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The Power of Interactive Content Marketing

Duo on April 16, 2013

How Graphical, Video and Audio Content Supplement Spellbinding Marketing

The Power of Interactive Content Marketing

How Graphical, Video and Audio Content Supplement Spellbinding Marketing

A great man named Charlie Kelly once said, “Illiteracy…what does that word even mean?” Okay, we wouldn’t go so far as to say any portion of your audience is illiterate—but we will make the assumption that they’re busy people, and reading sometimes takes a back seat to more pressing work.

When was the last time you opened your browser and sat down to read something? Between email, social networking sites and blogs, today’s busy professional needs to give his or her brain a rest every once in awhile. Where do you go to process information passively? I, for one, like to suck up company bandwidth by visiting video sharing sites like YouTube. And I’m not alone.

In August 2011, comScore reports that the average web video viewer perused around 18 hours of content over the course of the month. Around 85.8 percent of the entire U.S. web audience viewed online video in the same month.

What about your commute to the office? If you’re a driver, you spend hours and hours in the car. According to a new study by Edison Research, fifty-five percent of study participants ages 18-24 have used their iPod/MP3 player to listen to audio in the car. Because they’re often iPod ready, podcasts have become a popular option for easy listening in the early hours of the morning.

What does all this have to do with you?

The point is this: if you’re not taking advantage of audio and visual rich media as part of your content strategy, you’re missing out on a world of potential clients that prefer to process information in ways other than reading. Since the advent of the camera, images have become one of the most powerful media for information sharing—and while it can still be expensive, the reward is well worth the effort.

But creating videos, images and podcasts and posting them on your website isn’t enough to take full advantage of the medium. So how do you get the most out of your rich media content marketing strategy? This whitepaper will answer questions like:

  • Why are visual & audio media so engaging?
  • How can you make pictures and other graphics part of your content strategy?
  • What different kinds of video represent the right choice for your business?
  • How do I create a compelling webinar?
  • What are the best ways to share and promote rich media?

Let’s jump in with a little psychological background on why visual media is so powerful.

What Makes Rich Media So Engaging

We’ve all heard the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This sage bit of wisdom holds true for content marketing, too. And, considering the attention span of your audience, we’re talking about a thousand words that can be processed in a few seconds. We’re not trying to discount the power of words—but we are trying to convince you that combining words with rich media is a great way to round out your content marketing efforts.

Excited yet? This guy is. Merlin U. Ward of Drip Media created a video to demonstrate the power of video for marketing, simultaneously leveraging the medium for his brand’s own content strategy. His pitch makes an effective sell for video media because it demonstrates a key part of what makes video great: it increases the authenticity of your business by bringing your brand or message to life.

And potential clients love it. People love video. We’re hardwired that way. But don’t take our word for it: YouTube claims it logs more than 2 million videos viewed every day. Impressed yet?

For content marketing purposes, video is a great complement to written content. A recent Yahoo! survey found that 57 percent of polled video watchers enjoy watching a video posted next to an article—a good indicator of how content marketing that combines text and videos becomes a more rich platform for industry leadership.

For podcasts and audio media, the numbers are slightly smaller—but not small enough to discount them. The most recent podcasting statistics come to us from Edison Research in the form of the company’s The Current State of Podcasting study of 2010. This study finds that 45 percent (approximately 70 million) of Americans have watched or listened to a podcast—two-thirds of whom have listened to podcast media in their vehicle.

Effective use of the medium depends entirely on how well you can leverage it (as is the case with all content marketing). The statistics are meant to demonstrate that a market for this form of audio consumption exists, and that content marketers looking to share their message through more active channels might find a real niche in podcasting.

Whichever way you slice it, your content marketing strategy can only benefit from offering rich media to your audience. Let’s get started with some ideas of how you can plan content marketing around your own unique pictures and graphics.

What’s a Picture Really Worth?

As marketers, we want real, hard numbers that help us measure our campaigns. Of course, it’s difficult to actually measure the impact pictures can have on your content marketing strategy…right?

This is one bubble we don’t mind bursting. Our friend Joe Pulizzi over at the Content Marketing Institute posted about a recent study conducted by Skyword, the search-driven media company. According to the study, business-oriented pages with images perform almost doubly as well as pages without images.

Pulizzi helps us put the data in perspective:

“Adding a little commentary and common sense to the study, it seems reasonable that posts with images both perform better in search results and are also shared at a higher rate than those posts without images.”

So it’s true: making your posts more eye-catching will help you drive more traffic through your content marketing channels.

Why Should I Spend My Time on Creating Original Photos?

It’s easy to get caught up in using stock photos as a time-saver. With content marketing, where we create new content on a weekly basis, we will sometimes have to fall back on stock photos to get the message out on a timely basis.

But don’t discount the value of creating unique photo content to help your content marketing along. David Meerman Scott, a major voice in digital marketing, cites the example of Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans, who claim their professional photos have had a huge impact on their business.

