Why Your Content Should Not Wind Down Over The Holidays
December 17, 2018
Reasons to be 'Always On'
- If your competitors are active, they steal your market-share
- Your audience is always on and they expect you to be too
- It's a better fit for most B2B buyer journeys than a campaign
- It's often cheaper and nets better quality leads long term
The upcoming December break is often considered to be a period in marketing where we slow our content creation and distribution.
We assume that because we are winding down our year, that our content should too. Practically, it makes sense. Business priorities are shifting, your team is booking their leave and the popular holiday and New Year's parties are taking center stage - once the festive season begins, it's hard to stay focused.
Over this period, some brands tell themselves that their customers have already checked-out or are too busy with non-work related projects to actively consume content marketing collateral.
But is that really true?
Perhaps not. Some research on our platform here at LinkedIn over the years suggests a slightly different story.
Members continue to avidly consume more content in their downtime
Our research shows that a larger percentage of the members on LinkedIn actually do their research in the evenings, than during working hours; and over 50% of members say they are researching on LinkedIn on weekends.
In this-day-and-age it's hard to separate our working lives from our personal, even in our down time. One practical reason for this is we all have easy and instant access to such information because our mobile phones are always within arm's reach. Many of us have built up the daily habit of checking our phones for news and updates in our working lives and our behaviour rarely changes when we are on holidays. For example, a bullish CXO or ambitious owner of an SMB is likely still reading the Financial Review or Wall Street Journal over breakfast or check LinkedIn for updates while not in the office.
Another reason is based in competition. The today's rat race never truly stops and those who sit in the breakdown lane for too long likely fall behind in business. We all know of a hardworking owner of a start-up or small business who never really takes a break. They are always looking for content to give them the edge, whether it is during business hours or during the holiday season.
It may be an uncomfortable realization, but today's driven professionals continue to live their professional roles outside of working hours and we see this reflected in our member usage on LinkedIn.
A case in point, in a study from 2016, we saw that the December engagement rate on our platform was nearly 1/3 higher than the annual average in the Education vertical - making it one of our highest engaged months of the year.
Now, I am the first to say that some of these results are subjective to specific regions or verticals or time they were executed for and may not reflect everybody's actions over the festive season. However, it does throw some shade over the perceived notion that professional audiences don't engage with content during holiday periods.
Instead, the truth is likely more opaque.
Audiences do engage with content, but often in a more inquisitive way in their downtime. Their intent to purchase may have slowed but their intent to research, using news, trends and information increases. The rub here is that many marketers are missing a huge opportunity by winding down their marketing over the holiday break.
The Case For 'Always On'
In content marketing circles, we often talk about the importance of cadence or an 'always on' approach to marketing. The idea suggests a departure from a 'campaign-based' mentality of a traditional publisher, whose monthly or quarterly print magazine appears after long periods of nothing (aka campaign approach); and embracing a steady stream of value digital content every day regardless of season. There are a couple of very good reasons for doing this.
1. 'Always on' protects your share of voice
Simply put, when you stop publishing, you create a white-space, which is usually filled by your competitor.
The biggest white-space opportunity tends to be seasonally over the holiday period when most brands slow or stop their content distribution. It's the most wonderful time of the year for a competitor aiming to supplant your messaging. Brands who are on hiatus while their competitors are still publishing will find it much harder (and often more expensive) to claw back market share in the new year.
On the flipside, if you continue to publish over the holiday and your competitors stop, you will be owning a significantly larger share of the pie when it comes to topic ownership, making it harder for them to compete.
Here's a real world example. The graph below shows that shutting your content off for one quarter can undo most of the hard work you put in over the previous three quarters. Slowing or stopping your marketing cadence in Q4 is literally the same as taking three steps forward; one giant leap backwards.
2. The audience expects 'Always on' content
Like a newspaper or a radio show or the nightly news, audiences expect content to be there rain, hail or shine. The phrase 'Stop the presses!' implies a catastrophic event must occur for the cadence of content to halt. Brand marketers don't have this mindset but need to adopt it.
