Content frequency vs. quality: Do brands have to choose?

This article is part of the Digiday Partner Program and is brought to you by Skyword.

On the longstanding debate “quantity versus quality,” savvy marketers are arguing an emphatic “both.”

According to a 2013 Unisphere survey sponsored by Skyword, engaging customers and prospects was the primary objective for 68 percent of marketers, and all marketers said they wanted to increase frequency, with 50 percent describing daily publication as ideal.

Catharine Findiesen Hays, executive director of the Future of Advertising Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, asks,“Why would we expect marketers to have to choose between quality and frequency? If we define quality as ‘well done’ relative to a given business objective, then there should be no question that this is a sine qua non.  Frequency is a different decision, driven by a thorough understanding of a particular audience, and what ‘effective frequency’ is with them, again given a particular business objective and time horizon.”

The challenge is how to create ongoing relevant content that’s meaningful to your brand and audience. Advertorial quizzes, slogans and thinly disguised product and service pitches went out with the rotogravure sections of Sunday newspapers. And overloaded, contextually thin, posts on social media channels will be readily dismissed.

Today, branded content must inform, amuse and entice. Create something your audience will like enough to post on their social media channels, email workmates about and discuss at meetings or during downtime. Ensure that it’s relevant to your brand’s mission and product, but consider outlier “related” content as well. For example, if you’re a company that makes sneakers, you could include content on sneaker style, expert Q&As about sneakers, fun infographics or videos that interview real consumers about their sneaker fandom. There are a myriad ways to entertain while staying true to your brand and ramping up frequency.

Plus, entertaining and informing an audience gets marketers credibility and helps their brands stand out from the pack.

“It’s more rewarding for brands to have a steady cadence of ‘very good’ content, with some truly ‘great’ pieces spread throughout,” says Ian Schafer, CEO of digital agency Deep Focus in New York. “This publishing model is best suited for maximizing ‘earned reach.’ Agency creative models need to adapt to deliver that affordably for brands.”

Schafer and other experts maintain that original content is generally a company’s best bet for delivering targeted messages to a relevant audience. Frequency, they say, should really rank as a distant second. For marketers, the willingness to take the calculated risk to craft better content at the cost of lower frequency will pay off in the end.

Good content marketing, experts say, engages customers, increases brand awareness and will ultimately gain you new customers–or at least leads. That said, you can’t just put your message out and then disappear. “Companies that blog two or three times a week get significantly more traffic to their website than those that blog or feed the social media channels more haphazardly. I can personally attest to this,” says Doug Bailey, president of DBMediaStrategies in Newton, Mass., also a marketing professor at Boston University and former deputy business editor of the Boston Globe.

“On the days that I post a blog entry, the traffic to my little site increases exponentially,” he says. “Eventually, some of those leads become clients or customers. It’s just a fact that more companies are catching on to.”

For the more-than-two-thirds of Unisphere survey respondents who place a high priority on engaging customers and the almost-half who look for greater brand awareness, original content is the best means to deliver a targeted message to a relevant audience.

The survey also found that formal content marketing strategies are on the rise. Close to half of the businesses represented have formal strategies, and nearly 40 percent are considering them.

Social media, obviously, is where it’s at, in terms of content discovery and amplification strategies. However, few companies are yet using it to its full potential.

Most marketers do create their own onsite content. Articles, videos, blogs and other forms of “value-added content” rule the marketing interwebs.

Two-thirds of executives acknowledge the challenges of supplying targeted, relevant, engaging content on a steady basis. For marketers, the challenge will be to assemble the people, process, and technology to succeed at both.  Enlisting the best content creators, leveraging a smart content management system, and working a robust editorial calendar can go a long way to developing a flow of regular, quality content.

With solid planning and access to the right talent and resources, marketers won’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity.

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