Macala Wright: How 3 Companies Are Changing Content Marketing Through Data

Businesses that provide marketers and brand with comprehensive data and behavioral information make better content strategists.

There’s a debate raging among marketers as to whether content is a sustainable and effective strategy despite rising costs and complexities in capturing audience attention. Are marketers about to say, “Houston – we have a problem!” when it comes to the rate at which they’re tasked to create the content our viewers demand? As demand for content grows and more players enter the game, the optimal strategy is to evolve our tactics to adapt to audience behavior and learn to play the game better than before.

Effective content strategy requires a high level of coordination across a variety of channels, outlets, and mediums. Tactics are indicative to how a marketer works; it’s their secret sauce. Tactics can only be created through researching and interpreting what you read, the patterns you discover, and the ideas that flow through your mind as your brain connects the dots.

The tools that marketers use are a different story, and when those tools are data driven, it opens many new opportunities. As user behavior rapidly changes, the way in which marketers use behavioral information can be used to make informed decisions on content. So where are the tools that content publishers desperately need in order to evolve their content marketing strategies and automate their workflow, while also leaving time for humans to create? Below are a few notable tools worth looking at:

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Flipboard

Currently, Flipboard boasts over 100 million users (as of March 2014), a growth rate of 250,000 users per day, and the digital cred of being the most user-friendly content discovery tool on the web. This makes Flipboard an amazing platform for marketers to utilize value shifts from creation to curation.

Chris Perry of Forbes wrote, “increasingly, media and tech companies are trying to solve the problem of attention allocation through information ‘filters.’ Whether these filters are algorithms, design choices, or human editors (or more frequently, a combination of each), they have a big effect on whether content is discovered, consumed, and shared. Visual, personalized filters are the next new thing to watch.” And that is exactly what Flipboard does.

Last year, Flipboard allowed users to start creating and editing their own magazines. Currently Flipboard says users flip over 7 billion pages per month and that there are over 7 million user generated magazines. The brand magazines — which are made up of content curated or produced by brands themselves — can generate up to 40 flips from a user visit, according to Flipboard. The company also noted that 1 in 10 users subscribe to each brand magazine they happen to land on through search.

From Cisco to Intel, Levis to SXSW, there are some very creative magazines that showcase the best of their subjects. Flipboard magazines are free to create, but the company offers robust advertising options to further drive content views and engagement across its ecosystem and major social network outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. What’s more, the platform turns noise into signal, allowing its users to create cohesive streams of information, from social channels, websites, and all online content in order to provide infotainment relevant to its reader.

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Packagr

Ever wonder how Whole Foods created such awesomeness with Dark Rye? Well I did and it lead me to XOXCO. XOXCO, a small development group based in Austin, Texas, has spent over a year developing Packagr, a multi-platform publishing system. With Packagr, content can be packaged for delivery outside of the current systems or formats.

Using technologies like responsive HTML5, multiple publication formats like eBooks, and apps that can be created simultaneously and distributed at the same time, readers simply choose their preferred means of delivery. This could mean reading on an iPad mini, eBook reader or through email , but could also mean a 4k display, car windshield or wrist-mounted projector. As product manager Eric Soelzer writes, “Unfortunately, the limitations of our current systems have made the digital publishing workflow very rigid. Modern publishing tools need to simplify the publishing process, and catch up to where our content strategies have evolved.”

In an interview, CEO and product designer Ben Brown shared his philosophy on curating and repurposing content, “There’s a new context in the way that  people consume the content. Blogs were designed for younger audiences in the 90s. Those audiences are now maturing and moving to different mediums. For example, the set of people reading Boing Boing aren’t the same set of people reading their Kindle daily. But, if Boing Boing were to repackage it’s content in a format and style conducive to those use the Kindle, they have a significantly higher chance of those readers seeing their content and building an audience there.”

One can easily say that Packagr enables a publisher’s editorial vision to more easily live in new realms, giving it a longer shelf life and enabling publishers to use curation as a tool to create new products out of their current material. Dark Rye is the perfect example of this, as the content has a high production value. Why wouldn’t Whole Foods maximize the format and interchange the content by platform in order to maximize it to its fullest potential?

