Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 58 seconds

Brands have frequently embraced evergreen content that is able to continually generate traffic and maintain relevance over time. But in a world where customers seek immediate answers on-the-go, new forms of content and platforms to deliver it are emerging.

One of the top digital marketing trends for 2016 is a step away from evergreen topics to a focus on brief content that has depth and can be shared in real-time. This leaves many marketers and social media managers wondering if evergreen content has lost its value in regard to building traffic and gaining customers. More to the point, marketing teams should be asking strategic questions such as:

  • When does each type of content--evergreen or depth--better serve the brand?
  • What factors should be considered when deciding about types of content?
  • What platforms are best for different types of content?

Content Conundrum: Evergreen vs. Immediate, Depth or Trending?

Marketing is about the customer—their needs, their wants, and their story in relation to the brand. Over time, a focus on story and the customer’s journey will help marketing teams develop credible relationships with the customer and that will serve as a foundation for developing future content.

The type of content a brand produces should always be tied to the result the organization wants, according to Jason Allen Ashlock, partner with The Frontier Project, an organization that crafts strategies and tools to help organizations solve problems and achieve goals.  

“Forget the categories of evergreen and depth; ask first what you need to achieve," Ashlock suggests. "For instance, if I'm a small, growing brand, I might most desire discovery. Without a large audience already, evergreen content that can increase inbound [traffic] might be more attractive to me. If I'm a large brand with a dedicated following, perhaps I want to increase the frequency of engagement or daily loyalty, so real-time content might be more of interest.”

One way to think of it, suggests Ashlock, is to consider how a brand wants to influence the customer's journey with insight for a decision. “Lets say I’m searching for a company I want to take care of my aging parent. Evergreen content might be a better fit, because each customer is going through his or her journey at a different time. Depth content that expires quickly won't be there when they need it.”

Brian Curran, the owner of Abacab Designs, a Connecticut-based digital media company specializing in graphic design and integrated advertising, agrees. "I don't think it should be one or the other when it comes to evergreen content versus depth content. A mix works best. For example, my retail clients need to promote special sales and new products, which won't be relevant for long, so they also need depth content for customers to explore during the other times of the year."

Marketers also need to be adept at determining relevance. The metrics necessary to help them do this are still evolving. A white paper from the SAS Institute indicates there is a lack of predictive formulas to manage Big Marketing Data (PDF) and understand all the ways a customer’s personal journey with a given brand—and their decisionmaking process—can be influenced.

“Perhaps, [the brand] needs to be the most relevant voice when, say, an event occurs, or a new product [or service] launches," says Ashlock. "In that case, real-time, depth content is a better fit.”

Curran adds that it’s important to keep in mind that “if you only offer evergreen content on your website, there is a good chance customers will be unaware as to what is currently going on at your business. Or worse, they’ll be upset if they missed a sale because you didn’t deliver the message across platforms that they use.”

Marketers need to evaluate if trending events are relevant enough to their customer’s journey and the brand identity that they should piggy-back on those events on social platforms in real-time.

Ashlock offers this concrete example: “PC Mag [recently] launched PC Mag Live on Facebook's Live Video platform. Every day (or most days!), Editor-in-Chief Dan Costa and one of their editorial leads, Sascha Segan, address news, launches, or controversies of the day. For their audience it's spot-on. And I've noticed lately they have some significant advertising dollars around it, which means it's working.”

“Social media and platforms such as Periscope or Snapchat tend to work better for promoting real-time content—but it’s brief, simple and focused,” Curran says. It’s kind of like a marketing appetizer…if it captures your audience in-the-moment and is compelling enough, that kind of content can drive them to your site to learn more—say, about a sale or service—and can establish more meaningful connection between brand and customer.

There’s a fine balance for every brand to strike between evergreen content that perpetually draws existing and potential customers to their media, and content that rides a cresting wave packed with digital surfers. A way to balance between these two is to look for ways to refresh evergreen content to tie in with trending news and events... as long as it makes sense for the brand and for the audience.

"No matter the content approach you decide, it's critical to keep it up," Curran says. "Nothing looks worse than your most recent content being outdated or irrelevant.” 

Ultimately, marketing officers and their creative teams will need to combine analytics with good old fashioned trial-and-error to help determine if evergreen content is losing its luster for their audience. And, then to look at if (and when) it might be best to combine evergreen with immediate content delivery to maximize engagement with customers and maintain steady traffic to their brand.

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Last modified on Saturday, 30 April 2016
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