There’s an open secret in the world of content marketing: You don’t always need to create new content to capitalize on the opportunities around storytelling.
Over the past few years, consumer startups like Casper and Dollar Shave Club have built billion-dollar brands on the power of earned media. Rather than relying solely on traditional broadcast messages or display advertising, these companies are savvy at amplifying brand content that already exists across the web — from write-ups in major newspapers and magazines, to blog posts penned by key influencers, to customer reviews uploaded to YouTube or social media.
As consumers increasingly opt out of interruptive advertising, authenticity and relationship between brands and users is the new currency for marketers, and word-of-mouth and third-party recommendations have become vital forms of brand capital. Allocating promotional budgets towards these kinds of earned media also offers an expedient way for any company to jumpstart their content marketing efforts with little upfront costs or investment on content creation.
At Taboola, a journey we started ten years ago around recommending content to users, connecting them with information they may like, we see countless brands succeed with this strategy, amplifying valuable content to relevant audiences across the web. Our discovery platform, which acts as a “search engine, but in reverse,” delivers personalized recommendations to over one billion users every month as they surf their favorite websites. Every time a brand receives a positive piece of content out there or good coverage telling their story, our platform can promote that article to online readers at the moments when they are most likely to engage with the story.
Recently, when one of our partners, Boxed, was featured on the TODAY show, their team capitalized on the window of attention by shifting additional promotional budgets towards the clip. The segment, which highlighted the NYC-based startup’s Boxed remarkable employee perks and mission to deliver big-box inventory to urban and rural areas, proved to be an appealing pitch for the company. Boxed generated 5,000 new leads and nearly 1,500 new customers from the TODAY show clip alone.
As the battle for consumer attention grows more fierce, these digital-first, direct-to-consumer startups are writing a new playbook on how brands can leverage earned media to drive awareness and acquire new customers. Their success offers a few lessons that every marketer should consider in their own content marketing efforts.
- Leverage Positive Content That Already Exists Around Your Brand
While your company may not have a TODAY show segment to promote (yet), you can still take stock of your online presence and capitalize on the positive things that people have said about your brand, whether it’s a blog post, a YouTube video, or a Yelp review. If your startup is still in its early stages, you can cultivate these opportunities through post-purchase messages that prompt customers to review their experience, as well as proactive outreach to key influencers who may be interested in writing about your product or service.
- Have A Compelling Story That Will Make People Care About Your Company, Not Only Your Product
The success of Boxed’s recent campaign is due in part to the story behind the segment: the company’s positive mission to democratize big-box retail, and CEO Chieh Huang’s generous promise to cover expenses like weddings and college tuition for his full-time employees. Of the more than 450 billion pieces of content that Taboola recommends every month, we find that consumers react more to stories that reveal something authentic about the company. Towards this end, founder stories are a powerful format for connecting with audiences, as well as behind the scenes footage of how a product is made.
- Promote Your Stories Beyond Mature Channels Like Search And Social
Once you have a piece of earned media to amplify across the web, your first thought may be to launch a campaign on Google or Facebook. For many marketers, these channels are indeed too big to ignore, and hence the costs of competing on such mature platforms can be prohibitive for startups who are just beginning to get their name out there..
When launching any content marketing initiative, consider investing in channels alongside search and social. Untapped channels like email and content discovery can offer opportunities to differentiate from the pack and outmaneuver competitors. And if your goal is to share a story with your target audience, it’s often more effective to reach people when they’re already engaged with a piece of content, as opposed to distracted by busy social media feeds.
By taking a page from the playbook of today’s fastest-growing consumer brands, every company can jump start their content marketing efforts and capitalize on brand stories that inspire audiences to take action, try out your product, and ultimately become a paying customer.