5 Content Marketing Tips, 1 Pep Talk, 0 Buzzwords

I attended Yahoo’s Tumblr-focused content marketing panel during FFWD2015, and while I learned a bit about content, I learned a lot more about the baffling Jesus-take-the-wheel sentiment clouding the space. The woman beside me was snapping four photos of every slide (without turning the camera shutter noise off, ugh) so furiously I doubt she heard a word of the panel.


She then wrote GIFS = CONTENT on the top of her Blackberry notes, while the guy behind us loudly grumbled about Millennials. These are the actions of people who are scared. After seeing the contents of the panel, I don’t understand why.

The basis of this talk was a Yahoo/Ipsos deep dive study into Canadian content habits. I expected a middle-aged Yahoo exec with a buzzword-filled PowerPoint, and I got one. There were graphs. There were charts. There was fear in the souls of brand managers over 40. This post will end positively, I promise. To the highlights!

Lesson 1: Appreciate the Niche

The Internet is a place where people can really let their freak flags fly, which is why 77% of digital content consumption is in niche categories. Think Dr. Who fan clubs, Paleo recipe blogs, and Corgi discussion forums. Gaining traction here is difficult – people build these communities on their own time, and they don’t take too kindly to advertisers jumping in. Gain their trust slowly, and use influencers to help you speak their language – but remember, you’re a visitor, not a member. That leads me to point #2:

Lesson 2: Don’t lie…

One of the most common complaints about branded content is lack of disclosure, so put your intentions on Front St. by clearly labelling your ads. Never will a reader reach the bottom of your advertorial and cry “Wait, this was sponsored by Schneiders? These folks really get me, I better go get myself some Country Naturals Thin Sliced Ham!” Instead, they will write Youtube-level comments because they feel alienated and stupid. If you’re tricking people into viewing your ad, your ad sucks. Stop it.

Lesson 3: …and try to be honest.

67% of people will share something emotional (“This Commercial Will Literally Make You Cry So Hard You Might Enter Cardiac Arrest!”), but that’s not the only way to go. 60% will share something informative, and 61% will share something deeply personal. Encouraging play with a game or engagement, or offering information and knowledge will also encourage over 50% of readers to share. A value exchange goes a long way in a world of clickbait. Capitalize on your audience’s low expectations (I mean, sorry, it is what it is), by surprising them with quality.

4. Get in and get out

Did you know every time you pick up a device you get a teeny shot of dopamine? After that, reader enjoyment goes downhill fast, so keep it short and sweet. 50% of people rank brevity as a key factor in reading and sharing, because tech-related changes in our neuroplasticity have altered the amount of time we can spend interacting with content without dying of boredom. Cap your yapping at 500 words, or 7 minutes of video – but remember over 80% of users want cross-platform content, so if you have a lot to say, segment it into the right channels.

5. Content is not hard

Take another look at this list – all of these lessons are blindingly obvious. Be sincere, up front and use media intelligently – lessons Jeff Goodby would give you in 1996, or Don Draper in 1966, if you prefer. It is the onset of buzzwords – so, so many buzzwords they’d fill the screen of my Phablet – that’s creating a feeding frenzy of confusion and failed content campaigns. Did we need a million-dollar study to tell us people like jokes and cute animals?

So, remember: Be transparent, give the people something they can use to better their lives, brighten their day and a reason to trust you, and you’ll be just fine. If you’re already a bad advertiser, well, content won’t make you a good one.

You can follow Meaghan on Twitter.

The stats above were taken from the Yahoo/Ipsos panel at FFWD2015.