Content is the New Black: What Netflix Can Teach Content Marketers


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With the second season of “Orange Is the New Black” having been released this past weekend, I got to thinking about the three things that content marketers can learn from the show.

For starters, original and exclusive content is the way to go. Second, great content keeps customers on your site longer, creates social buzz and drives sales. And third, great content can revitalize a brand.

Let’s break these three points down a bit. While what constitutes original content can be subjective, all good content will evoke a response. It inspires, initiates dialog or otherwise stirs an emotion. It also offers readers a fresh perspective or gives them information they don’t already know. If your bounce rates are high and sharing numbers are low, consider that your content has been sentenced to solitary confinement.

When it comes to creating content that keeps customers on your site longer, don’t wait for the trending analysis or sharing reports to find out what your audience likes. Instead, use what you already know about your target audience to serve content that’s tailored to their interests. If you leave it up to your audience to hunt for good content, they’ll find it elsewhere.

How can good content revitalize a brand? Think back to the challenges Netflix faced just a few years ago. Subscriptions were waning and the stock price wavered. Today, its investments in original, exclusive, binge-worthy content has paid off. In the first quarter of 2014, Netflix added 2.3 million subscribers in the United States and 1.8 million in international markets and the likes of Yahoo! and Amazon are paying attention as they play catch up with their own original series.

What “Orange Is the New Black” did for Netflix; content marketers in both B-to-B and B-to-C companies can do for their brands. Here’s three ways to make it happen.

1. Assign journalists to create content. You don’t have to be Yahoo! to bring seasoned journalists on staff and new platforms like Contently can make the process easier. Companies like LearnVest and Constant Contact, for example, have dedicated editorial teams that are separate from marketing. When you read the content on their sites, you’ll notice a consistent tone and a focus on educating their audiences. You won’t find any overt sells or great content locked behind bars such as firewalls or popups. Consumers are more likely to buy from and remain loyal to those companies that educated them though the sales process as opposed to relying on discounts, promotions or other overt tactics.

2. Build an audience, not a customer list. If you’re thinking about your content as a lead generation tool and not a way to build a presence and following, you may be missing opportunities to grow your brand and actually sell more. Remember that not everybody who buys, buys today, not everybody who consumes content shares it, and not everybody who consumes content shares it, and not everybody who shares content buys. Instead of focusing on capturing leads, create memorable content that customers will draw on when they or their friends are ready to make a purchase.

3. Make it easy and worthwhile to share. It’s simple to put sharing and follow buttons or a welcome bar on a website but their mere presence doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean consumers will click on these tools. You need to both create good content that speaks to your audience and promote it. Otherwise, you’ re just doing time.

In terms of sharing, the content that’s most often reposted or forwarded tends to fall into three buckets. It either makes people laugh, cry or look smart. So if your content sounds like a late night infomercial, or starts with a cliché such as “Merriam Webster defines XYZ trending topic as”, or in any way feels like you’ve read it before, you have. Therefore, it’s time to reconsider your copy.

When it comes to creating good content, you’re not trying to break into jail. However, if you lead with your company’s interests over your customers’ needs, you will put your company in exile and throw away the key.

Scott Allan
Scott Allan is chief marketing officer at AddThis, where he is responsible for public relations and marketing at AddThis. Prior to joining the AddThis team, Scott was senior vice president of Global Marketing at Rakuten LinkShare. Scott has also held marketing management positions at Quark, EMC and IBM Lotus.


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