“‘The glorious true-to-size pictures, carefully taken in natural light, have done more to promote the beans than any words possibly could,’ says Allison Boomer, founder, Eco-Conscious Food Marketing. Boomer worked on the content of the site and created the text-based content.”

Of course, the potential of original photos going viral, with original citations, can help drive more traffic. (We’ll discuss promoting your visual and audio content later in the whitepaper.)

What’s an Infographic?

Infographics, those huge, colorful, data-rich interpretive graphics have major marketing buzz. You’ll want to get in on this. Infographics usually require the help of a designer in offering a visual representation of themed trends and statistics. Design creativity wins points in the world of infographics—but your main focus should be to accurately represent the trends your infographic brings to light.

According to the PR Coach,

“The use of infographics to communicate complex information simply and quickly picked up momentum in 2005 with the popularity of Digg, Reddit and other social media aggregators. It’s become almost too-popular as a way for bloggers to liven up posts, media to add impact to news stories and for content marketing experts to generate viral content.”

So how do you create an effective infographic? Check out our tips below.

1. Check and cite facts like a boss.
First and foremost, make sure the data you’re helping readers visualize is accurate and comprehensive. Cite your sources to add credibility to your graphic.

2. Make your design pretty and colorful.
Color helps your image pop. A carefully planned design that works well with your theme requires a professional designer.

3. Minimalism works.
A great design is important, but stick to the meat and potatoes. Don’t overdo your design. Use text sparingly.

4. Tell the story.
If you’re trying to put the spotlight on a specific trend, make sure the numbers make sense in context. Use infographics as part of a larger post that frames the narrative, industry and trends.

Now, let’s move on to what many content marketers consider the most powerful part of their content: video.

America’s Catchiest Home Videos

The dream of every American marketer is to craft the perfect viral video—recording 15 million YouTube hits, millions of social media shares and hundreds of new clients. That’s a lofty goal, and lofty goals can meet with great results. However, you should also be realistic in creating online videos; chances are it will add incrementally to your visibility and create new opportunity but the likelihood of a grand slam viral video is remote.

To strike a chord with your audience, keep your video ideas narrow and on-target. Most of us want to jump right into the comedy genre, noting the success of the most popular YouTube hits. Resist that temptation; your audience might not find you as funny as you find yourself.

Let’s start off with something simpler. Don’t worry, future producer of comedy mega-hits: we’ll get to the funny business.

How-To: Guiding the Customer to Success

The New York Times recently profiled Ceilume, a California manufacturer of vinyl ceiling tiles and successful example of how “how-to” video content can help boost sales.

Starting as a custom job shop, Ceilume needed a way to push through their transition to manufacturer and distributor and appeal directly to consumers. Leveraging the power of YouTube, Ceilume generated how-to and other informational videos that helped consumers rise above the stigma of the dusty white ceiling tile. It also helped Ceilume grow sales an average of 15 percent per year.

How-to videos work with the basic principle of content marketing: offer free information to your audience and help establish your brand as a thought leader. The visual “how-to” works best for hands-on tasks, but don’t be afraid to get creative with the way you present B2B interactions.
 

Your Company’s Got Personality

You might not realize it yet, but you have a cast of characters at your disposal. Highlighting your staff, your office and your company culture helps to put a face on your business—and there’s no sector that could use some more personality quite like the B2B sector.

Scrap the old tenets of professionalism; no one wants to see your staff staring blankly into their computer screens. If you want to show off your company’s personality, show them in the light of corporate culture: what do you do for fun inside the office? What events do you attend as a group? How does interaction inside the office drive more productivity?

Get creative with your company-focused videos. You don’t have to strike comedy gold; just be honest (not to a fault, of course) about your staff and your company, and you’ll help potential clients identify with you and your brand.

Striking Comedy Gold: High Risk, High Yield Video

Of course, there are those among us looking to strike comedy gold. Unless you’re working with a professional agency, trying to produce a viral comedic video can quickly turn into a flop. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge that 10 million YouTube views isn’t the goal for a B2B business. What percentage of those viewers is your target audience, anyway? It’s difficult to measure.

We suggest hiring a consultant or agency if you’re trying to produce a comedy video that hits the mark. Nonetheless, if you’re determined to try it yourself (if only to beef up your resume when you apply to Second City next summer), here are a few tips for attempting a comedic video.

  1. Cater to the in-group. Remember, the value of an effective video is in engaging your target audience. If the viewer isn’t in your target audience, it’s difficult to measure the business value of that view—if there is any at all. So make sure to focus on inside jokes that members of the in-group will get, and it’s much easier to ensure you’re creating a successful comedic video.
  1. Keep it short. Very rarely do you find a worthwhile comedy feature film lasting more than two hours. Apply the same concept to your viral videos and you’ll get more views from your audience—especially from the busy execs you want on your side.
  1. Make it timely and relevant. It’s much easier for your audience to relate to and understand the video if you’re dealing with an issue that’s both timely and relevant.

