This article was originally published on Mashable.
Content marketing is definitely on the hot list of buzzwords these days.
Pop-up ads are out. Responsive websites are in. Traditional, static forms of advertising are no longer sufficient in today's technology and social media-driven societies. Now, businesses need to actively capture their audiences' (increasingly short) attention spans and—here's the tricky part—actually engage consumers. As many business owners will attest, this is easier said than done.
Is your business struggling to develop a successful content marketing strategy? Take a page out of the books of these businesses that have mastered content marketing.
Zady is a new ecommerce venture that specializes in ethically made goods (apparel, accessories and home products) with transparent supply chains. Each product (like this red crepe de chine blouse from Steven Alan) tells a story about the maker, often taking shoppers directly into a designer's studio. Including these backstories adds a personal touch and allows customers to feel a sense of connection to the product or brand—factors that promote sales. Since Zady is targeting shoppers who care about where their goods come from, this type of editorial is key.
Sweetgreen, a restaurant chain dedicated to organic cuisine and sustainability, masters the art of going beyond the brand. With a solid presence on social media (19,000+ Facebook fans, 12,000+ Twitter followers, more than 11,000 Instagram followers and active Tumblr and YouTube accounts), a mobile app and an entire section of its website dedicated to community, Sweetgreen taps into its customers' core beliefs and healthy lifestyle values—all while maintaining consistent brand identity.
The brand rallies its online community with hashtags like #behindthegreens, #sgimpact and #farmtotable, a heavy emphasis on visuals and plays on words such as “beets don’t kale my vibe.” Sweetgreen has even ventured into local communities with campaigns such as Sweetgreen in schools and the annual Sweetlife Festival —initiatives that influence positive brand recognition and association.
Birchbox's content marketing strategy targets the millennial generation's Achilles' heel: the fear of missing out (or FOMO, in Internet slang). The "discovery commerce platform" (a name coined by co-founder Katia Beauchamp) runs customers $10 a month, for which customers receive a customized box of beauty samples. Even though the box usually contains more than a $10 return in beauty products or discounts, a monthly charge for an assortment of (sometimes superfluous) surprise goods is asking a lot from the generation that averages nearly $30K in student loan debt.
So then, why is the discovery commerce platform so insanely successful? Easy—because Birchbox's social media accounts consistently post photos, videos and articles chronicling happy customers, the contents of last month's box (ugh, there was a NARS discount!), beauty how-tos and insider details about the "must-have" beauty products coming in the next package. All posts link back to the content hosted on the Birchbox site, with an easy, bright blue "subscribe" button in plain view. The message is simple: If you aren't getting Birchbox, you are definitely missing out—the perfect push to drive customers to whip out credit cards and subscribe.
4. Of a Kind
Of a Kind offers more than beautifully crafted clothing, jewelry and accessories; it also tells the stories about how those goods are made (and the people who make them) through one-on-one interviews and photos shot by Jamie Beck. Of a Kind takes advantage of sharing products on the social platforms that make the most sense marketing-wise—it's a perfect candidate for Pinterest, and the company page includes more than 2,000 pins, as well as boards featuring bridesmaid looks, home and studio tours, designer stories and gift guides.
The startup also creates an excellent weekly newsletter that dishes on everything co-founders Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur are obsessing over each week. It's no surprise that this retail site is so good at content: Cerulo was a senior editor at Lucky magazine before joining forces with Mazur at Of a Kind.
The Equinox approach to content marketing can be summed up by the slogan/hashtag that dominates its Facebook profile photo and much of its promotional material: "It's not fitness, it's life."
The chain of upscale fitness clubs is active on social platforms and keeps a blog about healthy living. While much of the content on these platforms is branded with the company logo and mantra, it isn't overly promotional. For example, the YouTube video (they release about one per month) on "How to Get a Surfer's Body" features a pump-it-up beat in the background (no voiceover) and a chiseled surfer-stud working out on the beach. And the Contortionist video simply flaunts the beauty and elegance of the human body. The videos operate more as inspirational exercise guides than as promotions for classes or personal training sessions—in fact, neither even takes place in a gym. On Twitter, Equinox frequently retweets helpful articles, events and suggestions for working out or adhering to a healthy diet.
With these strategies, Equinox appeals not only to customers, but to anyone striving to live a healthy, fitness-oriented lifestyle, making it more likely that people will share the content (and potentially bring business in the door).
Photos from top: Shutterstock, Instagram, ofakind.com, equinox.com