When to use these 6 content formats
Choosing the Right Medium for Your Content Marketing Ideas: Tips and Best Practices
By Rose de Fremery on August 24, 2020
Have you been thinking about testing the waters with a new content medium? Some concepts work best as blogs, whereas others shine as videos. So how do you decide what format is best for your new idea? To land on the perfect medium, you’ll need to consider your audience’s needs and preferences, your budget, and your time frame. Additionally, you’ll need to contemplate how this new asset will fit into your overall content marketing strategy.
Whether you’re looking to create podcasts, videos, infographics, webinars, whitepapers, or another type of enhanced asset, use these tips and best practices to figure out when to start the creation process and how to maximize your chances of success with each effort.
First, Identify Your Content’s Purpose
Creating content just for the sake of creating content rarely leads to big wins. So before you dive into a new medium, determine the content’s purpose and goals. Ask yourself:
How will this asset serve our audience? For example, a B2B tech audience might find a well-crafted and highly technical asset, such as a white paper or eBook, valuable if they believe it’ll help them be more effective at their jobs. A healthcare audience might appreciate an infographic or article that demystifies complex subject matters so they can better understand them.
What action do you want the user to take? Do you want them to consume the content and engage with your brand? Do you want them to fill out a lead gen form or take advantage of an offer? Knowing what action you’d like your audience to take can help you create more purposeful assets. Also, take a look at what your competitors are doing in this space so you can better differentiate yourself from them.
When you’re nailing down your asset’s why, it’s also worthwhile to consult an expert content partner. Content marketing company Skyword, for example, can offer you insights about what content types tend to work best in specific situations while providing guidance on how to maximize the value of any assets you create.
“We make sure that if our customers come to us saying they want to try a certain content type, we do due diligence to ensure that it’s the right medium for their idea,” explains Mandi Tompkins, vice president of professional services at Skyword. “Our biggest goal is to ensure we understand our clients, that we’re helping them reach their audience and choose content types that’ll be the most effective in doing that.”
Then, Hammer Out the Operational Details
Knowing the why of a new asset is crucial, but it’s only the first step. Next, you need to determine whether you can and should execute the project. This requires weighing some practical and logistical decision-making factors, including your:
Overall content strategy: “You need to ensure that this new medium fits in with your overall marketing strategy,” Tompkins begins. “You’re not necessarily just publishing to a blog, your strategy may also include paid social, email distribution, and sales enablement, among a number of different types of marketing initiatives. You need to ensure that you’re coordinating with your marketing teams and fulfilling the content needs in accordance with all of your campaigns and specific channel requirements.”
For example, a paid social campaign might benefit from having micrographics or social assets that support an article tied to a product launch. Mapping out these related asset needs beforehand allows you to create pieces that mesh well together and maximize one another’s value.
Total budget: If you only have $100,000 for the year, you won’t want to spend it all on a couple of videos. Instead, take a holistic look at your budget before allocating resources for a new content medium. It’s best to keep everything in balance so you still have some budget available if additional content needs arise.
Time frame: How timely is this asset, and how quickly does it need to be turned around? If you’re looking to create something right away, live action might not be the ideal choice since it typically requires more time to properly execute. An article or infographic, by contrast, might be the better option because they’re easier to create when time is tight.
Six Kinds of Content and When to Use Them
Content strategy is as much an art as it is a science, and sometimes you have to try something new to elevate your program. However, the only risks worth taking are those that are calculated and carefully considered. As such, it’s crucial to know which assets work best in which situations. Here are some basic guidelines on when to use six popular content types to get the best results.
1. Articles and Blog Posts
Articles and blog posts are great for building brand awareness because they can be optimized for search. If you want to reach users who’ve never considered your brand, an article or blog post that uses Google’s favorite things—long-tail keywords, conversational language, helpful lists, and high-quality information—can be an effective way to do just that.
