Is there a Golden Standard for Content?

It hardly is news that content is experiencing its very own ‘Gilded Age’, happily riding along the internet’s fast and furious evolutionary cycle. In all its possible (and impossible) shapes, content can be regarded as one of the principal fuel types that power much of the world’s internet experiences, and the demand for it grows faster than the internet itself.

We’ve finally reached the case scenario that Bill Gates famously proclaimed 20 years ago, where content is king. However, content itself is a (very) broad definition that includes several types of information units, spanning from random Facebook commentary by each one of its 1.6 billion users to multi-million audiovisual productions. The broad nature of what content can be often find brands wondering about what kind of content should be pushed next, which leads to the question that headlines this post: Is there a golden standard for it?

When it comes to inbound marketing, the answer is probably no: foolproof content that guarantees success for the brand using it has not been invented yet. On the other hand, there are a number of tools out there that can help mitigate the many risks of implementing a certain type of content over another: one of our favorite ones is the SMART approach.

The SMART approach

The SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound, and it’s been widely used by project management teams across a variety of industries for years. When it comes to content, SMART works as a more-than-useful guide to look at before deciding what to push. Let’s break it down and see why:

  1. Specific: we live in a context of content proliferation, and the alternative to being
    specific is to be yet another water drop in a rapidly expanding ocean. Being specific about the content implies to think about:
  • The goals to be achieved by the content. Should it raise awareness about something? Generate leads? Show the company’s values? Get people to buy something? Let’s define the goals to refine the options.
  • The whys behind the goal. Some might come up as evident, some not.
  • The whos. A big part of crafting the perfect piece of content is to think about the audience. Who’s gonna see what you publish and who would you need to have as an audience?
  • The where. This is like choosing a battlefield: which one gives you the most advantages, and why? Are your content choices suited to be published there?
  1. Measurable. Keep track of what numbers say about your content of choice, because they say a lot. Ideally, the road that leads audiences from awareness to fidelity is made up by a proven track of figures.
  1. Attainable. The basic question is: Can we pull this out? Are your preferred options reasonable, and are they worth the (financial) effort? Content is usually affordable when compared to other marketing actions, but not all of it. Believe it or not, overshooting is more common than you think. In other words: don’t bite more than you can chew.
  1. Relevant. Successful companies usually know what their customer base want, and try to stick to that. Let’s illustrate with an example: a reputable bakery wanting to push relevant content could be taking the right steps by posting news of the organic wheat trade and how it affects their both their business and customers’ well-being. Now, on the other hand, if they want to get traction by posting updates about the financial aspects of global wheat trade – think of shortages in Russia due to bad weather – it would be far-fetched: obliquely related to their activity, but not relevant. At some points, there’s a thin line dividing interesting, relevant content from non-relevant one.
  1. Time-bound. The big ‘when’. When is it the best time to push the content? If your company has access to relevant data that can help define the best timing, perfect. If not, it’s time to think about other factors. Time is part of the context, and context can be just as defining as the content itself. A good example can be observed with Christmas: some businesses start pushing Christmas-related content far ahead of the actual date. For a number of businesses (e.g. big retail chains that need to get rid of large amounts of stock) that may work just fine, but that doesn’t mean that any business should be doing the same thing. Framing actions within carefully planned time-frames is both financial and brand-wise.

In short: thinking about content goes far beyond the content itself, and requires knowledge of environmental factors that can tilt the effectiveness scales in favor of a particular type of content over another. It’s not an easy task, but planning, data and analytical skills go a long way when it comes to obtaining results.