There was a lot of hype about viral marketing when social media first appeared. Nowadays, you need to have more to offer than just a single little film with a good jingle circulating on social media channels. A good content marketing strategy is required to form a continuously strong bond with your target group. The “hero, hub, hygiene” method provides a solid base for this.
In the early days of Web 2.0, creating a good viral content was like looking for a golden egg. The formula was quite simple: come up with shocking, funny, or at least well-structured content (quite often an image or a video) and let it loose on YouTube and all social media channels. Your target group would do the rest.
This strategy had one big drawback. First of all, it caused enormous peaks: in views of the content itself, in attention for your company, and – if you were lucky – in sales figures. Once the viral had lost its magic, though, visitors did not return. This means that quite often, investing in viral marketing is not a long-term success.
Content marketing took over the role of marketing division catalyst. It may seem like stating the obvious to say it, but good content can be used to move and motivate your target group, creating enthusiasm. And especially to ensure long-term loyalty. But a good strategy is essential, as content is like sand running through your fingers. Without a strategy and context, blogs and videos, among other things, are merely one-shots.
Google introduced a content strategy as a guideline for marketeers who wanted to build up a fan-share on YouTube. The web giant called it “hero, hub, hygiene,” referring to the three types of content upon which this strategy is based. Although it was originally intended to be used for video content, this applies to all types of content marketing in a more general sense. The strategy works, as I know from experience: at SAP, hero, hub, hygiene forms part of our content strategy.
But what is hero, hub, hygiene?
The hero, hub, and hygiene approach is based on three types of content:
This is the content that was previously popular in viral marketing. This is a blog, article, or video that attracts enormous numbers of visitors and in which you – as an organization – invest a lot of time and effort. This may be content related to the most important event or product launch of the year.
In contrast with the two other types of content, an advertising video works best here. Even better: an advertising video makes it possible to let loose completely when it comes to viral sensitivity. What is important is that it should address a wider target group and have the potential to go viral. A normal frequency is one to two hero productions per year.
This Volvo commercial is a good example of hero content. It is actually quite an old-fashioned advertising video, but one that went enormously viral due to the sensational performance of the main actor.
Hub content is content that has been specially aimed at the specific interests of your target group. This allows the company to lead the target group, ensuring that it remains in view.
This content is always actively pushed to its intended recipient or appears at regular, predictable intervals so that visitors will return at specific times. Think of a series of blogs, in which the bloggers explore a specific phenomenon in greater depth. Or videos that deal with a specific topic each week.
This is daily or at least regular content that is particularly aimed at searches carried out by the target group. Examples are how-to articles, recipes, workshops and “what is …” articles.
The aim of the content is to draw new visitors, especially via search engines. By offering this support content, you are helping to build up the perception of reliability and goodwill of your organization. This is also the broad undercurrent: as far as frequency is concerned, hygiene content has the highest ranking.
The strength of this content pyramid is that these types of content interact and reinforce each other. The hero content builds up visitor numbers: it can boost your corporate brand in the short term, thus adding a lot of subscribers to your YouTube channel, for example.
The hub content then ensures visitors keep on returning. This can’t be combined with commercials, as nobody likes to see repeated advertising videos from the same company. However, it can be combined with useful content for a specific target group segment. By using good hub content to create a lot of involvement and response, you start to relate to a target group, resulting in new content ideas for all three of the content categories.
Finally, the hygiene content ensures good visibility in search engines. This means a stable stream of new visitors, who can then link to the hub content. They might do this by subscribing to a newsletter or a specific YouTube channel on which hub content of interest to them appears. Above all, hygiene content creates insight into what is currently trendy and what is not.
Yet another argument for the hero-hub-hygiene strategy: it forces divisions to work closely together. Social media managers, content producers, and web analyzers must repeatedly come together to share their insights. This creates a mutual feeling of responsibility for and involvement with the overall content marketing process.
Content marketing is something many companies want to use. Without a solid base, however, you will use up your budget faster than you think without getting much in return. The hero-hub-hygiene method lets you retain your visitors and actively work on creating a close-knit community. In the end, this is what pays off.
For more on developing content that resonates, see How to Create Better Marketing Stories: Find the Heroism.
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