The cliché "content is king" is as tired as its close cousin "stories sell." Neither is any less valid than a decade ago when online marketing started taking off, but today's content marketing has a lot more tools at its disposal.

Here's a look at what makes for great digital marketing content nowadays, complete with fresh data on referrals, social media, and sponsored content.

1. Original data creates the most compelling stories

Data-based stories are at once the next big thing on the digital content marketing scene but also the most criminally disregarded format out there, according to Alexandra Samuel. She argues that a few big names like The Guardian and The New York Times are already investing and cashing in on this type of content creation, but that marketers are still overlooking the opportunity.

There is some evidence that brands are slowly wising up to the trend of creating compelling stories based on data. For example, Pinterest is teeming with infographics. However, the vast majority of those visual posts are nothing but pretty blog posts, arranged in graphic form—with nothing remotely close to insightful, fresh, and original data.

Moreover, run a Google search on "data-driven content," and you'll find very few results about creating content backed with stats, facts, and figures. Yet when strategizing content marketing campaigns based on metric, reach, share, and page insight reports, marketers are busily churning out ideas. 

Why aren't more brands investing in this kind of content?

Let's look at some reasons, which are actually all fear-based misconceptions, and debunk them.

  • "I don't want to reveal too much of my brand's inner workings to audiences at large." As a marketer, have you ever felt frustrated because of Google's lack of transparency in providing organic keywords or in publicizing major algorithm updates? I'm willing to wager the answer is "yes"—and it's legitimate. However, brands stand to gain a lot of trust when they show their users, audiences, and clients what they do with the data collected from them.
  • "I don't know how to put the data I collect in story form." (In this case, you might need a better content creation team.) A recent post from the Nieman Lab has revealed that the handful of brands that do use data-driven content marketing are not too adept at it, but they still produce viral posts.

    To make better use of data, consider working with trained statisticians or sociologists. Also, don't hesitate to look for brands that do things the right way. One great example is a data-based story from sleep-monitoring app Jawbone:

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image of Ioana Pelehatai

Ioana Pelehatai is senior content manager at Digital Web Properties, an online content agency with a powerhouse team of on-staff creators and writers.

LinkedIn: Ioana Pelehatai