There’s no denying the significance of content marketing as a successful strategy for growth. It offers potential for building brand awareness, lead generation, engagement and sales. No wonder that 90 percent of all organizations use content marketing, according to Demand Metric. All the success stories make it clear you should be thinking about developing your own content strategy; but the crowded market makes it increasingly difficult to get your voice heard. Episodic content marketing may be the solution. It lets you create consistently engaging material without having to burn yourself out keeping up with the output of rival companies.
Defining Episodic Content
As its name suggests, episodic content is any form of content divided into episodes or installments. For example, you might decide to divide a lengthy 2,000-word blog post into four 500-word blogs.
However, developing episodic content is slightly more intricate than simply chopping material into smaller chunks. The intention is to provide satisfying content that still leaves the consumers hungry for more, encouraging them to check back in every day. Ideally, you want people to subscribe to your mailing list, channel or service to ensure they don’t miss out on any of the installments.
At the heart of the concept is the idea of telling a story. Adapting concepts from serialized television shows, comic books and other entertainment sources, you gradually unfold your narrative. Each new episode fleshes out your ideas and provides your audience with a deeper understanding, while leaving a hint of more revelations if they come back for the next chapter. The gradual reveals hook the audience, and develop a stronger level of engagement.
Types of Episodic Content
The concept works for all forms of content, such as podcasts and blogs, but is frequently seen with online videos. The episodic approach is familiar to audiences accustomed to television shows broken up over a number of episodes in multiple seasons.
Benefits of Episodic Content Marketing
At first, the idea of withholding content from your audience to share later may seem risky. After all, you don’t want to annoy fans by preventing them from finding answers. However, this approach does offer many benefits; and when it’s done well, it has the potential to be very successful. Benefits include:
- Bite-sized content: The modern world is fast-paced, and many people are looking for answers on the go. They may be rushing to catch a bus, or waiting in a queue. Often, they’re using their phones. For those reasons, it’s beneficial to deliver small amounts of content in regular intervals. Reading a 3,000-word blog on a small phone screen is a chore; but reading a couple of paragraphs is very manageable. Similarly, watching a 30-minute video may not be possible on a short morning commute, but it’s very easy to fit a five-minute video into a busy schedule.
- A larger narrative: Producing episodic content lets you explore larger themes, giving them room to breathe. Every new post adds to the greater picture and over the course of the episodes you have the opportunity to go into much greater detail than might otherwise be possible.
- Improved retention: Breaking up the content encourages your fans to keep coming back for more. They’re much more likely to subscribe so that they don’t miss an episode.
- Improved interaction: The episodic format gives you a chance to improve audience engagement by encouraging interaction. For example, when board-gamer Rodney Smith started his Watch It Played YouTube series, he encouraged audience participation. At the end of each video he invited viewers to suggest what moves he should make in the game next. In the subsequent video he would pick one suggestion and follow those moves. This helped the audience to get involved in what was happening, and gave them an opportunity to shape the narrative as they watched. This is a fantastic way to build relationships with fans, making them feel valued and giving them an outlet to express their own opinions.
- More manageable content creation: Keeping up with a content creation schedule isn’t easy. It takes a lot of commitment. Breaking up long-form material into smaller segments helps to ease the burden. What would otherwise be a single post for one day could become a series that lasts for a week or more.
Disadvantages of Episodic Content Marketing
Episodic content isn’t without risks. It’s important to commit fully to the concept to avoid potential pitfalls:
- Lack of consistency: Episodic content demands a robust content publication schedule. When you’re drip-feeding content, it’s important for people to know when the next installment comes out. If you release a publication date you must stick to it to avoid any confusion or annoyance.
- Threat from competitors: As you’re spreading information across multiple posts it’s essential that your audience wants to keep coming back. You need to get the balance right between what you share and what you tease. Keep in mind there are countless other sources online that your fans may turn to if they become tired of your methods.
- Individual posts lose power: As your posts are intended to be viewed together as a series, individual episodes viewed in isolation lose some effectiveness.
Tips for Creating Episodic Content
Creating episodic content isn’t that different from creating any other content. It still needs to be good quality material that people want to search for and consume. As you start to develop your new content marketing strategy, keep in mind the following:
- Settle on a main theme. This should be what ties together each episode, and represents the main thrust of your message. Remember that each piece of content should feel like part of something much bigger that people want to discover.
- Create anticipation. Make sure that each piece of content encourages the audience to return. Tease your next post at the end, including a publication date.
- Tell a story. You don’t want to produce a series of short advertisements. You want to share a story that people enjoy. Think about characters, and plot how the story is going to develop through each episode. Decide how many episodes you need for a satisfying narrative.
- Focus on engagement. Talk to your audience, and give them a reason to stay with your story to its conclusion. If possible, find ways to interact with people through comments, polls and opportunities to shape the narrative.
- Encourage subscription. The best way to ensure fans don’t miss out on new content is to subscribe. Make sure to reinforce the benefits of getting new content as soon as its available.
Episodic content marketing offers a host of benefits, but it takes commitment to do it well. As you’re working on new content, keep the bigger picture in mind: How does the content relate to your main message? What is the hook that keeps your audience coming back for more? Get it right, and you have a real opportunity to elevate your content in a crowded market.