What’s On

When content meets data, real conversations begin

The mobile device is central to our lives today. We communicate, connect, share and transact on the most important aspects of our daily lives – right there, on the device we carry around in our pockets and handbags. Be it to check the weather or the news, buy the dress available on an online sale, take a photo of a moment we want to remember, or express our discontent with a development – we access our online worlds and selves via the mobile internet.

In doing so, we generate our digital footprint, cutting across several activities we engage in throughout the day. From email to online shopping, text messages to tweets, photo sharing to following celebrities, collaborating on work or engaging with communities around the world – we end up generating tons of data every single day. According to industry estimates, every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, and this is an accelerating rate as 90 per cent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

It is not surprising that data analytics has emerged as the biggest enabler in understanding the user, and Big Data is mentioned as frequently in enterprise IT conversations as in marketer’s tete-a-tete. The focus however, has evolved from the data that is generated to how it is classified and analysed. Only through the latter, do we get information and insights that are useful to brands. To know who their consumers are, who might turn into advocates, what they like, when they’d like to be engaged with and what.

Data is incredibly important for brands today, as the competition for the user’s attention and engagement has moved from the real-world marketplace to the mobile marketplace. Brands need to find users as they move about their day, and have conversations that they, the users, will value. Content marketing, as brands turn publishers, has never been as important before. What we also find with new ways of non-intrusive advertising is that brands are increasingly conscious of choosing the right contexts to have engaging conversations with their target audience.

The extensive data set from our online life creates the most comprehensive user profiles and the clearest signals of interest and intent that can be used to benefit both the users and the brands. In fact mobile analytics are now being built into almost every app. To give you an example, Flurry analytics sees behaviour across apps, it also sees ‘when’ a particular action was performed, making it possible to pinpoint and reach the right mobile app consumers (based on their shared interest) with a relevant message, at scale. Across the globe, Flurry draws in data from the app usage on two billion devices, across 720,000 apps. Therefore it is able to create a robust picture of a consumer’s interest patterns based on the apps they use because it is able to see an average of seven apps per device on over 90 percent of the world’s devices.

When brands successfully weave in content marketing with data insights, it is indeed a win-win for them and audiences.

A quick look at how data powers content marketing for brands:
#1. Being relevant, by cutting through the clutter
a. Surfing through tons of content to reach the one article of value, is a frustrating experience for the consumer. As brands turn publishers, their content strategy needs to be powered by relevance and consent – both of which can be determined by data insights.
b. Its not enough to have a generic idea of what interests their target audience, they need to have more nuanced understanding of actual tastes and interests – based on what is read and the feedback that is generated.
c. One of the fastest growing advertising formats today is Native Advertising, which takes into account the importance of context – and makes ads hyper relevant to the user, in the most non-intrusive way possible. We have seen over 300 brands come on board with Yahoo Native ads since this format was launched just over a year ago.

#2. Responding fast, by focusing on two-way easy communication
a. Social media has given a voice to consumers such that any dissatisfaction with a product or a service or an endorsement gets immediate negative feedback. Brands need to have analytics and tracking tools surface these instances as soon as possible, and with as much coherence, so that they can shape their responses better.
b. At the same time, observing trends and narratives can also throw up opportunities of engaging with audiences. Brands are under pressure to engage in real time, as things develop. The best way to do this (and perhaps the smartest) is to bring in data analytics to power conversation and marketing decisions.

#3. Being sensitive to local issues
a. With leaner teams and centralized ways of messaging, sometimes, social media campaigns can lose sight of local issues. For eg, a message of condolence in a certain market, which say has been subject to a terror attack, cannot be followed by promotional content. Brands need to bring in data which helps them track and engage with local issues as players with more skin in the game, than only sellers of goods and services.
b. The global themes and local nuances are of fundamental importance to brands’ content strategies.

#4. Personalisation: Keeping the focus on ‘What’s in it for me?’
a. With advertising and content moving onto mobile screens, the user’s attention cannot be taken for granted. The mobile screen is no bill board for a brand’s message. It is an intimate interaction for the user, which needs to be personalized – in tone, content, format and most importantly answer WIIFM (What’s in it for me?).
b. In a recent survey, 78 per cent of consumers told Yahoo they want some degree of personalisation, with 62 per cent preferring a mix of algorithmic and curated content. These insights power the Yahoo Homepage and Digital magazines content – making sure that editorial insights are indeed combined with data-led analytics to bring together the best of the web ‘ordered for you’
c. Personalising also takes into account geo-location, leveraging on opportunities of where the user is and how a brand’s message or product could help them. Consider a service such as FourSquare, it operates completely on these data insights.

Content by nature is effective when it is customised to the consumer, context and screen. At the end of the day, content marketing is all about contextual relevance. The consumer is likely to want content which tells them how a brand can specifically help them. For example, a ‘new mother’ will benefit from content about baby products, health and lifestyle she finds ‘serendipitously’ as she navigates through her digital life.

This year, content marketers will focus, not only on how to reach people, but also on how to resonate with them.How to get smart insights to work, and shift from creating ‘more’ content to serving the ‘right’ content to users? How to engage in more meaningful and deliberate dialogue – across devices and formats? The promise of using big data to make content marketing effective is hyper-personalisation at work, making sure that content is valuable to both- brands and users. This will make interactions more engaging, and messaging will move from ‘pushing content’ to having ‘real conversations’.

Rico Chan

Rico Chan is the Managing Director at Verizon Media Hong Kong, Japan and INSEA.