Posted March 12, 2012 4:33 pm by with 4 comments

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Branded content has become increasingly popular with brand marketers as they search for new ways to engage an ad-weary audience. Top on the list? Video.

According to new numbers by Outbrain, 87% of the brand marketers and ad agencies they surveyed create branded videos to spread the good word.

Blog posts are still going strong, which pleases the writer in me. Articles have likely dropped off due to the infamous Panda Update of 2011. Which is fine, seeing as there are so many fresher options these days.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

96% of those surveyed said they use social media to drive traffic to their branded content. This is up from 88% last year. Paid Search and Display came in a close second with around 75% of the vote. Email didn’t even hit the 50% mark.

Here’s what I found really interesting. When asked how they measured the success of their content, here’s what they said:

Social engagement and sharing tops views and downloads. Let’s think about that. It’s kind of like saying, I don’t care if you read or watch the content I made as long as you share it with friends.

As a content producer, that kinda hurts. Then again, the end goal to all of this is brand recognition, right? So it really doesn’t matter if they watch my funny video as long as they remember my name (Fame! I’m gonna live forever. . .  ).

Now look at lead generation and direct sales. They’re barely a blip compared to a social media response. Granted, not all brands are directly selling a product with their content, but it’s still odd to see it so low.

I came up through the world of affiliate marketing where it was all about the sales. I write compelling content with links, the reader wants what I’m selling, he clicks the link and buys and that’s success. In this new system, simply sharing my article with a friend would have been enough for most marketers.

I understand that sales can be hard to track through social media, but we’re talking content here. We’re talking videos and blog posts, both of which can have direct links to products.

I think both direct sales and content sharing are important. Take a Pinterest pin board. Customers click your link and buy, that’s money in your pocket. Customers who share are introducing your brand to more potential customers, also a win.

And speaking of Pinterest, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the “Photo Gallery” choice on the top graph moved into 3rd place or even 2nd a year from now. Photo galleries are the new blog posts, don’t ya know.

What kind of content marketing do you prefer?

  • People generally want to share most of the things they do in their lives with their friends. It’s become a habit for many to see something that interests them, and then immediately share it on their wall. My personal view is that to make social media work for as an advertising tool, there must be some incentive to make it such.

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  • “We’re talking videos and blog posts, both of which can have direct links to products.”

    You’re absolutely right. While I don’t think you can say that 1 Tweet is the only reason that person became a lead, social media can drive targeted and qualified leads to internal pages of your site. It can be a valuable form of lead generation.

  • What I find most interesting about this survey is that:

    1) The respondents were “brand marketers and ad agencies” and not PR agencies.

    2) The respondents listed social-media engagement and referrals as the single greatest measure of success for their content-marketing efforts.

    Just having a great buzz in a variety of social-media platforms can be a misleading metric. For a PR objective to be successful, it must have produced specific desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes and behavior. But for marketers, even if the respondents found a way, for example, to measure increased awareness, if that increase didn’t lead to behavior that affected bottom-line results, such as increased sales, requests for info, joining an initiative, etc., then mere brand awareness in social media might be pointless.

    The key to success in social media has always been generating traffic that increases direct interaction with, and support of, your brand. This is what makes the survey’s other measures of success stand out to me. “Viewing and/or downloading of content” is almost as productive as “social-media engagement,” but neither of them are as important as “Leads generated,” “Search referrals” and “Sales secured.”

    If your target audiences become more aware of your brand through social media but then don’t DO anything that increases your desired bottom-line results, then either your social-media efforts are being wasted, or your Web site (that they’re visiting as a result of learning about you through social media) is ineffective in generating sales or other desired outcomes.

    Social-media engagement should be considered a tactic to achieve a measurable desired outcome–not as a desired outcome itself.