How to Distribute Long-Form Thought-Leadership Content in a Bite-Sized Digital Era
When Twitter expanded its character count from 140 to 280 in 2017, the move was hailed as a win for advocates of long-form content on social media.
But financial marketers know all too well that, when it comes to establishing your bona fides as an investment thought leader, trying to explain a complex idea in 280 characters is a tough task.
This is especially true of an industry that prides itself on producing long-form white papers, research reports, and other content that commonly spans thousands of words over dozens of pages.
Indeed, one of the biggest challenges that financial marketers face in today’s digital era is the clash between their desire to produce well-researched and highly sophisticated long-form thought leadership and readers’ ever-shortening attention spans.
What’s more, the drastic swing toward mobile content consumption and the always-shifting technology landscape have made it difficult for marketers to pinpoint how the worlds of long- and short-form content can co-exist.
It’s a question that our team at Wentworth Financial Communications is trying to figure out as well. While we have yet to discover the silver bullet, we do have several recommendations that we think financial marketers should consider as they develop strategies for using social media and other digital distribution channels for establishing their firm as thought leaders.
Write shorter pieces
No, we don’t claim that this idea qualifies as splitting the atom, but often the simplest solutions are the most effective. So perhaps the simplest way to adapt to readers’ shortening attention spans is to just … write fewer words.
Cut that eight-page white paper down to four pages. Make the four-page white paper two pages. If you want to publish a 20-page deep dive to showcase your expertise, that’s fine. But realize that most readers won’t have time to go on that deep dive with you, so create a one- or two-page executive summary to capture the highlights.
Apply the ‘trunk and branches’ concept with long-form content
One idea that WFC has adopted with its own thought leadership—we’ve begun to recommend this to our clients as well—is the idea of using longer-form content as the “trunk of the tree” that produce “branches” in the form of shorter pieces of content. These branches, which are designed for distribution on digital and social channels, reach out to the audience and guide people who are interested back to the trunk of the tree.
In addition to creating a landing page for your 10-page white paper where people can download it as a PDF, find three or four sub-themes within that white paper and turn those into individual blog posts or infographics.
Post those on your firm’s blog or website, and create unique social media posts contextualized for each specific channel—Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.—promoting the smaller branches, which in turn are pointing readers back to the longer white paper.
Convert written thought leadership to new media
Not all long-form content needs to be written. Using video, motion graphics, or—my emerging favorite—podcasts as the medium for your long-form content can be extremely effective. In some cases, video and other new media can also be created as short-form content branches leading back to a longer written piece.
Not only do these mediums make your long-form content more digestible in a mobile world, but they have the potential to bring a few other critical marketing elements to the equation: brand, personality, and entertainment.
How to Distribute Long-Form Content in Short-Form EraConverting or pairing a two- to four-minute video with your white paper allows your firm’s subject matter experts to establish a personal brand with the audience.
Moreover, using a motion-graphic video to explain dense, esoteric investment ideas might serve the audience better than text-based content.
Finally, with podcasts, converting the ideas in your long-form thought leadership into a more conversational and passive consumption vehicle can be another effective way to reach your audience.
With all of these mediums, you still want to produce the written white paper—you’re just using new and emerging formats to lead people back to it or promote its ideas to fit today’s consumption preferences.
Make long-form content interactive
Instead of posting your long-form white paper as a PDF downloaded via a traditional landing page, create an interactive web page using Ceros or other web development tools. Something as simple as adding a touch of motion to the text and/or visuals as users scroll down a page makes the content more fun and engaging to read.
It’s not an either/or choice when it comes to PDFs and interactive landing pages. In fact, we usually recommend building an interactive landing page that provides most of the content and also posting a link to the PDF within the landing page. That way, users can choose whichever format works best for their consumption preferences and devices.
Focus your efforts
Lastly, when it comes to distribution in today’s digital age, don’t try and be everywhere for everyone.
As a financial marketer, you’re going to want to optimize your firm’s thought leadership for distribution across multiple channels. But that doesn’t mean you need to be on every channel. Determine which channels are most valuable for your target audience and focus your efforts there.
Within social media, for instance, we’ve found that LinkedIn is generally more effective than Twitter or Facebook. LinkedIn’s recent emergence as a content platform, as well as its powerful organic reach among business-to-business audiences, makes it particularly attractive for professionals in the financial services industry.
Still, that doesn’t mean that institutional asset managers, investment banks, professional services firms, and other B2B marketers should ignore Twitter and Facebook altogether. But as B2B marketers think about where to focus their energy, their social distribution efforts should be weighted more toward optimizing LinkedIn.
This rationale applies beyond social media. For all of the digital channels and mediums we discussed above, understand which ones carry the most weight with your target audience, and adjust your distribution strategy accordingly.
Click below to download our entire thought-leadership creation process infographic.
About the Author Frank Kalman is the chief operations officer at Wentworth Financial Communications. Frank and the team of writers and editors at WFC help professionals across the financial services industry build their brands by creating investment-grade white papers, bylined articles, newsletters, blogs, social media posts, and other forms of content marketing.