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What Content Marketers Can Learn from the Solar Eclipse Mania of 2017

August 23, 2017
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Content Strategy

On August 21, 2017, visitors from all over the world traveled to the path of totality from Oregon to South Carolina to see the moon overtake the sun for just a couple of minutes. In each state, hundreds of thousands of people stepped outside and looked up toward the sky to witness one of the most historic events of their time, and the response was nothing short of amazement.

Beyond the excitement that occurred during and after the total solar eclipse of 2017 was the lead-up to the rare event itself. What started out as a mention of the event several years ago quickly became a marketing opportunity for brands large and small. As the wonder of the fascinating event begins to wear off, content marketers throughout the world can learn a lot from the mania that surrounded it. If you’re wondering how your product or service might be able to take advantage of future historical events, read further to hear what content marketers can learn from the solar eclipse mania of 2017.

 

Be first and informative

It’s long been important to create and provide valuable content for your target audience. Without relevant content, your target audience quickly moves past what you have to say and on to your competitors who “get them.”

In the case of the total solar eclipse, people were looking for information. Because a large majority in the path of totality had never witnessed such a phenomenon, topics ranging from pet safety to photography to footage of past eclipses were some of the top search subjects. People of all ages wanted to know how to be prepared and they would share it if it was valuable to them.

By providing beneficial information about topics that individuals were interested in at the moment, brands were able to position themselves as trustworthy and credible sources of information, leading to higher website traffic.

News organizations are fast to recognize this and are often the first to create and distribute their content. But don’t fret. Sometimes people want to hear it from someone other than the news…especially with the recent distrust of media. 

On the day before the event, the top Google searches related to the solar eclipse were:

  • Solar Eclipse Science (10,000,000+ searches)
  • What Tim Is The Eclipse (1,000,000+ searches)
  • When is The Eclipse (200,000+ searches)
  • Homemade Eclipse Glasses (200,000+ searches)
  • Pinhole Projector (100,000+ searches)

On the day of the event, the top Google searches related to the solar eclipse included:

  • Total Eclipse of The Heart (500,000+ searches)
  • How To Make A Solar Eclipse Viewer (500,000+ searches)
  • Where to Buy Solar Eclipse Glasses (200,000+ searches)
  • Pinhole Camera (200,000+ searches)
  • When Is The Eclipse Going to Happen/Time of Eclipse (100,000+ searches) 

Funny enough, the key phrase “my eyes hurt” was the most searched term immediately following the eclipse. The Guardian, a news and media website, was quick to create content that answered the question, “How to Tell If You Damaged Your Eyes During the Eclipse” with President Trump’s now famous picture of him looking towards the sky without protective glasses.  

Brands that created valuable and useful content centered on these top searches were at the forefront of individuals’ search results—leading to higher website traffic and more brand recognition. If these brands had appropriate lead capture and nurture processes in place, they would have also seen a high increase in lead generation.

 

Anticipate moments

Micro-moments, as defined by Google, are intent-rich moments when a person turns to a device to act on a need—to know, go, do, or buy. These moments are obviously very important to meet on an everyday basis, but if you plan to participate in the mania surrounding national or even worldwide events, being there for consumers during their micro-moments is invaluable.

The concept is simple: be there, be useful, be quick, and be accountable. By anticipating how a consumer is going to act, feel, or behave, you can better craft content that will be there when they need it, be useful to them, be quick for them to digest, and keep you accountable for creating a seamless user experience throughout the customer journey.

Per Google’s research, the 4 moments that make up a customer’s journey are:

  • I-Want-To-Know: This moment is driven by the need to research something before they take a purchase action.
  • I-Want-To-Go: This moment is driven by getting your physical business considered in that moment.
  • I-Want-To-Do: This moment means being there when people want help with getting things done or trying something new.
  • I-Want-To-Buy: This moment is the winner, winner, chicken dinner. In the I-want-to-buy moment, someone is ready to make a purchase and may need help deciding what or how to buy.

Each of these moments requires strategic thought and planning, but if you can create content that meets the needs of each of them, you’ll see the rewards.

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Go mobile or go home

When it comes to creating content that satisfies the 4 moments mentioned above, being mobile is of the upmost importance. According to Google, in the past year alone, websites in the United States have seen a 20% increase in mobile’s share of online sessions. And that number is only going to continue to increase.

