What is intelligent content, and why does it matter? The recent Intelligent Content Conference in San Francisco played host to dozens of speakers and workshops on the themes of content creation and distribution — and yes, engagement! — in the digital age. Read on for our top four takeaways.
1. Always start with the basics
What is intelligent content? Ann Rockley and Scott Abel, co-organizers of the conference, define it as “content that is not limited to one purpose, technology or output.” More specifically, it’s:
- Structurally rich
- Semantically aware
The basics matter because the digital landscape has changed the way we produce and manage content, from marketing and advertising to magazines and textbooks and everything in between. And technology will continue to change, so it’s best to ensure your content is ready and flexible enough to adapt to any medium.
2. “Don Draper Is Dead”—and we consumers are his heir
As Michael Weiss, managing director of figure18, discussed, marketing no longer follows a command-and-control model. An agency creative like Don Draper no longer leads a one-way pitch meeting in front of the client, selling a single brand message that took weeks to create and is then pushed at consumers with no room for dialogue.
Forget the make-it-or-break-it pitch in the stuffy conference room. Today, marketing happens everywhere, and marketers are pitching all the time. The prevailing estimate is that we each receive 3,000 messages every day. That’s three or four each minute! However, today consumers are in control. We’ve learned to selectively block — either consciously (skipping over commercials via a DVR) or subconsciously (ignoring banner ads) — much of the content that comes into our lives.
What this means for content marketers is that it is even more imperative to find ways to rise above the clutter. Weiss gives these insights, among others, on how to achieve this:
- Create content that’s educational, inspiring and engaging. Your goal is to spark a transaction in the broad sense. This doesn’t have to be a purchase, but something — even a like, comment, or better yet a share — should happen.
- Make sure you’re telling a consistent story across mediums. With so many it’s easy to get sloppy; don’t. Build a strategy and stick with it.
- You don’t need to do everything. Use the medium or channel that works best for your customers, and do it well.
3. Content marketers have a lot to learn from cartoons
Cartoons immediately connect with an audience. They are quickly understood, easily shared, and if unpacked and analyzed, can show how the story goes deeper.
Tom Fishburne, founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios – and a career-long cartoonist – sees cartoons as a method for creating dialogue and keeping a finger on the weekly pulse, something content marketers must always strive to do with consumers. To this end, Fishburne reminds us of several key marketing insights for the current landscape:
- Publishing is a privilege. Everyone who wants one now has podium, but no one has a captive audience. Make sure what you say will spark the engagement you seek.
- It’s not about you (the brand). It’s about your audience. Let your audience in on what you’re doing. Cartoons are successful because they’re always promoting a dialogue, letting the audience feel engaged and allowed to fill in the blanks.
- Consistency trumps going viral. Don’t be a one-hit wonder. Your real value is in connecting with people and engaging your audience.
4. SEO still matters
Don Draper may be dead, but contrary to what some believe, SEO is not. In fact, it’s more important than ever that SEOs and content strategists work together to achieve a common goal: more eyeballs on your content and engagement with your brand.
Especially in larger companies, SEO and content strategy may be two distinct disciplines. But they complement each other well and give content strategy recommendations more backbone. Why rely on best practices alone when you can help sell your strategy with metrics to improve business?
Jonathon Colman, Principal Experience Architect at REI, provides three quick ways to build SEO into your content strategy:
- Include traffic and conversion in your audit.
- Create a metadata strategy, including a review of how content is perceived without context (e.g., on a search results page).
- Create, document and socialize a governance strategy, including incentives for staff to support SEO standards.
Summary: be smart about your content
(Hey, isn’t this where we started?) Have a strategy not only for its creation but also its management and distribution. And don’t forget to make it engaging – the best way to be heard over 3,000 messages per day is to make sure your audience knows they matter more than you do.