tag:econsultancy.com,2008:/topics/content Latest Content content from Econsultancy 2018-03-21T14:15:00+00:00 tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69890 2018-03-21T14:15:00+00:00 2018-03-21T14:15:00+00:00 Saving language: How will the rise of AI affect linguistics? Hannes Ben <p>We often take language for granted. Many people claim they “perfectly” speak their mother tongue. But who defines “perfection”?</p> <p>AI has made us aware that technology can venture into anything, even challenge us in areas we consider intrinsically human. It compels us to enhance our language capabilities to maintain the edge and keep ahead of machine output.</p> <p>Machines challenge us in all areas, the realm of language is no exception. </p> <p>If future <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neural_machine_translation">neural machine translation</a> (NMT) solutions continue to expand their enormous amounts of constantly updated language data, will language learning become obsolete? </p> <p>Perhaps with the aid of NMT and advanced AI, final translation will improve when not supported by any technology?</p> <p>As technology tries to generate and translate natural language, we will become more sensitive towards what is right or wrong in a final piece of content.</p> <p>As machines begin reaching grammatical perfection, we may accept objective linguistic correctness, but be more critical of quality. We’ll be more protective and purist about our languages. This is already the case in some instances, particularly in those languages and cultures heavily influenced by English and Western culture. </p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3101/translate.jpg" alt="translate" width="270"></p> <h3>Will humans keep learning languages?</h3> <p>Technology has facilitated language learning. However, where vocabulary and grammar are concerned, future AI may be hard to compete with.</p> <p>AI's ability to quickly and efficiently absorb massive amounts of data and apply it effectively will always surpass human capability. However, humans will continue to have the edge in attaching context and emotions to words. </p> <p>If AI can reliably translate any language content, who will bother learning the basics of a new language? Even through intensive study, a minimum of a year is usually needed to achieve some level of professional proficiency. Regardless of how hard you study, you must take breaks. Just like any muscle, the brain needs down-time to rest and process.</p> <p>Allowing new and complex information to sink in and rewiring your brain takes time, regardless of your ability, and humans often pick the quickest, most convenient way of doing things. Sooner or later, the effort of acquiring a foreign language to professional standards may seem like an unsurmountable task. Especially if we must compete with what machines can provide at the press of a button. </p> <p>Further improvements in AI may see us focusing on our native languages — ensuring they evolve, and developing neologism to satisfy our ambition. However, this could mean that learning a second language will lose importance and become only a hobby for a few.</p> <p>Machine translation may achieve high standards which can only be topped by linguistic experts. Hence, only a few will pursue the mastery of a foreign language for leisure or business purposes</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3100/dictionary.jpg" alt="dictionary" width="300" height="410"></p> <h3>Will AI ever achieve human-level language production and be generally accepted for use?</h3> <p>As we create, nurture, and develop our languages, AI may at some point create its own. These languages could originate from a combination of human languages it considers most ideal to express thoughts and objectives. </p> <p>AI will have its own reasons for choosing one expression over another to best describe a situation. If no relevant existing word is found, it may create new words. The tables may turn. We may study the definitions of words in AI languages, even incorporate them into our own. We may even translate between human and artificially created languages. </p> <p>Regardless of how smart AI becomes, it will need systems and processes to pick up on-going changes in human languages and map them to wordings in its existing database.</p> <p>Future NMT solutions will only be able to match human-level translations once they learn to analyse context and draw from experience. This would involve a better understanding of the people involved in a conversation. </p> <p>For the time being, machines still have a way to go. The processes of current NMT solutions are still far too narrow. To improve, AI must part with the flawed perception of language as but a sequential combination of words to create meaning.</p> <p>The winning technology will be one that can expand its analytical and learning capacity to understand the subconscious language decision-making process of humankind. We should be excited about the future of AI and machine translation.</p> <p>A hybrid solution of NMT and humans will help protect and develop the richness of languages. Who knows, AI may even expand existing languages in ways we cannot yet imagine.</p> <p><em><strong>(N.B. If you're interested in marketing applications of AI, <a href="http://conferences.marketingweek.com/supercharged">Econsultancy's Supercharged conference</a> takes place in London on May 1, 2018 and is chocked full of case studies and advice on how to build out your data science capability. Speakers come from Ikea, Danske Bank, Channel 4, Just Eat, Age UK, RBS and more)</strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>Related reading</strong></em></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/66929-how-to-overcome-the-difficulties-of-copywriting-for-the-chinese-market/">How to overcome the difficulties of copywriting for the Chinese market</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.econsultancy.com/blog/69543-automated-content-is-a-thing-but-should-it-be">Automated content is a thing – but should it be?</a></li> </ul> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69882 2018-03-21T09:30:00+00:00 2018-03-21T09:30:00+00:00 How do you market a city? Why place marketers have to be smarter than ever with digital content Matthew Davis <p>I looked at some of the digital advertising tactics of a handful of the world’s most visited cities.</p> <p>(The most visited world cities, according to the 2017 Euromonitor International report, are: Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, Singapore, Macau, Dubai, Paris, New York, Shenzhen, Kuala Lumpur.)</p> <h3>The city as a house of brands</h3> <p>It’s extremely difficult to categorise places in any neat way according to the perceptions of their customers. Each destination usually has a very mixed offering and the value it provides for a visitor depends on his or her preferences and associations. So, places become the equivalent of a house of brands. A Unilever rather than an Apple.</p> <p>There is a 2017 paper from the academic world on this phenomenon and its history (<em>“Questioning a 'one size fits all' city brand: Developing a branded house strategy for place brand management”</em> by Sebastien Zenker and Erik Braun). But it can also been seen played out across many recent place branding campaigns.</p> <p>Watch this video on Singapore with the headline “Passion made Possible”. If you didn’t know the location already it would be difficult to decipher, and that really is the point. </p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BJE3HIkQ4zU?rel=0&amp;start=70&amp;wmode=transparent" width="560" height="315"></iframe></p> <p>Whilst there’s a ‘young’ feel to the content, everything else about it is generalized to take in all kinds of leisure and tourism activity (“where foodies, explorers, collectors, action seekers, culture shapers, and socialisers meet”).