For the Love of our Devices, We Chase Content
I am part of the 75 percent, the 44 percent and the 110 club! About 75 percent of Americans bring phones to the bathroom. Approximately 44 percent of cell phone users sleep with their cell phone by their side. And according to figures collected by a screen lock app, the average user actually checks his phone around 110 times a day.
I’ve concluded that our phone is the adult version of a security blanket or our favorite stuffed animal. Marvelously, this little device does much more than act as a security blanket or substitute for a stuffed animal. It lets us consume content anytime and
anywhere. Studies have shown that the typical social-media user consumes 285 pieces of content daily, which equates to an eye-opening 54,000 words and, for the truly active, as many as 1,000 clickable links.
When I travel to countries in Asia and Europe, I observe the same phenomena in both developed and emerging countries. Users around the world consume an enormous amount of content through their mobile devices. They may consume different content in their own or other languages, but their content-consumption behaviors are very similar to ours. The content is readily available at almost no cost, aside from the cost of a data plan from a service provider. In the name of our holy phones or tablets, we all chase content! Your content, if done right, addresses your customers’ needs and will be chased by your users.
Although traditional media still has its place, we no longer only receive information from print, radio, TV and other traditional media outlets. More and more, people have multiple screens open when they watch TV, listen to music or even while they work. In my household, a family of four watches TV with our tablets and phones nearby. Watching TV is no longer a passive form of receiving information; we can also chime in and provide real-time feedback on the programs we watch through social-media platforms, consuming, researching and discussing relevant content at the same time. We multitask to the nth degree!
Our behavior has an enormous impact on content planning. We should no longer consider creating content for one screen size because our customers likely have a TV screen, phone screen, computer screen (laptop), and tablet screen open simultaneously. How can we deliver content that is seamless from one screen to another to ensure one experience, yet tailor different formats of content for different screen sizes? To make it more complicated, how can we scale that content with different screen sizes to different regions? Marketers’ jobs seem to get tougher and tougher. Again, the ability to connect different dots in increasingly complicated, and integrated marketing channels has become more urgent than ever.
Challenges and Considerations for Globalizing Content
The level of content localization and customization required for your products and services will be determined by the places and the people that you are planning to reach. Anol Bhattacharya, CEO of GetIT, wrote a blog post on B2B marketing in Asia, Content Marketing Localization—Lost in Translation. “Language and culture are tricky things,” Bhattacharya wrote. “To make sure your message is found on the other side, you need to do a lot more than just flipping words.”
He mentioned that there is no “United States of Asia: Asian countries have unique cultures and markets. And they are not homogeneous, like the United States, which, although a multiracial nation, largely conforms to American cultural
standards.” Before you begin localizing content for a country or region, pin down what works there. It’s important to recognize the internal and external challenges of scaling content globally.
Marketers’ External Challenges
Cultural differences. People are identified with their heritage and traditions. In the United States, the ideal way to communicate is to speak directly and clearly about issues with the person involved. In Japan, the preferred way of
communicating issues is to speak indirectly and artfully. A go- between person is often appointed for important matters.
Another important factor to consider is how gender may affect the delivery of a message. Since there are biases in every culture, that should be taken into account.
Language barriers. Words evoke emotion. Although English is perhaps the most dominant language in the world of business, people are, in general, more apt to build emotional connections with their native language. It makes sense to add a voice-over or captions to select videos for your targeted markets to make it easier for customers in other countries. It’s also important to note that British English is not the same as U.S. English, Indian English or Australian English.
Certain idioms that play well in one country may have very different connotations in another, even if they speak the “same” language. As Winston Churchill noted, “America and England are two nations divided by a common language.”
Religious beliefs. A religion’s creed may dictate what and when content can be consumed. Religious beliefs are not only reflected in daily rituals, but also in festivities and seasonal celebrations. For example, Muslim New Year starts with the first day of Muharram, while Chinese New Year starts on the second (occasionally the third) dark moon after the winter solstice. Jewish New Year is in Tishri, the seventh month of the lunar calendar, while the secular New Year in the Gregorian calendar starts in January.