Create a Compelling Webinar

Open your email. Chances are, you have seventeen invitations to webinars piled up in your inbox. Everyone’s doing webinars these days—but the businesses doing it right are capturing real sales leads, creating loyal customers, driving innovation and putting useful information out into the cosmos with the hopes of good karma.

The trick is to find a unique topic with an interesting theme that offers how-to information and data supporting the trends relevant to the topic and to your audience. Easier said than done. The broad, unfocused webinar is the webinar that fails to draw in participants. It’s the webinar that leaves attendees scratching their heads and wondering why they wasted the last hour.

And wasting an hour of a potential customer’s time is not the way to win business (as we all know).

If you’re going to do it, do it right. We’ve compiled five tips from a host of different business experts on how to run a successful webinar.

  • Timing is Everything: According to Natalie Sisson of the Suitcase Entrepreneur, “Research shows it’s best to hold [your webinar] on a Thursday at either 12pm EST or 6pm EST onwards. In order to create enough buzz in a limited timeframe you should market your webinar from Monday onwards.”
  • Keep Good Company: Entrepreneur’s Carol Tice recommends you line up a co-presenter. “Collaborating on live events with service partners is the way to go. You get another business to promote your event, double the expertise you offer your audience—and now someone can be talking or responding to chat questions while you're frantically trying to fix whatever might be going technically wrong.”
  • Provide Value, Don’t Sell: After a week of attending webinars, Aliza Sherman of GigaOM has a simple request for webinar managers everywhere: skip the pitch. “One session had a presenter who could have stepped right out of a used car lot commercial. Maybe it’s just me, but that overly solicitous boisterousness just doesn’t translate well to a webinar setting.”
  • Encourage Community: Your audience will have questions, and helping them feel a sense of ownership encourages engagement. Katherine Murray of Tech Republic says: “Participants feel included, informed, and involved — not like they’re being held captive while a forgettable series of bullet points scroll by. If you choose webinar software that’s flexible…you can build places into your webinar where you invite participants to share experiences, answer questions, and provide their perspectives on the information you’re presenting.”
  • Use Lots of Slides: Really? Yes, says Hubspot CMO Mike Volpe. “Use a lot of slides—to keep someone engaged in a 45 minute webinar, I use as many as 90 or more slides sometimes. If you use too few slides, they are staring at one slide while you talk for 5 minutes. That gets boring, and they will open up another window and check email.”

Remember that practice makes perfect. Run plenty of practice webinars with coworkers acting as the audience. Encourage them to ask questions and record yourself to help you learn how you can be a more effective speaker.

Promote Your Content

Once you’ve built compelling content, it’s time to put it into action—and that means more work for you. But the payoff could be huge.

You have two more jobs to do, and they could end up the hardest parts of the process. First, you have to find effective ways to distribute the content you’ve worked so hard to build. After all, what’s the point if no one sees it? Then, you’ll need to find strong ways to measure that engagement so you can learn from your experience.

For now, we’ll offer you a few good ways to promote your interactive content.

Nine Ways to Promote Your Content

Looking for a place to start promoting? Look no further. We’ve organized nine tips to help you kick your interactive media strategy off right.

1. Social networks (Duh). Disseminate your content among your followers on Facebook and Twitter. (This is the most obvious tip on the list; we promise the rest will make you think outside the box.)

2. Content-specific channels. Of course you posted your video on YouTube. But what about other video hosting sites, like BrightCove, MetaCafe and DailyMotion? Same goes for pictures through sites like Picasa.

3. Use your newsletter. Through your newsletter, link to your piece of content for plenty of quick hits.

4. Share with appropriate communities. For every topic, you’ll find online communities and forums focused on it. Participate in those communities and promote your content to other members.

5. Go DIY with PR. Got a list of appropriate bloggers and journalists for your industry? If not, it’s time to make one. Send them relevant, informative content and they’ll thank you by posting them.

6. Link to related videos on YouTube. Use your video’s annotations and description on YouTube to link to another related YouTube video. The search algorithm built by YouTube loves internal referrals and will reward you for it.

7. Use a single video player. Even if you post your video on other video channels, share it through a YouTube player so you can measure your results from a more centralized place.

8. Feature on your website. Don’t just create a page where you host your pictures & videos; feature a new picture or video on the homepage to draw in more viewers.

9. Use your tags. Optimize your YouTube tags so your video comes up in more search results. The same goes for photo-sharing sites.

Conclusion

Creating interactive content for content marketing isn’t an exact science. The most crucial things to keep in mind when you create a piece of interactive media are how the audience will receive the content and how it aligns with your brand. Add a little creativity and a bit of elbow grease and you’re on your way to a successful interactive media campaign.