Your Content Should Be About Your Customers, Not About You #smlondon

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One of the most common question themes I see thrown about forums and LinkedIn groups:

Why won’t anybody engage with my content?

Now by content I mean your inbound marketing efforts – your communication with your existing and prospective digital audiences.

If we are honest with ourselves as marketers, we know that not every piece of content we produce will appeal to everyone. We hope that it will appeal to enough people to achieve its goal – whether that be brand awareness, driving traffic to the site, onsite goal conversions – the list goes on. Going back to the question though, I don’t think the issue is necessarily your content. The issue is how you package it and deliver it to your audience. Low quality, infrequent and irrelevant communications cause disengagement and your audience just switches off and becomes ‘brand blind’.

The problem:

So how do we cause brand fatigue? Three things:

  1. We don’t differentiate our content enough
  2. What we do produce is low quality or irrelevant
  3. Our communications can’t be effectively controlled by our audience (more for email and social channels the third point)

1) Not enough differentiation:

Brand fatigue starts to occur when there are simply too many messages, all the same at first glance, packed onto all platforms the brand has a presence on. The brand logo, colours, slogan – all becomes white noise and users filter it out and just scroll past your content. Through differentiation we’re able to ‘keep it fresh’ and break up our content types.

2) Poor frequency, low quality:

The second contributing factor in brand blindness is frequency and quality. We all subscribe to email newsletters to keep up-to-date with the latest news, offers, sales etc – but how often do we read these emails?

Every morning I wake up and I will have at least 15 emails to my personal address, 11 of which will more-than-likely get deleted without a second thought and others may get marked as read based on their subject line, who they are from and their snippet. Likewise I sometimes receive marketing emails from brands I’ve forgotten that I even signed up to.

The same goes for social platforms like Facebook – despite the News Feed algorithm’s best efforts, you will still see content you don’t want, leading me onto my next point…Control.

3) Users want control:

Users want and need to have the option to control how we as marketers communicate with them via the brands we represent. Through email this can be a simple preference centre, where we offer options such as once a week, once a month, snooze for 3 months and unsubscribe or, through Facebook’s post option menu.

The example:

A prime example of two of these points (low quality and low frequency) unfortunately comes from a content publishing and hosting platform. At the start of November 2015 they launched a major update with tonnes of new features and updates – so how did the platform share this great news? Through an email.

333 words in total, 5 paragraphs and a sign off from the CEO. Not an image, company logo, personalisation or piece of HTML in sight – this was big news though, right? I guess on a positive note, the email does link through to an article on the company’s site (that has just as many images) and has received a number of comments, however they may not be the sort of comments they wanted.

All the comments on the companies article followed the same trend – nobody had a clue what the new product was and nobody could understand how it could benefit them. Echoing the comment from Jonathan Lewis, the company must know that this was a poor communication and a poor piece of content.

To me this also represents a much greater problem, it shows me that they don’t understand their customer base and the technical knowledge they possess. I’ll be honest, off the back of just reading the email – I had questions, one of which was ‘What actually is the immediate benefit for me?’. Luckily right next to it is a hyperlink with the anchor text ‘Take a look…’ – on the blog post, it doesn’t mention anything in any greater detail or show me anything other than more words on the screen.

Also worryingly the article hasn’t been updated to reflect the feedback, none of the blog comments have been responded to and there has been no further communication (either a second blog article with diagrams etc or another email) to try and explain the product launch further (as I write this it has been almost a week). As far as marketing emails go, this was very poor, considering even their own users are telling them that they are not ‘practising what they preach’.

Canva is a great online tool and their email communications are fantastic. When I first signed up for an account at the start of August, I played around a little using the different templates and seeing what was free and what cost money – because I abandoned a handful of projects, I got an email from a member of the ‘customer happiness team’ asking if I was ok with the platform, if I needed any help with any of the features and asking for initial feedback – the digital equivalent of a waitress asking how your meal is.

The platform is very simple and clean and this translates into their communications. When they update their features, they send an email similar to the one above. A short, brief description of why they are emailing you and some small previews of what is now available and a call to action to go in and experiment with the new templates. As someone who has worked in email marketing, the syndication that their emails have with their product is brilliant, I genuinely feel like anyone could easily log into Canva and replicate these professional looking, clean emails.

The solution:

So how as marketers can we avoid poor communications such as this? I know there is nothing more frustrating than investing time and resources into a great piece of content only for it to fall on deaf ears.

The answer: there is no on-size fits all solution to preventing brand fatigue – but there are practices you can implement on a platform-by-platform basis:

1) Your blog:

When you’re producing a blog article you have to remember two things:

  1. Who is this for?
  2. Why are we producing this?

Using the post above as an example, the answers are that it was produced for existing users and prospective users and it was produced to inform, explain and advertise the new updates and features.

