By Nikita Geldenhuys

Local brands taking a leaner approach to content

In the past few years, the concept “Content is King” has been taken quite literally by some marketers, who have been pushing a mass of posts onto social media. This has taken its toll both on businesses, some of which have been forking out for these quantities, and on audiences, which have to sift through a clutter of content to find the information they want.

According to Melissa Attree, director of content at Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town, this is changing in the South African marketing industry. “What we’re seeing with a couple of brands is that they are starting to reduce the quantity of content that they put out and increasing the quality of content.”

‘Fewer but better’ is their new approach. Attree suspects this trend will continue as brands try to cut through the clutter on the Internet and try to maximise budgets.

This approach is a big boost for the quality of local content.

Going forward, it will however also be vital for brands and businesses to keep content strategy in mind. This is according to Robyn Daly, content director at Narrative, a full-service content agency.

When asked about the quality of content currently being produced by South African marketers, Daly points out that there is a bigger picture to keep in mind; “Before the first word is typed or the first picture taken, the brand needs a documented content strategy that defines the purpose of the content, its role in the customer journey, and measurements for efficacy and success.”

This is the rudder that will ensure content efforts don’t drift along, she says. It will also ensure precious marketing budgets are put to good use.

Is live broadcasting not a good fit for local audiences?

Live streaming has emerged as a trend in 2016 across various social media platforms, including Facebook and Periscope, which connects its live streams to Twitter. Will the trend continue to grow in 2017, and is it the way forward for South Africa?

If Facebook’s latest figures on the use of its Live feature is anything to go by, live streaming is experiencing robust growth globally. The Social Times’ David Cohen, who covered Facebook’s third quarter 2016 financial results announcement, reported the number of users livestreaming via Facebook Live grew fourfold since May.

Daly notes; “People are like cats: if it moves they’ll chase it, and video is like social media catnip – we’re all on its high. It’s amazing the wide variety of video content we’ll all consume. Live streaming is not for purists, but the real-time vibe makes it ripe for events that large numbers of people are following. Tap into that and your engagement soars.”

Attree has found, however, that while live video is being experimented with, the format is not yet suitable for all South African audiences. Especially those with slow internet.

“I think there has been a rise in brands using Facebook Live and that’s going to continue. We are, however, in a market where, although bandwidth is getting more accessible, access to consistent bandwidth is a problem. For Facebook Live, you need a very clear and consistent signal, otherwise your video fails. That’s the only stumbling block here.”

Other realities that local brands need to keep in mind is that many audiences do not use sound when they play videos. This requires brands to caption videos to fully communicate their message.

Are chatbots the future of audience engagement?

Another major trend has been the use of chatbots to push content through to consumers – especially those who are more active on messaging apps like Facebook Messenger.

Attree describes these bots for social platforms as a quick and easy way to access customers. Chatbots answer the demand for personalised experiences from audiences, says Daly. “This desire for immersive, interactive content has been growing for some years now, but as artificial intelligence becomes ever-more sophisticated, the opportunities have kicked up a notch.”

Attree is also seeing more brands using WhatsApp and it’s proving to be quite effective. “I think there is more of that happening over the next year in terms of serving people with the content they need within an environment which they are comfortable in.”

Will 2017 be more customer focused, with an emphasis on creating content personalised to the individual – delivered on the platforms audiences prefer? Hopefully yes – for the sake both of brands and consumers.