Pure ecomagination: Inside GE’s Visionary Content Strategy

We spend a lot of time talking about content marketing here at OpenView — how it can help businesses connect and engage with customers, enhance their brand through thought leadership, and increase their influence and competitive advantage. But sometimes the best way to explore and understand a concept is to take a look at an example of it in action, and if we’re going to learn from something, it may as well be the best.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be embarking on a search to find the best examples of content strategy in action, examining several companies that have each developed prolific and innovative content strategies that have put them at the forefront of the content marketing revolution. Along the way I’ll provide an in-depth look into their content strategy structures and tactics, and will highlight the secrets behind their success.

I’m kicking off the series with GE’s highly touted ecomagination.com. Simply put, the website is an engaging and visually stunning illustration of focused, compelling content strategy at its best. It seems like a great place to start.

Content Strategy Examples: GE’s ecomagination

  • ecomagination is GE’s microsite and brand concept devoted to imagining, discussing, and building innovative solutions to today’s environmental challengesGE's ecomagination is one of the best examples of great content strategy online

Rather than simply using the site’s content as a vehicle to promote GE products, ecomagination instead gears its collection of articles, reports, interviews, and infographics towards providing a forum for its audience to discuss and learn more about a larger area of interest — in this case clean technology and sustainable infrastructure. In that way GE’s content marketing strategy is perhaps a great illustration of what Shane Snow, founder of Contently, had in mind when he made the following recommendation in a guest post for Fast Company:

The secret to using free content as a business driver is to be the host of the conversation your audience cares about, not the subject of it. Great content transforms advertisers from interruption to destination.”

Content Strategy Best Practices: Effective Content Organization & Navigation

Content on the ecomagination front page is organized into features and short reads arranged by date, and older content is accessible to users via categories that allow invite users to segment themselves per their interests and needs:

  • The Analyze category for those who are interested in the facts and figures behind the latest clean tech findings and developments;
  • The Invent category for those who want to learn more about the newest cutting-edge green innovations and solutions from entrepreneurs, startups, and established companies;
  • The Commit category for who are looking for examples of companies that are making a difference and ways they can, too.

Each entry under the sections listed above are depicted as small images — titles only appear as you scroll over — further underscoring the GE’s emphasis on keeping the site very clean, basic, and, above all, visual.

Content strategy examples: effective content organization and navigation

Content Strategy Best Practices: Engaging Top Tier Influencers & Contributors

In addition to articles written by a staff of both freelance and full-time contributors that includes award-winning journalists and industry experts, ecomagination also features both video and written interviews as well as more interactive content in its Green Room, including a live experts feed that invites users to “get to know the bright minds at GE” via streaming tweets from key GE employees. There’s also a series titled “thinktank” that encourages online engagement by posing weekly questions to ecomagination’s followers and posting the best of the replies from Facebook and Twitter.

Content strategy examples: engaging top tier influencers and contributors

Content Strategy Best Practices: Interactive Content

The parade of visually striking content continues on ecomagination’s Showcase page, which, in addition to case studies and reports, features one of the site’s coolest forms of content: its data visualizations, interactive infographics that – like the majority of ecomagination content — speak to the interests and concerns of ecomagination’s audience without overtly pitching GE products.

Content Strategy Best Practices: Interactive Content

“The products are never front and center, or pushed in the consumer’s face,” writes idio’s Dini Muana, referring to ecomagination. “Instead, the content focuses on the reality and aspirations of the target market, with tangible ideas and concepts that can be used in everyday life, and inspiration for living better lives. It can spark differing viewpoints about an idea or motivate someone to do some “good” in the world and through that, [share] the content further.”

What Makes ecomagination One of the Best Examples of Content Strategy in Action

  • Emphasis on visual

  • Well-structured

  • Interactive, encourages participation

  • Content centered around large issues/concerns rather than individual products

  • Organization allows for customer segmentation

  • Top-quality content from professionals

According to Katrina Craigwell, Digital Marketing Manager at GE, shareability is in fact one of the marketing team’s top priorities when developing an individual piece of content, but the team also takes care not to lose sight of broader user experience and navigability of the site as a whole.

We’re working to map user paths from one piece of our content to the next to see how we can help guide different users along the right narratives, as well as understand how far our content is being shared, by who and in what context,” Craigwell explained in a recent interview for Forbes. “At the end of the day, if the content isn’t good enough for the end user to want to share it with a friend or colleague, we haven’t quite succeeded.”

That kind of commitment to a larger goal and vision combined with incredible attention to detail is what makes GE’s ecomagination a contender in the search for the Web’s best content strategy. While we all regrettably can’t be privileged enough to have access to a GE-sized budget, ecomagination nevertheless provides a standard you should aim for, and an example of what you can hope to accomplish once you have a content strategy up and running at full speed.

Come back next week when I’ll profile marketing automation and demand generation company Eloqua’s content strategy. And in the meantime, please add your own thoughts and questions about what makes a content factory great to the comments section below. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on what company you think has the best content strategy out there.

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