New data trends for content marketers

Credit: KFC

Ultimately, brand and content marketers care about one thing above all else — the position they occupy in consumers’ minds. Using data from social platforms to inform marketing decisions around positioning and content creation isn’t a new concept — social listening platforms have been around since the launch of Twitter. However, brands are starting to use some new innovative strategies to harness the data, talent, and content of consumer networks — and funnel them directly into their marketing, vs just generating insights.

We’ve been noticing three distinct ways this is happening.

1. Using data to identify new and adjacent audiences

Social network data is now helping brands identify and build content strategies for entirely new audiences they’d never considered before.

This is happening via identifying common but non-obvious overlaps with different audiences, celebrities, and influencers.

Adweek did a writeup on why more and more brands are catering to country music fans. “Brands have begun to look at data and research much more than they previously did in identifying which artists they should work with,” said Marcie Allen, president of music partnership agency MAC Presents. “Ten years ago, brand [marketers] would be like, ‘I really like John Mayer so I think my brand should work with him,’” says Allen. “Now it’s like, ‘OK, what is John Mayer’s social reach? What’s his demographic? Let’s pull his Facebook profile, let’s pull his Ticketmaster profile, let’s make sure that our demographic is on target with John Mayer’s demographic.’”

For example, Ford used data to identify Brantley Gilbert as a country artist for their target audience, partnering with him on audio, video, social, and live music content with for their Ford Month Truck campaign.

2. Adapting their whole approach to be network-native

Instagram has effectively replaced magazines as the dominant platform for beauty brands. Geoff Schiller of Popsugar notes this week that network-native, direct-to-consumer digital brands are making massive inroads, and legacy brands must adapt to reach customers.  The math is simple: Digital accounts for 50% of Americans’ daily time spent with content, and print accounts for less than 2%.

Look at startup companies like Kylie Cosmetics. This Kylie Jenner creation generated $420 million in sales in just 18 months — with Instagram as its main growth vehicle. This is also the case for smaller beauty brands like ColourPop, Karity, and Tarte.

Brands will have to go where their customers are — and these Instagram-savvy startups prove that audiences are both hungry for social content and will drive significant purchase volume from a singular, dominant new platform.

3. Sourcing talent from the network for the brand

Brands are realizing that some of their most valuable content creators can be found right on the platforms where they’re trying to reach customers — and not just for repurposing content. That’s why they’re starting to use services like VSCO to find on-network creators and ask them to produce brand-new, social content for their own brand accounts.

VSCO is a photo-editing social app that has a new service called VSCO Connect that is used by brands to find creative talent for their content. For instance, PowerBar used VSCO to find 10 photographers who matched their style and aesthetic and hired them to create hundreds of images for their social platforms, website, and print ads.

Unlike traditional media or even search or display, social networks have many-to-many communication and discovery built in their architecture. Expect to see more innovation in this area where brands harness other creators in interesting ways.

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Changes in social content consumption

Credit: Popbuzz

In another trend to note for marketers, social sharing and consumption of content is continuing to transform rapidly, with potential impacts on brands' abilities to reach their audiences with content.

Pew Research survey insights

According to a new survey from Pew Research, 94% of 18-24 year olds use YouTube. That’s an amazing stat — and maybe not surprising when you see that linear television consumption has dropped by 44% in the span of only five years.

What’s also amazing is that 78% of 18-24 year olds also use Snapchat, while 71% use Instagram. If you polled most people, they’d probably think it was the other way around.

The survey also found that 51% of Facebook users visit the social network several times a day. In comparison, only 26% of Twitter users and 29% of YouTube users visit their respective sites each day. This means that Facebook users are voracious consumers of Facebook content, whereas Twitter users are less frequent consumers of Twitter content.

Social sharing has decreased since 2015

BuzzSumo released a report that found that social sharing is down 50% since 2015. Articles now see an average of just four shares, and only 5% generate more than 343 shares. There are several reasons for this: publisher content and competition has increased; private sharing via email and messaging apps is on the rise; Google drives twice as much referral traffic as social media; and Facebook’s algorithm changes are hurting organic reach for brands and publishers.

This means marketers can’t necessarily rely on users to share their content. They need to work extra hard to find the top 10% of content that is going to drive those shares. And they need to consider more paid promotion tactics to help break into audience’s news feeds.