</p> <p>The ‘Passion made Possible’ brand fits over anything and everything.</p> <p>One destination which has truly embraced this house of brands approach is Dubai, and it sets the standard for high volume place branding content. Visit Dubai’s YouTube channel has every type of slick video and is posting as much content as some of the world’s biggest consumer brands. This is a major step forward for the historic marketing of place and the old fashioned view of what a ‘tourist board’ does.</p> <p>Here are some good examples of Visit Dubai video content that have been picked up across international press:</p> <p>Anthony Joshua takes part in the world’s highest boxing match; the ‘Fight in the Sky’ at the Burj Al Arab:</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HQfStz6-j90?rel=0&amp;wmode=transparent" width="560" height="315"></iframe></p> <p>Andre Agassi played tennis against Roger Federer on the same helipad in 2009 - see how far video production has come in nine years...</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BhZje4B7Px8?wmode=transparent" width="560" height="315"></iframe></p> <p>Something completely different - Shah Rukh Khan, or SRK as he’s known, welcomes a family to come and feel at home in his Dubai. At 17m views in its first two months, this beats Joshua in the early rounds, and most other place marketing content on YouTube.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WvUbjxEU57o?rel=0&amp;wmode=transparent" width="560" height="315"></iframe></p> <h3>There’s no limit for influencers</h3> <p>With a wild west of content, connections and channels for consumers to get their travel inspiration from, using influencers is a sensible tactic that’s become widely adopted in the travel industry. It all but guarantees reach, even if you have to be take care to be authentic.</p> <p>We’ve already touched on Dubai’s approach, but the influencer list is long enough to accommodate all budgets and brands.</p> <p>The Singapore tourist board has recruited Filipino model and actor, Mikael Daez, to front its latest travel videos. He has 150k followers on Facebook and double that number on Instagram and is clearly a personality that attracts coverage in South East Asia. </p> <p>You can find him on Instagram <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bc7MaN9FoG0/">posting about food culture</a> in Singapore.</p> <p>There is a health warning here though as wanderlust doesn’t always come with brand exclusivity agreements. Mikael also earns plenty of digital reach with <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=mikael+daez+maldives&amp;oq=mikael+daez+maldives&amp;aqs=chrome..69i57.3592j0j7&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8">his adventures in the Maldives</a>, including <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BSvuaTDlpCX/">his honeymoon</a>.</p> <p>Influencers are both content and channel in one package. The range of personalities available for hire is great, from YouTubers to sports stars and national icons, but there are more and more brands competing for their endorsement.</p> <p>The challenge for many destinations without Emirati-sized budgets is picking the right influencer to maximise ROI. There are a very few influencers that have true mass appeal across tourist demographics; families, millennials, businesses, and across all regions. The more creative and focused marketers can be when <a href="https://www.econsultancy.com/blog/69161-micro-influencers-how-to-find-the-right-fit-for-your-brand">finding an influencer</a>, the more value they’ll create.</p> <h3>Bangkok stands out amongst the ghost cities of Instagram</h3> <p>Another reason why influencers are so important to the marketing of destinations is to help make a place personal. We may admire landscapes but it’s people we relate to and often follow.</p> <p>Browsing the Instagram accounts of the top 10 most visited cities, it’s very hard to spot any actual people. Yes, the colours and composition and scenery are all fantastic…but there’s nobody there. </p> <p>The one exception is Visit Thailand (Bangkok is number 2 on the world cities list). At least one in three images have a prominent person or group and it makes the branding that much stronger.</p> <p>Visit Thailand has about the same follower numbers (150k) as Paris and New York’s official tourism account, although it lags behind Dubai (808k).</p> <p><em>Seagulls or people – @visitlondon vs @tourismthailand, compare their Instagram feeds below...</em></p> <p><em><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3086/Visit_London.jpg" alt="london tourism" width="615" height="406"></em></p> <p><em>London</em></p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3085/Tourism_Thailand.jpg" alt="thailand instagram" width="615" height="407"></p> <p><em>Thailand</em></p> <h3>Quality digital advertising channels are king</h3> <p>Destinations and travel brands competing for footloose, attention-deficient consumers need to bank on reliable marketing channels. But targeting may be even more crucial because, as we’ve seen from the homogeneity of instagram posts and generalist place brands, the content won’t always stand head and shoulders above the market unless you can afford SRK or AJ.</p> <p>It’s clear how competitive the popular travel sites are for international advertising spend. I was only 15 seconds into researching a Paris break and suddenly Tokyo is trying to turn my head.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3087/Paris_TripAdvisor.jpg" alt="tripadvisor search" width="615" height="231"></p> <p>Of course, when I move on to my mobile, ad banners can be more annoying and less effective. It’s also clear how well the major sites are protecting their product with strict creative guidelines that safeguard the user experience; TripAdvisor allows nothing that comes close to their own brand or style, no expansion on mouse-over, nothing flashy (“punch the monkey”), the list goes on.</p> <p>Travel aggregators can though provide powerful advertising services throughout the customer journey. SkyScanner, selling their monthly reach of 60m consumers, work with brands to craft such a range of digital advertising opportunities.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3088/Skyscanner.png" alt="skyscanner ads" width="615" height="267"></p> <p>Much like the influencer market, the challenge here is in running nimble, cost-effective campaigns. Many complimentary brands that are working hard to sell the same destination – cities, hotels, events, major attractions – are also competing for the same ad space, driving up costs.</p> <p>One tactic which has been used widely to increase resources and creative assets is partnership working. Typically this can involve a national or region tourist board and related organisations from the travel industry, for example national airline carriers or major hotel chains.</p> <p>A look at Visit Britain’s current partnership efforts shows how much creativity and investment this strategy can bring. There are targeted campaigns to sell Britain as a destination in China and Australia, and partnerships with film studios to sell Britain as a location from iconic stories like Paddington Bear.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3089/china_great_britain.JPG" alt="great britain china campaign" width="300" height="250"></p> <h3>Google Sidewalk Labs – reimagining place</h3> <p>A final word from Google, which is reimagining the relationship between digital, time and place.</p> <p>Google Sidewalk Labs is creating a whole new district on the Toronto waterfront, using technology to tackle every aspect of urban design. This is legitimate partnership working with a government agency and the local community, seeking to design a neighbourhood ‘from the internet up’.