If you’ve ever tried it yourself, you’ll understand. It can frequently be a traumatic experience, and one that feels much harder than it should.
Creating high quality, unique content from scratch – articles that punch through the noise, offer true insight and elevate your brand – is a tough task. Idea generation, research, structure, drafting, visuals, distribution; every stage is laden with risks, pitfalls and opportunities to get things very wrong indeed. Or, at least (or could that be ‘even worse’) you publish a piece that is, well, a bit on the ordinary side. Bang average. Run-of-the-mill. Two a penny.
The internet is awash with near-infinite reams of content, churned out around the clock, minute by minute. Some of it is excellent; much of it is passable. The vast majority is pure filler and does little to imbue brands with any added value or improved perception. This is both the beauty of content; the opportunity to set yourself apart and deliver genuinely positive brand experiences, and the challenge: what is it that you put out there into the big wide world which breaks new ground and reflects the true personality of your organisation?
Thankfully, the beady-eyed amongst us at Ewe HQ have been tracking a few notable players in the online space and spotted a growing development in content which fits the bill exactly. The approach in question is at once unavoidably unique, an honest representation of the businesses we looked at and, most importantly of all, gives their respective audiences more reasons to engage deeper with their brands in a non-transactional way.
There’s no technical term or new-fangled industry buzzword for this, at least to our knowledge, but for the purposes of analysis we shall call it (not-so-snappily) as follows: ‘User Data-Led Content’. Using key internal insights, informational trends and good old fashioned data analysis, these brands have been able to publish series of one-off content that could only ever come from them.
This particular breed of article perhaps represents the holy grail of content marketing when it comes to brand engagement and development. Thanks to the data’s origin, it comes complete with a proprietary watermark of sorts and inherently carries a healthy dose of brand DNA. Here are the organisations in question, the ‘UD-LC’ they have published and why it alleviates much of the problematic process of content creation.
Potentially identifiable as the company that spearheaded this new approach to marketing in general, the music streaming service started to look inwards for inspiration, at its oceans of user data on both widespread listening habits and individual instances. Originating with a study of listening statistics across 40 American universities back in 2014, it put insights that may previously have been reserved for platform development and traditional marketing centre stage, creating something unique and fascinating in the process.
The report returned bolder and brighter in 2017 with an even more intricate, interactive range of data points; categories such as ‘Danceability’ and ‘Thumpiness’ plotted against other universities, along with rankings for listening volume and diversity.
Fast forward to present day and their Insights subdomain is more comprehensive and resultingly categorised into:
With such an intuitive interface, comprehensive database of tracks and accessible pricing for premium, not to mention its wider ‘Discover Weekly’ suggested playlists and artist fan groups, Spotify has made it very easy for users to integrate it within their daily lives and reflect their transient moods, life occasions and developing tastes in their musical selections.
What this extensive range of deep-dive articles achieves is to both position the brand as an authoritative voice on music streaming habits and the wider digital audio industry, and reinforce its key selling point of ‘the right music at the right time.’ Through such powerful analytical – yet engaging – content around the otherwise mundane activity of listening to our favourite artists online, they equip themselves with not only new ways of cementing their perception as a market leader but, even more interestingly, a starting point for novel angles on their wider marketing campaigns.
The popular fitness app has pushed through the competitive noise to fast become the go-to platform for professionals and enthusiasts alike for cycling, running and general exercise activity. It has gradually reshaped its central theme around offering a social media community that promotes inclusion, support and real life endeavours, deliberately spurning the overly preened and processed style which dominates the likes of Instagram and Pinterest in favour of pushing ‘anti-curation’ and hashtags like #athletesunfiltered.
With 2017 seeing the billionth Strava activity logged, it’s safe to say that the platform is in possession of a colossal data pool ripe for identifying trends, themes and hidden nuggets of insight; all the better if they are categorised and packaged up for its audience in the form of content.
One such article looks into to what extent users mention the weather in their activities, around the times of key climactic events like heatwaves, blizzards and storms.
The piece also highlights a few choice titles for some activities, demonstrating the common experience had by those who ventured outdoors to sweat, shiver or simply suffer at the same point in time. Not only will this show other users that they’re not alone, but encourage them to venture out in future despite conditions not being ideal, in the knowledge that they will be amongst a larger number.
Another blog post charts the prevalence of food in activities, revealing amusing facts like how by Germans are the biggest cake lovers, runners are 25% more likely to complain about being hungry than cyclists, Wednesday is the most popular for bananas and cyclists are the most caffeinated athletes.
This kind of content, which highlights the common experiences of all its users and reminds us of our shared habits and tendencies is a clever use of home-grown data. Aside from being a sure-fire way to underpin the platform’s claim to be an open, honest and accessible platform for people of all abilities, it helps to demonstrate to those not fully bought into using the app that there is a vibrant and enthusiastic community to become a part of, further backed up by its virtual ‘clubs’ and activity groups.
The user-maintained discography database boasts over 10 million entries and is particularly comprehensive across vinyl and electronic music. Since its inception in 2000 it has gone on to build an online marketplace and then spawn a series of sister sites devoted to music equipment, film media, books, comics and posters.
With such a rich well of data to draw upon, the possibilities it has at its fingertips for creating one-off, superlative content is enviable – such as The History of Recorded Music, which displays how genres, formats and global regions have evolved since humans started committing recorded audio to reproduceable media.
Whether it’s being able to see the demise of the CD, the near-relentless growth of electronic music since the mid-70s or how Western Europe has almost always out-released North America, content like this succeeds by lifting the lid on music as a part of our history and culture and reflects underlying data to us in a way which we will likely not have considered before.
Another article maps Discogs’ marketplace platform for 2018 sales against the respected Nielsen music industry report, revealing how buying habits within the Discogs environment frequently buck current trends. It then goes on to compare the top 10 vinyl releases by sales shown in the Nielsen report with the most popular on Discogs, showing that the tried and tested classics are more sought after as second hand copies while the current top 10 contains much more contemporary material.
This information is summarised in the form of the main blog post, but is also available as a much more detailed downloadable document. This format opens up the potential for gated content, either via an email address or, more elaborately, a paid platform; although the latter would require a high degree of quality and consistency to justify its existence.
This insight presents Discogs as not only a detailed, living database of musical information, but in record collecting terms a place for the true aficionados to indulge in their tastes, away from the more transient culture of popular music. As a platform it is capable of revealing large scale trends and patterns through general release submissions, giving it an advantageous position in terms of content creation, as well as the wider music industry.
However, on a more granular level the site can also report on individual instances within its marketplace, such as the highest selling versions of a release or most expensive unique sales month by month (August 2018 saw a 1970 Japanese release of Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma sell for almost $14,000, in case you were wondering.) Small novelties like this embodied in an article can keep people curious and coming back for more, which is a crucial long term factor of successful content strategies.
Good content should always revolve around aligning your output with the wider needs and interests of your audience rather than product promotion. However, material that hinges on internal data and insights not only covers this base, but builds trust by proving the expertise and authority of your organisation and reinforces the reasons why your audience engage with you in the first instance; whether it be mood-based music streaming, cycling in the rain or collecting obscure records.
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