Branded Content: The Future of Digital

Future gazing at the future of social media and digital

So I’ve been doing a little crystal ball gazing. And here’s my current view. I’m going to put it into bullet points, so I can hold my rant back a little.

  • The primary activities online are Searches on search engines (i.e. Google) and Social Media (e.g. Facebook) and hold an average of 23% and 22% (Hitwise) respectively.
  • What ranks well in Google is relevant (keyword density, targeted pages on site etc), engaging (more comments etc.) and authoritative (more link backs) content
  • Naturally, most of this content is starting to come from social media (blogs were the first of many strong linking strategies etc.)

So, got the connection?

  • If brands can offer this content, via social media, and their sites have a strong SEO strategy: then they will effectively have the highest chance of ranking well in Google and providing a valuable resource of information for online communities.
  • Branded content examples: tutorial videos (Canon EOS learn series), written content (Mothercare advice cards)

Branded content, social media and SEO will be big for 2010. Think beyond text, and think both about the creative, technical and community implications. (Update: post on branded content seminar)

Great examples:


When I’m planning any strategy – what I’ve termed “content and community plan” are key to any social media strategy.

Key ingredients for your digital strategy for 2010

  • Max Audience: SEO Strategy (On-site, off-site)
  • Max Community: Social Media Strategy (aligned with business outcomes)
  • Max Value for Community: Content Strategy (compelling, engaging, valuable)

I’ve expressed these views to a few of my colleagues, and so far I’ve had positive resonance. ┬áVentureOne are also running a seminar on it this week in fact. MyBuzz are also doing this well with new programs coming up. Would love to hear your thoughts too. [Review of seminar]

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.

There are 13 comments for this article
  1. Rob - JustWeb at 11:18 am

    Agree wholeheartedly – but just following on from the SEO theme, VSEO (Video SEO) SHOULD be big in 2010 – was supposed to be big in 09, but hey… and by VSEO, i mean not only YouTube, but video content embedded in your own website and optimised accordingly.

  2. Ian Lyons at 11:20 am

    I think the biggest opportunity with social media is to have more people answering the question – “How can we help our customers today?”.

    If more and more people who represent brands can listen in their customers’ implicit and explicit needs and then create compelling and relevant content around them, then I think it creates a very virtuous cycle that benefits findability (SEO) and shareability (SMO).

    This sounds easy but it usually requires a significant shift from a product / service centred approach to one around customers.

  3. Jye Author at 11:22 am

    It’s been the year for Video for ages :) And video keeps on getting better: so as far I’m concerned, it’s keeping it’s promise.

    Video I’ve definitely list under both branded content and SEO. And of course social – so all :)

  4. Jye Author at 11:32 am

    @Ian: really love your insight mate around just how big this shift can be, and what it means to both customers and the company.

  5. Mike at 12:03 pm

    Im facinated by the debate around ‘branded content’. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what branded content should actually be and how it should be delivered to consumers socially. Im keen to know your take on it Jye, what is branded content to you and how best do you envisage it being delivered through social channels online?

  6. Jye Author at 1:33 pm

    I think I’ll detail that in next week’s post – but thanks for the questions. I did a poor job at defining/clarifying befor ethis post.

  7. Tiphereth at 1:40 pm

    I’m with you Jye on the branded content piece. It works for search too – especially if the content is running on a blog with the same domain.
    The softer and more in the background the “branding” is, the more credibility one gains with the community. Its always tricky explaining to clients branded content is not about having their logos, or links plastered all the way through. Its the same no matter what the medium (thinking of the Kellogg’s Nutrigrain sponsorship of the soccer show on Foxtel where the logo appeared every minute during the show).

  8. Lee Sargent at 2:14 pm

    A couple of months ago I had a minor rant on my blog regarding the promotion of AC/DC and Iron Man 2.

    Specifically my nose was out of joint because in the process of embedding the youtube video and publishing the post they had gone and suspended the embedding of the video making my post around the music video and of course the upcoming Iron Man 2 completely redundant.

    This is area where they have completely gotten it wrong. By inhibiting the public to distribute their existing promotional material and forcing people to click through to a site like YouTube which already has its branding all over the embedded video you are simply adding a barrier to getting the word out there.

    If I was dealing with the promotion of Iron Man 2 the first thing I would have done on the announcement of the AC/DC soundtrack is provide a fully branded video clip for those who want to share the news with their readers.

    By fully branded I mean designed to send the message that they want, Iron Man 2 is coming, AC/DC is providing the soundtrack. Messages at the start and the finish of the video with cues throughout the material using the Starship Troopers’ “Do You Want To Know More”.

    It’s not news that people want to promote your products and they will with or without you the best thing you could do is embrace that and provide branded material that doesn’t undermine the crowd promoting it for you.

  9. Dana Todd at 2:44 am

    I monitor the keyword “branded content” in Google Alerts, and it’s pretty interesting to me what comes up under this topic (including this post). It seems to be a catch-all word for a lot of different things, from product placement in video to custom publishing in print.

    I agree that more cohesive strategy would help companies get more out of their efforts, and that search (SEO) is a good way to start connecting the pieces. But I’d also add a promotional budget for more aggressive reach, rather than just relying on being found. You can leverage the same content and promote it via various sponsored content/digital advertorial programs that can drive more significant awareness and engagement, and get to people who are merely browsing rather than actively searching. New paid inclusion programs for content, such as Zemanta and Outbrain, are one way to promote branded content. More aggressive coverage can be provided by advertorial networks like Adfusion. Our Newsforce advertorial platform can leverage ad targeting tactics (demographic, behavioral, etc.) to specifically layer in sponsored headlines in national and regional news sites.

    And, you can also take out rich or standard banner ads to drive awareness, as well as Facebook ads, LinkedIn, etc.

    So in summary – don’t forget a “paid placement” component to drive additional opportunity, just like you take out PPC ads to drive additional awareness in search to complement SEO.

  10. Jye Author at 1:40 pm

    @Tiphereth: Great insights, Tip!

    @Lee: Feel free to link up mate. Always frustrating when true fans want to share content and the gatekeepers lock it up.

    It’s all about distribution! Plays a massive part with destination too.

    @Dana: totally agree there’s a big role for paid media here. And once again, it’ll be a whole post on it’s own ;)

    Check back tomorrow for a post around the importance of paid Facebook Advertising within running a Facebook page.

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