The Content Marketing Best Practices That Will Keep Your Customers Engaged

Recently, almost immediately after voicing my desire to find a new pair of climbing pants aloud, I started seeing Instagram ads for a popular brand. The pants seemingly followed me everywhere, even showing up in the organic content on my for-you pages.

This kind of social media experience has become all but universal; as consumers, targeted ads and influencer content can feel creepily timed to our real-life conversations. But magic happens when brands can authentically master best practices in content marketing, because the content that’s seemingly following you around is genuinely helpful for making an informed buying decision.

After I found myself watching video after video of different women showing off the pants’ functionality in their real-life climbs, I finally caved and bought them. And as you may have guessed, they are now the best pair I’ve ever owned.

When planned correctly, content marketing is still one of the most valuable investments brands can make. It can be targeted, specific, and personalized in a way that traditional advertising simply can’t. Advertising is a way to get customers to remember your name; content marketing helps them understand what you can provide them. Here are just a few of the best practices in content marketing to make sure you’re incorporating into your strategy in 2024.

4 Content Marketing Best Practices

Start With Proprietary Data

Doing a deep dive into data may not be the fun part of creating content for marketing purposes, but numbers are your friend here. Ideating a content marketing strategy in a vacuum is a recipe for frustration and lost time. Don’t rely on contextless brainstorming—look at what your first- and third-party data actually tells you, and ideate content from there.

One way to use data is to look at seasonality. What are customers buying most around the holidays, the start of summer, or on other specific dates? How can you use those insights to develop story ideas? One such example could be financial institutions publishing tax estimation calculators ahead of Tax Day.

Play to Shortening Attention Spans

How many browser tabs are currently open on your screen? If your response is, “I’m in this photo and I don’t like it,” you’re certainly not alone. Attention researcher Gloria Mark, author of Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity, found that our attentions top out at 47 seconds on a screen. Even TikTok, an app that was already capitalizing on our declining ability to pay attention, introduced a feature to help you get through those already-short videos more quickly.

In content marketing—and yes, this hurts to write—this means putting less effort into text-heavy articles, and more into interactive, personalized experiences that are sure to keep users engaged. This does not mean doing away with thoughtfully researched content; it just means finding more creative ways to package it, such as with interactive quizzes or calculators.

If you need more convincing to put effort into interactive content, think back to the era of Buzzfeed Quiz dominance: even people who thought they were silly and frivolous still lost hours determining the city they belonged in or which Disney side-character they should marry (guilty). I’m not saying your healthcare or financial content strategy should rely on pop culture references and workday distractions, but there is something to be said for content that makes the user feel seen. I personally love the color quiz from Clare Paint, which helped me simplify a decorating decision I ended up being really happy with.

Prioritize Authenticity and Speak to Customer Pain Points

In an online world saturated with disingenuous influencer haul videos selling us more and more things we don’t need, there’s been a heartening development among Gen Zers: they value authenticity over all else. In fact, EY reported that 92 percent of Gen Z survey respondents indicated that authenticity is extremely or very important to them, making it more important than “any other personal value tested, including: spending time on things that will help their futures, independence, changing the world, and being rich or famous.”

Today’s consumers would rather purchase from an imperfect group of humans than an impenetrable corporate brand. A simple way to convey that authenticity is to speak directly to your customers’ pain points. Canva’s Design School is an incredible example; with an entire catalog of free courses offering solutions for everything from getting started with Canva’s design tools to niche design tips for nonprofits, users are left with a clear understanding of how easy and effective the product is to use.

This is an image of 6 graphics from the Canva website with three images for classes in the top row and three images for classes in the bottom row. This is being used in an article about content marketing best practices

Another simple way to embed authenticity into your content strategy is to intentionally hire a diverse pool of talent, whether they are freelance or in house. Having content producers from a wide range of backgrounds means your content is intrinsically benefitting from differing perspectives.

Additionally, user-generated content—like the endless stream of videos I consumed showing off the Wondery Outdoors pants—is a new avenue of content marketing that illustrates real-life applications of products. For instance, GoPro has an astonishing 11 million subscribers on its YouTube channel, with most of its top-performing videos coming from UGC.

Empower (But Don’t Replace) Your Team With AI

Stop avoiding AI, but be smart about it.

When ChatGPT first started gaining traction in early 2023, like many people, I wanted to stay as far away from it as possible. I watched The Matrix enough times at an impressionable enough age to know a future of tech-dominated, pod-based human reproduction would be less than ideal. But I’m also a huge proponent of working smarter rather than harder, and it’s quickly become apparent that AI is the future of smart work. The trick is learning how to leverage it rather than letting it control your narrative.

For fun, I asked ChatGPT why you should hire a human instead of AI for the purpose of content marketing, and this was part of its answer: “Humans possess the innate ability to understand complex emotions, cultural nuances, and subtle nuances in language that AI may struggle to grasp.”

I may be weirded out, but I couldn’t have said it better myself. AI-savvy content producers can use AI tools to help make sure you’re following the most up-to-date best practices in content marketing and finding relevant research, while still creating the authentic content customers are responding to more and more.

Ask The Content Strategist: FAQs About Content Marketing Best Practices

How can brands leverage influencer partnerships as part of their content marketing strategies?

Influencer partnerships can help brands reach new audiences, enhance credibility, and generate authentic content that resonates with followers. When selecting influencers, brands should consider relevance to their target audience, alignment with brand values, engagement metrics, and authenticity.

How can brands effectively craft compelling stories that resonate with their target audience?

Brands should understand their audience’s values, aspirations, and pain points, and tailor narratives that align with these insights. Effective storytelling involves creating relatable characters, establishing conflict and resolution, and delivering messages authentically across various content formats.

How can brands maintain consistency and cohesion in their content marketing strategies while adapting to evolving consumer preferences and digital trends?

Brands can establish clear brand guidelines, messaging frameworks, and content calendars to maintain consistency across channels and campaigns. Regular analysis of consumer insights, market trends, and competitive landscapes allows brands to pivot and optimize content strategies while staying true to their brand identity and values.

To stay on top of content marketing best practices and strategies, subscribe to The Content Strategist.

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