Luke Kintigh, Intel’s global content and media strategist, has grown the company’s digital iQ by Intel magazine’s audience from zero to 3-plus million in three years. How? It’s all comes down to strategic content distribution. Here, he talks about the role of paid media for the tech culture magazine, how to use audience data to inform your content and what content marketing success looks like.
Juliet Stott: You’ve often said that if you don’t have a distribution strategy, targeted to the right audience, then it doesn’t matter how good your content is. How should brands develop a strategic content distribution program?
It’s more of a marathon approach than a sprint. It takes a while to develop and refine a strategy. You have to start with finding out who your audience is. When you know who you’re trying to reach, you can pivot into where those audiences live. Initially, it’s a matter of casting your net wider—testing small things—to find out what’s working and what’s not. From there you’ll be able to see which type of content works across which channel. You’ll probably find that only two or three channels perform for you. Once you get to a place where you have more of an understanding of what works on each channel you can polish your distribution strategy from there.
JS: Which distribution channels and content type have you found to be more effective for which demographic?
Because we have a massive amount of content, on a near daily basis, we can take one particular iQ story and distribute it across eight or nine different channels. We initially use a complex distribution matrix¬—but after of couple of days of promotion on various channels, we know what works and what doesn’t. Then we’ll optimize toward the posts that are doing well. You never know what content will be successful and where it will gain traction, but our top channels are typically Facebook and a handful of native advertising platforms. The content type varies depending on the segment and the platform. For fashion and technology, which is one of our key verticals, we have a very young (18-24), mostly female audience. They’re an engaged audience, but they typically want shorter-form visual content, like a three-second gif and photo galleries—typically on mobile. With gaming, where the demographic is older and the gender skew is very male, the audience tends to want to consume longer-form and in-depth content, which means they are often on our site for three to four minutes. So we take those variables into consideration when we distribute content.
JS: Can you talk me through your 10/90 paid media strategy?
We know that only 10 percent of our content drives 90 percent of our engagement and traffic. We see that when we put out different versions of a particular post–only 10 percent will perform. Out of the 25-30 posts we publish each month, usually only three or four posts will do most of the work when it comes to driving traffic. What this has taught us, and how it informs our strategy when we promote content, is that we have to figure out what that 10 percent content is at any given time. We then double down on that top 10 percent by shifting our time, energy and investments away from the other 90 percent. It’s really like playing money ball with our paid investments. JS: Which companies do you use to distribute your content? LK: Our main always-on partners are Outbrain and Taboola on the native side, and Facebook on the social side. We also do promoted content on Twitter, and have promoted content on Pinterest before too. Facebook, in terms of social, is really our top performer; 90 percent of our social traffic to iQ comes from this channel. We also work with Sharethrough and Flipboard, as they give us a lot more impression value—they’re able to measure the impact of the ad itself or exposure of it on our brand goals.
JS: Are organic distribution methods dead?
It’s getting more and more difficult to grow traffic organically, especially as social media platforms change their algorithms regularly. I think for big brands like us, our organic Facebook reach is very, very small. We have 25-plus million fans on our global page, but our organic reach is next to nothing. If someone wants to put something out on Facebook and they don’t have any paid support, it’s really not worth it. Facebook is now more of an ad network than a social network for us. We have more of an organic audience on Flipboard, where we have 3,000-plus subscribers. We don’t get a lot of traffic from there compared to other sources, but what we do get from Flipboard is a very qualified and engaged audience. But it’s taken us more than three years to get to that many subscribers.
JS: How do you use audience data to inform content creation?
If we can see that our gaming content is working better than say our healthcare content we will shift our resources accordingly, which is an easy thing to do. We are trying to do more of looking at metrics like time on site, as well as analysing the format of the site—like where to place videos, how to create better subheads, how to use the placement of bylines, and how to improve our hooks and leads. We are getting better at creating better formats for different audiences. We are trying to create more niche content–we’re looking at how we can get more focused and underneath the vertical to identify the whitespace where we can play. This may mean we reach a smaller audience, but if we can become an authoritative source and a trusted voice within that community, that’s a win for us.
JS: What is engaging content, what does it look like?
Engaging content comes in multiple forms. You’ve got to meet your audience where they live and and not expect them to meet you at your house. A good example of content that has been engaging on multiple platforms is our recent multicopter (a mix between drone and a helicopter) story.
We had the content assets to pull out and deconstruct from the article, promoted on Facebook, Twitter and other channels. We got a lot of positive engagement—viewers liked the gifs; they shared the photos and videos of multicopter as well as clicked through to the actual article, where they spent more than three minutes on site, with the majority of people reading to the end of the story. We try to look at engagement holistically and not just click throughs or time on site. Traffic and onsite engagement is the primary goal, but driving engagement on platforms with the different elements of the iQ post still has value.
JS: What is content marketing success?
It all depends on your objective, which will depend on your business model. If you’re a T-shirt company, it’s about mapping content to an actual sale. If you’re a B2B company, it’s more about generating a lead. For Intel, it’s hard to get sales data, because we are usually passing on our audiences to a retail partner and we don’t sell directly to the consumer, so the metrics we look at are brand lift. We are really trying to change attitudes towards the brand—to pivot from being seen as a PC-only company to being seen as a really innovative brand that is driving innovation across the entire spectrum of technology from internet of things to drones to the maker movement. For iQ in particular, the hard metric and ultimate conversion we are looking at is an email sign up. Email is very underrated—but when you grow your subscribers, that’s when you get control and more ownership of your audiences. Email is more consistent, it’s more of an organic audience, and possesses enormous upside in terms of long-term value and consistent customer engagement.