Packagr works by pulling a publisher’s content into their platform via data feeds and then remaps it to the medium to which they’re looking to move. Packagr’s templates and themes will translate into whatever format a publisher wants after the preliminary submissions are made. It even has an app that allows you to push content to the iTunes newsstand instantly once an account is established. The best part is that Packagr is fairly cost-effective, operating on a tiered model with costs starting at a few hundred dollars per month.

We want to help publishers continue the long tradition of creating distinct artifacts of their time, to the most important things out of the stream and put them in context, their proper place in space time. – Ben Brown

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People Pattern

People Pattern just announced the beta version (after raising $4.5 million in Series A) of their predictive analytics platform designed to help marketers, brands, retailers, and agencies discover and engage their audience. People Pattern provides segmentation data to enable marketers and clients to better understand, target, and engage active and prospective customers.

The platform automates the collection and aggregation of social and enterprise data to build people-based datasets with the capability of identifying high impact audience segments. Not only will folks understand the segments within their audience, but they will discover the unique users within those audiences. The platform functions with any data type, pulling in information from social networks and leveraging clients’ enterprise data such as CRM or loyalty databases. The platform also works across a variety of social networks, countries, and languages. The combined intelligence results in a robust picture of client audiences scientifically classified into actionable segments. Classifiers include location, age, race, gender, ethnicity, interest, sentiment, and influence.

“The social ecosystem is noisier and riddled with extraordinary claims in today’s environment, but as Carl Sagan said ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’,” said Ken Cho, Co-Founder of People Pattern. “Social marketing must be about value, and able to be clearly measured – it must evolve into data-driven marketing, especially as brands continue the shift from mass marketing to direct marketing.

Using information collected by People Pattern, marketers enhance existing customer data to develop a singular view of the customer through decision journeys, online and offline, and how their content is effecting that journey. To do this, the People Pattern tool will “stitch” together data, then boil down thousands of conversations found in open social data to semantically related groups of words – then groups those words around meaningful themes. By grouping correlated words, we can gain insight into the audience’s social conversation. By understanding how the aggregate audience communicates on social media – and also knowing how different segments within an audience communicate (about a brand and about their other interests) – brands can create content through an informed content strategy that centers around the key themes that resonate.

For retail brands, their content strategy extends into their entire customer marketing ecosystem. Retail brand strategy not only includes original and curated online content, but also includes anything that’s written or visual within their customer loyalty and relationship management programs. Content put into the right context drives cultural relevancy. Thus, it’s important to augment proprietary data with open social data, which takes limited customer profiles and builds a more dimensional, human view of the customer. Through obtaining such psychographic and demographic information, marketers can create messages beyond “buy now.” For example, Ken Cho shares:

“One of our large CPG companies had an email list of 8 million names with simple geographic information. They wanted to identify which of those 8 million had an affinity for Formula 1 Racing. By overlaying social data upon the information they already had, we were able to stitch together (a process done via our algorithms) and marry corresponding information to those names in order to identify the customers who were relevant to their targeting goals. The client was then able to build a unique value proposition for that audience.”

 

Why We Need Advanced Tools

This year, the continual theme throughout my editorials has been the evolution of user behavior as it relates to technology. As user behavior continues to evolve, we need to use, and invest in more robust tools that allow us to keep pace with our online audiences. It calls for much more scientific tools and people with the capacity to use them. As Ken Cho, Co-Founder of People Pattern, says “We really need advanced and predictive analytics in order to reach the right people at the right time.”

Many marketers use as many as three or four platforms to address content strategy across CRM, customer loyalty programs, email, and social media. It’s important to marry these together, because social has become a horizontal layer that touches all marketing practices. In order to effectively adapt our practices, we need to utilize platforms that can handle multiple tasks at once. At the very least, we need to work together with the same data sets and benchmarks in order to ensure consistency across all channels, while enabling us to add new ones into the mix when the time is right.

Images courtesy of Whole Foods, People Pattern, XOXCO and Flipboard. 

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