When was the last time you enjoyed reading online content from a bank or a utility company or an insurance provider? The online content conveys a brand, but businesses are often several steps disconnected from their audience. More than half of consumers in our latest study rated businesses' online content as lackluster and promotional. You read it right- more than half of consumers.
Content is considered a mandatory piece that businesses must put up on their website, on social media platforms, or other online channels in an attempt to not get left behind. It feels like nearly all traditional businesses' online content is identical, i.e., focused on "what we do" instead of "what consumers want." On top of it, the old trick—crafting average-quality content, stuffing with keywords, and then building tons of run-of-the-mill backlinks to make content improve its ranking by search engines—is dead. Businesses must stop creating content to make algorithms happy. Instead, they should go back to basics and make humans happy.
Consumers are already overloaded with information online. Would you appreciate a brand bombarding you with unwanted messages (company updates, for instance), blatantly asking for likes, comments, and shares or asking you to solve a riddle in one word? I would surely thumb down that brand online, which is ultimately noticed by an algorithm behind social media platforms and other digital platforms. That means the content won't get shared and you won't convert readers into followers and customers.
So what can businesses do to resonate with customer behavior? They must make their content meet the READ (Relevant, Engaged, Accurate, well-Designed) principle. Today, customers prefer content that is customized for them, easy to consume, and blended with their lifestyle. It means content that is relevant to their needs, accurate and not misleading, informative, filled with videos and images, and is well-designed.
Businesses can leverage employee stories to make their content authentic, convey the stance on issues that matter, and address customer pain points through content. While intelligent algorithms hone in on price, quality, and any other rational attribute, they can't account for emotional connections with brands that align with personal beliefs. The more your content meets the READ principle, the greater it will resonate, and the more likely consumers will engage with it. These metrics are tracked by social media algorithms as dwell time, likes, comments, shares, and click-throughs. Algorithms notice this and direct consumers to brand sites that follow suit. Last year, for instance, Facebook announced it had adjusted its newsfeed algorithm to prioritize content "from friends, family, and groups" rather than "public" content posted by businesses, brands, and the media. While views still have their place in driving brand awareness, it's now shares, comments, and reactions that will help organic content find its place on an algorithm's scorecard.
This isn't a one-off job. Businesses need to continuously monitor how their content is faring, and make content adjustments to improve engagement. Companies can use sentiment analysis and predictive intelligence to understand the topics or experiences resonating with their audience to adapt content that meets people's needs and interests. Videos are equally important in terms of following the READ principle. YouTube, for instance, does not reward videos with the most views. Instead, videos with the highest watch time and engagement (likes, shares, comments) are ranked more highly on the algorithm.
All of this has a clear business benefit. A consumer affinity with your content, for example, leads to an improved quality score, and ultimately an elevated brand. And when consumers find content engaging and valuable, they end up making a purchase. Businesses need to embrace customers as brand ambassadors, not only buying but also influencing others, and content plays a critical role. It's time for companies to overhaul their content development and management strategies. How well does your content convey your brand?