Moreover, halting your content impacts on your audience's experience with your brand. Think about why you subscribe to content on platforms like YouTube. You subscribe because you like that creators' content and you have the expectation to see more of it in the future.
Now, how would your experience be if that creator suddenly stopped creating content after eight weeks because they were in a 'campaign' mindset. Or worse still, started a new campaign that served you totally irrelevant content. Not a great experience, right? Yet, marketers do this all the time with their earned audiences.
Why go to all that effort to attract an audience to just leave them hanging at the end of a campaign? Your goal may be chasing leads, but your audience's goal is chasing relevant and consistent content; and your campaign-based marketing is generating genuinely poor experiences. The aim should be to consistently continue to deliver on what your audience expects - quality content with cadence. This assists with building brand awareness and trust.
"You increase your ability to connect and convert by being always available and always-on." - Matt Heinz, President of Marketing at Heinz
3. 'Always on' builds trust
One of the key motives to create content (and indeed to do marketing at all), is to secure your brand in the top three consideration set in the mind of a potential customer - some marketers call this goal 'demand generation'; others call it 'lead generation'.
In B2B specifically, the decision-making process of a potential lead is usually a lot longer than most marketing campaigns. The decisions to adopt Blockchain; or a SaaS product; or to buy a luxury vehicle or to apply for an MBA are not made overnight, nor are they generated by a single piece of content. They often take months, sometimes years to materialize. So, if a potential customer sees your campaign but is not ready to convert until eight months later, they will likely forget about you.
You are more likely to be considered if you have been with that customer on that whole eight-month decision-making process with an 'always-on' program. This requires an understanding of your customer's buying journey and creating content to be relevant at every point. If your 'always on' content has been consistently helpful, you would have built trust and warmed them up to consider your brand. This is why the metric of 'subscribers' is one of the most important in content marketing.
Attracting and nurturing audiences with content marketing keeps them warm until they are ready to make a purchase; not when you want them too. 'Always on' content is one of the best techniques to keep 'leads' warmer for longer.
"You can accelerate (the buyer's) journey if you use always-on marketing in the right way. You improve their journey and retain them longer." - Meagen Eisenberg, CMO at MongoDB
4. 'Always on' can be cheaper long term
Using 'always on' to keep leads warm makes it cheaper to attract new audiences over time. That's because your subscribers will compound and themselves advocate your content and share it to their networks. This is 'earned traffic'. It literally costs you nothing; but only occurs when audiences trust you. The more consistent your content, the cheaper your distribution becomes.
The below image shows this in action. The green graph shows two 'campaigns' run on LinkedIn over a four-week period in January. The client spent $6K in the first burst, and $4K in the second burst, netting CTRs below 0.01%. In February, the client shifted from 'campaign' to 'always on'; meaning smaller, but more consistent, spends of $500 a day. The engagement was not only more consistent but delivered a 6X return on CTR, meaning a better ROI for the same spend.
"My cost per impression, my cost per lead may go up, but I really don’t care about cost per lead. I care about my pipeline contribution, I care about closed deals." - Matt Heinz, President of Marketing at Heinz
Tips for 'Always on' content for the December break
Shifting the purpose of your content from demand generation to higher funnel, informational content is an important change you need to making over the festive season. Consider publishing content that helps your audience kick start their New Year and helps them maintain knowledge of their current market over the break.
Re-purpose your greatest hits
If investment in content is difficult at this time, it’s a good period to re-purpose your greatest hits. Do some analysis and re-post content pieces that best performed in 2018. What's great about this is you don't have to invest any addition time or cost in creating new content, but you can rely on what you already know performs.
Most of us do two things at the beginning of a new year. We reflect on the year past; and we look to make changes and improve in the coming year. It is no different in business. Business leaders desire advice and direction for the coming year and will often engage with content in December and January that helps light the way for them.
Create a 2019 predictions post is a smart piece of thought leadership that helps your target audience become better in their roles professionally and more productive in business.
The "testing holiday"
With the mindset of the audience in a different space over this period, you could use this time to test and experiment with the brand's content. How can you play with the brand’s voice, distribution and content assets? Test to see what is resonating and use those leanings to build better content in 2019.
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