You also need to be aware of your metrics, whether this be Google Analytics or your WordPress dashboard, you need to check these on a regular basis to get a feel for which pieces of content are working. I personally look for three metrics in Google Analytics to tell whether or not one of my blog posts has been successful:

  1. the number of organic entrances to the site via the blog post.
  2. the number of page views the blog post has achieved.
  3. the average time spent on the site.

Also monitor the number of onsite comments your posts get, along with the number of social shares.

Once you take all of this information on board you can feed it into your content calendar and look to invest more resources into the types of content that yield greatest results. One of the greatest misconceptions of a content producer/content marketer is that they have to produce a piece of content every day or every two days and have a set, structured plan. Yes, there needs to be structure but the job of a content marketer is to have success with the content that they produce, using the data available to drive decisions and correlate with the content strategy to grow your channels immediate audiences, your newsletter subscription list and drive conversions onsite.

I’ve found on my blog for example that the ‘most popular hour’ for me to post is at 2am GMT. That on its own is a strange statistic, but coupled with the fact that a huge percentage of my traffic originates from America, the time difference card comes into play. This data has impacted on my posting schedule and now I post later in the evening (GMT evening) to try and accommodate all time zones involved.

2) Email marketing:

With your emails, you need to remain as personal and relevant as you can at all times. This can only be achieved through a good email capture form, a good preference centre and good database management.

For example, you’re on an equestrian website that sells products specifically for horses, ponies and donkeys and you sign up for their email newsletter. You get their standard, automated welcome email with maybe your name personalised into it. Next week you get an email with a great offer for a horse saddle and some news about new horse stirrups – whilst there might not be anything wrong with the email itself, what if as a user I was only interested in donkeys?

This is were a good signup form and preference centre come into play, by being able to control what I am interested in and how often I want to receive I am in control, I have given the brand the power to manage their database effectively and utilise database segmentation and dynamic content to ensure I only receive what is relevant to me.

Once you’ve created that tailored experience, you need to be aware of your unique open rate, your unsubscribe rate and your click through rate. By monitoring these you can gain insight into how your subject lines and email content performs and use this data to feed into your decision making. You will also be able to see peaks and dips in your performance and if you start seeing successive declines, you can delve into what’s going wrong and look to address things before they become a problem.

It is more important now than it ever has been that you keep on top of your email marketing performance as brand fatigue amongst your audience is not only bad in the short term but could end all chances of being successful in the future. If your emails have a high unsubscribe rate, are deleted a lot without being read or even worse, are marked as spam/reported – platforms like Gmail and Yahoo have built in algorithms that respond to your actions and can impose filters to automatically send these low quality emails to spam, or even block them from being delivered altogether to their users.

RELATED: Why Email is Still Important for Any Marketer

3) Social media (Twitter & Facebook):

As a rule, Twitter is generally a more forgiving platform than Facebook if you share poor content occasionally due to the fast paced nature of the Twitter feed, Facebook on the other hand has more algorithms feeding into its News Feed and punishes pages for sharing content that receives low engagement.

Facebook has an interest in what their users see on their News Feeds, if they see content they don’t engage with, they are less likely to keep returning to the platform as frequently – which is bad for Facebook as a business. Say for example you share 5 posts in a week and 3 of them receive little to no engagement, Facebook’s algorithm may decide that your content isn’t as relevant as the content other pages are sharing and will lower your content down the pecking order when it decides what to populate a user’s News Feed with. Facebook’s algorithms to keep News Feed’s relevant have to be uncompromising, they have to deal with an approximate 4.75 billion posts per day (data from Wishpond).

Twitter on the other hand is much more simplistic: it runs a basic newsfeed algorithm – he who posted last will be at the top of the feed (however it is estimated that 350,000 tweets are sent per minute, that’s 6,000 per second – so you might not be sat on top of the pile for very long).

However this doesn’t mean you can’t put thought into what you share on Twitter. Users of both platforms are equally particular when they decide which pieces of content to engage with, it’s the platforms that differ. You should only aim to share stuff that gets high engagement, especially as your brand.

You should monitor both your Twitter and Facebook analytics and look to see what worked and work out your most successful publishing patterns.

[Featured image: Shutterstock]

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Dan Taylor

Account Manager at SALT.agency
Dan is a Technical SEO Consultant & Account Manager @ SALT.agency in Leeds. He enjoys all things digital, Hull City and gin.
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Dan Taylor

Dan is a Technical SEO Consultant & Account Manager @ SALT.agency in Leeds. He enjoys all things digital, Hull City and gin.