It’s important to take into account different New Year celebrations, and it’s equally important to remember how different cultures celebrate the holiday: Some engage in family gatherings, others in self-reflection or countdown to midnight. Focusing on commonalities while planning your content marketing will minimize the need for customization.
Laws and regulations. Laws and regulations impact the legal disclaimers needed for the content you create. For
example, the minimum legal drinking age varies dramatically around the world. To my surprise, the drinking age and purchase age are completely different in some countries. Even trickier is the age at which you can buy beer and wine versus spirits. At age 16, teenagers can buy beer and wine in Belgium and Germany, but they have to wait until the age of 18 to buy spirits. Check out the legal drinking age list on Wikipedia. It’s a fun read. But also bear in mind that some countries don’t even allow alcohol at all.
Product usage and behaviors. While it’s common for people in Western countries to use plastic plates for quick and easy disposal, people in India and some other Asian countries commonly use banana leaves as disposable plates. Once the meals are consumed, they throw away the leaves, which decompose easily. When you demonstrate your products or services in the form of a video or other formats, you need to understand how your products will be used in the local markets. B2B applications may not change much from country to country, while consumer-oriented goods may vary greatly, from the package design, local ingredients and frequency of usage to the positioning of products.
Marketing promotional channel fragmentation. Promotional channels vary from country to country, or even from city to city within the same country. It depends on how the products and services are distributed and where the customers consume content. In some rural areas of India, China and other emerging countries, mobile phone texting promotions, door-to-door selling and leaving pamphlets behind are still proper and fitting approaches. Yet, customers living in larger cities within India, China and other similar countries consume content much like customers living in metropolitan cities in the West.
The rise of social media, as well as the various ways to search and shop online, has led to hyper-fragmentation of promotional channels. It adds a layer of challenge for marketers to identify effective communication methods in myriad fragmented marketing channels.
Marketers’ Internal Considerations
Marketing objectives. Content marketing, like any other marketing function, must support both the company’s business objectives and marketing objectives. Some companies may have several business objectives and a wide array of marketing objectives; you may need to prioritize your initiatives to align with limited resources and budget. Be sure to get buy-in from relevant stakeholders.
Products and services. Content marketing needs to provide value to customers. Of course, it’s not only about selling or promoting your products and services. Some content may be educational or entertaining in nature. Hubspot is a great example. The Hubspot blog does not talk about its product offerings directly, yet the blog provides useful and educational information for marketers about inbound marketing. The company touches on topics from search engine optimization (SEO), social media and content marketing to branding and design. It aims to provide value to prospects and progressively nurture them through useful content.
This is a great example of finding a balance between creating content designed to sell and creating content designed to add value for your customers, even though it may not directly drive sales. Be able to explain to management the intent and purpose for creating content that does not directly drive sales.
Organizational structure and budget allocation. It’s great when there are funds budgeted specifically for content planning and production; however, most companies do not have a specific budget line item for content. The budget for content creation may be overlooked or assumed to reside in other line items such as web marketing, events, lead generation, advertising and so on.
From time to time, a content marketer with a limited budget may find that asking for funding from business units or other marketing departments is necessary to create additional content. For small and medium businesses (SMB), you can look for additional funding by tapping into external sources such as your customers and partners for cobranding or cocreating content. Or it may make sense to combine budget from various departments to try different formats of content with higher production costs. It’s important to know which departments “own” budget and how different departments work together.
Headquarters and regional collaboration. To scale content across regions, you need to set up a communication and collaboration process between headquarters and regions. Defining clear roles and responsibilities will ensure tighter integration. In some cases you may be responsible for both headquarters and regional marketing. If that’s the case, you need to make an intentional effort to understand the ins and outs of local markets and take into account localization and customization needs. Not every piece of content will work in all regions.