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3090/sidewalk_labs.jpg" alt="sidewalk labs" width="615" height="425"></p> <p>What’s notable is that place branding and marketing has begun in earnest, even before the destination physically exists. This might not be new - all retail developments or major investments in public realm are marketed ‘off-plan’ – but the scale at which Waterfront Toronto will use digital to establish and evolve itself as a destination is impressive in its ambition.</p> <p>What are the implications for the digital marketing of place?</p> <p>For a start, just look at the <a href="https://www.sidewalklabs.com">Sidewalk Labs</a> website. Added to the tech brand look and feel, there is the range of democratic place-making initiatives that Google is operating here – roundtables, pop-up stations, design jams, a kids camp, a fellows programme for 19 to 24 year olds. (See the Future Laboratory for a <a href="https://www.thefuturelaboratory.com/blog/branded-cities">brilliantly written primer on Google Sidewalk Labs</a> and the future of branded cities.)</p> <p>If people queue to visit an Amazon Go store, imagine the possibility for tourism to this Google town. Visitors may be more than happy to trade heritage for innovation and the chance to co-exist with and shape their destination through digital.</p> <p>This would fit with a wider trend of tourists having increasing expectations of the destinations they visit. There is a greater mix than ever of multi-channel, multi-brand campaigns selling locations with something for everyone. And the disparity between destination resources is forcing the hand of marketers.</p> <p>For example, Visit Britain had a budget of around £50m for 2016/17, whilst the Dubai equivalent tourism body (DTCM) spent $20m on a single campaign with Emirates. For most marketers without these resources, the challenge is being increasingly creative and targeted with advertising in order to have impact.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69871 2018-03-15T10:46:00+00:00 2018-03-15T10:46:00+00:00 Five quick content opportunities for time-poor B2B marketers Matthew Davis <p>These can help you create value and make the case for more resource in your content machine. </p> <h3>The Kanban board as storyboard</h3> <p>You don’t need a content whisperer to capture customer-worthy insight from across your business. If you’re using Kanban boards or other project management tools, it’s already happening. </p> <p>The UK’s Government Digital Service has turned project management as content into a fine art. You can read about <a href="https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2017/10/30/building-the-gov-uk-design-system/">how GDS built its digital style guides</a>, for example. </p> <p>By explaining the journey of product development and the finer detail of your organisation’s thought processes, you can add value for the customer, build trust, and directly talk about your offering or soon-to-be-released product or service.</p> <p>You don’t even need to have completed the project because even the requirements capture stage should have enough interest and provides the opportunity to show you understand your customer. (See GDS again for a good example on how they’re trying to <a href="https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2018/03/07/what-we-need-to-do-to-support-end-to-end-services-across-government/">understand ‘joined up’ digital services</a>).</p> <p>With a Kanban board and 30 minutes of your project manager’s time to explain the detail, content awaits. </p> <h3>Curation isn’t new, but it’s quick</h3> <p>Many see content curation as a shiny B2C cousin of the serious thought leadership needed in B2B marketing. But curation isn’t about arresting photography or expensive campaigns to harness user-generated content. At its simplest it can be a quick way to make use of all those high minded links your boss emails you on a weekly basis. </p> <p>If you spend time rooting out articles, videos and comment online, this is time you can save your audience. Don’t be afraid to list three or four links and package it under a headline that matches your brand’s tone; ‘What we’re reading this week’, or ‘Latest insights’. </p> <p>If you’re worried the lo-fi approach won’t impress your customers, try a free curation app to add value. Wakelet, for example, allows you to collect content from around the web in graceful (even beautiful!) collections. You can embed your collections on your site or blog, and seed the story with your own content or campaigns to support lead generation, although shoehorning is not advised. </p> <p><a href="https://wakelet.com/wake/c746f64a-7852-44c7-a5ae-1ef65c70fe86">Here’s an example</a> I created in 180 seconds. I’m sure you can do better with a full 10 minutes. Twitter Moments can be used to the same ends.</p> <p>There are many more quality apps out there to help you curate. An hour spent finding the right one for your brand/site will pay off handsomely when you’re next searching for grist to the content mill.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2953/wakelet.jpg" alt="wakelet" width="500" height="798"></p> <p><em>Wakelet</em></p> <h3>Social selling will drive content, and vice versa</h3> <p>It’s hard to create time to produce content if your business doesn’t value content. Part of any good content marketer’s role is to ensure content is used in the right way and achieves its objectives. For most B2B that usually means linking content directly to revenue generation.</p> <p>Social selling can help.</p> <p>Social selling means putting content into the hands of your salesforce, so that they understand it, use their networks to distribute it, discuss it, and ultimately build relationships with customers. A Hubspot survey from 2017 showed that only 31% of EMEA-based companies prioritise social selling.</p> <p>You can start small by engaging one or two of the keenest in your sales staff to push your content. You should find that the whole team comes back for more as soon as they realise the benefits of having another lead engagement tool to call on.  </p> <p>If you can formalise this relationship with sales, for example using a weekly 30 minute show-and-tell on your latest content pieces, it can also help to inform future content. Your sales team can let you know what landed well, and what the customer base might be interested in next.</p> <p>Even better, create a tag for leads in your CRM that were activated by content sharing and you’re well on your way to bidding for more resource.</p> <h3>Video is easier than you think</h3> <p>Video doesn’t mean committing time, or even specialist expertise. You can get a tripod and mount for either a digital camera or smart phone for less than £50, which will be more than adequate to capture good quality talking heads. </p> <p>Take an hour to find the lightest and least offensive corner of the office and try setting up a simple shot. Sit just off-centre and don’t look directly at the camera. You can save intro and outro slides to preface the topic and point people to your site or lead conversion pages. These can be incorporated easily on plenty of free or cheap editing software (iMovie, QuickTime etc.).</p> <p>The most important thing is insight. Can you provide value on a newsworthy topic in 3 minutes? This is an opportunity to hone the nous and presentation skills within your business, rather than indulge the vanity of senior execs. Done correctly, particularly within B2B service providers, it can mark your business out as one with real, trusted expertise.</p> <h4>Some good examples of talking heads from the HR/Talent sphere: </h4> <p>Law firm CMS have a nice take on the recruitment/employer brand video here, all done with talking head shots and nothing too tightly scripted.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Yb4U7QCCGWk?wmode=transparent" width="560" height="315"></iframe> </p> <p>And if you can find people with this natural passion, put a camera in front of them; a Skanska engineer talks about working in the shadow of George Stephenson.