In today’s digital age, building and sustaining a brand’s customer base online continues to be a formidable challenge for many companies regardless of their size. Brands are slowly but surely moving in the direction of becoming stand-alone publishers, producing high-quality content to engage, educate, and even entertain users in the hopes that they will consider becoming a customer.
One such company that is knocking it out of the ballpark in terms of content marketing is Intel. With articles like “Can Tablets Change the Automotive Game?” and “Internet Killed the Video Star: Mobile Apps Redefine the Album Experience,” Intel’s digital magazine, iQ, has built an array of high-quality content about living in a technological world, ranging from fashion to sports, gaming to health, and beyond. The result is a highly engaging hub of content that resonates with users and speaks to a new generation of tech spenders.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Intel’s Global Paid Media & Content Strategist Luke Kintigh to learn about iQ’s content strategy and hear what he had to say about content distribution.
How important is distribution to the overall iQ content strategy?
Luke Kintigh: Distribution is the key ingredient to a successful content marketing recipe. It’s why I wanted to move from [my role as] Managing Editor to concentrate on optimizing the distribution of iQ content.
Having experience in both the creation and promotion of content, I’ve learned that if content is king, then distribution must be King Kong. In today’s highly competitive and fragmented Web, even the most amazing content won’t automatically find an audience. You have to put just as much energy and resources in the promotion of your content as the production of it.
To this end, we have the mantra that for every dollar and hour spent on content production, it has to be matched with a subsequent dollar and hour devoted to amplification. Being agile and quickly acting on early distribution insights is also critical to optimizing recently published content as well as iterating and creating more content that will stick with your audience based on what you’re seeing resonate.
When it comes to content distribution, how big of a role does data and targeting factor into the equation?
LK: We understand that content marketing is both an art and science. Overly-relying on data can hamper your creativity and risk-taking. At the end of the day, data certainly informs our content strategy but doesn’t completely dictate it.
As an engineering company, we love data. However, having droves of data can easily infect your team with a severe case of analysis paralysis. To avoid this, I’m primarily focused on two core things when it comes to the intersection of data and distribution: actionability and frequency. We’re fortunate to have centralized tools and experts to take all of our data and distil it down into a handful of KPIs that map to clear actions for our team to take that will pay off the larger strategy.
Having data that’s actionable is great, but equally as important is getting the data in a timely manner, especially in today’s always-on digital world. The reality is that your data has to be delivered, crunched and acted upon at the rapid speed of which content is being consumed today. Weekly and monthly reports will severely limit your success—real-time data is absolutely imperative to a modern and effective distribution plan.
What are the key differences you’ve seen related to content consumption behavior on mobile vs. desktop? Has this shaped the way you design and distribute content?
LK: The proliferation of mobile has forced us to shift several aspects of our strategy. On the distribution side, we dial up mobile targeting on the networks we’re promoting content on in the mornings and evenings when we see mobile consumption spike.
We also constantly look at our media efficiencies and performance on mobile vs. desktop and shift budget accordingly per network and content piece.
The implications for content development include designing creative specifically for mobile as well as ensuring the destination that we’re driving to is optimized for a rich mobile experience. This is particularly important on certain platforms and networks such as Twitter where nearly 70% of our referrals are from mobile.
Given that 55-60% of traffic for iQ comes from mobile, it is critical to have a mobile-first mindset both in terms of optimization and creation. It is no longer the second screen.
How frequently do you optimize paid distribution plans? What are some of the main KPIs you optimize against?
LK: Daily, and often times sub-daily. The way we optimize our media reflects an active day trader looking for growth opportunities rather than a mutual fund manager that will simply buy and hold. We’re constantly making adjustments to what content we promote, where it’s promoted and how much budget is allocated to it—all based on our KPIs and core goals of the content.
Testing multiple iterations of creative on multiple networks is key to this flexible approach. We’ve learned when optimizing against performance that only 10 percent of our overall volume of content will generate 90 percent of the traffic and engagement.
Using what we’ve dubbed as the “90 > 10” rule as a guide to our strategy, our core objective is to quickly identify and optimize the outliers (10 percent of top performing content) with additional investment while moving budget away from the laggards (90 percent of content that doesn’t take off). We’ve seen as much as 8-10x increase in CPC or CPE efficiency when using the 10 > 90 rule.
What’s the most important thing you want to see iQ content accomplish (short or long term)?
LK: With nearly one million visitors a month, iQ has seen incredible growth in just the two years of its existence. While those numbers may be impressive, I want to move beyond just looking at clicks and page views to building deeper relationships with existing and new audiences of iQ as key drivers to growth.
We’re working on creating new and cool ways to subscribe to and personalize iQ content for our readers that will provide long-term value based on their interests, needs, and feedback.
In 2015, we’re going to focus on repeat readers, subscribers, and other relational metrics that represent sustained engagement from our readers. Really, uniques and page views only represent very short-term success—we want to build and own an audience, not just rent one.
Also, we’re taking a closer look at how to measure and lift post-click engagement by tracking time spent, scroll rate, bounce rate and other ‘attention’ related metrics. Using attention-based goals and benchmarks is already impacting how we optimize and build content.
Using Kintigh’s success with iQ as an exemplar, it becomes clear that paid distribution is a crucial element to content marketing; don’t shortchange or underestimate its power to deliver your content to the right audience. Remember to use data to help you make decisions about where, why and how to create and distribute content, but don’t let data smother creativity either.
Capture the largest audience you possibly can by making sure your content is optimized for mobile consumption to provide a positive experience for the user. Finally, be creative with metrics and start discovering ways to measure the attention your audience gives to your content – not just how many of them showed up – to understand what’s providing the most value.