2. White Papers, eBooks, and Webinars
If your goal is lead generation, then white papers, eBooks, and webinars are all well worth considering. “These assets are often aligned to lead generation because you can gate them or have somebody sign up for them,” explains Tompkins. “The critical component to these, though, is that there really needs to be enough value within those assets to warrant a download. So if you’re doing a webinar, it needs to cover a really engaging topic that’s super top of mind and relevant so that somebody is willing to share their information as they sign up for it.”
Exclusivity will also increase the desirability of white papers, eBooks, and webinars. If they share information that isn’t readily available anywhere else, they’re likely to bring in more lead gen conversions.
If you’re trying to simplify complex data so that your audience can easily consume it and engage with it, consider creating an infographic. You can also call on this medium to support your larger assets. Say your brand recently conducted a major survey and is trying to find an effective way to deliver these insights. You can take nuggets of this data and visualize them in an infographic that’s attractive, engaging, and easy to understand.
A lot of brands are investing in podcasts right now—and with good reason. Podcasts are an ideal content type for engaging people who are constantly on the go and multitasking. While powering through a busy workday, users can listen to a podcast to increase their understanding of the major trends impacting their industry. Or, they might tune in to one to simply unwind at the end of a long day. That’s the thing about podcasts: When they’re done well, they can take pretty much any format and still drive audience engagement.
As with infographics, videos can be used to quickly and easily explain a complex idea or concept. Video is also an effective medium for increasing brand awareness and boosting audience engagement. “These days, there’s a lot more opportunity to search-optimize video than there was in the past, so I think they’ve become a more powerful tool,” Tompkins says.
“For brands such as Samsung, they’re also more in the conversion realm, where you’re doing video case studies or videos about a specific product. Being able to show and not tell how one of your customers has used a product or service can be super powerful. These kinds of videos aren’t as common, but they’re also very effective,” she adds.
Some brands also use video to improve the customer experience, such as by delivering tutorials so users can get the most out of a particular product or service.
6. Interactive Quizzes and Assessments
If engagement is your goal, interactive quizzes and assessments can be a great way to go. “Samsung uses a lot of assessments, quizzes, and things like that to align potential customers toward a solution,” Tompkins says. A quiz or assessment might help a user determine which product or service to buy; it might also help them determine which steps to take when solving a problem.
Depending on your brand and the topic you’re covering, interactive quizzes and assessments can also be lead generation tools. You could even use them as qualifying tools since the customer might be giving you answers about their specific need, which enables you to match them with your suitable solution.
Why It’s a Good Thing to Experiment with Content Mediums
You have a lot of flexibility and creative choice when determining which content types to experiment with and when. The most important thing is that you’re willing to take the leap. “We try to encourage our customers to try new content types, try new ideas, get them out there and see how they perform,” Tompkins explains. “Without trying them, you just don’t know if they’re going to work. You just don’t know until it’s actually out there in front of your audience, they’re consuming it, and you can actually get their reaction.”
So how does Skyword get a sense of which content mediums are working for brands and which aren’t? They look to data. “One of our most important tools in content marketing is assessing the data that we have about the results of a program. From there, we can adapt and evolve our strategy based on what is and isn’t resonating with our audience. Without putting different things out into the world, we won’t have that data to work with.”
Switching up your content strategy is a risk worth taking, so long as you employ a smart approach. Consider these insights and best practices as you eye new mediums and you’ll ultimately zero in on the right ones for your goals, whether that’s driving engagement or generating leads. And remember, variety is the spice of life: “Our most successful customers are definitely those who are willing to do more and try things, and those who are really flexible and willing to pivot if one thing isn’t working for them,” Tompkins emphasizes.
Rose de Fremery
Rose de Fremery is a writer living at the intersection of digital culture and creativity. Originally a technologist by trade, she’s captivated by technology innovation and the promise it offers to spark our unique human capacity for creativity and imagination. Prior to becoming a freelance writer, Rose was the IT Director for an international human rights organization. She also served as Managing Editor for The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. A native of Western Massachusetts, Rose works and lives in Astoria, Queens. Learn more about her at www.rosedefremery.com.