Southwest Airlines is running way ahead of schedule when it comes to innovative use of content marketing. While experts in the field of marketing are just now consulting their crystal balls for future trends, the smart airline has already been capitalizing on the top three: storytelling, expanded content marketing budgets and video.
Prediction 1: Companies Will Put More Stock in Stories
When Southwest Airlines announced it would begin flying to Cuba last year, one employee thought her father’s story might be of interest. In 1947, Emilio Salazar came to the United States from Havana, Cuba, to get a pilot’s license at Purdue University. In the 1950s, he married an American woman and brought his wife and young family back to his beloved homeland. By 1960, as history tells, they had to flee or lose their freedom.
In 1967, Emilio joined the newly-formed Southwest Airlines and piloted one of their very first flights. A successful career ensued and the charismatic Salazar grew to be loved by crew and passengers. Until the day he died, he longed to return to his birthplace.
When this story came to the attention of Southwest’s marketing department, they saw an opportunity to generate some valuable social media content.
Not too long ago, this story would have been rolled out in a long press release and landed on a reporter’s desk where it may have remained untold. But times have changed. Companies are now in control of their own communications and, in many cases, they can determine what get’s written and published regarding their company.
When you consider buying quality content articles for your site, remember people want variety, visuals and velocity. They want the raw story, not reconstituted spin, and they want it delivered in an absorbing, rapid-fire format through visuals, music and video.
Employee-generated content is proven to be trusted more than what is shown on network television or in the press. So tap your executives, customers and employees for ideas. Some story starters:
A professional article writing service can help produce these compelling stories from information you gather by holding brainstorming sessions. When your social media strategy integrates stories told from every viewpoint, you achieve the authentic voice users will come to trust.
Prediction 2: Content Marketing Will Dominate Budget Allocations
Southwest knew they had a good story in Emilio Salazar and they were poised to pounce on it budget-wise. The minute the marketing team green-lighted the project, it was off to the classic car races in Cuba. The airline made arrangements to host the three children of Emilio Salazar aboard its first flight into newly-opened Havana, Cuba, and hired a team of writers, videographers and editors to document the experience.
Making money available for content generation will be essential going forward into 2017 if a company wants to stay competitive in the ever-moving marketplace. Social media analytics now prove that digital content is more cost-effective than traditional print ads and commercials, and companies will need to allocate their budgets accordingly.
Younger digital users, in particular, are getting much more of their content from the Internet, causing many of them to toy with the idea of cancelling their cable television subscription. As their spending power grows, their viewing habits will begin to influence where marketers make their ad buys. It’s time to acknowledge that outrageously costly primetime TV commercials don’t pull as much as integrated ads played right before YouTube videos. And although we can’t wait to push the Skip Ad button in many cases, these ads are seen by millions every minute.
Prediction 3: Video Demand Will Be the Trend to Watch
Continuing with our Cuba trip…a tour guide was enlisted to take the Salazars to all the sights including their father’s childhood home and the place they lived with their mother. A videographer was attached to the party to document the family’s nostalgic return, following the group around Havana all day against a backdrop of lively Cuban scenes.
The cameraman caught the excitement on the flight going over. He recorded the daughter, herself a Southwest career person, remembering the yard they played in. He shot the trio looking out over the water where they gathered the day they left for good. He caught the tears of joy and the words of appreciation expressed by the children.
The payoff for this investment of time, personnel and budget was almost 80 thousand views on Southwest’s Facebook page and 51 comments remembering and praising Emilio Salazar as a gentleman, friend, great pilot and legacy. You just can’t put a price on that quality of favorable publicity and company image.
Let’s face it, the world is watching. Facebook asserts its users see around 8 million videos per day. Youtube estimates an astonishing 10 billion of their videos are viewed daily. Marketers must accept the phenomenal growth in video demand. As millennials gain greater spending power, those who plan and present content will have to harness the video channel to satisfy this affluent influencer.
Clearly, watching online video is not just a pursuit limited to millennials: viewers of all ages are consuming at least an hour or more of video content each day. One-third of older people are watching Youtube offerings for an hour or more each week.
The fact that people pay closer attention to videos has hastened its rise. One of the most popular varieties of live video is the documentary format, demonstrated beautifully in the example we’ve been using of an employee-generated story made real by a company with vision. Marketers who invest in producing meaningful, visually exciting video content today are in a position to get the undivided attention of the ever-burgeoning population of online users in the future.
The predictions conclude, content marketing will concentrate on generating great stories. Expanded budgets will guarantee ad buys and quality of content are put to best use. And video, in all its variations, will advance user involvement in 2017, making it a great year for marketers who embrace these challenges.
Look for Part 2 of this topic when we talk about 4 more top content marketing trends for 2017!