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ecYY9M_UB9U?wmode=transparent" width="560" height="315"></iframe></p> <h3>Explain your product because there’s hidden value in the minutiae</h3> <p>It’s easy to get wrapped up in the latest high-flown technical or global policy issues when thinking about B2B content (see Brexit and <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/69765-ask-the-experts-blockchain-and-its-use-in-marketing">blockchain</a>). Before you dedicate the time, have you covered your own product or service first?</p> <p>It’s easy to overlook aspects of what your business actually does that are ripe for content and interest your customers. Support services are a good example – many businesses have contact centres that are hubs of knowledge about customers, their behaviours, and what they want to buy. </p> <p>So, is the way you work with clients stuck at the end of a brochure somewhere, or have you taken the time to productise it and really sell the benefits? And what are the top 10 questions customers ask when they’re first thinking about buying? </p> <p>It can be worthwhile doing a quick content audit and comparing it to a list of products or services your business provides. The gaps can present quick content opportunities that your sales team can use directly in their business development work.</p> <p><em><strong>Content marketing training:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/training/courses/content-strategy-editorial-planning-content-calendars-training">Content Strategy &amp; Editorial Planning Training</a></li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/training/courses/content-marketing-web-mobile-social-media/">Content Marketing for Web, Mobile and Social Training</a></li> </ul> <p><em><strong>Content marketing guides:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/content-strategy-best-practice-guide">Content Strategy Best Practice Guide</a></li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/100-practical-content-marketing-tips-a-how-to-guide">100+ Practical Content Marketing Tips: A how-to guide for editors, writers and content creators</a></li> </ul> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69868 2018-03-13T13:30:00+00:00 2018-03-13T13:30:00+00:00 Why your headlines are worth almost all your content marketing efforts (and how to improve them) James Carson <p>There are at least five reasons for this: </p> <ol> <li>People don’t generally read webpages and never have done. They scan and react accordingly. This behaviour has likely increased recently due to point 2. </li> <li>There’s too much stuff. No one has time to read and engage with it all.  </li> <li>Social media designs engender responses before deep understanding. For example, retweeting before reading.</li> <li>Infographics got overdone and became less exciting (generally speaking). </li> <li>Mobile makes everything look similar, and rich multimedia less usable.</li> </ol> <p><em>Disclaimer: Before I get comments like, ‘But that’s not true for video!!!’ I’m largely talking about non-moving image formats like articles and infographics. Video headlines and lead-ins are still important (very much so on YouTube), but a monkey video is rather different to an article about monkeys.</em>  </p> <p>What do people see before they click through to a piece of content? On Facebook, you might get a bit of lead-in text, an image and the headline. On a publisher’s website, you might get an image and the headline, but most often just the headline. On Google you will probably get a headline and a text snippet which is likely to be the meta description.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2928/headlines-png.jpg" alt="headlines" width="615"></p> <p><em>Presentation of a clickable area on The Telegraph and Google - both have the headline present.  </em></p> <p>The consistent feature for these different platforms is that the headline will always be shown. You do not have content without the headline being displayed elsewhere. People will only click on the headline if they have a high level of interest and will probably only share it if it gives them a high level of emotional response combined, perhaps, with supporting context from the content itself. </p> <blockquote> <p>On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.</p> </blockquote> <p>That was written in Confessions of an Advertising Man, published in 1967. I’d argue that in a world of scanning and too much stuff, headlines are even more valuable than that. In short, to stand out, your headlines need to be really, really strong. </p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2929/daivd-ogilvy.jpg" alt="quote about headlines" width="615"></p> <p><em>An excellent quote - accompanied by two very useful books for headlines - from my <a href="https://www.slideshare.net/Branded3/searchleeds-2017-james-carson-head-of-seo-and-social-media-the-telegraph">Search Leeds presentation</a>.</em> </p> <h3>Headlines aren’t given the attention they deserve</h3> <p>But I’ll get to my great lament. Most headlines on company blogs and articles are not really, really strong. Often they are weak and occasionally really, really bad. I’ve also noticed that more companies are abandoning pursuing a regular article feed lately, probably because they didn’t perform very well – and that’s probably because the headlines were weak or worse. Many company blogs are indeed ghost towns of bad headlines. It doesn’t have to be this way. </p> <p>We might spend hours crafting a 500+ word article with its associated imagery and links but spend only two minutes giving thought to the headline. When headlines are now worth more than the 80% that they were in the 1960s, this is a terrible waste. The article will get published, we’ll post it to social media, and it will get little response. And we’ll move onto the next one. Meh, didn’t work <em>again</em>. This must stop! </p> <p>But what do we need to do?</p> <h3>Eliminating things that never work in headlines</h3> <p>Writing good headlines should have nothing to do with clickbait, which promises more than it delivers. Good headlining means getting people to read your things in a huge ocean of information. It doesn’t mean being disingenuous. </p> <p>I have analysed thousands of headlines and found the golden rule of Jakob Nielsen always held true for the most successful headlines: </p> <blockquote> <p>Headline text has to stand on its own and make sense when the rest of the content is not available</p> </blockquote> <p>If it doesn’t make sense, then people won’t understand it, and they won’t click it. This means on social media, search engines, your own site or any other platform where users could come across your content – essentially anywhere on the web. </p> <p>Getting things to make sense is best served through clarity and the stripping away of any ambiguity. Do I read your headline and instantly feel that I know what I will be getting from the article? If yes, I may well click, and read on. If not, you have made me think outside my impulses, and I may go somewhere else. </p> <p>In the following headlines (which I discovered when writing Econsultancy's <a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/fashion-ecommerce-and-content-marketing">Fashion Ecommerce and Content Marketing report</a> a couple of years back). Unfortunately, I haven’t got much of a clue what the writer is talking about:</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0005/7489/headlines.jpg" alt="headlines" width="599" height="247"></p> <p>Too vague or bafflingly ambiguous. The sort of thing you can get away in print with a large swathe of supporting contextual information. No so online. Be clear, e.g. "10 of the best transitional jackets to transform your Autumnal look."</p> <h4>Prefixes are usually your enemy</h4> <p>Prefixes are nearly always confusing and create ambiguity. Sometimes they can add impetus and helpfully front load keywords, but in my experience they generally cause more harm than good.