Your Website

You should be proud of your website! A website is just as much a form of self-expression (or brand expression) as any of your other marketing collateral. In fact, it could be argued that it is the most important way to showcase who you are.

If you’re not proud and excited to show your website off to others, you might want to consider updating it. Create a website that you’re proud of, one that helps you work toward your business goals. And remember, it doesn’t hurt to surprise and delight people along the way.

4. Your Website Isn’t Optimized for Mobile or Tablets

This is crucial. In 2018, 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones, up from 50.3 percent in the previous year. If your website isn’t responsive and optimized for all devices in 2019, this is a major red flag and a clear indication that it is time to update your website.

5. You’re Not Getting as Much Website Traffic as You’d Like

If your current website is lacking SEO value)—or if it’s been a while since you paid any attention to your target keywords and whether or not they’re currently aligned with your brand—it’s time to update your website.

Similar to a website, SEO isn’t something you do once and never think about again. Search engine optimization takes time and requires constant attention to the changing algorithms and ways that search engines define what makes content useful and valuable. Identifying and capitalizing on SEO opportunities requires constant tweaking and adjusting.

A website is never truly done. Your website should constantly evolve and grow as a reflection of you and your brand, and that means you need to keep it up to date.

Written by Kelly Jean Forrest for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Igor Miske

8 Content Marketing Trends That Will Fire Up Your Strategy

Has your content marketing strategy been on the decline, figuratively dwindling to embers? If so, we can help. We’ve collected content marketing trends designed to blow new life into your strategy and rekindle it into the roaring blaze it once was.

We’ve gathered these trends from across the industry. We’ve scoured studies from such brands as Content Marketing Institute, Hubspot, and Salesforce — all leaders in content marketing trends — with the goal of showing you the very best advice to boost your strategy.

Let’s dive into these must-know B2B PR and content marketing trends 2019 to see how you can fuel your marketing strategy for the coming year.

8 Powerful Content Marketing Trends That Will Impact Your 2019 Strategy

1. Email Effectively Nurtures Audiences

When asked In a recent Content Marketing Institute survey about the top ways to nurture audiences, 87% chose emails and email campaigns, trailed closely by educational content with 77%.

B2B Content Marketing 2019
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Just how important is email in reaching and nurturing your audience? A study from Hubspot reveals that 86% of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes. But does not mean that you should email simply for email’s sake? No. Consider 78% who unsubscribed from an email list complained about receiving too many emails.

When done right, email marketing campaigns can feed and nurture interest in your brand. Such tactics as email automation, personalization, segmentation, and designing for mobile are all part of an effective email marketing strategy.

Bottom Line for 2019: If you don’t already have one, it’s important to develop a strong email strategy that nurtures your audience.

2. Personalization is Key

Generalizations are, well…boring. Your audience is made up of many different individuals who don’t want to be just another potential buyer. They want to be seen individually, especially by the brands in which they plan to invest.

With the creation of personalization technology, we as businesses have no excuse not to personalize each person’s experience. This technology allows us to refer to each person by name and to provide content that is tailored to their interests.

In one study from Salesforce, 57% said that they would be willing to give their personal information in exchanged for personalized offers and discounts. In the same study, 53% said that they would be willing to part with personal data for a more personalized shopping experience.

Bottom Line for 2019: Ditch generalities and tailor your strategy to give a more personal experience to your audience.

3. Conversational Search Takes Over

With virtual assistants like Okay Google, Siri, and even Hey Alexa, the way we search for things has changed. No longer are audiences typing out their search queries. Now, most people speak into their devices and search engines, which has led many to ditch individual search terms in favor of full sentences and questions.

One study shows that this trend is especially popular in younger generations — with 71% of those between the ages of 18 and 28 using voice-activated devices. This number drops considerably to 39% when we shift to audiences between the ages of 44 and 53. As years go by, however, this trend will expand and impact a broader age range.

Bottom Line for 2019: Within your SEO strategy, focus on search queries that mimic natural language and syntax.

4. Live Video Becomes a Priority

Content Marketing Institute B2B Content Marketing 2019_ Benchmarks, Budges, and Trends
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It’s no surprise that video marketing is a top priority for content marketers in 2019 — with 63% having increased their use of video. But this past year, we’ve witnessed this trend moving away from traditional, scripted video, and racing toward more relaxed, natural live streaming videos.

Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram have all witnessed an increase in their live streaming services this past year. In fact, another study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau showed that 47% of live video audiences watched more video this past year than previously.

Bottom Line for 2019: Prioritize live streaming video as part of your strategy and make it unscripted and natural.

5. B2B PR Belongs in Your Strategy

A growing strategy for improving content marketing is through B2B PR. While PR and content marketing have long been viewed as completely separate entities, professionals from both sides have realized that they often battle many of the same enemies. These enemies include the challenges of proving ROI, link building for SEO, and amplifying content.

When you realize the similarities that exist between PR and content marketing — PR does, after all, create a lot of content for brands — it becomes self evident that these strategies are intertwined. Whether you tap into PR strategies to build more links back to your brand or to promote your brand’s content, there are many ways that public relations can boost the power of your brand’s strategy.

Bottom Line for 2019: Incorporate PR tactics into your strategy to make it more powerful.

6. Longer Content Takes a Back Seat

Research a few years ago showed that long-form content (blog posts over 1600 words) ranked higher in search engines than shorter content. Since then, we’ve seen a humungous jump in long form content over the past few years. Has this skyrocketed strategies? Not really.

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Now we’re faced with a dilemma. As content marketers, we need to temper our approach and create a balance of content — both short and long form. Why is this important? Audiences need content of all sorts.

Long-form content still has its place — it is a great way to establish thought leadership and provide deeper information to hungry audiences. But what about audiences on the go or who are just looking for simple answers? You need to give them snackable content that won’t overwhelm them.

Bottom Line for 2019: You need to balance your strategy with enough long and short content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.

7. Content Creation Increases Budget

When asked where they expect to increase spending over the next 12 months, 56% of respondents in the CMI study pointed to content creation.

Even if content creation is not part of your 2019 plan, this trend shows that it might be the plan for many of your competitors. Whether it’s the creation of an ebook, video, or webinar, content is a building block of success for your brand. To get the most out of it, though, be prepared to invest time and money into creating the most attractive content for your audience.

However, better content creation doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many free and affordable content creation tools that will help you to create better content. The trick, however, is to invest in across-the-board better content creation for your brand.

Bottom Line for 2019: Look into ways to expand your content creation to keep up with at minimum and aim to surpass competitors.

8. Customer Conversations Need to Happen

One study performed by Content Marketing Institute revealed that when it came to customer research, less than half (42%) actually had conversations with their customers.

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This is especially surprising when you consider that 73% of content marketers plan to create buyer personas as part of their strategy. The fact is that strategies like web analytics, social listening, and keyword research can take you only so far. If you wish to bridge the gap and really get to know your audience, then you need to have real conversations with them.

The fact of the matter is that your customers and prospects hold the ultimate key to your understanding their behavior.

Bottom Line for 2019: When doing audience research, go straight to the source and talk to your customers, whether one-on-one or through a panel.

_ In review… _

8 Content Marketing Trends That Will Fire Up Your Strategy
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These content marketing trends are taken from the most recent studies and the input from today’s most successful B2B content marketers. More importantly, implementing these trends will take your content marketing from a dwindling flame to a roaring fire of a strategy.

Written by Wendy Marx for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Simon Harmer