06/05/2014 12:26 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Content Marketers Can Learn From TV

From the '40s to the early '60s, television had what some call a "Golden Age." Audiences across the United States anticipated hour-long drama series from week to week, discussing characters and their dilemmas at the dinner table, in break rooms and anywhere else that people assembled (not to mention all the conversation associated with live broadcastings). Does this sound familiar? It should!


With shows like "House of Cards," "Modern Family" and "Game of Thrones," the massive influx of quality TV has ushered the now traditional medium into a second Golden Age. The activity focused on TV -- Nielsen found that 36 million people sent 990 million tweets about TV in 2013 -- should cause brands, especially content marketers, to take note. There are a handful of ways brands can gain inspiration from TV's successes -- I've outlined a few below:

Use Real Events to Spur Activity

For television, using situations from the shows themselves offers a very clear rallying point for engagement. For example, FOX's "Bones" regularly facilitates active conversations through its Twitter feed. In the "Doll in the Derby" episode that featured roller derby, the official Twitter feed asked fans what they would pick for their derby aliases. The show didn't just pose a fun and engaging question, its social media team also did a great job responding to fan comments.

Similar to "Bones," content marketers should use part of their programs to rally around real events. While most brands don't have weekly, recurring events to fill their calendar, broadening their scope to include relevant topics in media, pop culture and the news offers brands a kind of "deadline" to inspire people to engage. Sporting events (World Cup, Olympics), award shows (Oscars, Grammys, MTV Movie Awards) and national holidays (4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day) are all great starting points for content marketers.

For the 2014 Super Bowl, one company nailed it. Budweiser knew it would get lots of viewers and engagement on its TV commercials, so the beer company went to work crafting the perfect ad to gain attention and social traction. The result? Over 1.3 million shares of its "Puppy Love" commercial -- not to mention over one million more shares than its nearest competitor. Budweiser used the Super Bowl's real time value to rally viewers around a subject they knew most watchers could appreciate: puppies and beer. If you want your consumers to really engage with your content, use an event hook to start a conversation.

Leverage Data to Understand What Your Audience Wants

We've heard ad nauseum that the key to a successful content program is knowing exactly what your consumers want. Now, with more data than ever before at our fingertips, it's never been easier to understand exactly what drives people to consume content, make purchasing decisions and ultimately return for more.

As a massive channel for engaging consumers, marketers can learn a thing or two from how television producers use data to constantly adjust strategy and entertain viewers. Just look at Netflix. The television and movie-watching platform -- available in over 40 countries -- has over 35 million subscribers in the United States alone, and has a profound understanding of its viewer demographic. In conjunction with Harris Interactive, Netflix discovered that over 60 percent of its viewers regularly binge watch television episodes, consuming two or three episodes in one sitting. To capitalize on this, House of Cards producer Dana Binetti worked with Netflix to release all episodes of his (now hit) TV show at once to encourage mass viewing -- and beat the one-hit wonder phenomenon that plagues so many television shows. By avoiding the drawn out, once-a-week pattern popular by so many shows, Netflix leveraged its user data and preferences to cater directly to its audience, creating a hit show and loyal consumers in the process.

Marketers should take a hint from Netflix's savvy House of Cards strategy and take advantage of user data to create relevant, timely and tailored content for your audience.

Let Channels Be Your Guide to Relevant Content

Have you ever seen a romantic comedy re-run on ESPN? Or a sports highlight show on Lifetime? Chances are that you have not. TV producers understand that certain channels cater to certain audiences, preferences and expectations. The same can be said for the different "channels" for content marketing. In each channel from -- Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest and Instagram--content is digested differently. Ultimately, the most effective networks for your content marketing efforts depend largely on your audience, their interests and the type of content at your disposal.

On Twitter, for example, marketers should share news in quick snapshots, offering soundbites for consumers that are too busy for long-form pieces. Even though Twitter is extremely straightforward, properly leveraged fodder can lead to thought-provoking conversations. Conversely, the Facebook site is best suited for rich content with images and video.

Simply understanding what kind of content works on which sites is just the first step. Evaluating the content that your company has the most access to is equally important in deciding which channel your brand should use. For example, if you're in the hospitality industry, it's likely that your content will be image heavy, making it ideal for Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. Alternatively, Twitter's bite-sized headlines and Facebook's content-friendly interface are optimal for B2B companies to engage with customers and prospects.