</p> <p>Firstly, the front loading of keywords can become habitually overdone, and actually less clear than writing the headline out properly. They can look particularly confusing when shared on social media. Worse, they are normally written in as part of a ‘series’ of content (which few, if any, online readers will follow). This sort of sentiment prevails: “We’re creating a new series of articles about ‘Behind the brand’ so on every article needs to be prefixed with Behind the Brand: My reply to this would always be, “No. No. No.” </p> <p>One of the prefixes’ main problems is that they add needless and often meaningless words, which adds complexity. Headlines using them are statistically likely to perform lower. </p> <p>Take for instance:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Celebrity style steal: Suki Waterhouse</em></p> </blockquote> <p>Which is okay – it’s not completely ambiguous. But the prefix ‘Celebrity style steal’ does little but create ambiguity. What exactly is this article telling me? It would be better served by the far more active: </p> <blockquote> <p><em>10 style steals from Suki Waterhouse’s wardrobe</em></p> </blockquote> <p>‘Steal’ is potentially a tricky word here, so we may prefer something more specific like this:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>How to get Suki Waterhouse’s best monochrome looks</em></p> </blockquote> <p>Simpler. Flatter maybe? Why not write out ten different ways you could present this article before publishing it? You may as well spend that time, given its 80% more important than the other time writing your article.</p> <h4>Do this and win more</h4> <p>Losing ambiguity must be the number one goal. There are three rules to follow with rigidity to ensure that it is eliminated:</p> <ol> <li>Omit needless words</li> <li>Remove complexity where there is a possible clearer expression</li> <li>The headline must stand on its own, making sense when the rest of the content is not available</li> </ol> <p>These are not my opinions. They are based upon clear guidelines in books like Confessions of an Advertising Man, The Elements of Style and Tested Advertising Methods. I have taken what they had to say and observed their successes many times over. They work. </p> <h3>Adding things that often improve headlines</h3> <p>We’ve moved through needless words and complexity, but then there are those words you can add which add clarity, momentum and the desire to want to click. What are they? How can we do this at the same time as avoiding disingenuous clickbait?</p> <p>Time and time again, adverbs win online. You are statistically going to win with headlines that state who, what, where, when, how than you would with headlines that don’t include them. Why? Because they add clarity. Because they make headlines make sense when the rest of the content is not available. As stated, these are winning factors.</p> <p>Having waded through multiple statistical analyses of headlines, it is quite clear that the adverbs how and why make headlines perform well. More people click them, more people read the articles, and more people are going to move onto a further action, like share or register for email.</p> <p>Who, what and when are baser adverbs. They still work, they just do not perform as well as how and why. </p> <p>Let’s compare these possible headlines:</p> <blockquote> <p>Why an open economy is good for Britain</p> </blockquote> <p>And:</p> <blockquote> <p>An open economy is good for Britain</p> </blockquote> <p>These could easily be the same article, but the second headline is simply a flat statement. I read it and either nod in agreement or disagree. I do not feel nearly as curious and compelled to click as on the first one. Interestingly, you could switch ‘why’ with ‘how’ for a similar effect. </p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2930/who-what-where.png" alt="adverbs" width="550"></p> <h4>Adjectives</h4> <p>There are, of course, many more adjectives than there are adverbs, so saying which adjectives generally work best is a little unspecific – it really depends on the subject matter. This could easily run into another long article and I would recommend performing a specific analysis according to your vertical. However, at a very general level, there are some notably consistent performers:</p> <blockquote> <p>Best, good, great(est), best, big(gest), ultimate, new </p> </blockquote> <p>Defining generations in a positive way can also work well: young (exciting and prodigal) and old (when highlighting a sense of mastery). E.g: </p> <blockquote> <p>England’s young centre backs are learning well from the old masters</p> </blockquote> <p>It’s worth taking some advice from John Caples' Tested Advertising Methods on this (see a summary at <a href="http://larslofgren.com/copywriting/the-35-headline-formulas-of-john-caples">The 35 Headline Formulas of John Caples</a>).</p> <h3>TL;DR – what’s the summary? </h3> <p>A long article, but a topic that needs more discussion. If you didn’t read it all, then here are some key points:</p> <ul> <li>Headlines are incredibly important – they demand writers spend more time on them, so they can better attract audience attention </li> <li>The headline must stand on its own, making sense when the rest of the content is not available</li> <li>Avoid prefixes – they create complexity</li> <li>Omit needless words and ambiguity – do not make the reader think about potential double meanings</li> <li>Create more intrigue through using clear adverbs that support proper nouns</li> <li>Read: Confessions of an Advertising Man, The Elements of Style and Tested Advertising Methods. They are excellent books for this topic – particularly the latter if you can get a copy, it’s out of print :(</li> </ul> <p>Now you’re armed with more information on crafting better headlines, it’s time to think about the winning formula for the article copy. I’ll summarise: </p> <ul> <li>Does your article fulfil the reader’s desire for information? </li> <li>Does it make them feel as if you are an authority?</li> <li>Is it error free typo, grammar and web formatting wise? </li> </ul> <p>Simply answering those questions will take you a long way. But more on how to write better long form articles is a whole other article. </p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69835 2018-03-01T09:31:39+00:00 2018-03-01T09:31:39+00:00 Facebook's big algorithm change claims its first victim, LittleThings Patricio Robles <p>According to <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/littlethings-online-publisher-shuts-down-and-blames-facebook-algorithm-2018-2">a company memo</a>, its organic and influencer traffic dropped by over 75% as a result of Facebook's change of heart. "No previous algorithm update ever came close to this level of decimation," the memo detailed. "The position it put us in was beyond dire. The businesses looking to acquire LittleThings got spooked and promptly exited the sale process, leaving us in jeopardy of our bank debt convenants and ultimately bringing an expedited end to our incredible story."</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Flittlethingscom%2Fposts%2F1057277217814983&amp;width=500" width="500" height="482"></iframe></p> <p>While many publishers are dependent on Facebook for meaningful percentages of their traffic, LittleThings, which was launched in 2014, staked its fate on Facebook far more than many of its peers. The company was responsible for the top post on Facebook in 2015 and was quick to adapt as Facebook evolved. For instance, LittleThings embraced live video when Facebook threw its weight behind Facebook Live.