Consumers shift their attention to non-ad-supported media

American consumers are spending less and less time with ad-supported content, according to a new study by PQ Media. In fact, the time they spent with ad-supported media dropped to 44.4% — its lowest point ever. The study projects that we’ll see that fall to 42.5% by 2021. Publicis’ Rishad Tobaccowala, on the other hand, predicts that ad-supported media exposure will drop by 30% over the next five years.

It’s not that Americans are consuming less media. They’re actually consuming more content overall — just not ad-supported content. Thanks to platforms like Netflix and Spotify Premium, people can pay just a subscription fee to enjoy content without being interrupted by ads.

This means brands have to figure out how to get in the content game — full stop. They won’t be able to rely on just creating ads that can be latched onto other media. They need to start looking at how they can create their own media in order to keep their audience’s attention.

Major media disruptions continue

Credit: Tenor

The distribution landscape for content marketers continues to transform rapidly — the reversal of roles between new platforms and traditional publishers seems to create new fallout that needs to be dodged on a weekly basis. Last week saw some new developments in three familiar areas.

Brand safety in the C-suite

Another major brand is putting brand safety front-and-center. Last week, Bank of America hired a brand safety officer to ensure that ad content is placed in appropriate contexts, and to address issues of ad fraud and transparency. This is similar to the Unilever story we covered previously. The brand had threatened to pull its ads from Facebook and Google unless they clean up their “‘swamp’ of fake news.”

Facebook knows that it has to address brand safety better to keep the world's biggest brands on its platform. The network is starting to offer brand-safe video ad placements for $750,000 — but there are strings attached. Brands still won’t have control over where their ads appear — and they can’t specify where they don’t want them to appear — and many are wary of handing over more control to Facebook given their inability (or unwillingness) to police fake news, up until recently.

New startups are seeing an opportunity to step in to help brands identify and avoid fake news sites. NewsGuard, a new venture from serial media entrepreneur Steven Brill, will use a combination of humans and AI to attempt to identify and categorize fake news. Y Combinator, a well-known startup accelerator program, this week added a “Safeguard for Fake Video” category as part of their “Request for Startups," which highlights ideas they are particularly interested in funding.

Platform upheaval

Facebook’s news feed change has claimed its first two major casualties. LittleThings — the publisher behind many viral feel-good stories and videos — just shut down. According to the company, Facebook’s algorithm change killed 75% of its organic reach. Rare.us, a conservative viral media site launched by Cox in 2013, will shut down at the end of the month.

This is more evidence of the pressure on brands and publishers to diversify their distribution platforms and prioritize organic engagement.

Meanwhile, Twitter is planning to offer programmatic ad buys, zagging while every other social media platform zigs into a walled garden. This would allow marketers to have more control over optimizing and adjusting their ad spend, as well as buy through agencies and demand-side platforms.

Publisher monetization model evolution

Many publishers are still experimenting with different monetization models. Outside magazine is now launching paid newsletters. And BuzzFeed is now selling its own line of kitchen tools at Walmart. While they’ve previously sold their own cooking tools online, it’s interesting that they’re expanding their product catalogue and moving them to external platforms — and in brick and mortar stores. This comes after news that BuzzFeed’s revenue model can’t support its news operation and they’re still finding ways to diversify their revenue.

Thankfully, The Onion has figured out the perfect solution for digital publishers: just harass readers into clicking your content.

7 more browser tabs to open

  1. How brands like HQ Trivia, Supreme, and Nike are turning on-demand on its head by designating specific times when consumers can interact with their products.
  2. Facebook’s branded content program loses its luster, proving that brands don’t need a middleman to connect with publishers.
  3. Publishers are tapping into the revenue goldmine that is the daily news podcast.
  4. Following in the footsteps of publishers like Financial Times and The Economist, Fox wants to sell ads based on attention — but for TV.
  5. Brands are starting to prepare for RCS, the successor to SMS that will enable better engagement measurement.
  6. 85% of digital marketers plan to increase spend on mobile video in 2018.
  7. Kim Kardashian is making a kid pranking series for Facebook Watch.

Curated and published by Adam Orshan, Amanda Walgrove, and Matt Levin in New York City.

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