5 Questions with Brand Networks on How to Effectively Build Your Content Strategy

Social Media Week

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When it comes to content creation, distribution, and fostering community with your customers, there are so many things that need to happen in order to find success. From the timing of your content, to the audience it targets, if you want to reach new levels of success, you must be relevant to more and more individuals.

At Brand Networks, relevance-driven native social advertising and content marketing solutions is their specialty, and we sat down with Kyle Psaty (Product Marketing Director at Brand Networks) and Wayne St. Amand (Vice President, Global Marketing at Brand Networks) to ask them about the current landscape of the industry, where they think it’s going, and how Brand Networks is helping pioneer the space.

1. Is content actually still king? If not, what is? If so, who is queen?

I think content is definitely still king, because it’s where every piece of insight you have for your campaign comes together. At Brand Networks, we’re up to our ears in research and analysis around the perfection of relevance, which is controlled by three independent variables. We call them the Three Dimensions of Relevance. They are Timing, Targeting, and Messaging. Get any one of these right, and you’ll experience breakthrough results.

Get all three right, and you’re going to hit peak performance. In this view, you might think that Targeting and Timing are the queens — or even the two other kings. But content is bigger than Messaging alone. Great content takes the key message that connects your product or brand attributes with your audience (AKA Targeting) and factors in your temporal context (AKA Timing) to achieve the perfect blend. In the end, content really brings all three dimensions of relevance together visually and textually.

In the end, content is still king—I think marketers are just reaching new levels of understanding about what good content really means, how to measure it effectively, and how to deliver it with reach and precision.

2. What’s the biggest mistake you see content creators make on a consistent basis? What are they doing that they have no idea is hindering growth?

I think one of the things that is really limiting a lot of content creators right now is what I call “selfish content creation.” It happens when marketers forget that it doesn’t matter what they think or feel; it only matters what the audience thinks and feels. We cannot confuse ourselves for our own best-fit consumers or we limit our market in incredible ways. Unfortunately, selfish content creation is in our DNA as marketers and corporations. For decades, starting way back in the Mad Men era of advertising, we judged a concept’s potential by how we felt about it as marketers and executives.

We sat around conference tables in business casual attire and yelled, “This feels like the perfect campaign for us!” This is a terrible proxy for consumer relevance. Of course, we need to maintain a good grip on what kinds of insights our data can provide. We can’t confuse nascent, incomplete data for leading indicators. But if we cover our bases by maintaining good practices about our data, the next step is to get good at trusting our data and our insights as the new best proxy for consumer relevance. Data-driven marketers almost never fall victim to selfish content creation.

3. What do you see on the horizon for ad-blocking and users consuming the content they genuinely want to read and watch?

I think the future of ad-blocking is going to fall almost entirely in the hands of users. We’ll see the industry try to eliminate the need for ad blockers by raising the bar on quality. Benchmarks, best practices, and whitelisting are going to be explored by our industry leaders, and by publishers, but in the end, the fate of ad viewability and deliverability is going to fall into the hands of content consumers.

Advertising gets vilified, but people forget that it’s a huge part of the economy that supports the open web and the free exchange of knowledge. Web users love that, and they also enjoy easily finding the goods and services they want or need—not just the information they want or need. The absolute best way to find the goods and services you want and need is for them to find you. That’s what users call “a good advertising experience.” This is is the kind of advertising that wears a white hat, not a black one, and which we respond to by Tweeting, “I love your product! I’m so glad I found it!” This is the future of advertising, and it relies 100% on our ability as marketers and advertisers to deliver relevant content and ads.

4. How can and should brands tap into real-time, current events and news, and use it to their advantage, even if their product or service is not directly related?

Great question. This is the place where marketers and advertisers are going to do their most creative work in the next decade. The plain truth is that there are events, big and small, happening in the lives of every consumer every day. The world and now the Internet are the fabric of our lives. They don’t just reflect our lives, they are the context in which our lives unfold.

At the last Social Media Week NYC, there was a talk about Millennial marketing that cited a stat: “28% of U.S. Millennials said their cell phone is ‘an expression of who I am.'” That’s an illustration of how the internet has become intermeshed with our lives. In this context, we can arrive at a pretty obvious fact: If you aren’t tapping into real-time current events in the lives of your audience and using that to create relevance, you’re fighting a losing battle.

How do you do that tactically? Start simple. What’s the weather where your audience is right now? How is it impacting their lives right now? Their evening plans? Their purchase decisions? What’s the news that matters to them today? What do they watch on television every Tuesday night? Marketers have always exhibited good creative problem solving skills. The big challenge is starting to ask some of these questions and then actually dedicating bandwidth to answering them. Once you do that, you’ll find ways to make your brand, and maybe even your products and services, part of the conversation. In short, the answer to your question is to start trying.

5. For small businesses that want to develop a content strategy, what are some of the things they must do to grow their reach and following?

Here’s a practical answer that applies to large brands and small brands alike: Figure out who your products, your brand, and your strategy aren’t for first. When you decide who you’re not serving, you gain clarity about who you are serving. This is guaranteed to help you achieve a greater level of focus, and best of all, you begin to offer your audience clarity about who you are as a brand.

Show me a brand you think serves everyone. Pick the biggest consumer brand in the world and give me 20 minutes to Google information about their marketing strategy. I’ll come back to you with at least one example of a division within that brand that is laser focused on serving a specific audience. Why? Because when you can tell an audience, “This is who we are and this is who we’re for,” you empower your audience to tell their friends what you represent. You make your brand a club. Everybody wants to feel like they belong, but nobody wants to belong to the club that lets anyone in. Commit to a niche, make that niche public—and your audience will grow.

To hear more from Brand Networks, one of Social Media Week Chicago’s official partners, you can attend their masterclass, “A World Beyond Ad Blockers: Using Relevance to Take Control of Social Marketing” which takes place Thursday, November 19th at 1:30pm.

Tyler Becker

Director of Content, Social Media Week


Tyler is the Director of Content at Crowdcentric and Social Media Week. He writes about digital media, entertainment, emerging tech, Internet silly-billies, mobile apps, and more. Oh, and he likes craft beer, travel, and podcasts.

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