</p> <p>Company executives apparently seemed confident that their relationship with Facebook was too symbiotic to be jeopardized. In 2016, Joe Speiser, LittleThings' CEO, <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-loves-publishers-says-littlethings-ceo-1467235057">told the Wall Street Journal</a> that "Facebook loves publishers." He elaborated that "I think we need each other. We need them for the traffic; they need us for the content," adding "I think without the content all these media companies are providing there'd be that much less reason to go on to the news feed."</p> <p>Not two years later, it is clear that Speiser's confidence about publishers' relationship with Facebook was ill-founded. In the wake of scandal and controversy over how is platform was used to spread misinformation, Facebook has decided to return to its roots – as a platform that fosters connections between real people – and that means publishers are being squeezed out.</p> <p>Of course, Facebook didn't suggest that publishers would see the kind of declines LittleThings reported experiencing, and when Facebook announced its latest algorithm change, it appeared there were ways publishers could potentially mitigate against its negative effects. But clearly, there's no perfect solution that can offset the effects of the change.</p> <p>The question now is just how many publishers will follow in LittleThings' footsteps. </p> <p>LittleThings appears to have bet on Facebook more heavily than other publishers, and having been self-funded before it took an undisclosed amount of debt financing in 2015, it probably didn't have as much time to react to Facebook's algorithm change.</p> <p>But LittleThings also had a lot going for it. For example, as a publisher of uplifting content, the company would ostensibly be especially attractive to advertisers increasingly concerned with <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/69709-will-influencer-marketing-take-a-hit-after-the-logan-paul-firestorm">brand safety</a>.</p> <p>In the final analysis, unless Facebook reverses course, it's unlikely LittleThings will be the last publisher to find its fate imperiled by Facebook's algorithm changes. Unfortunately, there's only so much that publishers can do.</p> <p>Very few publishers have no exposure to Facebook and many derive a meaningful percentage of their traffic from Facebook. More importantly, the trends that are driving Facebook to deprioritize content from publishers apply to other popular platforms such as Twitter, so investing more heavily in platforms other than Facebook might prove to be a band-aid and not a permanent fix as these platforms are just as subject to change.</p> <p>With this in mind, LittleThings' rapid rise and fall is perhaps one of the best reminders yet that publishers don't own the audiences they cultivate on platforms like Facebook; they merely rent them. And when the lease is up, there's no guarantee it will be renewed.</p> <p><em><strong>Related resources:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/social-media-best-practice-guide">Social Media Best Practice Guide</a></li> </ul> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69794 2018-02-13T14:00:00+00:00 2018-02-13T14:00:00+00:00 The Hong Kong Tourism Board on chatbots, content strategy and AI Ben Davis <h4> <em>Econsultancy:</em> What do you characterise as your biggest marketing challenge at the Hong Kong Tourism Board?</h4> <p><em><strong>Samantha Markham:</strong></em> Keeping Hong Kong front of mind as a desirable travel destination – in a world where all corners of the world are becoming more and more accessible, travellers are often looking for something a little less ordinary, a little less explored. Hong Kong is anything but ordinary - but it’s not a new destination, so as marketers we’re tasked with challenging perceptions, communicating what’s new and opening minds to the lesser-known sides of Hong Kong, such as its beaches, its diverse art scene and hidden hiking trails.</p> <h4> <em>E:</em> At Travel Technology Europe, you're talking about voice and intelligent assistants, do you see any compelling brand implementations at the moment (e.g. Alexa Skills)?</h4> <p><em><strong>SM:</strong></em> I think a lot are still in their infancy and those that can quickly learn from their users’ requests, preferences and behaviours have the most chance of wider adoption. Skyscanner seems to be <a href="https://partners.skyscanner.net/bots-and-voice-search/">off to a good start</a> – though some destinations are better recognised than others – whilst I really like the idea of <a href="https://www.kayak.com/news/kayak-alexa-want-get-room/">Kayak’s</a> budget-based element, where you can ask it to inspire you with trip ideas based on a maximum budget. <a href="https://www.lola.tech/solution/voice-ui-28.html">LOLA Tech</a> is also doing some very interesting things within the hotel space, with in-room assistants and virtual concierge services.</p> <p>I use Google Assistant on my phone and it has a nice <a href="https://www.timeout.com/about/time-out-group/latest-news/get-instant-recommendations-for-things-to-do-in-london-time-out-launches-conversational-app-on-the-g">embedded feature with TimeOut</a>, however I’d like to see it offer up more suggestions within Assistant before driving you to the website. Outside of voice, the <a href="https://chatfuel.com/bot/adidasWomenUK">Adidas Women chatbot for Facebook Messenger </a> is incredible – it has a flawless sign-up, waitlist and class attendance system all powered by Chatfuel.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2244/timeout.png" alt="timeout assistant" width="360"></p> <p>Expedia will also be co-hosting the tech huddle session with me [at TTE], so we should also get some insight on what’s to come in their partnership with Amazon and other voice-based technologies.</p> <h4> <em>E:</em> How do you cut through the enormous amount of travel content – is the Tourism Board all about data and targeting, or creativity?</h4> <p><em><strong>SM:</strong></em> Both! Certainly a huge aspect of what we do is based on identifying relevant audiences and interests, then segmenting and targeting on relevant platforms or sites with contextually matched Hong Kong content (often based around experiences, e.g. where to eat and drink, seeking out local culture, best beaches or rooftop bars etc).</p> <p>That said, an exceptional photograph or video of a destination often has universal appeal, which we’ve seen with our <a href="https://www.spot.ph/things-to-do/the-latest-things-to-do/72090/hong-kong-great-outdoors-a00171-20171120">Great Outdoors series of images</a>, which was picked up in the national press, as well as creative based around Instagram or social-worthy scenes that are hugely appealing for our younger audiences.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Vz8O57gBafI?wmode=transparent" width="560" height="315"></iframe></p> <h4> <em>E:</em> Which travel brands do you admire when it comes to multichannel customer experiences?</h4> <p><em><strong>SM:</strong></em> I know it is a brand that polarises opinion, but I’m still a huge admirer of AirBnB, and in the way they’ve looked to evolve into being more experience-based, encouraging travelers to get to know a local area either though self-exploration or via the host. I suppose what’s most interesting now that they are promoting and selling in-country tours, is that they are diversifying to be a multi-commerce point for the travel customer.</p> <p>I think even more-so than multi-channel, travel brands are looking for the best ways to be the primary provider for several elements of travel itinerary, in the way that online travel agents and airlines have been doing for a long while.</p> <h4> <em>E:</em> If you had to identify one part of your marketing team as an area of growth, which would it be?</h4> <p><em><strong>SM: </strong></em>I think artificial intelligence will continue to permeate through our processes, from improving visitor services through AI-driven messaging and ‘smart city’ services in-country, to the process by which we identify, execute and refine our digital advertising opportunities. So being able to manage these alongside more ‘human’ interactions and expectations will be perhaps an area of growth – in the same way we scrutinise big data alongside qualitative metrics.