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The Content Corner: Recapping Content Marketing Trends in 2016—How Have We Stacked Up?

Earlier this year, it was predicted that content marketing would become even more important due to its ability to enhance not just visibility, but also increase engagement with customers—who could, in turn, become great promoters of your content.

Flat design illustration of content marketing concept.

Needless to say, much of our time these days as communicators is spent on developing, distributing, maximizing, and repurposing content. In the recent blog post, 15 Content Marketing Trends for 2016, it is noted that the “average American spends nearly four hours a day bombarded with different types of content.” As consumers of content, it wouldn’t be incredibly off to call it all overwhelming. We all probably have a favorite or two go-to networks where we seek to receive information.

Across government, it’s been interesting to see the ways agencies have employed methods to engage with their respective communities. Here are four trends, with observations on what some government agencies have done:

  1. Creating diverse content, spread out across different formats

When social media was (or maybe still is by some) looked at as just an extra duty of someone in the public affairs department (not a full-time job as it’s largely seen now), scheduling platforms were lifesavers for many. But considering the different goals/strategies for each platform, scheduling the same content across different platforms was really an ineffective use of social media, and likely had detrimental effects on your audience’s perception of your brand.

It’s key to have defined goals with each platform, and seek to get the most out of each one, which requires different content for each. For example, with one main message you are trying to get across, you may post an animated GIF on Twitter, an image on Instagram, a link on LinkedIn, and a video on Facebook – all with similar end goals.

With more than 200 staff contributing to 130 social media accounts on 14 different platforms, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) posts an array of different content from long form articles to well-timed images, and even original GIFs. Their efforts generated over 250 million views in 2015 – a huge success. But rather than sit and relish in that, they are seeking to take their efforts to another level, recently “rebooting” their social media strategy as a “living document” allowing for input from National Archives staff, cultural institutions, and the public on GitHub.

  1. Explore New Publishing Options

Having negotiated a federal-friendly terms of service for the blogging platform Medium last year, a handful of federal agencies have since used the platform to get their message out and connect with the American public. For example, President Obama broke with tradition and shared a sneak peek of his State of the Union remarks on Medium.

When looking to redesign U.S. paper money, The U.S. Department of the Treasury also used Medium to highlight many of the over one million responses and idea submissions via mail, email, tweets and other social media from a very passionate audience.

The Department of the Interior highlights beautiful imagery with a short narrative on Tumblr, called, “America’s Great Outdoors.”

Others like the White House, NASA and USA.gov have joined Snapchat (“Snap, Inc.” as of September 24, 2016), or even simply redesigned their blog on their .gov website using a different content management system.

USA.gov's Snapchat logo
  1. Meaningful Content

The USCIS seeks to connect with those who seek to become American citizens by offering them a slew of different resources—including online videos and activities for the 100 civics questions from the naturalization test and Q&As in MP3 audio format. Recently, USCIS began highlighting immigration stories on Instagram, pointing out that before the launch their customer had already embraced the platform by posting more than 10,000 #newUScitizen photos. Additionally, the USCIS’s Emma, a virtual assistant (who now speaks Spanish, too!) answers 456,000 questions a month on their English website.

To create a better experience for voters, USA.gov launched Vote.USA.gov, and partnered with Facebook to help encourage people to register to vote in the primary elections. Currently, Facebook is reminding its users of state voter registration deadlines and linking prominently to Vote.USA.gov to help users complete the registration process.

  1. Content Tailored To Specific Devices

As communicators, we should be asking, ‘How does our audience digitally receive our info?’ Do the bulk of visitors come via the desktop site, mobile site, or use an app – and where are opportunities to increase views on a particular platform?

When seeing a consistent trend of visitors to the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) website dropping, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Resources Services (HHS) decided to work on the mobile responsiveness of the site. They worked to re-evaluate and streamline the organization of their content and are already seeing a reduction in their site’s bounce rate since improving their users’ mobile experience.

In an effort to continue to improve the user experience, USAJobs is leveraging the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) to identify performance issues with the site.

Additionally, with 40 percent of Americans using smartphones to look up government services or information, Apps and SMS are also essential tools for an agency to consider when seeking to provide the public with digital content.

Looking for help planning or releasing a mobile product or service? Contact DigitalGov’s Mobile Application Development Program. Also, visit the USA.gov Federal Mobile Apps Directory. You’ve just finished reading the latest article from our Monday column, The Content Corner. This column focuses on helping solve the main content issues facing federal digital professionals, including producing enough content and making that content engaging.

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