I believe most brands are missing a huge opportunity to connect with their audience in a strategic way by finding their authentic voice. As it turns out, most customers seem to think the same thing. Stackla recently reported that 57% of consumers think that less than half of brands create authentic content. That's amazing and it represents a huge opportunity.
How can you tell if your customers are finding you false? Well, the same Stackla report says that 20% of consumers have unfollowed a brand on social media because they thought the brand was not authentic. That's a great metric! Unfollows have not always had a useful strategic context. As it turns out, unfollows might be a good indicator of general consumer trust. If you find your unfollows are unexpectedly going up (in general, not in response to a specific post), you might want to check your messaging strategy and make some adjustments.
How to create authentic content?
"Authentic" is not where most marketing starts. But it should be.
Start by deciding what your unique perspective(s) is/are. This can be related to what your competitive differentiators are. Even if you are creating a commodity product, there must be something about the way your company does things that is different than the competition. Say for instance, that you manufacture tires. Is there an authentic desire to create a product that keeps people safe? Is there an authentic concern that other brands are missing something important? Why do you make the tires that you do?
Authentic begins with an honest WHY.
Once you know why, you can apply that lens to almost any topic. This becomes your unique perspective that your audience needs to hear. Not only is it authentic, but it is also separates you from the pack. This will not only inspire new customers, it can inspire loyalty in current customers.
How do authenticity and SEO come together?
Authenticity and SEO can come together as core components of any content strategy. Let's look at what each brings to the table.
• Authenticity brings the unique perspective of the brand.
• SEO, via keyword exploration, brings the mindset of the audience.
Finding ways to blend these two makes your content much stronger. It ensures you are speaking truth in a language your audience will resonate with. Use keywords as a lens to understand your own perspective from a slightly different angle. Use your perspective as a lens to view the topics people are looking for. Instead of talking about "all weather traction systems" just talk about "snow tires" and why they matter. Although your brand manager might like the fancier name better, your audience will resonate more quickly with the simpler language. Your unique perspective will make the content worth reading. These steps are great for getting your foundation content in place and creating the basics of a strategic content plan.
Let's take it one step further.
Keyword search trends can be interesting and are particularly helpful to understand seasonality. But micro trends and viral content usually don't show up in keyword research. This additional layer helps incorporate what kinds of things are popular right now for your audience. Viewing these social fads and keyword trends through the lens of your brand's unique perspective can help you create timely, topically relevant, authentic content.
Does this approach work?
Yes it does, in several ways.
The results are proving themselves. With clients who have adopted this methodology, we're seeing targeted page views up more than 40% from organic search. Also, onsite engagement with this content is improving with the average time on page increasing by about a minute. All of this is from increased exposure for authentic content that is designed to be inspiring.
A bonus of this way of integrating different tactics and KPIs is that it also supports a cohesive communications and measurement strategy. Many marketing teams simply don't know how to put together a purposeful, authentic content strategy. Marrying an authentic voice with strong research is a great methodology for developing those core content strategies. It also improves the skills of your marketing team in the process.
Another thing I find is that many organizations don’t have a reliable way to measure the success of their content programs. Leaning on well-established tactics--like SEO and social development--allows us to pull on their KPIs. No need to invent new KPIs or new measurement models (which would not be recommended anyway. Read my post on Measuring Value).
One of the most important outcomes is that teams who create authentic content in this way feel really good about what they are doing. No more feeling adrift in content planning meetings. Now they have clear direction and the results are measurable. That makes for authentically happy marketers.