Beyond Blogging: 13 Content Marketing Opportunities for Ecommerce

Remember when business blogging was really big? You know, 2007-ish, before Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram came and stole all that consumer attention span.

The death of Google Reader may just be one more signal that blogging is passe, at least as a marketing tool for commercial products.

Only 25% of the 85 retail blogs we tracked in 2007 are still actively updated today. That’s a 75% abandonment rate.

So if blogging’s dead, what content marketing opportunities remain for ecommerce?

1. Video

Circa 2007, podcasting was hot. Today, for marketing in general, it’s not — video killed the podcasting star. Video content is discoverable in Youtube, may rank well in Google Universal Search, is socially shareable and more popular with Web users. Video is much easier to produce and consume on devices today than it was 6 years ago.

So if you’re going to invest in a podcast, turn it into a Youtube channel. There’s many flavors of podcasting you can do for business — how-to, interviews, product demos, customer stories, humor — anything you can dream of.

A great example is Marvel Comics’ The Watcher, which covers Marvel Universe news and has attracted ~700,000 Youtube subscribers.

Youtube offers some killer channel customization options, check out Symantec’s channel, which looks similar to a content-rich microsite.

Ebay’s found success with customer storytelling videos, increasing social engagement by 700% and jumping from 500,000 Facebook fans to 5 million.

Perhaps its most viral story is of Ed Church, who reconnected with his beloved long-lost motorcycle through Ebay — the second time — after it came up once before on auction.

We’re not all as big as Ebay, but we can all adopt the principle of finding out what’s relevant to our customer, and tell the story of how the business fits into it.

If you can’t find customer stories as touching as {name’s}, tell the story through your own staffers or people who the customer can relate to. REI’s slacklining video is shot through the eyes of three young pros pulling death defying tricks, and links the description to slackline gear sold on REI.com.

Humor and memejacking is another strategy. Lululemon’s Sh*t Yogis Say parodies its target customer’s lifestyle and has been viewed over 2 million times.

Don’t forget ultra-shortform video. We’ve got 13 ways to use Vine and Instagram for ecommerce for inspiration.

And who says content marketing has to happen online? Hollister and Saks Fifth Avenue stream video content in-store. Make way for responsive design scaling up to non-mobile screens…

2. Social Profiles

Different social networks offer businesses varying degrees of profile pimping, with Facebook Pages offering businesses the greatest opportunity. Like a microsite, a Facebook Page can be built out to include fun and useful features through Tabs.

Blog posts, quizzes, polls, reviews, videos, forums and contests can all live in your Facebook social community where in some cases, it’s more likely to be seen and shared than if hosted on your own website.

And don’t forget the other-other social network, Google+. This one’s got the biggest potential to help you rank in search engines. If you need examples of who’s doing it right, Nitrogram 50 ranks over 500 of the top brands on G+.

3. Social Updates

Once you set up a profile, you need to keep the content flowing. Social updates are content!

Check out these 17 styles of Twitter updates and 14 tips for getting noticed in Facebook’s News Feed.

4. Curated content

Another content marketing strategy is to curate content, either from around the Web or your own site. Pinterest boards are a current example of this. L.L.Bean’s Woodland Creatures board is followed by over 4.6 million Pinterest users. Nordsrom’s Garden Wedding Ideas is followed by 4.4 million and features only items available from the retailer.

Other forms of curation include Rdio playlists, Listmania, Paper.li and Youtube playlists.

5. QRated content

Those funny little labyrinth-lookin’ barcodes are a way to seed online content into the physical world. Print ads are technically content (images), bring this old school advertising method into the digital age by tying it back to your website where the viewer can take action.

6. Reverse guest blogging

Guest blogging is a popular way for marketers to build backlinks and get the word out about their products and services. Reverse guest blogging invites influential bloggers to contribute to your social channels. They’ll build street cred with your following, likely share it with their own audiences, and connect your fans with new gurus to follow.

H&M uses a popular guest blogger as a guest curator into its Google Plus stream.