</p> <p>Elsewhere – with <a href="https://econsultancy.com/hello/gdpr-for-marketers/">GDPR</a> looming, I think marketing teams in all organisations are inwardly reflecting on the ways in which they use data now, and how those could be better moving forward – both an area of growth and an opportunity for change.</p> <p><em><strong><a href="http://www.traveltechnologyeurope.com/">Travel Technology Europe</a> takes place at Olympia, London, 21-22 February.</strong></em></p> <p><em>N.B. Econsultancy and Travel Technology Europe are both part of Centaur Media.</em></p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:Report/4716 2018-02-13T12:35:00+00:00 2018-02-13T12:35:00+00:00 Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2018 Digital Trends <p>The <strong>2018 Digital Trends</strong> report, published by Econsultancy in association with <strong><a title="Adobe" href="https://www.adobe.com/uk/experience-cloud.html">Adobe</a></strong>, looks at the most significant trends that will impact companies in the short to medium term.</p> <p>The report is based on a global survey of nearly 13,000 marketing, creative and technology professionals in the digital industry across EMEA, North America and Asia Pacific.</p> <p>As part of this year’s study, we have also identified a number of <strong>top-performing companies</strong> in order to<strong> assess how they are focusing their activities and investments differently compared to their peers</strong>.</p> <p>High-performing companies are those organisations that exceeded their top 2017 business goal by a significant margin, and who have also significantly outperformed their competitors.</p> <p><strong>Key insights</strong> from the research include:</p> <ul> <li>Companies continue to focus on the customer experience (CX), as well as the content required to facilitate this. Organisations committed to CX are shown to outperform their peers.</li> <li>We are entering a ‘design and creativity renaissance’, with top-performing companies recognising the importance of these capabilities to complement data and technology excellence.</li> <li>Investment in technology and related skills is paying dividends, with integrated platforms fast-becoming a prerequisite for success.</li> <li>AI is set to play a growing role in helping marketers to deliver more compelling real-time experiences.</li> </ul> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:ConferenceEvent/925 2018-02-07T07:29:16+00:00 2018-02-07T07:29:16+00:00 Digital Intelligence Briefing 2018 <p>This Digital Intelligence Briefing on 9 April 2018 will continue to highlight the most important digital trends and developments (curated by our research analysts) you should be aware about, and also sharing the latest trends, the modern marketing model, the state of ecommerce marketplaces and managing critical marketing relationships.</p> <p>Join us at this half-day session as we curate and highlight the key digital trends, challenges, opportunities and developments that are going to affect how markets are operating, what tools are being used, and how digital marketing practices are changing - making it simple for you to keep track of the key developments in digital technology and marketing.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69735 2018-01-18T12:48:00+00:00 2018-01-18T12:48:00+00:00 What Google's memory loss means for content and SEO strategy Patricio Robles <p>In <a href="https://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/201x/2018/01/15/Google-is-losing-its-memory">a blog post</a> that attracted lots of attention, Bray pointed to an article he wrote and published on his blog in 2006, as well a blog post another person published in 2008, that could not be found via Google search. Both carefully-crafted exact-match queries and searches using the <em>site:</em> prefix failed to locate the pages in question.</p> <p>Bray was able to locate these pages using two other search engines, Bing and DuckDuckGo.</p> <p>How to explain this intriguing phenomenon? Bray has a theory:</p> <blockquote> <p>Obviously, indexing the whole Web is crushingly expensive, and getting more so every day. Things like 10+-year-old music reviews that are never updated, no longer accept comments, are lightly if at all linked-to outside their own site, and rarely if ever visited...well, let's face it, Google's not going to be selling many ads next to search results that turn them up. So from a business point of view, it's hard to make a case for Google indexing everything, no matter how old and how obscure.</p> </blockquote> <p>Bray's post went viral and sparked a vigorous discussion and comments from others suggest that Google's memory loss might not be so isolated. For instance, <a href="https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16153840">on Hacker News</a>, one commenter wrote:</p> <blockquote> <p>I've noticed this many times too, particularly recently, and I call it “Google Alzheimer's” --- what was once a very powerful search engine that could give you thousands (yes, I've tried exhausting its result pages many times, and used to have much success finding the perfect site many dozens of pages deep in the results) of pages containing nothing but the exact words and phrase you search for has seemingly degraded into an approximation of a search engine that has knowledge of only very superficial information, will try to rewrite your queries and omit words (including the very word that makes all the difference --- I didn't put it in the search query for nothing!), and in general is becoming increasingly useless for finding the sort of detailed, specific information that search engines were once ideal for.</p> </blockquote> <p>Another person observed:</p> <blockquote> <p>I think the biggest irony is that the web allows for more adoption of long-tail movements than ever before, and Google has gotten significantly worse at turning these up. I assume this has something to do with the fact that information from the long tail is substantially less searched for than stuff within the normal bounds.</p> <p>This is a nightmare if you have any hobbies that share a common phrase with a vastly more popular hobby...</p> </blockquote> <h3>Why businesses should care and what they can do about it</h3> <p>Despite his personal pain, Bray recognizes that Google is focused on “giving you great answers to the questions that matter to you right now” and acknowledges that it often does a very good job at that. But even so, it's worth considering that Google's apparent memory loss could also be of concern to businesses that have invested in content that they expect to be discoverable through the world's largest search engine.</p> <p>Despite the growing popularity of Google alternatives like DuckDuckGo, most companies still focus their SEO efforts on Google and the search giant's memory loss could affect them in a number of ways.</p> <p>Most obviously, the prospect that Google is intentionally allowing content to drop out of its index over time means that companies can't assume their older content will remain in the index, even if it's high quality. </p> <p>While Google has never offered a guarantee that content will remain in its index because it was added to it at some point, the possibility that it is dropping content from its index more frequently than many expect is problematic on a number of fronts. </p> <p>First, many companies, on the advice of their SEOs, have invested in producing content for long-tail (read: low volume) keywords. The thinking behind this is that such content, even if it doesn't produce significant, consistent returns, will be “out there” and discoverable well into the future and that over time, it will deliver a positive return.