Of those who use their smartphone for research or purchases, only 9% will stay on a mobile site or app if it doesn’t satisfy their needs (for example, to find information or navigate quickly). That’s a very small percentage of people who are willing to “deal with” the shortcomings of your website…

When it comes to the eclipse, people were searching for topics to put their mind at ease, and they were turning to their mobile devices to do so. When there was a shortage of glasses in their community, they immediately went online, many landing on Amazon’s website, for their purchase. And although Amazon ended up recalling a large portion of their glasses, consumers knew that Amazon would have what they were looking for and that they could easily navigate their website.

As we head into the 2017 holiday season, keep in mind that ecommerce sales are expected to grow 15.8%. That number is only going to continue to grow, so, being presence with a simple, mobile-friendly site and content will be imperative to a successful content marketing strategy.

 

Align yourself with the chatter

In the last few weeks and days leading up to the event, we saw a recall on non-approved eclipse-viewing glasses, and had our social media feeds overwhelmed by user-generated content using MoonPies, Sunkist, Sun Chips, and Eclipse gum products to create mini-eclipse events. In the end, hundreds of thousands of people were talking about the rare and exciting event, leading brands to find a way to fit in.   

The MoonPie brand probably saw some of the most success. Seeing the demand for their sweet treats begin to creep up, the brand decided to take advantage. Not only is 2017 their 100th anniversary, but with the eclipse, it was the perfect storm for a pretty great marketing campaign.

The brand’s marketing campaign included hosting a free block party at their downtown Chattanooga, TN, location that featured an enormous, 50-pound MoonPie for visitors to snack on.

The best part of MoonPie’s strategy? Their social media presence. When Hostess brand snacks tweeted that it was declaring its Golden CupCakes brand the “official snack cake” of the eclipse, MoonPie retweeted with “Lol, ok.” Now, that’s taking advantage of the moment.

Another brand who got in on the eclipse action and succeeded? Krispy Kreme. Consumers have long asked for a chocolate glazed donut, so for the eclipse, the “hot and now” bakery made many donut lovers’ dream come true. For 3 days only, The Krème produced deliciously glazed, “black out” donuts in honor of the eclipse and saw their sales skyrocket.

Other brands that saw success with eclipse-themed marketing campaigns included Volvo, Casper Mattress, and The Weather Channel. Some, however, seemed to miss the mark.

When Amazon recalled thousands of counterfeit eclipse viewing glasses, news media outlets and societies started creating content to educate consumers on what to look for when purchasing effective and approved glasses. The American Astronomical Society, CNET, and The Washington Post were just a few of them. No matter your brand or service, timely and informative information like this is sure to bring traffic to your website.

 

Embrace the uniqueness

For major events like the eclipse, consumers usually engage in unique behaviors. Some traveled hundreds of miles to sleep in a tent in an open field, and others got married under a darkened sun. In my opinion, one of the coolest things was that many of us stared into the sky at the exact same time to see the moon slowly cover the blazing sun, creating a spectacle beyond our wildest dreams.

Whatever the activity or behavior, highly anticipated events are the perfect time to embrace the crazy and find a way to be part of it. Here are a few examples of how you might embrace the uniqueness.

  • A couple is getting married? Market your product or service as being the BEST for that type of event-inspired nuptial.
  • A family of 3 are traveling cross-country for 3 minutes or less of solar satisfaction? Create a series of informative and useful podcasts or a fun car game that they can listen to or participate together.
  • A large portion of the population will be looking up instead of at their phones for an extended period of time? Well, be ready for whatever their next step might be when they pick the phone back up.

 

Conclusion

You might think that anticipating how consumers feel, think, and act is impossible, but the reality is that it’s not that hard if you do your research. Find what people are searching for as it relates to your product or service, and create content that puts you in front of them if/when they, or other consumers, search for that same thing again in the future. Want to get more bang for your marketing buck? Consider paid distribution for your content and tailor the distribution to your exact target audience.

By creating content that positions your brand as one of the most useful ones for an event, you’re positioning yourself as the brand that “gets” the consumer and is willing to go the extra mile to satisfy their needs.