Online Business Content Segments - dummies

By Shannon Belew, Joel Elad

Today’s online buyers are savvy shoppers. But they are also heavily influenced by others, including peers, trusted advisors (from analysts to bloggers), celebrities, family and friends, and strangers (people leaving product reviews, for example). When researching products and services, there is one information source that online shoppers tend to rank toward the bottom on the trust meter — the brand!

This is especially true for paid advertisements, but it applies to content as well. Whom do shoppers trust? Research indicates that friends and family top the list as most trusted, followed by online reviews, and then third-party experts.

Yes, that means your company or brand can crank out a lot of content that tells how great your product is, but at the end of the day the buyer may be skeptical about its value, simply because it came from you. Notice the emphasis we put on the phrase “how great your product is” — that’s because blatant, in-your-face promotional content usually isn’t taken at face value, but other types of content produced by your brand can still be highly trusted. Buyers expect you to say only good things about your product, and that means they have to go other places to figure out potential problems or downsides to your solution. Customer reviews usually help fill in that gap, by providing a more balanced user perspective the looks at both the pros and cons of a product.

On the other hand, if your brand writes articles about industry trends or common problems and how to solve them (without directly naming your product as the solution), buyers are more receptive to hearing from you. Similarly, if you share information from your existing customers (case studies and testimonials, for example), buyers are also more trusting, especially if they can identify with your customer and see similarities to themselves.

While it’s understandable that a direct sales pitch isn’t always seen as the most accurate, you still have to talk about yourself and your products at least some of the time. The bottom line is that you need to produce content pieces that fall into all three of these content segments:

  • Brand-generated: This is content produced by your company. It includes both branded information (names the company, product, or service) and unbranded (discusses trends, problems, or solutions but without specifically mentioning your company name or product name).
  • Customer-generated: This is content that is created by a customer or the public without help from your brand or company (although you can encourage the development of the content). This type of content usually mentions the brand name or product name, but it’s from the perspective of the customer. An example of this are the Doritos commercials shown during the Super Bowl each year that are created by fans. Even though the brand requested the content and held a contest to find the best commercial, it’s still the fan or customer who created it without direction from Doritos.
  • Third-party validation: In both B2B an B2C, there is a lot of content that is generated about a brand from someone other than customers or from the brand. This content comes from analysts, experts, celebrities, or others considered knowledgeable or influential about your product or service. These third-party content creators are not part of the brand, but sometimes the company can use (and pay for the use of) the content if it is favorable to the brand or product. (Think in terms of paid celebrity endorsements, or even the recent trend of paying bloggers and social media influencers to create content about the brand.)