Dumb ways to do content marketing: Understanding ‘audience intent’ on search and social media

September 8, 2015Uncategorized
Into the tunnel

One of the biggest mistakes digital marketers make when creating content is they approach their strategy as a one-size-fits-all approach.

The content they create is housed on their website and distributed on social media, and a series of goals are set against it. These goals are usually things like SEO rankings, a benchmark number of ‘likes’ on Facebook and a series of e-commerce transactions. The problem with this approach is that digital marketing is not a one-size-fits-all medium. Digital marketing is far more varied than any other marketing medium, including print or TVC. Different channels work differently for different audiences at different times. The important thing to remember is to be wary of your audience’s intent on the different digital channels before you create your content strategy.

Perhaps the easiest way to explain this is with an example.

In late 2012, Metro Trains Melbourne put out a video on YouTube that went viral: “Dumb Ways to Die”. No doubt you have seen it:

Catchy tune, quirky characters and a unique style. This content was made to perform well on social media. And indeed its performance was the stuff of content marketing dreams.

It won seven Webby awards and 18 Gold Lions at Cannes. From a metrics standpoint, the engagement numbers are breathtaking. To date, the video has received over 110 million views on its official YouTube channel, 700 media stories, an iPhone game and even a Game of Thrones spin-off version.

With so many clicks, likes and link shares on social media, the success of this viral content surely translated into success on Google’s SERPs, right?

Hmm. Look what happens when you search for the brand behind the viral video ‘Metro Trains Melbourne’:

At no point on the first page of Google is Metro’s super-successful viral campaign “Dumb Ways to Die” mentioned in the results.

How can that be?

The campaign was huge. It brought Metro Trains Melbourne’s message and brand to an international audience, generated thousands of shares and likes, and no doubt directed plenty of new traffic to the organisation’s website.

The answer is not in the type of content, but really in how the audience uses search and social media.

When an audience wants to find something, more often than not they go to Google rather than Facebook to find it. Google’s algorithms are very good at working out audience search ‘intent’ and so it usually displays results that contain, what is called, a ‘transactional’ or ‘informational’ result. Our above query for ‘Metro Trains Melbourne’, for example, contains only results around these two search intent pillars:

  • What is Metro Trains Melbourne and the latest news around the brand? = (informational intent)
  • How can I use Metro Trains Melbourne Services? = (possible transactional intent)

In terms of intent, chances are the your audience already know what they want when they go to Google as they will type in the query they believe will return the best information or product solution for their problem.

On the flip side, social media is the platform an audience turns to when they want to discover newcontent. They don’t decide what appears on their timeline or feed – instead they are served what their community shares or what brands pay to target them with. This is the major difference between search and social content.

Put simply:

– For search, the audience wants to find the brand.
– For social, the brand wants to find the audience.

This makes social media content a great channel for discovering new audiences and introducing your brand to them. The content here should be targeted to the ‘awareness’ stage of the buyer funnel and be designed not to convert, but to entertain or inform. Use emotion and stories that will appeal to new audiences and drive them to your site.

Search content should be targeted to audiences who are likely to seek out your brand, product, industry or information about your areas of expertise. However, if they don’t know your brand, industry or their problem, they are unlikely to find you on Google. This type of content therefore needs to be semantically rich around those search queries your audience may be typing into Google to solve their problem. For search content, write to inform, educate and convince, and use the content to push your audience towards your product pages or an appropriate CTA.

Many brands make the mistake of always creating a single piece of content with the expectation that it will rank number one for a search term and go viral on social at the same time. This is a dumb way to do content marketing, principally because your audiences are at different stages in their buyer journeys. The above examples show that viral content on social media rarely ranks well on Google.

Instead, begin your content marketing strategy by deciding where on the buyer funnel you want to create content.
Should it be search or social? Then target your content for that audience.

Additionally, if your budget allows, you could develop two different pieces of content on the same theme – one designed to appeal to the search audience (those looking for the content) and the other designed for social (those not looking for the content).