Branded Content: Becoming an Online Destination

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As print newspapers and magazines struggle to find readers, online content has soared in popularity. With that shift has come a revolution in where great content is found. No longer confined to print information, writers are looking for new markets for their best work. They’re increasingly finding those markets with branded content – business blogs and articles.

Branded content isn’t just a series of ads or a framework for links in the form of a blog; it’s a transformation of the company’s blog into a destination site, a place to learn about the latest trends or be part of a lifestyle that may only relate tangentially to the host company’s site. Visitors read and share what they find there not because they’re promoting a business but because the content is worth sharing on its own merits.

Sponsored content was once the norm. Ask anyone who remembers when television shows were “brought to you by Chesterfield” or recalls how soap operas got their name (it certainly wasn’t because the characters led squeaky-clean lives). Subtler forms of branding are still popular in movies; “E.T.” sold megatons of Reese’s Pieces, for instance, and reality shows are famous for showing contestants crawling through mud to earn a case of a soft drink company’s carbonated nectar.

Branded business content online is the next logical step, and unlike conspicuous product placement on reality shows, any business can participate. All it takes to become a destination site is to provide real value to your readers. Whether you want to become an authoritative voice in your industry or give customers style tips they can use, keep these things in mind when building branded content.

Content isn’t an ad. While having room for links and embedded advertising makes sense, your content should aim for a proportion of no more than 20 percent advertising and 80 percent useful related articles, blog posts, and videos. Some companies have found great success with an even smaller proportion of direct advertising; The Adrenalist, a popular active-lifestyle blog, features only a small “Powered by Degree” message at the top as the only nod to sponsorship. If you offer readers valuable information, they’ll share it and your company’s name without your having to push.

Don’t be afraid to develop a strong voice. Too often, companies stick to safe strategies in their content, retreating to arid business language. Corporate blogs that stick to brand cheerleading in bland language don’t become destination sites. Would you head to an office building’s lobby for excitement? No, and neither do readers. A law firm’s blog shouldn’t look the same as that for a fashion-forward clothing chain, but both should have something valuable to offer and say it in a memorable way. Find your company’s voice and build a content team that can maintain it.

Branded content isn’t just for consumer goods. Companies in more traditional, conservative industries such as banking, law, and accounting sometimes shy away from branded blogs and social media, viewing them as unnecessarily commercial, but these platforms have become vital channels to communicate with clients. Honest, well-researched articles and blog posts are an asset to any business. Don’t assume that your firm doesn’t need a blog or a content marketing strategy because you’re selling tax preparation services and not soft drinks.

Good content is worth the money. Branded blogs and articles contain real information with your label on it, not thin, spun content culled from revenue-share mills. Even at print magazine prices, your content still has a far greater reach and is therefore more economical. Trust your company’s online presence to professional writers and researchers by buying custom service.

© Business Content, Inc. 2013 All Rights Reserved.

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