</p> <p>But such content, even if it's high quality and of potential value to a very targeted base of users, would seem to be most vulnerable to Google memory loss, especially if it's not updated or linked to frequently from newer pages.</p> <p>Second, many companies don't consider content to be a depreciating asset. To the contrary, many believe that content, particularly so-called evergreen content, can pay dividends long into the future. If Google does have Alzheimer's, determining the value of a piece of content, and calculating how much to invest in the creation of a piece of content, could become a more complex exercise.</p> <p>So how should companies respond?</p> <p>While there's no reason to panic, Tim Bray's post does suggest that businesses would be wise to pay better attention to their content and, to the extent content is seen as valuable, what happens to it long after it's published.</p> <p>At a minimum, companies should be using <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/67637-maximising-content-led-organic-traffic-with-free-google-tools-a-comprehensive-guide/">Google Search Console</a> to better understand the status of their content in Google's index. There are also third-party tools and companies with development resources <a href="https://searchengineland.com/check-urls-indexed-google-using-python-259773">can even easily build their own index checkers</a>.</p> <p>Beyond this, the potential that Google has implemented a form of memory loss should remind companies that the execution of content strategy is a fluid, ongoing process. Publishing content is a part of that process, but the lifecycle of each piece of content needs to be managed long-term if that content is to remain valuable long-term.</p> <p>Perhaps proving that: since Bray's post went viral, the two pages he initially couldn't find in Google are now back in the index.</p> <p><em><strong>Econsultancy subscribers can download our <a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/seo-best-practice-guide">SEO</a> and <a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/content-strategy-best-practice-guide">Content Strategy </a> Best Practice Guides.</strong></em></p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69695 2018-01-04T10:10:00+00:00 2018-01-04T10:10:00+00:00 Three reasons why agility works for content creators, not just for techies Chris Deary <p>In the newsrooms I grew up in, you’d have been escorted to the nearest exit for using buzzwords such as ‘test and learn’ or ‘minimum viable product’. The banter was a little more NSF (most) W than that. Yet agile production is exactly what we were doing.</p> <h3>The agile newsroom</h3> <p>Every single day or week or month we’d make a new product, hopefully slightly better than the last one, using insights about what worked and what didn’t in the previous edition, whether that was from sales figures, online pageviews or the number of angry letters written in green ink we’d received.</p> <p>At their best, newsrooms are small, multi-disciplinary teams empowered to make decisions quickly. It wasn’t unusual to wake up with a story idea, go to work, execute the idea and for the content to go live that same day. The need to metronomically hit deadlines was a blessing rather than a curse because it created an acceptance that a good enough live product is better than a perfect one that missed its slot at the printers.</p> <h3>Frustrations of branded content </h3> <p>When I first made the move into creating content on behalf of brands, the process couldn’t have been more different. It took ages to get an idea signed off, even longer to get a brief agreed, and then just when you thought you were about to go live with it, something would change: a strategic priority would be put on ice, or a new stakeholder would be asked for feedback and take a radically different view on how the content should be executed.</p> <p>By the time something went live - if it even went live at all - the moment had passed, and rather than its existence being something we could learn from, performance evaluation became little more than a backside covering exercise. </p> <p>Meanwhile, colleagues working on tech projects kept talking about this thing called agility. It all sounded a bit utopian at first, but the more I learnt, the more I realised it was merely a more sophisticated and intricate articulation of what I’d experienced in newsrooms. Its basic principles - working out what customers really want, ensuring testing and learning are built into your processes - are just as applicable to content.</p> <h3>Eric Ries and ripping up linear processes</h3> <p>I’ve been thinking about this even more since the champion of business agility, author and entrepreneur Eric Ries recently came into Zone HQ to talk about his new book. The Startup Way reveals how brands of all sizes can use typically start-up experimentation and iteration techniques to transform culture and drive long-term growth. </p> <p>Ries described how he persuaded managers at General Electric, a 125-year-old company with 300,000 employees, to think like a startup. It was by no means easy – the GE team had prepared a five-year business plan for their new project, plus a revenue forecast for the next 30 years. It was only after Ries got the executives to admit that their assumptions were based on guesses and perceived ‘requirements’ that they were able to change their way of thinking.</p> <p>When it comes to applying Ries’ principles to content marketing, I don’t just mean creating reactive, newsjacking social posts. I mean ripping up traditional linear processes that end once the monthly KPI report has been delivered, and instead creating a content culture that’s about continually learning what works and doesn’t work, and using those insights to evolve and optimise both the content itself and your content strategy.</p> <h3>Why an agile content culture? </h3> <h4>It mitigates risk.</h4> <p>That factually inaccurate article on your website you just found that’s got completely out of date advice in it? That doesn’t happen if you’re always in evaluation and optimisation mode. Dot Dash (formerly About.com) has spent the last three years refocusing the bulk of their content team’s effort from creating new content to keeping their content up to date.</p> <h4>It reduces waste.</h4> <p>That rugby league article that no-one ever looks at? (real example from my newsroom days, sorry rugby league fans) That stops getting published if you have mechanisms to ensure performance insight is fed back into the ideation and briefing stages of new content. Buzzfeed has an entire insight team dedicated to making this happen.</p> <h4>You'll have a better chance of creating valuable content.</h4> <p>That feature film that you sent an entire crew to the Guatemalan jungle to shoot, which got 200 views on YouTube? You could’ve predicted that if you’d adopted Eric Ries’ ‘minimum viable product’ approach and published the story in 140 (or 280 - insert horrified face emoji here) characters first. Facebook never release a new feature without testing it with a small section of its audience first. Content creators should apply the same principle.</p> <p>Ultimately, the best content is that which captures human truth and presents it in an emotionally engaging way. The problem with human truth, however, is that it’s always changing. Human evolution is never finished, and nor should our content be.</p> <p><em><strong>More on agile:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://www.econsultancy.com/blog/69509-four-things-to-know-about-agile-marketing-before-you-try-it">Four things to know about agile marketing before you try it</a></li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/69655-four-qualities-of-an-agile-marketer">Four qualities of an agile marketer</a></li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/training/courses/lean-ux-and-agile-design/">Lean UX and Agile Design training</a></li> </ul>