7. Mobile apps

Many ecommerce apps are simply replicated storefronts. That’s not content marketing. Utility and entertainment apps are more like it. Examples include Moosejaw’s X-Ray app, which allows users to scan the catalog to reveal models in their skivvies, Walgreen’s prescription refill feature and Zippo’s Lighter app (this is great for concerts).

Zippo has even found a way to monetize its app. Customized lighter designs cost $0.99, with the most popular including Playboy, Harley Davidson and AD/DC.

8. Free digital downloads

Giving away digital content is a marketing tactic that creates warm fuzzy feelings about your brand. Physical retailers like Starbucks and American Eagle offer mp3 and video downloads, but any form of digital content that has value could jive. If you sell digital content, consider offering free snippets / samples of your content that can be shared socially.

9. User-generated content

Allow your customers to play reviewer, blogger, videographer or curator, and give them the social tools to share their content with their networks. Examples are Amazon’s Listmania, Etsy Treasury, Rdio Playlists, Adobe Photoshop Exchange and Wet Seal Runway.

Make sure to encourage your social fans to create and share content. Victoria’s Secret asks customer to show off pictures of their “hauls” through Twitter.

10. Co-creation

There are 2 types of co-creation you can employ.

1. Customizable products or content that customers design / create and share socially with their friends, like a Nike ID shoe, or a Wet Seal Runway outfit.

2. Co-create content with a celebrity or influencer. Remember the H&M reverse guest blogging example.

If you’re a famous brand, you may even bag a celebrity to co-create your content (see section 12). Heck, Gentology is an entire ecommerce site built around celebrity curation. (Sorry ladies, it’s just for men).

11. Newsletter/ email

Turn commercial email into content marketing by including educational or entertaining articles, photos, animated GIFs and recipes. If you’ve been following Get Elastic for a while, you already know how emails that inform can outperform emails that attempt to purely sell.

David’s Tea’s newsletter injects some personality with real customer stories, recipes and interesting facts about tea ingredients.

Make sure you maximize your newsletter readership by giving compelling reasons to subscribe.

12. Google+ Hangouts

Huh?

Yeah!

Dell has already hosted tens of tens of Google+ Hangouts on topics like virtualization, cloud computing and product troubleshooting. Instead of just throwing this content up on a blog, make it an event — like a webinar — for normal people.

Other ideas are running a live trunk show with a featured designer, live music with an up-and-coming indie band, book club discussions, tutorials and online classes, study groups or demos of new products. The New York Times drafted NBA players to hang out before the Olympics, and National Geographic held a Hangout with guests from 7 continents, apropros to its name.

13. Infographics

Infographics typically don’t drive sales, but do have some SEO value in the links they attract. However, Google may downgrade or ignore links built through infographic marketing in the future, if it’s not already, as infographics are often posted on non-topically related domains.

When done smart, they can influence sales. REI’s How to Choose and Use a Backpack is certainly product related and contains information many outdoor life sites would find valuable.

Infographics are one form of content that you can craft a PR campaign around, submitting it to blogs, online magazines, Twitterfluencers and news sites.

What about blogs?

If you’ve got an active blog for your business, by all means keep it going — you’ve beaten the odds. But don’t neglect these more modern forms of content marketing. Many of these forms of content can be posted on your blog, linked to from your blog, or blogged about.

If you’re going to shutter your existing blog, consider leaving it live or redirecting to your online shop instead of throwing up a 404 page. There’s SEO benefit in both the content and the links, don’t flush it away!

If you’re curious, the 21 surviving retail blogs (taken from the Internet Retailer Top 500 in 2007) are:

Office Supplies Blog by BuyOnlineNow

Fly And Mighty by Bluefly

The Goat by Backcountry

Omnivoracious by Amazon

Sierra Social Hub by Sierra Trading Post (Now part of the social microsite)

The Daily Tubber by Vintage Tub and Bath

Uncorked by KL Wines

Gear Expert by Optics Planet (now part of microsite)

Netflix

JTV

Blogleaves by Figleaves

Powell’s Books

Urban Outfitters

MEC

Z Blog by Zazzle

Databazaar

HP Blog Hub

Ask.com

Design Notes by DWR

Live by Dr. Jays

Stacks and Stacks

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