Content strategy: the art of building relationships

2 February 2022

Today brands create content every single minute of the day and have a thousand ways to communicate that they are in tune with their customers' changing needs and desires. But a great content strategy is not about a series of one-shots, and it’s not about ‘doing video’ or ‘going social’ either. If you really want to capture people's attention and turn it into a lasting relationship with your brand, you need to make a genuine connection. Barbara De Mol, Marketing Director at iO Brussels, helps you well on your way in your new adventures in content marketing.

Woman drawing sketch

“It’s all about creating content that’s relevant for your audience”, Barbara begins. “Therefore, you have to start by getting to know your audience in terms of expectations, needs, behaviours and media consumption. Having that knowledge means that you can push the right content at the right time on the right channel. Content marketing done right will save you a lot of money on traditional branded advertising. At iO, we believe content marketing stands for co-creation within our own organisation, co-creation with our clients and co-creation with the end-user.”

Understand and listen to your audience

“At iO, we see the audience as the starting point”, says Barbara. “Content marketing is about what your audience wants to hear from you and how they want to connect with your brand, not about what you want to tell your audience. What's in it for them? You really have to get to know your audience, avoid assumptions and use all the relevant data and insights that’s available. Every brand needs its own content strategy.”

The bears nailed it

Barbara: “The gummy bear challenge with the Adele song on TikTok was a great example of the power of really understanding audiences. Haribo’s marketer understood perfectly how people use TikTok, and how influencers and users create authentic, fun content. In the initial video made by a user, a lone gummy bear seems to sing ‘Never mind, I’ll find…’, then Adele's audience finishes the song's heart-wrenching chorus as the camera pans over to a crowd of gummy bears singing ‘…someone like you’. Gummy bear manufacturer Haribo couldn’t believe its luck and understood that the Haribo audience naturally plays with gummy bears. The gummy mob stretches for the equivalent of a gummy-bear sized eternity, as hundreds of bears sing with Adele. Of course, the challenge was picked up by masses of TikTok users.”

“After the initial challenge, Haribo launched its own #MaoamChallenge”, Barbara continues. “Haribo collaborated with TikTok influencer Sasha Smiles to create content to give its products more visibility. The #MaoamChallenge has revolutionised the visibility of the candy brand for children. ‘Candy drives me crazy’, says Smiles in the video, then he invites other users to reproduce the #Maoamchallenge. The campaign was a resounding success. The Haribo brand was seen by a massive number of consumers because the influencer’s videos alone had nearly 122k views, 985 comments, and nearly 2k shares. Haribo understood that it’s all about watching, listening, and understanding its audience.”

Size matters

Making short videos for social media is a trend driven by TikTok and amplified by competitors like Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and Pinterest Idea Pins. Even LinkedIn is jumping in on the trend with the acquisition of Jumprope. Indeed, you have a split second to get someone’s attention and then a short few seconds to maintain it. But short, snappy content alone is not enough to be successful on social media. What matters more is a clear business objective: what action do you want people to take? A short video may be perfect for many strategies, but the objective should guide this choice.

Barbara: “If you just want to make a pitch on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube between 6 and 15 seconds will do. After that first pitch, you will have to nurture the audience with deeper content and thus longer videos. For our client Mutualité Chrétienne, we created a campaign to support people helping a family member. We asked the popular Walloon comedian GuiHome to create short and long videos to promote the petition on social media and guess what: the longer one of 95 seconds delivered more meaningful engagement. When you have a story to tell and you need to raise awareness for a certain cause, you just need to take more time. And a great storyteller like GuiHome, of course.”

“No wonder TikTok is increasing the length of its videos”, Barbara adds. “TikTok videos initially started as 15-second clips, then grew to 60-seconds, and now they are testing 3-minute videos with selected users. It shows the importance of mixing short clips with longer, more meaningful ones. After all, you’re creating content. Not ads.”

What channel?

Social media like YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, CRM and the traditional company website can deliver impact. At the end of 2021, no less than 423 million Europeans had an active profile on Facebook. It’s the social platform with the broadest user base and it’s useful for creating awareness, consideration and conversion.

Instagram also has a wide audience, but it’s more an inspirational and aesthetic environment and it’s very suitable for influencer marketing. Instagram used to be less suitable for conversion, but with its new social shopping features, it’s turning itself into both a discovery and conversion platform. And while Instagram used to be more adapted for fashion and beauty, other products are coming too. Car manufacturer Ford, for example, opened a shop on Instagram.

Barbara: “The next big thing on Instagram is that you will actually be able to instantly buy and pay for the stuff that influencers promote on the platform itself. In the USA, the platform already offers an instant check-out for that, but in Europe, there are still a few legal issues in the way.”

Consistent stories

Nurturing any kind of relationship takes time. Content that strengthens the relationship between your brand and your audience is not about one-shots. It’s about consistency. Your key message, visual identity, and underlying tone-of-voice should be aligned on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and on your website. And of course, you have to align your content strategy with your brand's values and identity.

Barbara : “Volvo really understands this. Their brand story regarding their legendary safety-DNA is shifting from a safer individual to a greener and thus safer planet where we can all live better lives. Volvo is also admitting that they are part of the climate change problem. They looked carefully into the essence of their brand and made a link from there to the message they wanted to communicate today. As the inventors of the seatbelt, Volvo is known as the safety conscious brand. But now Volvo has expanded their view and is applying this idea to the whole planet. As the safety conscious brand, they are making commitments that will protect the safety of humanity. Their sustainability campaign Climate change is the ultimate safety test makes immediate sense. It’s very much in tune with their brand and they are very clear about their intention to act responsibly.”

No greenwashing

Brands are falling over themselves to make social and environmental claims. Avoid hollow stories. Customers can smell greenwashing from a mile away. However vital the issue, the message won’t get through if it doesn’t fit your brand. Barbara: “Catherine Balls, Head of Reputation and Sustainability at Proximus, played it very well. She said: ‘We’re not perfect yet.’ We can all relate to that because no one is. Then, when she explained what Proximus was prepared to do, it had a lot of credibility.”

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At your service

As you know, a good companion is half the journey. Barbara: “If you join forces with iO for content marketing, you can rest assured that we are working towards a consistent strategy and that we have the best experts available to implement that strategy. We know how to carefully forge long-term relationships with your target group, and we understand how to increase customer lifetime value. We bring all the specialists you need to the table to offer your audience the experience they’re looking for. We really nurture relationships. Ultimately it’s all about being client oriented.”

barbara demol
Barbara De Mol
Marketing Director

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