What Is Episodic Content Marketing?

A great example of the power of episodic marketing is a series of television ads that ran in the US as thirteen 30-second spots from 1990 until mid-1997. The ads were for instant coffee, and they followed a relationship between neighbors that began with a borrowed cup of coffee. As the 13 ads played out, we wondered whether or not the woman would choose romance with the neighbor or get reinvolved with her ex. The strength of this kind of storytelling is exemplified by the fact that it came to mind more than 25 years later in a discussion of episodic content marketing.

Defining episodic content

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Everyone knows there is more and more content flooding the market, which makes it harder and harder to cut through the noise and get your potential customers to find your signal.

Episodic content marketing is one way to set your brand apart from the competition.

What is episodic content marketing, and why use it?

Episodic content marketing is content broken into bite-size pieces. The content is a story with a plot that reveals more to the viewer with each episode.

It can be an effective way of storytelling that draws audience members back for more.

Conventional wisdom in marketing holds that it takes an average of seven touchpoints before a potential customer converts. Episodic content marketing brings a built-in reason for your audience to connect repeatedly with your brand.

You can create episodic content using articles and blog posts, infographics, podcasts, and videos. This form of marketing creates a return audience, builds subscribers, and establishes your brand credibility.

Any size business can use storytelling to connect with current and potential customers. The goal is to captivate the audience with a storyline that is interesting and does not resemble an advertisement in any way—it's about the characters.

How to create episodic content

1. You need strong characters at play:

For episodic content to be successful, you need fascinating characters and a plot that resonates with your readers. You can engage your audience by using relatable characters that align your content with the culture and voice of your brand. To do so, you need to understand your target audience. Here is where having detailed buyer personas in place is critical. If you can create original series around your buyer personas' core interests, you'll drive more top-of-the-funnel traffic and inquiries to your website. 

2. You need a compelling narrative:

Once you have your character ideas generated, decide on the number of episodes you need and create a storyboard to help develop how the story will unfold across the episodes. 

You want to tell a story that shows a struggle, is accurate and feels non-scripted. Embrace transparency and show a behind-the-scenes view. Ultimately you want your episodic content to differentiate your brand and build connections with your customers. To be in a class of your own, you must create branded, entertaining content as part of a dedicated series for your targets' dreams, fears, and quirks. Tell your story in a unique way.

Researchers have determined that during high-suspense moments your brain narrows in on what you see and focuses your attention on the story. When there's no suspense, your brain allows you to be distracted and focus on your surroundings. So get your audience lost in the narrative and keep them coming back by creating that level of suspense in your episodic content.

After all, the best episodic content is entertaining as much as it is educational. You build attention, likability, and trust by entertaining your target audience. This gains you permission to educate them throughout their buying journey.

What's the payoff?

Creating content is a constant balancing act between quality, distribution, and frequency. By creating episode-style content, you can drive these three elements simultaneously while being more efficient with time and resources. It is a great way to increase blog traffic.

Think of where people go to take a quick break. Often it's watching content on Netflix or YouTube. It's entertaining and educational in some way. Brands are realizing that when they start developing their episodes, they are setting themselves apart from the competition.

When you take the time to build episodic content, you're thinking about topics, series, seasons, and themes. This applies to both video and word content. When you do this well, it's a win-win for both you and your customers. You build out your content, attract potential customers, and provide them with quality content and information.

Be sure to leave them wanting more

There's a time-tested show biz adage that says you should always leave the audience wanting more. That is also the basis for episodic content marketing.

Take a big piece of content and dole it out in small installments. When you take a 10-point post and create a series of single-point posts, they add up to a more comprehensive narrative.

And you've built a reason for your audience to come back for more. You've provided an incentive for the target market to subscribe to your email list or follow you on social media because they don't want to miss the next installment. And you can develop a narrative arc that can add to your brand's thought leadership and authority.

What's required to shift from your current content development structure to an episodic approach?

  • Be sure you have a unifying theme for the entire run.

  • Each piece of content must create anticipation for the next piece.

  • Share each episode on social media and your company emails and ask for feedback.

  • Post specific questions to encourage engagement.

Key benefits of episodic content

1. It's memorable

We tend to have stories that we carry with us for decades. What do these long-lasting stories have in common? They are well-developed and memorable because we became invested in the outcome.

In content marketing, the goal is to make people remember what you're saying so they will return and/or share it with others. Using episodic content, marketers can extend a story and make it more significant in the audience's memory.

A cliffhanger or call to action at the end of each installment makes people want to hear the next installment. The suspense keeps your audience coming back.

2. It makes your strategy last longer

Take a blog post, and break it into five or ten fleshed-out posts. You've just extended the life of that initial single blog post by a factor of five, or a factor of ten, through some strategic planning and cliffhanging details.

3. It's shareable

Most content is shareable, but how often do people share a traditional ad or self-promoting social post? The answer is not very often. But they do share stories all the time. Even if the stories are ads, they present a new twist on the traditional model.

Words spark emotion in readers, and storytelling is human nature. Episodic content allows you to capitalize on this because you get to develop a cast of characters and plot lines and satisfy the readers with a powerful ending.

Blogging and Content Marketing

Shelley's been in Seattle practically since the dawn of time. She enjoys having fun (seriously) with research and writing. In her off hours she reads and walks, although not at the same time -- because tripping over sidewalks is embarrassing.

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