With a background in promotional video design, Vidyard co-founder Michael Litt is perfectly equipped to drop the other shoe with regard to content marketing — to create a platform that would integrate analytics and optimize video search results, providing hard data on what had been a soft, fuzzy process. The company’s latest development — a Vidyard plug-in for HootSuite, the popular multiplatform social media tool — delivers detailed data on marketers’ social outreach, too.
In this conversation with Walter Schoenknecht for Connect 2 Media & Entertainment, Litt provides insight on the nature of content marketing, as well as on the impact of metrics when creating successful strategies.
Q: Can you talk about the nature of what you take to mean “content marketing?”
Litt: Content marketing sounds like “marketing content.” You’ve probably see a ton of really great campaigns both in video and social media form that people share, and that they find very useful, and that become viral. Those are the “organic” content-marketing initiatives that often don’t seem to be marketing initiatives at the onset. But the reality is that the goal of content marketing is to drive better search visibility through key words that you’re publishing on your blog, on your social feed, on your support forums, in the videos you produce, to get people to come to your site, explore your brand and learn more about what you do. And in a business like ours, the whole driver behind content marketing is to create an organic inbound channel of leads and opportunities to people who are just discovering your material on the Internet.
Q: Sounds like you’re talking about more than just video — more like a wide range of potential content styles and media.
Litt: Absolutely, everything from social media — so Tweets, Facebook posts, things you pin to your Pinterest board, Google Plus, these are all social mediums where you can develop and distribute content marketing — through white papers, and video, a big one, obviously, that’s very close to my heart. Any form of content across any medium is content marketing.
Q: Long-time marketers might wonder if the much-maligned “infomercial” was a form of content marketing… true?
Litt: The infomercial definitely is a form of content marketing — obviously, video based. Often they’re instructional, and the goal is to get someone to buy or show interest, or do more research on your brand. That’s more in the video space, and I always see the future of the Internet as television; and so that’s kind of along the lines of the way people should be thinking.
Another more traditional form of content marketing is getting exposure through mail distribution, something that would go out from either a publisher or a brand, to review your product in an unbiased way. You used to see sponsored articles about a space or a product sent to tens of thousands of executives; and they’d sit at their desk and browse through those articles, and learn more about the space. Now that same thing is done through emails and through Tweets. Everybody can publish that stuff very easily. There still are sponsored white papers, but there’s very little sponsored distribution anymore.
Q: So it’s not just about highly polished video content; content marketing can include short Tweets, and even email?
Litt: Email is one of the most traditional forms of content marketing. So if you’re becoming a customer of ours, or at least a lead via signing up for a trial or requesting a demo, you’re going to get a variety of content that is distributed to you using email as the channel. Email is still one of the leading forms of content marketing. It’s the best way to communicate directly to your audience. There’s a lot of cool stuff that you can do there.
Q: And email is highly focused, precisely targeted. Which is better — aiming for a wide audience, or targeting a smaller one?
Litt: One of the aspects of content marketing that I’ve been known to preach is the concept of broadcasting versus narrowcasting. In broadcasting, you send out a Tweet and hope that it appeals to your entire audience. It’s very unlikely. Another thing you can think about in terms of broadcasting is the Super Bowl commercial. You’re hoping to create a commercial that appeals to everyone watching the Super Bowl, to drive interest in your brand. But with today’s content marketing, most businesses that have major audiences need to create marketing that appeals individually to every single one of your customers, and that means not broadcasting, but narrowcasting — selecting those individuals that you want to communicate with, and tailoring your Tweets, your videos, all of your messaging toward that specific audience; because there’s so much noise out there around every single [competing] product that you need to cut through all that. The best way is to have very specific content for those viewers.
Q: It sounds as though the kind of analytics that Vidyard generates can help shape a content marketing strategy. What sort of metrics do you find useful?
