Beyond the Blog Post: 6 Content Formats Your Audience Wants
Writers don’t have to worry—the written word is here to stay, no matter how many experts predict a vast pivot to video. But that doesn’t mean you can rely solely on blog posts. The modern consumer does prefer enhancements.
According to a 2017 study from Arkadium, which helps brands create interactive content, 78 percent of respondents prefer text to incorporate multimedia components. (The number rises to 87 percent among millennials.) Those components could include everything from photography and infographics to GIFs and video.
But which content formats will work best for your company? And once you choose another format, how can you make sure each piece of content supports the rest of your work? If you invest in quality, listeners who find your podcast on iTunes or see your infographic on Reddit will seek out your company to find more.
So while you may start with blog posts to build a foundation for potential customers to find, that doesn’t mean every member of your audience wants to read a 600-word article. Once you research whether your customers are into videos or white papers, you can start giving the crowd more of what they like.
Good infographics are like Sesame Street segments for grown-ups. They’re colorful, insightful visualizations that can break down data into a language that anyone on the internet can understand. They’re also a great tool for illustrating your content with metaphors.
The upside to infographics is they typically bring in a larger audience than a regular old blog post. The downside, of course, is they require design fluency. They’re more expensive to produce than strictly written content, and they typically take more time.
Even more daring than a garden variety infographic is an interactive one. If you have the team to pull one off, well, what are you sitting around reading a blog post? For inspiration, check out dumpark’s plastic pollution infographic or The Economic Policy Institute’s visualization of how systemic economic inequality works.
2. Shortform social video
Some marketers call short social videos “snackable content” if they’re sociopaths. You may know them from your Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn feed: the punchy clips optimized for mobile, often watched with the sound off. Shortform tutorials are popular, as are quick recaps of timely information or personality-driven updates from a company.
Short videos are a lot like improv comedy—a more immediately accessible form for amateurs, which means there’s a lot more of it out there. It’s also usually the first kind of content that comes to mind when a media company says they’re “pivoting to video.”
An effective shortform video should focus on a single memorable actor or subject and be optimized for social sharing. When Netflix needed to drum up fan excitement for the fourth season of Orange is the New Black, the streaming service’s marketing team and hi5.agency had the dramedy’s likable cast act out clips for Facebook and Instagram. The resulting clips used only non-diegetic music, and the social campaign won a Shorty Award.
3. Longform video
Just about any longform video will require significantly more planning and a higher production value than a shortform creation. That’s why it’s important to outline your longform goals and strategy before you head into production.
Last year, a number of web series began streaming on Facebook Watch only to crash and burn. According to data analysis firm Canvs, the businesses that fared worst on Watch were in the travel, TV criticism, and educational STEM fields. The videos weren’t watched as often, but more importantly, users tended not to react using Facebook’s “emotional” buttons (like the heart or the “sad” tear-stained face). In a span of two weeks, videos in less-successful genres struggled to earn more than 50 reactions.
However, the same report revealed that companies in education, gaming, and horror entertainment managed to pull off successful Watch series. These videos racked up 4,000 emotional reactions in the time it took others to nab less than fifty.
It’s not all about Facebook Watch, though. In 2017, the financial app Square produced a short film about Yassin Terou, a falafel chef and Syrian immigrant to the United States, as he used their app to run his small business and support his family. Through its short documentary, Square communicates their brand’s values and identifies itself with an entrepreneurial, wholesome spirit.
A successful print publication is a bit like a unicorn, yes, but if you work in travel, hospitality, design, beauty, fashion, or lifestyle, even a quarterly print publication can upgrade your brand engagement. Print magazines released by media companies need to prove a return based on subscriptions and ads, but when brands put out their own print publications, the experience doesn’t have to be as transactional.
Ideally, that leeway should help brands be more creative and thoughtful with their approach. Most airlines now produce magazines which they simply make available on flights. Cosmetics company Lush hands out free, lightly scented catalogs detailing new products and how they’re constructed.
It’s not just for the tastemakers either. There are so many examples of successful, branded print work in industries including finance and transportation, and early studies have shown a direct correlation between engagement with print media and brand awareness, familiarity, and trust. Amtrak’s American Way boasts incredible writing; AirBnb’s The Magazine cues travelers into a local, alternative-feeling lifestyle; and fashion line Acne’s Acne Paper associates influencers with the brand by profiling them and dressing them in products for photoshoots.
5. Event content
When Refinery29 unveiled its pop-up art gallery and Instagrammable festival 29Rooms, it had the digital media world’s rapt attention. Years before, Tavi Gevinson’s teen girl blog-turned-media-company embarked on a live tour called the Rookie Roadtrip, which built a lasting connection between content creator and fan.
Of course, your company’s pop-up shops or events might look more like a booth in a trade show, but that doesn’t mean your enthusiasm should dwindle. To make the most out of event marketing, content teams can produce a whole new body of work, from Powerpoint decks and landing pages to flyers and giveaways. Your company’s messaging should be consistent and creative across all those forms. (That goes for B2B just as much as B2C.)
A note of caution: Because they’re free to download and comparatively easy to launch, podcasts are a dime a dozen. Actually, they’re more like a penny for three dozen, so think very carefully before you launch your company’s take on Serial.
That being said, it’s hard to replicate a podcast’s fervent brand engagement. Podcast listeners are loyal, dedicated creatures of habit who find content through word-of-mouth. If your company produces a podcast, whether narrative or episodic, with a target audience in mind, you can assume that your loyal listeners will vocally support your content.
The highlights of branded podcasts include GE’s The Message, Slack’s Variety Pack, Sephora’s Lip Stories, and Tinder’s DTR. At their best, branded podcasts encourage storytellers to explore topics integral to a company’s mission, placing them at the center of a conversation audiences care about.