Thinking Outside the Blog Post

By Allison Howen, Associate Editor

Banner blindness and ad-blocking plugins are forcing enterprises to get more creative with their promotional campaigns online - and many are turning to content marketing as a way to increase brand reach across the Web.

How companies produce and share their content, however, is what separates successful content marketing initiatives (those that engage audiences in unique, meaningful ways) with those that simply waste time and money.

While not an easy task, there are enterprises that have shown they are up for the digital challenge. Discover three brands below that are thinking outside the blog post when it comes to their content marketing initiatives.

UGC that Increases Conversions

It can be difficult to highlight content initiatives on some websites. Take the ecommerce industry as an example, which typically hosts sites that are image heavy and include dramatic calls to action (CTAs). Although it can be challenging for retailers to showcase content without distracting users and shifting their attention away from inventory, some retailers have found ways to make it work.

The Limited, for instance, effectively uses content to complement its product pages, boost engagement and guide shoppers toward conversion. The clothing retailer does this by prominently featuring a "StyleLIST" section on its main navigation menu. Consumers can view unique and interactive content in this section, including a "Social Stream" that highlights branded content from the company's customers.

The Limited's Social Stream is powered by visual commerce and marketing company Olapic (also used by Hard Rock, Jet Blue, etc.). With Olapic, retailers can collect relevant images from site visitors as well as images shared by consumers on social networks like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Retailers can then approve and display the images on their site either in a separate gallery page like The Limited does (see Image A), or within product detail pages. Olapic also helps boost conversions, as site visitors can shop for the products featured in the user-generated content directly from the Social Stream (see Image B).

(Image A. The Limited's StyleLIST section features a Social Stream that displays user-generated content in a gallery layout.)

(Image B. Consumers can shop directly from the Social Stream, which is powered by Olapic.)

Curiosity Saves the Content Marketer

Content marketing doesn't have to be expensive to be effective. In fact, brands can increase the visibility of their content simply by sharing it within niche communities or joining in on conversations happening around the 'Net.

Popular question and answer site Quora, for example, presents a powerful opportunity for enterprises trying to reach new prospects. While company accounts are not yet allowed on Quora, brand representatives can sign up for the site and contribute to relevant conversations, as well as write their own blogs on the platform to share expertise and raise awareness for their company.

The Quora profile of Sherry Chao, from email and message optimization platform Iterable, is a good example (Image C). For transparency's sake, Chao identifies herself as a marketing representative for Iterable in conversations she participates in and blog posts she writes. Chao also uses her experience to share helpful answers on the platform and includes links to Iterable's website when appropriate. It is important to note that participating in conversations and blogging on Quora is beneficial not only because it increases a brand's visibility on the Q&A platform itself, but also because it can increase a brand's visibility in the SERPs - where popular Quora threads tend to rank high.

(Image C. Iterable Marketing Director Sherry Chao markets her company by answering relevant questions on popular Q&A platform Quora.)

Better Content in 2015

Q&A sites are a great place for brands to generate topic ideas for future content initiatives. Discover five more ways to spark ideas for your 2015 content calendar at Link-Building with SlideShare

Many enterprises underestimate the power of the SlideShare platform, which is among the top 120 most-visited websites in the world. The platform, which was acquired by LinkedIn in 2012, is essentially a content distribution and discovery network (with social elements) that features more than 15 million content assets available from both individuals and organizations in a variety of verticals.

Brands that are leading the way on the platform, like Salesforce and Marketo (see Image D), have already realized the benefits to having a presence on SlideShare. Not only is all content on the platform searchable (both internally and externally), but brands can also embed documents and presentations directly onto their websites. Plus, all content comes with functionality that allows any viewer to share it through email or on social media networks, as well as on websites via an embed code. That feature can help enterprises raise awareness for their brands, as it gives website administrators the ability to add a SlideShare presentation onto their websites. Additionally, brands can include links within their presentations, which can boost referral traffic.

(Image D. Marketo shares content on a regular basis with its more than 15,000 SlideShare followers.)

Content Marketing Demands Innovation

Technology may be making it easier for consumers to block advertisements from their online experiences, but content marketing is helping enterprises fight back. The trick, however, is to get innovative and think outside the blog post. By improving the way your enterprise produces and shares content, it's not only possible to expand a brand's digital footprint, but more effectively move consumers toward conversion.