Litt: You can see who watched that video; how long they watched it for; if they re-watched it; if they shared it; and that’s what Vidyard’s software does. Or on social media, you can see who’s reading your tweets; who’s sharing those tweets; who’s re-Tweeting that material. And so, as you develop your content marketing strategy, you have all of this data that comes from your customers that you can use to tailor your messaging and make it more applicable to your audience, without ever having to interact with them outside of the marketing materials you produce.
Q: Once you get this data, what can you do with it? Do marketers make strategic changes based on analytics?
Litt: One of the premiere examples is salesforce.com. They produce amazing video. They’ve got a very actively engaged, emotional audience. They’ve got it altogether, so to speak. But when they look at their content marketing initiative, they see tons of issues that they want to fix. And that’s the point. Even the leading companies in the content marketing space are always looking for ways to innovate in different mediums; different communication methods for their customers. So it’s a never-ending cycle. You can’t create one Tweet or one video and say, “Awesome.”
That’s the thing about content marketing strategy — you’ve got to be consistent with it. Push it out on a schedule in the early days, and use all that data that we capture. That’s what content marketing strategy is all about. And over time, you’ll see it impact the bottom line. You’ll be building interaction with your brand on your blog and in your social media channel… you just have to start somewhere.
Q: Do you need to “go large” in order to make an impact? One big campaign or message rolled out worldwide?
Litt: Our strategy is … you have to go small to go big. We find a category of customers, and we reach them by finding their email addresses, scraping their websites for the type of technology they use. We put them in buckets, and then we run a content marketing campaign for those individual groups. And that teaches you how to communicate with a larger audience, because in those small groups, you’re going to have prospects that would fit into different verticals or different groups that we could target later. Seeing their feedback and using them for a kind of daisy-chain effect is really valuable.
Q: Sounds like, once again, there’s a role for email in driving niche audiences to this content.
Litt: The goal is to develop a list of emails for people that you want to target. It can be based on company size; technologies that they already utilize; technologies that they’ve bought or are considering buying; and sending out the content via email and via their social feeds directly to those users — seeing how they interact with it. Changing the titles on the emails, changing the descriptions and constant Tweets — all that kind of stuff — have a massive impact on how many of those people read them. But starting with the smaller audiences is very important.
Q: Are content marketing strategies different for some product categories rather than others?
Litt: Yes! I think that’s a great question. Content marketing is very different depending on your space. Some people will create a YouTube video and expect it to get millions and millions of views; but the reality is that you can only really do that if you have an audience that has millions of people in it. So like Adidas, for example — they can create video and millions of people can watch, because, typically, everyone in the world is a potential customer. Cellphones, for example, have a harder time developing a video that will get a million views, but each one of the views it does get is worth a lot more money than, say, the Adidas video would be because their customers are more likely to convert [brands]. And they’re also spending more money on the product.
And so, outside the consumer space, companies can say, for instance, “Well, we’re an enterprise security business, and we know all of our buyers. We communicate directly with them, and we don’t do any marketing — we do it during the sale.” But the reality is that someone is going to come along in that enterprise IT security space and have a kick-ass content marketing campaign where they produce funny videos that relate to their buyers. Or they have a social feed that is really, really amazing. In that case, don’t look to mimic the success of big consumer brands because that’s an entirely different audience, and they have to get those millions of views, or else they’re not going to sell any products. In the content marketing world, you just can’t compare yourself to the giant brands you’re used to seeing.
Q: So how should marketers approach content marketing? What’s the take-home message?
Litt: The short answer is… I highly recommend that everybody just get on the content marketing bandwagon at some capacity.
Michael Litt is the CEO and co-founder of Vidyard, a video marketing platform helping marketers measure the impact of their video content. Thought leader, surfer and serial entrepreneur, Michael is passionate about content marketing and changing the way we engage and purchase with video. Chat with Michael on Twitter @MichaelLitt or LinkedIn http://ca.linkedin.com/in/michaellitt to learn more.
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