Successful brand-owned publications like American Express OPEN Forum and Adobe’s CMO.com have a few key things in common. They’re powerhouses for building authority, they have the talent and technology in place to create engaging content consistently and they also have processes to measure how branded content impacts the bottom line.
Branded publications like these are an inspiration to content marketers, and marketing guru Joe Pulizzi says we can expect more brands to create full-fledged content hubs in 2017. If you’re thinking about building one of these branded hubs, or destinations where people can find all kinds of topical content related to your brand or industry, you’ll need to cover all of your strategic bases before diving in. Here are six questions to ask yourself as you prepare to launch a content hub.
1. What’s the purpose of your content hub and how does it support your content marketing strategy?
Building and maintaining a content destination is an ongoing commitment that requires buy-in, investment and creative willpower. But in order to get those key building blocks in place, you must first have a defined purpose for the hub and a clear vision for how it will support key business priorities. Start by developing a strong strategy statement that encompasses:
- Why you’re creating the hub and developing a new content strategy to fuel it
- Which marketing priorities and bottom-line objectives the content hub will support
- How the hub and its content will help you meet those higher-level objectives
By thinking about these strategic areas up front, you’ll be able to get internal support for your hub and refer back to your strategy statement regularly to ensure future decision-making aligns with the mission you’ve set forth.
2. How will you measure the success of your hub?
While measuring ROI continues to be a challenge for content marketers, it’s still critical to define your success metrics early on so you can develop an editorial plan and technology stack that support those metrics.
There are many ways to measure content marketing effectiveness, but one metric that stands out for content hubs in particular is repeat engagement. Today’s top brand publishers track repeat engagement to measure how effective their content is at engaging audiences beyond an initial visit. Having the right content marketing technology in place, first and foremost, will ensure you have the capabilities to drive and measure metrics like repeat engagement and more.
3. How will you brand your hub?
Think about how recognizable you want your brand to be when someone visits your hub. For example, the Whole Foods Market brand is front and center when you visit its hub Whole Story. This may be because the brand and its products are often highly integrated into the content, which mainly consists of recipes and nutrition-related stories. They clearly state Whole Story is “The Official Whole Foods Market Blog” and gave the hub a Whole Foods Market branded URL.
Adobe has taken a different approach with CMO.com by using the hub to build an editorial brand. The hub’s branding aligns with Adobe’s look and feel, but the content and site infrastructure are more reminiscent of an online publication with a newsy editorial strategy and layout.
Consider how distinct you want your hub to be from your brand in terms of look, feel and editorial. Make sure the strategy for naming and building your hub aligns with the mission you’ve defined, as the level of branding will have an impact on how your audience engages with the hub and its content.
4. What resources do you need to properly build and support the hub?
No content marketing initiative, let alone a full-fledged brand publication, can succeed without these crucial resources in place to support the editorial scale of a content hub:
- Editorial: Prep important planning tools like an editorial calendar and understand your content creation workflows, including timelines for editing and stakeholder reviews.
- Production: Figure out who will manage the editorial process you’ve defined above, and how you will produce the content that supports the editorial strategy and mission. You may consider enlisting the help of a marketing agency or content creation network.
- Technology: Think about where your hub will be hosted and how the platform will fit into your existing marketing technology stack. Additionally, consider if you will manage the platform internally or need to partner with your vendor to do so.
- Measurement: Once you’ve defined how you’ll measure the success of your hub, you’ll want to ensure you have the appropriate technology to deliver those metrics. You’ll also need support from the right people who can help you dissect and articulate the data so you can determine how successful your hub is at meeting your goals.
5. What’s your content distribution plan?
As content marketer Steven Macdonald writes, “You have to remember that content marketing is part content, part MARKETING. And, unfortunately, content cannot promote itself.”
Developing great content is only the first step. For your content hub to be successful, you need an informed distribution strategy. In 2016, 76% of B2C content marketers used paid advertising to promote content and a vast majority used social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn for content distribution. Since organic reach on social platforms has sharply declined in recent years, you need social advertising dollars to get your content seen.
At the same time, successful content distribution today is more about pages per person than people per page. Repeat engagement is key, and the way to drive it is through thoughtful content sequencing and retargeting. One study found 88% of marketers are currently using retargeting as part of their marketing mix, with display ads and search ads being the most-used retargeting tactics.
6. What technology do you need to ensure the success of a new content hub?
This is the time to take a look at your marketing technology stack holistically and determine whether it’s up to the task of sustaining and nurturing a new content hub. Some line items to consider include your:
- CMS, which needs to be robust enough to support your new branded publication
- CRM, which will house some of the data you need for content personalization efforts
- Marketing automation platform to power your personalization and distribution efforts
- Content engagement platform to help automate content sequencing and deliver a personalized experience for visitors that extends across digital channels
Want to see how a content engagement platform can help you build a thriving content hub? Get a demo of how OneSpot’s platform personalizes content marketing across digital channels to deliver the most relevant customer experience.
Marissa leads marketing at OneSpot.