Processes and tools. Global content marketing works well when there are tools and processes in place to drive
cross-border content efforts such as editorial planning, content sharing, translation, syndication, measurement and more. In my experience, processes and tools tend to be overlooked by many marketing managers.
Let’s take measuring the capability of content to generate leads, as an example: In order to measure the effectiveness of content marketing across regions, it’s best to have the same measuring tools in place at the country level. In reality, not all the processes and tools can be deployed to all countries due to lack of language support, lack of on-site customer support, system incompatibility and so on. You may need to implement alternate tools or even collect the data manually. Tools and processes are tricky issues that need to be collectively discussed and communicated between headquarters and regions.
While marketers face internal and external challenges, they also need to take into account their customers’ needs and changing behaviors.
Information overload. An average of 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. More than 190 million tweets are posted per day on Twitter and 70 billion pieces of content are shared every month on Facebook. A Facebook user spends an average of 15 hours and 33 minutes per month on the site, and this is in addition to other time the user may spend on other web sites and social-media networks. The amount of data people encounter on a daily basis is so overwhelming that, consciously or not, users put filters in place. Filtering creates challenges for marketers trying to get their content in front of their intended audience.
Short attention span. In Nicholas Carr’s post “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” he lamented that the internet chips away at his capacity for concentration and contemplation. “My mind now expects to take in information the way the net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.” In addition, the stress of modern life has reduced our attention span on a given task from 12 minutes in 1998 to five minutes and seven seconds in 2008. Our attention span is certainly getting shorter and shorter, which has implications for the length of content we should produce.
Ekaterina Walter, co-author of The Power of Visual Storytelling, advocates “show, don’t tell.” Customers have so many choices that they will exit or move on to the next piece of content if you don’t catch their attention in the first five seconds.
Decision-making process. Because information is produced faster than we can absorb it, the majority of us have developed a habit of skimming content without really internalizing it. Information overload, short attention spans and habits of scanning content on the net can paralyze our decision-making process. Sometimes I wonder how consumers make decisions at all. Given the abundance of information that is available to us at almost no cost, we should be able to make better decisions. But you could argue we make worse decisions, given the difficulty of effectively filtering out irrelevant data. This impacts how content should be presented to our customers.
Limited budget. Budget spending is about choice. Each day people are making decisions on how to spend their company’s budget or their own money. Content marketing is about educating and influencing people before decisions are made. A customer’s budget can also be impacted by tax refunds, employee bonuses, holiday seasons and more. For content marketers, it’s also important to tie specific offers or targeted content to government initiatives such as tax credits, refunds or a major employer’s bonus payout.
Content Marketing needs to Help Your Customers Find “it”
Traveling around the oceans of the World Wide Web, people are searching for something. We are searching for what we need to know or do at the exact time we need to know or do it.
The essence of content marketing is to help your customers find the information they need, in relationship to the
products and services you offer.
The need to be where your customers are searching has driven the boom of retargeting and contextual advertising. That form of advertising is one option to reach out to your customers. However, creating content to help, educate, support, assist or entertain your customers is more cost-effective than an ad buy. Ad retargeting and contextual buying only lives for a limited period of time.
After your ad budget is depleted, you won’t be able to place new ads. Any content that provides educational and insightful value, however, can live on the web for a long time. As a result, it creates what is known as a long-tail effect, allowing different users to access your content as long as it is relevant to their needs. Generating quality content that endures over time is a big step in developing the long-tail effect and is worth more than an ad buy. Make it easy for your customers to search for and purchase your products and services. By doing that, as Joe Pulizzi says, “they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”
I also like the cut-to-the-chase point of view from David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services … they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.” Scott’s point is blunt and true.
We view and interact with content more than ever before. Your content helps your customers form their perception of you and your brand. Thus, content is part of the experience you provide to your customers online and offline. Content should be front and center of your marketing strategy, yet for most marketing professionals and senior managers, content is often an afterthought.
Book excerpt from Global Content Marketing by Pam Didner. Copyright ©2015 Pam Didner. All rights reserved. Published by McGraw-Hill Education.